Sunday, December 11, 2011

Jefferson Davis: President of the Confederacy

Portrait of Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis was a statesman and President of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Born in Kentucky on June 3, 1808 to Revolutionary War veteran Samuel Davis and Jane Cook, Jefferson Davis was educated at Transylvania University and graduated from West Point academy with fellow cadet Robert E. Lee.

After leaving West Point, Davis began his military career fighting in the Mexican-American war. He served at numerous posts in Wisconsin and Illinois before joining the Black Hawk War in 1832. After resigning from the army in 1835, Davis married the daughter of Colonel Zachary Taylor, Sarah Knox Taylor, and ran a plantation. His marriage ended a few months later when his wife died suddenly of malaria. Davis continued running his plantation for the next 10 years.

Davis remarried in 1845 and was elected to Congress as a Democrat the same year. When the Mexican war broke out the following year, he resigned from Congress and rejoined the military. During the war he commanded a regiment of Mississippi soldiers and earned a reputation as a brave military leader.

Davis' inauguration in February of 1861
In 1847, Jefferson Davis was elected to the Senate and became a spokesperson for southern rights. During his time as Senator, Davis argued against Secession but agreed each state had the right to secede, if they desired. Davis then served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce in 1853 before returning to the Senate when the Pierce's term came to an end.

When the Civil War began in 1861, Davis resigned from the Senate and was elected to a six year term as President of the Confederate States of America. As president, he failed in his efforts to raise funds and supplies from foreign countries, struggled to stop the Union army from marching through the south and watched as the southern economy collapsed on itself.

After he was captured by the Union army on May 10, 1865 in Georgia, he was charged with treason. Imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe in Virginia, the U.S. government never officially tried Davis yet stripped him of his citizenship. Although Davis was against reconstruction in the south, he later encouraged southerns to be loyal to the Union and accept reconciliation.

Davis published his book “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government” in 1881 and dedicated it to "to the memory of those who died in defense of a cause consecrated by inheritance, as well as sustained by conviction."

Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans on December 6, 1889 from acute bronchitis and was buried first at the Metairie Cemetery in New Orleans and then in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. His citizenship was posthumously reinstated in 1978.
Davis imprison at Fort Monroe
Grave of Jefferson Davis in Virginia
Sources:

Encyclopedia Virginia: Jefferson Davis
http://encyclopediavirginia.org/Davis_Jefferson_1808-1889

Tulane University: Jefferson Davis
http://www.tulane.edu/~latner/Davis.html

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