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Davis, Jefferson Finis 1808-1889

Posted at age 12.
Created . Edited .

Jefferson Davis was the first and only president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 till 1865. He was born June 3rd in 1808 in Christian Country, now know as Todd Country, in Kentucky. He went to college at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky. He also attended the U.S. Military Academy. Davis’s father, Sam Davis, was a veteran who fought in the Revolutionary War.

After he graduated in 1828, he joined the US army and was very active until his health left him with no choice but to resign in 1835. He then married Zachary Taylor’s daughter became a cotton farmer in Mississippi in 1835 until 1845. His wife died three months after marriage from a high malarial fever. Davis was devastated. To regain strength, he traveled around the nation for a year. He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1845. In 1846 he resigned his seat so he could fight in the Mexican War. He fought at Buena Vista and Monterrey, where he was injured. He became a U.S. senator from Mississippi in 1847 until 1851. He then was secretary of war in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1857. He then became a U.S. senator again from 1857 to 1861.

During his first term as U.S. senator, he solidly believed in state’s rights and he supported slavery. When he was a member of Franklin Pierce’s cabinet he persuaded President Pierce to sign the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act privileged the South and amplified the unpleasantness of the whole situation with slavery.

In his second term as senator he grew to be the recognized spokesperson for the Southerners’ viewpoint. He somewhat opposed the proposal of secession from the Union, though, as an approach to maintaining the Southern principles. Even after the first steps toward secession had been taken, he really endeavored to keep the Southern states in the Union, although not at the expense of their principles, customs, ways, and beliefs. When Mississippi seceded, he resigned from the U.S. Senate altogether.

On February 18, 1861, the provisional Congress of the Confederate States made him temporary president. He was elected to the office by popular vote the same year for a 6-year term and was inaugurated in Richmond, Virginia, on February 22, 1862. At this time Richmond served as the capital of the Confederacy. Davis did not succeed to raise sufficient funds for fighting the American Civil War. Furthermore, he could not acquire identification and assistance for the Confederacy from any foreign governments. He was always struggling with extreme promoters of the doctrine of states’ rights. Plus, his attempts to acquire high military officers appointed by the president were opposed by the governors of the Confederate states. The judges of state courts constantly held up military matters through judicial decisions.

Even with all of these complications, Jefferson Davis was all the same responsible for the gathering, training, and preparation of the dreadful Confederate armies, the noteworthy appointment of General Robert E. Lee as commander of the Army of Virginia, and the persuasion of industrial enterprise throughout the South to help. His keenness, energy, and confidence in the cause of the South were a source of much of the stubbornness and firmness with which the Confederacy fought in the Civil War. Even in 1865 Davis still hoped the South would be able to achieve its independence. Then, finally, he realized defeat was looming and fled from Richmond.

On May 10, 1865, federal troops detained him at Irwinville, Georgia. From 1865 to 1867 he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Davis was prosecuted for treason in 1866. Even so, the next year he was released on a bond of $100,000 signed by the American newspaper publisher Horace Greeley and other noble Northerners. In 1868 the federal government dropped the case against him.

From 1870 to 1878 he produced a number of business enterprises, though unsuccessful; and from 1878 until his death in New Orleans, on December 6, 1889, he lived close to Biloxi, Mississippi. His grave is in Richmond, Virginia.

The last public appearance he made was in writing The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in 1881. Jefferson Davis was pressured with the challenge of building a whole new nation, and leading it, while commanding a war against the greatest country with one of the most powerful armies. Although the fate was manifest and obvious, the Confederacy’s fall often blurs the image of the true Davis and his astonishing accomplishments in being the Confederacy’s one and only president.

Strange, odd, yet fascinating fact”

Davis’s wife once described him as “a mere mass of throbbing nerves.”