Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis was an ambitious politician whose career ranged from Senator for Mississippi to Secretary of War to First and Only President of the Confederate States.



Origin and teenage years:

Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky.

At the age of 16, he began studying at the US Military Academy in West Point from 1824 and began in 1828 as an officer in the army, where he was mainly used in the west of the country.




Family and the beginning of the political career:

On June 17, 1835, Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of eventual president Zachary Taylor. But already on 15 September 1835, 3 months after the wedding, Sarah died of malaria.

Davis's political career began in the years to come. In 1845 he was a member of the Democratic Party in the US House of Representatives. In 1845 he also married a second time, this time the 18 years younger Varina Banks Howell, with whom he fathered 6 children.

In 1846, when the Mexican-American War began, Davis resigned as a deputy and rejoined the army, where he participated, among others, in the Battle of Monterrey and was later promoted to Colonel. After being wounded, he was promoted to brigadier general of a militia, which Davis refused on the pretext that only the individual states could establish militia, not the state.

In 1847, he continued his political career as he accepted a seat in the US Senate. In 1851 he was re-elected, but he gave up his seat in the Senate a few months later to run as the governor of Mississippi unsuccessful. Then he supported the presidential candidate Franklin Pierce, who held the presidency from 1853 to 1857 and Davis began as Minister of War.


Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis




The secession of the South and the Civil War:

As the political situation in the slave question worsened, Davis first explained his more moderate attitude to the conflict and argued for more rights of the individual states of the Union rather than for the withdrawal and formation of their own state.

However, after Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860 and he advocated a course of the slave liberation, South Carolina initially left the union. Davis followed with the state of Mississippi on January 21, 1861. After 5 other states had broken out of the union and now merged into an independent Confederate state, Davis was elected on February 9, 1861 Provisional Confederate Congress as the provisional president of the new state. His swearing-in then took place on 18 February 1861 in the State House of Alabama in Montgomery from where he then moved to the White House of the Confederation in Richmond.

After the defeat of the Confederate Army in April 1865, Davis was removed from office and the post declared invalid. Davis now planned to establish an exile government from abroad and to keep the Confederation independent. During his escape, he was taken with his family on 10 May 1865 near Irvinville in Georgia by soldiers of the Union Army and taken prisoner. The subsequent indictment against him was betrayal and he had until 14 May 1867 in custody in Fort Monroe in Virginia sitting. After paying a large bail, he was released from custody.




The End of Davis:

After Davis was released from custody, he left the United States and traveled to Europe. Only in 1869 he returned and took over an insurance company in Memphis with which he had to go into bankruptcy in 1873.

Until 1878, he still tried to gain a foothold in Europe, which he did not succeed. In addition, when his health deteriorated, he accepted in 1878 an offer from the wealthy widow Sarah Dorsey to live on her land. After the death of Sarah Dorsey, the Davis family was credited with the land and property.

From 1881 he published his time as President of the Confederation under the title The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. During this time, the reputation of the family rose again and more and more and more often, former Confederates, veterans, journalists and curious people came to the estate to visit him.


Jefferson Davis um 1885

Jefferson Davis around 1885


On December 6, 1889 Davis died in New Orleans, Louisiana. In 1893, his remains were transferred to the former Confederate capital Richmond in Virginia.

It was not until October 17, 1978 Davis was reassigned the citizenship of the United States.





Especially in the southern states of the US Davis is highly revered to this day, along with the idea of the Confederation. Thus, some areas and geographical conditions are named after him. Davis's most important monument is in Georgia, where he can be seen alongside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in the world's largest relief. The work was financed and supported by the KuKluxKlan, which continues to uphold the ideals of the Confederation today.


Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond

Jefferson Davis Monument in Richmond


Stone Mountain Relief

Stone Mountain Relief






You can find the right literature here:


The Rise And Fall Of The Confederate Government

The Rise And Fall Of The Confederate Government

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Jefferson Davis, American

Jefferson Davis, American Hardcover – November 7, 2000

West Point graduate, secretary of war under President Pierce, U.S. senator from Mississippi-- how was it that this statesman and patriot came to be president of the Confederacy, leading the struggle to destroy the United States?

This is the question at the center of William Cooper's engrossing and authoritative biography of Jefferson Davis. Basing his account on the massive archival record left by Davis and his family and associates, Cooper delves not only into the events of Davis's public and personal life but also into the ideas that shaped and compelled him.

We see Davis as a devoted American, yet also as a wealthy plantation owner who believed slavery to be a moral and social good that could coexist with free labor in an undivided Union. We see how his initially reluctant support of secession ended in his absolute commitment to the Confederacy and his identification of it with the legacy of liberty handed down by the Founding Fathers. We see the chaos that attended the formation of the Confederate government while the Civil War was being fought, and the ever-present tension between the commitment to states' rights and the need for centralized authority. We see Davis's increasingly autocratic behavior, his involvement in military decision-making, and his desperation to save the Confederacy even at the expense of slavery. And we see Davis in defeat: imprisoned for two years, then, for the rest of his life, unrepentant about the South's attempt to break away, yet ultimately professing his faith in the restored Union.

This is the definitive life of one of the most complex and fascinating figures in our nation's history.

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Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief

Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander in Chief Hardcover – October 7, 2014

History has not been kind to Jefferson Davis. His cause went down in disastrous defeat and left the South impoverished for generations. If that cause had succeeded, it would have torn the United States in two and preserved the institution of slavery. Many Americans in Davis’s own time and in later generations considered him an incompetent leader, if not a traitor. Not so, argues James M. McPherson. In Embattled Rebel, McPherson shows us that Davis might have been on the wrong side of history, but it is too easy to diminish him because of his cause’s failure. In order to understand the Civil War and its outcome, it is essential to give Davis his due as a military leader and as the president of an aspiring Confederate nation.

Davis did not make it easy on himself. His subordinates and enemies alike considered him difficult, egotistical, and cold. He was gravely ill throughout much of the war, often working from home and even from his sickbed. Nonetheless, McPherson argues, Davis shaped and articulated the principal policy of the Confederacy with clarity and force: the quest for independent nationhood. Although he had not been a fire-breathing secessionist, once he committed himself to a Confederate nation he never deviated from this goal. In a sense, Davis was the last Confederate left standing in 1865.

As president of the Confederacy, Davis devoted most of his waking hours to military strategy and operations, along with Commander Robert E. Lee, and delegated the economic and diplomatic functions of strategy to his subordinates. Davis was present on several battlefields with Lee and even took part in some tactical planning; indeed, their close relationship stands as one of the great military-civilian partnerships in history.

Most critical appraisals of Davis emphasize his choices in and management of generals rather than his strategies, but no other chief executive in American history exercised such tenacious hands-on influence in the shaping of military strategy. And while he was imprisoned for two years after the Confederacy’s surrender awaiting a trial for treason that never came, and lived for another twenty-four years, he never once recanted the cause for which he had fought and lost. McPherson gives us Jefferson Davis as the commander in chief he really was, showing persuasively that while Davis did not win the war for the South, he was scarcely responsible for losing it.

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