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Jefferson Davis (American Cyclopaedia)

Reference

George Ripely and Charles Anderson Dana, eds.,  “Davis, Jeferson,” The American Cyclopaedia: A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1874), 5: 711-712.

DAVIS, Jefferson, an American soldier and statesman, born June 3, 1808, in that part of Christian co., Ky., which now forms Todd county. Soon after his birth his father removed to Mississippi, and settled near Woodville, Wilkinson county. Jefferson Davis received an academical education, and was sent to Transylvania college, Ky., which he left in 1824, having been appointed by President Monroe a cadet in the military academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1828. He remained in the army seven years, and served as an infantry and staff officer on the N. W. frontier in the Black Hawk war of 1831-'2, and in March, 1833, was made first lieutenant of dragoons, in which capacity he was employed in 1834 in various expeditions against the Comanches, Pawnees, and other hostile Indian tribes. He resigned his commission June 30, 1835, and having married the daughter of Zachary Taylor, afterward president of the United States, but at that time a colonel in the army, he returned to Mississippi, and became a cotton planter. For several years he lived in retirement, occupied chiefly with study. In 1843 he began to take an active part in politics on the democratic side, and in 1844 was one of the presidential electors of Mississippi to vote for Polk and Dallas. In 1845 he was elected a representative in congress, and took his seat in December of that year. He bore a conspicuous part in the discussions of the session on the tariff, on the Oregon question, on military affairs, and particularly on the preparations for war against Mexico, and on the organization of volunteer militia when called into the service of the United States. In his speech on the Oregon question, Feb. 6, 1846, he said : "From sire to son has descended the love of union in our hearts, as in our history are mingled the names of Concord and Camden, of Yorktown and Saratoga, of Moultrie and Plattsbnrgh, of Chippewa and Erie, of Bowyer and Guilford, of New Orleans and Bunker Hill. Grouped together, they form a monument to the common glory of our common country; and where is the southern man who would wish that that monument were less by one of the northern names that constitute the mass?" While he was in congress, in July, 1846, the first regiment of Mississippi volunteers, then enrolled for service in Mexico, elected him their colonel. Overtaking the regiment at New Orleans on its way to the seat of war, he led it to reinforce the army of Gen. Taylor on the Rio Grande. He was actively engaged in the attack and storming of Monterey in September, 1846; was one of the commissioners for arranging the terms of the capitulation of that city; and distinguished himself in the battle of Buena Vista, Feb. 23, 1847, where his regiment, attacked by on immensely superior force, maintained their ground for a long time unsupported, while the colonel, though severely wounded, remained in the saddle until the close of the action. At the expiration of the term of its enlistment, in July, 1847, the Mississippi regiment was ordered home; and while on his return he received at New Orleans a commission from President Polk as brigadier general of volunteers, which he declined accepting, on the ground that the constitution reserves to the states respectively the appointment of the officers of the militia, and that consequently their appointment by the federal executive is a violation of the rights of the states. In August, 1847, he was appointed by the governor of Mississippi United States senator to fill a vacancy, and at the ensuing session of the state legislature, Jan. 11, 1848, was unanimously elected to the same office for the residue of the term, which expired March 4, 1851. In 1850 he was reelected for the ensuing full term. In the senate he was chosen chairman of the committee on military affairs, and took a prominent part in the debates on the slavery question, in defense of the institutions and policy of the slave states, and was a zealous advocate of the doctrine of state rights. In September, 1851, he was nominated for governor of Mississippi by the democratic party, in opposition to Henry S. Foote, the candidate of the Union party. He resigned his seat in the senate on accepting the nomination, and was beaten in the election by a majority of 999 votes; a marked indication of his personal popularity in his own state, for at the "convention election," two months before, the Union party had a majority of 7,500...
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