Back to top

Jefferson Davis (Dictionary of United States History)

Reference

J. Franklin Jameson, "Davis, Jefferson," Dictionary of United States History, 1492-1895 (Boston: Puritan Publishing Co., 1894), 186.

Davis, Jefferson (June 3, 1808-December 6, 1889), President of the Southern Confederacy, was born in Kentucky, and graduated at West Point in 1828. He saw some service in the Black Hawk War, but resigned from the army and became a cotton planter in Mississippi. He represented that State in Congress in 1845-46, but left Congress to take part as colonel in the Mexican War. In the storm of Monterey and the battle of Buena Vista he distinguished himself and was straightway chosen to the U. S. Senate, where he served 1847-51 and 1857-61. In 1851 he ran unsuccessfully as the States-rights candidate for Governor of Mississippi. In President Pierce's administration Mr. Davis was the Secretary of War 1853-57. He had become one of the Southern leaders, received some votes for the Democratic nomination for President in 1860, and in January, 1861, he left the U. S. Senate. He was thereupon elected provisional President of the Confederacy February 9, 1861, and was inaugurated February 18. In November of the same year he was elected President and was inaugurated February 22, 1862. From the second year of the war till the close many of his acts were severely criticised in the South itself. Many Southerners admit that President Davis' actions, especially his interference in military matters, impaired the prospects of success. An instance in point was his removal of General J. E. Johnston from command in 1864. Early in 1865 he conducted unsuccessful negotiations for peace. On the second of April the successes of Grant's army obliged President Davis to leave Richmond; he took the train for Danville, and after consultation proceeded southward and was captured by the Federals near Irwinsville, Ga., May 10, 1865. Until 1867 he was confined as a prisoner in Fort Monroe. He was in 1866 indicted for treason, released on bail the following year, and the trial was dropped. He passed the remainder of his life at Memphis and later in Mississippi, dying in New Orleans. He is the author of "Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government," two volumes. There are lives by Pollard and Alfriend.
How to Cite This Page: "Jefferson Davis (Dictionary of United States History)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/17514.