February 18, 1861
President of the
Confederate States of America
23rd United States
Secretary of War
US Senator (Class 1)
May 10, 1865
John B. Floyd
Vacant 1861 – 1870
Secession, Civil War
John J. McRae
||Jefferson Davis participated on the side of|
the CSA during the US Civil War.
Join: US Civil War Project
Jefferson Finis Davis (abt. 1808 - 1889) was an American politician who is best known as the President of the Confederacy during the American Civil War (1861-1865). He was born on 3 June 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky to parents Samuel Emory and Jane Simpson (Cook) Davis, the youngest of ten children. He was married first to Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of Zachary Taylor, and then to Varina Banks Howell and fathered six children. Davis served as an American military officer and a politician and he was a veteran of both the Blackhawk War and the Mexican-American War. He also served as a United States Congressman, a Senator and as the United States Secretary of War before being elected as the President of the Confederate States of America in 1861. Davis remained the President of the Confederacy throughout the war and was the only person to ever hold that office. After the war he was indicted for treason and impisoned by the United States Government but released without trial after two years. His citizenship was eventually restored by an act of Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Jefferson Davis was the son of Samuel Emory Davis and Jane Cook Davis. He was born in Christian County, Kentucky (in modern day Todd County) on June 3, 1807 or 1808. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He himself did not know it:
"There has been some controversy about the year of my birth among the older members of my family, and I am not a competent witness in the case. Having once supposed the year to have been 1807, I was subsequently corrected by being informed it was 1808, and have rested upon that point because it was just as good, and no better than another." 
The Davis family lived much of Jefferson's childhood on Rosemont Plantation near Woodville, Mississippi. He moved back to Kentucky to attend boarding school in Bardstown, then on to Jefferson College in Mississippi. He finally transferred to Transylvania University which he attended until 1824, at which time he began attending the US Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from the academy in 1828, 23rd in his class of 33.
From 1828 to 1833, Davis fought with the US Army in the Blackhawk War. He was known for his kind treatment to the prisoners in his care during that time. Davis's first marriage was to Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of Zachary Taylor, 12th President of the United States, on 17 June 1835 . At the time, Taylor had been Davis's commanding officer in the war, and Taylor himself was opposed to the marriage.  Davis resigned his military post. Sarah died of malaria three months after they were married, on 15 Sept 1835.
Davis returned to Mississippi and engaged in cotton planting after his early military career. He was in the planning stages of entering the political field in the Democratic party. Davis first appears in the political arena in 1842 as a delegate to the Democratic Convention. He was a strong supporter of states' rights and proponent of slavery, and was again a delegate to the 1844 Democratic Convention, where, against the wishes of the Democrats of Warren County, Mississippi, who he was representing (who preferred Martin van Buren), he spoke up for the nomination of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina while supporting the annexation of the Republic of Texas as a slave state, saying, in his speech to the convention, "The annexation of the republic of Texas to our Union, is another point of vital importance to the south, and demanding, by every consideration, prompt action. Daily are we becoming relatively weaker, and with equal step is the advance of that fanatical spirit which has for years been battering in breach the defences with which the federal constitution surrounds our institutions." .
Davis second married Varina Howell on February 26, 1845 when she was 17 and he was 35. Varina was the from a family of Mississippi planters. They had six children but only three lived to adulthood.
|Jefferson and Varina Davis|
On December 8, 1845, Davis took a seat in Congress as Representative for Mississippi's at-large district. There, he was known for his passionate speeches on behalf of states' rights and in defense of slavery. In June 1846, he resigned his seat in Congress in order to re-enter the military at the beginning of the Mexican-American War, joining his old regiment under his former father-in-law, Zachary Tayor. He and his regiment set sail from New Orleans to Texas where, during the Battle of Buena Vista, he was shot in the foot. During this time, Davis finally gained the respect of Taylor, who conceded his daughter had made a good choice in husband.
When the regiment was ordered home in July 1847, President Polk appointed Col. Davis Brigadier-General. Arguing that the Constitution did not give power to the Federal government to appoint militia officers, Davis declined the appointment. He was then appointed senator from Mississippi to fill a vacant seat, since his home was there, and was subsequently re-elected to that same seat in the following election. During his time as a Mississippi senator, he continued his support of states' rights, in favor of the territorial expansion of slavery, and against the admission of California into the Union as a free state, referring to it in a Senate speech delivered in opposition to the Compromise of 1850 as "sectional aggrandizement".
In 1851,Davis ran and lost a bid for the Mississippi governorship. In 1853, President Pierce appointed Davis to the cabinet as Secretary of War, a position he held until 1857, when Pierce lost his re-election bid. At that time, he returned to the Senate. While he defended slavery and states' rights, going so far as to say "African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing". Davis was opposed to secession. Davis left the Senate in 1861, when the Southern states left the Union. He hoped for and encouraged peace despite the departure. He returned to his plantation and started preparing for his possible re-entry into the military to defend Mississippi.
|This portrait of Jefferson Davis was featured in|
Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on March 9, 1861.
On 18 Feb 1861, Davis was inaugurated as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America (CSA). It is in this role that Jefferson Davis is most often remembered.
|Alabama State Capitol building|
On May 19, 1865, Davis was imprisoned in a casement at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and kept there until his bail was posted by abolitionist Horace Greeley in 1867. Irons were riveted to his ankles at the order of General Nelson Miles who was in charge of the fort. Davis was allowed no visitors, and no books except the Bible.
|Sketch of Davis in Prison|
Once released, Davis refused to apply for a pardon stating that he had not repented. He was indicted but never tried for treason. He never changed his views on slavery, his own over 137 slaves either escaping in the siege of his estate during the war or leaving his plantation as soon as they heard of the Emancipation Proclamation.
In 1976, President Jimmy Carter posthumously reinstated his citizenship:
Davis traveled around the world on business following his political and military careers. His home, though, remained in Mississippi on the Beauvoir estate, where he continued to work in agriculture. He was offered a position as president of the future Texas A&M University, but declined it. During this time, he wrote "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" and "A Short History of the Confederate States of America" in order to try to explain his motivations during the War.
In December 1889, Jefferson Davis contracted a severe cold, which developed into bronchitis as he traveled through New Orleans. His condition was complicated by malaria. He died on 6 December 1889 at the age of 81 years old.
The newspaper in New Orleans read:
Davis' body lay in state from 6 December to 11 December 1889 at New Orleans' city hall. His death was not given the usual attention politicians receive upon their demise, with exceptions across the South. His body was temporarily interred at New Orleans' Metairie Cemetery.
|Jefferson Davis' Body, in State|
|Jefferson Davis' Funeral Procession|
U.S. states that have counties named in his honor include Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.
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