Jefferson Davis
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Jefferson Finis Davis (abt. 1808 - 1889)

President Jefferson Finis "Jeff" Davis
Born about in Christian County, Kentucky, United Statesmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married 1835 in Jefferson County, Kentuckymap
Husband of — married 1845 in Natchez, Mississippimap
Descendants descendants
Died at about age 81 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 13 Nov 2008
This page has been accessed 30,910 times.

Preceded by
Office established
February 18, 1861

Preceded by
22nd Secretary
Charles Magill Conrad

Preceded by
Stephen Adams

Preceded by
Jesse Speight
Jefferson Davis
President of the
Confederate States of America
Seal of the CSA

23rd United States
Secretary of War
Dept of War

US Senator (Class 1)
from Mississippi

Seal of the US Senate
US Senator (Class 1)
from Mississippi[1][2]

Succeeded by
Office abolished
May 10, 1865

Succeeded by
24th Secretary
John B. Floyd

Succeeded by
Vacant 1861 – 1870
Secession, Civil War
& Reconstruction

Succeeded by
John J. McRae
Union and Confederate Service Badges
Jefferson Davis participated on the side of
the CSA during the US Civil War.
Join: US Civil War Project
Discuss: us_civil_war
Jefferson Davis is a part of Mississippi history.
Join: Mississippi Project
Discuss: Mississippi


Notables Project
Jefferson Davis is Notable.
Colonel Jefferson Davis served with the United States Army during the Mexican-American War
Service Started: Jun 1846
Unit(s): 155th Infantry Regiment
Service Ended: 1847
Roll of Honor
Colonel Jefferson Davis was Wounded in Action during the Mexican-American War.

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 imprisoned 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.[3] 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." [4]

The Davis family lived much of Jefferson's childhood on Rosemont Plantation near Woodville, Mississippi.[5] 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.[5]

From 1828 to 1833, Davis fought with the US Army in the Blackhawk War.[5] 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 [6][7]. At the time, Taylor had been Davis's commanding officer in the war, and Taylor himself was opposed to the marriage. [5] Davis resigned his military post. Sarah died of malaria three months after they were married, on 15 Sept 1835.[5]

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[5]. 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."[8] .

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.[5]

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.[5] 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.[5] 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.[5]

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.[9] 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.[5][10] 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"[11].

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.[12] At that time, he returned to the Senate. 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".[5] Davis was opposed to secession. Davis left the Senate in 1861, when the Southern states left the Union.[5] He hoped for and encouraged peace despite the departure.[3] He returned to his plantation and started preparing for his possible re-entry into the military to defend Mississippi.[3]

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.[13]

Alabama State Capitol building
Jefferson Davis is sworn in as President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861, on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol.
Red Bullet Wounded in Action ??

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.[5] 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.[14]

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.[3] He never changed his views on slavery. His own 137 slaves either escaped in the siege of his estate during the war or left his Brierfield plantation as soon as they heard of the Emancipation Proclamation.[15]

In 1976, President Jimmy Carter posthumously reinstated his citizenship:

In posthumously restoring the full rights of citizenship to Jefferson Davis, the Congress officially completes the long process of reconciliation that has reunited our people following the tragic conflict between the States. Earlier, he was specifically exempted from resolutions restoring the rights of other officials in the Confederacy. He had served the United States long and honorably as a soldier, Member of the U.S. House and Senate, and as Secretary of War. General Robert E. Lee's citizenship was restored in 1976. It is fitting that Jefferson Davis should no longer be singled out for punishment. [16]
Our Nation needs to clear away the guilts and enmities and recriminations of the past, to finally set at rest the divisions that threatened to destroy our Nation and to discredit the principles on which it was founded. Our people need to turn their attention to the important tasks that still lie before us in establishing those principles for all people.

Davis traveled around the world on business following his political and military careers.[5] His home, though, remained in Mississippi on the Beauvoir estate, where he continued to work in agriculture.[17] 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.[5]

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.[18]

The newspaper in New Orleans read:

"Throughout the South are Lamentations and tears; in every country on the globe where there are lovers of liberty there is mourning; wherever there are men who love heroic patriotism, dauntless resolution, fortitude or intellectual power, there is an sincere sorrowing. The beloved of our land, the unfaltering upholder of Constitutional liberty, the typical hero and sage, is no more; the fearless heart that beats with sympathy for all mankind is stilled forever, a great light is gone---Jefferson Davis is dead!"

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.[5]

Jefferson Davis' Body, in State
Jefferson Davis' Funeral Procession
Temporary Interment

Davis's body was removed to Richmond, Virginia by a special funeral train. Thousands were in attendance to witness the deposit of his casket into its final resting place atHollywood Cemetery.[19]

U.S. states that have counties named in his honor include Georgia, Mississippi and Texas.[20]


  1. Resigned to run for Governor of Mississippi, vacant September 23, 1851 – December 1, 1851 when successor appointed.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Jefferson Davis on, accessed 4 Nov 2019
  4. The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 1, pages lxv-lxvi.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 5.14 5.15 5.16 Jefferson Davis on, accessed 5 Nov 2019
  6. "Kentucky Marriages, 1785-1979," database, FamilySearch ( : 11 February 2018), Jefferson Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor, 1835; citing Jefferson, Kentucky, reference bk 2 p 154; FHL microfilm 482,706.
  7. "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 17 May 2018), Jefferson Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor, 1835; citing Marriage, , Jefferson, Kentucky, United States, various county clerks and county courts, Kentucky; FHL microfilm 482,706.
  8. Speech of Jefferson Davis Recommending John C. Calhoun Rice University, accessed 5 Nov 2019
  9. Wikipedia:Jefferson_Davis Wikipedia: Jefferson Davis.
  10. "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 April 2016), Jefferson Davis, Warren county, part of, Warren, Mississippi, United States; citing family 742, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  11. Speech of Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, in the Senate, 13-14 Feb 1850
  12. Rice University, The Papers of Jefferson Davis.
  13. Wiley, Bell I. (January 1967). "Jefferson Davis: An Appraisal". Civil War Times Illustrated 6 (1): 4–17.
  14. Jefferson Davis in Prison.
  15. Holzer, Harold, "Cease Fire: How Jefferson Davis Lost His Slaves" on, accessed 5 Nov 2019
  16. Jimmy Carter: "Restoration of Citizenship Rights to Jefferson F. Davis Statement on Signing S. J. Res. 16 into Law. ," October 17, 1978. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
  17. "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 26 August 2017), Jefferson Davis, Biloxi, Harrison, Mississippi, United States; citing enumeration district ED 139, sheet 349A, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), FHL microfilm 1,254,648.
  18. Death of Jefferson Davis. [1]
  19. Find A Grave: Memorial #260
  20. Wikipedia contributors. "List of U.S. counties named after prominent Confederate historical figures." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 Oct. 2019. Web. 5 Nov. 2019.Wikipedia:

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Comments: 11

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Woods-532 and Davis-4 do not represent the same person because: not connected
posted by Tony Woods
Davis-77221 and Davis-4 appear to represent the same person because: clear duplicate created
posted by Robin Lee
You people have disconnected this Man from my tree, and hid his history, I am directly related to his wife and Zachery Taylor. So what is Going on here? How can I be related to {her and not him}? FIX it BACK. Your destroying my lineage to BOTH presidents of the civil war.

Who I am directly related to. and the source is valid. and His relationship with Zachary Taylor is not to be hidden.

posted by David Martin
edited by David Martin
Replied on G2G
posted by David Martin
First change suggestions have been posted:

New project assignment, change to the succession box, and the addition of a bio introduction.

posted by SJ Baty
I plan to develop and expand this biography. I have created a free space page and will make changes there and if no objections, will apply them here. The page will be open for editing and I invite anyone and everyone who wants to contribute to join in.

posted by SJ Baty
It might be less confusing if AFTER rather than BEFORE the profile name the manager should add "President of the Confederate States of America" Should not this profile fit to a more specific categorization project as managers than it is presently listed? More appropriate would be "US Civil War-Between the States." After all as SJ below noted, Jefferson Davis was the only President of the CSA throughout all of world history! The picture images are great! If one added section headings to separate his personal life and his role during the Civil War it would provide for added profile improvement, especially with more Civil War data on his role as President of the Confederacy.
posted by Juliet (Adams) Wills
CORRECTION: Kentucky does not have a county named after Jefferson Davis.
Jefferson Davis was the only president of the short-lived Confederate States of America and he is most known in that role. The profile mentions his role as CSA President but has almost no information related to his Civil War service. I believe that this role should be more prominent in the profile.
posted by SJ Baty
Hi there profile managers!

We plan on featuring Jefferson Davis as the Example Profile of the Week in the Connection finder on November 6th. Between now and then is a good time to take a look at the sources and biography to see if there are updates and improvements that need made, especially those that will bring it up to WikiTree Style Guide standards. I will check on the profile closer to the week we'll feature it and make changes as necessary.

Thanks! Abby

posted by Abby (Brown) Glann
Background image of Battle Flag replaced with image of CSA 1st National Flag (also called the "Stars and Bars").
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett

This week's featured connections are French Notables: Jefferson is 12 degrees from Napoléon I Bonaparte, 17 degrees from Gilbert du Motier de La Fayette, 20 degrees from Sarah Bernhardt, 30 degrees from Charlemagne Carolingian, 21 degrees from Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, 16 degrees from Pierre Curie, 22 degrees from Simone de Beauvoir, 16 degrees from Philippe Denis de Keredern de Trobriand, 15 degrees from Camille de Polignac, 14 degrees from Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, 17 degrees from Claude Monet and 20 degrees from Aurore Dupin de Francueil on our single family tree. Login to see how you relate to 33 million family members.