Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis place in history as president of the Confederacy is too well-known to be recounted here. As president, Davis exercised powers as commander-in-chief of the Confederate States Army—not as modern presidents do, by rubber-stamping the decisions of military authorities, but as a practical, executive head and de facto secretary of war, the holders of that office acting as mere clerks to transmit Davis' wishes.

Less important, and less well known, was his role as commander-in-chief of Mississippi state forces in 1861. Then-Senator Davis, a West Point graduate with a national reputation as a hero of the Mexican War, was elected major general to command the state army on January 23, 1861, by the Mississippi Secession Convention. As Davis himself later wrote, "Mississippi had given me the position which I preferred to any other—the highest rank in her army."' He did not, however, exercise the practical duties of that office for long. On February 10, 1861, Davis was notified that he had been elected president of the Confederate States of America. Accordingly, he resigned his major generalship on February 12.

Davis' rank of general in Mississippi's state army qualifies him to be considered a Confederate general.

Reference:  More Generals in Gray.  Bruce S. Allardice.  A companion volume to Generals in Gray.  Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.



Confederate States of America President, Author. Jefferson Davis was the unrepentant highest ranking confederate leader of the South. The only Southern leader shackled in a dungeon and sacrificed as atonement for the sins of many. He refused to apply for a pardon because, he said, "I have not repented." In 1978, the United States Congress posthumously restored Davis's citizenship. By the time his peaceful death occurred while visiting New Orleans, he was the symbol of the Lost Cause and the most revered man in the South. Eighteen months after his death and temporary burial in New Orleans Metaire Cemetery, Davis's widow, Varina, decided the final burial place was to be Richmond's Hollywood Cemetery considered the National Cemetery of the Confederacy. His remains, were removed from the vault in New Orleans and placed on a flag-draped caisson escorted by honor guards composed of his old soldiers to Memorial Hall, where he lay in state. The next day, as thousands of people silently watched from the sidewalks and balconies, the caisson bore his body to a waiting funeral train. On the way, bonfires beside the tracks lit up ranks of Davis's old soldiers standing at attention beside stacked arms. In Richmond, Gray haired veterans escorted him to the Virginia statehouse where thousands filed past in respect before interment. The farm born Christian County, Kentucky, Jefferson Finis Davis had years of political service in Washington before secession propelled him into hapless leadership as President of the Confederacy. He served in both houses of the U.S. Congress as a Representative and a Senator and was United States Secretary of War during the administration of Franklin Pierce. His military career was both extensive and honorable starting with a completed four year term as a West Point cadet. During the Mexican-American War, Davis serving as a colonel, raised a volunteer regiment which saw extensive service in Mexico where he was wounded. His leadership of the South during the Civil War was froth with suspect decisions. They were instrumental in leading to the lose of the war and allowing it to continue when all was lost. Finally Lee ended the bloodshed with a surrender at Appomattox. Rather than turning himself in to Union forces, he fled aboard a train with his cabinet and the remaining gold from the treasury in an attempt to prolong the conflict. Davis was captured at Irwinville, Georgia without a fight and placed under arrest. Union officials were in a quandary as to his fate. He was confined to an open unheated artillery gun emplacement in the ramparts of Fortress Monroe in Virginia under deplorable condition, shackled for a time probably with the intention that his captivity would be lethal. Although under indictment for treason, he was released after two years in poor health. The federal government dropped charges because of constitutional concerns. However, he was stripped of his citizenship and his remaining property confiscated. Jefferson Davis was now poverty strickend. He attempted with investors to start an insurance company but it was unsuccessful. Still defiant, he presided over a memorial service in Richmond for Robert E. Lee upon his death. Davis was elected to the U.S. Senate but could not serve because of loss of citizenship. He spent his last twelve years in retirement at his Beauvoir Estate located between Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi. He turned to the pen and wrote the two volume book, "The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government" and then only two months before his death in New Orleans at age eighty-one completed "A Short History of the Confederate States of America." Legacy...Upon his death, the south endlessly constructed memorials to Davis trying to rival the Lincoln honors in the north. A few of the more important and imposing: The Jefferson Davis Monument State Historic Site is a Kentucky State Park in Fairview which preserves his birthplace. The focal point is a 351 foot tall concrete obelisk. The Beauvoir estate in Mississippi, was the retirement home of Davis. The 51 acre property consists of five main buildings, The Davis home and the presidential library which houses collections of the Confederate Soldiers Museum and presidential artifacts, papers and memorabilia. Jefferson Davis State Park located in Irwinville, Georgia has an elaborate monument on the spot where Davis was captured. Statues are in abundance: Monument Avenue, Richmond, Confederate Park, Memphis, University of Texas, concourse and the city park, Fitzgerald, Georgia. The controversial Jefferson Davis Highway originally was a coast to coast affair until most parts were eliminated. Today it is only an interstate among the southern states. Finally in a note of special interest, you can view the memorial page on Findagrave of Traveler, his special pet and companion during the last years of his life. (bio by: Donald Greyfield)

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