Jefferson Davis was the first and only President of the Confederate States of America. He was born in Kentucky and raised in Mississippi. Davis attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was a mediocre military cadet.
After graduation Davis worked on his cotton plantation in Mississippi. He owned slaves and believed in the importance of the institution of slavery for the South.
Davis was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a congressman for Mississippi. He resigned after two years to fight in the Mexican War, where he served with distinction. He was offered a promotion to brigadier general, but he returned to politics instead. He was elected to the U.S. Senate.
In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis U.S. Secretary of War where he was recognized as one of the most capable administrators to hold the office. In 1857, Davis returned to the Senate as a vocal supporter of states’ rights. After Mississippi seceded from the Union in 1861, Davis withdrew from the U.S. Senate.
One month later, the Confederate Congress selected Jefferson Davis to become the provisional President of the Confederacy. He was inaugurated for a six-year term as President on February 22 of the following year. He was a compromise candidate chosen to satisfy both the moderate and radical factions in the Congress. Davis wanted to be a military commander for the Confederacy, not a politician.
Initially, Davis was a popular President. He had a dignified bearing, a distinguished military record, extensive experience in political affairs, and a dedication to the Confederate cause. Davis could not overcome the challenges of his new position. He was impatient with people who disagreed with him, and he had the unfortunate habit of awarding positions to leaders who appeared unsuccessful. He also suffered from chronic illness.
As the Confederate Army’s defeats piled up in the latter years of the War, Davis’ popularity suffered. On April 2, 1865, he and the other members of the Confederate government were forced to flee from Richmond as the Union Army advanced. Davis was captured by Northern soldiers.
Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia for two years. He was released on bond without being tried for treason. Davis and his family traveled in Europe before returning to the American South. Mississippi tried to elect him to the U.S. Senate, but he was not legally qualified to serve since he refused to request an official pardon from the United States for his role in the Civil War.
The year before his death the former President of the Confederate States of America beseeched the young men of Mississippi to “lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to make your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished—a reunited country.”
Source: Jefferson Davis
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