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Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis was one of the most important military and political figures, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. When he took personal control of the military plans of the Confederacy, Davis was not able to win more populous and industrialized northern states of the Union. His diplomatic efforts are not recognized in other countries. He mostly concentrated on the sagging economy of the Confederation. However, the government printed more and more paper money to cover military expenses, which eventually led to uncontrolled inflation and devaluation of the dollar. Many historians believe that the personal shortcomings of Jefferson Davis played an important role in the fate of the Confederacy. Constant focus on little things, reluctance to delegate authority, feuds with state governors, neglect of civil cases in favor of the war, and resistance of public opinion were against him. However, he was the first American president who built the foundations of American political culture, developed the Southern culture, and raised the issue of the Constitution.

Military Career. During the next seven years, Jefferson Davis held various military posts in the north-west, and then in 1832 he took part in the Black Hawk War. On March 4, 1833 he was promoted to first lieutenant of the 1st Regiment of Dragoons (Turner 256). Then he retired from the army. In 1835, Jefferson Davis married the daughter of the future US President Zachary Taylor, but she died three months later. The next ten years Davis spent in relative peace on his plantation in Mississippi.

Many biographers agree that Jefferson Davis managed his plantation. He served as a supervisor to faithful servants, and all the transgressions of blacks regarded the Special Court. The slaves were allowed to have their own vegetable gardens, and vegetables from these gardens could go on sale to the master. Nevertheless, Davis remained a supporter of slavery. However, in 1845, he got married for the second time to the granddaughter of the governor of Mississippi, Varina Howell. Then he began his political career. In 1845 he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives of the Mississippi, but in June 1846 he resigned to take command of a regiment of Mississippi in the Mexican War. Under the command of Zachary Taylor, he distinguished himself at the siege of Monterrey and at the Battle of Buena Vista.

In the search for greater efficiency, Davis sought to equip his regiment rifles “M1841 Mississippi”. Still, the primary infantry weapons were still shotguns, and any rifled firearms were considered very special for many armies. However, President James Polk Davis promised such weapons. General Winfield Scott objected on the grounds that the weapons were not sufficiently tested, but Davis insisted on his mentioning, and the President and his regiment was armed with new rifles, making them particularly effective while in combat (Allen 135-136).

Political Career in the US. In 1840, Davis first became active in politics. He attended a meeting of the Democratic Party in Vicksburg and, to his surprise, was elected as a delegate to the party congress in Jackson, the capital of Mississippi. In 1844, Davis, whose interest in political activities continued to grow, was sent to the Congress for the third time, and became one of the six representatives in the Electoral College for the presidential elections of 1844. His efforts and associates in Mississippi remained loyal to the Democrats and the candidate supported by the party of James Polk (Strode 122).

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In 1847, Davis was appointed Senator in the US Congress from Mississippi to fill the vacant seat. Four years later, he decided to run for governor of Mississippi in competition with the other senator from Mississippi, his sworn enemy, Whig Henry S. Foote. Davis strongly defended the rights of the Southerners and advocated the extension of slavery and economic development of the South to confront the power of the North. He lost in the elections with a gap of less than a thousand votes, and retired to his plantation, while, in 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed him as a US Secretary of War. During his service in the military department, Davis supported the seizure of Cuba, contributed to the continuation of the construction of the south transcontinental railroad, and thus preferred the Gadsden Purchase.

Again, after becoming a member of the Senate in 1857, Davis represented the southern anti-secessionist unit and repeatedly gave speeches in support of the Union. However, when the fire broke out secession, and his home state of Mississippi came from the Soviet Union, followed by the Union left and Davis. Finally, he announced the resignation of from the US Congress in 1861.

Secretary of War. In 1853, Franklin Pierce, who won the presidential election, appointed Davis as a Minister of War (Turner 256). In this capacity, he began to study the possible routes for the proposed Transcontinental Railroad through the United States. It was a project, which he considered to be key for the development and defence of the western territories. Additionally, in 1853, he contributed to the acquisition of Mexican area of ​​120,000 square kilometers, which is now a part of the states of Arizona and New Mexico. The new land had to provide an easier route for the new railway. The Administration approved the purchase, and in December the new territories were included as part of the USA (Cooper 275).

The new Minister reviewed a number of issues directly related to the combating capacity of the army. In particular, Davis insisted that the size of the regular army was not sufficient to carry out its tasks, and he proposed to increase payment to soldiers, which did not happen for more than 25 years (Cooper 268). Congress approved an increase in wages and the creation of four new regiments. The result was a growth in the number of soldiers from about 11 000 to 17 000, 15 000 of whom were constantly on the alert (Turner 256). It was in the US Army where Davis moved to rifles and successfully tested his regiment during the Mexican-American War. The widespread so-called “Minié ball” was subsequently used by both sides during the Civil War. Separate Medical Corps were formed and new forts in key regions were laid. As a result, the morale and fighting efficiency of the army have increasingly improved.

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President of the Confederation. He was immediately appointed as a Major General of Militia of Mississippi, and some time later, was elected as the head of the provisional government of the Confederation, which was created by the decision of the convention in Montgomery, Alabama, and took office in February 1861. In accordance with the decision of the US Congress appointed Davis Peace Commission, Jefferson Davis went to Washington with a proposal to buy back all federal property on the territory of the South and the southern part of the national debt. This action had no success, and in 12 April 1861 the Civil War began.

Davis was elected as the president thanks to his administrative and military experience. He knew that his candidacy seriously was considered both as the commander and as the commander of armed forces (Cooper 349). By this time, several forts on the territory of the Confederation still belonged to the North. Davis sent representatives to Washington with a proposal to buy back the federal ownership of the land of the South, but Lincoln refused to meet with his delegation. A brief informal discussion was held with the Secretary of State William Seward and a judge of the Supreme Court John Campbell, a native of Alabama, who had not yet resigned. Seward promised that Fort Sumter, which controlled the port of Charleston in South Carolina, would be evacuated, but “was unable to provide any details, nor guarantee that it will be done” (Copper 362). Lincoln himself, despite the advice of Seward and other members of the cabinet, was intended to defend the forts, which were considered federal property.

In May, the Confederate government moved to Richmond, Virginia. Davis and his family lived in the residence of the governor of the state, which became the “White House” of the Confederacy. In November 1861, he was elected President of the Confederate States. The inauguration took place on 22 February 1862 (Turner 256). Davis knew that the conduct of the war required a strong centralized leadership from the Confederation. However, there were odds that the policy would protect the rights of the states which Southern states seceded from, and, as he took care of all the great powers, many southern leaders united in anti-Davis movement. Initially relying more on the military than civil administration of Confederation, Davis firmly controlled the army and often conflicted with the generals of the Confederacy.

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By independently determining the strategy of defence of southern territory, Davis, as historians believe, made some big mistakes. In particular, he did not pay enough attention to the important Western area, allowing the feds to take over the Mississippi River and split the Confederacy in two parts. He allowed General Robert E. Lee to invade the North twice, and, moreover, Davis was irresponsible in controlling army commanders. The only candidate with whom Davis was not mistaken was General Lee, a commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He became Chief of the Army of the Confederacy at the end of the war.

Post-war Life. On April 9, 1865, General Lee signed the act of surrender without the consent of Davis. After the last meeting of the government of the Confederation in April 1865 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Davis was arrested in Irvinville, Georgia (Turner 256). He was imprisoned at Fort Monroe for 2 years, after which, in May, 1867, he was released on bail. While in prison, Davis was able to sell his Mississippi plantation to his former servant Ben Montgomery, a talented mechanic and inventor, who became rich with the help of his own store. After his release, he visited Canada and Europe, and wrote a memoir The Rise and Fall of the Government of the Confederation, in which he defended his views of the Confederation. He also served as a president of the insurance company and was even re-elected to the US Senate. Concerning the last position, he should not have been allowed to hold public office on the basis of 14th Amendment to the US Constitution. It prohibits individuals, who have violated the oath of allegiance to the US and have passed into the service of the Confederacy, from getting positions in Senate. This prohibition against Davis and Robert E. Lee was made public only a century after their death during the presidency of Jimmy Carter.


During his life, Jefferson Davis managed to become a brave and resourceful soldier, active and effectual a US Senator, Secretary of War, a gardener and a supporter of slavery, ineffective military leader, and the President of the Confederate States of America. After the war, he played a huge role in the reconciliation of the South with the North, retaining the respect of southerners. He completely rebuilt the army and provided new weaponry, which had raised the military spirit of the nation. However, he made many strategic mistakes, especially during the war. Many gossips were happening around him, because Davis was often distinguished by his lack of principle and compromise.