|Jefferson Finis Davis|
|Date & Place of Birth|| June 3, 1808|
Christian County, Kentucky
|Parents|| Samuel Emory Davis|
Jane Cook Davis
|Education|| Jefferson College, Washington, Mississippi|
Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky
United States Military Academy
West Point, New York
|Previous occupation|| U.S. Congressman (Mississippi)|
March 4, 1845 – June, 1846
U.S. Senator (Mississippi)
August 10, 1847 – September 23; 1851;
March 4, 1857 – January 21, 1861
U.S. Secretary of War, March 7, 1853 – March 4, 1857
|Spouse|| Sarah Knox Taylor (married June 17, 1835 to September 15, 1835; deceased)|
Varina Howell Davis (married February 26, 1845 until his death)
|Children|| Samuel Emory Davis|
Margaret Howell Davis
Jefferson Davis, Jr.
Varina Anne "Winnie" Davis
|Date & Place of Death|| December 6, 1889|
New Orleans, Louisiana
|Place of Burial||Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia|
|Term of Office|| President of the Confederate States|
February 18, 1861 – May 5, 1865
|Succeeded by||Office abolished with Confederate defeat|
|Secretary of State|| Robert Toombs 1861|
Robert M. T. Hunter 1861-1862
Judah P. Benjamin 1862-1865
|Secretary of War|| Leroy Pope Walker 1861|
Judah P. Benjamin 1861-1862
George W. Randolph 1862
James Seddon 1862
John C. Breckinridge 1865
|Secretary of the Navy||Stephen Mallory 1861-1865|
|Secretary of the Treasury|| Christopher Memminger 1861–1864|
George Trenholm 1864–1865
John H. Reagan 1865
|Secretary of the Interior||none|
|Attorney-General|| Judah P. Benjamin 1861|
Thomas Bragg 1861–1862
Thomas H. Watts 1862–1863
George Davis 1864–1865
|Postmaster-General||John H. Reagan 1861-1865|
Jefferson Finis Davis (June 3, 1808 - December 6, 1889), was an American senator and statesman, and the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, presiding over that part of the country during the entire Civil War.
Davis was born on June 3, 1808 at what is now the village of Fairview, Christian County (later organized as Todd County), Kentucky, the last of ten children born to Samuel Davis (1756-1824), a veteran of the American Revolution, and Jane Cook Davis, a woman of Scotch-Irish descent. A few years later the family moved to Wilkinson County, Mississippi; where young Jefferson began his education at Wilkinson Academy. He would later gain higher education at Jefferson College, Washington, Mississippi (1818), then left for Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky (1821).
It was in Lexington that Davis gained an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York (1824), graduating 23rd out of a class of 33 in 1828. Among his first assignments as a newly-commissioned 2nd lieutenant was to Fort Crawford, Wisconsin to take part in the final actions of the Black Hawk War; in fact, it was Davis who personally escorted Black Hawk to captivity at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.
In June 1835 he resigned from the army and married Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of commander in the war, Colonel (later General) Zachary Taylor, and became a cotton planter in Warren County, Mississippi. The marriage would be tragically-short: while visiting relatives in Louisiana, both contracted malaria, and Sarah died on September 15, 1835, leaving Davis to travel extensively over the next few months in an effort to regain his health, returning to his plantation in 1836, slowly building up his wealth while living partially as a recluse during the next eight years, studying English classics, law, economics, and law.
In 1843 Davis entered politics as a Democrat, and exhibited great power as a public speaker. In 1844 he was chosen as an elector for Mississippi during the contest which brought James K. Polk to the White House, and by the end of 1845 won political office, becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was an ardent admirer of John C. Calhoun of South Carolina; he believed in states rights, yet he also believed in the Federal Constitution.
1845 also marked a second marriage. In February of that year he married Varina Howell, a granddaughter of a New Jersey governor.
His congressional seat did not last long, for during his first year in Congress, war with Mexico was declared, and he resigned his seat in June 1846 to take command of the first regiment raised in his state, the Mississippi Rifles. He served in the Northern Campaign under General Taylor, and distinguished himself for gallantry and soldierly conduct at Monterey and Buena Vista; despite being severely wounded early in the engagement there, he continued in command of his regiment until they secured victory. While still in the field he was appointed (May 1847) by President Polk to be brigadier-general of volunteers. Davis declined this appointment, however, stating that “…volunteers are militia and the Constitution reserves to the state the appointment of all militia officers." Ironically, it would be Davis himself who would appoint many volunteer officers during the Civil War.
Later political career
He returned to Mississippi in late-1847 and was given a appointment to the United States Senate. As a senator he had a logical rather than an intuitive mind. In his famous speech in the Senate on July 12, 1848, on the question of establishing a government for Oregon Territory, he held that slaves should be treated by the Federal government on the same basis as any other property, declaring it the duty of Congress to protect the owner's right to his slaves in whatever state or territory of the Union those slaves may be in. In the debates on the Compromise Measures of 1850 he took an active part on strongly opposing these measures, while Henry Stuart Foote - the other senator from Mississippi - was one of its leading advocates. But although still holding to the theory expounded in his July speech of 1848, he was now ready with the proposal that slavery might be prohibited north of latitude 36° 30' N. provided it should not be interfered with in any territory south of that line.
Davis was elected in his own right to the Senate in 1850, only to resign the following year in an opportunity to run for governor in his home state. His opponent was Senator Foote, who won the contest with just under 1,000 votes. Having nothing to do beyond the care of his plantation, Davis stayed out of politics until he was appointed by President Franklin Pierce to be his Secretary of War, a service he performed admirably.
As War Secretary, he organized the engineer companies which explored and reported on the several proposed routes for a railway connecting the Mississippi valley with the Pacific Ocean; he increased the size of the army, and made material changes in its equipment of arms and ammunition, taking advantage of the latest improvements at the time; he made his appointments of subordinates on their merits, regardless of party considerations; he revised the system of tactics, perfected the signal corps service, and expanded the coastal and frontier defenses. During all this time he was on terms of intimate friendship with the president, over whom he undoubtedly exerted a powerful, if not a dominating, influence; he was generally supposed to have won the president's support for the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854. "Bleeding Kansas" occurred shortly after and lasted three years; Davis had control of U.S. troops in the area, and sympathized strongly with the pro-slavery party there.
Davis returned to the Senate in March, 1857, insisting the Democratic Party support his claim for Federal protection of slavery in the territories; so forceful was this insistence that the split of the Democrats into Northern and Southern wings by 1860 was largely due to him. At the same time he reminded the Senate that the South would secede in the event of the election of a radical Republican to the presidency; and on the 10th of January 1861, not long after the election of Lincoln, he argued before that body the Constitutional right of secession and declared that the treatment of the South had become such that it could no longer remain in the Union without being degraded. When Mississippi had passed the ordinance of secession he resigned his seat, gave a farewell speech on the Senate floor on January 21, and left.
A few days later Davis was given a commission as a major general, commanding the forces then being raised in Mississippi, but this was short-lived. On February 9, 1861 the provisional congress made up of representatives of the seven Southern states which had seceded from the Union gave their unanimous vote, selecting a surprised Davis to be the first president of the new "Confederate States of America." Though he had preferred service in uniform, he accepted, and on February 18 he was sworn in for a six-year term.
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