Jefferson Finis DavisBy: Shioban Alicea
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Quick Facts

  • NAME: Jefferson Finis Davis
  • OCCUPATION: Government Official
  • BORN: June 03, 1808
  • DIED: December 06, 1889
  • EDUCATION: Transylvania University, United States Military Academy at West Point
  • PLACE OF BIRTH: Christian County,Kentucky
  • PLACE OF DEATH: New Orleans, Louisiana


Jefferson Davis was born in Christian County, Kentucky on June 3rd, 1808. After his military career, he served as a U.S. Senator, and as Secretary of War before his election as the president of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He was later accused of treason, although never tried, and remained a symbol of Southern pride until his death in 1889.


Jefferson Finis Davis was born on June 3, 1808, in Christian County, Kentucky to parents Samuel and Jane (Cook) Davis. He was the last of 10 children born into a military family. Davis's father and uncles were soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, and all three of his older brothers fought in the War of 1812. His grandfather was a public servant to the U.S. southern colonies.
Though born in Kentucky, Davis primarily grew up on a plantation near Woodville, Mississippi, eventually returning to Kentucky to attend boarding school in Bardstown. After completing his boarding school education, Davis enrolled at Jefferson College in Mississippi, later transferring to Transylvania University in Kentucky.
In 1824, when Davis was 16 years old, President James Monroe requested that Davis become a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point (New York). In 1828, Davis graduated from West Point, 23rd in his class.

Early Military
Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor

Upon graduating from West Point, Davis was assigned to the post of second-lieutenant of the First Infantry. From 1828 to 1833, he carried out his first active service with the U.S. Army. Davis fought with his regiment in the Blackhawk War of 1831, during which they captured Chief Blackhawk himself. The Indian chief was placed under Davis’ care, with Davis winning Blackhawk over through his kind treatment of the prisoner.
Until the summer of 1835, Davis continued his service on the battlefield against Indian tribes, including the Comanche and Pawnees. In June 1835, Davis married his commanding officer’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. Because his commanding officer, none other than future president Zachary Taylor, was opposed to the marriage, Davis abruptly resigned his military post to take up civic duties prior to the wedding. Sadly, Sarah died of malaria just a few months later, in September 1835.

Early Politics

Jefferson Davis looking at Hiram Revels in his Congress Seat.
Jefferson Davis looking at Hiram Revels in his Congress Seat.

After leaving the military, Davis became a cotton farmer while preparing for a career in politics as a Democrat. In 1843, he participated in the gubernatorial campaign and served as a delegate at the Democratic National Convention. One year later, he became an elector for Pork and Dallas, taking the stance of state protection against federal interference and supporting Texas’ annexation in the process.
In December 1845, Davis won election to the U.S. House of Representatives and claimed a seat in Congress. Additionally, he remarried, this time to a woman named Varina Howell. The marriage helped further forge his connection with Mississippi planters, as Varina’s family was of that class.

Later Military

In June 1846, Jefferson Davis resigned from his position in Congress to lead the First Regiment of the Mississippi Riflemen in the Mexican-American War. He held the rank of colonel under his former father-in-law, General Zachary Taylor. During the Mexican-American War, Davis fought in the Battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista, in 1846 and 1847, respectively. At the Battle of Monterrey, he led his men to victory in an assault at Fort Teneria. He was injured at the Battle of Buena Vista when he blocked a charge of Mexican swords—an incident that earned him nationwide acclaim.

1942 Civil War Abraham Lincoln Jefferson Davis Political Cartoon
1942 Civil War Abraham Lincoln Jefferson Davis Political Cartoon

Later Politics

Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis
Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis

In 1847, following Davis’s heroic feat, Zachary Taylor appointed him U.S. senator from Mississippi. As a senator, he advocated for slavery and states’ rights, and opposed the admission of California to the Union as a free state. Davis held his Senate seat until 1851 and went on to run for the Mississippi governorship, but lost the election.
Explaining the way his position on the Union had evolved during his time in the Senate, David once stated, "My devotion to the Union of our fathers had been so often and so publicly declared; I had on the floor of the Senate so defiantly challenged any question of my fidelity to it; my services, civil and military, had now extended through so long a period and were so generally known, that I felt quite assured that no whisperings of envy or ill-will could lead the people of Mississippi to believe that I had dishonored their trust by using the power they had conferred on me to destroy the government to which I was accredited. Then, as afterward, I regarded the separation of the states as a great, though not the greater evil."

In 1853, Davis was appointed secretary of war by President Franklin Pierce. He served in that position until 1857, when he returned to the Senate. Although opposed to session, while back in the Senate, he continued to defend the rights of southern slave states. Davis remained in the Senate until January 1861, resigning when Mississippi left the Union.
Along with the formation of the Confederacy, Davis became was named president of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. On May 10, 1865, he was captured by Union forces near Irwinville, Virginia, and charged with treason. Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe in Virginia from May 22, 1865, to May 13, 1867, before being released on bail paid partly by abolitionist Horace Greely.

Later Life and Death

Following his term as president of the Confederacy, Davis traveled overseas on business. He was offered a job as president of Texas A&M University, but declined. He was also elected to the Senate a third time, but was unable to serve due to restrictions included in the 14th Amendment. In 1881,he wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in an effort to defend his political stance. Davis lived out his retirement years at an estate called Beauvoir in Mississippi.
Around 1 a.m. on December 6, 1889, Jefferson Davis died of acute bronchitis in New Orleans, Louisiana. His body was temporarily interred at New Orleans’s Metairie Cemetery. It was later relocated to a specially constructed memorial at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Sectionalism Relation

The Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America

As previously mentioned, Jefferson Davis was the president of the Confederate States Of America in its entirety.
The Confederacy was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by a number of Southern slave states that had declared their secession from the United States. This se
ctionalized the United States of America as it was known. Jefferson Davis even expressed the southern sentiment toward the election of Lincoln in 1860, “Your platform … denies us equality. Your votes refuse to recognize our domestic institutions which preexisted the formation of the Union, our property which was guarded by the Constitution. You refuse us that equality without which we should be degraded if we remained in the Union. You elect a candidate upon the basis of sectional hostility…made a distinct declaration of war upon our institutions…have declared your hostility.”

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