Jefferson Davis, who became the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, was born June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky. His father, Samuel Emory Davis was born in 1756 and served in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary. Davis grew up on his older brother Joseph’s large cotton plantations in Mississippi. His brother, who was 24 years older, also secured Jefferson’s appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After graduating, toward the bottom of his class, Jefferson Davis served six years as a lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War as the colonel of a volunteer regiment. He served as the U.S. Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and as a Democratic U.S. senator from Mississippi. As Secretary of War, he was considered one of the best up to that time.
On June 17, 1835, Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of his commanding officer, Colonel Zachary Taylor, a future President of the United States. Unfortunately, she died 3 months after the wedding of malaria. At the age of 36, Davis married again, to 18-year-old Varina Howell.
Davis had a distinguished military career. He returned to Mississippi and got involved in politics, ultimately being elected Senator from that State. In 1853 Franklin Pierce was elected President and made Davis Secretary of War. Pierce only served one term, and in 1857 Davis was re-elected to the Senate.
Upon succession of Mississippi from the Union, Davis returned from Washington. On January 23, 1861, the Governor of Mississippi made Davis a major general of the Army of Mississippi. On February 9, 1861, a constitutional convention met at Montgomery, Alabama and considered Davis and Robert Toombs of Georgia as a possible President of the new Confederacy. Davis, who had widespread support from six of the seven states, easily won.
Do you know who Thaddeus Stephens of Georgia was?
At the end of the war and the assignation of President Lincoln, President Andrew Johnson sought the capture of Jefferson Davis. Davis was captured on May 10, 1865 and was indicted for treason and imprisoned at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was never tried and was released after two years. He ultimately retired to Beauvoir, the home in Biloxi Mississippi we visited today, where he wrote his memoirs.
Davis called Beauvoir his home until his death on Friday, December 6, 1889 at 12:45 a.m. from bronchitis and complications from Malaria, which he caught the same time his first wife had it.
An interesting note: Throughout my travels through the South, I referred to this flag
as the Stars and Bars. Eventually, this is a common misconception among us northerners.
This flag, raised in Montgomery, Alabama on March 4, 1861, was the first flag of the new confederacy and is correctly referred to as the Stars and Bars.
It originally had six stars, but increased to 13 as States seceded. It got it’s name from the circle of stars and wide bars.
The first flag of the confederacy was used at the First Battle of Bull Run in September, 1861. Because of the heavy smoke from gun and cannon fire, there was confusion on both sides between this flag and the United States Stars and Stripes. This resulted with soldiers from both side shooting their own men.
General P.T Beauregard commissioned the battle flag (first flag above). It was used through out the rest of the war on the battlefield, and is the flag we are all familiar. You learn something new everyday.