Jefferson Davis

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Jefferson Finis Davis (June 3, 1808 – December 6, 1889) was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War; serving as the President for its entire history. A West Point graduate, Davis fought in the Mexican-American War as a colonel of a volunteer regiment, and was the United States Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. Both before and after his time in the Pierce administration, he served as a U.S. Senator representing the State of Mississippi. As a senator, he argued against secession, but did agree that each state was sovereign and had an unquestionable right to secede from the Union.

On February 18, 1861, after he resigned from the U.S. Senate, Davis was selected provisional President of the Confederate States of America; he was elected without opposition to a six-year term that November. During his presidency, Davis took charge of the Confederate war plans but was unable to find a strategy to stop the larger, more powerful and better organized Union. His diplomatic efforts failed to gain recognition from any foreign country, and he paid little attention to the collapsing Confederate economy, printing more and more paper money to cover the war's expenses. Historians have criticized Davis for being a much less effective war leader than his Union counterpart Abraham Lincoln, which they attribute to Davis being overbearing, over controlling, and overly meddlesome, as well as being out of touch with public opinion, and lacking support from a political party (the Confederacy had no political parties.)[citation needed] According to historian Bell I. Wiley, the flaws in his personality and temperament made him a failure as the highest political officer in the Confederacy. His preoccupation with detail, inability to delegate responsibility, lack of popular appeal, feuds with powerful state governors, inability to get along with people who disagreed with him, and his neglect of civil matters in favor of military were only a few of the shortcomings which worked against him.[2]

After Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, he was charged with treason, though not tried, and stripped of his eligibility to run for public office.[3] While not disgraced, he was displaced in Southern affection after the war by the leading Confederate general, Robert E. Lee. However, many Southerners empathized with his defiance, refusal to accept defeat, and resistance to Reconstruction. Over time, admiration for his pride and ideals made him a Civil War hero to many Southerners, and his legacy became part of the foundation of the postwar New South.[4]

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