Jefferson Davis Elected Confederate President

U.S. #2975f – Though he led the Confederacy through the war, Davis had initially opposed secession.

Jefferson Davis Elected Confederate President

On November 6, 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.

Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky and grew up in Mississippi and Louisiana. He married Sarah Knox Taylor, former U.S. President Zachary Taylor’s daughter, though she died of Malaria three months into the marriage. Davis later developed a sprawling plantation in Mississippi, remarried, and raised a volunteer regiment for the Mexican-American War. After suffering an injury in the war, Davis served in the Senate.

CSA #4 – Confederate stamps were rushed into production after the U.S. demonetized all existing stamps.

Davis later took part in a pro-slavery convention and campaigned throughout the South for Democratic presidential candidate Franklin Pierce. He was rewarded with an appointment to serve as US secretary of War following Pierce’s election. Davis pushed for the Gadsden Purchase of today’s southern Arizona from Mexico, increased the Army from 11,000 to 15,000, and modernized its weaponry. He also oversaw the construction of the Capitol Dome. When Pierce lost his bid for re-election in 1857, Davis resumed his own Senate career.

CSA #11 – The postal department was the only Confederate governmental agency to turn a profit during the war.

On July 4, 1858, Davis delivered an anti-secessionist speech near Boston – a platform he would repeat in October. As he explained after the Civil War, Davis felt each state was sovereign and had the right to secede, but he didn’t believe the North would allow a peaceful separation and urged the South to delay secession for that reason. Davis knew the South lacked the military and naval resources to defend itself. Lincoln’s election and the rapid declarations of secession sealed Davis’ fate, and he delivered a farewell address to the U.S. Senate on January 21, 1861. He would call that day the saddest in his life.

Item #4567579 – 1864 banknote picturing Davis.

After Mississippi seceded, Davis was appointed major general of the Army of Mississippi. A constitutional convention was held on February 9, 1861, to determine a provisional president of the Confederacy. According to one source, Davis “was the champion of a slave society and embodied the values of the planter class, and thus was chosen provisional Confederate President by acclamation.” Davis had wanted to serve as a general in the Confederate Army, but accepted the nomination as president. Davis ran unopposed in the election, which was held on November 6, 1861. He was elected to a six-year term and was officially inaugurated the following February.

Item # 81860 – Cover honoring Davis’ birth.

Davis spent the first six weeks of his presidency trying to negotiate peacefully with Northern officials until talks broke down over Fort Sumter. Only then did Davis give the order to fire on the fort. Early on, Davis displayed the characteristics that doomed his leadership: a large reluctance to delegate authority and a dependence on old cronies. Flawed military strategy and insensitivity to the suffering of his followers also hampered Davis’ administration.

Captured on May 10, 1865, Davis spent two years in prison before being released on a bond of $100,000, which was raised by a group of prominent citizens. While he became a symbol of the Confederate “Lost Cause,” Davis urged loyalty to the nation during Reconstruction.

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16 responses to "Jefferson Davis Elected Confederate President"

16 thoughts on “Jefferson Davis Elected Confederate President”

  1. This was enlightening. All I ever knew about Davis was that he was the President of the Confederacy. Who knew there was so much going on leading up to, during, and after the Civil War.

    Reply
  2. In Houston the hospital for the poor and for so many emergency patients was called “Jeff Davis”. It stood out like a tower as you drove along Allen Parkway. Don’t know what they call it now. It eventually became a hospital for mentally ill people.

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  3. Although he had greater pre-war military experience than Lincoln, he has been judged to have been a worse Commander-in-Chief than the latter for the reasons that are given in the article. Lincoln’s problem was finding a field commander who was up to the task of waging aggressive offensive war against the rebels. Finally found the right man with Grant.

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  4. Sometimes we are not in control of our destiny. Sometime events dictate our destiny.
    This seemed to be tru of Jefferson Davis. He was ALWAYS portrayed as an evil traitor.
    But was he? Like many Southerners (Robert E. Lee, included) he did not want to
    form a new nation, but events turned out differently. He believed like many that
    the States joined the Union voluntarily and should, as they chose, be allowed to seceed
    from the Union. Davis kenw, as did others, that Lincoln would never allow this breakup
    of the Union and there would be war. A war many leaders knew that, in the end, they
    could never win.

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    • So very true. Many people are quick to judge and just label ALL confederates as racist traitors, but they forget they had legitimate concerns and legal reasoning. They believed, that under the Tenth Amendment, since the Constitution did not expressly forbid secession, it was allowed, and it’s not an unsound or unprincipled argument. Great article!

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  5. It’s interesting to compare people like leaders Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee with leaders like Sam Houston and Andrew Johnson. Sam Houston was governor of Texas in 1861, he opposed secession, and warned that a war against the northern states would bring disaster. He was right of course, but in 1861, he was overthrown as governor and died during the war in 1863. Andrew Johnson was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee, and when his state seceded, he refused to go along with it. He stayed in Washington, and continued to represent the loyal people of his state until he became military governor of Tennessee in 1862. Jefferson Davis was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, but resigned his seat and became President of the Confederacy. Robert E. Lee was an officer in the U.S. Army sworn to protect and defend the Constitution, but he resigned his commission and became a general in the Confederate army. If more leaders like Houston and Johnson had actively worked against secession, things might have worked out differently.

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  6. Thank you Mr Roger Zeimet. Grant; if one is not quite familiar, was anything
    but the prim and proper person that the president of a great republic should
    be. He was an alcoholic, very unkempt, and was late in arriving for the signing of the surrender of the South, at Appomattox Court House. He also arrived with dirt and mud on his boots and uniform.

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