Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was a prominent American leader during the Civil War, serving as the President of the Confederate States of America.
Born in Kentucky, he attended West Point, married Sarah Knox Taylor (daughter of future President Zachary Taylor) in 1835, and later served in Congress and as the U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.
Davis led the Confederacy during the Civil War and, after capture, became an advocate for the Southern perspective in the war’s aftermath. He passed away in 1889 in New Orleans.
|Jefferson Finis Davis is born in Kentucky.
|Enters the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
|Graduates from West Point, commissioned as 2nd lieutenant.
|Marries Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor.
|Elected to U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi.
|Serves in the Mexican-American War, becomes colonel.
|Returns to Congress after the war.
|Appointed as U.S. Secretary of War under President Pierce.
|Becomes President of the Confederate States.
|Serves as President during the Civil War.
|Captured by Union forces in Georgia.
|Imprisoned at Fort Monroe.
|Released on bail, not tried for treason.
|Writes memoir, advocates for the “Lost Cause” interpretation.
|Dies in New Orleans on December 6, 1889.
Timeline of Jefferson Davis
1808: Jefferson Finis Davis is born in Kentucky
On June 3, 1808, Jefferson Finis Davis was born in Christian County, Kentucky. He was the youngest of ten children in a prosperous farming family.
This marked the beginning of his life in the American South, which would play a significant role in his later political career.
1824: Enters the U.S. Military Academy at West Point
In 1824, Davis began his education at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. At West Point, he received a formal military education and training. This experience would shape his future military career.
1828: Graduates from West Point, commissioned as 2nd lieutenant
In 1828, Davis graduated from West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
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His military service began with this commission, and he initially served in various posts in the U.S. Army, gaining practical experience in military affairs.
Davis’s early military career laid the foundation for his later roles in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War.
1835: Marries Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor
In 1835, Jefferson Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of future U.S. President Zachary Taylor. Their marriage was a significant event in Davis’s personal life.
However, it was also marked by tragedy, as both Sarah and Davis’s father-in-law, Zachary Taylor, fell victim to a cholera outbreak and died in the same year.
1845: Elected to U.S. House of Representatives from Mississippi
In 1845, Davis was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a representative from Mississippi.
Also Read: Jefferson Davis Facts
This marked the beginning of his political career, and he served as a Democrat in Congress. During his time in the House, he supported states’ rights and was an advocate for Southern interests.
1846-1847: Serves in the Mexican-American War, becomes colonel
In 1846, Davis resigned from Congress to serve as a colonel in the U.S. Army during the Mexican-American War.
His military leadership and bravery in battle earned him recognition and respect. He played a notable role in the Battle of Buena Vista. This experience bolstered his military credentials and contributed to his prominence in the South.
1847: Returns to Congress after the war
After the Mexican-American War, in 1847, Jefferson Davis returned to Congress, representing Mississippi once again in the U.S. House of Representatives.
His military service had enhanced his reputation, and he continued to be a vocal advocate for states’ rights and the interests of the Southern states.
1853: Appointed as U.S. Secretary of War under President Pierce
In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Jefferson Davis as the U.S. Secretary of War. In this role, Davis was responsible for overseeing the U.S. military and played a significant role in military policy and affairs during Pierce’s presidency.
His tenure as Secretary of War further solidified his experience in military matters and government leadership.
1861: Becomes President of the Confederate States
In 1861, following Mississippi’s secession from the Union, Jefferson Davis resigned from the U.S. Senate and became the President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861.
This marked a critical turning point in his career as he assumed leadership of the newly formed Confederate government at the outset of the American Civil War.
1861-1865: Serves as President during the Civil War
Jefferson Davis served as the President of the Confederate States throughout the duration of the American Civil War, from 1861 to 1865. His presidency was marked by the challenges of leading the Confederacy during a tumultuous and divisive period in American history.
He faced significant military, political, and economic challenges as the South fought to secede from the Union.
1865: Captured by Union forces in Georgia
In 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close, Jefferson Davis was captured by Union forces in Georgia on May 10, 1865. His capture marked a significant turning point in the conflict, as it signaled the collapse of the Confederate government.
1865-1867: Imprisoned at Fort Monroe
Following his capture, Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe in Virginia. He spent about two years in captivity, during which time he was held as a political prisoner. His imprisonment was a subject of controversy, and there were debates over whether he should be tried for treason.
1867: Released on bail, not tried for treason
In 1867, Jefferson Davis was released from prison on bail. He was never tried for treason, and his release marked the end of his confinement. While he had been a prominent figure in the Confederacy, his release marked a step toward post-war reconciliation.
Post-Civil War: Writes memoir, advocates for the “Lost Cause” interpretation
After his release, Jefferson Davis settled in the South and became an advocate for the “Lost Cause” interpretation of the Civil War. He argued that the Southern cause had been just and that the war had been fought for principles like states’ rights and constitutional liberties.
Davis also wrote his memoir, titled “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” which provided his perspective on the events of the Civil War.
1889: Dies in New Orleans on December 6, 1889
Jefferson Davis lived out his post-war years in relative obscurity but remained a symbol of the Confederate cause.
He died on December 6, 1889, in New Orleans, Louisiana, at the age of 81. His death marked the end of an era and the fading of one of the most prominent figures associated with the Confederate States of America.