Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview
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He was born Jefferson Davis on June 3, 1808. There is some dispute of the year, but he wrote to a friend on June 3, 1878, “This is my birth day, on which I fulfil the measure of three score and ten.” Of this he was sure: “When I went to [West Point] in Sept. 1824 I reported my age 17 but after graduation when I returned home my Mother corrected me, stating I was born in 1808.” Nine children had already been born to Jane Cookand Samuel Emory Davis—Joseph Emory, Benjamin, Samuel A., Anna Eliza, Isaac Williams, Lucinda Farrar, Amanda, Matilda, and Mary Ellen. 1

One biographer claims Jeff had the middle name of Finis (the End). His parents may have thus put a period to their long frontier statement about the goodness of life, but the “F.” that occurs in his name off and on until 1839, when it is in his mother's will, is never spelled out. It is not even on his tombstone. That inscription begins: “Jefferson Davis / at rest / An American soldier.” 2

In any case, there were no more children. His mother was past fortyfive when this tenth child was born. 3 She nearly died. Anna, the eldest daughter, then seventeen, tookcharge of her baby brother, and “Sister Anne” was forever after like a mother to him. More than forty years later, sending her a profile “cameo likeness” of himself, in lieu of the daguerreotype she wanted, Jefferson wrote: “It is set in a breastpin that it may be brought very near to you, and that in this manner I may have renewed the happy days of childhood when my sweet sister held me in her arms.” Her granddaughter who quotes this letter says that this portrait brooch was Anna's “most cherished possession” and “the only ornament I ever saw her wear.” 4

When this last child was born, Samuel Davis had been raising food, tobacco, and horses on a farm in southwestern Kentucky for about

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