Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview

IV
Army

Jefferson Davis began his army career when John C. Calhoun, secretary of war, issued his “commission of Cadet” on March 11, 1824. As Davis explained much later, cadets were warrant officers assigned to duty at the military academy and “in the service as much as they will ever be.” But he was still very much the schoolboy when he returned a reluctant “I accept it” on July 7, adding, “am not able to go on before sept. for reasons I will explain to the superintendent on my arrival. Yours &C.” 1 The term at West Point began unremittingly on June 25, with the summer encampment for drill and artillery practice. Classes began on September 1. When Cadet Davis arrived, he found the session under way and the superintendent, Lt. Col. Sylvanus Thayer, not at all interested in his explanation. Had it not been for Capt. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, who “had known my family” when on duty in Natchez, and the fact that the academic board was sitting in special session to examine a cadet with the magic name of Washington, he could not have gotten in.

Even so, barring the way was his old enemy, mathematics. Hitchcock got him a hearing “and told me that I would be examined, particularly in arithmetic. He asked, 'I suppose you have learned arithmetic?' To which I had to answer in the negative…. He was quite alarmed, and went off and got me an arithmetic, telling me to study as much as I could of fractions and proportion. I had hardly commenced when an order came to bring me before the staff.” Davis muddled through the mathematics on his native wit and his knowledge of algebra. The French test he found easy, and the language professor, finding that Davis knew Greek, “launched into a discussion … as to the construction of Greek, with which he was so delighted that he kept on till the superintendent stopped him, and that broke up my examination.” From then on, says

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Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Editorial Note xix
  • Jefferson Davis - Unconquerable Heart *
  • I - Capture 1
  • II - Home 31
  • III - School 45
  • IV - Army 57
  • V - Marriage 83
  • VI - Plantation and Politics 111
  • VII - Fame 137
  • VIII - United States Senator 159
  • IX - Victory in Defeat 184
  • X - War Department Days 202
  • XI - Struggles for Health and the South 225
  • XII - President 266
  • XIII - The Chief Executive 292
  • XIV - Commander in Chief 317
  • XV - The Year of Our Lord 1863 344
  • XVI - Double-Quick Downhill 372
  • XVII - Prisoners 412
  • XVIII - An Unseen Hand 434
  • XIX - Varina 461
  • XX - Sad Wandering 488
  • XXI - The Cause 511
  • XXII - The Hero 534
  • XXIII - Afterward 560
  • Appendix A - J. E. Johnston to J. Davis, on Rank 577
  • Appendix B - Proclamations by Davis for Days of Prayer 582
  • Appendix C - Devotional Material Used by Davis in Prison 584
  • Preface to the Notes 587
  • Notes 593
  • Select Bibliography 733
  • Index 761
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