Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview

XII
President

Jefferson Davis no more wanted to be president of the Confederate States of America now forming, than of the United States he was leaving. He already had what he wanted. On January 25, 1861, Gov. John J. Pettus commissioned him a major general and gave him command of the Army of Mississippi. “We both congratulated ourselves that he was to be in the field, ” says Varina. But others wanted him for president. An “experienced statesman, a man of the highest personal integrity, perfect courage, and absolute conviction, and an eloquent and attractive orator, ” wrote Basil Duke, Davis was at that time “the most prominent public man of the South, and generally esteemed the ablest.” James Chesnut said, “He was regarded by nearly the whole South as the fittest man for the position. I certainly so regarded him.” 1

But Davis had seen enough of Pierce's troubles “behind the scenes” to make it “to me an office in no wise desirable. I thought myself better adapted to command in the field.” His position as major general was now the one he “preferred to any other, ” and he tried to make himself secure by arranging (he does not say how) to have someone else elected, probably Howell Cobb. He did not feel himself “as well suited to the office as some others.” 2 As he told a friend later, despite his years in politics, “I had no fondness for it and felt always a distaste for its belongings, ” whereas “a military training gave me some confidence in my ability to command troops.” But it was Varina, not he, who said, “I thought his genius was military.” She called “absurd” the “charge that Mr. Davis thought himself a military genius”: “He was devoid of every kind of assumption.” Neither was he “a party manager”: “He did not know the arts of the politician, and would not practise them if understood.” As if to confirm this, his attempt at wire-pulling failed. 3

The Davises' return home with their three little children was like a triumphal progress. They could take the train the whole way now, but

-266-

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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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