Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart

By Felicity Allen | Go to book overview

Preface

When Jeff Davis died in 1889, everyone in the South knew who he was, and what he was. In Europe and the North, most people knew something about him, even if it was bad. Yet by 1977, FrankVandiver had picked up a phrase Communists were then using to obliterate their enemies and referred to him as “an historical nonperson.” Beginning my research just before this, I had found indeed that ignorance like my own was a general state. My friends could not tell me anything except that Davis had been president of the Confederacy. So I read Dunbar Rowland's ten-volume collection of Davis's letters and papers, little by little, in order to answer the question: “What was he really like?”

This was what Sigrid Undset had asked in 1942 when Hudson Strode tookher to see the daughters of Gen. and Mrs. Josiah Gorgas in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. They, whose parents had known Davis, told her, “He was noble! A man of impeccable integrity, with a truly warm and generous heart” and “a splendid soldier.” The Nobel Prize winner in literature was puzzled. She knew that Robert E. Lee, her son's hero, was “glorified by both sides, ” and she could not understand why historians seemed to tell her only about Davis's faults. “Could anyone else have done so well, or held the Confederacy together so long with so little?” she asked. “Why is Jefferson Davis not given his due?”

Those four years as president will always be the ones of most interest, but that leaves seventy-seven more. “My whole life must speakfor me, ” said Leonidas Polk. So must Davis's. Those other years are in this book, as detailed as space will allow, showing his youth, his careers of soldier, planter, statesman, executive, and lastly, writer. All the outward events of his life speakclearly but do not say enough. What a man is “really like” comes out in the thoughts of his heart—what he feels and thinks and, above all, believes. We discover these in this bookthrough his own words, his prayers, what he chooses to read, and his relations with other people. His enemies speaktheir minds about him here, and we follow close friendships, some lasting throughout his life. The one with Lee is xi

-xi-

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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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