Jefferson Davis. Before becoming the President of the Confederate States in 1861, he was a Democrat who represented Mississippi in both the Senate and the House. Before that, in 1853, he was US Secretary of War. He was also a plantation owner who kept somewhere around 74 slaves.
|Plaster Death Mask of Jefferson Davis
Davis has been criticized by many for the way he led during the American Civil War - favoring the rich over the poor, poor management and coordination of his generals, selecting friends for military positions. One historian, William J. Cooper, Jr, put it this way when comparing him to his Union counterpart, President Abraham Lincoln:
Lincoln was flexible; Davis was rigid. Lincoln wanted to win; Davis wanted to be right. Lincoln had a broad strategic vision of Union goals; Davis could never enlarge his narrow view. Lincoln searched for the right general, then let him fight the war; Davis continuously played favorites and interfered unduly with his generals, even with Robert E. Lee. Lincoln led his nation; Davis failed to rally the South.
According to Wikipedia: After General Lee's surrender in 1865, a public meeting was held in Shreveport, Louisiana, at which many speakers supported continuation of the war. Plans were developed for the Davis government to flee to Havana, Cuba. There, the leaders would regroup and head to the Confederate-controlled Trans-Mississippi area by way of the Rio Grande. None of these plans were put into practice.
1865 wasn't a good year for Davis. After the surrender of the Confederacy, he was imprisoned for two years at Fortress Monroe in Virginia. After two years he was released on $100,000 bail then met up with his family who had fled to Lennoxville, Quebec. From here, he travelled extensively, trying to find work that he felt suited him. In late 1881, after a long legal battle, he won back title to one of his plantations, Brierfield, all the while continuing his belief in the superiority of whites. He blamed race as the heart of what he called "the night of despotism" enveloping the South, citing Republicans who gave political rights to blacks that made them "more idle and ungovernable than before".
|Beauvoir - retirement home of Jefferson Davis
|Portrait of Davis' father who is buried in the Veterans Cemetery on the grounds
|Portrait of one of Davis' daughters
|The Davis' wedding photographs
In his later years Davis wrote many articles and books, and in 1877 he was invited to stay at the home of wealthy widower and writer, Sarah Anne Ellis Dorsey. Beauvoir was a stately home sitting on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Biloxi, Mississippi. He eventually purchased the property from Dorsey. In November of 1889 he made a trip back to his Brierfield plantation, making the journey from New Orleans by steamboat. Sleety rain caused him to fall ill and never recover. Holding his wife's hand, he passed away on December 6, 1889.
|Davis Presidential Library and Museum
|Confederate Veterans Cemetery on the grounds of Beauvoir
|Vehicle that transported Davis' body at his funeral
The Jefferson Davis Presidential Library isn't one of the libraries overseen by the National Archives and Records Administration because Davis wasn't a true American president. But the Sons of Confederate Veterans gathered an obviously large amount of funds, and the library was born. It houses a ton of artifacts both from Davis' life and from the Civil War. What it doesn't do, however, unless I missed a floor, is address the issue of slavery. But the gift shop is well stocked with Confederate flags, mugs, pins and scarfs...should the desire overtake you.
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