You may have read books about the Civil War and how the United States were torn apart. Brother fought brother. Father fought son. Families were split apart. Did you know that in this time of upheaval that the United States had two Presidents? It’s true. The President of the Union was Abraham Lincoln. We hear a lot about him. The President of the Confederacy was Jefferson Davis. We don’t hear much about him, but there’s a few facts about is life that are very interesting.
Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808 in Christian County, (now known as Todd County) Kentucky. His family tree sported a long list of soldiers. Several had fought in the American Revolution and his older brothers had fought in the War of 1812. Though he wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps, his family encouraged him to become involved in civil work.
Davis married Sallie Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor in 1835. Tragically, she died three months later. Davis then bought a cotton plantation. Slaves worked the fields and the venture was a success.
In 1845, he married Varina Howell. In December of that year, Davis took his seat Congress. Though always active in his political career, he was devoted to his wife and children.
When the south seceded from the Union, they made Davis their leader. He held the title of President of the Confederacy until General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia on April 9, 1865.
When Davis heard the news of Lee’s surrender, he and his cabinet fled south to avoid capture. Though Lee had admitted defeat, Davis did not. He wanted the north to agree to fairer terms than they’d offered Lee.
On May 10, 1865, Davis and Varina were in Irwinville, Georgia. Union soldiers captured Davis and charged him with treason and plotting to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. He was treated badly during the two years he spent in prison and was never given a trial. Luckily, he was released. The crimes for which he was captured were punishable by death.
Davis spent the remainder of his life at his home in Bilouxi, Mississippi. He never applied for a pardon. He still believed that the southern states should have been allowed to secede. He died in New Orleans on December 5, 1889.
Davis was originally buried in New Orleans. His body was later transferred by funeral car to Richmond, Virginia, which had been the capitol of the Confederacy. Thousands of people attended the ceremony when he was laid in his final resting place.
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