Saturday, June 3, 2017

Birth Dates of Notorious Kentuckians: June 3, 1808 - Jefferson Davis



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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, was born at Fairview, then called Davisburg, in Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky, June 3, 1808. He was the youngest of five sons and five daughters born to Samuel Emory and Jane (Cook) Davis. His father, a captain in the Revolutionary War, was of Welsh ancestry and his mother of Scotch-Irish descent.

The family had moved from Georgia to Nelson County , Kentucky, in 1793, and to Christian County in 1798. There the elder Davis built a double log house on the present site of Bethel Baptist Church. He was a farmer and served as postmaster of Davisburg. In 1810 the family moved to Louisiana and then to Mississippi. Davis attended St. Thomas of Aquinas Catholic School, Springfield, Kentucky, from 1816 until 1818. While a student at Transylvania University , Lexington, in 1823-24, he developed a friendship with Albert Sidney Johnston, later a general in the Confederate army. Davis entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1824 and graduated twenty-third in his class, as second lieutenant, in 1828.

Lieutenant Davis was assigned to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and later to Fort Crawford, in Wisconsin Territory. He met and fell in love with Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Col. Zachary Taylor . Partly because of the colonel's opposition to their relationship, Davis resigned from the army in 1835. He married "Knox" in Louisville on June 17, 1835. She died three months later of malaria, at the plantation home of his brother. For eight years Davis lived alone at his Brierfield plantation in Mississippi, where he managed the farm operations. In February 1845 Davis married Varina Howell of Natchez, Mississippi. They had four sons and two daughters.

Davis was appointed to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from March 4, 1845, until he resigned in June 1846 to enter the Mexican War. He led the 1st Mississippi Volunteers Regiment and commanded staunch allegiance from his men. Deploying his men in the V formation, he led the storming of Monterrey, was wounded and emerged the hero of Buena Vista. Returning from the war, Davis was appointed to the U.S. Senate on August 10, 1847, by the Mississippi legislature. In 1848 he was elected to complete the term, but resigned on September 23, 1851, in protest over Henry Clay 's 1850 compromise. As a strict interpreter of the U.S. Constitution and a strong supporter of the states' rights leader, John C. Calhoun, Davis considered the compromise a constitutional violation. In 1851 Davis lost the election for governor of Mississippi as the Democrats' states' rights candidate.

President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis secretary of war in 1853. In this office he improved the system of infantry tactics, organized an engineers' company to explore railroad routes, and imported camels for use by the U.S. Army in the West. Davis was elected from Mississippi to the U.S. Senate for the term beginning March 4, 1857, and became a leading spokesman for strict constitutional interpretation. He resigned on January 21, 1861, after Mississippi's secession from the Union.

The provisional Confederate Congress, in a meeting in Montgomery, Alabama, named Davis president of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861. As an administrator, Davis acted with dignity and sincerity and portrayed a strict devotion to constitutional principle. When the Confederate military collapsed and Richmond fell, Davis and his family tried to flee to Mexico. They were captured by Union forces near Irwinsville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. Davis's imprisonment at Fortress Monroe, Virginia, ended in May 1867.

After spending a year in Canada and another year traveling, Davis settled in Memphis, where he served as president of the Carolina Insurance Co. from 1869 until 1873. In 1879 he bought a six-hundred-acre plantation, Beauvoir, located on the Gulf Coast at Biloxi, Mississippi. Two years later Davis completed his two-volume Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. The last years of his life were spent in traveling, making public appearances, and attending veterans' reunions.

Davis returned to his native county on two occasions. In 1875 he was invited to attend the Christian County Agricultural and Mechanical Association fair at Hopkinsville and there spoke before a crowd estimated at 10,000. In 1886 Davis attended the dedication of Bethel Baptist Church, built on the site of his birthplace at Fairview. The Confederate president died in New Orleans on December 6, 1889, and was buried there. His body was later removed to Richmond, Virginia.

WILLIAM T. TURNER, Entry Author 

Selected Sources from UK Libraries:

Warren, Robert Penn. Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back. Lexington, Ky.: U of Kentucky, 1980. Print.

E467.1.D26 W326, Young Library - 4th Floor

Davis, Jefferson, Lynda Lasswell. Crist, Mary Seaton. Dix, and Kenneth H. Williams. The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1971. Print.

E467.1 .D2596, Young Library – 4th Floor

Davis, Jefferson, and Hudson Strode. Private Letters, 1823-1889. 1st Ed.]. ed. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1966. Print.
E664.D28 A4, Young Library – 4th Floor

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