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You can always tell an old soldier by the inside of his holsters and cartridge boxes. The young men carry pistols and cartridges; the old ones, grub.

-- George Bernard Shaw

Jefferson Davis (1808 - 1889)

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Born in Kentucky not far from Abraham Lincoln in time or distance, the only President of the Confederacy was a decorated war veteran and politician. He graduated West Point in 1828 and married the daughter of Zachary Taylor in 1835. She died shortly thereafter.

In 1845 Davis married Varina Howell, the daughter of a Mississippi aristocrat and plantation owner. He sucessfully ran for the U. S. House of Representatives, only to resign in 1846 to join his former father-in-law in Texas preparing for the Mexican-American War. Leading a regiment from Mississippi, Davis held his position at Buena Vista thanks to some expert artillery work by a young captain named Braxton Bragg, saving Zachary Taylor from defeat.

He returned home to become a "cotton nabob," (slang Southern term for the newly rich), served as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce and twice he returned to Washington as a U. S. Senator, neither time finishing his term. Davis became a spokesman for the South, viewing it as "...a country within a country." When the Confederacy seceded, Davis was not the first choice for "provisional President", Georgian Alexander "Little Aleck" Stephens was but his pro-Union stand prior to secession made Stephens unacceptable to some. Georgian Howell Cobb was also considered for the job, which he refused. Davis was a compromise candidate who was chosen in secrecy. He would be approved by popular vote on Feb. 22, 1862

Davis was an authoritarian Federalist. His policies split the state governors like Joseph E. Brown of Georgia, who felt that Davis violated the intent of Confederate Constitution. Brown wanted more say over the men from his state and exerted it to some degree, holding back significant amounts of men and arms in the early battles. Francis Bartow, who died at First Manassas, felt that the feud between Brown and Davis had caused his men to enter this battle ill-prepared for war. Davis repeatedly interfered with strategies of his generals and changed orders from his war staff in Richmond. He visited Georgia at least 4 times during his Presidency, including the "inaugural tour."

After the battle of Chickamauga and before the battle of Chattanoooga he met with Bragg and his senior officers near Rossville, Georgia. The site where they met is now the popular Lake Winnie. Almost all of Bragg's staff had petitioned the President to remove his old friend. Rather than listen to James Longstreet, Nathan Bedford Forrest and Leonidas Polk, Davis backed the man who saved his regiment at Buena Vista. Many historians consider the overwhelming defeat at Chattanooga to be the last chance the South had to win the Civil War.

Over the next two years Davis mis-managed virtually every aspect of the war and the government. With Atlanta nearly surrounded and unable to get Joseph E. Johnston to commit to defend his position, Davis relieved the commander of the Army of Tennessee, replacing him with John B. Hood. Hood promptly lost more men in 6 weeks than Johnston lost in three months.

With the South in ruins and Grant's Army near he fled Richmond. After his capture in the vicinity of Irwinville, Ga. at the end of the war the former president spent two years in jail for treason but was released before trial. A private businessman and author after his release, Jefferson Davis died in 1889 at the age of 81.

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