A Guide to the Jefferson Davis Papers, [ca. 1850]-1891
Born in Kentucky, Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) grew up in Mississippi and attended West Point, the U.S. military academy. After graduation, Davis served in the Black Hawk War in 1832 and resigned from the army in 1835. That year, he married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of Zachary Taylor, who died shortly after the marriage. Davis and his brother Joseph owned the Brierfield Plantation in Warren County, Mississippi, where he farmed cotton. In 1845, he married Varina Howell and became a representative in the U.S. Congress. With the outbreak of the Mexican War in 1846, Davis returned to the military, commanding the 1st Mississippi Regiment. Following the war, the Mississippi governor appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 1847, and two years later Davis won another term. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis secretary of war. He returned to the Senate in 1857, resigning upon the secession of Mississippi in January 1861. The next month, a convention of the seven seceded states appointed Davis president of the newly formed Confederate States of America.
During the Civil War, Davis kept a close watch on battles and corresponded with his cabinet members and army commanders, including Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, and John H. Reagan. On April 10, 1865, Robert E. Lee officially surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia in General Orders No. 9, and Davis fled the Confederate capitol at Richmond, Virginia. He was captured on May 10 and imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia.
Following his release, Davis traveled throughout Europe and the Americas. He served on the boards of numerous financial institutions and was elected to the U.S. Senate, which he could not serve due to terms of the Fourteenth Amendment. He and his brother sold their plantation to their freed salve Ben Montgomery, and Davis published The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government in 1881.
Rafuse, E. S. "Davis, Jefferson (1808-1889)."Encyclopedia Virginia. Last modified on October 13, 2010. http://encyclopediavirginia.org/Davis_Jefferson_1808-1889.
Comprising photographs, engravings, political cartoons, and Confederate documents, the Jefferson Davis Papers, [ca. 1850]-1891, document the political career of Davis, particularly in regards to his presidency of the Confederate States of America. Two scrapbooks, [ca. 1850]-1891, contain political cartoons of Davis, photographs and drawings of his home and funeral, as well as articles about his escape and trial following the Civil War. Photographs, negatives, cartoons, and engravings from magazines, newspapers, and envelopes depict Jefferson Davis. The collection also includes a list of nominations for officers in the Confederate Navy and a Photostat of the certificate appointing John H. Reagan as Postmaster General of the Confederacy.
Jefferson Davis Papers, [ca. 1850]-1891, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.
Detailed Description of the Papers