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The Civil War

The Civil War

Jefferson Davis in The Civil War

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) was the first and only president of the Confederate States of America. After a distinguished career in national politics as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, Davis served as a congressman and then as a Mississippi senator. After the South's defeat in the Civil War, he was stripped of his citizenship and took refuge in Europe, returning to the United States after a treason case against him was dropped. He died in New Orleans in 1889, and Congress posthumously reinstated his American citizenship in 1978.

Davis was a moderate political leader who was never able to figure out how to defeat the better-equipped North. As president, he acted as his own Secretary of War and meddled constantly in southern military strategy. He held less power in the South than Lincoln did in the North, and the power he did have rapidly decreased as the Union Army captured large parts of the Confederacy. Davis's economic policies failed to provide the South with a stable currency or enough industrial capacity to prevail in the war. Towards the end of the war, Davis insisted on holding out until the bitter end, even when it was clear that the Confederacy had lost. In recent years, his legacy has suffered in comparison to that of Robert E. Lee, the general he appointed to replace Joe Johnston in 1862. Davis is buried in Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of the Confederacy.

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