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Jefferson Davis


Jefferson Davis served in the United States Senate until January 1861, resigning when the state of Mississippi seceded from the Union. In February 1861, the Provisional Government of the Confederacy appointed Davis President of the Confederacy, and he was officially elected President in November 1861. Because he had served as the U.S. Secretary of War under President Pierce he was fully aware of the military and naval disadvantages facing the south before the war even began.

The capital of Confederacy was to be in Montgomery, Alabama and from the beginning of his term as President, Davis struggled to form a cohesive government in the south. It was during these early years of the Confederacy that Davis gave final approval to attack Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861.  When Virginia seceded in May he moved his new government to Richmond and took up residency at the White House of the Confederacy.

Davis also paid a historic visit to Fairfax in the fall of 1861. In early October he visited his generals and troops at Fairfax Court House (today's City of Fairfax). It was at this Fairfax Court House Conference that General P.G.T. Beauregard set forth his audacious plan to mass Confederate forces in Fairfax and attack the federal capital in Washington. Davis didn't believe the army could amass the manpower or supplies to pull off such a feat, instead insisting on a defensive posture. Some believe this pivotal decision early in the war thwarted the Confederacy's best chance at victory. Also while in Fairfax, Davis and his Generals reviewed Confederate troops numbering close to 30,000. It was the largest Confederate troop review for Davis in the entire war.

In the later years of the war with Grant poised to take Richmond, Davis fled. After Lee's surrender in April, and little remaining support for continuing the war, Davis officially dissolved the Confederate Government in early May 1865. He was soon captured and held as a prisoner for two years in Fort Monroe, Virginia. Part of his bail is posted by the abolitionist Horace Greeley.

In 1881, Davis authored The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government which he explained in his own words the causes that he believed led to and justified the American Civil War. Davis died in 1889 in Louisiana. In 1973 a Joint Resolution of Congress was signed by U.S. president Jimmy Carter reinstating Jefferson Davis's citizenship.

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