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Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era

William J. Cooper, Jr.

Publication Year: 2013

In his masterpiece, Jefferson Davis, American, William J. Cooper, Jr., crafted a sweeping, definitive biography and established himself as the foremost scholar on the intriguing Confederate president. Cooper narrows his focus considerably in Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era, training his expert eye specifically on Davis's participation in and influence on events central to the American Civil War. Nine self-contained essays address how Davis reacted to and dealt with a variety of issues that were key to the coming of the war, the war itself, or in memorializing the war, sharply illuminating Davis's role during those turbulent years. Cooper opens with an analysis of Davis as an antebellum politician, challenging the standard view of Davis as either a dogmatic priest of principle or an inept bureaucrat. Next, he looks closely at Davis's complex association with secession, which included, surprisingly, a profound devotion to the Union. Six studies explore Davis and the Confederate experience, with topics including states' rights, the politics of command and strategic decisions, Davis in the role of war leader, the war in the West, and the meaning of the war. The final essay compares and contrasts Davis's first inauguration in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1861 with a little-known dedication of a monument to Confederate soldiers in the same city twenty-five years later. In 1886, Davis—an old man of seventy-eight and in poor health—had himself become a living monument, Cooper explains, and was an essential element in the formation of the Lost Cause ideology. Cooper's succinct interpretations provide straightforward, compact, and deceptively deep new approaches to understanding Davis during the most critical time in his life. Certain to stimulate further thought and spark debate, Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era offers rare insight into one of American history's most complicated and provocative figures.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-2

Jefferson Davis by William Cooper once again—one could legitimately ask why the need for a collection of essays on Davis from someone who not too long ago...

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1. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE SUDDEN DISAPPEARANCE OF SOUTHERN POLITICS

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pp. 3-18

Before the Civil War, Jefferson Davis was a superlative politician. Such a claim smacks of heresy in the face of the legion of critics who have branded him as stiff-necked, unbending, doctrinaire, and overbearing. Jefferson Davis, either as an upright...

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2. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE POLITICS OF SECESSION

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pp. 19-32

Because Jefferson Davis is best known as president of the Confederacy, most people assume that he advocated secession and that he played a leading role in breaking...

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3. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND STATES’ RIGHTS IN THE CONFEDERACY

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pp. 33-40

States’ rights and its influence on the Confederate States of America is a staple of southern history. Perhaps its most famous, and in some ways most lasting, formulation...

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4. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE POLITICS OF CONFEDERATE COMMAND

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pp. 41-54

Before 1861, Jefferson Davis’s chief occupation was politics. To be sure, he had other vocations. In early manhood he had served as an officer in the U.S. Army, and since the mid...

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5. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE POLITICAL DIMENSIONS OF CONFEDERATE STRATEGY

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pp. 55-66

Many students of the Civil War would roll their eyes at this title, calling it preposterous. To suggest that politics might have had anything to do with Jefferson Davis...

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6. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE WAR IN THE WEST

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pp. 67-78

Jefferson Davis and the war in the West is such a huge topic that treating it thoroughly in a brief essay is impossible. But rather than resort to a sketchy overview of the vast...

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7. JEFFERSON DAVIS AS WAR LEADER

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pp. 79-90

As president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis led his country in its war against the United States. The Confederate Constitution followed the U.S. Constitution in giving the president the basic powers of commander...

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8. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND THE MEANING OF THE WAR

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pp. 91-100

In the dozen years before 1861, Jefferson Davis was a national politician who became increasingly influential; by the latter half of the 1850s no southern political leader had more standing or prestige in the nation. Then during the Civil...

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9. JEFFERSON DAVIS AND TWO MONTGOMERY INAUGURALS, 1861 AND 1886

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pp. 101-108

The first inauguration of Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Alabama, occurred in February 1861. That event is well known and its importance indisputable. The second, as I term it, took place twenty-five years later in April 1886. That occurrence...

Images

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pp. 109-110

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 111-122

Transferring my remarks prepared for oral presentation to the printed page, I was always mindful of the assistance given by my initial audiences. Comments and questions from those who heard me speak have certainly prompted...

Notes

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pp. 123-128

Index

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pp. 140-145


E-ISBN-13: 9780807134597
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807150092

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 2013