The Papers of Jefferson Davis

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1808--1840

Jefferson Davis. edited by Haskell M. Monroe, Jr., James T. McIntosh, and Bruce Catton

Much of Jefferson Davis' life and career has been obscured in controversy and misinterpretation. This full, carefully annotated edition will make it possible for scholars to reassess the man who served as President of the Confederacy and who in the aftermath of war became the symbolic leader of the South.

For almost a decade a dedicated team of scholars has been collecting and documenting Davis' papers and correspondence for this multi-volume work. The first volume includes not only Davis' private and public correspondence but also the important letters and documents addressed to and concerning him. Two autobiographical accounts, a detailed genealogy of the Davis family, and a complete bibliography are also included.

This volume covers Davis' early years in Mississippi and Kentucky, his career at West Point, his first military assignments, and his tragic marriage to Sarah Knox Taylor. Together, the letters and documents unfold a human story of the first thirty-two years of a long life that later became filled with turbulence and controversy.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1849--1852

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist. introduction by Richard E. Beringer

May Seaton Dix, Associate Editor
Richard E. Beringer, Visiting Coeditor

In Volume 4 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, which covers the years 1849 to 1852, Davis had clearly chosen politics ar his life's work. He relished in his role as Mississippi's senior senator and willingly assumed the responsibility of being a national spokesman for the South. This period also saw a number of events in Davis' personal life, notably the birth of his first child and the beginning of a long estrangement from his brother Joseph.

In January, 1849, Davis signed the Southern Address, although he occasionally disagreed with the extreme positions of its author, John C. Calhoun. Outside the Senate, Davis supported the objectives of the Nashville Convention and, later, the idea of a southern congress. During the crisis of 1850 Davis spoke often on such key issues as the regulation of slavery in the territories, the extension of the Missouri Compromise line, the admission of California, the Texas-New Mexico boundary, the continuation of the slave trade in the District of Columbia, and the Fugitive Slave Act. In 1851 he proposed purchasing camels for military transportation and urged that a Pacific railroad route be considered in the definition of the Mexican boundary.

As a loyal Democrat, Davis had supported Lewis Cass in 1848, but he was a conspicuous personal favorite of Zachary Taylor, the new Whig president and his former father-in-law. In 1850 Taylor reportedly intervened to prevent a duel between Illinois representative William H. Bissell and Davis, who was incensed by Bissell's remarks about the Mississippi regiment at Buena Vista. Soon after joining the Taylor family at the president's deathbed in July, 1850, Davis defended Taylor's Mexican War performance in well-publicized Senate speech. Between sessions in 1849 Davis canvassed Mississippi, addressing gatherings throughout the state in favor of congressional candidates. He warned of northern aggressions, yet urged the exhaustion of all means of peaceful resistance before secession be considered. When he returned home after the arduous 1850 session, he defended his course, denying charges that he was a disunionist.

In February, 1850, Davis had been reelected to the Senate for a full six-year term, but in September, 1851, he resigned to accept the Sate Rights nomination for governor in opposition to Union nominee Henry Foote. Although illness precluded much active campaigning in the few weeks before the election, Davis substantially reduced the Union lead and lost by a narrow margin. A private citizen for the first time since 1845, Davis continued his involvement in politics. Despite nagging personal problems and ill health, he promoted Democratic unity and took to the stump for Franklin Pierce in 1852.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1853--1855

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist, Mary Seaton Dix, and Robert M. Utley

Mary Seaton Dix, Associate Editor
The fifth volume of The Papers of Jefferson Davis presents 9,000 of the approximately 21,000 known Davis letters, papers, and speeches from the years 1853 through 1855, when Davis served as secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce. Most of the documents are included in summary form in an extensive calendar; 93 are published in full with annotation.

Well prepared for the War Department position by his military education and experience, Davis was already known as a champion of the army and West Point from his years in Congress. As secretary, Davis administered a department of eight bureaus and a military establishment spread thinly from coast to coast. An increase and reorganization of the army along with the establishment of new posts became top priorities as a tide of settlers encroached in Indian lands in the Mexican cession and Far West. Davis also supervised army engineering projects as varied as the Capitol extension, military roads, and river and harbor improvements. The curriculum of the Military Academy, new weapons and armaments development, the activities of the Crimea commission, the Pacific railroad surveys, and the camel expedition -- all commanded his minute attention

.Despite the burdens of office, Davis maintained a lively interest in the issues of the day, among them Latin American filibustering, the purchase of Cuba, states' rights, slavery, and the conflict in Kansas. The wide attention accorded his travels and speeches brought national prominence to him and speculation about his future candidacy for governor, a return to the Senate, the vice-presidency, and even the presidency.

Personal correspondence includes letters that touch on Davis' long estrangement from his brother, the death of his first child, persistent health problems, and relationships with friends and family. Much of hiss official correspondence, especially several angry exchanges with army officers, reveals even more about Davis' personality. In addition to the documents published in full and calendared, an appendix includes over one hundred recently discovered personal and political items dates from 1838 through 1852, before Davis' selection as secretary of war.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1856--1860

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist and Mary Seaton Dix

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1861

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist and Mary Seaton Dix

Lynda Lasswell Crist, Editor
Mary Seaton Dix, Coeditor
Introduction by Frank E. Vandiver

Volume 7 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis offers a unique view of 1861, the first year of the Confederacy, Davis' presidency, and the Civil War.

On January 21 Davis made his affecting farewell speech before a hushed Senate, then left for Mississippi. His uncertainty over a military or political course vanished when he received news of his unanimous election as president of the Confederate States of America. Inaugurated at Montgomery, Alabama, on February 18, Davis quickly set to work to forge a government, in a race with events to select a cabinet, establish departments, and plan for the common defense.

Hopes for a peaceful separation from the North ended with the firing on Fort Sumter; subsequent documents reveal a president absorbed by the problems of waging a war that soon stretched from the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf of Mexico. Victory at Manassas produced euphoria among southerners but plunged the president into the first of several unfortunate controversies with his generals, this one over the failure to pursue the enemy and capitalize on success.

Throughout 1861 the Confederate commissioners in Europe reported to Davis on their expectations of recognition, convinced that the demand for cotton would induce Great Britain and France to break the North's blockade of southern ports and help supply arms for the defense of the fledgling nation.

Volume 7 provides a rare opportunity to assess anew Davis' strengths and weaknesses as executive, to reexamine his relationship with generals, governors, congressmen, cabinet officers, the press, and the public. Davis ended the year as he begun, aware of the difficulties of the course the South had adopted and confident that its cause would ultimately triumph. Containing illustrations, maps, and more than 2,500 documents drawn from numerous printed sources and more than seventy repositories and private collections, Volume 7 covers a year of paramount importance in our country's history.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1862

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist, Mary Seaton Dix, Kenneth H. Williams, and Grady McWhiney

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1871-1879

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist. with the assitance of Suzanne Scott Gibbs. introduction by T. Michael Parrish

Volume 13 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis follows the former president of the Confederacy as he becomes head of the Carolina Life Insurance Company of Memphis and attempts to gain a financial foothold for his newly reunited family. Having lost everything in the Civil War and spent two years immediately afterwards in federal prison, Davis faced a mounting array of financial woes, health problems, and family illnesses and tragedies in the 1870s. Despite setbacks during this decade, Davis also began a quest to rehabilitate his image and protect his historical legacy.

Although his position with the insurance company provided temporary financial stability, Davis resigned after the Panic of 1873 forced the sale of the company and its new owners canceled payments to Carolina policyholders. He left for England the following year in search of employment and to recuperate from ongoing illnesses. In 1876, Davis became president of the London-based Mississippi Valley Society and relocated to New Orleans to run the company.

Throughout the 1870s, Davis waged an expensive and seemingly endless legal battle to regain his prewar Mississippi plantation, Brierfield. He also began working on his memoirs at Beauvoir, the Gulf Coast estate of a family friend. Though disfranchised, Davis addressed the subject of politics with more frequency during this decade, criticizing the Reconstruction policies of the federal government while defending the South and the former Confederacy. The volume ends with Davis's inheritance of Beauvoir, which was his last home.

The editors have drawn from over one hundred manuscript repositories and private collections in addition to numerous published sources in compiling Volume 13.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

1880-1889

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist and Suzanne Scott Gibbs. introduction by William C. Davis

The final volume of The Papers of Jefferson Davis follows the former president of the Confederacy through the completion of his two monumental works on the history of the Confederate States of America. In the first, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881), Davis sought to recast the Confederacy as a just and moral nation that was constitutionally correct in standing up for its rights. Himself the subject of heated debates about why the Confederacy lost, Davis also used the book to castigate Confederate government and military officials who he believed had failed the cause. Later, A Short History of the Confederate States (1890) attempted to burnish the image of the former Confederacy and to refute accusations of intentional mistreatment of Union prisoners.

While completing these books, Davis attended and spoke at numerous Confederate memorial services and monument dedications, all the while waging a bitter feud with two of his former top generals-Joseph E. Johnston and P. G. T. Beauregard-over the reasons for the fall of the Confederacy. In late 1889, having returned to New Orleans from a trip to his plantation, Brierfield, Davis succumbed to pneumonia. His funeral procession attracted an estimated 150,000 mourners, a testament to the lasting popularity of the Confederacy's only president.

In volume 14 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis, the editors have drawn from over one hundred manuscript repositories and private collections, in addition to numerous published sources, to offer a compelling portrait of Davis over the last decade of his life.

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

January--September 1863

Jefferson Davis. edited by Lynda Lasswell Crist, Mary Seaton Dix, and Kenneth H. Williams

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis

July 1846--December 1848

Jefferson Davis. edited by James T. McIntosh. introduction by K. Jack Bauer.

Lynda L. Crist, Associate Editor
Mary S. Dix, Assistant Editor

At the end of Volume 2 Jefferson Davis had left Congress to become a colonel in the First Mississippi Regiment. The first item in this volume is a speech as he prepares to leave on a riverboat to serve in the Mexican War. The years 1846 through 1848 see Davis play a conspicuous role in the war and in the subsequent political clashes and controversies over slavery.

Volume 3 details Davis' first experience in battle as an officer of a regiment as well as his initial term as a U.S. senator. He received both praise and criticism for his leadership in Mexico. In 1847 he returned to Mississippi a wounded hero of national fame, refused a brigadier generalship, and took his place in the U.S. Senate.

There are several items of correspondence with Zachary Taylor that shed light on Taylor's attitude toward the proposed nomination that would lead to his election as president in 1848. Davis' first wife was Taylor's daughter; and in spite of political and family differences the two men maintained a close friendship. In a major speech in July, 1848, Davis protested the formal prohibition of slavery from the Oregon Territory; he then voted for the Senate's compromise bill on Oregon.

Volume 3 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis includes letters to and from Davis, his speeches in chronological order, and other documents, further illuminating Davis' character, opinions, philosophy, and personal relationships as well as continuing the development of his military career.

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