The Illustrated London News

Home | About | Introduction | Bibliography | Articles | Illustrations | Search | Links

Jefferson Davis

The Illustrated London News, vol.39, no. 1112, p. 376.

October 12,1861

The following memoir of Mr. Davis, President of the Confederate States of North America, is from specimen articles of the "New American Cyclopaedia," by George Ripley and Charles A. Dana:—

"Davis, Jefferson, an American soldier and statesman, born June 3, 1808, in that part of Christian county, Kentucky, which now forms Todd county. Soon after his birth, his father, Samuel Davis, a planter, who served during the revolutionary war in the mounted force of Georgia, removed with his family to Mississippi, and settled near Woodville, Wilkinson county. Young Davis received an academical education, and was sent at the usual age to Transylvania College, Kentucky, which he left in 1824 to enter the United States' Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1828, and was appointed Brevet Second Lieutenant. He remained in the army seven years, and served as an infantry and staff officer on the north-west frontier in the Black Hawk war of 1831-2, with such distinction that, March 4, 1833, he was promoted to a First Lieutenantcy of Dragoons, in which capacity he was employed in 1834 in various expeditions against the Comanchees, Pawnees, and other hostile Indian tribes. He resigned his commission June 30, 1835, returned to Mississippi, and became a cotton-planter, living in retirement till 1843, when he began to take an active part in politics on the democratic side, and in 1844 was chosen one of the presidential electors of Mississippi to vote for Polk and Dallas. In November, 1845, he was elected a representative in Congress, and took his seat in December of that year. He bore a conspicuous part in the discussions of the Session on the tariff, on the Oregon question, on military affairs, and particularly on the preparations for war against Mexico, and on the organisation of volunteer militia when called into the service of the United States. While in Congress, in July, 1846, the 1st Regiment of Mississippi Volunteers, then enrolled for service in Mexico, elected him their Colonel. He promptly left his seat at the House, and, overtaking his regiment in New Orleans, on its way to the seat of war, led to reinforce the army of General Taylor on the Rio Grande. He was actively engaged in the attack and storming of Monterey, in September, 1846; was one of the commissioners for arranging the terms of the capitulation of that city; and highly distinguished himself in the battle of Buena Vista, February 23, 1847, where his regiment, attacked by an immensely superior force, maintained their ground for a long time unsupported, while Colonel Davis himself, though severely wounded, remained in the saddle until the close of the action, and was complimented for his coolness and gallantry by the Commander-in-Chief in his despatch of March 6, 1847. At the expiration of the term of its enlistment, in July, 1847, the Mississippi Regiment was ordered home; and Colonel Davis, while on his return, received at New Orleans a commission from President Polk as Brigadier-General of Volunteers, which he declined accepting, on the ground that the Constitution reserves to the States respectively the appointment of the officers of the militia, and that, consequently, their appointment by the Federal Executive is a violation of the right of the States. In August, 1847, he was appointed by the Governor of Mississippi, United States, senator, to fill a vacancy; and at the ensuing Session of the State Legislature, Jan. 11, 1848, was unanimously elected to the same office for the residue of the term, which expired March 4, 1851. In 1850 he was re-elected for the ensuing full term. In the Senate he was chosen Chairman of the Committee on Military Affairs, and took a prominent part in the debates on the slavery question, in defence of the institutions and policy of the Slave States, and was a zealous advocate of the doctrine of State rights. In September, 1851, he was nominated candidate for Governor of Mississippi by the Democratic party, in opposition to Henry S. Foote, the candidate of the Union party. He resigned his seat in the Senate on accepting the nomination, and was beaten in the election by a majority of 999 votes—a marked indication of his personal popularity in his own State, for at the 'convention election,' two months before, the Union party had a majority of 7500. After his defeat Colonel Davis remained in retirement until the Presidential contest of 1852, when he took the stump in behalf of General Pierce in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Louisiana, where he rendered essential service to the democratic party. In 1853 he was appointed by President Pierce Secretary of War, which post he held till the accession of President Buchanan in 1857. His administration of the War department was marked by ability and energy, and was highly popular with the army. He proposed or carried into effect, among other measures, the revision of the army regulations; the introduction of camels into America; the introduction of the light infantry or rifle system of tactics, the manufacture of rifled muskets and pistols, and the use of the Minié ball, the addition of four regiments to the army, the augmentation of the seacoast and frontier defences of the country, and the system of explorations in the western part of the continent for geographical purposes, and for the determination of the best route for a railroad to the Pacific Ocean. Having been previously re-elected on his retirement from the War department, Colonel Davis re-entered the Senate for the term ending March, 1863. In the sessions of the 35th Congress he has been conspicuous in the discussions on the French Spoliation Bill, which he opposed, and on the Pacific railroad for the southern route, of which he is a zealous and most influential advocate."

Previous: London, Saturday, October 12, 1861.ArticleVolume 39, no. 1097, p. 2 (23 paragraphs)
Next: [The American Pony Express]Illustrationvol. 39, no. 1112, p. 386 (1 paragraph)
Article List for: Illustrated London News: Volume 39

Download Article as Plain Text

Search Entire Text

Article Date

University Libraries | Beck Center | | Emory University
A Joint Project by Sandra J. Still, Emily E. Katt, Collection Management, and the Beck Center.

Powered by TEI