Jefferson Davis

JEFFERSON DAVIS was born in Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky, on 3 June 1808; moved with his family to Wilkinson County, Mississippi; attended St. Thomas’s Seminary, 1815, and Transylvania University, 1821; graduated from West Point, 1828; was assigned to frontier service in Wisconsin-Illinois; participated in the Black Hawk War, 1832; resigned his commission, 1835; married and lost his first wife Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor, 1835; was a planter in Mississippi, 1835–1845; married Varina Howell, 1845; served in the U.S. House of Representatives, 1845–1846; resigned to take part in the Mexican War and participated in the battles of Monterey and Buena Vista, 1846–1847; served in the U.S. Senate, 1847–1851; was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Mississippi, 1851; served as Secretary of War, 7 March 1853–6 March 1857; sponsored Army map and route surveys of the trans-Mississippi West, experimented with a camel corps, obtained four new regiments for the Army, and sponsored the adoption of a new rifled infantry musket; was again elected to the U.S. Senate, 1857–1861; announced the secession of Mississippi and tendered his resignation, 21 January 1861; was appointed major general of Mississippi militia; was appointed President of the Confederate States of America by a provisional Congress, 18 February 1861, elected by popular vote, and inaugurated as President, 22 February 1862; fled Richmond as Union troops advanced, 3 April 1865; was captured at Irwinville, Georgia, and interned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia; refused to ask for Federal pardon; was released on bond, 13 May 1867; retired to Mississippi; died in New Orleans on 6 December 1889; full rights of citizenship restored by the U.S. Congress, 1978.

The Artist

Daniel Huntington (1816–1906) was at the midpoint of his career when he painted Secretary Davis in 1874; he had first exhibited circa 1836 at the National Academy of Design in New York when he was only twenty, and would paint until the year of his death, 1906. Jefferson Davis’s tour in the department was seventeen years in the past when Huntington painted him, and, although Davis was still living, Huntington’s portrait of him was after a copy rather than from life.


Portrait, Jefferson Davis

Pierce Administration
By Daniel Huntington
Oil on canvas, 29˝" x 24˝", 1874

page created 2 March 2001

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