As he was the one and only president of the failed Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis perhaps isn’t one of the most beloved personalities in the United States of America. However, there’s no denying the fact that he is a key figure in the American history. So, there’s clearly no harm in knowing more about him. Here are nine interesting facts about Jefferson Davis that you probably weren’t aware of.
Jefferson Davis Facts
1. Jefferson Davis’s birthplace is about a hundred miles away from Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace
Everyone knows that Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were the two opposing leaders of the American Civil War. However, what’s relatively unknown is that these two rivals were born not far apart from each other in the state of Kentucky.
The birthplace of Davis in Fairview, which is now known as the Jefferson Davis State Historic Site, is at a distance of less than 100 miles from the place where Lincoln was born. An interesting fact about Jefferson Davis is that the time difference between their births is just eight months, with Davis being the older of the two.
2. Jefferson Davis’s middle name signifies his parents’ wish to have no more kids after him
Jefferson Finis Davis was the tenth child born to Jane and Samuel Emory Davis. He got his first name after then-sitting United States President Thomas Jefferson, a person his father admired highly. But what about his middle name?
Well, “Finis” is a Latin word for “end.” His parents were convinced that they didn’t want another kid after him. That’s how his middle name came to be. In his later life, Davis dropped his middle name, occasionally using just a middle initial instead.
3. Davis was placed under house arrest for his involvement in West Point’s Eggnog Riot
The infamous Eggnog Riot of 1826 involved over one-third of the 260 cadets at the United States Military Academy, also known as West Point. An interesting fact about Jefferson Davis is that he was among the miscreants. He was even confined to his quarters for more than six weeks. However, unlike a dozen and half other cadets, he managed to escape expulsion, possibly by virtue of compliance. He went on to graduate from the academy in 1828.
4. Only two of his six children were alive when he died
Davis had no kids with his first wife, Sarah Knox Taylor, who died of malaria just three months after their marriage. His second wife, Varian Banks Howell, bore him half a dozen kids. Sadly, however, three of them died before reaching adulthood, and another one passed away at an age of 21.
Of the two children who outlived Davis, one died at an age of 34, just nine years after he had died. Margaret Howell was his only kid who went on to marry and raise a family.
5. He didn’t complete a full term in any of his elected positions
Attending an 1840 Democratic Party meeting in Vicksburg, Mississippi marked the beginning of Davis’s involvement in politics. Five years later, he entered the 29th United States Congress after winning the House of Representatives elections. However, he resigned the very next year to take part in the Mexican-American War. Later, he was elected a US senator and the president of Confederate States, but somehow, he never got to serve a full term in any of those positions, an interesting fact about Jefferson Davis.
6. It was Jefferson Davis who introduced the short-lived US Camel Corps
Davis wasn’t the one who came up with the idea of making the US Army use camels instead of horses and mules in travelling across the arid territories. However, he was the one who, after becoming President Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War, succeeded in getting congressional approval to import camels from the Middle East, and thus, establishing the US Camel Corps in 1856.
It was only after the Civil War broke out that the experiment got abandoned. Later, with the development of railroad, bringing back the Camel Corps seemed anything but relevant.
7. Davis actually wasn’t wearing a woman’s dress when the Union soldiers captured him
On May 10, 1865, Jefferson Davis, along with his wife and a few acquaintances, was arrested by the Union troops from what is now referred to as the Jefferson Davis Memorial Historical Site in Irwin Country, Georgia. Newspaper caricatures of that era depicted the event in a way that indicated he had put on a woman’s dress in a failed attempt to escape capture. This, however, isn’t really what happened.
At the time of arrest, the only feminine item of clothing that was on his body was his wife’s heavy shawl, which was placed over his shoulders. And it was there simply because he was extremely sensitive to cold air.
8. Jefferson Davis was held in prison for two years, but never stood trial for treason
Following his capture at the hands of the Union forces in 1865, Davis was sent to Fortress Monroe in Hampton, Virginia, where he was imprisoned for the next two years. At first, he was kept at a casemate, with irons riveted to his ankles, deprived of any visitors and any books except the Bible, an interesting Jefferson Davis fact. Several months later, after his health had declined significantly, he was eventually provided with better quarters. In 1867, he released on bail of $100,000. Much to everyone’s surprise, it was a bunch of abolitionists, including Horace Greeley and Gerrit Smith, who posted his bail.
There was plenty of discussion about initiating a treason trial against Davis, and it was also something he wanted for himself. However, he never had to stand for such a trial. In 1868, his indictment for treason was lifted as then-President Andrew Johnson issued a presidential pardon.
9. He was a man without a country for over a century
Although Davis was spared of a treason trial, he was specifically excluded from the universal amnesty bill of 1876 that saw Confederate leaders having their US citizenship restored. Hence, he was legally not a citizen of the country when he died in 1889. In fact, it wasn’t until President Jimmy Carter signed a Congress-approved measure in 1978 that his citizenship was finally restored.
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