President Jefferson Davis

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On January 4, 1865, President Jefferson Davis
Expresses Confidence in Thomas' Legion

President Jefferson Davis
President Jefferson Davis.jpg
President Jefferson Davis

Richmond, VA., January 4, 1865.


Hon. C. G. Memminger,

Flat Rock, N.C.:


MY DEAR SIR: Your letter of November 21 was received, and I learn with concern the unhappy conditions of western North Carolina. Many of the evils mentioned by you were not unknown to me heretofore, but the confirmation received from you of these evil pains me deeply, and the outrages and degradations enumerated call for means of repression.

The force of General Martin is the only available one. It consists of troops under Colonel Palmer, Thomas' Legion, and home militia. Thomas’ Legion, now being recruited, it is hoped will be able to afford sufficient aid to disperse or capture the bands infesting that district. Should circumstances allow the South Carolina Reserves will assist in the work. Genera Lee has given instructions to General Breckinridge to render all the aid he can, and it is possible that he may be able to spare a detachment to act in concert with General Martin on the Tennessee side of the mountains. General Lee will give the matter his further attention, and no means will be spared to afford protection to the loyal people of western North Carolina.

Very truly, your friend,


O.R. 1, Volume 46, part II, p. 1013


Additional Reading:


Hellish conditions in Western North Carolina: O.R. Series IV, 2, 732, O.R., 53, 324 and O.R., Series I, Vol. 32, pt. II, pp. 610-611
President Jefferson Davis Papers (Rice University)


Notes and Interesting Facts:


Confederate President Jefferson Davis married Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas's cousin, Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of United States President Zachary Taylor.

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Recommended Reading: Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (816 pages: Louisiana State University Press). Editorial Review from Publishers Weekly: This portrait puts the emphasis on Davis's private warmth, public coolness, personal insecurity and indecisiveness during the Civil War. Relying mostly on contemporary sources, the author ( Image of the War ) explores how Davis's attitudes and values were developed at West Point and during his Mexican War service and how they were put to the test in his years as U.S. senator, as secretary of war under Franklin Pierce and as president of the Southern Confederacy. Continued below...
The author defends Davis (1808-1889) against the charge that he interfered with his generals, partly by showing how well he and Gen. Robert E. Lee worked together. The book also makes clear that Davis lacked managerial skill, was inflexible, could not admit 'making a mistake', and had great difficulty delegating authority. Nevertheless, as the author points out, Davis built the systems that kept the Confederacy afloat from his inauguration in 1862 until he was captured by Union troops in 1865. This is a pragmatic but sympathetic biography that explains why Davis was respected but never loved by the citizens of the Confederate states. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. 
Recommended Reading: Jefferson Davis: The Essential Writings (Modern Library Classics), by Jefferson Davis (Author), William J. Cooper (Editor) (496 pages). Review: “Eclipsed in our memory of the Civil War by Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, and other military heroes, Jefferson Davis was arguably one of the most important figures in the antebellum and wartime eras. Davis’s biographer William J. Cooper, Jr., has sifted through the huge number of Davis letters and speeches to select those that best tell the story of his life and provide insight on his character in this invaluable volume.” —James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era and author of For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War.
Recommended Reading: Jefferson Davis, American (848 pages). Description: The title might seem odd, given that Jefferson Davis (1808-89) served as president of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and never once, in the 34 years between the end of the war and his death, expressed any remorse for his part in the conflict that tore America apart. Yet, as historian William J. Cooper Jr. reminds us in his sober, comprehensive biography, Davis "saw himself as a faithful American ... a true son of the American Revolution and the Founding Fathers." Indeed, Davis's own father had fought in the Revolution, and Davis himself was a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran. He declared January 21, 1861, "the saddest day of my life," as he resigned his U.S. Senate seat to follow his native state of Mississippi out of the Union; yet he also unflinchingly defended secession as a constitutionally guaranteed right. Cooper's measured portrait neither glosses over Davis's lifelong belief that blacks were inferior nor vilifies him for it: "My goal," he writes, "is to understand Jefferson Davis as a man of his time, not condemn him for not being a man of my time." Continued below...
The chapters on the Civil War show Davis intimately involved in military decisions, as well as in diplomatic attempts to gain foreign support for the Confederacy. Cooper acknowledges the irony of his subject--who interpreted the Constitution as strictly limiting federal authority--being forced by the war's exigencies to create a powerful, centralized Confederate government. Yet, this depiction of a forceful, self-confident Davis makes it clear that he never could have been anything but "a vigorous and potent chief executive." The author also paints an attractive picture of a warm family man who was devoted to his strong-minded wife and their children. Neither hagiography nor hatchet job, this evenhanded work sees Jefferson Davis whole.

Recommended Reading: Civil War High Commands (1040 pages) (Hardcover). Description: Based on nearly five decades of research, this magisterial work is a biographical register and analysis of the people who most directly influenced the course of the Civil War, its high commanders. Numbering 3,396, they include the presidents and their cabinet members, state governors, general officers of the Union and Confederate armies (regular, provisional, volunteers, and militia), and admirals and commodores of the two navies. Civil War High Commands will become a cornerstone reference work on these personalities and the meaning of their commands, and on the Civil War itself. Errors of fact and interpretation concerning the high commanders are legion in the Civil War literature, in reference works as well as in narrative accounts. Continued below...

The present work brings together for the first time in one volume the most reliable facts available, drawn from more than 1,000 sources and including the most recent research. The biographical entries include complete names, birthplaces, important relatives, education, vocations, publications, military grades, wartime assignments, wounds, captures, exchanges, paroles, honors, and place of death and interment. In addition to its main component, the biographies, the volume also includes a number of essays, tables, and synopses designed to clarify previously obscure matters such as the definition of grades and ranks; the difference between commissions in regular, provisional, volunteer, and militia services; the chronology of military laws and executive decisions before, during, and after the war; and the geographical breakdown of command structures. The book is illustrated with 84 new diagrams of all the insignias used throughout the war and with 129 portraits of the most important high commanders.

Recommended Viewing: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...

The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."

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