Jefferson Davis-Hero of Buena Vista

I have written about Abraham Lincoln’s service in the Black Hawk War.  Jefferson Davis had far more extensive military service than Abraham Lincon.  A graduate of West Point, class of 1828, he also served in the Black Hawk War, although there is no evidence that he and Lincoln ever met during that conflict.  Marrying the daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor, of General Zachary Taylor, who opposed the marriage, he resigned his commission in the Army in 1835.  However, in many ways Davis never ceased to be a military man, always retaining a fascination for all things martial.  Thus it was only natural that Davis, a Congressman from Mississippi at the beginning of the Mexican War, resigned from Congress and raised a volunteer regiment, the Mississippi Rifles, which he led as colonel.

On July 21, 1846, the regiment sailed from New Orleans to join the army of Zachary Taylor in northern Mexico.  The daughter of Taylor had tragically died of illness shortly after her marriage to Davis, and relations between the men had remained cool thereafter.

Davis had armed his regiment with 1841 percussion rifles, the latest technology, with much more reliable percussion caps substituted for flint locks.  Davis’ men during the war would use the rifles with such deadly skill that ever afterwords the rifles became known as 1841 Mississippi percussion rifles.

Davis and his men participated in the siege of Monterrey in September of 1846.  The war in northern Mexico then entered a quiet phrase which was shattered in February of 1847 by a Mexican offensive.

On February 23, 1847  Taylor and his Army of 4500 men were assaulted by Santa Anna the Mexican dictator leading a force of 16,000 troops.  The battle was a see-saw affair with the larger Mexican force launching assault after assault against the smaller American Army at the mountain pass of Buena Vista.  Davis and his men broke an attacking Mexican column under General Ampudia by launching a flank attack during which Davis was wounded in the foot.  A second attack was beaten off by the Mississippians and the 3 Indiana forming an inverted V.  The Mexican force, 2000 men, charged into the V and were shattered by the murderous cross-fire. (more…)

Published in: on February 4, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jefferson Davis-Hero of Buena Vista  
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Jefferson Davis-Birth

Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808, a little over six months before the birth of his great adversary Abraham Lincoln, in Christian County Kentucky.  His parents were Samuel and Jane Davis.  He was the youngest of ten children, and, his mother being in her 49th year, his parents gave him the middle name Finis in the expectation, or hope perhaps, that he would be the last of their children.

His father had fought in the Revolution, a fact that Jefferson Davis always took pride in.  The family moved to Louisiana in 1810, and then in 1811 in Mississippi.  With the help of his oldest son Joseph, already an established planter and lawyer in Mississippi, Samuel Davis became a prosperous planter in Mississippi, although in 1820 his fortunes began to decline.

His father made certain that Davis was well-educated by the standards of the day, as will be detailed in a future post on the education of Jefferson Davis.  One anecdote Davis told about his father involved Jefferson running away from school.  His father said that was fine but that he would have to pick cotton with the field hands.  After two days of that Jefferson decided that school wasn’t so bad after all, a conclusion his father intended he would reach.  Davis was shattered when his father died when he was 16, but his eldest brother Joseph quickly became a second father for Jefferson, a fact that Jefferson acknowledge gratefully throughout his life.  The mother of Davis would live until 1845, and he cherished her in life and her memory after death.  Davis, unlike Lincoln, was blessed with a happy home life as a child, and all his life was extremely close to his siblings.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 6:20 am  Comments Off on Jefferson Davis-Birth  
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Jefferson Finis Davis-Abraham Lincoln-Parallel Lives

Jefferson F. Davis, one and only President of the Confedracy, always acted from the highest principles and always did only what he thought right.  His tragedy is that he had the greatest difficulty in understanding that those who opposed him throughout his life could also be acting from the highest principles and doing what they thought was right.  Davis is too often perceived as a two-dimensional character.  To his detractors he is viewed as a defender of slavery and thus evil incarnate.  To his admirers, especially his neo-Confederate admirers, he is a champion of small, constitutional government and his stance on slavery is of little importance.  Both views are completely mistaken.  Davis was a complicated man living in complicated times.  He was also a man of formidable talents who came very close to bringing off, against overwhelming odds, the birth of a new nation.  In future blog articles I will be exploring  aspects of the career and personality of Davis,  tied in with similar posts on Lincoln, his nemesis.  I announce this intention as we approach the anniversary of the birth of Lincoln on February 12, because I think a comparative study of the lives of these two men can be a tool to a greater understanding of them both.  Much more to come over the next year or so.

Published in: on February 10, 2010 at 5:47 am  Comments (3)  
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