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Biography of Jefferson Davis: 7 Disputed Facts About Confederate President's Life

By    |   Wednesday, 29 July 2015 03:55 PM

A controversial figure, the biography of Jefferson Davis is not set in stone as historians disagree on Davis’ successes and failures, motivations, and overall job as president of the Confederacy.

Here are some facts on Davis that were controversial and some polemic decisions centered on him.

1. Secessionist Leader
According to History, while Davis supported states’ rights and believed they had the right to secede, he did not leave his position working for the United States government until his home state of Mississippi departed from the Union. He left because he felt he had allegiance to it.

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2. Dressed as a Woman When Captured
Reports were made that the fallen president was cross-dressing as a woman to disguise himself from being caught and tried for prison. Davis was dressed in a loose, water-repellant overcoat like that of a poncho and had his wife’s black shawl over his head and shoulders, History said. Northern newspapers and comic artists took the news and described Davis to be disguised in hoop skirts and bonnets.

3. Trial
Out on a $100,000 bail posted from northerners including abolitionist Horace Greeley and businessman Cornelius Vanderbilt, Davis was released, but never went to court for fear it would be proven states have a right to secede or he would become a martyr if executed, History said. The good treatment provided by the North to the South was hotly contested in the age of reconstruction, but per the request of Lincoln, those who wanted the reunification of the country thought it’d be best to welcome the states gently into the nation again.

4. U.S. Citizenship
Unlike other Confederate leaders, Davis was specifically excluded from a 1876 amnesty bill that returned the citizenship to those who helped lead the rebel nation. Davis did not request a pardon on the issue, believing he needed to repent first, but the president was not regretful of leading the Confederacy, History said. President Jimmy Carter posthumously returned citizenship to Davis on Oct. 17, 1978.

5. U.S. Capitol
According to Humanities magazine, as a senator, Davis requested appropriations for extending the U.S. Capitol. Through his work, Congress would allocate funds to add the additional wings for each of the houses as well as a new dome of cast iron. The move was controversial, and originally, Congress approved only $200,000 for the job, but eventually enough money was garnered to construct the additions.

6. Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Conspiracy theories that Davis was part of the assassination of President Lincoln flourished following the shooting. As early as 1864 Davis had been aware of John Wilkes Booth’s desire to get rid of Lincoln, according to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Later, Davis is recorded saying after learning of the assassination, “If it were to be done, it were better it were well done.”

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7. Father-in-Law's Disapproval
The father of Davis’ first wife, the future president of the United States Zachary Taylor, refused to allow him and his daughter to marry two times before permitting the union. Davis met Sarah Taylor while serving under his commanding officer. His wife died a few months after their wedding from malaria, and Davis would serve again under Taylor in the Mexican American War. According to Bio, his heroics in the battles would lead Taylor to reportedly say, “My daughter, sir, was a better judge of man than I was.”

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A controversial figure, the biography of Jefferson Davis is not set in stone as historians disagree on Davis' successes and failures, motivations, and overall job as president of the Confederacy.
Jefferson Davis, biography, disputed facts
Wednesday, 29 July 2015 03:55 PM
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