Davis 200th Birthday Commemoration
to mark event with slate of speakers
Lincoln and Davis
born less than a year apart in Ky.
Helen E. McKinney
FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 2008) As Kentucky embarks
upon a two-year celebration of the birth and life of Abraham Lincoln,
it will also honor native son Jefferson Davis. In his roles as president
of the Confederate States of America and commander-in-chief of the army
and navy, Davis accomplished many feats in the development of the nation.
Often viewed as Lincolns rival during the Civil War, it is surprising
to note their similarities. Davis was born eight months before Lincoln
and less than 100 miles away in Fairview, Ky. A 351-foot-tall monument
marks a park-like setting where commemoration events will kick off in
courtesy of Kentucky Historical Society
president of the
Confederacy, was born
in Kentucky. Before the
Civil War, he was a
planter, soldier, politician
and U.S. Secretary of
War. He died in 1889.
According to a statement from Lisa Cleveland, spokeswoman
for the Kentucky Historical Society, Its historically significant
that Kentucky was home to both Davis and President Abraham Lincoln.
As a result, The Contested Legacy of Jefferson Davis is
a symposium that will be held at the Kentucky Historical Society in
Frankfort from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 27. It will feature
nationally known Civil War scholar and author William J. Cooper Jr.
as the keynote speaker.
Cooper is a professor at Louisiana State University. He is the author
of Jefferson Davis, American (2000). Two topical panels
and a roundtable discussion are scheduled.
The one-day symposium is an effort to examine complex issues related
to the president of the Confederacy of the United States, Cleveland
said. Since this year marks the 200th anniversary of Daviss
birth, its a prime opportunity to take up this subject.
This event is a Lincoln Bicentennial-related celebration.
Born on June 3, 1808, in what is now Todd County, Ky., Jefferson Finis
Davis hails from a distinguished background. His paternal grandfather
was a Welsh colonist. His father, Samuel Davis, was a Revolutionary
soldier as were as his uncles. Daviss three older brothers fought
in the War of 1812, two of them serving directly with Andrew Jackson.
After the revolution, Samuel Davis temporarily moved to Kentucky, where
his son, Jefferson, was born. The family then moved to Wilkinson County,
Educated at home, Davis was sent back to Kentucky to attend Transylvania
University. At age 16, he was appointed by President James Monroe to
West Point Military Academy as a cadet and graduated in June 1828.
Davis was stationed at posts in the northwest between 1828 and 1833.
During the Blackhawk War of 1831, Indian chief Blackhawk was captured
and placed in Lt. Davis charge. Davis suddenly resigned from the
army in 1835 from what looked to be a promising military career.
His change of career may have had something to do with his meeting and
engagement to Sallie Knox Taylor, daughter of Zachary Taylor. They were
married at the home of the brides aunt near Louisville. At age
27, Davis became a cotton planter in Warren County.
By now he had taken a deep interest in politics and devoted many hours
to studies that would prepare him for a political career. He took his
seat in Congress in 1845 as a representative of Mississippi. Through
the many eloquent speeches he gave, a deep devotion to the union and
his country began to surface.
His staunch support of the Texas annexation issue may have influenced
him to re-enter military life. He resigned from Congress in June 1846
and joined his regiment at New Orleans. After success as a Mexican War
hero, he once again entered the Mississippi legislature.
Davis may not have taken an active part in planning secession, but by
1861 he was elected president of the Confederate States of America.
The eventual defeat and surrender of Lees army dissolved Daviss
presidency of the Confederate States. As a result, Davis was imprisoned
for two years at Fortress Monroe on May 19, 1865.
After his release on bond, he visited Europe before returning home to
spend the remainder of his life in Mississippi. He embarked on several
business ventures but never again held political office. Davis wrote
The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government during 1878-1881
while residing on the Gulf of Mexico.
Davis died Dec. 5, 1889, in New Orleans. His visionary political life
included such accomplishments as suggesting a canal to connect the Atlantic
and Pacific oceans (which later became the Panama Canal), establishing
the army pension system, founding the Army Medical Corps, introducing
the light infantry, and assisting in the development of the rifle musket.
The symposium helps accomplish the Kentucky Historical Societys
mission to engage people in the exploration of the commonwealths
diverse heritage, said Cleveland. It will highlight Daviss
role in the Civil War and life in the South during the war, focus on
actual and symbolic roles Davis and his family played, and assist Kentuckys
museums and historic sites in interpreting this critical period in the
For more information on the Jefferson Davis
Symposium in Frankfort, Ky., or to register online, visit: www.KyLincoln.org.
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