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Jefferson Davis, Confederate President

As president of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis may have been Lincoln’s counterpart, but he was in no way his equal. Davis was stiff, unyielding, narrow-minded, and humorless. In fact, he may have been the anti-Lincoln.

Born in 1808, Davis was a West Point graduate who was wounded and decorated for bravery in the Mexican War. He was also a U.S. senator and served as secretary of war under Pres. Franklin Pierce. With his brother, Davis owned a Mississippi plantation and believed in good treatment of slaves. But he also firmly believed in the institution of slavery.

After Lincoln’s election, Davis resigned his Senate seat. Although he first opposed secession, he accepted the presidency of the Confederate states as a compromise candidate. His presidency was plagued by mediocre cabinet members, quarreling among the rebel states, and his own inability to think anyone could possibly be right if they didn’t agree with him.

When the South’s major armies surrendered, Davis fled with what was left of the government’s treasury and vowed to fight on. He was soon captured, however, and thrown in a prison cell for almost two years without a trial.

Upon his release, he went to Canada before returning to Mississippi. Davis spent his remaining years writing about how the war’s outcome was everyone else’s fault. He died in 1889. More than 250,000 people attended his funeral, many of them nostalgic for the “Old South” he represented.

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