The problem with the press asking us to sympathize with poor rural Trump voters who will suffer the most under his policies: They will *still* stand by him even though he's actively fucking up their lives.
In 1938, 75 years to the day after the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and lit the eternal flame at the site of the battle in Pennsylvania. He then got in his car, was driven to Lexington, Virginia while getting completely blotto on sidecars, and took a giant shit on Robert E. Lee’s grave.
Yet another reason why he’s the second greatest President ever.
Abraham Lincoln comes in first for overseeing the destruction of the Confederacy, of course.
okay I really horrible at chemistry so she’s gonna be teaching history instead 😂 sorry xx
REQUEST: Can I request a Daryl imagine (set in season 2)where Y/N is really clever at like chemistry or something and is teaching Carl and at first Daryl thinks he’s dumb because he doesn’t understand and so she sort offers to teach him? Idk I just feel like that could be cute haha
“So now that we’re done with the Revolutionary War and all that followed it we’re gonna move on to the Civil War, can you guess who fought it?” I ask Carl as we sit under a large oak tree by the barn.
“America and..” he trails off.
“Exactly, America. Americans fought against Americans. They call it the Civil War for that exact reason, it was in no way civil.” I explain and watch the light bulb go off in his head. Someone scoffs from behind and we turn to find Daryl, looming over us.
“Something I can help you with Daryl?” I ask in a partially clipped tone, not wanting to put up with any of his bullshit but also not wanting to sound too mean.
“Why don’t you teach him somethin’ more
important like fightin’? Ain’t non of that matter no more. It’s stupid.” He says gruffly, glaring down at me.
“Is it that it’s stupid or is it that you don’t know it & therefore it pisses you off?”
“I know it!” He lashes defensively.
“What years did the Civil War start and end?” He glares at me and stomps off, effectively answering my question.
I walk up to his campsite and begin to second guess myself but continue on. Opening the tent door, text book and note book in hand, I plop myself right in front of him and smile.
“What the hell are you doing here?” He jumps up to loom over me once more.
“Sit down grumpy it’s time to learn about the civil war.”
“I don’ wanna learn tha’ shit. Just leave.”
“Too bad. You’re gonna learn why it’s important. If you do this I’ll do whatever you want for a week.” With a huff he takes a spot next to me.
“Alrigh’ let’s just get this over with.”
We start where Carl and I did today, the beginning at Fort Sumter and Bull Run, important figures and the election of 1860. Daryl picks up the info fast, asking questions here and there.
“So you get why Lincoln was elected right?”
“Yea the Democratic Party was too split between a bunch of candidates and Lincoln was the only one for the Republicans so he was able to just take all the votes for the republicans and the democratic votes were too spread out.”
“Exactly! Who was the president for the Confederacy?”
“Jefferson Davis.” I look up at him and smile, he had shifted closer to lean over the textbook too early in the lesson.
“You’re really getting this.”
“Yea.” He said meeting my eyes and matching my smile. “I like it.”
“So he does smile!” I joke poking his cheek and he grabs my wrist before his free hand jams to my stomach, tickling me. “Daryl! Daryl stop!” I laugh falling back. He lands on top of me and smiles down.
“I like your laugh.” He says and I stick my tongue out at him. We stare for a long time before he dips his head down and I meet him. He kisses me softly, placing a hand on my cheek and supporting himself on the forearm of his other arm. When we pull away he looks down again, blue eyes staring practically into my soul. “Spend time with me.” He says quietly.
“This week, you said you’d do anything I wanted to, spend time with me. I don’t care if you drill more civil war shit into my head until it bursts.”
“I think I can manage that.” I whisper back and we both smile before kissing again.
On this day in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. This measure came as the third and last of the so-called ‘Reconstruction amendments’, passed after the end of the Civil War by the Radical Republicans in Congress. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the country, expanding on President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in the Confederacy. The second Reconstruction Amendment, the Fourteenth, provided citizenship and equal protection for freedmen. The Fifteenth granted African-American men the right to vote. It was passed by Congress in February 1869, and received ratification from the requisite number of states the following year, being formally adopted in March 1870. For many abolitionists, this was the most important measure of the Reconstruction effort. In the words of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot”. Black enfranchisement meant that for the first time in American history, African-Americans were elected to political office. These included first black Senator, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Representative Joseph Rainey, and Governor P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana (who until 1990 was the only black state governor in U.S. history). In states such as South Carolina, slaves made up a majority of the population, meaning that once enfranchised they dominated state politics. Despite being enshrined in constitutional law, African-Americans were prevented from voting through discriminatory measures like poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses, as well as by the violent intimidation of the recently formed Ku Klux Klan. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, finally provided for the full registration of black voters in the U.S. This measure came in the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement, which also targetted post-Reconstruction injustices such as Jim Crow segregation.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”
Hi!! Can I ask you why J. W. Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln?? Or atleast what is presumed to be the reason? I'm not from the states(sorry for the broken English) and I did Google it but just made me even more confused.. ALSO YOU HAVE AN AMAZING BLOG!!
HELLO! I WILL TRY TO KEEP IT SIMPLE, THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE A PLACE OF LEARNING, SO IT WON’T BE GOOD IF I CONFUSE YOU FURTHER!
OKAY, SO TO START, JOHN WILKES BOOTH WAS A RACIST AND A RADICAL CONFEDERATE SYMPATHIZER. HE WAS STAUNCHLY IN FAVOR OF THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY. HE TALKED ABOUT IT ALL THE TIME, WHICH CAUSED A RIFT TO FORM BETWEEN HIM AND HIS PRO-UNION FAMILY WHO GENERALLY REFUSED TO PERFORM IN SOUTHERN AND SOUTHERN-SYMPATHIZING VENUES.
HE HAD ALREADY SHOWN THAT HE BELIEVED PEOPLE WHO TRY TO FIGHT AGAINST SLAVERY DESERVE TO DIE, AS HE CELEBRATED THE EXECUTION OF ABOLITIONIST JOHN BROWN WHO ATTEMPTED TO ARM SOUTHERN SLAVES SO THEY COULD DEFEND AGAINST THEIR CAPTORS.
NOW, HERE’S WHERE IT GETS A BIT COMPLICATED. JOHN WILKES BOOTH WAS FROM THE STTE OF MARYLAND, WHICH WAS SITUATION BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IN THE NORTH AND THE TRAITOROUS CONFEDERACY IN THE SOUTH. THE STATE WAS PRETTY DIVIDED, WITH HALF OF THEM WANTING TO REMAIN IN THE UNION, AND HALF OF THEM WANTING TO JOIN THE CONFEDERACY IN THEIR TREASON.
THE ISSUE THIS PRESENTS IS THAT THE NATION’S CAPITAL, WASHINGTON D.C., IS ON MARYLAND’S SOUTHERN BORDER. IF MARYLAND SECEDED ALONG WITH THE TRAITOR STATES IN THE SOUTH, THE UNITED STATES CAPITAL WOULD HAVE BEEN SURROUNDED ON ALL SIDES BY ENEMY TERRITORY.
SO ABRAHAM LINCON PICKED ONE OF SEVERAL REALLY BAD OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO HIM: HE DECLARED MARTIAL LAW IN MARYLAND (MEANING THE UNION ARMY WAS PUT IN CHARGE OF THE STATE), SUSPENDED HABEAS CORPUS, WHICH IS A FANCY WAY OF SAYING YOU CAN BE THROWN IN JAIL WITHOUT A TRIAL.
I KNOW THIS SOUNDS BAD, BUT IT ONLY APPLIED TO PART OF MARYLAND AND HE ACTUALLY TALKED THE ARMY DOWN FROM “JUST KILL EVERYBODY WHO TRIES TO GET MARYLAND TO SECEDE,” SO I PROMISE IT’S LESS BAD THAN IT COULD HAVE BEEN.
ANYHOW, JOHN WILKES BOOTH BELIEVED THIS UNLAWFUL IMPRISONMENT WAS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND A VIOLATION OF PEOPLE’S BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS. HE WAS TECHNICALLY RIGHT ON THOSE POINTS, BUT IT’S KIND OF HYPOCRITICAL COMING FROM AN OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE OF A SYSTEM BY WHICH MILLIONS OF INNOCENT PEOPLE WERE IMPRISONED IN FORCED LABOR CAMPS FROM BIRTH. IF YOU SUPPORT SLAVERY, YOU KIND OF LOSE YOUR RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT UNLAWFUL IMPRISONMENT. ALSO, HE WASN’T NEARLY AS OUTRAGED ABOUT IT WHEN CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT JEFFERSON DAVIS SUSPENDED HABEAS CORPUS THROUGHOUT THE CONFEDERACY.
SO BACK TO HIM KILLING LINCOLN. ORIGINALLY, THE PLOT WAS JUST TO KIDNAP HIM. BOOTH WAS UPSET AT THE WAR THAT HAD DESTROYED GREAT AMOUNTS OF THE SOUTH (EVEN THOUGH THE SOUTH STARTED THE WAR), SAID THAT LINCOLN’S EXERCISE OF PRESIDENTIAL POWER MADE HIM A “KING” AND A “TYRANT,” AND WAS FURIOUS ABOUT THE IDEA OF THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT LEGALLY ABOLISHING THE INSTITUTION OF SLAVERY.
AT ONE POINT, HE HEARD LINCOLN GIVE A SPEECH THAT SAID HE WOULD LIKE TO GIVE VOTING RIGHTS TO FREE BLACK PEOPLE AND FORMER SLAVES, BOOTH DECIDED THIS WOULD BE LINCOLN’S LAST SPEECH, AND IT WAS AROUND THIS TIME THAT THE KIDNAPPING PLOT BECAME AN ASSASSINATION CONSPIRACY.
TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT, BOOTH SHOT LINCOLN BECAUSE HE WAS A SLAVERY SUPPORTER AND SYMPATHIZED WITH THE CONFEDERATE TRAITORS, HE BLAMED LINCOLN FOR THE BLOODY WAR THE CONFEDERACY STARTED, AND HE HATED HIM FOR HIS ANTI-SLAVERY VIEWS AND POLICIES. HE VIEWED LINCOLN AS AN OVERPOWERED DICTATOR, EVEN THOUGH HE HELD NO ILL WILL TOWARDS THE CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT FOR DOING THE SAME THING, BUT MORE. THE MURDER OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN WAS AN ACT OF VENGEANCE FOR SOMETHING THAT WASN’T LINCOLN’S FAULT.
IT WAS ALSO A POLITICAL PLOY. ORIGINALLY, THE PLAN WAS TO ASSASSINATE LINCOLN AND VICE PRESIDENT JOHNSON AND THE SECRETARY OF STATE, SO THERE WOULD BE NO ONE TO TAKE THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT AND THE UNION GOVERNMENT WOULD BE WITHOUT A LEADER FOR LONG ENOUGH THAT THE CONFEDERACY COULD RISE UP AGAIN AND WIN THE WAR.
The song’s lyric refers to conditions in the Southern states in the winter of early 1865 (“We were hungry / Just barely alive”); the Confederate states are starving and defeated. Reference is made to the date May 10, 1865, by which time the Confederate capital of Richmond had long since fallen (in April); May 10 marked the capture of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the definitive end of the Confederacy. Ralph J. Gleason (in the review in Rolling Stone 1969 explains why this song has such an impact on listeners: Nothing I have read … has brought home the overwhelming human sense of history that this song does. It has that ring of truth and the whole aura of authenticity.
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
Virgil Kane is the name And I served on the Danville train ‘Till Stoneman’s cavalry came And tore up the tracks again
In the winter of '65 We were hungry, just barely alive By May the 10th, Richmond had fell It’s a time I remember, oh so well
The night they drove old Dixie down And the bells were ringing The night they drove old Dixie down And the people were singing They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”
Back with my wife in Tennessee When one day she called to me “Virgil, quick, come see, There goes Robert E. Lee!”
Now, I don’t mind chopping wood And I don’t care if the money’s no good You take what you need And you leave the rest But they should never Have taken the very best
The night they drove old Dixie down And the bells were ringing The night they drove old Dixie down And all the people were singing They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”
Like my father before me I will work the land And like my brother above me Who took a rebel stand
He was just 18, proud and brave But a Yankee laid him in his grave I swear by the mud below my feet You can’t raise a Kane back up When he’s in defeat
The night they drove old Dixie down And the bells were ringing The night they drove old Dixie down And all the people were singing They went, “Na, na, la, na, na, la”
Brown proved completely accurate in his final prediction that slavery would be abolished only after very much bloodshed. War was needed to rid the nation of slavery.
As Brown realized, Southern slavery was strengthening, not weakening, when he made his attack. The “needless war” doctrine of some historians, which holds that slavery would have soon disappeared anyway, is contradicted by several phenomena that occurred in the 1850s.
As difficult as it is for us to realize today, Southerners had come to regard slavery as a highly beneficial - indeed, essential - institution. In this sense they were different from previous generations of Southerners, who had considered slavery a useful but unfortunate system.
Jefferson had spoken for many earlier slaveholders when he advocated the eventual emancipation of slaves. In 1783 he had drafted a model constitution by which all children born to enslaved blacks after 1800 would be trained in crafts and then liberated when they reached adulthood, to be later deported. Although nothing came the proposal, another one was made in 1796 by St. George Tucker, also a Southerner, who in A Dissertation on Slavery endorsed gradual abolition followed by the integration of freed blacks into white society, though without the rights to property or political participation. As late as 1831, plans for abolition were discussed in the Virginia legislature. Until then, most plans for abolition had come from slaveholders.
The shift in attitude came in the late 1830s, when John Calhoun called slavery “instead of an evil, a good - a positive good,” because it served whites while it civilized blacks. Calhoun made an argument that was often repeated: “Never before has the black race of central Africa, from the dawn of history to the present day, attained a condition so civilized and so improved, not only physically, but morally and intellectually.”
Southerners now rationalized that blacks needed to be enslaved for their own good. One writer insisted that blacks were loyal and affectionate, and “they are also the most helpless [people]: and no calamity can befall them greater than the loss of that protection they enjoy under this patriarchal system.” Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, explained in his opening address to the Confederate Congress that slavery had improved blacks immeasurably: “In moral and social condition they had been elevated from brutal savages into docile, intelligent, and civilized agricultural laborers, and supplied not only with bodily comforts, but with careful religious instruction. Under the supervision of a superior race their labor had been so directed as not to allow a gradual and marked amelioration of their own condition, but to convert hundreds of thousands of square miles of wilderness into cultivated lands covered with a prosperous people.”
The supposed benefits of slavery were most fully described by Alexander H. Stephens, the Confederacy’s vice president, in his famous “Cornerstone Speech” of 1861. Slavery, Stephens affirmed, was one of the most wonderful institutions ever conceived. The main difference between America’s founders and today’s Southerners, declared Stephens, is that the former, even they were slave-owners, thought slavery was “wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically,” and that “the institution would be evanescent and pass away.” Stephens challenged the founders unequivocally: “Those ideas were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of the races. This was an error…. Our new government [of the Confederacy] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests on the great truth, that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition.” The Confederacy represents the acme of human history because it rests on this “divine” doctrine of racial inequality. “This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
On this day in 1865, 150 years ago, Confederate general Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union general Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, thus
ending the civil war that had ravaged America since 1861. Sectional tensions over slavery, which had existed since the nation’s founding, came to boiling point with the election of the anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860. The outraged Southern states feared the government would attempt to emancipate their slaves, whose labour provided the basis for the Southern economy, and thus seceded to form the Confederate States of America. Hopes for peace were dashed when shots were fired upon the Union Fort Sumter in April 1861, and the nation descended into civil war. The Confederacy, largely led by General Lee, initially had great success
and defeated the Union in key battles including at Manassas and Fredericksburg. However, the Union’s superior resources and infrastructure ultimately turned the tide of war in their favour, crushing the Confederates at Gettysburg and with the destruction of Sherman’s march to the
sea. Lee surrendered to Grant when hope of Confederate victory was lost, though Grant - out of respect for Lee and his desire for peaceful reconciliation - defied military tradition and allowed Lee to keep his sword and horse. While more armies
and generals had yet to surrender, Lee’s surrender essentially marked
the end of the deadliest war in American history, which left around 750,000 dead. Union victory ensured the abolition of slavery, opening up questions about what was to be the fate of the four million freedpeople. These debates, as well as how to treat the seceded states and how to negotiate their readmission into the Union, defined the challenges of the postwar Reconstruction era. The Civil War remains a pivotal moment in American history and in many ways, 150 years later, the nation is still struggling to unite the sections and cope with the legacy of slavery.
“The Confederates were now our countrymen, and we did not want to exult over their downfall.” - Grant upon Lee’s surrender
On this day in 1808, the future President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, was born in Fairview, Kentucky. Davis spent much of his youth at the family cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana, which contributed to his ardent support of slavery. He graduated from the West Point military academy (though not without causing trouble - being implicated in the 1826 Eggnog Riot) and entered the army, during which time he fought in the Mexican-American War. Davis entered politics in 1845, and worked his way up to Senator for Mississippi and US Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. While initially voting against secession at the outbreak of the American Civil War, Davis went with his state and supported the Confederacy. In 1861, at the start of the war, he was elected president of the Confederate States of America unopposed, having been sworn in as provisional president that February. Davis served as President until the demise of the Confederacy as the seceded states prepared to rejoin the Union after the North’s victory in the Civil War. Despite his success at keeping the Confederate war effort going for longer than was initially expected, he is generally considered ineffective compared to the Union President Abraham Lincoln. Davis failed to secure international support for the Confederacy, and caused rampant inflation when his administration printed money to cover the war costs, which led to violent protests in Richmond. Davis was imprisoned after the war but was never tried and was released after two years, being pardoned by President Andrew Johnson in December 1868. Davis died in 1889 aged 81, after having popularised the ‘Lost Cause’ interpretation of the war which praised pre-war Southern society, and condemned the following period of Reconstruction.
The term “American” has been genericized over the past two centuries, much like people classify all tissue as “Kleenex” or label all cola soft drinks as “Coke”. “American” is the label given to the people of the United States, mostly because we “Americans” hijacked the term even though there are North Americans, Central Americans, South Americans, and Native Americans. Technically, there have been scores of American Presidents, but only 43 men have served as President of the United States of America (Barack Obama is President #44, but don’t forget — Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, so he was #22 and #24).
However, there was one American President born within the borders of this country who also ruled as a President within the borders of this country — an American President ignored in most books on Presidential history despite leading his country during a great war. He isn’t pictured on any currency and his face isn’t etched into Mount Rushmore, but it is etched into Stone Mountain in Georgia, and there are states that built statues of him and celebrate his birthday as a holiday. If you go to the White House in Washington, D.C., you won’t find his portrait, but if you go the White House of Richmond, Virginia, you will find one amongst plenty of other artifacts. His role in history is heavily debated and sometimes forgotten, but he was an American President during this country’s most difficult time period and his name was Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.
Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808 in what was then Christian County, Kentucky, but is present-day Fairview, Todd County, Kentucky. Davis was born less than a year and about 100 miles away from where his future adversary Abraham Lincoln was born. Davis was the tenth and final child of Samuel and Jane Davis, which is why he was likely given the middle name Finis — Latin for “the end”. Samuel Davis served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and spent time in Georgia and South Carolina before moving to Kentucky approximately 10 years before their youngest son was born.
Following Jefferson’s birth, the Davis family spent time moving around Kentucky and Louisiana before finally settling in Mississippi where Jefferson started school at the age of 5. Davis entered Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky in 1823, but left to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1824 when he received an appointment from President James Monroe.
Jefferson Davis’s four years at West Point were difficult. Samuel Davis died as Jefferson entered the military academy, and the young cadet looked to his older brother, Joseph Emory Davis, as a father figure and for financial support. Davis also had an issue with authority and with the rigid regulations of the United States Army. In 1828, Davis graduated 23rd out of 32 classmates and had 327 demerits on his record, including violations for insubordination, absence, inattention, neglect of duty, spitting on the floor, public drunkeness, firing his musket from the window of his room, unecessary noise, having his hair too long at inspection, and dozens of other reasons. In comparison, the man who would later become Davis’s top General during the Civil War — Robert E. Lee — graduated the following year second in his class and had a grand total of zero demerits on his record. While at the academy, Davis arrested twice for alcohol-related incidents — in 1825, he was court-martialed for visiting Benny Haven’s pub and on Christmas Day 1826, Davis was arrested and confined to his quarters for his part in providing the alcohol to cadets that was the catalyst for the “Eggnog Riot”.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant upon graduation in 1828, Jefferson Davis was assigned to frontier military posts in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, and eventually attached to the First Infantry Regiment in Fort Crawford, Wisconsin under the command of Colonel Zachary Taylor. Taylor commanded the First Infantry during the Black Hawk War of 1832, and while Davis didn’t actually see combat during the war, he was placed in charge of escorting the captured Chief Black Hawk to prison in St. Louis, Missouri when hostilities ended.
While stationed in Wisconsin under the command of Taylor, Davis’s behavior as a soldier was better than his behavior as a cadet at West Point, yet he still found himself running into trouble and adhering to the rules and regulations of army life. Davis squabbled with his superiors and some colleagues from time-to-time, and after a run-in with Major Richard Mason, Davis was arrested, charged with insubordination, and court-martialed in February 1835. While the tribunal in charge of Davis’s trial found him guilty of several acts of insubordination and unbecoming conduct, they also decided that these acts did not constitute criminality and acquitted him. Following the court-martial, Davis requested a furlough from the military for personal reasons and resigned from the Army several months later.
Despite his troubles with Army colleagues and superiors, rules and regulations, Jefferson Davis was highly-regarded as a soldier. Colonel Zachary Taylor had promoted him and thought well of his military abilities. Lieutenant Colonel David Twiggs — who served with Davis at Fort Winnebago, Wisconsin — requested that Davis be assigned to his command in New Orleans in 1835, writing “I have no hesitation in saying that he is as well, if not better qualified for that duty, than any officer of my acquaintance.” And, Brigadier General Matthew Arbuckle — the man who presided over Davis’s court-martial — reluctantly accepted Davis’s resignation from the Army, noting that Davis was “a young officer of much intelligence and great promise.”
The court-martial bruised Davis’s pride and honor as a soldier and gentleman, but it wasn’t the main reason behind his resignation. Davis’s older brother, Joseph Emory, was a successful planter in Mississippi and Davis wanted to take advantage of business opportunities to make some money and begin a family. Plus, Davis had fallen in love, and this love had also caused a strain with a powerful military colleague.
In Fort Crawford, Wisconsin, Jefferson Davis was second-in-command to Colonel Zachary Taylor. Taylor — who would eventually be elected President of the United States in 1848 — liked Davis personally, considered him a skilled soldier, and felt that the young lieutenant had a great future ahead of him in the military. At some point in 1832, Davis met Taylor’s 18-year-old daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor. Davis and Sarah fell in love and began spending time together, but Zachary Taylor opposed of the romance. When Davis asked permission of Colonel Taylor to take his daughter’s hand in marriage, Taylor refused and banned Davis from visiting his home as a guest. A lifelong soldier himself, Taylor knew that Army life — especially on the frontier — was harsh and unhappy. Although his oldest daughter had married a soldier, Taylor stated, “I will be damned if another daughter of mine will marry into the Army. I know enough of the family life of officers, I scarcely knew my own children or they me.”
Professionally, the relationship between Zachary Taylor and his subordinate remained strong mainly because Taylor thought so highly of Davis’s abilities as a soldier. Personally, however, there was great animosity when Taylor refused to give his blessing for Davis to marry Sarah and then forbade them to visit each other. Davis and Sarah resorted to the help of friends in order to meet quietly within the small confines of Fort Crawford, but their love continued to flourish. In 1833, they became engaged and hoped that Colonel Taylor would eventually relent and give them his blessing.
He didn’t. Taylor, in fact, promoted Davis to first lieutenant with the Dragoons at Jefferson Barracks, near St. Louis. While this could have been a strategy to post Davis far away from his fiancee in Wisconsin, there is no evidence that Taylor acted in any manner that was harmful to Davis’s military career. As he said many times, Taylor believed Davis was an exceptional soldier and the promotion to the Dragoons regiment was offered as a professional courtesy, not to further a personal vendetta. Davis himself was honored by and happy with the promotion, and accepted his new position with zeal.
Though separated by distance and finding themselves apart for over two years, Jefferson Davis and Sarah Knox Taylor’s love for one another did not dissipate. They wrote letters to one another and though Davis was worried that Sarah would marry someone else, her feelings for him never weakened. Sarah’s letters reassured him that she wanted to marry him, but Davis was almost apologetic to her because he realized that Zachary Taylor would never give them his blessing and their eventual marriage might separate Sarah from her family and friends.
It was not until after Davis resigned from the Army following his court-martial in February 1835 that he was able to reunite with Sarah. Knowing that they could not meet in Wisconsin and finding St. Louis undesirable, Davis and Sarah were reunited in Kentucky and planned for the wedding. Hoping to receive a last-minute blessing from her father, Sarah talked with Zachary Taylor just before she left Fort Crawford, Wisconsin on a steamboat to Louisville. Taylor was still opposed to the marriage, but not as adamantly as he previously was.
When Sarah’s steamboat departed Fort Crawford, Zachary Taylor wrote two letters. The first letter was to his sister in Louisville, stating that if Sarah was determined to marry Jefferson Davis, he would accept her decision and hoped that his sister would host the wedding at her home in Louisville. The second letter was to Sarah and was a “kind and affectionate letter” which included “a liberal supply of money”, according to Sarah. Sarah was grateful for her father’s letter and support, but it was clear that her parents were still not pleased with her decision to marry Davis and they did not attend the wedding. On the day of her wedding, Sarah wrote to her mother, “I know you will still return some feelings of affection for a child who has been as unfortunate to form such a connexion without the sanction of her parents; but who will always feel the deepest affection for them whatever may be their feelings toward her.”
On June 17, 1835, Jefferson Finis Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor at Beechland, the estate of the bride’s widowed aunt near Louisville, Kentucky. Along with the bride’s parents, nobody from Jefferson Davis’s family attended the wedding. Sarah’s aunt, of course, hosted the wedding, but she also was grateful for the attendance of her older sister Ann and her husband, numerous cousins, and two of Zachary Taylor’s brothers. Sarah’s cousin, Richard Taylor, served as Jefferson’s best man.
Following the wedding, the newlyweds left Louisville and may have visited St. Louis before heading to their new home near a bend in the Mississippi River in Mississippi called Davis Bend. While the young couple got settled and started building their home at Davis Bend, they stayed with Davis’s oldest brother and the primary landowner of Davis Bend, Joseph Emory Davis and his wife. Jefferson threw himself into the work of planting crops and beginning his career as a Mississippi planter and Sarah enjoyed her role as a wife and partner in this new life that the young couple was building together. While she missed her family and wrote to her siblings, Sarah felt happy with her husband and hopeful about their future. In a letter to her mother on August 11, 1835, Sarah wrote, “Do not make yourself uneasy about me, the country is quite healthy.” It was the last sentence she ever wrote or spoke to her parents.
Shortly after Sarah sent her letter to her mother, she accompanied Jefferson on a trip south to meet Jefferson’s sister, Anna Smith, and stay at her home Locust Grove in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. Soon after their arrival in Louisiana, Jefferson became ill and Sarah began showing signs of sickness the very next day. Both husband and wife were ravaged by high fevers and chills, and it quickly became clear that they were suffering from malaria. Jefferson and his wife were quarantined in separate rooms and after several days both were suffering from delirium and near-death. On September 15, 1835, Jefferson awoke from his state of delirium to the sound of Sarah singing her favorite song, “Fairy Bells”. Struggling to rise from his sickbed, Davis reached the side of his beautiful, 21-year-old wife just as she died. They had been married for only 90 days.
Sarah was buried at Locust Grove and Jefferson was devastated. He was also gravely ill with malaria and his survival was not expected, but about a month later he had recovered enough to return home to Mississippi before traveling to Havana, Cuba to further rehabilitate his health. For the rest of his life, Davis suffered from recurring fevers and chills that were related to the strain of malaria that sickened him and killed his wife in 1835. For the rest of his life, Davis also grieved over the loss of Sarah Knox Taylor. Over fifty years later, he still remembered her with great sadness and when a man found a letter written to Jefferson from Sarah and asked if Davis wished to have the letter, Davis responded by letting the man know that receiving the letter from his first love would bring him great happiness. At the time, Jefferson Davis was 81 years old and just months away from his own death.
With Sarah gone, Jefferson Davis returned to Davis Bend to grieve and to start the life as a planter that he had envisioned spending with Sarah. For the next decade, Davis worked hard at building his cotton plantation, Brierfield, and overseeing the slaves that worked it. For the next decade, as he focused on commercial pursuits and tried to move past the tragedy of losing Sarah, Jefferson Davis was virtually a recluse, rarely leaving his plantation or hosting visitors. The quite “retired” life of a planter was all that interested Davis and all that he saw for his future.
While Jefferson Davis was devastated over the loss of his wife, his former commander Zachary Taylor was devastated over the loss of his daughter. Taylor’s fears about Sarah living the harsh life of a military wife didn’t come to fruition, but the bigger nightmare of his daughter’s death was realized instead. Taylor harbored resentment towards Davis for taking his daughter from him, and for not taking care of her properly once they were married. Taylor continued his successful military career as Davis grew as a plantation owner, and by the 1840’s the United States and it’s thirst for expansion had the country headed towards war with Mexico, and one of the nation’s top generals was Zachary Taylor.
Soon, the duty of defending his country that had been instilled in Jefferson Davis while he was a cadet at West Point and a soldier on the frontier, led him to join the forces heading to war with Mexico.
Soon, Jefferson Davis would be reunited with his former commander, his former father-in-law, and the future President of the United States — Zachary Taylor.
Soon, Jefferson Davis’s quiet life as a Mississippi planter would be interrupted by war, duty, and war once again.
On this day in 1860, the US state of South Carolina declared its intent to secede from the Union by issuing the Ordinance of Secession. The government of South Carolina issued the ‘Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union’ on December 24th to justify their decision; this mostly centred around the perceived federal effort to abolish slavery. Secession was prompted by the election of anti-slavery presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln, after years of tensions over the slavery issue had heightened divisions between the Southern and Northern states. Other southern states followed South Carolina, thus forming the Confederacy who fought and lost to the Union in the American Civil War. During the post-war Reconstruction era South Carolina underwent drastic changes, seeing the election of many newly enfranchised African-Americans to political office, but also experiencing one of the most violent ‘redemptions’ by white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan who retaliated against the increased rights of the freedmen.
The parallel debates about the Confederate flag and Dylann Roof’s motive highlight the fact that the collective denial about the white supremacist motives behind white supremacist violence is nothing new.
The Confederate states all stated in no uncertain terms that they seceded because of slavery. The designer of the Confederate battle flag stated that it was meant to symbolize white supremacy. The Vice President of the Confederacy said, “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.” And yet many, maybe even most, white people will claim that it “wasn’t about slavery” and that it was “about states’ rights.”
This has been going on for over a century. So when we see Dylann Roof posing next to that flag, wearing other white supremacist symbols, writing 1488 in the sand, and then standing up in a black church and yelling about wanting to kill black people before killing an elected official and eight others, leaving behind a manifesto about white supremacy, and people will still search for another excuse. “Oh, it wasn’t about white supremacy, it was about religion. Or he was just crazy. Or, or, or…” People don’t want to confront the reality, which is that it was about race.
In 1962, something like 80% of white people believed that black people had equal opportunity. That number has stayed more or less steady. We continue to live in a collective denial that continues to result in problems not being addressed. Our denial is the enemy of progress.
Just ordered the biography "Jefferson Davis, American". Do you recommend any other books/articles on Jefferson Davis? I really want to learn about the Confederate president. Thank you!
You ordered the very best book about Jefferson Davis, so good choice. William J. Cooper is a damn good historian and one of the foremost experts on Davis. He also published a smaller book that is a collection of essays on Davis, Jefferson Davis and the Civil War Era. I would also recommend Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour by William C. Davis.
The book that Jefferson Davis wrote following the Civil War, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, is interesting in that it is a history of the Confederacy and the Civil War from the perspective of the Confederate President. However, it is a dry and difficult read – even by the standards of the 19th century. I have it in two volumes, but there may be an abridged version out there.
Oh, and while it’s far from a definitive look at the life of the Confederate President, I did write a three-part essay on Jefferson Davis a while back that you can read here on Dead Presidents: