Jefferson Davis, Confederate President
Herman Hattaway and Richard E. Beringer
He was one of the most embattled heads of state in American history. Charged with building a new nation while waging a war for its very independence, he accepted his responsibilities reluctantly but carried them out with a fierce dedication to his ideals. Those efforts ultimately foundered on the shoals of Confederate defeat, leaving Davis stranded in public memory as both valiant leader and desolate loser.
Now two renowned Civil War historians, Herman Hattaway and Richard Beringer, take a new and closer look at Davis's presidency. In the process, they provide a clearer image of his leadership and ability to handle domestic, diplomatic, and military matters under the most trying circumstances-without the considerable industrial and population resources of the North and without the formal recognition of other nations.
“Succeeds in bringing this unusual American to life for contemporary readers. Particularly recommended for buffs of the Civil War.”
—Profile (National Portrait Gallery)
“This thoughtful and well-written analysis, strongly grounded in quality recent studies and primary sources on Jefferson Davis, is a welcome addition to the emerging scholarly literature on the relationship between the way in which the nature of Confederate society and beliefs affected the conduct of the war.”
—Louisiana HistorySee all reviews...
“A tremendously valuable work that captures the Confederate perspective on the Civil War and serves as an excellent departure point for further studies into the military, political, social, and economic history of the Confederacy.”
“This book goes past biography and is in reality a far-reaching history of the Confederate experience based on some of the best recent scholarship available. . . . It is a fine, well-written study and one of the most useful analyses of the Confederate leadership to appear in several years. It deserves a place next to Emory Thomas's classic The Confederate Nation on the shelf of essential books on the Civil War South, and is highly recommended.”
—American Nineteenth Century History
“A vivid portrait of the man, the office, and the southern nation during the star-crossed struggle for independence. This engaging approach allows the reader to derive a sense of the challenges, both personal and professional, that Davis encountered as a president at war. . . . [Readers] will treasure the fresh insights that Hattaway and Beringer provide into a failed American president and his short-lived Confederate nation.”
—Arkansas Historical Quarterly
“Probably the best single volume treatment of the confederate experiment.”
—Civil War News
“This book delivers more than its title suggests. It is, in fact, a comprehensive history of the Confederacy, in which Jefferson Davis naturally figures as the chief character. . . . This is an excellent book on both Davis and the Confederate experience for all levels and collections.”
“[This book is] an extended essay about the Confederacy itself. . . . Much of what these authors say deserves thoughtful attention.”
—Journal of Military History
“Hattaway and Beringer have written the first full-length study of Jefferson Davis's presidency that offers a detailed analysis of his Civil War career and how he profoundly shaped the Confederacy. The final result is an even handed, often insightful work that places Davis successfully in the historical context of nineteenth-century politics. . . . Hattaway and Beringer have produced an exhaustive study of an 'American president' as well as a sweeping history of the poltical, financial, and military plight of the Confederacy. . . . It is a book that will interest Civil War buffs as well as challenge the assumptions of some Civil War historians.”
“At once thorough and thought provoking. The authors paint the first true administrative portrait of Davis, making bold and even controversial judgments.”
—William C. Davis, author of Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour
“A sprawling and detailed chronicle of the Confederate presidency that touches upon almost every aspect of Confederate history, ranging from battle accounts, to logistical matters, to fiscal policy, to the course of slavery.”
—William J. Cooper, Jr., author of Jefferson Davis, American: A Biography
“The authors have created nothing less than a panorama of the rise and fall of the Confederate States.”
—Daniel E. Sutherland, author of Seasons of War: The Ordeal of the Confederate Community, 1861–1865See fewer reviews...
Hattaway and Beringer examine Davis's strengths and weaknesses as president in light of both traditional evidence and current theories of presidential leadership. They show us a man so respected that northern colleagues regretted his departure from the U.S. Senate, but so bent on Southern independence he was willing to impose unthinkable burdens on his citizens-an apologist for slavery who was committed to state rights, even while growing nationalism in his new country called for a stronger central government.
In assessing Davis's actual administration of the Confederate state, the authors analyze the Confederate government's constitution, institutions, infrastructure, and cabinet-level administrators. They also integrate events of Davis's presidency with the ongoing war as it encroached upon the South, offering a panoramic view of military strategy as seen from the president's office. They tell how Davis reacted to the outcomes of key battles and campaigns in order to assess his leadership abilities, his relations with civilian and military authorities, and—his own personal competency notwithstanding—his poor judgment in selecting generals.
Rich in detail and exhilaratingly told with generous selections from Davis's own letters and speeches, Hattaway and Beringer provide the most insightful account available of the first and only Confederate presidency-suggesting that perhaps it was the Confederate government, rather than Davis himself, that failed. More than that, it shows us Jefferson Davis as an American leader and offers a new appreciation of his place in our country's history.