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10 February 2006
  Today in Civil War History
1861 Davis learns he is president



Jefferson Davis receives word that he has been selected president of the new Confederate States of America.

Davis was at his plantation, Brierfield, pruning rose bushes with his wife Varina when a messenger arrived from nearby Vicksburg. It was not a job he wanted, but he accepted it out of a sense of duty to his new country. Varina later wrote that she saw her husband's face grow pale and she recalled, "Reading that telegram he looked so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family. After a few minutes he told me like a man might speak of a sentence of death."

Davis said of the job: "I have no confidence in my ability to meet its requirement. I think I could perform the function of a general." He could see the difficulties involved in launching the new nation. "Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers, but beyond them I saw troubles innumerable. We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by powerful opposition but I do not despond and will not shrink from the task before me."

Davis was prescient in his concerns. He drew sharp criticism during the war--Alexander Stephens, the vice president, said Davis was "weak and vacillating, timid, petulant, peevish, obstinate," and Stephens declared that he held "no more feeling of resentment toward him" than he did toward his "poor old blind and deaf dog."
 
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