Jefferson Davis, Confederate President by Herman Hattaway

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Synopsis

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 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.

Hattaway and Beringer 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 Confederate presidency--suggesting that perhaps it was the Confederate government, rather than Davis himself, that failed. More than that, it shows us Davis as an American leader and offers a new appreciation of his place in our country's history.

 

About Herman Hattaway

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Herman Hattaway is Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including Why the South Lost the Civil War, How the North Won, and General Stephen D. Lee, all past selections of the History Book Club.
 
Published May 1, 2002 by Univ Pr of Kansas. 576 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction

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Hattaway and Beringer reprise their 1986 collaboration in Why the South Lost the Civil War by focusing on Jefferson Davis's role as leader of the Confederacy,

Apr 29 2002 | Read Full Review of Jefferson Davis, Confederate ...

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