Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Jefferson Davis Collection, 1861-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, May 2010

Summary Information
Title: Jefferson Davis collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1861-1865
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
Abstract:
The Jefferson Davis collection contains political and military correspondence of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. Most of the letters are from congressmen, governors, cabinet officers, generals, and local politicians to Davis.

Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1944-1993. M-491, M-1687, M-1730, M-1759, M-1859, M-1862, M-2107, M-2132, M-2902.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Jefferson Davis collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Arrangement

This collection is organized chronologically with undated items at the end.


Biography

United States senator and the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Finis Davis (1808-1889) had a lengthy military and political career. After graduating from West Point in 1828, Colonel Zachery Taylor assigned Davis to escort Black Hawk to prison at the end of the Black Hawk War (1832). He sat in Congress as a Democratic representative from Mississippi from 1845 to1846. At the outbreak of the Mexican War, Davis returned to the army and distinguished himself at the battle of Buena Vista (1846). Davis represented Mississippi in the senate from 1847 until 1851, when President Pierce appointed him secretary of war. He returned to the senate in 1857, but resigned with other secessionists in 1861. The constitutional convention at Montgomery, Alabama, selected Davis as provisional President of the Confederate States of America, and on November 6, 1861, the Confederacy officially elected him President. Davis held his headquarters in Richmond, Virginia, where he closely supervised the Confederate Army. Following the war, Davis was imprisoned for two years, and although he was indicted for treason, he was never tried. He spent his later years writing in defense of the Confederacy. He died in New Orleans in 1889.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jefferson Davis collection (91 items) contains political correspondence of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America. The collection consists of 10 letters written by Davis, including three to Robert E. Lee, and one document signed by Davis. The remaining 80 items are letters to Davis from congressmen, governors, cabinet officers, generals, and local politicians. They offer a variety of opinions and advice on the Confederacy and the war effort related to both political and strategic matters. Other topics discussed include military and political promotions and appointments, Southern public opinion of the war, intelligence and updates from the battlefield, prisons and prisoners, political support in Europe, and Confederate finances.

Items of note include:

  • January 17, 1861: Jefferson Davis to George Lunt, stating that secession was forced upon the South by Northern aggression and not caused by Lincoln's election
  • September 3, 1861: Simon Bolivar Buckner to Davis recommending that they take decisive military action in Kentucky
  • November 2, 1861: James B. Chesnut to Davis explaining his part in the planning of the battle at Manassas
  • April 9, 1862: Stephen Russell Mallory to Davis concerning iron-clad ships
  • September 3, 1862: Robert E. Lee to Davis recommending that his army invade Maryland
  • October 8, 1862: Two letters to Davis concerning the suspension of habeas corpus
  • April 6, 1763: Joseph Christmas Ives to Davis containing an inspection report on Vicksburg and other forts
  • July 29, 1863: James Phelan to Davis on enforcing the Conscription Act
  • July 21, August 3, 8, 14, 1863: Letters concerning calls to remove John C. Pemberton from office
  • October 12, 1863: John H. Reagan to Davis advising that the army cut off Rosecrans in Tennessee and predicting Union gains if they fail
  • November 18, 1863: George W.C. Lee to Davis recommending that Davis visit Robert E. Lee and his army
  • June 11, 1864: Davis to the Confederate Senate concerning the destruction of the gunboat Cairo
  • August 9, 1864: Herschel Johnson to Davis explaining that the Confederate army must defeat Sherman and protect Atlanta, Georgia
  • February 2, 1865: Act written by Thomas Bocock and Alexander Hamilton Stephens to "regulate the pay…of certain female employees of the government," signed by Davis
  • March 28, 1865: George A. Trenholm to Davis arguing for the Confederate government to purchase cotton
Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Arkansas--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Armored vessels.
    • Bull Run, 1st Battle of, Va., 1861.
    • Cairo (Gunboat)
    • Castle Thunder Prison (Richmond, Va.)
    • Charleston (S.C.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Crittenden, George Bibb, 1812-1880.
    • Forrest, Nathan Bedford, 1821-1877.
    • Georgia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Kentucky--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Mississippi--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • New Orleans (La.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Pemberton, John C. (John Clifford), 1814-1881.
    • Rosecrans, William S. (William Starke), 1819-1898.
    • Tennessee--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • Vicksburg (Miss.)--History--Siege, 1863.
    • Virginia--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    Contributors:
    • Barksdale, E. (Ethelbert), 1824-1893.
    • Barnwell, Robert Woodward, 1801-1882.
    • Barry, William T. S. (William Taylor Sullivan), 1821-1868.
    • Beauregard, G. T. (Gustave Toutant), 1818-1893.
    • Benjamin, J. P. (Judah Philip), 1811-1884.
    • Bocock, Thomas S., 1815-1891.
    • Bragg, Braxton, 1817-1876.
    • Buckner, Simon Bolivar, 1823-1914.
    • Caperton, Allen Taylor, 1810-1876.
    • Chesnut, James, 1815-1885.
    • Clay, Clement Comer, 1789-1866.
    • Davis, George, 1820-1896.
    • Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
    • Davis, Reuben, 1813-1890.
    • Dargan, Edmund Strother, 1805-1879.
    • Floyd, John B. (John Buchanan), 1806-1863.
    • Foote, Henry S. (Henry Stuart), 1804-1880.
    • Garland, A. H. (Augustus Hill), 1832-1899.
    • Hampton, Wade, 1818-1902.
    • Heth, Henry, 1825-1899.
    • Hill, D. H. (Daniel Harvey), 1821-1889.
    • House, John Ford, 1827-1904.
    • Ives, J. C.
    • Johnson, Herschel V. (Herschel Vespasian), 1812-1880.
    • Johnston, Joseph E. (Joseph Eggleston), 1807-1891.
    • Keyes, Wade, 1821-1879.
    • Kirby-Smith, Edmund, 1824-1893.
    • Lee, George Washington Custis, 1832-1913.
    • Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    • Letcher, John, 1813-1884.
    • Lovell, Mansfield, 1822-1884.
    • McRae, John J., 1815-1868.
    • Magruder, John Bankhead, 1807-1871.
    • Malloy, Stephen Russell, 1812-1873.
    • Marshall, Humphrey, 1812-1872.
    • Mason, J. M. (James Murray), 1798-1871.
    • Phelan, James, 1821-1873.
    • Randolph, George Wythe, 1818-1867.
    • Reagan, John H. (John Henninger), 1818-1905.
    • Rives, William Cabell, 1825-1889.
    • Seddon, James A. (James Alexander), 1815-1880.
    • Semmes, Thomas J. (Thomas Jenkins), 1824-1899.
    • Slidell, John, 1793-1871.
    • Smith, Gustavus Woodson, 1822-1896.
    • Smith, M. L. (Martin Luther), 1819-1866.
    • Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, 1812-1883.
    • Trenholm, George Alfred, 1806-1876.
    • Yancey, William Lowndes, 1814-1863.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Box   1  
    Jefferson Davis collection [series]:
     
     1861 January 5: Judah P. Benjamin et al. to "The People of the South"
     
     1861 January 17: Jefferson Davis to George Lunt
     
     1861 February 16: Louis T. Wigfall to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 March 14: Judah P. Benjamin to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 March 25: James M. Mason to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 April 21: James M. Mason to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 May 6: James M. Mason to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 June 1: John Letcher to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 June 12: P.G.T. Beauregard to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 June 22: Jefferson Davis to Joseph E. Johnston
     
     1861 July 10: Henry Heth to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 July 12: John B. Floyd to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 July 12: Joseph Eggleston Johnston to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 Sept 3: Simon Bolivar Buckner to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 Sept 3: Gustavus W. Smith to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 Sept 6: J. Thompson to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 Nov 2: James B. Chesnut to Jefferson Davis
     
     1861 November 22: P.G.T. Beauregard to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 February 8: John Ford House to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 February 13: John Letcher to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 February 25: Judah Philip Benjamin to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 February 27: Stephen Russell Mallory to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 March 10: Edmund Kirby Smith to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 April 9: Stephen Russell Mallory to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 April 17: Stephen Russell Mallory to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 April 17: William L. Yancey to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 May 5: William L. Yancey to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 June 5: George Wythe Randolph to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 June 8: Humphrey Marshall to Robert E. Lee
     
     1862 June 24: Wade Keyes, Jr. to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 June 28: William Cabell Rives to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 July 5: Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 July 27: Lovell, Mansfield to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 September 3: Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 September 18: George Wythe Randolph to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 October 8: Jefferson Davis to Senate of C.S.A.
     
     1862 October 8: George Wythe Randolph to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 November 3: Robert W. Barnwell to Jefferson Davis
     
     1862 December 22: Martin Luther Smith to Joseph Eggleston Johnston
     
     1863 January 30: Augustus H. Garland to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 February 4: Jefferson Davis to Milledge L. Bonham
     
     1863 March 2: Joseph Eggleston Johnston to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 March 26: Braxton Bragg to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 April 6: Joseph Christmas Ives to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 June 16: E. Kirby Smith to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 June 18: Daniel H. Hill to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 June 18: Robert W. Johnson to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 June 21: Henry Stuart Foote to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 July 2: James A. Seddon to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 July 9: Reuben Davis to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 July 12: John J. McRae to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 July 25: Robert Woodward Barwell to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 July 29: James Phelan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 August 3: John J. McRae to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 August 7: John Henninger Reagan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 August 8: W.L. Brandon to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 August 14: James Phelan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 August 19: John Letcher to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 September 25: Edmund S. Dargan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 October 12: John Henninger Reagan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 October 18: John Slidell to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 October 29: Jefferson Davis to Braxton Bragg
     
     1863 November 14: James C. Tappan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1863 November 18: George W.C. Lee to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 January 20: Robert E. Lee to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 January 26: John Henninger Reagan to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 March 15: William T.S. Barry to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 March 21: Wade Hampton to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 March 28: Jefferson Davis to Robert E. Lee
     
     1864 April 22: George Davis to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 May 31: James Murray Mason to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 June 11: Jefferson Davis to Senate of C.S.A.
     
     1864 July 23: Ethelbert Barksdale to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 August 2: Thomas J. Semmes to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 August 6: James M. Mason to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 August 9: Herschel V. Johnson to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 August 15: Allen T. Caperton to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 October 8: Herschel V. Johnson to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 October 15: Robert W. Johnson to Jefferson Davis
     
     [1864 November]: John B. Clark to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 December 26: James Chesnut, Jr., to Jefferson Davis
     
     1864 December 26: William E. Smith to Jefferson Davis
     
     1865 January 18: James A. Seddon to Jefferson Davis
     
     1865 February 2: Thomas Stanley Bocock and Alexander Hamilton Stephens [to Jefferson Davis]
     
     1865 February 12: John Bankhead Magruder to Jefferson Davis
     
     1865 February 22: Clement C. Clay to Jefferson Davis
     
     1865 March 28: George A. Trenholm to Jefferson Davis
     
     1880 February 12: Jefferson Davis to Solomon Capen Beauvois
     
     1883 September 3: Jefferson Davis to B. Alexander;
     
     Undated: Jefferson Davis to Joseph E. Johnston
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements Library contains several collections with material related to Jefferson Davis, including correspondence and contemporary mentions of Davis (see the card catalog for details).

    A few notable selections are listed below:

    • The Lewis Cass papers contain six letters concerning Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina Davis:
      • Davis to Cass (1855 February 24; 1857 March 10, August 3)
      • Cass to Davis (1855 February 27; 1856 July 2)
      • Varina Davis to Goddard (undated)
    • The Clinton H. Haskell collection contains a letter from Davis to Braxton Bragg (May 29, 1861)
    • The Samuel B. Morse journal contains information concerning an assassination reward for Davis

    The Clements Library Book Division holds many volumes written by or related to Davis. Search the Library catalog Mirlyn for a complete list.

    Below are a few notable selections: