On this day in 1861, Jefferson Davis is elected president of the Confederate States of America. He ran without opposition, and the election simply confirmed the decision that had been made by the Confederate Congress earlier in the year.
Like his Union counterpart, President Abraham Lincoln, Davis was a native of Kentucky, born in 1808. He attended West Point and graduated in 1828. After serving in the Black Hawk War of 1832, Davis married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of General (and future U.S. president) Zachary Taylor, in 1835. However, Sarah contracted malaria and died within several months of their marriage. Davis married Varina Howells in 1845. He served in the Mexican War (1846-48), during which he was wounded. After the war, he was appointed to fill a vacant U.S. senate seat from Mississippi, and later served as secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce.
When the Southern states began seceding after the election of Abraham Lincoln in the winter of 1860 and 1861, Davis suspected that he might be the choice of his fellow Southerners for their interim president. When the newly seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861, they decided just that. Davis expressed great fear about what lay ahead. "Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers, but beyond them I saw troubles and thorns innumerable." On November 6, Davis was elected to a six-year term as established by the Confederate constitution. He remained president until May 5, 1865, when the Confederate government was officially dissolved.