Jefferson Davis was notable American
Monday is a state holiday in honor of Confederate States President Jefferson Davis. One of the most popular and forward-looking Americans of his time, Davis graduated from West Point in 1828, serving as second lieutenant in the Wisconsin Territory.
In 1845 Davis was elected to the U.S. Congress, but left to serve in the Mexican-American War as colonel of the First Mississippi Volunteers. Davis became a national hero for his victories at the battles of Monterrey and Buena Vista with tactics that won praise both here and abroad.
President James Polk offered Davis the rank of general, but he declined, stating the Constitution gives the power of appointing officers to the states, not the federal government.
Davis was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1848 and selected to be on the first Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution.
In 1853, President Franklin Pierce appointed Davis his U.S. Secretary of War, whereupon, Davis:
Strengthened coastal defenses and equipped the Army with Mississippi rifles;
Sponsored the purchase from Mexico of today’s southern Arizona and part of New Mexico, providing a route for the Transcontinental Railroad to the Pacific; and
Directed the expansion of the U.S. Capitol and construction on the Washington Aqueduct and Washington Monument.
In 1857 Davis was again elected to the U.S. Senate.