Senator Jefferson Davis Prepares to Resign

Sunday, January 20, 1861

Even though his state had seceded, Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis was still in Washington DC. He, along with others, however, would be resigning.

On this day, he prepared his final address and wrote to former US President, Franklin Pierce, a personal friend of Senator Davis.

He revealed to Pierce that it was a “hard task” to announce his leaving, but since Mississippi “has resolved to enter on the trial of secession,” he must go with her. It was “not a matter of choice, but of necessity.”

Though he does not mention slavery by name, he writes that the current administration, “in an attempt to avoid the issue… has complicated and precipitated the question.” If the “duty ‘to preserve the private property’ were rationally regarded,” the collision at Charleston could have been avoided.

Lincoln, Davis says, had no choice but “to continue in the path of his predecessor to inaugurate a civil war.”1

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In Mississippi’s first independent military action, a small band of armed secessionists seized Ship Island, its lighthouse and its unfinished large fort (later to be named Fort Massachusetts). Ship Island, just off the Gulf Coast from Gulfport, was an important refueling stop for ships in the Gulf.2



  1. Jefferson Davis: The Essential Writings By Jefferson Davis, Random House, Inc., 2004. []
  2. History of the Confederate States Navy by John Thomas Scharf, Joseph McDonough, 1894. There is another book called “Ship Island and the Confederacy” by Zed Burns, but I cannot track it down. It seems to provide much more detail than anything else I can find. []
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