The Inauguration of Jefferson Davis

Monday, February 18, 1861

An incredibly large crowd gathered in Montgomery for the inauguration of Jefferson Davis. The houses of the city were decked out for a patriotic holiday and the entire mood was one of celebration.

Dressed in red jackets and blue pants, The Columbus Guards led the way followed by Davis and Vice-President Alexander Stevens, who were pulled in a carriage by six white horses. Following the two leaders of the new nation were the governors of the seceded states and other important Southern personalities.

When the parade reached the capitol, Davis stepped out as the band played the “Marseillaise,” the song of the French Revolution, calling, “Aux armes, citoyens!” – “To arms, citizens!”1

Davis entered the chamber where the Congress had been meeting and was introduced formally by Robert Barnwell Rhett. “Gentlemen of the Congress,” announced Rhett, “allow me to present to you the Honorable Jefferson Davis, who in obedience to your choice has come to assume the important trust you have confided to his care.”

The elections results were read (Davis being unanimously elected by six votes – one from each state in the Confederacy, except Texas, which had yet to arrive) after a prayer was spoken.

Jefferson Davis was administered the oath of office by Howell Cobb. With his hand on the Bible, Davis turned to the assemblage and repeated “so help me God.”

With that, he became the Provisional President of the Confederate States of America.

His inaugural address, which he spoke clearly and firmly, he defended the right, even the duty, of secession. “Governments rest on the consent of the governed,” said Davis, “and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive to the ends for which they were established.”

He spoke of wanting peace, mentioning it six times. However, if this peace “is denied us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction be assailed, it will but remain for us with firm resolve to appeal to arms and invoke the blessing of Providence on a just cause.”

Though slavery was not mentioned in name, the reason for this secession, claimed Davis, was “actuated solely by a desire to preserve our own rights, and to promote our own welfare.”

The speech ended with a call to “the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by His blessing they were able to vindicate.”

That night, fireworks filled the sky and the houses were illuminated. A public reception was held at Estelle Hall where Davis shook the hands of thousands.2


General Daniel Twiggs had finally received the news that he had been relieved of his duties as commander of the Department of Texas. Colonel Carlos Waite was put in charge, but he was 60 miles away.

Two companies of United States troops were stationed in San Antonio under the direct command of General Twiggs. A force of 1,000 Texas state militia troops marched on the arsenal and demanded it surrender. Twiggs was in negotiations much of the day with state authorities, but by 4pm it was decided. Not only did Twiggs surrender the arsenal, but he also handed over the entire Department of Texas to the Rebels.

Nearly 2,500 US soldiers were ordered to leave the state. All of the property, including arms, ammunition, forts, garrisons, horses, etc., fell into the hands of Texas.3

  1. Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. []
  2. History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 1 by Thomas McAdory Owen, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1921. []
  3. Official Records Vol. 1, p597. []
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The Inauguration of Jefferson Davis by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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