Jefferson Davis was the only president of the Confederate States of America, the group of southern states that seceded from the United States and prompted the Civil War (1861-65). Davis was born in Kentucky and spent his childhood in Mississippi. A graduate of West Point military academy, Davis was a distinguished soldier in the Black Hawk War (1832) and the U.S. war with Mexico (1846-47). He served Mississippi as a congressman (1845) and a U.S. senator (1847-51 and 1857-61), and was President Franklin Pierce
's Secretary of War (1853-57). A gifted orator and longtime champion of states' rights, he resigned his senate seat in 1860 and reluctantly joined the secessionists. The provisional congress of the newly-formed Confederate States of America chose Davis as president and commander of its military forces, and in February of 1862 he was elected by the popular vote. After the Confederacy lost the war, Davis was captured in Georgia (10 May 1865), thrown in jail and later charged with treason. After two years in prison, he was released on bail and the charges were dropped. He published The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government
(1881) and lived and worked in Mississippi until his death at the age of 81.