Jefferson Finis Davis was an American politician who served as the president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. As a member of the Democratic Party, he represented Mississippi in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives before the American Civil War. He previously served as the United States Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce.
Davis was born in Fairview, Kentucky, to a moderately prosperous farmer, the youngest of ten children. He grew up in Wilkinson County, Mississippi, and also lived in Louisiana. His eldest brother Joseph Emory Davis secured the younger Davis's appointment to the United States Military Academy. After graduating, Jefferson Davis served six years as a lieutenant in the United States Army. He fought in the Mexican–American War, as the colonel of a volunteer regiment. Before the American Civil War, he operated a large cotton plantation in Mississippi, which his brother Joseph gave him, and owned as many as 113 enslaved people. Although Davis argued against secession in 1858, he believed states had an unquestionable right to leave the Union.