Jefferson Finis Davis, President of the Confederacy. b. 1808 d. 1889.
Davis was born in Kentucky and raised in Mississippi. He graduated from Transylvania University (absolutely no evidence exists regarding Davis moonlighting as a vampire) as well as West Point. He desired above all things to become a military leader. However, his record at West Point was not particularly impressive, nor were his commands during the Blackhawk War or the Mexican War. During the Mexican War he was wounded while in command of a unit known as the Mississippi Rifles and spent much of the battle of Buena Vista seeking medical opinions on his injury.
Davis was regarded by many as less of a leader than as a person who let others influence and even control him. While serving in the military he married Sarah Knox Taylor, the daughter of General (and future president) Zachary Taylor. She was said to have influenced him to pursue a political career, but died in 1835 before she could fully manipulate him into a position of political power. With the loss of his first wife, Davis married again. This time he chose a woman named Varina Howell who was more dominant and controlling than his first wife even fantasized about being. She forcefully nudged him in the direction of a run for a senate seat, which he won. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1847 to 1851. He then ran for the governorship of Mississippi but lost in the election.
After his loss in the ran for governor, Davis desired to skulk quietly back home and sip mint juleps on his porch, but it was not to be. In 1853 he was named Secretary of War by president Franklin Pierce. He served in that capacity until 1857, when he returned to the U.S. Senate. He remained in the senate until 1860 when the announcement that Abraham Lincoln had won the presidency was delivered. Jefferson Davis took that moment to skulk quietly home and sip mint juleps on his porch.
With secession in bloom and civil war on the horizon, Jefferson Davis actively campaigned for a military command in the new Confederacy. He saw this as an opportunity to finally realize what he saw as his potential for military greatness. However, that hope was scuttled on February 18, 1861 when he was elected provisional president of the Confederacy in a hastily arranged session of the new Confederate government. This became his permanent position on November 9, 1861 when he was elected president by the popular vote.
Davis' desire for military greatness did not vanish with his role as President of the Confederacy. He frequently involved himself in the workings of the military and annoyed many of his commanding officers with his hands-on approach to the war. As he meddled heavily in the military side of the Confederate cause, the domestic side suffered from neglect and a lack of leadership. The Confederate infrastructure began to crumble long before the military surrendered.
Despite the surrender of Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant on April 10, 1865, Jefferson Davis himself did not surrender immediately. He began darting about like an injured water bug, running from one place to another, refusing to give up the cause of the Confederacy. Two weeks later on April 24th, he admitted the Confederacy was lost. It was not until May 10, 1865 that he was finally captured, as he roamed around Georgia looking for friendly faces.
He spent two years in prison after his capture, and public opinion cried for him to be executed as a traitor to the United States. The U.S. government would not pursue the charge and released him. He went into private business back in Mississippi and wrote his own history, The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy. For much of his later life, he was reported to be an angry and bitter aristocrat who complained constantly about "unjust criticism" thrown at him by both the North and the South after the war.
Other sources point out that perhaps Davis was not all that bitter after all. It is said that he spent much time in the twilight years of his life speaking to school children in the south and urged them to be proud of their Confederate heritage, but to look to the future as Americans. His lectures to these southern children are said to have been optimistic about the future of America.*
Sidebar: There was also a Union Brigadier General Jefferson Columbus Davis garrisoned at Fort Sumter, South Carolina when the Civil War started. He eventually became the first U.S. military officer to hold a command in Alaska. Port Davis in Alaska is named for Jefferson Columbus Davis, and not the other Jefferson Davis...
*Thanks to ignu for pointing this out and asking that it be added here.