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Jefferson Davis Papers

Identifier: MSS-0404

Scope and Contents note

The Jefferson Davis Papers have been arranged into the following four series: Jefferson Davis, Varina Howell Davis, Davis and Howell Families—Miscellaneous, and Photographs.

This collection consists of mostly personal correspondence, photographs and other visual materials. Much of the correspondence is written to family members. Correspondents of particular note include Braxton Bragg, Jubal Early, William Mercer Green, Christina Rossetti, Mrs. Mary Custis Lee and Wade Hampton. This collection also includes correspondence to and from his wife, Varina Howell Davis, his daughter Varina “Winnie” Anne Davis, other children, and miscellaneous correspondence of the Davis and Howell families. Many of the items are photocopies, but there are a few handwritten copies as well. Few of the collected photographs and visual materials are originals.


  • 1823-1917


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations.Due to the nature of certain archival formats, including digital and audio-visual materials, access to certain materials may require additional advance notice.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers are responsible for using the materials in conformance with United States copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright claimants in collection materials. Copyright for official University records is held by The University of Alabama. The library claims only physical ownership of many manuscript collections. Anyone wishing to broadcast or publish this material must assume all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any claimants of literary property rights or copyrights. Please contact Special Collections ( with questions regarding specific manuscript collections. For more information about copyright policy, please visit: Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source.

Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal implications, for which the University of Alabama assumes no responsibility.

Biographical/Historical note

Jefferson Davis was born in Kentucky on June 3, 1808. He was born to Samuel Davis and Jane Cook Davis, the fifth of their five sons. As a young man, Davis was educated at Transylvania University in Kentucky, and later he received an appointment to attend West Point.

After graduating from West Point, Davis served in the 1st Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army and served under Zachary Taylor. While serving under Taylor, he met and later married Taylor’s daughter, Sarah Knox, who died a few short months after their wedding. Following his wife’s death, Davis remained a widower for several years until he met Varina Howell through his brother Joseph. He married Varina Howell after a short courtship and together they had six children: Samuel Emory, Margaret Howell Hayes, Jefferson Davis, Jr., Joseph Evan, William Howell, and Varina Anne. Margaret, Jefferson Jr., and Varina Anne were the only children to survive to adulthood.

Davis had a very distinguished and varied political career throughout his adult life. He served as a United States Senator for Mississippi, as a Congressman and eventually as the secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce, having previous experience serving in the Mexican-American War in 1846. Jefferson Davis was elected president of the Confederate States of America. He remained the only president of the Confederacy until the end of the fighting in 1865 when he was captured and imprisoned by the Union Army. He was imprisoned for treason for two years until he was released in 1867. He spent the next several years traveling in both the United States and Europe. Davis died in 1889 at the age of 81 in Louisiana.

Sources: Strode, Hudson. Jefferson Davis (Vols. 1-3). New York, Harcourt Brace:1955.

Jefferson Davis Papers, University Libraries Division of Special Collections, The University of Alabama


3.6 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



This is a collection of mostly personal correspondence of Jefferson Davis and his family members, in both the United States and Europe. This collection also includes three folders of photographs and other visual materials.

Arrangment Note

The items in this collection were arranged chronologically, by person, years ago. Special Collections processing staff decided to retain this arrangement. This collection has been described to the item level due to the efforts of previous processors making notes for many of the items. Several of the items in the collection still have notes attached to them. These notes have been added to the finding aid as internal notes that are currently suppressed to make the size of the finding aid more manageable when searching. If interested in reading the finding aid in its entirety, please contact Special Collections staff at archives@


Gift of Jefferson Hayes-Davis, grandson of Jefferson Davis, 1967; additions to the collection from Bertram Hayes-Davis, 2010 and 2012

Related Materials

The Papers of Jefferson Davis are available through Rice University. The Jefferson Papers 1824-1906 are available at Transylvania University. The Jefferson Davis papers circa 1850-1891 are available at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin.


For more detailed information about this collection, contact the University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections at
Guide to the Jefferson Davis papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections Repository

Box 870266
Tuscaloosa AL 35487-0266