Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 19.djvu/415

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Jeff tr son Davis. 409

Davis served the State in many ways, once as member of the House of Representatives, three times as Senator, furthermore as colonel and leader of the volunteer troops which fought in Mexico; twice was he nominated as candidate for Governor of Mississippi. In the war against Mexico it was Davis who, in the crisis of the battle of Buena Vista, took the enemy between two flanks and drove back the Mexican Lancers. "Colonel Davis," says General Taylor in his report, " although severely wounded, remained in the saddle even until the close of the battle. His conspicuous coolness and courage at the head of his regiment entitle him to special distinction/' In the fiftieth year of his age Davis was made Secretary of War, in the Cabinet of President Pierce, and it was when in this position that he caused Captain McClellan, afterwards Commander-in-chief of the Army of the Potomac, to be sent to the Crimea, to observe and report the progress of the war. In this position Davis already showed his military knowledge and his great talent for organization. He introduced iron gun-carriages and had the heavy guns cast hol- low instead of boring them after casting, increased the army by two cavalry and two infantry regiments, improved the regulations es- pecially by the introduction of light-infantry tactics armed the foot soldiers with rifles and gave greater efficiency to the sanitary depart- ment. He turned his whole attention to the West, conducted the taking up of lands on the borders with great energy, and constructed new forts and magazines in the endangered territories.

There was observable everywhere a steady, well directed, and ener- getic hand, which let nothing escape that could be serviceable to the army and the country. He also looked after the material well-being of the army by the increase of pay, and by pensioning the widows. In doing this he was far from being a narrow-minded partisan. He selected his officers, not from favoritism, but chose them entirely according to their capacity. To his expert judgment was committed the construction of the additions to the public buildings, and also the plan for the first great railroad, which was to unite the Mississippi with the great ocean. This splendid and fruitful period of the life of Davis ended with the presidency of Pierce in the year 1857.

Davis appeared as a politician in 1843, and, indeed, as leader of the Democratic (Conservative) party of Mississippi. We pass over the different phases of the internal political life of the Union, in which the chasm which separated North and South was growing ever wider. We can refer to only one incident and two speeches,