The First White House of the Confederacy contains many books and pamphlets, one of which caught my interest “The Early Life of Jefferson Davis” by Walter L. Fleming, published by the University Bulletin of Louisiana State University, June 1917, reprinted by Charles Estell Baker, D.D., of Birmingham AL in 1993.
Mr. Fleming writes that though Samuel Davis’s father was not wealthy, the youngest son (of ten children) was given better educational advantages than the others, and better than most boys of the southwest were given. The family had settled outside of Woodville, Mississippi. His first schooling took place in a log cabin school house in the woods, a mile from his home.
Even though Jefferson was only seven year old in the summer of 1815, his father sent him to Kentucky to a school at the college of St. Thomas Aquinas, a Roman Catholic institution, near Springfield, KY where he boarded for two years. Can you imagine sending your seven year old child off and not being able to see him or her for two whole years, much less talk on the phone or email them? Obviously his mother was not there when his father made the decision to send him off!!!
Fleming writes that in 1818 young Jefferson Davis, home from KY, was sent to Jefferson college at Washington in Adams County, Miss. At the end of the year Davis returned home once again, and then entered Wilkinson county academy, which had just been organized, with John A. Shaw of Boston as principal. Davis considered Shaw the best teacher he ever had. Jefferson remained at the county academy until he prepared to enter college.
Fleming writes: “In September 1821, Jefferson Davis, then in his fourteenth year, was sent again to Kentucky to complete his education in Transylvania University at Lexington.”
The young man studied there for three years, and this was followed by four years at West Point, the U.S. Military Academy. Fleming comments, “Up to this time (when he entered West Point), Jefferson Davis had about as little southern experience and training as it was possible for a southern boy to have. And now was to follow a four-year period of training at West Point, still further removed from southern influences.”
I imagine this helped him in many ways, especially when he entered politics and spent so many years in Washington, serving in the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the years as Secretary of War under Franklin Peirce, 1852-1856.