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Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart (SHADES OF BLUE & GRAY) Hardcover – March 12, 2000

4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As her title suggests, Allen, an independent scholar, has written a sentimental account of the life of the president of the Confederate States of America. Davis's wife, Varina, along with their children, play a central role in a narrative that draws heavily on Davis's own correspondence. Allen depicts Davis as a caring husband, a loving father, a virtuous public servant and the very embodiment of Southern chivalry. This is anything but a critical biography; what Allen strives earnestly to convey is the strict moral code that Davis lived by, a code emphasizing honesty, self-sacrifice, loyalty to family, physical and moral courage and respect for Southern tradition. Davis was, foremost, a soldier; ironically, the tactical and technical innovations that he introduced at the antebellum War Department greatly enhanced the preparedness of the Union army, thus contributing to the defeat of his beloved Confederacy. As a senator from Mississippi, Davis was at the boiling center of the slavery debate, arguing that servitude civilized and Christianized African-Americans and was sanctioned by both the Bible and the Constitution. Allen doesn't contribute much to our larger understanding of the period; the political "crisis" of the 1850s, with Davis heading the Southern faction in the Senate, has been better described elsewhere, as has the complex military history of the Civil War. What Allen contributes is an emphasis on Davis the family man and Davis the martyred symbol of a vanquished but proud and unrepentant South. While she largely succeeds in portraying Davis as a noble individual and as the personification of Southern "glory," she's unable to solve the ultimate conundrum: how a supposedly great man could devote his public life to defending slavery. 72 illus. not seen by PW. (Dec.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The subject of both laudatory and critical studies since the time of the American Civil War, Jefferson Davis remains a controversial and enigmatic figure. In this truly comprehensive volume, Allen, an independent Southern scholar, provides an extensive portrait of Jefferson's personal and public life. Utilizing a wide variety of sources but heavily dependent on the memoirs of Davis and his wife, Varina, the biography is quite sympathetic to Davis. Writings dealing with Davis are so common that smaller collections owning Clement Eaton's classic Jefferson Davis (1977. o.p.) and newer biographies such as William C. Davis's Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour (LJ 11/15/91) may wish to pass on this one. Given Davis's popularity and the book's extensive coverage, however, this book could be recommended for larger public libraries.
-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Series: SHADES OF BLUE & GRAY (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 832 pages
  • Publisher: University of Missouri; 2 edition (March 12, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826212190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826212191
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.5 x 2.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,855,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Felicity Allen's recent biography, Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart, transcends mere history. Such a sensitive and comprehensive work, therefore, may perplex the hardened historian, who is often pleased only with cold chronological facts that fit comfortably into his own predispositions. Allen's intricately documented work has the touch of a true poet who deftly and profoundly reveals not only the heart and soul of a great (and often misunderstood) American but also a way of life gone forever.
No scholar can fail to appreciate Allen's exhaustive research,, nor any layman fail to be amazed at her mass of fact and significant detail. But if fact is the body and bone of biography, truth is its revelation. And this is the outstanding accomplishment of Felicity Allen: she has recovered the heart and soul of an honorable and courageous American patriot who thought and fought and fell with his young nation.
Oxford Stroud
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Format: Hardcover
What Mrs. Allen succeeds so brilliantly at is showing the human side of the man. I must admit that I was no fan of Jefferson Davis in his role as the President of the CSA. However, thanks to Mrs. Allen, I was able to see him in a much different light - as an American patriot and a human being. In the passions that colour anything dealing with the War of Northern Aggression, it is sometimes difficult to remember that everyone involved had a life before that tragic conflict. I can't help but be grateful for the way in which Mrs. Allen brought that point home in her book. While I will still take issue with many of his wartime decisions, I can't help but be proud that our nation produced a man like Jefferson Davis. Thanks for the insight and the education Mrs. Allen!
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By A Customer on October 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book to read for anyone wanting to see how a good man dealt with adversity. Allen places much emphasis upon Davis' Christian faith, and how it helped him to be the sort of man who can be worthily imitated. The book also contains a goodly amount of historical information which is not commonly known. It could have used some tighter editing, as there were a few points where I was not quite sure about whom Allen was writing, and had to go back and re-read the paragraph, but, all in all, I was both informed and edified by this book. About the review by Kirkus, I can only conclude that that reviewer is an anti-Christian, anti-Southern bigot, as he obviously had already decided about the book before reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
Since becoming interested in the 19th Century, and the oasis of information concerning that time period, I'm still baffled as to why the 21st Century historian cannot understand the greatness of men like Jefferson Davis. All the modern historian can do is point out cultural problems of times past (slavery: as if the South was the only place on earth that had them). After reading the standard review from Amazon, I had to chime in on this great book. I've read William J. Cooper's Jefferson Davis as well as Jefferson Davis himself. Is it not interesting that modern day Jefferson Davis antagonists' (Just read James Mcpherson's preface in 'The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government") can only talk of slavery, as if this is the only motivating factor which drove J. Davis to become a relunctant secessionist, while ignoring our own cultural problems that are far worse and grandiose in scope. Modern day/ post-modern historians cannot grasp the larger picture of history. Their worldview does not allow for such truth gazing. F. Allen does a supurb job of showing us a Davis who was triumphant, depressed,ultimately defeated, caring for Negros, and a dedicated Episcopalian who knew who his Saviour was. Many of J. Davis' associates supported gradual emancipation (Bishop Meade of Va and Bishop Leonidas Polk) as to help assimulate the Negro into society. The Northern invasion of the South precluded any such cultural assimilation to take place. Read this book- It is partisan, but isn't every historian coming to work the task of history with his/her presuppositions? F. Allen is not ashamed of this and her logical conclusions about the man and his times is as accurate as a historian can get. Cheers for independent scholars who have not abdicated the task of passing story to fellow countrymen!
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Format: Hardcover
Romanticizing a champion of slavery?

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