A rare Sephardic Jew in the Old South and a favorite of Jefferson Davis, Judah P. Benjamin has been described as “the brains of the Confederacy.” He held three successive Confederate cabinet posts—attorney general, secretary of war, and secretary of state—and was Davis’s closest confidant in the government. But some have questioned Benjamin’s loyalty to Davis and the extent of his influence. More than 140 years after Benjamin first appeared on the Confederate scene, historians still debate his place in the history of the Lost Cause. Originally published in 1943 and now available for the first time in paperback, Robert Douthat Meade’s Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Statesman provides an absorbing account of the life of this enigmatic Civil War figure.
Meade chronicles Benjamin’s birth in the Virgin Islands; his rise to power as a lawyer and politician in south Louisiana; his election to the U.S. Senate in the 1850s; his outspoken role in the secession controversy; his friendship with Davis; his prominent role in the Confederate government; his daring escape after Appomattox; and his brilliant second law career in England after the war. Still the definitive study of Benjamin after nearly sixty years, Meade’s authoritative work is a classic of Civil War biography.
William C. Davis, director of programs at the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech University, has written numerous books, most recently An Honorable Defeat: The Last Days of the Confederate Government.
WILLIAM C. DAVIS is the former director of the Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech and the author of numerous books of southern history, including The Rogue Republic: How Would-Be Patriots Waged the Shortest Revolution in American History.
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