16. Jefferson Davis Monument * (listed separately on the National Register)
Jefferson Davis Monument State Historic Site, Fairview (Todd County)
Concrete obelisk on limestone foundation, 1924
The Jefferson Davis Monument is a memorial to the famous Kentuckian born on the site in Todd (then Christian) County. As the world's tallest concrete obelisk, the monument to the first (and only) President of the Confederate States of America bears a strong resemblance to the monument to the first President of the United States, the Washington Monument, the world's largest stone monument. The Washington Monument was begun in 1848 but not completed until 1884.
Former Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner posed the idea for a Jefferson Davis birthplace monument project at a 1907 reunion of the Orphan Brigade. Contractor C. G. Gregg of Louisville submitted a bid of $75,000 to design and build the monument, and construction was begun in 1917. By the fall of 1918, 175 feet of the obelisk had been erected, but construction was halted when rationing of building materials took effect during World War I. Construction resumed in 1922 and was completed in 1924, at an increased cost of $200,000.
Steam was the principal source of power during construction, and tools included steam-powered drills. Stone was quarried and crushed on site to prepare the cement. The finished obelisk is 351-feet tall (the Washington Monument is 555-feet), and it rests on a solid limestone foundation. The walls are seven-feet thick at the base and they taper to two-feet thick at the top. As in the Washington Monument, visitors may take an elevator to an observation deck towards the top of the structure.
Jefferson Davis was born in 1808 and studied at Transylvania University and West Point. He joined the army after graduation, but resigned in 1835 to become a farmer in Mississippi. He served as a U. S. Representative briefly before enlisting to serve in the Mexican War, where he became the hero of Buena Vista. After the war, he was elected U. S. Senator, but he resigned in protest of the Missouri Compromise, with which he disagreed. He was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of Mississippi in 1851, but in 1853, he was appointed Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce.
Davis served as Senator once again before being elected the first and only President of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1961. Although he was a reluctant secessionist, he firmly believed in states' rights and strict constitutional interpretation. He led the Confederacy throughout the tumultuous war period, and after the War, ultimately returned to farming. Davis died in 1889; he is buried in Richmond, Virginia.
Prepare a poster, illustrated with scale drawings, to compare the Washington and Jefferson Davis Monuments.
Investigate the uses of steam power in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Research the famous Orphan Brigade, or the 1st Kentucky Brigade. Who led this heroic unit? How did it earn the "Orphan" name?
Discuss rationing that occurs during wartime, as with the building of this monument during WWI. Invite a guest to the classroom to recall rationing in America during WWII.