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Confederate Attorneys General

George Davis

George Davis (1820–96) took office as attorney general on January 2, 1864, and he served until the collapse of the Confederacy. He authored 75 opinions on issues such as the constitutionality of the conscription act, the legality of contracts for imports and exports, and the liability of the government for seized property and stored goods.

Davis was born March 1, 1820, at Porter's Neck, New Hanover (now Pender) County, North Carolina. His parents were Thomas Frederick Davis and Sarah Isabella Eagles Davis. He graduated first in the University of North Carolina class of 1838, and he was admitted to the bar in 1839.

He became a prominent and respected member of the local legal community, as well as a man of wealth and taste. He was married, on November 17, 1842, to Mary A. Polk, and they had a large family.

Davis had an early interest in politics, but as a WHIG PARTY member living in a DEMOCRATIC PARTY stronghold, he had little opportunity to serve. Finally, when North Carolina withdrew from the Union, Davis was sent to the provisional congress as a delegate from his state. The following year, he entered the Confederate Senate, where he generally supported the administration of the Confederate president. It was from his position in the Confederate Senate that Davis was tapped by the president and asked to take the office of attorney general after Watts resigned. Davis was unable to accept the office immediately, owing to the illness and subsequent death of his wife, so the position was temporarily filled by Keyes.

Davis's last act as attorney general was to advise the president and the cabinet to accept the terms of a presurrender agreement. The agreement was not accepted by the Union. After receiving word of General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, in Virginia, the attorney general resigned and became a fugitive.

Fleeing southward, Davis first sought to locate his children, who were staying with friends near Wilmington, North Carolina. He managed to elude federal forces for a while but was eventually captured at Key West, Florida. He was imprisoned and held until January 1, 1866.

After his release, Davis returned to Wilmington, North Carolina. Just six months after leaving prison, he married Monimia Fairfax, on May 9, 1866. He resumed his legal practice and found himself in demand as a regional speaker. In the mid-1870s, he was offered, and declined, the chief justiceship of the North Carolina Supreme Court. His last public appearance was to deliver the eulogy at the 1889 funeral of Jefferson Davis. George Davis died in Wilmington, North Carolina, on February 23, 1896.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Companies House to ConstituencyConfederate Attorneys General - Wade Keyes Jr., Thomas Bragg, Thomas Hill Watts, George Davis, Further Readings - Judah Philip Benjamin