A Government of Our Own, an earlier volume on the birth of the Confederate government. An Honorable Defeat is an absorbing story of desperation, as President Davis contemplates waging a guerrilla war against the North and continues to believe the South can prevail even when its mighty armies have been reduced to almost nothing. "A narrow divide separates heroic commitment from sheer fanaticism," writes the author, who nevertheless defends Davis against the charge of fanaticism. He shows, for example, that Davis almost certainly was not aware of any plot on the life of Abraham Lincoln--even though one obviously existed and elements of his secret service probably encouraged it.
On the whole, the Confederate president comes off as a man ill-suited to the task that confronted him, which, in time, included graceful surrender. Breckinridge, by contrast, emerges as a hero who made decisions in those last hours that saved lives and fostered national reconciliation.
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Jefferson Davis served a distinguished career in the federal government before resigning from the Senate and becoming President of the Confederate States. The Confederate States of America was formed by the states that seceded from the Union in 1861 and was dissolved in 1865.