Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis

The Civil War presented the greatest challenge an American president had ever faced up to that time. The fact that Americans were forced to do battle against each other is the most tragic feature of the Civil War and just one of many factors that made the conflict unique in the course of American history. The Civil War truly was a war that pitted brother against brother and friend against friend, and this horrible aspect took an agonizing toll on the two men in charge — U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

Abraham Lincoln Photo courtesy of the National Archives (111-B-3656)

Jefferson Davis Photo courtesy of the National Archives (111-B-4146)

Lincoln and Davis shared more similarities than differences. Both men were born not far apart and within a year of each other in Kentucky. Both men were relatively unpopular leaders, especially during those times when their side experienced devastating losses on the battlefield. Both men experienced serious problems with their military leaders. Both men suffered the loss of dear friends and loved ones over the course of the war.

At the end of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was declared a hero and Jefferson Davis a scoundrel. Yet both men were merely following their hearts and did what they considered best for their countries, as any good leader would.

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