AT NOON ON DECEMBER 26, 1862, AN OVERFLOW CROWD PACKED INTO the legislative house in downtown Jackson, Mississippi, to hear a speech by native son Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America. Davis took the opportunity to assure the crowd that the recently enacted—and unpopular—Conscription and Exemption Acts were necessary to ensure the Confederacy’s survival against the North. Omitting mention of the May and October battles at Corinth, Davis stated that “you in Mississippi, have but little experienced as yet the horrors of the war. You have seen but little of the savage manner in which it is waged by your barbarous enemies.” He emphasized that “the great aim of the government is to make our struggle successful” and asked the audience if they were willing to lose their rights and their property to Yankee rule should the Confederacy fall in defeat. “I feel that in addressing Mississippians the answer will be that their interests, even life itself, should be willingly laid down on the altar of their country,” he concluded....
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