I've been reading "Experiment In Rebellion", a 1946 book by Clifford Dowdey which is a biography of Jefferson Davis and the rest of the Confederate government. Interesting stuff.
Dowdey argues consistently that Davis' worst fault was his idealism. It shows up in two ways: a belief that the pure rightness of his cause would be enough to win a knock-down, drag-out fight with a soft-spoken but ruthless Lincoln, and a really-not-endearing tendency to put "proving himself right" about "getting anything done" or "not making enemies of his own crew". By his own admission he tended to take every disagreement as a personal attack, and others said of him that he was intelligent and articulate (and a good husband and father) but always assumed that everyone agreed with him. Regarding Davis' unusually calm reaction to state governors who interfered with his conscription and other actions, the author says:
"There are revealed the man's innate idealism and bloodlessness. He appealed to these buffoons on the grounds that he respected -- logic and justice -- when a strong arm or skillful politics was all that could possibly help."
Dowdey blames Davis' background as a Southr'n gentleman of leisure who'd always been more interested in abstract ideas and gallantry than in real politics. He didn't even really want the job of president, and showed it by putting way too much of his effort into micromanaging the War Department, an area where he thought he was competent and he enjoyed the work. (That idea of officers reacting to stress by obsessing over one detail they find manageable and comforting seems to show up a lot in military history.) It also looks like between Davis' mistakes and the political process, he got a terrible crop of cabinet advisers, including some bloblike useless guys and one outright slimeball, Judah P. Benjamin. (Trope: "Smug Snake".) The few stars were Reagan his post office clerk, and the navy secretary Stephen Mallory, who were both ingenious with what little they had to work with. (Also the unsung heroes among his unofficial European diplomatic corps, the ones Davis ignored, who actually made headway toward getting the CSA diplomatic recognition while obtaining crucial supplies.) The various advisers did a terrible job of coordinating, too, to the point that not even the army and navy had any coherent planning together. Davis was too oblivious to the friction, and too dependent on Benjamin who "was more interested in expediting for the president than in what was expedited", to fix anything. (And it took a while to put that guy over in the SecState slot, the one where you kind of _want_ a snake.) Even his willingness to be conciliatory toward the governors, Dowdey says is due to the fact that they weren't trying to command the army, so they weren't directly stepping on his ego, the department he most cared about.
Davis, and the Confederacy's people, just weren't prepared for the kind of war the Union was willing to fight. Regarding the attack on New Orleans by Gen. "Beast" Butler: "Davis' suffering was beyond personal fear. Something terrifying had been turned loose on the land outside all his carefully evolved theories of secession and destiny of caste. He was a swordsman who had delivered a challenge on a point of honor and then been set upon by thugs who kicked his womenfolk while they spat on his rules of combat. Nothing in his character prepared him to comprehend the real nature of the fight..." (Yes, the author's not talking about instances of brutality by Confederates.) It's not the only case where the Confederates are portrayed as not understanding how and why they were being treated this way. Another example given is the near-hanging of a CSA ship crew for "piracy" on the grounds that there was no war -- until Davis threatened to start hanging Union prisoners from First Manassas because they must not be POWs.
It's been a tragic story to read so far, from seeing how many systematic errors there were in hindsight. It's a very different portrayal of the war from the simpler, incomplete theories that the generals didn't fight well enough or that the Union had overwhelming resources.