The Confederate States of America (CSA or C.S.A.), also known as the Confederacy, was a government set up on February 8, 1861, by six of the seven southern slave states that had declared their secession from the United States. The Confederacy went on to recognize as member states eleven states that had formally declared secession, two additional states with questionable declarations, and one new territory. Secessionists argued that the United States Constitution was a compact that each state could abandon without consultation; the United States (the Union) rejected secession as illegal. The American Civil War began with the 1861 Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter, a Union fort within territory claimed by the CSA. By 1865, after very heavy fighting, largely on Confederate soil, CSA forces were defeated and the Confederacy collapsed. No foreign nation officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent country, but several had granted belligerent status.
The Confederate Constitution of seven state signatories—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—formed a "permanent federal government" in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1861. Four additional slave-holding states—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—declared their secession and joined the Confederacy following a call by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln for troops from each state to recapture Sumter and other lost federal properties in the South. Missouri and Kentucky were represented by partisan factions from those states. Also aligned with the Confederacy were two of the "Five Civilized Tribes" and a new Confederate Territory of Arizona. Efforts to secede in Maryland were halted by martial law, while Delaware, though of divided loyalty, did not attempt it. A Unionist government in western parts of Virginia organized the new state of West Virginia which was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863. The Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia, had an uneasy relationship with its member states due to issues related to control of manpower, although the South (i.e. the CSA) mobilized nearly its entire white male population for war.
Confederate control over its claimed territory and population steadily shrank from 73% to 34% during the course of the Civil War due to the Union's successful overland campaigns, its control of the inland waterways into the South, and its blockade of the Southern seacoast. These created an insurmountable disadvantage in men, supply, and finance. Public support of Confederate President Jefferson Davis's administration eroded over time with repeated military reverses, economic hardship, and allegations of autocratic government. After four years of Union campaigning, Richmond fell in April 1865, and shortly afterward, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant—with that the Confederacy effectively collapsed. President Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, at Irwinville, Georgia. Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White that secession was illegal and that the Confederacy had never legally existed.
The U.S. Congress began a decade-long process known as Reconstruction which some scholars treat as an extension of the Civil War. It lasted throughout the administrations of Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Grant and saw the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to free the slaves, the Fourteenth to guarantee dual U.S. and state citizenship to all, and the Fifteenth to guarantee the right to vote in states. The war left the South economically devastated by military action, ruined infrastructure, and exhausted resources. The region remained well below national levels of prosperity until after World War II.
The Confederacy was established in the Montgomery Convention in February 1861 by state delegations sent from seven of the secessionist states of the United States. Following Lincoln's inauguration, four additional border states were represented, and subsequently two states and two territories gained seats in the Confederate Congress in accordance with their Secessionist resolves. The government existed from Spring 1861 to Spring 1865 during a Civil War initiated by Confederate firing on U.S. Fort Sumter.
Many southern whites had considered themselves more Southern than American and would fight for their state and their region to be independent of the larger nation. That regionalism became a Southern nationalism, or the "Cause". For the duration of its existence, the Confederacy underwent trial by war. The "Southern Cause" transcended the ideology of "states' rights", tariff policy or internal improvements. It was based on lifestyle, values and belief system. Its "way of life" became sacred to its adherents. Everything of the South became a moral question, commingling love of things Southern and hatred of things Yankee (the North). Not only did national political parties split, but national churches and interstate families as well divided along sectional lines as the war approached.
In no states were the whites unanimous. There were minority views everywhere and the upland plateau regions in every state had strongholds of Unionist support, especially western Virginia and eastern Tennessee. South of the Mason–Dixon Line voter support for the three pro-Union candidates in 1860 ranged from 37% in Florida to 71% in Missouri. It was an American tragedy, the Brothers' War according to some scholars, "brother against brother, father against son, kith against kin of every degree".
The Confederate States of America was created by secessionists in Southern slave states who refused to remain in a nation that they believed was turning them into second–class citizens. The agent of change was seen as abolitionists and anti-slavery elements in the Republican Party who they believed used repeated insult and injury to subject them to intolerable "humiliation and degradation". The "Black Republicans" (as the Southerners called them) and their allies now threatened to become a majority in the United States House, Senate and Presidency. On the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a presumed supporter of slavery) was 83 and ailing.
During the campaign for president in 1860, some secessionists threatened disunion should Lincoln be elected, most notably William L. Yancey. Yancey toured the North calling for secession as Stephen A. Douglas toured the South calling for union in the event of Lincoln's election. To Secessionists the Republican intent was clear: the elimination or restriction of slavery. A Lincoln victory forced them to a momentous choice even before his inauguration, "The Union without slavery, or slavery without the Union."
Historian Emory Thomas reconstructed the Confederacy's self–image by studying the correspondence sent by the Confederate government in 1861–62 to foreign governments. He found that Confederate diplomacy projected multiple contradictory self images:
By 1860, sectional disagreements between North and South revolved primarily around the maintenance or expansion of slavery. Historian Drew Gilpin Faust observed that "leaders of the secession movement across the South cited slavery as the most compelling reason for southern independence." Even though most white Southerners did not own slaves, the majority of white Southerners supported slavery. Besides supporting a right to hold slaves, one explanation given for why the majority might support this minority position was that they did not want to be at the bottom of the social ladder. Related and intertwined secondary issues also fueled the dispute; these secondary differences included issues of free speech, runaway slaves, expansion into Cuba and states' rights. The immediate spark for secession came from the victory of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 elections. Civil War historian James M. McPherson wrote:
In what later became known as the Cornerstone Speech, C.S. Vice President Alexander Stephens declared that the "cornerstone" of the new government "rest[ed] upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth". In later years, however, Stephens made efforts to qualify his remarks, claiming they were extemporaneous, metaphorical, and never meant to literally reflect "the principles of the new Government on this subject."
Four of the seceding states, the Deep South states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas, issued formal declarations of causes, each of which identified the threat to slaveholders' rights as the cause of, or a major cause of, secession. Georgia also claimed a general Federal policy of favoring Northern over Southern economic interests. Texas mentioned slavery 21 times, but also listed the failure of the federal government to live up to its obligations, in the original annexation agreement, to protect settlers along the exposed western frontier.
Texas further stated:
The Fire-Eaters, calling for immediate secession, were opposed by two elements. "Cooperationists" in the Deep South would delay secession until several states went together, maybe in a Southern Convention. Under the influence of men such as Texas Governor Sam Houston, delay had the effect of sustaining the Union. "Unionists", especially in the Border South, often former Whigs, appealed to sentimental attachment to the United States. Their][ favorite presidential candidate was John Bell of Tennessee.][
Secessionists were active politically. Governor William Henry Gist of South Carolina corresponded secretly with other Deep South governors, and most governors exchanged clandestine commissioners. Charleston's secessionist "1860 Association" published over 200,000 pamphlets to persuade the youth of the South. The top three were South Carolina's John Townsend's "The Doom of Slavery", "The South Alone Should Govern the South", and James D.B. De Bow's "The Interest of Slavery of the Southern Non-slaveholder".
Developments in South Carolina started a chain of events. The foreman of a jury refused the legitimacy of federal courts, so Federal Judge Andrew Magrath ruled that U.S. judicial authority in South Carolina was vacated. A mass meeting in Charleston celebrating the Charleston and Savannah railroad and state cooperation led to the South Carolina legislature to call for a Secession Convention. U.S. Senator James Chesnut, Jr. resigned, as did Senator James Henry Hammond.
Elections for Secessionist conventions were heated to "an almost raving pitch, no one dared dissent," says Freehling. Even once–respected voices, including the Chief Justice of South Carolina, John Belton O'Neall, lost election to the Secession Convention on a Cooperationist ticket. Across the South mobs expelled Yankees and (in Texas) killed Germans suspected of loyalty to the United States. Generally, seceding conventions which followed did not call for a referendum to ratify, although Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee did, also Virginia's second convention. Missouri and Kentucky declared neutrality.
The first secession state conventions from the Deep South sent representatives to meet at the Montgomery Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861. There the fundamental documents of government were promulgated, a provisional government was established, and a representative Congress met for the Confederate States of America.
The new 'provisional' Confederate President Jefferson Davis, a former "Cooperationist" who had insisted on delaying secession until a united South could move together, issued a call for 100,000 men from the various states' militias to defend the newborn nation. Previously John B. Floyd, U.S. Secretary of War under President James Buchanan, had moved arms south out of northern U.S. armories. To economize War Department expenditures, Floyd and Congressional elements persuaded Buchanan not to put the armaments for southern forts into place. These were now appropriated by the Confederacy along with bullion and coining dies at the U.S. mints in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans.
The Confederate capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia, in May 1861. Five days later, Davis extended the earlier martial law declared in Norfolk and Portsmouth to ten miles beyond Richmond. On February 22, 1862 (George Washington's birthday), Davis was inaugurated as permanent president with a term of six years, having been elected in November 1861.
In his first Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln tried to contain the expansion of the Confederacy. To quiet the rising calls for secession in additional slave-holding states, he assured the Border States that slavery would be preserved in the states where it existed, and he entertained a proposed Thirteenth "Corwin Amendment" under consideration to explicitly protect slavery in the Constitution.
The newly inaugurated Confederate Administration pursued a policy of national territorial integrity, continuing earlier state efforts in 1860 and early 1861 to remove U.S. government presence from within their boundaries. These efforts included taking possession of U.S. courts, custom houses, post offices, and most notably, arsenals and forts. But at the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, Lincoln called up 75,000 of the states' militia to muster under his command. The stated purpose was to re-occupy U.S. properties throughout the South, as the U.S. Congress had not authorized their abandonment. The resistance at Fort Sumter signaled his change of policy from that of the Buchanan Administration. Lincoln's response ignited a firestorm of emotion. The people both North and South demanded war, and young men rushed to their colors in the hundreds of thousands. Four more states (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) declared secessions, while Kentucky tried to remain neutral.
Secessionists argued that the United States Constitution was a compact among states that could be abandoned at any time without consultation and that each state had a right to secede. After intense debates and statewide votes, seven Deep South cotton states passed secession ordinances by February 1861 (before Abraham Lincoln took office as president), while secession efforts failed in the other eight slave states. Delegates from those seven formed the C.S.A. in February 1861, selecting Jefferson Davis as the provisional president. Unionist talk of reunion failed and Davis began raising a 100,000 man army.
Initially, some secessionists hoped for a peaceful departure, including all slave-holding states in the Union.] [ Moderates in the Confederate Constitutional Convention included a provision against importation of slaves from Africa to appeal to the Upper South. Non-slave states might join, but the radicals secured a two-thirds hurdle for them.
Seven states declared their secession from the United States before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861 and Lincoln's subsequent call for troops on April 15, four more states declared their secession:
Kentucky declared neutrality but after Confederate troops moved in, the state government asked for Union troops to drive them out. The splinter Confederate state government relocated to accompany western Confederate armies and never controlled the state population.
In Missouri, on October 31, 1861, a pro-CSA remnant of the General Assembly met and passed an ordinance of secession. The Confederate state government was unable to control very much Missouri territory. It had its capital first at Neosho, then at Cassville, before being driven out of the state. For the remainder of the war, it operated as a government in exile at Marshall, Texas.
Neither Kentucky nor Missouri were declared in rebellion in the Emancipation Proclamation. The Confederacy recognized the pro-Confederate claimants in both Kentucky and Missouri and laid claim to those states, granting them Congressional representation and adding two stars to the Confederate flag.
The order of secession resolutions and dates follow.
1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
3. Florida (January 10)
4. Alabama (January 11)
5. Georgia (January 19)
6. Louisiana (January 26)
7. Texas (February 1; referendum February 23)
– Ft. Sumter (April 12) and Lincoln's call up (April 15) –
8. Virginia (April 17; referendum May 23, 1861)
9. Arkansas (May 6)
10. Tennessee (May 7; referendum June 8)
11. North Carolina (May 20)
In Virginia the populous counties along the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders rejected the Confederacy. Unionists held a Convention in Wheeling in June 1861, establishing a "restored government" with a rump legislature, but sentiment in the region remained deeply divided. In the 50 counties that would make up the state of West Virginia, voters from 24 counties had voted for disunion in Virginia's May 23 referendum on the ordinance of secession. In the 1860 Presidential election "Constitutional Democrat" Breckenridge had outpolled "Constitutional Unionist" Bell in the 50 counties by 1,900 votes, 44% to 42%. Regardless of scholarly disputes over election procedures and results county by county, altogether they simultaneously supplied over 20,000 soldiers to each side of the conflict. Representatives for most of the counties were seated in both state legislatures at Wheeling and at Richmond for the duration of the war.
Attempts to secede from the Confederacy by some counties in East Tennessee were checked by martial law. Although slave-holding Delaware and Maryland did not secede, citizens from those states exhibited divided loyalties. Maryland regiments fought in Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Delaware never produced a full regiment for the Confederacy, but neither did it emancipate slaves as did Missouri and West Virginia. District of Columbia citizens made no attempts to secede and through the war years, Lincoln-sponsored referendums approved systems of compensated emancipation and slave confiscation from "disloyal citizens".
Citizens at Mesilla and Tucson in the southern part of New Mexico Territory formed a secession convention, which voted to join the Confederacy on March 16, 1861, and appointed Lewis Owings as the new territorial governor. They won the Battle of Mesilla and established a territorial government with Mesilla serving as its capital. The Confederacy proclaimed the Confederate Arizona Territory on February 14, 1862 north to the 34th parallel. Marcus H. MacWillie served in both Confederate Congresses as Arizona's delegate. In 1862 the Confederate New Mexico Campaign to take the northern half of the U.S. territory failed and the Confederate territorial government in exile relocated to San Antonio, Texas.
Confederate supporters in the trans-Mississippi west also claimed portions of United States Indian Territory after the United States evacuated the federal forts and installations. Over half of the American Indian troops participating in the Civil War from the Indian Territory supported the Confederacy; troops and one general were enlisted from each tribe. On July 12, 1861, the Confederate government signed a treaty with both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations. After several battles Northern armies moved back into the territory.
Indian Territory was never formally ceded into the Confederacy by American Indian councils, but like Missouri and Kentucky, the Five Civilized Nations received representation in the Confederate Congress and their citizens were integrated into regular Confederate Army units. After 1863 the tribal governments sent representatives to the Confederate Congress: Elias Cornelius Boudinot representing the Cherokee and Samuel Benton Callahan representing the Seminole and Creek people. The Cherokee Nation, aligning with the Confederacy, alleged northern violations of the Constitution, waging war against slavery commercial and political interests, abolishing slavery in the Indian Territory, and that the North intended to seize additional Indian lands.
Montgomery, Alabama served as the capital of the Confederate States of America from February 4 until May 29, 1861. Six states created the Confederate States of America there on February 8, 1861. The Texas delegation was seated at the time, so it is counted in the "original seven" states of the Confederacy. But it had no roll call vote until after its referendum made secession "operative". Two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in Montgomery, adjourning May 21. The Permanent Constitution was adopted there on March 12, 1861.
The permanent capital provided for in the Confederate Constitution called for a state cession of a ten-miles square (100 square mile) district to the central government. Atlanta, which had not yet supplanted Milledgeville, Georgia as its state capital, put in a bid noting its central location and rail connections, as did Opelika, Alabama, noting its strategically interior situation, rail connections and nearby deposits of coal and iron.
Richmond, Virginia was chosen for the interim capital. The move was used by Vice President Stephens and others to encourage other border states to follow Virginia into the Confederacy. In the political moment it was a show of "defiance and strength". The war for southern independence was surely to be fought in Virginia, but it also had the largest Southern military-aged white population, with infrastructure, resources and supplies required to sustain a war. The Davis Administration's policy was that, "It must be held at all hazards."
The naming of Richmond as the new capital took place on May 30, 1861, and the last two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in the new capital. The Permanent Confederate Congress and President were elected in the states and army camps on November 6, 1861. The First Congress met in four sessions in Richmond from February 18, 1862 to February 17, 1864. The Second Congress met there in two sessions, from May 2, 1864 to March 18, 1865.
As war dragged on, Richmond became crowded with training and transfers, logistics and hospitals. Prices rose dramatically despite government efforts at price regulation. A movement in Congress led by Henry S. Foote of Tennessee argued for moving the capital from Richmond. At the approach of Federal armies in early summer 1862, the government's archives were readied for removal. As the Wilderness Campaign progressed, Congress authorized Davis to remove the executive department and call Congress to session elsewhere in 1864 and again in 1865. Shortly before the end of the war, the Confederate government evacuated Richmond, planning to relocate farther south. Little came of these plans before Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865. Davis and most of his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, which served as the last Confederate capital for about one week.
During the four years of its existence under trial by war, the Confederate States of America asserted its independence and appointed dozens of diplomatic agents abroad. The United States government regarded the southern states in rebellion and so refused any formal recognition of their status.
Even before Fort Sumter, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward issued formal instructions to the American minister to the United Kingdom: Make "no expressions of harshness or disrespect, or even impatience concerning the seceding States, their agents, or their people, [those States] must always continue to be, equal and honored members of this Federal Union, [their citizens] still are and always must be our kindred and countrymen."
If the British seemed inclined to recognize the Confederacy, or even waver in that regard, they were to receive a sharp warning, with a strong hint of war: "[if Britain is] tolerating the application of the so-called seceding States, or wavering about it, [they cannot] remain friends with the United States ... if they determine to recognize [the Confederacy], [Britain] may at the same time prepare to enter into alliance with the enemies of this republic."
The United States government never declared war on those "kindred and countrymen", but conducted its military efforts beginning with a presidential proclamation issued April 15, 1861 calling for troops to recapture forts and suppress a rebellion. Mid-war parlays between the two sides occurred without formal political recognition, though the laws of war predominantly governed military relationships on both sides of uniformed conflict.
On the part of the Confederacy, immediately following Fort Sumter the Confederate Congress proclaimed "... war exists between the Confederate States and the Government of the United States, and the States and Territories thereof ..." A state of war was not to formally exist between the Confederacy and those states and territories in the United States allowing slavery, although Confederate Rangers were compensated for destruction they could effect there throughout the war.
Concerning the international status and nationhood of the Confederate States of America, in 1869 the United States Supreme Court in Texas v. White ruled Texas' declaration of secession was legally null and void. Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy, and Alexander Stephens, its former Vice-President, both wrote postwar arguments in favor of secession's legality and the international legitimacy of the Government of the Confederate States of America, most notably Davis' The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.
Once the war with the United States began, the Confederacy pinned its hopes for survival on military intervention by the United Kingdom and France. The Confederates who had believed that "cotton is king"—that is, Britain had to support the Confederacy to obtain cotton—proved mistaken. The British had stocks to last over a year and had been developing alternative sources of cotton, most notably India and Egypt. They were not about to go to war with the U.S. to acquire more cotton at the risk of losing the large quantities of food imported from the North. The Confederate government sent repeated delegations to Europe but historians give them low marks for their poor diplomacy. James M. Mason went to London and John Slidell traveled to Paris. They were unofficially interviewed, but neither secured official recognition for the Confederacy.
In late 1861 illegal actions of the U.S. Navy in seizing a British ship outraged Britain and led to a war scare in the Trent Affair. Recognition of the Confederacy seemed at hand, but Lincoln released the two detained Confederate diplomats, tensions cooled, and the Confederacy gained no advantage.
Throughout the early years of the war, British foreign secretary Lord John Russell, Emperor Napoleon III of France, and, to a lesser extent, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, showed interest in recognition of the Confederacy or at least mediation of the war. The Union victory at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and abolitionist opposition in Britain put an end to these plans. The cost to Britain of a war with the U.S. would have been high: the immediate loss of American grain shipments, the end of exports to the U.S., the seizure of billions of pounds invested in American securities. War would have meant higher taxes, another invasion of Canada, and full-scale worldwide attacks on the British merchant fleet. While outright recognition would have meant certain war with the United States, in the summer of 1862 fears of race war as had transpired in Haiti led to the British considering intervention for humanitarian reasons. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not lead to interracial violence let alone a bloodbath, but it did give the friends of the Union strong talking points in the arguments that raged across Britain.
The British government did allow blockade runners to be built in Britain and operated by British seamen. Several European nations maintained diplomats in place who had been appointed to the U.S., but no country appointed any diplomat to the Confederacy. However, those nations did recognize the Union and Confederate sides as belligerents. In 1863, the Confederacy expelled the European diplomatic missions for advising their resident subjects to refuse to serve in the Confederate army. Both Confederate and Union agents were allowed to work openly in British territories. Some state governments in northern Mexico negotiated local agreements to cover trade on the Texas border. Pope Pius IX wrote a letter to Jefferson Davis in which he addressed Davis as the "Honorable President of the Confederate States of America." but The Holy See never released a formal statement supporting or recognizing the Confederacy.
The Confederacy was seen internationally as a serious attempt at nationhood, and European governments sent military observers, both official and unofficial, to assess the de facto establishment of independence. These included: Arthur Freemantle of the British Coldstream Guards, Fitzgerald Ross of the Austrian Hussars, and Justus Scheibert of the Prussian army. European travelers visited and wrote accounts for publication. Importantly in 1862, the Frenchman Charles Girard's Seven months in the rebel states during the North American War testified "this government ... is no longer a trial government ... but really a normal government, the expression of popular will".
Due in part to Lincoln's covert support of Mexican President Benito Juarez, by late spring of 1863 France was in need of Confederate cotton and other Caribbean commerce to sustain the French conquest of Mexico, an effort to reestablish France's North American empire. News of Lee's decisive victory at Chancellorsville had reached Europe, and French Emperor Napoleon III assured Confederate diplomat John Slidell that he would make "direct proposition" to the United Kingdom for joint recognition. The Emperor made the same assurance to Members of Parliament John A. Roebuck and John A. Lindsay. Roebuck in turn publicly prepared a bill to submit to Parliament June 30 supporting joint Anglo-French recognition of the Confederacy. Preparations for Lee's incursion into Pennsylvania were underway to influence the midterm U.S. elections. Confederate independence and nationhood was at a turning point. "Southerners had a right to be optimistic, or at least hopeful, that their revolution would prevail, or at least endure".
By December 1864, Davis considered sacrificing slavery in order to enlist recognition and aid from Paris and London; he secretly sent Duncan F. Kenner to Europe with a message that the war was fought solely for "the vindication of our rights to self-government and independence" and that "no sacrifice is too great, save that of honor." The message stated that if the French or British governments made their recognition conditional on anything at all, the Confederacy would consent to such terms. Davis's message could not explicitly acknowledge that slavery was on the bargaining table due to still-strong domestic support for slavery among the wealthy and politically influential. Although Louis-Napoleon responded receptively to the message in March 1865, he would not commit without the cooperation of Great Britain. Lord Palmerston, however, withheld support, as the war had turned against the Confederacy and Britain couldn't side with a lost cause.
The great majority of young white men voluntarily joined Confederate national or state military units. Perman (2010) says historians are of two minds on why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer and die over four years:
Southern Civil War historian E. Merton Coulter noted that for those who would secure its independence, "The Confederacy was unfortunate in its failure to work out a general strategy for the whole war". Aggressive strategy called for offensive force concentration. Defensive strategy sought dispersal to meet demands of locally minded governors. The controlling philosophy evolved into a combination "dispersal with a defensive concentration around Richmond". The Davis administration considered the war purely defensive, a "simple demand that the people of the United States would cease to war upon us." Northern historian James M. McPherson is a critic of Lee's Offensive Strategy: "Lee pursued a faulty military strategy that ensured Confederate defeat".
As the Confederate government lost control of territory in campaign after campaign, it was said that "the vast size of the Confederacy would make its conquest impossible". The enemy would be struck down by the same elements which so often debilitated or destroyed visitors and transplants in the South. Heat exhaustion, sunstroke, endemic diseases such as malaria and typhoid would match the destructive effectiveness of the Moscow winter on the invading armies of Napoleon.
But despite the Confederacy's essentially defensive stance, in the early stages of the war there were offensive visions of seizing the Rocky Mountains or cutting the North in two by marching to Lake Erie. Then, at a time when both sides believed that one great battle would decide the conflict, the Confederate won a great victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces). It drove the Confederate people "insane with joy", the public demanded a forward movement to capture Washington DC, relocate the Capital there, and admit Maryland to the Confederacy. A council of war by the victorious Confederate generals decided not to advance against larger numbers of fresh Federal troops in defensive positions. Davis did not countermand it. Following the Confederate incursion halted at the Battle of Antietam, (Sharpsburg), in October 1862 generals proposed concentrating forces from state commands to re-invade the north. Nothing came of it. Again in early 1863 at his incursion into Pennsylvania, Lee requested of Davis that Beauregard simultaneously attack Washington with troops taken from the Carolinas. But the troops there remained in place during the Gettysburg Campaign.
Without counting their enslaved men, eleven states of the Confederacy were outnumbered by the North about four to one in military population. It was overmatched far more in military equipment, ability to produce and procure it, railroads for transport, and wagons supplying the front. Big guns were out-ranged and small arms were less effective. Confederate military policy innovated to compensate. Booby-trapped land mines were laid in the path of invading armies. Harbors, inlets and inland waterways were laced with numbers of sunken "torpedo" mines and covered with mobile artillery batteries. Rangers were sent to disrupt and destroy supplies of invading armies until they were disbanded, then the "dashing cavalry".
The Confederacy relied on external sources for war materials. The first came from trade with the enemy. "Vast amounts of war supplies" came through Kentucky, and thereafter, western armies were "to a very considerable extent" provisioned with illicit trade via Federal agents and northern private traders. But that trade was interrupted in the first year of war by Admiral Porter's river gunboats as they gained dominance along navigable rivers north–south and east–west. Overseas blockade running then came to be of "outstanding importance". On April 17, President Davis called on privateer raiders, the "militia of the sea", to make war on U.S. seaborne commerce. Despite noteworthy effort, over the course of the war the Confederacy was found unable to match the Union in ships and seamanship, materials and marine construction.
Perhaps the most implacable obstacle to success in the 19th century warfare of mass armies was the Confederacy's lack of manpower, sufficient numbers of disciplined, equipped troops in the field at the point of contact with the enemy. During the wintering of 1862–1863, Lee observed that none of his famous victories had resulted in the destruction of the opposing army. He lacked reserve troops to exploit an advantage on the battlefield as Napoleon had done. Lee explained, "More than once have most promising opportunities been lost for want of men to take advantage of them, and victory itself had been made to put on the appearance of defeat, because our diminished and exhausted troops have been unable to renew a successful struggle against fresh numbers of the enemy."
The military armed forces of the Confederacy comprised three branches: Army, Navy and Marine Corps.
The Confederate military leadership included many veterans from the United States Army and United States Navy who had resigned their Federal commissions and had won appointment to senior positions in the Confederate armed forces. Many had served in the Mexican-American War (including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis), but some such as Leonidas Polk (who had attended West Point but did not graduate) had little or no experience.
The Confederate officer corps consisted of men from both slave-owning and non-slave-owning families. The Confederacy appointed junior and field grade officers by election from the enlisted ranks. Although no Army service academy was established for the Confederacy, some colleges (such as The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute) maintained cadet corps that trained Confederate military leadership. A naval academy was established at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia in 1863, but no midshipmen graduated before the Confederacy's end.
The soldiers of the Confederate armed forces consisted mainly of white males aged between 16 and 28. The median year of birth was 1838, so half the soldiers were 23 or older by 1861. The Confederacy adopted conscription in 1862. Many thousands of slaves served as laborers, cooks, and pioneers. Some freed blacks and men of color served in local state militia units of the Confederacy, primarily in Louisiana and South Carolina, but their officers deployed them for "local defense, not combat." Depleted by casualties and desertions, the military suffered chronic manpower shortages. In the spring of 1865, the Confederate Congress, influenced by the public support by General Lee, approved the recruitment of black infantry units. Contrary to Lee's and Davis's recommendations, the Congress refused "to guarantee the freedom of black volunteers." No more than two hundred black troops were ever raised.
The immediate onset of war meant that it was fought by the "Provisional" or "Volunteer Army". State governors resisted concentrating a national effort. Several wanted a strong state army for self-defense. Others feared large "Provisional" armies answering only to Davis. When filling the Confederate government's call for 100,000 men, another 200,000 were turned away by accepting only those enlisted "for the duration" or twelve-month volunteers who brought their own arms or horses.
It was important to raise troops; it was just as important to provide capable officers to command them. With few exceptions the Confederacy secured excellent general officers. Efficiency in the lower officers was "greater than could have been reasonably expected". As with the Federals, political appointees could be indifferent. Otherwise, the officer corps was governor-appointed or elected by unit enlisted. Promotion to fill vacancies was made internally regardless of merit, even if better officers were immediately available.
Anticipating the need for more "duration" men, in January 1862 Congress provided for company level recruiters to return home for two months, but their efforts met little success on the heels of Confederate battlefield defeats in February. Congress allowed for Davis to require numbers of recruits from each governor to supply the volunteer shortfall. States responded by passing their own draft laws.
The veteran Confederate army of early 1862 was mostly twelve-month volunteers with terms about to expire. Enlisted reorganization elections disintegrated the army for two months. Officers pleaded with the ranks to re-enlist, but a majority did not. Those remaining elected majors and colonels whose performance led to officer review boards in October. The boards caused a "rapid and widespread" thinning out of 1700 incompetent officers. Troops thereafter would elect only second lieutenants.
In early 1862, the popular press suggested the Confederacy required a million men under arms. But veteran soldiers were not re-enlisting, and earlier secessionist volunteers did not reappear to serve in war. One Macon, Georgia, newspaper asked how two million brave fighting men of the South were about to be overcome by four million northerners who were said to be cowards.
The Confederacy passed the first American law of national conscription on April 16, 1862. The white males of the Confederate States from 18 to 35 were declared members of the Confederate army for three years, and all men then enlisted were extended to a three-year term. They would serve only in units and under officers of their state. Those under 18 and over 35 could substitute for conscripts, in September those from 35 to 45 became conscripts. The cry of "rich man's war and a poor man's fight" led Congress to abolish the substitute system altogether in December 1863. All principals benefiting earlier were made eligible for service. By February 1864, the age bracket was made 17 to 50, those under eighteen and over forty-five to be limited to in-state duty.
Confederate conscription was not universal; it was actually a selective service. The First Conscription Act of April 1862 exempted occupations related to transportation, communication, industry, ministers, teaching and physical fitness. The Second Conscription Act of October 1862 expanded exemptions in industry, agriculture and conscientious objection. Exemption fraud proliferated in medical examinations, army furloughs, churches, schools, apothecaries and newspapers.
Rich men's sons were appointed to the socially outcast "overseer" occupation, but the measure was received in the country with "universal odium". The legislative vehicle was the controversial Twenty Negro Law that specifically exempted one white overseer or owner for every plantation with at least 20 slaves. Backpedalling six months later, Congress provided overseers under 45 could be exempted only if they held the occupation before the first Conscription Act. The number of officials under state exemptions appointed by state Governor patronage expanded significantly. By law, substitutes could not be subject to conscription, but instead of adding to Confederate manpower, unit officers in the field reported that over-50 and under-17-year-old substitutes made up to 90% of the desertions.
The Conscription Act of February 1864 "radically changed the whole system" of selection. It abolished industrial exemptions, placing detail authority in President Davis. As the shame of conscription was greater than a felony conviction, the system brought in "about as many volunteers as it did conscripts." Many men in otherwise "bombproof" positions were enlisted in one way or another, nearly 160,000 additional volunteers and conscripts in uniform. Still there was shirking. To administer the draft, a Bureau of Conscription was set up to use state officers, as state Governors would allow. It had a checkered career of "contention, opposition and futility". Armies appointed alternative military "recruiters" to bring in the out-of-uniform 17–50-year-old conscripts and deserters. Nearly 3000 officers would be tasked with the job. By fall 1864, Lee was calling for more troops. "Our ranks are constantly diminishing by battle and disease, and few recruits are received; the consequences are inevitable." By March 1865 conscription was to be administered by generals of the state reserves calling out men over 45 and under 18 years old. All exemptions were abolished. These regiments were assigned to recruit conscripts ages 17–50, recover deserters, and repel enemy cavalry raids. The service retained men who had lost but one arm or a leg in home guards. April 1865 Lee surrendered an army of 50,000. Conscription had been a failure.
The survival of the Confederacy depended on a strong base of civilians and soldiers devoted to victory. The soldiers performed well, though increasing numbers deserted in the last year of fighting, and the Confederacy never succeeded in replacing casualties as the Union could. The civilians, although enthusiastic in 1861–62, seem to have lost faith in the future of the Confederacy by 1864, and instead looked to protect their homes and communities. As Rable explains, "This contraction of civic vision was more than a crabbed libertarianism; it represented an increasingly widespread disillusionment with the Confederate experiment."
The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 with the Battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston. In December 1860, Federal troops had withdrawn to the island fort from others in Charleston Harbor soon after South Carolina's declaration of secession to avoid soldier-civilian street confrontations.
In January, President James Buchanan had attempted to resupply the garrison with the Star of the West, but Confederate artillery drove it away. In March, President Lincoln notified Governor Pickens that without Confederate resistance to resupply there would be no military reinforcement without further notice, but Lincoln prepared to force resupply if it were not allowed. Confederate President Davis in cabinet decided to capture Fort Sumter before the relief fleet arrived and on April 12, 1861, General Beauregard forced their surrender.
Following Fort Sumter, Lincoln directed states to provide 75,000 troops for three months to recapture the Charleston Harbor forts and all other federal property that had been seized without Congressional authorization. In May, Federal troops crossed into Confederate territory along the entire border from the Chesapeake Bay to New Mexico. The Confederate victory at Fort Sumter was followed by Confederate victories at the battles of Big Bethel, (Bethel Church) VA in June, First Bull Run, (First Manassas) in July and in August, Wilson's Creek, (Oak Hills) in southwest Missouri. At all three, Confederate forces could not follow up their victory due to inadequate supply and shortages of fresh troops to exploit their successes. Following each battle, Federals maintained a military presence and their occupation of Washington DC, Fort Monroe VA and Springfield MO. Both North and South began training up armies for major fighting the next year.
Confederate commerce-raiding just south of the Chesapeake Bay was ended in August at the loss of Hatteras NC. Early November a Union expedition at sea secured Port Royal and Beaufort SC south of Charleston, seizing Confederate-burned cotton fields along with escaped and owner-abandoned "contraband" field hands. December saw the loss of Georgetown SC north of Charleston. Federals there began a war-long policy of burning grain supplies up rivers into the interior wherever they could not occupy.
The victories of 1861 were followed by a series of defeats east and west in early 1862. To restore the Union by military force the Federal intent was to (1) secure the Mississippi River, (2) seize or close Confederate ports and (3) march on Richmond. To secure independence, the Confederate intent was to (1) repel the invader on all fronts, costing him blood and treasure and (2) carry the war into the north by two offensives in time to impact the mid-term elections.
Much of northwestern Virginia was under Federal control. In February and March, most of Missouri and Kentucky were Union "occupied, consolidated, and used as staging areas for advances further South". Following the repulse of Confederate counter-attack at the Battle of Shiloh, (Pittsburg Landing) Tennessee, permanent Federal occupation expanded west, south and east. Confederate forces then repositioned south along the Mississippi River to Memphis, where at the naval Battle of Memphis its River Defense Fleet was sunk and Confederates then withdrew from northern Mississippi and northern Alabama. New Orleans was captured April 29 by a combined Army-Navy force under U.S. Admiral Farragut, and the Confederacy lost control of the mouth of the Mississippi River, conceding large agricultural resources that supported the Union's sea-supplied logistics base.
Although Confederates had suffered major reverses everywhere but Virginia, as of the end of April the Confederacy still controlled 72% of its population. Federal forces disrupted Missouri and Arkansas; they had broken through in western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana. Along the Confederacy's shores it had closed ports and made garrisoned lodgments on every coastal Confederate state but Alabama and Texas. Although scholars sometimes assess the Union blockade as ineffectual under international law until the last few months of the war, from the first months it disrupted Confederate privateers making it "almost impossible to bring their prizes into Confederate ports". Nevertheless, British firms developed small fleets of blockade running companies, such as John Fraser and Company and the Ordnance Department secured its own blockade runners for dedicated munitions cargos.
The Civil War saw the advent of fleets of armored warships deployed in sustained blockades at sea. After some success against the Union blockade, in March the ironclad CSS Virginia was forced into port and burned by Confederates at their retreat. Despite several attempts mounted from their port cities, C.S. naval forces were unable to break the Union blockade including Commodore Josiah Tattnall's ironclads from Savannah, in 1862 with the CSS Atlanta. Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory placed his hopes in a European-built ironclad fleet, but they were never realized. On the other hand, four new English-built commerce raiders saw Confederate service, and several fast blockade runners were sold in Confederate ports, then converted into commerce-raiding cruisers, manned by their British crews.
In the east, Union forces could not close on Richmond. General McClellan landed his army on the Lower Peninsula of Virginia. Lee subsequently ended that threat from the east, then Union General John Pope attacked overland from the north only to be repulsed at Second Bull Run, (Second Manassas). Lee's strike north was turned back at Antietam MD, then Burnside's offensive was disastrously ended at Fredericksburg VA in December. Both armies then turned to winter quarters to recruit and train for the coming spring.
In an attempt to seize the initiative, reprovision, protect farms in mid-growing season and influence U.S. Congressional elections, two major Confederate incursions into Union territory had been launched in August and September 1862. Both Braxton Bragg's invasion of Kentucky and Lee's invasion of Maryland were decisively repulsed, leaving Confederates in control of but 63% of its population. Civil War scholar Alan Nevins argues that 1862 was the strategic high-water mark of the Confederacy. The failures of the two invasions were attributed to the same irrecoverable shortcomings: lack of manpower at the front, lack of supplies including serviceable shoes, and exhaustion after long marches without adequate food.
The failed Middle Tennessee campaign was ended January 2, 1863 at the inconclusive Battle of Stones River, (Murfreesboro), both sides losing the largest percentage of casualties suffered during the war. It was followed by another strategic withdrawal by Confederate forces. The Confederacy won a significant victory April 1863, repulsing the Federal advance on Richmond at Chancellorsville, but the Union consolidated positions along the Virginia coast and the Chesapeake Bay.
Without an effective answer to Federal gunboats, river transport and supply, the Confederacy lost the Mississippi River following the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson in July, ending Southern access to the trans-Mississippi West. July brought short-lived counters, Morgan's Raid into Ohio and the New York City draft riots. Robert E. Lee's strike into Pennsylvania was repulsed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania despite Pickett's famous charge and other acts of valor. Southern newspapers assessed the campaign as "The Confederates did not gain a victory, neither did the enemy."
September and November left Confederates yielding Chattanooga, Tennessee, the gateway to the lower south. For the remainder of the war fighting was restricted inside the South, resulting in a slow but continuous loss of territory. In early 1864, the Confederacy still controlled 53% of its population, but it withdrew further to reestablish defensive positions. Union offensives continued with Sherman's March to the Sea to take Savannah and Grant's Wilderness Campaign to encircle Richmond and besiege Lee's army at Petersburg.
In April 1863, the C.S. Congress authorized a uniformed Volunteer Navy, many of whom were British. Wilmington and Charleston had more shipping while "blockaded" than before the beginning of hostilities. The Confederacy had altogether eighteen commerce destroying cruisers, which seriously disrupted Federal commerce at sea and increased shipping insurance rates 900 percent. Commodore Tattnall unsuccessfully attempted to break the Union blockade on the Savannah River GA with an ironclad again in 1863. However beginning April 1864 the ironclad CSS Albemarle engaged Union gunboats and sank or cleared them for six months on the Roanoke River NC. The Federals closed Mobile Bay by sea-based amphibious assault in August, ending Gulf coast trade east of the Mississippi River. In December, the Battle of Nashville ended Confederate operations in the western theater.
The first three months of 1865 saw the Federal Carolinas Campaign, devastating a wide swath of the remaining Confederate heartland. The "breadbasket of the Confederacy" in the Great Valley of Virginia was occupied by Philip Sheridan. The Union Blockade captured Fort Fisher NC, and Sherman finally took Charleston SC by land attack.
The Confederacy controlled no ports, harbors or navigable rivers. Railroads were captured or had ceased operating. Its major food producing regions had been war-ravaged or occupied. Its administration survived in only three pockets of territory holding one-third its population. Its armies were defeated or disbanding. At the February 1865 Hampton Roads Conference with Lincoln, senior Confederate officials rejected his invitation to restore the Union with compensation for emancipated slaves. The Davis policy was independence or nothing, while Lee's army was wracked by disease and desertion, barely holding the trenches defending Jefferson Davis' capital.
The Confederacy's last remaining blockade-running port, Wilmington, North Carolina, was lost. When the Union broke through Lee's lines at Petersburg, Richmond fell immediately. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. "The Surrender" marked the end of the Confederacy. The CSS Stonewall sailed from Europe to break the Union blockade in March; on making Havana, Cuba it surrendered. Some high officials escaped to Europe, but President Davis was captured May 10; all remaining Confederate forces surrendered by June 1865. The U.S. Army took control of the Confederate areas without post-surrender insurgency or guerrilla warfare against them, but peace was subsequently marred by a great deal of local violence, feuding and revenge killings.
Historian Gary Gallagher concluded that the Confederacy capitulated in the spring of 1865 because northern armies crushed "organized southern military resistance." The Confederacy's population, soldier and civilian, had suffered material hardship and social disruption. They had expended and extracted a profusion of blood and treasure until collapse; "the end had come". Jefferson Davis' assessment in 1890 determined, "With the capture of the capital, the dispersion of the civil authorities, the surrender of the armies in the field, and the arrest of the President, the Confederate States of America disappeared ... their history henceforth became a part of the history of the United States."
Historian Frank Lawrence Owsley argued that the Confederacy "died of states' rights." The central government was denied requisitioned soldiers and money by governors and state legislatures because they feared that Richmond would encroach on the rights of the states. Georgia's governor Joseph Brown warned of a secret conspiracy by Jefferson Davis to destroy states' rights and individual liberty. The first conscription act in North America authorizing Davis to draft soldiers was said to be the "essence of military despotism."
Vice President Alexander Stephens feared losing the very form of republican government. Allowing President Davis to threaten "arbitrary arrests" to draft hundreds of governor-appointed "bomb-proof" bureaucrats conferred "more power than the English Parliament had ever bestowed on the king. History proved the dangers of such unchecked authority." The abolishment of draft exemptions for newspaper editors was interpreted as an attempt by the Confederate government to muzzle presses, such as the Raleigh NC Standard, to control elections and to suppress the peace meetings there. As Rable concludes, "For Stephens, the essence of patriotism, the heart of the Confederate cause, rested on an unyielding commitment to traditional rights" without considerations of military necessity, pragmatism or compromise.
In 1863 governor Pendleton Murrah of Texas determined that state troops were required for defense against Plains Indians and Union successes advancing from the free state of Kansas. He refused to send them East. Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina showed intense opposition to conscription, limiting recruitment success. Vance's faith in states' rights drove him into repeated, stubborn opposition to the Davis administration.
Despite political differences within the Confederacy, no national political parties were formed because they were seen as illegitimate. "Anti-partyism became an article of political faith." Without a two-party system building alternative sets of national leaders, electoral protests tended to be narrowly state-based, "negative, carping and petty". The 1863 mid-term elections became mere expressions of futile and frustrated dissatisfaction. According to historian David M. Potter, this lack of a functioning two-party system caused "real and direct damage" to the Confederate war effort since it prevented the formulation of any effective alternatives to the conduct of the war by the Davis administration.
The enemies of President Davis proposed that the Confederacy "died of Davis." He was unfavorably compared to George Washington by critics such as E. A. Pollard, editor of the Richmond Examiner. Coulter summarizes, "The American Revolution had its Washington; the Southern Revolution had its Davis ... one succeeded and the other failed." Besides the early honeymoon period, Davis was never popular. He unwittingly caused much internal dissention from early on. His ill health and temporary bouts of blindness disabled him for days at a time.
Coulter says Davis was heroic and his will was indomitable. But his "tenacity, determination, and will power" stirred up lasting opposition of enemies Davis could not shake. He failed to overcome "petty leaders of the states" who made the term "Confederacy" into a label for tyranny and oppression, denying the "Stars and Bars" from becoming a symbol of larger patriotic service and sacrifice. Instead of campaigning to develop nationalism and gain support for his administration, he rarely courted public opinion, assuming an aloofness, "almost like an Adams".
Davis attended to too many details. He protected his friends after their failures were obvious. He spent too much time on military affairs versus his civil responsibilities. Coulter concludes he was not the ideal leader for the Southern Revolution, but he showed "fewer weaknesses than any other" contemporary character available for the role. Robert E. Lee's assessment of Davis as President was, "I knew of none that could have done as well."
The Southern leaders met in Montgomery, Alabama, to write their constitution. Much of the Confederate States Constitution replicated the United States Constitution verbatim, but it contained several explicit protections of the institution of slavery including provisions for the recognition and protection of negro slavery in any new state admitted to the Confederacy. It maintained the existing ban on international slave-trading while protecting the existing internal trade of slaves among slaveholding states.
In certain areas, the Confederate Constitution gave greater powers to the states (or curtailed the powers of the central government more) than the U.S. Constitution of the time did, but in other areas, the states actually lost rights they had under the U.S. Constitution. Although the Confederate Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, contained a commerce clause, the Confederate version prohibited the central government from using revenues collected in one state for funding internal improvements in another state. The Confederate Constitution's equivalent to the U.S. Constitution's general welfare clause prohibited protective tariffs (but allowed tariffs for providing domestic revenue), and spoke of "carry[ing] on the Government of the Confederate States" rather than providing for the "general welfare". State legislatures had the power to impeach officials of the Confederate government in some cases. On the other hand, the Confederate Constitution contained a Necessary and Proper Clause and a Supremacy Clause that essentially duplicated the respective clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Confederate Constitution also incorporated each of the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution that had been ratified up to that point.
The Confederate Constitution did not specifically include a provision allowing states to secede; the Preamble spoke of each state "acting in its sovereign and independent character" but also of the formation of a "permanent federal government". During the debates on drafting the Confederate Constitution, one proposal would have allowed states to secede from the Confederacy. The proposal was tabled with only the South Carolina delegates voting in favor of considering the motion. The Confederate Constitution also explicitly denied States the power to bar slaveholders from other parts of the Confederacy from bringing their slaves into any state of the Confederacy or to interfere with the property rights of slave owners traveling between different parts of the Confederacy. In contrast with the language of the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution overtly asked God's blessing ("... invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God ...").
The Montgomery Convention to establish the Confederacy and its executive met February 4, 1861. Each state as a sovereignty had one vote, with the same delegation size as it held in the U.S. Congress, and generally 41 to 50 members attended. Offices were "provisional", limited to a term not to exceed one year. One name was placed in nomination for president, one for vice president. Both were elected unanimously, 6–0.
Jefferson Davis was elected provisional president. His U.S. Senate resignation speech greatly impressed with its clear rationale for secession and his pleading for a peaceful departure from the Union to independence. Although he had made it known that he wanted to be commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies, when elected, he assumed the office of Provisional President. Three candidates for provisional Vice President were under consideration the night before the February 9 election. All were from Georgia, and the various delegations meeting in different places determined two would not do, so Alexander Stephens was elected unanimously provisional Vice President, though with some privately held reservations. Stephens was inaugurated February 11, Davis February 18.
Davis and Stephens were elected President and Vice President, unopposed on November 6, 1861. They were inaugurated on February 22, 1862.
Historian E. M. Coulter observed, "No president of the U.S. ever had a more difficult task." Washington was inaugurated in peacetime. Lincoln inherited an established government of long standing. The creation of the Confederacy was accomplished by men who saw themselves as fundamentally conservative. Although they referred to their "Revolution", it was in their eyes more a counter-revolution against changes away from their understanding of U.S. founding documents. In Davis' inauguration speech, he explained the Confederacy was not a French-like revolution, but a transfer of rule. The Montgomery Convention had assumed all the laws of the United States until superseded by the Confederate Congress.
The Permanent Constitution provided for a President of the Confederate States of America, elected to serve a six-year term but without the possibility of re-election. Unlike the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution gave the president the ability to subject a bill to a line item veto, a power also held by some state governors.
The Confederate Congress could overturn either the general or the line item vetoes with the same two-thirds majorities that are required in the U.S. Congress. In addition, appropriations not specifically requested by the executive branch required passage by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. The only person to serve as president was Jefferson Davis, due to the Confederacy being defeated before the completion of his term.
The only two "formal, national, functioning, civilian administrative bodies" in the Civil War South were the Jefferson Davis administration and the Confederate Congresses. The Confederacy was begun by the Provisional Congress in Convention at Montgomery, Alabama on February 28, 1861. It had one vote per state in a unicameral assembly.
The Permanent Confederate Congress was elected and began its first session February 18, 1862. The Permanent Congress for the Confederacy followed the United States forms with a bicameral legislature. The Senate had two per state, twenty-six Senators. The House numbered 106 representatives apportioned by free and slave populations within each state. Two Congresses sat in six sessions until March 18, 1865.
The political influences of the civilian, soldier vote and appointed representatives reflected divisions of political geography of a diverse South. These in turn changed over time relative to Union occupation and disruption, the war impact on local economy, and the course of the war. Without political parties, key candidate identification related to adopting secession before or after Lincoln's call for volunteers to retake Federal property. Previous party affiliation played a part in voter selection, predominantly secessionist Democrat or unionist Whig.
The absence of political parties made individual roll call voting all the more important, as the Confederate "freedom of roll-call voting [was] unprecedented in American legislative history. Key issues throughout the life of the Confederacy related to (1) suspension of habeas corpus, (2) military concerns such as control of state militia, conscription and exemption, (3) economic and fiscal policy including impressment of slaves, goods and scorched earth, and (4) support of the Jefferson Davis administration in its foreign affairs and negotiating peace.
For the first year, the unicameral Provisional Confederate Congress functioned as the Confederacy's legislative branch.
President of the Provisional Congress
Presidents pro tempore of the Provisional Congress
Sessions of the Confederate Congress
Tribal Representatives to Confederate Congress
The Confederate Constitution outlined a judicial branch of the government, but the ongoing war and resistance from states-rights advocates, particularly on the question of whether it would have appellate jurisdiction over the state courts, prevented the creation or seating of the "Supreme Court of the Confederate States;" the state courts generally continued to operate as they had done, simply recognizing the Confederate States as the national government.
Confederate district courts were authorized by Article III, Section 1, of the Confederate Constitution, and President Davis appointed judges within the individual states of the Confederate States of America. In many cases, the same US Federal District Judges were appointed as Confederate States District Judges. Confederate district courts began reopening in the spring of 1861 handling many of the same type cases as had been done before. Prize cases, in which Union ships were captured by the Confederate Navy or raiders and sold through court proceedings, were heard until the blockade of southern ports made this impossible. After a Sequestration Act was passed by the Confederate Congress, the Confederate district courts heard many cases in which enemy aliens (typically Northern absentee landlords owning property in the South) had their property sequestered (seized) by Confederate Receivers.
When the matter came before the Confederate court, the property owner could not appear because he was unable to travel across the front lines between Union and Confederate forces. Thus, the District Attorney won the case by default, the property was typically sold, and the money used to further the Southern war effort. Eventually, because there was no Confederate Supreme Court, sharp attorneys like South Carolina's Edward McCrady began filing appeals. This prevented their clients' property from being sold until a supreme court could be constituted to hear the appeal, which never occurred. Where Federal troops gained control over parts of the Confederacy and re-established civilian government, US district courts sometimes resumed jurisdiction.
Supreme Court – not established.
District Courts – judges
When the Confederacy was formed and its seceding states broke from the Union, it was at once confronted with the arduous task of providing its citizens with a mail delivery system, and, in the midst of the American Civil War, the newly formed Confederacy created and established the Confederate Post Office. One of the first undertakings in establishing the Post Office was the appointment of John H. Reagan to the position of Postmaster General, by Jefferson Davis in 1861, making him the first Postmaster General of the Confederate Post Office as well as a member of Davis' presidential cabinet. Through Reagan's resourcefulness and remarkable industry, he had his department assembled, organized and in operation before the other Presidential cabinet members had their departments fully operational.
When the war began, the US Post Office still delivered mail from the secessionist states for a brief period of time. Mail that was postmarked after the date of a state's admission into the Confederacy through May 31, 1861, and bearing US postage was still delivered. After this time, private express companies still managed to carry some of the mail across enemy lines. Later, mail that crossed lines had to be sent by 'Flag of Truce' and was allowed to pass at only two specific points. Mail sent from the South to the North states was received, opened and inspected at Fortress Monroe on the Virginia coast before being passed on into the U.S. mail stream. Mail sent from the North to the South passed at City Point, also in Virginia, where it was also inspected before being sent on.
With the chaos of the war, a working postal system was more important than ever for the Confederacy. The Civil War had divided family members and friends and consequently letter writing naturally increased dramatically across the entire divided nation, especially to and from the men who were away serving in an army. Mail delivery was also important for the Confederacy for a myriad of business and military reasons. Because of the Union blockade, basic supplies were always in demand and so getting mailed correspondence out of the country to suppliers was imperative to the successful operation of the Confederacy. Volumes of material have been written about the Blockade runners who evaded Union ships on blockade patrol, usually at night, and who moved cargo and mail in and out of the Confederate States throughout the course of the war. Of particular interest to students and historians of the American Civil War is Prisoner of War mail and Blockade mail as these items were often involved with a variety of military and other war time activities. The postal history of the Confederacy along with surviving Confederate mail has helped historians document the various people, places and events that were involved in the American Civil War as it unfolded.
The Confederacy actively used the army to arrest people suspected of loyalty to the United States. Historian Mark Neely found 4,108 names of men arrested and estimated a much larger total. The Confederacy arrested pro-Union civilians in the South at about the same rate as the Union arrested pro-Confederate civilians in the North. Neely concludes:
Most whites were subsistence farmers who traded their surpluses locally. The plantations of the South, with white ownership and an enslaved labor force, produced substantial wealth from cash crops. It supplied two-thirds of the world's cotton, which was in high demand for textiles, along with tobacco, sugar, and naval stores (such as turpentine). These raw materials were exported to factories in Europe and the Northeast. Planters reinvested their profits in more slaves and fresh land, for cotton and tobacco depleted the soil. There was little manufacturing or mining; shipping was controlled by outsiders.
The plantations that employed over three million black slaves were the principal source of wealth, but those slaves were also the source of general tension and white racial solidarity. William Freehling and Steven A. Channing have documented the race-based system of enslavement as "prone to insurrection and racial upheaval" inside the South, and by midcentury, its maintenance there was coming under increasing attacks from outside.
Slave labor was applied in industry in a limited way in the Upper South and in a few port cities. One reason for the regional lag in industrial development was "top-heavy income distribution". Mass production requires mass markets, and slave-labor living in packed-earth cabins, using self-made tools and outfitted with one suit of work clothes each year of inferior fabric, did not generate consumer demand to sustain local manufactures of any description in the same way a mechanized family farm of free labor did in the North. The Southern economy was "pre-capitalist" in that slaves were employed in the largest revenue producing enterprises, not free labor. That labor system as practiced in the American South encompassed paternalism, whether abusive or indulgent, and that meant labor management considerations apart from productivity.
Approximately 85% of both North and South white populations lived on family farms, both regions were predominantly agricultural, and mid-century industry in both was mostly domestic. But the Southern economy was uniquely pre-capitalist in its overwhelming reliance on the agriculture of cash crops to produce wealth. Southern cities and industries grew faster than ever before, but the thrust of the rest of the country's exponential growth elsewhere was toward urban industrial development along transportation systems of canals and railroads. The South was following the dominant currents of the American economic mainstream, but at a "great distance" as it lagged in the all-weather modes of transportation that brought cheaper, speedier freight shipment and forged new, expanding inter-regional markets.
A third count of southern pre-capitalist economy relates to the cultural setting. The South and southerners did not adopt a frenzied work ethic, nor the habits of thrift that marked the rest of the country. It had access to the tools of capitalism, but it did not adopt its culture. The Southern Cause as a national economy in the Confederacy was grounded in "slavery and race, planters and patricians, plain folk and folk culture, cotton and plantations".
The Confederacy started its existence as an agrarian economy with exports, to a world market, of cotton, and, to a lesser extent, tobacco and sugarcane. Local food production included grains, hogs, cattle, and gardens. The cash came from exports but the Southern people spontaneously stopped exports in spring 1861 to hasten the impact of "King Cotton." When the blockade was announced, commercial shipping practically ended (the ships could not get insurance), and only a trickle of supplies came via blockade runners.
The 11 states had produced $155 million in manufactured goods in 1860, chiefly from local grist-mills, and lumber, processed tobacco, cotton goods and naval stores such as turpentine. The main industrial areas were border cities such as Baltimore, Wheeling, Louisville and St. Louis, that were never under Confederate control.
The Confederacy adopted a tariff of 15 per cent, but imposed it on all imports from other countries, including the United States. The tariff mattered little; the Union blockade minimized commercial traffic through the Confederacy's ports, and very few people paid taxes on goods smuggled from the North. The Confederate government in its entire history collected only $3.5 million in tariff revenue. The lack of adequate financial resources led the Confederacy to finance the war through printing money, which led to high inflation. The Confederacy underwent an economic revolution by centralization and standardization, but it was too little too late as its economy was systematically strangled by blockade and raids.
In peacetime, the extensive and connected systems of navigable rivers and coastal access allowed for cheap and easy transportation of agricultural products. The railroad system in the South had been built as a supplement to the navigable rivers to enhance the all-weather shipment of cash crops to market. They tied plantation areas to the nearest river or seaport and so made supply more dependable, lowered costs and increased profits. In the event of invasion, the vast geography of the Confederacy made logistics difficult for the Union. Wherever Union armies invaded, they assigned many of their soldiers to garrison captured areas and to protect rail lines.
At onset of the Civil War, the Southern rail network was disjointed and plagued by change in track gauge as well as lack of interchange. Locomotives and freight cars had fixed axles and could not roll on tracks of different gauges (widths). Railroads of different gauges leading to the same city required all freight to be off-loaded onto wagons to be transported to the connecting railroad station where it would await freight cars and a locomotive to proceed. These included Vicksburg, New Orleans, Montgomery, Wilmington and Richmond. In addition, most rail lines led from coastal or river ports to inland cities, with few lateral railroads. Due to this design limitation, the relatively primitive railroads of the Confederacy were unable to overcome the Union Naval Blockade of the South's crucial intra-coastal and river routes.
The Confederacy had no plan to expand, protect or encourage its railroads. Refusal to export the cotton crop in 1861 left railroads bereft of their main source of income. Many lines had to lay off employees; many critical skilled technicians and engineers were permanently lost to military service. For the early years of the war, the Confederate government had a hands-off approach to the railroads. Only in mid-1863 did the Confederate government initiate an national policy, and it was confined solely to aiding the war effort. Railroads came under the de facto control of the military. In contrast, U.S. Congress had authorized military administration of railroad and telegraph January 1862, imposed a standard gauge, and built railroads into the South using that gauge. Confederate reoccupation of territory by successful armies could not be resupplied directly by rail as they advanced. The C.S. Congress formally authorized military administration of railroads in February 1865.
In the last year before the end of the war, the Confederate railroad system stood permanently on the verge of collapse. There was no new equipment and raids on both sides systematically destroyed key bridges, as well as locomotives and freight cars. Spare parts were cannibalized; feeder lines were torn up to get replacement rails for trunk lines, and the heavy use of rolling stock wore them out.
The army was always short of horses and mules, and requisitioned them with dubious promissory notes from local farmers and breeders. Union forces paid in real money and found ready sellers in the South. Horses were needed for cavalry and artillery. Mules pulled the wagons. The supply was undermined by an unprecedented epidemic of glanders, a fatal disease that baffled veterinarians. After 1863 the policy of the Union Army was to shoot all the horses and mules it did not need to keep them out of Confederate hands. The army and farmers experienced a growing shortage of horses and mules, which hurt the economy and the Confederate war effort. The South lost half its 2.5 million horses and mules; many farmers ended the war with none left. Army horses were used up by hard work, malnourishment, disease and battle wounds; their life expectancy was about seven months.
Both the individual Confederate states and later the Confederate government printed Confederate States of America dollars as paper currency worth $1.5 billion in various denominations. Much of it was signed by the Treasurer Edward C. Elmore. Inflation became rampant as the paper money depreciated and eventually became worthless. The state governments and some localities printed their own paper money, adding to the runaway inflation. Many bills still exist, although in recent years fake copies have proliferated.
The Confederate government initially wanted to finance its war mostly through tariffs on imports, export taxes, and voluntary donations of gold. However, after the spontaneous imposition of an embargo on cotton sales to Europe in 1861, these sources of revenue dried up and the Confederacy increasingly turned to issuing debt and printing money to pay for war expenses. The Confederate States politicians were worried about angering the general population with hard taxes. A tax increase might disillusion many Southerners, so the Confederacy resorted to printing more money. As a result inflation increased and remained a problem for the southern states throughout the rest of the war.
At the time of their secession, the states (and later the Confederate government) took over the national mints in their territories: the Charlotte Mint in North Carolina, the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, and the New Orleans Mint in Louisiana. During 1861, the first two produced small amounts of gold coinage, the latter half dollars. Since the mints used the current dies on hand, these issues remain indistinguishable from those minted by the Union. However, in New Orleans the Confederacy did use its own reverse design to strike four half dollars. Since these have a small die break on the obverse, which is also seen on some of the regular 1861-O coins, it is possible that these were minted under CSA authority.][
By summer 1861, the Union naval blockade virtually shut down the export of cotton and the import of manufactured goods. Food that formerly came overland was cut off. In response, the governor and legislature pleaded with planters to grow less cotton and more food.][ Most refused, some believing that the Yankees would not or could not fight. When cotton prices soared in Europe, expectations were that Europe would soon intervene to break the blockade. Neither proved true and the myth of omnipotent "King Cotton" died hard. The Georgia legislature imposed cotton quotas, making it a crime to grow an excess. But food shortages only worsened, especially in the towns.
The overall decline in food supplies, made worse by the inadequate transportation system, led to serious shortages and high prices in urban areas. When bacon reached a dollar a pound in 1864, the poor women of Richmond, Atlanta and many other cities began to riot; they broke into shops and warehouses to seize food. The women expressed their anger at ineffective state relief efforts, speculators, and merchants and planters. As wives and widows of soldiers they were hurt by the inadequate welfare system.
By the end of the war deterioration of the Southern infrastructure was widespread. The number of civilian deaths is unknown. Most of the war was fought in Virginia and Tennessee, but every Southern state was affected as well as Maryland, West Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Indian Territory. Texas and Florida saw the least military action. Much of the damage was caused by military action, but most was caused by lack of repairs and upkeep, and by deliberately using up resources. Historians have recently estimated how much of the devastation was caused by military action. Military operations were conducted in 56% of 645 counties in nine Confederate states (excluding Texas and Florida). These counties contained 63% of the 1860 white population and 64% of the slaves. By the time the fighting took place, undoubtedly some people had fled to safer areas, so the exact population exposed to war is unknown.
The eleven Confederate states in the 1860 census had 297 towns and cities with 835,000 people; of these 162 with 681,000 people were at one point occupied by Union forces. Eleven were destroyed or severely damaged by war action, including Atlanta (with an 1860 population of 9,600), Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond (with prewar populations of 40,500, 8,100, and 37,900, respectively); the eleven contained 115,900 people in the 1860 census, or 14% of the urban South. Historians have not estimated what their actual population was when Union forces arrived. The number of people (as of 1860) who lived in the destroyed towns represented just over 1% of the Confederacy's 1860 population. In addition, 45 court houses were burned (out of 830). The South's agriculture was not highly mechanized. The value of farm implements and machinery in the 1860 Census was $81 million; by 1870, there was 40% less, worth just $48 million. Many old tools had broken through heavy use; new tools were rarely available; even repairs were difficult.
The economic losses affected everyone. Banks and insurance companies were mostly bankrupt. Confederate currency and bonds were worthless. The billions of dollars invested in slaves vanished. However, most debts were left behind. Most farms were intact but most had lost their horses, mules and cattle; fences and barns were in disrepair. Paskoff shows the loss of farm infrastructure was about the same whether or not fighting took place nearby. The loss of infrastructure and productive capacity meant that rural widows throughout the region faced not only the absence of able-bodied men, but a depleted stock of material resources that they could manage and operate themselves. During four years of warfare, disruption, and blockades, the South used up about half its capital stock. The North, by contrast, absorbed its material losses so effortlessly that it appeared richer at the end of the war than at the beginning.
The rebuilding would take years and was hindered by the low price of cotton after the war. Outside investment was essential, especially in railroads. One historian has summarized the collapse of the transportation infrastructure needed for economic recovery:
About 250,000 men never came home, or 30% of all white men aged 18 to 40, in 1860. Widows who were overwhelmed often abandoned the farm and merged into the households of relatives, or even became refugees living in camps with high rates of disease and death. In the Old South, being an "old maid" was something of an embarrassment to the woman and her family. Now it became almost a norm. Some women welcomed the freedom of not having to marry. Divorce, while never fully accepted, became more common. The concept of the "New Woman" emerged—she was self-sufficient, independent, and stood in sharp contrast to the "Southern Belle" of antebellum lore.
1st National Flag
[7-, 11-, 13-stars]
"Stars and Bars"
2nd National Flag
3rd National Flag
"Blood Stained Banner"
CSA Naval Jack
CSA Naval Jack
Bonnie Blue Flag
Unofficial Southern Flag
in some army units
The first official flag of the Confederate States of America—called the "Stars and Bars" – originally had seven stars, representing the first seven states that initially formed the Confederacy. As more states joined, more stars were added, until the total was 13 (two stars were added for the divided states of Kentucky and Missouri). However, during the First Battle of Bull Run, (First Manassas) it sometimes proved difficult to distinguish the Stars and Bars from the Union flag. To rectify the situation, a separate "Battle Flag" was designed for use by troops in the field. Also known as the "Southern Cross", many variations sprang from the original square configuration. Although it was never officially adopted by the Confederate government, the popularity of the Southern Cross among both soldiers and the civilian population was a primary reason why it was made the main color feature when a new national flag was adopted in 1863. This new standard—known as the "Stainless Banner" – consisted of a lengthened white field area with a Battle Flag canton. This flag too had its problems when used in military operations as, on a windless day, it could easily be mistaken for a flag of truce or surrender. Thus, in 1865, a modified version of the Stainless Banner was adopted. This final national flag of the Confederacy kept the Battle Flag canton, but shortened the white field and added a vertical red bar to the fly end.
Because of its depiction in the 20th-century][ and popular media, many people consider the rectangular battle flag with the dark blue bars as being synonymous with "the Confederate Flag". This flag, however, was never adopted as a Confederate national flag. The "Confederate Flag" has a color scheme similar to the official Battle Flag, but is rectangular, not square. (Its design and shape matches the Naval Jack, but the blue bars are darker.) The "Confederate Flag" is the most recognized symbol of the South in the United States today, and continues to be a controversial icon.
The Confederate States of America claimed a total of 2,919 miles (4,698 km) of coastline, thus a large part of its territory lay on the seacoast with level and often sandy or marshy ground. Most of the interior portion consisted of arable farmland, though much was also hilly and mountainous, and the far western territories were deserts. The lower reaches of the Mississippi River bisected the country, with the western half often referred to as the Trans-Mississippi. The highest point (excluding Arizona and New Mexico) was Guadalupe Peak in Texas at 8,750 feet (2,670 m).
Much of the area claimed by the Confederate States of America had a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. The climate and terrain varied from vast swamps (such as those in Florida and Louisiana) to semi-arid steppes and arid deserts west of longitude 100 degrees west. The subtropical climate made winters mild but allowed infectious diseases to flourish. Consequently, on both sides more soldiers died from disease than were killed in combat, a fact hardly atypical of pre–World War I conflicts.
The United States Census of 1860 gives a picture of the overall 1860 population of the areas that joined the Confederacy. Note that population-numbers exclude non-assimilated Indian tribes.
(Figures for Virginia include the future West Virginia.)
(Rows may not total to 100% due to rounding)
In 1860 the areas that later formed the 11 Confederate States (and including the future West Virginia) had 132,760 (1.46%) free blacks. Males made up 49.2% of the total population and females 50.8% (whites: 48.60% male, 51.40% female; slaves: 50.15% male, 49.85% female; free blacks: 47.43% male, 52.57% female).
The area claimed by the Confederate States of America consisted overwhelmingly of rural land. Few urban areas had populations of more than 1,000 – the typical county seat had a population of fewer than 500 people. Cities were rare. Of the twenty largest U.S. cities in the 1860 census, only New Orleans lay in Confederate territory – and the Union captured New Orleans in 1862. Only 13 Confederate-controlled cities ranked among the top 100 U.S. cities in 1860, most of them ports whose economic activities vanished or suffered severely in the Union blockade. The population of Richmond swelled after it became the Confederate capital, reaching an estimated 128,000 in 1864. Other Southern cities in the Border slave-holding states such as Baltimore MD, Washington DC, Wheeling VA/WV and Alexandria VA, Louisville KY, and St. Louis MO, never came under the control of the Confederate government.
The cities of the Confederacy included most prominently in order of size of population:
(See also Atlanta in the Civil War, Charleston, South Carolina, in the Civil War, Nashville in the Civil War, New Orleans in the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina, in the American Civil War, and Richmond in the Civil War).
Military leaders of the Confederacy (with their state or country of birth and highest rank) included:
Confederacy in Latin America & abroad
Confederacy in popular culture
Confederacy at war