Confederate States of America

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For other meanings of confederate and confederacy, see confederacy (disambiguation)
Confederate States of America
3rd flag of the Confederate States of America Confederate States of America Seal
(3rd Flag of the Confederacy) (Confederate Seal)
Deo Vindice
(Latin: Under God our Vindicator)
God Save the South (unofficial)
Dixie (popular)
Capital Montgomery, Alabama
February 4, 1861May 29, 1861
Richmond, Virginia
May 29, 1861April 9, 1865
Danville, Virginia
April 3April 10, 1865
Largest city New Orleans
February 4, 1861 until captured May 1, 1862
Official language
English de facto nationwide

Various European and Native American languages regionally

Vice President
Federal republic
Jefferson Davis
Alexander Stephens
 - Total
 - % water
(excl. MO & KY)
1,995,392 km²
 - 1860 Census

 - Density
(excl. MO & KY)
(including 3,521,110 slaves)
 - Declared
 - Recognized
 - Surrender
see Civil War
February 4, 1861
only by the Duchy of
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
April 9, 1865
Currency CSA dollar (only notes issued)
US dollar

The Confederate States of America—also referred to as the Confederate States, CSA, the Confederacy and Dixie (colloquially)—was a splinter nation off the United States of America that existed between 1861 and 1865. It was located in North America, occupying the southern portions of the current United States. As its existence was contested by the United States for the whole of its short-lived history, there was never a definitive delineation of Confederate States' northern boundary. Its southern land boundary was with Mexico. It was otherwise bounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

For most of its life the Confederacy was engaged in the Civil War against the Union forces, mostly in defense. However, the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Lee, also made limited incursions into Union territory.



Main article: American Civil War

South Carolina was the first state to secede; it held a state convention on December 20, 1860, celebrating its secession. Following South Carolina, in the next few weeks conventions were held in six other states: Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

The Confederate States were formed on February 4, 1861, by seven Southern slave states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Louisiana) after confirmation of the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States. Jefferson Davis was selected as its first President the next day.

A month later, on March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he argued that the Constitution was a more perfect union than the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, that it was a binding contract, and called the secession "legally void". He stated he had no intent to invade southern states, but would use force to maintain possession of federal property and collection of various federal taxes, duties and imposts. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union.

Texas joined the Confederacy early in March and then replaced its governor, Sam Houston, when he refused to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. These seven states seceded1 from the United States and took control of military/naval installations, ports, and custom houses within their boundaries, triggering the American Civil War.

On April 12, South Carolina troops fired upon the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina until the troops surrendered. Following the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln called for all remaining states in the Union to send troops to recapture Sumter and other forts, defend the capital, and preserve the Union. Most Northerners believed that a quick victory for the Union would crush the nascent rebellion, and so Lincoln only called for volunteers for 90 days. This resulted in four more states voting to secede: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederacy for a total of 11. Once Virginia seceded, the Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia

The government of Kentucky remained in the Union after a short-lived attempt at neutrality, but a rival faction from that state was also accepted as members of the Confederacy. A more complex situation surrounds the Missouri Secession, but in any event Missouri was also considered a member of the Confederate States. The number of Confederate states is thus sometimes considered to be 13.

The five tribal governments of the Indian Territory—which became Oklahoma in 1907—also mainly supported the Confederacy. The southern part of New Mexico Territory (including parts of the Gadsden Purchase) joined with the Confederacy as Arizona Territory. These first settlers petitioned the Confederate government for annexation of their lands, prompting an expedition in which territory south of the 34th parallel was governed by the Confederacy. Arizona troops were also officially recognized within the armies of the Confederacy.

Preceding his New Mexico Campaign, General Sibley issued a proclamation to the people of New Mexico his intentions of taking possession of the territory in the name of the Confederate States. Confederate troops briefly occupied the territorial capital of Santa Fe between March 13 and April 8, 1862.

Not all jurisdictions where slavery was still legal joined the Confederacy. In 1861 martial law was declared in Maryland (the state which borders the U.S. capital, Washington, D.C., on three sides) to block attempts at secession. Delaware, also a slave state, never considered secession, nor did the capital of the U.S., Washington, D.C.. In 1861, during the war, a unionist rump legislature in Wheeling, Virginia seceded from Virginia, claiming 48 counties, and joined the United States in 1863 as the state of West Virginia, with a constitution that would have gradually abolished slavery[1]. Similar attempts to secede from the Confederacy in parts of other states (notably in eastern Tennessee) were held in check by Confederacy declarations of martial law[2][3].

The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia by General Lee at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 is generally taken as the end of the Confederate States. President Davis was captured at Irwinville, Georgia on May 10 and the remaining Confederate armies surrendered by June, 1865. The last Confederate flag was hauled down on CSS Shenandoah on August 2, 1865.

Government and politics


Jefferson DavisPresident (1861-1865)
Jefferson Davis
President (1861-1865)

The Confederate States Constitution provides much insight into the motivations for secession from the Union. Based to a certain extent on both the Articles of Confederation and on the United States Constitution, it reflected a stronger philosophy of states' rights, curtailing the power of the central authority, and also contained explicit protection of the institution of slavery, though international slave trading was prohibited. It differed from the US Constitution chiefly by addressing the grievances of the secessionist states against the federal government of the United States. For example, the Confederate government was prohibited from instituting protective tariffs, making southern ports more attractive to international traders. Prior to the declarations of secession, most southerners regarded protective tariffs as a measure that enriched the northern states at the expense of the south. The Confederate government was also prohibited from using revenues collected in one state for funding internal improvements in another state. At the same time, however, much of the Confederate constitution was a word-for-word duplicate of the US one.

At the drafting of the Constitution of the Confederacy, a few radical proposals such as allowing only slave states to join and the reinstatement of the Atlantic slave trade were turned down. The Constitution specifically did not include a provision allowing states to secede, since the southerners considered this to be a right intrinsic to a sovereign state which the United States Constitution had not required them to renounce, and thus including it as such would have weakened their original argument for secession.

The President of the Confederacy was to be elected to a six-year term and could not be reelected. The only president was Jefferson Davis; the Confederacy was defeated by the federal government before he completed his term. One unique power granted to the Confederate president was the ability to subject a bill to a line item veto, a power 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 US Congress.

Printed currency in the forms of bills and stamps was authorized and put into circulation, although by the individual states in the Confederacy's name. The government considered issuing Confederate coinage. Plans, dies and 4 "proofs" were created, but a lack of bullion prevented any public coinage.

Although the preamble refers to "each State acting in its sovereign and independent character", it also refers to the formation of a "permanent federal government". Also, although slavery was protected in the constitution, it also prohibited the importation of new slaves from outside the Confederacy (except from slaveholding states or territories of the United States).


Virginia State HouseServed as Confederate Capitol
Virginia State House
Served as Confederate Capitol

The capital of the Confederacy was Montgomery, Alabama, from February 4, 1861, until May 29, 1861, when it was moved to Richmond, Virginia (named the new capital on May 6, 1861). Shortly before the end of the war, the Confederate government evacuated Richmond with plans to relocate further south to Atlanta, Georgia, or to Columbia, South Carolina, but little came of this before Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House and Danville, Virginia, served from April 3 to April 10, 1865, as the last capital of the Confederacy.

International Diplomacy and Legal Status

The legal status of the Confederate Government was a subject of extensive debate throughout its existence and for many years after the war. During its existence, the Confederate government conducted negotiations with several European powers (including France and the United Kingdom). The Confederacy received formal diplomatic recognition only from Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the ruler of a minor German principality. The UK came close to recognizing the Confederacy during the Trent Affair and began preparations to offer mediation along with France (due to Emperor Napoleon III's project, the Mexican Empire), but both nations backed away after the Battle of Antietam and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. Throughout the war most European powers adopted a policy of neutrality, meeting informally with Confederate diplomats but withholding diplomatic recognition. In its place, they applied international law principles that recognized the Northern and Southern sides of the war as belligerents. Canada allowed both Confederate and Union agents to work openly within its borders and some state governments in northern Mexico negotiated regional agreements to cover trade on the Texas border.

For the four years of its existence, the Confederacy asserted its independence and appointed dozens of diplomatic agents abroad. The Northern government, by contrast, asserted that the southern states were provinces in rebellion and refused any formal recognition of their status. Telling of this dispute, the Confederate Government responded to the hostilities by formally declaring war on the United States while the Union Government conducted its war efforts under a proclamation of blockade and rebellion by President Lincoln. Mid-war negotiations between the two sides occurred without formal political recognition, though the laws of war governed military relationships.

Four years after the war the United States Supreme Court ruled in Texas v. White that secession was unconstitutional and legally null. The court's opinion was rendered by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, the former Treasury Secretary under Lincoln. Chase's opinion was immediately attacked and remains controversial to this day. Critics such as Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens penned subsequent legal arguments in favor of secession's legality, most notably Davis' Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

Confederate flags

Main article: Flags of the Confederate States of America

The official flag of the Confederacy, and the one actually called the "Stars and Bars", has seven stars, for the seven states that initially formed the Confederacy. This flag was sometimes hard to distinguish from the Union flag under battle conditions, so the Confederate battle flag, the "Southern Cross", became the one more commonly used in military operations. The Southern Cross has 13 stars, adding the four states that joined the Confederacy after Fort Sumter, and the two states of Kentucky and Missouri (See Missouri Secession) with competing unionist and secessionist governments that were admitted to the Confederacy. As a result of its depiction in 20th century popular media, the "Southern Cross" is a flag commonly associated with the Confederacy today. The actual "Southern Cross" is a square shaped flag, but the more commonly seen rectangular flag is actually the flag of the First Tennessee Army, also known as the Naval Jack because it was first used by the Confederate Navy.

Political leaders of the Confederacy


Map of the states and territories claimed by the Confederate States of America
Map of the states and territories claimed by the Confederate States of America

The Confederate States had a total of 4,698 km of coastline. A large portion of its territory lay on the sea coast, and with level and sandy ground. The interior portions were 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 2,667 m.

Most of the area of the Confederate States had a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. The climate varied to semiarid steppe and arid desert west of longitude 96 degrees west.

The Confederate States was less urbanized than the northern US states, with only New Orleans showing up in the list of top 10 US cities in the 1860 census. Only 15 cities (excluding those in Kentucky and Missouri) ranked among the top 100 US cities in 1860. The population of Richmond swelled after it became the national capital, reaching an estimated 128,000 in 1864.

# City 1860 Population US Rank
1. New Orleans, Louisiana 168,675 6
2. Charleston, South Carolina 40,522 22
3. Richmond, Virginia 37,910 25
4. Mobile, Alabama 29,258 27
5. Memphis, Tennessee 22,623 38
6. Savannah, Georgia 22,292 41
7. Petersburg, Virginia 18,266 50
8. Nashville, Tennessee 16,988 54
9. Norfolk, Virginia 14,620 61
10. Wheeling, Virginia 14,083 63
11. Alexandria, Virginia 12,652 74
12. Augusta, Georgia 12,493 77
13. Columbus, Georgia 9,621 97
14. Atlanta, Georgia 9,554 99
15. Wilmington, North Carolina 9,553 100


Main article: Economy of the Confederate States of America

The Confederate States had an agrarian-based economy that relied heavily on slavery plantations. The main products of the CSA were cotton, rice, tobacco, and sugar cane, with some cattle and much grain. The states that formed the CSA (excluding Missouri and Kentucky) produced $155 million in manufactured goods in 1860; their main products were flour and meal, lumber, processed tobacco, cotton goods, and turpentine. The CSA adopted a free trade policy, but this was undermined by the Union blockade. The lack of adequate financial resources led the Confederacy to finance the war through printing money, which in turn led to high inflation.

Armed Forces

The military armed forces of the Confederacy comprised the following three branches:

The Confederate military leadership was almost entirely composed of veterans from the United States Army and U.S. Navy who had resigned their federal commissions and had been appointed to senior positions in the Confederate armed forces. The Confederate officer corps was composed mostly of southern gentry, and the Confederacy appointed junior and field grade officers by election from the enlisted ranks. Although no Army service academy was established for the Confederacy, many colleges of the south (such as the Virginia Military Institute) maintained cadet corps that were seen as a breeding ground for Confederate military leadership. A naval academy was established in 1863 onboard CSS Patrick Henry in the James River, but no midshipmen had graduated by the time the Confederacy collapsed.

The rank and file of the Confederate armed forces consisted of white males with an average age between 16 and 28. Towards the end of the Civil War, boys as young as 12 were fighting in combat roles and the Confederate Armed Forces had even sponsored an all-black regiment with measures underway to offer freedom to slaves who voluntarily served in the Confederate military.

Military leaders of the Confederacy

Significant dates

State Secession ordinance Admitted C.S.A. Representation in U.S. Congress restored Local rule re-established
South Carolina December 20, 1860 February 4, 1861 July 9, 1868 November 28, 1876
Mississippi January 9, 1861 February 4, 1861 February 23, 1870 January 4, 1876
Florida January 10, 1861 February 4, 1861 June 25, 1868 January 2, 1877
Alabama January 11, 1861 February 4, 1861 July 14, 1868 November 16, 1874
Georgia January 19, 1861 February 4, 1861 July 15, 1870 November 1, 1871
Louisiana January 26, 1861 February 4, 1861 July 4, 1868 January 2, 1877
Texas February 1, 1861 March 2, 1861 March 30, 1870 January 14, 1873
Virginia April 17, 1861 May 7, 1861 January 26, 1870 October 5, 1869
Arkansas May 6, 1861 May 18, 1861 June 22, 1868 November 10, 1874
Tennessee June 8, 1861 May 16, 1861 July 24, 1866 October 4, 1869
North Carolina May 20, 1861 May 16, 1861 July 4, 1868 February 2, 1871
Missouri (The official and legally elected government) October 31, 1861 August 19, 1861 unknown unknown
Kentucky (Russellville government) November 20, 1861 December 10, 1862 unknown unknown

NOTE: According to the New York Public Library Desk Reference Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina were all readmitted June 25, 1868, and Georgia was readmitted a second time on July 15, 1870.

See also

Further reading

  • William C. Davis (2003) Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America, New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86585-8

External links

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