Confederate States of America

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The Civil War

1861 - 1865

Confederate States of America
Created February 4, 1861
Ended April 9, 1865
President Jefferson Davis
Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker, Judah P. Benjamin, George W. Randolph, James Seddon, John C. Breckinridge
Secretary of the Navy Stephan Mallory
Secretary of State Robert Toombs, Robert M.T. Hunter, Judah P. Benjamin

The Confederate States of America (informally, the Confederacy) was a government created from an alliance of eleven southern states which had seceded from the United States between December 1860 and April 1861. The American Civil War that was begun by the Confederate shelling of Fort Sumter proved disastrous; four years of savage fighting ended with the fledgling government defeated and dissolved, and left the southern states a financial and industrial wreck.

For the social, political, economic and diplomatic history see American Civil War homefront


Eleven southern states seceded from the United States of America and joined together as the "Confederate States of America" to protect slavery. They saw that the antislavery forces in the North were gaining strength, typified by the election as president of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The political future for slavery was bleak, as the South was losing relative strength in Congress. A widespread fear was that the North would unleash terrorists--abolitionists--who would cause a bloody race war. Arguing that their Constitutional states' rights protected slavery outside the South, they saw that issue rejected in the North.

Of the 15 slave states, four remained in the United States: Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri. Residents of the latter three states raised regiments for the Confederacy, although not as an official act of their governments.

The president of the Confederate States of America was Jefferson Davis, a former Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce and Senator from Mississippi. Richmond, Virginia was the capital of the Confederacy after that state seceded in mid-April of 1861 following the surrender of Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for volunteers.

General Robert E. Lee led the Confederate forces into battle against the Union armies, which were led by various generals appointed by Abraham Lincoln, with the last, and most successful being General Ulysses S. Grant.


Historias Emory Thomas compared the correspondence sent by the Confederate government in the first year of its existence to different governments. He writes, "The Southern nation was by turns a guileless people attacked by a voracious neighbor, an 'established' nation in some temporary difficulty, a collection of bucolic aristocrats making a romantic stand against the banalities of industrial democracy, a cabal of commercial farmers seeking to make a pawn of King Cotton, an apotheosis of nineteenth-century nationalism and revolutionary liberalism, or the ultimate statement of social and economic reaction." [1]

The example of the U. S. Constitution clearly guided the drafters of the Confederate Constitution, enabling the latter group to complete their work in less than half as much time. [2] However, this Confederate Constitution contained a provision banning efforts to end de jure slavery, found at Article I, Section 9, clause 4, lumped in with the provisions banning ex post facto laws and bills of attainder. Another clause banned the international slave trade, but permitted the importation of slaves from the United States; this clause was consistent with the United States' banning of Atlantic slave trading in 1808, which had the effect of improving the domestic slave market, benefiting states such as Virginia. The wording of this clause demonstrates that the drafters clearly anticipated that not all slave states would secede, although they also included a provision for accepting new states into the Confederacy. This proved essential when Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina seceded from the United States after the Confederate Constitution was in effect. Although the Confederate document includes no bill of rights, the Ninth Amendment and Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights are reproduced in Article VI as Sections 5 and 6. The Confederate Constitution implemented a ban on a religious test for office in Section 4, notwithstanding the preamble's invocation of God's blessing on the Confederate experiment. [3] Other differences had to do with the appropriations process in Congress. Not only was a line-item veto expressly included, but Congress required a two-thirds supermajority to appropriate any funds not specifically requested by the President, giving Jefferson Davis in a real sense more Constitutional power than Abraham Lincoln possessed - an irony, given the Confederate states' putative objection to centralized power.

Despite the later romanticization of the Confederate cause, the perpetuation of Southern conceptions of race and slavery was of prime importance to the new nation. In his "Cornerstone Speech," Vice President Alexander Stephens argued that a major difference between the Confederate Constitution and the United States Constitution was the belief that blacks were not inherently equal. In describing this fundamental difference, Stephens said, "The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution—African slavery as it exists amongst us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution... Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man." [4] The rejection of slavery as a dominant ideology of the Confederate States began after the Civil War, as Confederate leaders sought to legitimize their failed rebellion.


Legislative branch

President of the Congress

Robert Woodward Barnwell, 4 Feb 1861 (served for several hours)
Howell Cobb, 4 Feb 1861 - 18 Feb 1861

President Pro Tempore of the Senate

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, 18 Feb 1862 - 18 Mar 1865

President Pro Tempore of the Provisional Congress

Robert Woodward Barnwell, 4 Feb 1861 - 16 Mar 1861
Thomas Stanhope Bobcock, Josiah A.P. Campbell, 18 Nov 1861 - 17 Feb 1862

Speaker of the House of Representatives

Thomas Stanhope Bobcock, 18 Feb 1862 - 18 Mar 1865

Executive branch

President of the Confederate States

Jefferson Finis Davis, 18 Feb 1861 - 10 May 1865 (provisional president to 6 Nov 1861)

Vice President of the Confederate States

Alexander Hamilton Stephens, 18 Feb 1861 - 11 May 1865 (provisional vice president to 6 Nov 1861)

Secretary of State

Robert Augustus Toombs, 21 Feb 1861 - 24 Jul 1861
Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, 25 Jul 1861 - 1 Feb 1862
William Montague Brown, 1 Feb 1862 - 17 Mar 1862
Judah Philip Benjamin, 18 Mar 1862 - 3 May 1865

Attorney General

Judah Philip Benjamin, 25 Feb 1861 - 17 Sep 1861
Wade Rutledge Keyes, 17 Sep 1861 - 21 Nov 1861
Thomas Bragg, Jr., 21 Nov 1861 - 17 Mar 1862
Thomas Hill Watts, 18 Mar 1862 - 1 Oct 1863
Wade Rutledge Keyes, 1 Oct 1863 - 2 Jan 1864
George Davis, 2 Jan 1864 - 24 Apr 1865

Commissioner of Patents

Rufus Randolph Rhodes, 31 May 1861 - Apr 1865

Postmaster General

Henry T. Ellet, 25 Feb 1861 - 6 Mar 1861 (nominated and confirmed; declined appointment)
John Henninger Reagan, 6 Mar 1861 - 5 May 1865

Secretary of the Treasury

Christopher Gustavus Memminger, 21 Feb 1861 - 18 Jul 1864
George Alfred Trenholm, 18 Jul 1864 - 27 Apr 1865
John Henninger Reagan, 28 Apr 1865 - 4 May 1865

Treasurer of the Confederate States

Edward Carrington Elmore, 6 Mar 1861 - 1865

Comptroller and Solicitor

Lewis Cruger, 1861 - 1865

Secretary of War

Leroy Pope Walker, 21 Feb 1861 - 16 Sep 1861
Judah Philip Benjamin, 17 Sep 1861 - 23 Mar 1862
George Wythe Randolph, 24 Mar 1862 - 17 Nov 1862
Gustavus Woodson Smith, 17 Nov 1862 - 21 Nov 1862
James Alexander Seddon, 21 Nov 1862 - 6 Feb 1865
John Cabell Breckenridge, 6 Feb 1865 - 5 May 1865

Chiefs of the Army Engineers Bureau (subordinated to Secretary of War)

Josiah Gorgas, 8 Apr 1861 - 3 Aug 1861
Danville Leadbetter, 3 Aug 1861 - 10 Nov 1861
Alfred Landon Rives, 13 Nov 1861 - 24 Sep 1862
Jeremy Francis Gilmer, 25 Sep 1862 - 17 Aug 1863
Alfred Landon Rives, 18 Aug 1863 - 9 Mar 1864
Martin Luther Smith, 9 Mar 1864 - Apr 1864
Alfred Landon Rives, Apr 1864 - Jun 1864
Jeremy Francis Gilmer, Jun 1864 - Apr 1865

Commissioner of Indian Territory (subordinated to Secretary of War)

Albert Pike, 16 Mar 1861 - 1862
Benjamin J. McCullough, 1862 - 7 Mar 1862
Albert Pike, 1862 - 5 Nov 1862
Douglas Hancock Cooper, Nov 1862 - Jan 1863
William Steels, Jan 1863 - Dec 1863

Commander of the Department of Indian Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs (subordinated to Secretary of War)

Samuel Ball Maxey, Dec 1863 - 1865
Douglas Hancock Cooper, 1865

Surgeon-general (subordinated to Secretary of War)

Samuel Preston Moore, 16 Mar 1861 - 1865

Secretary of the Navy

Stephan Russell Mallory, 4 Mar 1861 - 5 May 1865

Colonel-Commandant of the Confederate States Marine Corps (subordinated to Secretary of the Navy)

Lloyd J. Beall, 23 May 1861 - 10 May 1865

Superintendent of the Confederate States Naval Academy

William Parker, 23 Jul 1863 - 2 May 1865

Judicial branch

A federal court system with a chief justice was not created during the 1861-1865 Confederacy.
Seal and Flags Detail Dates of Use
ConfederateStatesofAmericaSeal.jpg Great Seal of the Confederate States of America. The Latin motto Deo Vindice reads either "Under God, Our Vindicator" or "With God as [our] Champion". 1862-1865
Bonnieblue.png The Bonnie Blue flag, unofficial first flag of the Confederacy. First flown January 9, 1861 over the state capitol building of Jackson, Mississippi. Originally, it was used by settlers of west Florida in a short, 74-day republic after they had revolted against the Spanish government, raising it at the Spanish fort in Baton Rouge on September 23, 1810. 1861
Starsand bars1.png Called the Stars and Bars, it was first flown over Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861. 1861
CSAnational1.png The First National Flag of the Confederacy. Like the flag before, it was also called the Stars and Bars; this flag incorporated the 11 stars which symbolized the states that had seceeded from the Union by March, 1861. March 4, 1861 to May 26, 1863
CSAnational2.png The Second National Flag; also known as the Stainless Banner due to the large white field. It was also referred to as the Stonewall Flag, as its first official use was to cover the casket of Lieutenant General Thomas J. Jackson in 1863. May 26, 1863 to March 3, 1865
CSAnational3.png The Third National Flag. The red stripe was added to the fly to correct a major drawback of the previous flag: the appearence of a flag of surrender when it hung limp. March 4, 1865 to April 26, 1865
CSAbattleflag.png The flag of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, called the Southern Cross; the design became so popular that is was used as the canton of the Confederate national flag. November 28, 1861 to the fall
CSA Naval Ensign.png A variation of the Second National Flag, with a shorter 1.5:1 ratio instead of 2:1. This was the last flag hauled down in surrender, when CSS Shenandoah lowered it on November 7, 1865 in Liverpool, England. May 1, 1863 to the fall
1st CSAJack.png This 7-star jack was used on Confederate naval warships until 1863. 1861-1863
Conf Navy Jack.png Official Confederate naval jack for use on all warships from 1863, and patterned after the design of the battle flag. This flag was adopted in the years since as the de-facto flag of the South itself. 1863-1865


While the Northern States had modernized and embraced the industrial revolution, incorporating new technology and rebuilding infrastructure to support it, the South had remained agrarian, and reliant on slave labor to boost productivity.

The southern economic model was challenged by its lack of access to capital. When a businessman in the North wanted to build a factory, he could obtain a loan from the bank or from a group of investors, pay the labor and material costs to erect it, maintain the factory as collateral, paying back the loan with cash flow from the business. The capital was constantly liquid, changing hands from one individual to another.

Banks were fewer in the South, and most plantation profits went to purchases of more slaves and more land.

Legacy - Physical/Military

The principal physical legacy of the Confederacy was mass destruction. Four years of Civil War killed at least 620,000 soldiers (counting deaths from disease as well as in battle), of whom approximately 260,000 were from the Confederacy. This represented a much larger fraction (slightly over one quarter) of the Confederacy's military age free men than was lost by the Union.

An unknown number of civilians also died, in part as a result of the campaign of organized plunder in late 1864 and early 1865 by the troops of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman which helped not only to destroy the will of the Confederacy to fight, but literally to destroy the infrastructure of the Confederacy. Severe damage was inflicted on both urban and rural communities in the South, and hundreds of thousands of people became refugees. The exigencies of total war had led to the destruction of much Southern infrastructure, in particular railroads, long before 1864.

The Union and Confederacy launched the first seagoing ironclad warships during the course of the war. With the possible exception of the Prussians and British, it is unlikely that any country of comparable population and technology in the 1860s could have resisted the Union onslaught for as long as the Confederacy did[Citation Needed]. Upon the Confederate defeat, General Lee on April 9, 1865 ruled out continuing to fight as insurgents; although it can be argued that this only delayed the inevitable failure of Reconstruction[Citation Needed], it also made physical rebuilding possible in a way it would not be in the latter stages of civil wars in other countries in the 20th century.


Slavery was abolished in the Confederacy by Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, as enforced by the U.S. Army, and by the Thirteenth Amendment, which became law in late 1865.

The seceding states all rescinded their ordinances of secession, and were admitted one-by-one back to the Union by the process of Reconstruction. Reconstruction began during the war and ended in 1877.

There was never an effort to revive the Confederacy, but nostalgia for the Lost Cause, and poisoned relations from the war and Reconstruction soured North-South relations until the 1890s. Some Southerners denied that slavery was the cause for their secession, but at the same time insisted on white supremacy.

After Reconstruction, the Redeemers (white Democrats) took full control and slowly removed the voting rights and some of the legal rights of the Freedmen, installing a system of segregation known as Jim Crow. The region became a Democratic Party stronghold for a century.

Economically the South was badly damaged and fell far behind the North in terms of prosperity; it took 100 years for the South to catch up.


  • Beringer, Richard E., Archer Jones, and Herman Hattaway, Why the South Lost the Civil War (1986) influential analysis of factors; The Elements of Confederate Defeat: Nationalism, War Aims, and Religion (1988), abridged version
  • Boritt, Gabor S., et al, Why the Confederacy Lost, (1992).
  • Coulter, E. Merton. The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 (1950), highly detailed overview; strong Southern accent
  • Current, Richard N., et al eds. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy (1993) (4 Volume set; also 1 vol abridged version), comprehensive excellent reference work
  • Davis, William C. Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America (2003)
  • Davis, William C. and Robertson, James I., Jr., eds. Virginia at War, 1861. (2007). 241 pp.
  • Donald, David et al. The Civil War and Reconstruction (latest edition 2001); 700 page survey
  • Eaton, Clement. A History of the Southern Confederacy (1954).
  • Fellman, Michael et al. This Terrible War: The Civil War and its Aftermath (2nd ed. 2007), 544 page survey
  • Faust, Drew. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (2004) excerpt and text search
  • Goldin, Claudia D., and Frank D. Lewis, "The Economic Cost of the American Civil War: Estimates and Implications," Journal of Economic History 35#2 (June 1975), pp. 299-326 in JSTOR
  • Harper, Judith E. Women during the Civil War: An Encyclopedia. (2004). 472 pp.
  • Heidler, David Stephen, ed. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History (2002), 1600 entries in 2700 pages in 5 vol or 1-vol editions; very good basic reference
  • McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988), 900 page survey; Pulitzer prize
  • Massey, Mary. Bonnet Brigades: American Women and the Civil War (1966), excellent overview
  • Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union, an 8-volume set (1947-1971). the most detailed political, economic and military narrative; by Pulitzer Prize winner
    • vol 4. Prologue to Civil War, 1859-1861; 5. The Improvised War, 1861-1862; 6. War Becomes Revolution, 1862-1863; 7. The Organized War, 1863-1864; 8. The Organized War to Victory, 1864-1865
  • Owsley, Frank Lawrence. King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign relations of the Confederate States of America (1931)
  • Rable, George C. Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (1989), excellent
  • Ransom, Roger L. "The Economics of the Civil War," EH.Net Encyclopedia, ed. Robert Whaples (Aug. 25, 2001), online edition
  • Roberts, Giselle. The Confederate Belle. (2003). 245 pp.
  • Roland, Charles P. The Confederacy, 1960. brief survey
  • Rable, George C., The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, (1994). online edition
  • Rhodes, James Ford. History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 (1918), Pulitzer Prize; a short version of his 5-volume history
  • Rubin, Anne Sarah. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868. (2005). 319 pp.
  • Thomas, Emory M. Confederate Nation: 1861-1865 (1979). Standard political-economic-social history
  • Thomas, Emory M. The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience, (1992) short interpretive essay
  • Wallenstein, Peter and Wyatt-Brown, Bertram, eds. Virginia's Civil War. (2005). 303 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Wiley, Bell Irvin. Southern Negroes: 1861-1865 (1938)
  • Wiley, Bell Irvin. Confederate Women (1975), good survey
  • Woodward, C. Vann, Ed., Mary Chesnut's Civil War, (1981) Pulitzer Prize

See also

Primary sources

  • Carter, Susan B., ed. The Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (5 vols), 2006; online at many universities
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (2 vols), 1881.
  • Harwell, Richard B. ed. The Confederate Reader (1957) 389 pp. online edition
  • Jones, John B. A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital, edited by Howard Swiggert, [1935] 1993. 2 vols.
  • Richardson, James D., ed. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861-1865, 2 volumes, 1906.
  • Yearns, W. Buck and Barret, John G.,eds. North Carolina Civil War Documentary, 1980.
  • Confederate official government documents major online collection of complete texts in HTML format, from U. of North Carolina
  • Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865 (7 vols), 1904. online
  • The Countryman, 1862-1866, published weekly by Turnwold, Ga., edited by J.A. Turner; primary source

External links


  1. Emory M. Thomas, The Confederate Nation: 1861-1865 (1979), pp. 83-84.
  2. Thomas, p. 63.
  3. Thomas, Appendix, pp. 306-322.
  4. [1]