low tariff

Confederate States of America

The Confederate States of America (also called the Confederacy, the Confederate States, and CSA) formed as the government set up from 1861 to 1865 by eleven southern states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S. The CSA's de facto control over its claimed territory varied during the course of the American Civil War, depending on the success of its military in battle.

Seven states declared their independence from the United States before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President; four more did so after the Civil War began at the Battle of Fort Sumter. The United States of America ("The Union") held secession illegal and refused recognition of the Confederacy. Although British and French commercial interests sold the Confederacy warships and materials, no European nation officially recognized the CSA as an independent country.

The CSA effectively collapsed when Generals Robert E. Lee and Joseph Johnston surrendered their armies in April 1865. The last meeting of its Cabinet took place in Georgia in May. Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured by Union troops near Irwinsville, Georgia on May 10, 1865. Nearly all remaining Confederate forces surrendered by the end of June. A decade-long process known as Reconstruction temporarily gave civil rights and the right to vote to the freedmen, expelled ex-Confederate leaders from office, and re-admitted the states to representation in Congress.


Seceding states

Seven states declared their secession before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861:

  1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)
  2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)
  3. Florida (January 10, 1861)
  4. Alabama (January 11, 1861)
  5. Georgia (January 19, 1861)
  6. Louisiana (January 26, 1861)
  7. Texas (February 1, 1861)

After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, and Lincoln's subsequent call for troops on April 15, four more states declared their secession:

  1. Arkansas (May 6, 1861)
  2. North Carolina (May 20, 1861)
  3. Virginia (May 23, 1861)
  4. Tennessee (June 8, 1861)

Two more slave states had rival secessionist governments. The Confederacy admitted them, but the pro-Confederate state governments soon went into exile and never controlled the states:

  1. Missouri did not secede but a rump group proclaimed secession (October 31 1861).
  2. Kentucky did not secede but a rump, unelected group proclaimed secession (November 20 1861).

Although the slave states of Maryland and Delaware did not secede, many citizens from those states joined the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

Seceding territories

The Confederacy also claimed the portion of the New Mexico Territory (modern New Mexico and Arizona) south of the 34th parallel as the Confederate Arizona Territory, on February 14, 1862, with Mesilla serving as the territory capital. The Union regained military control of the area, and on February 24, 1863 set up the Arizona Territory with Fort Whipple as the capital.

Confederate supporters claimed portions of modern-day Oklahoma as Confederate territory after the Union abandoned and evacuated the federal forts and installations in the territory. On July 12, 1861 the newly formed Confederate States government signed a treaty with both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations in the Indian Territory.

Causes of secession

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. Related and intertwined secondary issues also fueled the dispute; these secondary differences (real or perceived) included tariffs, agrarianism vs. industrialization, and states' rights. The immediate spark for secession was the victory of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election. Civil War historian James McPherson wrote: 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. In what later came to be 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".

Historian William J. Cooper Jr., in his biography of the Confederate president Jefferson Davis, wrote, “From at least the time of the American Revolution white southerners defined their liberty, in part, as the right to own slaves and to decide the fate of the institution without any outside interference.” Speaking specifically of Davis, Cooper wrote:

In his farewell speech to the United States Congress, Davis made it clear that the secession crisis had stemmed from the Republican Party's failure "to recognize our domestic institutions [an acknowledged euphemism for slavery] which pre-existed the formation of the Union -- our property which was guarded by the Constitution.

Religion, slavery, and secession

Historian C. C. Goen summarized the relationship between Christianity and the coming of the Civil War. He noted that in the early decades religion had been a unifying force, but ultimately the sectional division over slavery “exacerbated the national struggle over slavery.” Goen wrote:

Around the turn of the century southern Methodists and Baptists demonstrated significant antislavery sentiment. However, in 1816, Methodists resolved that, despite their opposition, "little can be done to abolish the practice." In 1818 the Presbyterian General Assembly (PCUSA) condemned slavery but at the same time declared “hasty emancipation to be a greater curse” than slavery itself and upheld the removal of Reverend George Bourne in Lexington, Kentucky for preaching antislavery. By the 1850s, as sectional tensions over slavery were exacerbated, more and more ministers in the South “who openly resisted southern evangelicals’ accommodation with slavery found themselves silenced or driven out of the South.”

In 1837 the Presbyterian Church USA (the largest of the six Presbyterian denominations in the United States at the time) split over largely non-slavery issues into “Old School” and “New School” affiliates. The South sided with the Old School “in reaction to the spread of antislavery sentiment among northern New School adherents.” In 1850 the New School formally denied “that God sanctioned human bondage” and by 1857 this church had split into northern and southern factions. In 1844-45 both the Methodists and Baptists attempted to prohibit church leaders from owning slaves, leading to the formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South and the Southern Baptist Convention. John Calhoun wrote in 1850 that “already three great evangelical churches had been torn asunder” over slavery.

In 1848 Henry B. Bascom, who would shortly become a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, identified northern Methodists as a leader in the "invasion of southern rights" and stated:

In the years after these splits, preachers began to identify the need for southern secession. With the passage of the Compromise of 1850, Iveson L. Brookes, a South Carolina Baptist, protested the inequity of the legislation which had "put the South into a predicament, where she must either leave the Union or be ruined. The leader of southern Presbyterians (PCUSA), James Henley Thornwell, wrote:

Benjamin M. Palmer (1818-1902), pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans (PCUSA), thundered his support for secession in a Thanksgiving sermon in 1860, arguing that white Southerners had a right and duty to maintain slavery out of economic and social self-preservation, in order to act as "guardians" to the "affectionate and loyal" but "helpless" blacks, to safeguard global economic interests, and to defend religion against "atheistic" abolitionism. His sermon was widely distributed across the region.

Rise and fall of the Confederacy

The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 with the Battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Federal troops of the U.S. had retreated to Fort Sumter soon after South Carolina declared its secession. U.S. President Buchanan had attempted to re-supply Sumter by sending the Star of the West, but Confederate forces fired upon the ship, driving it away. U.S. President Abraham Lincoln also attempted to resupply Sumter. Lincoln notified South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens that "an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only, and that if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort." However, suspecting that just such an attempt to reinforce the fort would be made, the Confederate cabinet decided at a meeting in Montgomery to capture Fort Sumter before the relief fleet arrived.

On April 12 1861, Confederate troops, following orders from Davis and his Secretary of War, fired upon the federal troops occupying Fort Sumter, forcing their surrender.

Following the Battle of Fort Sumter, Lincoln called for the remaining states in the Union to send troops to recapture Sumter and other forts and customs-houses in the South that Confederate forces had claimed, some by force. This proclamation was made before Congress could convene on the matter, and the original request from the War Department called for volunteers for only three months of duty. Lincoln's call for troops resulted in four more states voting to secede, rather than provide troops for the Union. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederacy, bringing the total to eleven states. Once Virginia joined the Confederate States, the Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia. All but two major battles (Antietam and Gettysburg) took place in Confederate territory.

Alexander H. Stephens maintained that Lincoln's attempt to reinforce Sumter had provoked the war.

Kentucky, a border state during the war, for a time had two state governments: one supporting the Confederacy and one supporting the Union. The original government remained in the Union after a short-lived attempt at neutrality, but a rival faction from that state was accepted as a member of the Confederate States of America; it did not control any territory. A more complex situation surrounds the Missouri Secession. Although the Confederacy considered Missouri a member of the Confederate States of America; it did not control any territory. With Kentucky and Missouri, the number of Confederate states can be counted as thirteen; later versions of Confederate flags had thirteen stars, reflecting the Confederacy's claims to those states.

The five tribal governments of the Indian Territory — which became Oklahoma in 1907 — also mainly supported the Confederacy, providing troops and one General officer. After 1863 they sent representatives to the Confederate Congress: Elias Cornelius Boudinot representing the Cherokee and Samuel Benton Callahan representing the Seminole and Creek people. The Cherokee, in their declaration of causes, gave as reasons for aligning with the Confederacy the similar institutions and interests of the Cherokee nation and the Southern states, alleged violations of the Constitution by the North, claimed that the North was waging war against Southern commercial and political freedom and for the abolition of slavery in general and in the Indian Territory in particular, and that the North intended to seize Indian lands as had been done in the past.

Citizens at Mesilla and Tucson in the southern part of New Mexico Territory formed a secession convention and voted to join the Confederacy on March 16 1861, and appointed Lewis Owings as the new territorial governor. In July, Mesilla appealed to Confederate troops in El Paso, Texas, under Lieutenant Colonel John Baylor for help in removing the Union Army under Major Isaac Lynde that was stationed nearby. The Confederates defeated Lynde at the Battle of Mesilla on July 27. After the battle, Baylor established a territorial government for the Confederate Arizona Territory and named himself governor. In 1862, a New Mexico Campaign was launched under General Henry Hopkins Sibley to take the northern half of New Mexico. Although Confederates briefly occupied the territorial capital of Santa Fe, they were defeated at Glorietta Pass in March and retreated, never to return.

The Union had won control of the contested northernmost slave states (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia) by 1862. 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 Washington, D.C. In 1861, a Unionist legislature in Wheeling, Virginia seceded from Virginia, eventually claiming 50 counties for a new state. However, 24 of those counties had voted in favor of Virginia's secession, and control of these counties, as well as some counties that had voted against secession, remained contested until the end of the war. West Virginia joined the United States in 1863 with a constitution that gradually abolished slavery. West Virginians discarded this constitution by popular vote in 1871 in favor of a new constitution drawn along the lines of the old Virginia constitution and approved by popular vote in 1872. A Constitution of Our Own

Attempts to secede from the Confederate States of America by some counties in East Tennessee were held in check by Confederate declarations of martial law.

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 from CSS Shenandoah on November 6 1865.

Government and politics


The Southern leaders met in Montgomery, Alabama, to write their constitution. The Confederate States Constitution reveals much about the motivations for secession from the Union. Although much of it replicated the United States Constitution verbatim, it contained several explicit protections of the institution of slavery, though the existing ban on international slave trading was maintained. 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 domestic revenue), and spoke of "carry[ing] on the Government of the Confederate States" rather than providing for the "general welfare". State legislatures were given 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 were essentially identical to those of the U.S. Constitution.

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, a proposal was made that 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. States were also explicitly denied 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 secular language of the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution overtly asked God's blessing ("invoking the favor of Almighty God.")

The President of the Confederate States of America was to be elected to a six-year term, but could not be re-elected. (The only president was Jefferson Davis; the Confederacy was defeated by the Union before he completed his term.) One unique power granted to the Confederate president was his 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 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.


Office Name Term
President Jefferson Davis 1861-1865
Vice President Alexander Stephens 1861-1865
Secretary of State Robert Toombs 1861
  Robert M.T. Hunter 1861-1862
  Judah P. Benjamin 1862-1865
Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger 1861-1864
  George Trenholm 1864-1865
  John H. Reagan 1865
Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker 1861
  Judah P. Benjamin 1861-1862
  George W. Randolph 1862
  James Seddon 1862-1865
  John C. Breckinridge 1865
Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory 1861-1865
Postmaster General John H. Reagan 1861-1865
Attorney General Judah P. Benjamin 1861
  Thomas Bragg 1861-1862
  Thomas H. Watts 1862-1863
  George Davis 1864-1865


As its legislative branch, the Confederate States of America instituted the Confederate Congress. Like the United States Congress, the Confederate Congress consisted of two houses: the Confederate Senate, whose membership included two senators from each state (and chosen by the state legislature), and the Confederate House of Representatives, with members popularly elected by residents of the individual states.

Provisional Congress
For the first year, the unicameral Provisional Confederate Congress was 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 constitution outlined a judicial branch of the government, but the "Supreme Court of the Confederate States" was never created or seated because of the ongoing war; the state and local courts generally continued to operate as they had been, simply recognizing the CSA as the national government. Some Confederate district courts were, however, established within some of the individual states of the Confederate States of America; namely, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia (and possibly others). At the end of the war, U.S. district courts resumed jurisdiction.

Supreme court - not established

District Court

  • Asa Biggs 1861-1865
  • John White Brockenbrough 1861
  • Alexander Mosby Clayton 1861
  • Jesse J. Finley 1861-1862

Civil liberties

The Confederacy actively used the military to arrest people suspected of loyalty to the United States. Historian Mark Neely found 2,700 names of men arrested and estimated a much larger total. The CSA arrested suspects at about the same rate as the Union arrested Confederate loyalists. Neely concludes:
The Confederate citizen was not any freer than the Union citizen — and perhaps no less likely to be arrested by military authorities. In fact, the Confederate citizen may have been in some ways less free than his Northern counterpart. For example, freedom to travel within the Confederate states was severely limited by a domestic passport system.


The capital of the Confederate States of America was Montgomery, Alabama, from February 4 until May 29 1861. Richmond, Virginia, was named the new capital on May 30 1861. 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. Danville, Virginia, served as the last capital of the Confederate States of America, from April 3 to April 10 1865.

Financial Instruments

Both the individual Confederate states and (later) the Confederate government printed Confederate States of America dollars as paper currency, much of it signed by the Treasurer Edward C. Elmore. During the course of the war these severely depreciated in value, eventually becoming worthless. Many bills still exist, although in recent years copies have proliferated. Confederate authorities also issued paper bonds in large numbers, as well as a considerable number of printed postage stamps, and these stamps remain readily available. The philatelic market regards as far more valuable the stamps on envelopes actually used during the war.

At the time of their secession the states (and later the Confederate government) took over national mints in their territories and produced a small amount of gold and silver coinage. Based on current dies on hand, these issues remain indistinguishable from those minted by the Union. In 1861 plans originated to produce Confederate coins. The New Orleans Mint produced dies and four specimen half dollars, and a jeweler in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania manufactured a dozen pennies, but a lack of bullion prevented any further minting. Over the years copies of these issues have also appeared.

International diplomacy

Once the war with the United States began, the Confederacy pinned its hopes for survival on military intervention by Britain and France. The United States realized this as well and made it clear that recognition of the Confederacy meant war with the United States — and the cutoff of food shipments into Britain. The Confederates who had believed that "cotton is king — that is, Britain had to support the Confederacy to obtain cotton — were proven wrong. The British instead focused more heavily on cotton and textile produced in the British Raj and Russia, with the French also ramping up production in Algeria. Notably, in the early years of the war, demand for textiles, and hence cotton, was weak. In time, the war and Union blockade of the South caused economic hardship in textile-producing areas of England such as Lancashire, which depended heavily on cotton exports from the seceding states; however, abolitionist sentiment among English workers ran counter to this economic interest in Confederate victory.

During its existence, while the Confederate government sent repeated delegations to Europe, historians do not give them high marks for diplomatic skills. James M. Mason went to London as Confederate minister to Queen Victoria, and John Slidell travelled to Paris as minister to Napoleon III. Each succeeded in obtaining private meetings with high British and French officials respectively, but neither secured official recognition for the Confederacy. When Britain and the United States came dangerously close to war during the Trent Affair, where two Confederate agents travelling on a British ship had been illegally seized by the U.S. Navy in late 1861, it seemed possible that the Confederacy would see its much vaunted recognition. When Lincoln released the two, however, tensions cooled, and in the end the episode was of no help to the Confederacy.

Throughout the early years of the war, British foreign secretary Lord Russell, Napoleon III, and, to a lesser extent, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, were interested in the idea of recognition of the Confederacy, or at least of offering a mediation. Recognition meant certain war with the United States, loss of American grain, loss of exports to the United States, loss of huge investments in American securities, possible war in Canada and other North American colonies, much higher taxes, many lives lost and a severe threat to the entire British merchant marine, in exchange for the possibility of some cotton. Many party leaders and the public wanted no war with such high costs and meager benefits. Recognition was considered following the Second Battle of Bull Run when the British government was preparing to mediate in the conflict, but the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam and Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, combined with internal opposition, caused the government to back away.

In November 1863, Confederate diplomat A. Dudley Mann met Pope Pius IX and received a letter addressed "to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America." Mann, in his dispatch to Richmond, interpreted the letter as "a positive recognition of our Government," and some have mistakenly viewed it as a de facto recognition of the C.S.A. Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, however, interpreted it as "a mere inferential recognition, unconnected with political action or the regular establishment of diplomatic relations" and thus did not assign it the weight of formal recognition. For the remainder of the war, Confederate commissioners continued meeting with Cardinal Antonelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. In 1864, Catholic Bishop Patrick N. Lynch of Charleston traveled to the Vatican with an authorization from Jefferson Davis to represent the Confederacy before the Holy See. That same year, Davis sent Duncan Kenner to France and England with an offer to emancipate Southern slaves in exchange for recognition of the Confederacy from France and Great Britain. This attempt was unsuccessful.

No country appointed any diplomat officially to the Confederacy, but several maintained their consuls in the South who had been appointed before the war. In 1861, Ernst Raven applied for approval as the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha consul, but he was a citizen of Texas and no evidence exists that officials in Saxe-Coburg and Gotha knew what he was doing. In 1863, the Confederacy expelled all foreign consuls (all of them British or French diplomats) for advising their subjects to refuse to serve in combat against the U.S.

Throughout the war, most European powers adopted a policy of neutrality, meeting informally with Confederate diplomats but withholding diplomatic recognition. None ever sent an ambassador or official delegation to Richmond. However, they applied international law principles that recognized the Union and Confederate sides as belligerents. Canada allowed both Confederate and Union agents to work openly within its borders. In Hamilton, Bermuda a Confederate agent openly worked to help blockade runners. Some state governments in northern Mexico negotiated local agreements to cover trade on the Texas border.

"Died of states' rights"

Historian Frank Lawrence Owsley argued that the Confederacy "died of states' rights. According to Owsley, strong-willed governors and state legislatures in the South refused to give the national government the soldiers and money it needed because they feared that Richmond was encroaching on the rights of the states. Georgia's governor Joseph Brown warned that he saw the signs of a deep-laid conspiracy on the part of Jefferson Davis to destroy states' rights and individual liberty. Brown declaimed: "Almost every act of usurpation of power, or of bad faith, has been conceived, brought forth and nurtured in secret session." To grant the Confederate government the power to draft soldiers was the "essence of military despotism. In 1863 governor Pendleton Murrah of Texas insisted that Texas troops were needed for self-defense (against Indians or a threatened Union invasion), and refused to send them East. Zebulon Vance, the governor of North Carolina was notoriously hostile to Davis and his demands. Opposition to conscription in North Carolina was intense and its results were disastrous for recruiting. Governor Vance's faith in states' rights drove him into a stubborn opposition.

Vice President Stephens broke publicly with President Davis, saying any accommodation would only weaken the republic, and he therefore had no choice but to break publicly with the Confederate administration and the President. Stephens charged that to allow Davis to make "arbitrary arrests" and to draft state officials conferred on him more power than the English Parliament had ever bestowed on the king. "History proved the dangers of such unchecked authority." He added that Davis intended to suppress the peace meetings in North Carolina and "put a muzzle upon certain presses" (especially the antiwar newspaper Raleigh Standard) in order to control elections in that state. Echoing Patrick Henry's "give me liberty or give me death" Stephens warned the Southerners they should never view liberty as "subordinate to independence" because the cry of "independence first and liberty second" was a "fatal delusion." As historian George Rable concludes, "For Stephens, the essence of patriotism, the heart of the Confederate cause, rested on an unyielding commitment to traditional rights. In his idealist vision of politics, military necessity, pragmatism, and compromise meant nothing.

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, 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 nation's future by 1864, and instead looked to protect their homes and communities. As Rable explains, "As the Confederacy shrank, citizens' sense of the cause more than ever narrowed to their own states and communities. This contraction of civic vision was more than a crabbed libertarianism; it represented an increasingly widespread disillusionment with the Confederate experiment.

Relations with the United States

For the four years of its existence, the Confederate States of America asserted its independence and appointed dozens of diplomatic agents abroad. The United States government, by contrast, asserted that the Southern states were states in rebellion and refused any formal recognition of their status. Thus, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward issued formal instructions to Charles Francis Adams, the new minister to Great Britain:

You will indulge in no expressions of harshness or disrespect, or even impatience concerning the seceding States, their agents, or their people. But you will, on the contrary, all the while remember that those States are now, as they always heretofore have been, and, notwithstanding their temporary self-delusion, they must always continue to be, equal and honored members of this Federal Union, and that their citizens throughout all political misunderstandings and alienations, still are and always must be our kindred and countrymen.

However, if the British seemed inclined to recognize the Confederacy, or even waver in that regard, they would 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, you will not leave them to suppose for a moment that they can grant that application and remain friends with the United States. You may even assure them promptly, in that case, that if they determine to recognize, they may at the same time prepare to enter into alliance with the enemies of this republic.
The Confederate Congress responded to the hostilities by formally declaring war on the United States in May 1861 — calling it "The War between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. The Union government never declared war but conducted its war efforts under a proclamation of blockade and rebellion. After the war the states were readmitted to representation in the US Congress. 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, in 1869, the United States Supreme Court in Texas v. White ruled secession unconstitutional and legally null. The court's opinion was authored by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy, and Alexander Stephens, its former vice-president, both penned arguments in favor of secession's legality, most notably Davis' The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

Confederate flags

1st National Flag
"Stars and Bars"
2nd National Flag
"Stainless Banner"
3rd National Flag
"Blood Stained Banner"
CSA Naval Jack
CSA Naval Jack
Battle Flag
"Southern Cross"
Bonnie Blue Flag
"Unofficial Southern Flag"

The first official flag of the Confederate States of America, called the "Stars and Bars", had seven stars, representing the seven states that initially formed the Confederacy. This flag was sometimes difficult to distinguish from the Union flag under battle conditions, so the flag was changed to the "Stainless Banner." The union of the Stainless Banner, known as the "Southern Cross", became the one more commonly used in military operations. The Southern Cross had 13 stars, adding the four states that joined the Confederacy after Fort Sumter, and the two divided states of Kentucky and Missouri. Due to similarities between the "Stainless Banner" and a white flag, a red stripe was appended vertically to the end of the flag, creating the third of the national flags.

Because{[fact}} of its depiction in 20th century popular media, many people associate the "Southern Cross" flag with the Confederacy today. The actual "Southern Cross" flag had a square shape, while the Naval Jack (also used by the Army of Tennessee) had a rectangular form but used a lighter shade of blue. Popular media often depict an amalgam, taking the rectangular shape of the Naval Jack and the darker blue of the "Southern Cross" battle flag.


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 (2,667 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 to semi-arid steppe and arid desert west of longitude 96 degrees west. The subtropical climate made winters mild but allowed infectious diseases to flourish. Consequently, disease killed more soldiers than died in combat.

River system

In peacetime, the vast system of navigable rivers allowed for cheap and easy transportation of farm products. The railroad system was built as a supplement, tying plantation areas to the nearest river or seaport. The vast geography made for difficult Union logistics, and Union soldiers were used to garrison captured areas and protect rail lines. Nevertheless, the Union Navy seized most of the navigable rivers by 1862, making its own logistics easy and Confederate movements difficult. After the fall of Vicksburg in July 1863, it became impossible for units to cross the Mississippi since Union gunboats constantly patrolled it. The South thus lost use of its western regions.

Railroad system

The outbreak of war had a depressing effect on the economic fortunes of the Confederate railroad industry. The hoarding of the cotton crop in an attempt to entice European intervention left railroads bereft of their main source of income. Many were forced to lay off employees, and in particular, let go skilled technicians and engineers. For the early years of the war, the Confederate government had a hands off approach to the railroads. It wasn't until mid-1863 that the Confederate government initiated an overall policy, and it was confined solely to aiding the war effort. With the legislation of impressment the same year, rail roads and their rolling stock, came under the defacto control of the military.

In the last year before the end of the war, the Confederate railroad system stood permanently on the verge of collapse. The impressment policy of Quarter-master's ran the rails ragged; feeder lines would be scraped in order to lay down replacement steel for trunk lines, and the continual use of rolling stock wore them down faster than they could be replaced.

Rural areas

The area claimed by the Confederate States of America consisted overwhelmingly of rural land. Small towns of more than 1,000 were few — the typical county seat had a population of fewer than 500 people. Cities were rare. New Orleans was the only Southern city in the list of the ten largest U.S. cities in the 1860 census, and it was captured by the Union in 1862. Only 13 Confederate cities ranked among the top 100 U.S. cities in 1860, most of them ports whose economic activities were shut down by the Union blockade. The population of Richmond swelled after it became the national capital, reaching an estimated 128,000 in 1864 (Dabney 1990:182). Other large Southern cities (Baltimore, St. Louis, Louisville, and Washington, as well as Wheeling, West Virginia, and Alexandria, Virginia) were never under the control of the Confederate government.

# City 1860 population 1860 U.S. rank Return to U.S. control
1. New Orleans, Louisiana 168,675 6 1862
2. Charleston, South Carolina 40,522 22 1865
3. Richmond, Virginia 37,910 25 1865
4. Mobile, Alabama 29,258 27 1865
5. Memphis, Tennessee 22,623 38 1862
6. Savannah, Georgia 22,292 41 1864
7. Petersburg, Virginia 18,266 50 1865
8. Nashville, Tennessee 16,988 54 1862
9. Norfolk, Virginia 14,620 61 1862
10. Augusta, Georgia 12,493 77 1865
11. Columbus, Georgia 9,621 97 1865
12. Atlanta, Georgia 9,554 99 1864
13. Wilmington, North Carolina 9,553 100 1865

(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, and Richmond in the Civil War).


The Confederacy had 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 11 states 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. By the 1830s, the 11 states produced more cotton than all of the other countries in the world combined. The CSA adopted a low tariff of 15 per cent, but imposed it on all imports from other countries, including the Union states. The tariff mattered little; the Confederacy's ports were blocked to commercial traffic by the Union's blockade, and very few people paid taxes on goods smuggled from the Union states. The government collected about $3.5 million in tariff revenue from the start of their war against the Union to late 1864. The lack of adequate financial resources led the Confederacy to finance the war through printing money, which led to high inflation.


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.

! State
# of
# of
!Total #
!% of Free
as % of
Alabama 964,201 435,080 96,603 529,121 33,730 6% 45% 2,690
Arkansas 435,450 111,115 57,244 324,335 11,481 4% 26% 144
Florida 140,424 61,745 15,090 78,679 5,152 7% 44% 932
Georgia 1,057,286 462,198 109,919 595,088 41,084 7% 44% 3,500
Louisiana 708,002 331,726 74,725 376,276 22,033 6% 47% 18,647
Mississippi 791,305 436,631 63,015 354,674 30,943 9% 55% 773
North Carolina 992,622 331,059 125,090 661,563 34,658 5% 33% 30,463
South Carolina 703,708 402,406 58,642 301,302 26,701 9% 57% 9,914
Tennessee 1,109,801 275,719 149,335 834,082 36,844 4% 25% 7,300
Texas 604,215 182,566 76,781 421,649 21,878 5% 30% 355
Virginia 1,596,318 490,865 201,523 1,105,453 52,128 5% 31% 58,042
Total 9,103,332 3,521,110 1,027,967 5,582,222 316,632 6% 39% 132,760
(Figures for Virginia include the future West Virginia.)

! Age structure
! 0-14 years
! 15-59 years
! 60 years and over
! Total
White males 43% 52% 4%
White females 44% 52% 4%
Male slaves 44% 51% 4%
Female slaves 45% 51% 3%
Free black males 45% 50% 5%
Free black females 40% 54% 6%
Total population 44% 52% 4%

(Rows may not total to 100% due to rounding.)

In 1860 the areas that later formed the eleven Confederate States (and including the future West Virginia) had 132,760 (1.46%) free blacks. 49.2% of the total population were male and 50.8% were female (whites: 48.60% male, 51.40% female; slaves: 50.15% male, 49.85% female; free blacks: 47.43% male, 52.57% female).

Armed forces

The military armed forces of the Confederacy comprised three branches:

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 others had little or no military experience (such as Leonidas Polk, who had attended West Point but did not graduate.) The Confederate officer corps was composed in part of young men from slave-owning families, but many came from non-owners. 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 The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute) maintained cadet corps that were seen as a training ground for Confederate military leadership. A naval academy was established at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia in 1863, but no midshipmen had graduated by the time the Confederacy collapsed.

The soldiers of the Confederate armed forces consisted mainly of white males with an average age between sixteen and twenty-eight. 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’ recommendations, the Congress refused “to guarantee the freedom of black volunteers.” No more than two hundred troops were ever raised.

Military leaders

Military leaders of the Confederacy (with their state or country of birth and highest rank) included:

Table of CSA states

State Flag Secession ordinance Admitted C.S.A. Under predominant
Union control
Readmitted to
in Congress
South Carolina December 20 1860 February 8 1861 1865 July 9 1868
Mississippi January 9 1861 February 8 1861 1863 February 23 1870
Florida (unofficial) January 10 1861 February 8 1861 1865 June 25 1868
Alabama January 11 1861 February 8 1861 1865 July 13 1868
Georgia January 19 1861 February 8 1861 1865 1st Date July 21 1868;
2nd Date July 15 1870
Louisiana January 26 1861 February 8 1861 1863 July 9 1868
Texas February 1 1861 March 2 1861 1865 March 30 1870
Virginia April 17 1861 May 7 1861 1865;
(1861 for West Virginia)
January 26 1870
Arkansas May 6 1861 May 18 1861 1864 June 22 1868
North Carolina May 20 1861 May 21 1861 1865 July 4 1868
Tennessee June 8 1861 July 2 1861 1863 July 24 1866
Missouri (exiled government) October 31 1861 November 28 1861 1861 Unionist govt. appointed by Missouri Constitutional Convention 1861
Kentucky (Russellville Convention) November 20 1861 December 10 1861 1861 Elected Union & unelected rump C.S.A. governments from 1861
Arizona Territory (Mesilla government) March 16 1861 February 14 1862 1862 Not a state.

See also



  • Bowman, John S. (ed), The Civil War Almanac, New York: Bison Books, 1983.
  • Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Wilentz, Sean, The Rise of American Democracy, W.W. Norton & Co., ISBN 0-393-32921-6.


  • Cooper, William J. Jr. Jefferson Davis, American. (2000)
  • Coski, John. The Confederate Battle Flag. (2005)
  • Crofts, Daniel W. Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis. (1989) ISBN 0-8078-1809-7.
  • Current, Richard N., ed. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy (4 vol), 1993. 1900 pages, articles by scholars.
  • Davis, William C. "A Government of Our Own". (1994) ISBN 0-8071-2177-0
  • Downing, David C. A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy. Nashville: Cumberland House, 2007. ISBN 978-1-58182-587-9
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. (1988)
  • Faust, Patricia L. ed, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War, 1986.
  • Goen, C.C. “Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Regional Religion and North-South Alienation in Antebellum America.” Church History, Vol. 52, No.1 (Mar., 1983) pp. 21-35 JSTOR
  • Gallagher, Gary W. The Confederate War. (1997) ISBN 0-674-16055-X
  • Heidler, David S., et al. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War : A Political, Social, and Military History, 2002. 2400 pages (ISBN 0-393-04758-X)
  • Kull, Irving Stoddard. “Presbyterian Attitudes toward Slavery.” Church History, Vol. 7, No. 2, (June 1938), pp. 101-114 JSTOR
  • Levine, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation. (2006)
  • Levine, Bruce. Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War. (1992) ISBN 10: 0809053527
  • McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. (1988)
  • Rubin, Sarah Anne. A Shattered Nation: The Rise & Fall of the Confederacy 1861-1868. (2005)
  • Sinha, Manish. The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina. (2000) ISBN 0-8078-2571-9
  • Smylie, James H. "A Brief History of the Presbyterians" (1996)
  • Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution. (1956) 1989 Edition ISBN 0-679-72307-2
  • Woodworth, Steven E. ed. The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research, 1996. 750 pages of historiography and bibliography

Economic and social history

see Economy of the Confederate States of America

  • Black, Robert C., III. The Railroads of the Confederacy, 1988.
  • Clinton, Catherine, and Silber, Nina, eds. Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War, 1992.
  • Dabney, Virginius. Richmond: The Story of a City. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 1990. ISBN 0-8139-1274-1.
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War, 1996.
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South, 1988.
  • Grimsley, Mark. The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861-1865, 1995.
  • Lentz, Perry Carlton. Our Missing Epic: A Study in the Novels about the American Civil War, 1970.
  • Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Bonnet Brigades: American Women and the Civil War, 1966.
  • Massey, Mary Elizabeth. Refugee Life in the Confederacy, 1964.
  • Rable, George C. Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism, 1989.
  • Ramsdell, Charles. Behind the Lines in the Southern Confederacy, 1994.
  • Roark, James L. Masters without Slaves: Southern Planters in the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1977.
  • Rubin, Anne Sarah. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868, 2005. A cultural study of Confederates' self images.
  • Thomas, Emory M. The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience, 1992.
  • Wiley, Bell Irwin. Confederate Women, 1975.
  • Wiley, Bell Irwin. The Plain People of the Confederacy, 1944.
  • Woodward, C. Vann, ed. Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 1981.


  • Alexander, Thomas B., and Beringer, Richard E. The Anatomy of the Confederate Congress: A Study of the Influences of Member Characteristics on Legislative Voting Behavior, 1861-1865, 1972.
  • Boritt, Gabor S., et al, Why the Confederacy Lost, 1992.
  • Cooper, William J, Jefferson Davis, American, 2000. Standard biography.
  • Coulter, E. Merton. The Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, 1950.
  • William C. Davis (2003). Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86585-8.
  • Eaton, Clement. A History of the Southern Confederacy, 1954.
  • Eckenrode, H. J., Jefferson Davis: President of the South, 1923.
  • Gallgher, Gary W., The Confederate War, 1999.
  • Neely, Mark E., Jr., Confederate Bastille: Jefferson Davis and Civil Liberties, 1993.
  • Rembert, W. Patrick. Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet, 1944.
  • Rable, George C., The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, 1994.
  • Roland, Charles P. The Confederacy, 1960. brief
  • Thomas, Emory M. Confederate Nation: 1861-1865, 1979. Standard political-economic-social history
  • Wakelyn, Jon L. Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy Greenwood Press ISBN 0-8371-6124-X
  • Williams, William M. Justice in Grey: A History of the Judicial System of the Confederate States of America, 1941.
  • Yearns, Wilfred Buck. The Confederate Congress, 1960.

Primary sources

  • Carter, Susan B., ed. The Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (5 vols), 2006.
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (2 vols), 1881.
  • Harwell, Richard B., The Confederate Reader (1957)
  • 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. Available online at the Library of Congress

External links

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