Confederate States of America, the name adopted by the federation of 11 slave holding Southern states of the United States that seceded from the Union and were arrayed against the national government during the American Civil War.
Immediately after confirmation of the election of Abraham Lincoln as president, the legislature of South Carolina convened. In a unanimous vote on December 20, 1860, the state seceded from the Union. During the next two months ordinances of secession were adopted by the states of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. President James Buchanan, in the last days of his administration, declared that the federal government would not forcibly prevent the secessions. In February 1861, the seceding states sent representatives to a convention in Montgomery, Alabama. The convention, presided over by Howell Cobb of Georgia, adopted a provisional constitution and chose Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as provisional president and Alexander Hamilton Stephens of Georgia as provisional vice president. The convention, on March 11, 1861, unanimously ratified a permanent constitution. The constitution, which closely resembled the federal Constitution, prohibited the African slave trade but allowed interstate commerce in slaves.
Jefferson Davis (1808-89), first and only president of the Confederate States of America (1861-65). Davis was born onJune 3, 1808, in Christian (now Todd) County, Kentucky, and educated at Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky, and at the U.S. Military Academy. After his graduation in 1828, he saw frontier service until ill health forced his resignation from the army in 1835. He was a planter in Mississippi from 1835 to 1845, when he was elected to the U.S. Congress. In 1846 he resigned his seat in order to serve in the Mexican War and fought at Monterrey and Buena Vista, where he was wounded. He was U.S. senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1851, secretary of war in the cabinet of President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1857, and again U.S. senator from 1857 to 1861. As a senator he often stated his support of slavery and of states’ rights, and as a cabinet member he influenced Pierce to sign the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which favored the South and increased the bitterness of the struggle over slavery. In his second term as senator he became the acknowledged spokesman for the Southern point of view.
He opposed the idea of secession from the Union, however, as a means of maintaining the principles of the South. Even after the first steps toward secession had been taken, he tried to keep the Southern states in the Union, although not at the expense of their principles. When the state of Mississippi seceded, he withdrew from the Senate. On February 18, 1861, the provisional Congress of the Confederate States made him provisional president. He was elected to the office by popular vote the same year for a 6-year term and was inaugurated in Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, on February 22, 1862. Davis failed to raise sufficient money to fight the American Civil War and could not obtain recognition and help for the Confederacy from foreign governments. He was in constant conflict with extreme exponents of the doctrine of states’ rights, and his attempts to have high military officers appointed by the president were opposed by the governors of the states. The judges of state courts constantly interfered in military matters through judicial decisions. Davis was nevertheless responsible for the raising of the formidable Confederate armies, the notable appointment of General Robert E. Lee as commander of the Army of Virginia, and the encouragement of industrial enterprise throughout the South. His zeal, energy, and faith in the cause of the South were a source of much of the tenacity with which the Confederacy fought the Civil War. Even in 1865 Davis still hoped the South would be able to achieve its independence, but at last he realized defeat was imminent and fled from Richmond. On May 10, 1865, federal troops captured him at Irwinville, Georgia. From 1865 to 1867 he was imprisoned at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. Davis was indicted for treason in 1866 but the next year was released on a bond of $100,000 signed by the American newspaper publisher Horace Greeley and other influential Northerners. In 1868 the federal government dropped the case against him. From 1870 to 1878 he engaged in a number of unsuccessful business enterprises; and from 1878 until his death in New Orleans, on December 6, 1889, he lived near Biloxi, Mississippi. His grave is in Richmond, Virginia. He wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (1881).
Soon after his inauguration as provisional president on February 18, 1861, Davis appointed his first cabinet; each of the six members represented a different state. The first task of the administration was to prepare for the impending conflict. Between December 30, 1860, and February 18, 1861, the Confederates had seized 11 federal forts and arsenals from South Carolina to Texas and harassed Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. Lincoln, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1861, rejected the right of secession but attempted to conciliate the South. Negotiations for the relief of Fort Sumter failed, and on April 12 the bombardment of the fort began. Three days later Lincoln announced that an insurrection had occurred, and he called for volunteers.The number of states in the Confederacy was increased to 11 by the secession of Virginia in April and of Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina in May. The provisional Confederate Congress, which had met for four sessions between February 4, 1861 and February 17, 1862, was replaced by a permanent legislature on February 18, 1862. The Confederate capital was moved on May 24, 1861 from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia. At the first general elections held under the permanent constitution on November 6, 1861, Davis was elected president and Stephens vice president. In February 1862, Davis was inaugurated president for a term of 6 years. The last years of his service were marked by the conflict between the civil and military forces and gave rise to the assertion that the government of the Confederacy had become a military dictatorship. The tendency toward dictatorship was increased by the custom of holding secret sessions of the Congress, by the practice of cabinet officers exercising their rights to sit in Congress, and by the gradual lowering of the political morale and independence of Congress. This condition was further complicated by personal controversies among officials. The first permanent Congress held four sessions; the second Congress, two sessions, with the final adjournment of the body taking place on March 18, 1865.
Although the political organization of the Confederacy was almost identical with that of the Union, the outbreak of the war served to accentuate the marked difference between the two sections. The population of the Confederacy at the start of the war was nearly 9 million including more than 3.8 million slaves. The population of the territory loyal to the Union was about 22 million, including about 500,000 slaves. The value of the improved lands of the seceding states was estimated at less than $2 billion; the value of those in the Union states was nearly $5 billion. The South had 150 textile factories, with a product valued at $8 million; the North had 900 such factories, with a product valued at $115 million. In the South 2000 persons were employed in the manufacture of clothing; in the North 100,000 were so engaged. During 1860 the imports of the South were valued at $331 million; those of the North at $331 million. It was thus obvious that the South was dependent on Europe and on the North for material goods. The lack of resources forced the Confederacy to levy war taxes and borrow heavily on future cotton crops. An inflationary period in 1863 and later government actions almost destroyed the Confederate credit.In addition the South was hampered by the lack of powder mills and of suitable iron works; only one plant, the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, was equipped to turn out large field guns. The railroad system was inadequately developed and equipped, and although the South made desperate attempts to maintain itself in a battle against overwhelming odds, the struggles left it financially and industrially ruined at the close of the Civil War. The process of restoring the Confederacy to the Union was called Reconstruction . The U.S. Supreme Court, in 1869, in the case of Texas v. White, declared secession unconstitutional.