The Confederate States of America

What was the Confederate States of America?
The Confederate States of America, also known as the C.S.A, and commonly referred during the civil war as “the South,” was a group of 11 Southern states that declared independence from the United States of America following the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860.  The Confederate States also claimed certain territories of the United States.

What events led to the formation of the Confederacy?
There were tensions between the Northern and Southern states almost since the United States was formed. The Southern economy was largely based on slave-based agriculture, while the Northern economy was largely industrial and commercial. The two regions’ economies and ideals developed in very different ways. The United States Congress passed many compromise laws in an attempt to pacify the two sides, but ultimately, regional differences proved to be too great and Southern states began to declare their independence.

When did the Southern states secede from the Union?
Although Abraham Lincoln had been elected president in late 1860, he did not take office until March 1861. In December 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the United States, or “the Union.” Within a month, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia also seceded from the Union. Louisiana and Texas also seceded before Lincoln took office. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina seceded after Lincoln ordered United States forces to capture Fort Sumter, a fort of the United States claimed by South Carolina.

How was the Confederacy formed?
Secessionists had been planning the formation of the Confederacy for years before any states actually seceded from the Union. However, it was not until the Montgomery Convention, held in Montgomery, Alabama on February 4, 1861, that representatives of the Southern states met to form their own government. By February 8, 1861, the Convention adopted the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States of America. By enacting this document, the Confederate States formally organized their own government. Interestingly, the Confederate Constitution was based on the Constitution of the United States of America; the two documents were very similar.

Who were the leaders of the Confederate States of America?
Many leaders of the Confederate States were former officials of the United States of America, or of their respective states. The President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, for example, served under United States President Franklin Pierce as Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857. He also served as a United States Senator from the state of Mississippi from 1847 to 1851, and again from 1857 to 1861. Before becoming a U.S. Senator, Davis served the United States in the United States House of Representatives and as a colonel in the United States Army.

Other important political and military leaders included Vice President Alexander Stephens, General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee. Because the Confederate States had a congress similar to the United States that consisted of many members, there were many important Congressional leaders.

How was Davis criticized by other Confederates?
Confederate President Jefferson Davis was criticized for poor selection and quick rotation through cabinet officers such as the Secretaries of State, Treasury, War, and the Attorney General. Each office was held by at least three different people during the four years the Confederacy existed. The position of Secretary of War was held by five different men over the Confederacy’s four years. Davis was criticized as selecting cabinet members based on friendship instead of their experience. Many cabinet members left one position in order to serve elsewhere in the cabinet.

How did the Confederate States of America approach the Civil War?
The main political goal of the Confederate States was to be recognized as an independent nation. The Confederacy made many unsuccessful attempts to gain European allies in the war. On the military end, the C.S.A. largely attempted to defend the territory they controlled against Union attacks. Confederate armies were dispersed among the Confederacy’s vast borders, and through they attempted to coordinate those smaller forces to repel Union attacks, they were largely unsuccessful.

The Confederate Strategy in the Civil War was described by Davis as an “Offensive-Defensive” strategy. In fact, military commentators have noted that, except for a few offensive attacks into Union territory, the Confederate Army attempted to maintain a passive defense of its own territory and resources.

How did the Confederacy end?
After major military victories by Union forces against General Robert E. Lee’s armies, the Union captured the Confederate capital in Richmond, Virginia. Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant following the Battle of Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Although many Confederate forces were active at the time, most quickly surrendered following Lee’s surrender.

Various political leaders of the Confederate States either fled to Europe or were captured by United States military patrols. All remaining Confederate forces had surrendered by June 1865.

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Last Updated on: September 30th, 2017