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Confederate States of America

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Confederate States of America, government formed by the Southern states that seceded from the United States of America between Dec. 1860 and May 1861. South Carolina was the first, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana by the end of Jan. Texas joined them in Feb. and was followed in the spring by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Rebels from Missouri and Kentucky (both of which remained in the Union) set up their own governments in exile under the Southern banner and brought the number of Confederate states equal to the original 13. The original 6 seceding states (later joined by Texas) called a constitutional convention for Feb. 4, 1861, at Montgomery, Ala., choosing Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens president and vice-president respectively. By Mar. 11 the convention had produced a permanent constitution modeled on that of the United States, but with several exceptions. Congress was forbidden to enact protective tariffs, to limit the spread of slavery, or to appropriate funds for “internal improvements” (except for navigation). Davis was inaugurated under the provisional constitution on Feb. 18, 1861. On Apr. 13, the expected war began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter. In Nov. Davis was elected president. His second inauguration took place at the new capital in Richmond, Va., on Feb. 22, 1862. He was the leader of approximately 9 million people—of whom about 3.5 million were slaves—at war with the nearly 23 million citizens of the Union. The strong states' rights orientation of the South conflicted with traditional wartime executive prerogatives, and the Confederate Congress and president were at odds from the start. However, in common with the president, the main business of the Confederate Congress was the conduct of the war, and most of its legislation was designed to keep a wartime society functioning. The constitution had provisions for a Supreme Court, but these were never carried out. Throughout the war the Confederacy tried to gain diplomatic recognition, aid, and alliances in Europe, but it was difficult to gain recognition for a state based on slavery. The economic factors that had driven the North and South apart were also perhaps the most significant in determining the war's outcome. The South was primarily an agricultural economy; the North, an industrial one. The South lacked the heavy industry to equip an army and the transportation network to supply it. Further, one of its major markets had become the enemy, and its other main buyer and source of money and equipment, Great Britain, was often cut off by the remarkably effective blockade by the Union Navy. Munitions, guns, and domestic supplies grew desperately short as the war drew on. Many soldiers had to supply their own rifles. A relief program for soldiers' families was difficult to administer, and it was increasingly difficult to find the food to distribute. Medicine was particularly scarce. Currency inflation also became disastrous. The South's emphasis on states' rights and its long congressional battles with Northern states over appropriations had made the central government reluctant to levy taxes for what many at first believed would be a very short conflict. The government therefore began printing ruinous amounts of currency and “war bonds.” Although realistic taxes were levied by 1863, inflation had gone too far, and the actual resources of the South were too badly depleted for the government ever to regain a reasonable financial position. Despite initial Confederate battlefield victories, the Union's superior numbers and resources eventually overwhelmed the South. That the war lasted as long as it did—some 4 years—is testimony to the South's strong military leadership. After the fall of Richmond, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate forces, surrendered on Apr. 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House.

See also: Civil War, U.S.

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