Find a Security Clearance Job!

Military


Introduction

The Confederate States of America was the title of the independent government, formed by the seceding Southern States at the opening of the American Civil War, in the winter of 1860-1861. These States contained roughly half the population of the Northern States which remained in the Union. In proportion to their population they had played a more important part in the previous political history of the United States than was their share. The formation of the new Confederacy was in the hands of experienced statesmen, well schooled in the politics of their respective states and in the halls of the Federal Congress to undertake such a task.

There were no people in the world who had a higher opinion of themselves and of their surroundings than the inhabitants of certain districts of the South. They are accustomed to speak of themselves as possessing the very highest type of civilization; as pre-eminent in all the qualities of generous manhood; as hospitable, frank, brave beyond all other people; quick to resent dishonor; keen in their perception of what is great or noble; refined and elegant in manners. They claim, besides, superior talent, more, acute insight, and higher energy than their neighbors. They are prolific in statesmen, orators, arid politicians. This was the portrait they drew of themselves.

The South accordingly had its aversions, and among these nothing was more conspicuous than the dislike of the common masses of the Southern people to the natives of the New England States. This dislike was as old as the colonial era. Even in the Revolutionary war of 1776, if it did not impair the sturdy union of effort which won the victory, it bred minor dissensions and vexatious jealousies. The application of the word "Yankee" was even then an expression of the derision with which the man of the South regarded the man of New England. It signified at that day, and long afterwards, in the vulgar apprehension, a shrewd, cunning chapman, who invariably outwitted the credulous Southron in a bargain. It lost something of this significance in the later times, since the credulous Southron had grown more worldly, and developed some of the qualities of an expert chapman himself. It rather indicated the hatred engendered by jealousy of New England growth and prosperity.

This popular dislike of the North, unreasonable and trivial, had a good deal to do with the aggravation of the temper which fomented the rebellion. It quickened the jealousy of the South against every political movement in the country that indicated the probability of Northern control in the Government. Every revelation' made by the census of the growing preponderance of Northern population was received by the South as the announcement of a rapidly advancing era when Southern domination must give way to Northern when the sceptre must depart from Judah.

At no time since the adoption of the Constitution were the politicians of the South disposed to tolerate the election of a Northern President, unless they had a satisfactory assurance that he would administer the Government in obedience to their dictation, or at least conformably to their views of policy. The objection to Northern rule was simply founded on the pride of Southern ambition. The perpetuity of their control of the Administration has been the leading idea of their policy. The Union was enjoyed as long as it ministered to the ascendency of the Planting States, but was to be cast off as soon as the nation reached that epoch in its progress at which it was able to release itself from the thraldom of sectional control, and to regulate its policy in accordance with the demands of the general welfare.

Virginia's population consisted of landholders, of many descents, unmixed with foreign alloy. Her early population consisted of gentlemen of good name and condition, who brought within her confines a solid fund of respectability and wealth. She has no large towns where men may meet and devise improvements or changes in the arts of life. She may be called a nation without a capital. In temper and opinion, in the usages of life, and in the qualities of her moral nature, she is aristocratic. The gentlemen of Virginia live apart from each other. They are surrounded by their bondsmen and by their dependants; and the customary intercourse of Society familiarizes their minds to the relation of high and low degree.

They were scattered about like the chiefs of separate clans, and propagate opinions in seclusion, that had the tincture of baronial independence. They frequently met in the interchange of a large and thriftless hospitality, in which the forms of society were foregone for its comforts, and the business of life thrown aside for the enjoyment of its pleasures. Their halls were large, and their boards ample; and surrounding the great family hearth, with its immense burthen of blazing wood casting a broad and merry glare over the congregated household and the numerous retainers, a social winter party in Virginia afforded a tolerable picture of feudal munificence.

There was a set of under-talkers about these large country establishments, who are very glad to pick up the crumbs of wisdom that fall from a rich man's table; secondhand philosophers, who trade upon other people's stock. Some of these have a natural bias to this venting of upper opinions, by reason of certain dependencies in the way of trade and favour: others have it from affinity of blood, which works like a charm over a whole county.

The personnel of the Confederate congress and administration was materially weakened by the military field's drawing off the most brilliant Southern leaders. It was largely owing to the strategical skill of these generals that the Southern armies, smaller and more poorly equipped than their opponents, maintained the unequal contest for four years. In the naval operations the North had an overwhelming advantage, which was promptly and effectively used.

During the entire war the notion that the South possessed a most efficient engine of war in its monopoly of cotton buoyed up the hopes of the Southerners, The government strained every effort to secure recognition of the Confederacy as a nation by the great powers of Europe. It also more successfully secured foreigners' financial recognition of the South by effecting a foreign loan based on cotton. This favourite notion was put into practice in the spring of 1863. The French banking house of Erlanger & Company undertook to float a loan of 3,000,000, redeemable after the war in cotton at the rate of sixpence a pound. As cotton at the time was selling at nearly four times that figure and would presumably be quoted far above sixpence long after the establishment of peace, the bonds offered strong attractions to those specula lively inclined and in sympathy with the Southern cause.

The placing of the bonds in Europe was mismanaged by the Confederate agents, but notwithstanding a considerable sum was secured from the public and used for the purchase of naval and military stores. It was proposed at that time that a loan of fifty times as much should be offered abroad in order to secure in foreign countries financial interest in the success of the Confederate arms, and also to give ground for interference in the American strife by the governments of France and England. Mr. Davis's government had not the courage to make this attempt, and those who had invested in his foreign securities eventually lost their money. At the close of the war these foreign bonds were ignored by the re-established Federal authorities like all the other bonds of the Confederate government.

Compared with the partial success of this financial recognition by Europe, the South conspicuously failed in securing the political recognition of the Confederate government. Early in 1861 W. L. Yanccy and others went to Europe to enlist the sympathy of foreign governments in the Southern cause. J. M. Mason and John Slidcll followed early in 1862, after a short detention by the Federal government, which had removed them from a British vessel en route to Europe. Though these Confederate commissioners made every effort to induce foreign governments, especially those of Great Britain and France, to recognize the Confederacy, they were foiled in their efforts, largely by the skill and persistence of the Federal minister in London, Charles Francis Adams.

The political history of the Confederate States is the culmination of an inevitable conflict, the beginnings of which are found in the earlier history of the Union. The financial and industrial history of the South during 1861 to 1865 is the story of a struggle with overwhelming odds. The mistakes of the Confederate government's policy arc overshadowed by its desperate efforts to maintain itself against the irresistible attacks of the North. In making that effort the South sacrificed everything, and emerged from the war a financial and industrial wreck.

The government degenerated into a military despotism, the act of habeas corpus was suspended, conscriptions grew severer, until all the white male population between 17 and 55 years of age was enrolled in subjection to military orders. Congress usually sat in secret session, but in November, 1864, it fell into useless criminations and complaints of Mr. Davis, and into an impotency which left all the vitality of the Confederacy to the President and General Lee.

The overthrow of the Confederate troops in the field put an end to the existence of the Confederate States of America. On the surrender of Lee, Mr. Davis and his cabinet fled from Richmond, some of them abandoning the country. Mr. Davis was taken prisoner in Georgia while on his way to the sea-coast of Florida. The last of the Confederate armies to surrender was that of General Kirby Smith, in the country west of the Mississippi, on the 26th of May, 1865.




NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list