What Is a Confederate?

The Confederate Flag
The Confederacy was comprised of 11 states that had seceded from the Union.

The Confederate States of America was established on February 8, 1861. It initially consisted of seven southern U.S. states but eventually grew to encompass a total of 11 states shortly thereafter.

What is a confederate?

A confederate is a member of a confederacy or a supporter of the Confederate States of America or their cause.

The Confederacy

The formation of the Confederacy was the result of the secession of the Confederate states after the election of Abraham Lincoln and the threat of losing their right to keep slaves as property.

Painting of Abraham Lincoln
Seven states seceded from the Union between President Lincoln’s election and his inauguration.

Known as the Deep South, the states of Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and Texas were home to the vast majority of the cotton plantations in the United States. After the invention of the cotton gin, the cotton industry in the United States blossomed. To keep costs down and profits high, these states relied on the indentured servitude of African slaves.

Abraham Lincoln ran on the platform of abolishing slavery altogether. And after his election, the southern states knew that he would push to outlaw the possession of African slaves throughout the country. Following the secession of the Confederacy from the Union, the Confederate army attacked the Union initiating the American Civil War. 

Believing it to be merely a rebellion at first, Abraham Lincoln called for the conscription of 75,000 troops, which resulted in four more states joining the Confederacy.

President of the Confederacy

Every nation needs a ruler, and while the northern states had Abraham Lincoln, the Confederacy had Jefferson Davis. The Montgomery Convention was drafted on February 4, 1861, establishing the Confederate States of America. The newly formed nation elected both the president and vice president on that day.

At the time of secession, Jefferson Davis was a representative in the United States Senate. Wanting to be the head of the Confederate Army, he resigned from the Senate in order to assume his role as the provisional president. Alexander Stephens joined him as the vice president.

He was inaugurated as the first provisional president of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861. The two were likewise reelected to their positions within the Confederacy and remained in control over the budding nation and its army until its surrender four years later.

The Civil War

On April 12, 1861, soldiers for the Confederate States of America laid siege on Fort Sumter. This Union fort which is located in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, marked the start of the American Civil War. Shortly after this attack, United States President Abraham Lincoln conscripted more than 75,000 troops to quell the uprising, resulting in four more states seceding from the Union.

Statue of General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865.

Over the next four years, the American Civil War resulted in more than 750,000 casualties. Since no other nation would recognize the Confederate States as an independent sovereign country, they could not obtain any assistance with weapons and other necessary supplies. Nevertheless, they continued to battle with the northern states.

By 1865, Confederate forces were surrendering to the Union forces en masse. As a result of the overwhelming military defeat, the Confederacy was dissolved. Eventually, acknowledging defeat, Robert E Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865. Shortly after that, the remaining generals of the Confederate States of America surrendered to the Union. The Confederacy was finally dissolved in May 1865.

Capital of the Confederate States of America

The capital of the Confederate States of America was originally located in Montgomery, Alabama. At the state capitol, six of the original seven states created the Confederacy. However, this location was short-lived, and eventually, the Confederacy’s capital was moved.

After the secession of the last four states, the capital of the Confederacy was moved to Richmond, Virginia. The Virginia State Capitol building was used as the centralized government of the Confederacy until the end of the Civil War.

Throughout the war, Richmond, Virginia, was also the home of the Confederate Army. Its streets were used as training grounds, and the city quickly became overcrowded. As the Union soldiers advanced closer to the capitol building, the vice president and his Cabinet fled and took refuge in Danville until the surrender of Confederate forces to the Union Army at the Appomattox Court House.

The Collapse of the Confederacy

Known as the Federal Carolinas Campaign, the soldiers of the Union Army advanced through the Carolinas, raising towns as they went. It was the most devastating three months of the war as Union soldiers edged closer to the nation’s capital. After capturing a fort in North Carolina, Union forces worked their way into South Carolina before finally taking over Charleston.

US Civil
The Union army’s advance through the Carolinas was the most devastating period of the war.

As a result of this campaign, the Confederacy lost control of every single harbor, port, and river that could be used to transport supplies throughout the region. Inland, the Confederate States of America also lost control over all railways, resulting in supply shortages throughout the south. Despite repeated attempts to negotiate a surrender, Confederate officials refused to rejoin the Union as to do so would require them to give up their slaves.

As Union forces battled deep into Confederacy lands, enslaved Africans on southern plantations found themselves free men. They were given the option to join the Union forces and fight against the Confederacy. In exchange, they were paid a wage. For many of these former slaves, though, wages were secondary to the opportunity to fight back against those who had oppressed them.

Meanwhile, in Richmond, Virginia, Union forces were pushing their way through the 50,000-strong army under the command of General Robert E. Lee. At the Appotomax Court House on April 9, 1865, one of the last strongholds of the Confederacy fell to the Union Army. General Robert E. Lee surrendered that day, marking one of the greatest victories for the Union in the American Civil War. This surrender effectively ended the war between states.

As Union soldiers worked their way through the countryside, capturing the last remnants of the Confederate Army, many of the officials of the Confederate States of America ran. These members of the upper echelons of the Confederacy boarded whatever ships they could find and fled to Europe. More than six months after the defeat of the Confederacy, the last remaining military unit of the Confederacy surrendered after making the trip all the way to Liverpool, England.

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