TLIAW: A Short History of the Confederate States: 1861-1930
While the circumstances and causes surrounding the Second American Revolution will be familiar to all our readers, a need for a primer for school-age children has been a constant feature in education throughout the Confederacy. In this, the sixty seventh year since our nation won its independence, this volume has been assembled in the intention that it be able to serve in the needed educational capacity. While written with educational use in mind, it is the hope of the author and publisher that the volume can be read and enjoyed by all ages, both by those still in school, those who have passed on to university or to the working force or those interested in a condensed history for their own enjoyment and understanding.
Dr. James Longstreet Long
University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, Virginia, March 1931
Chapter 1: Foundation of the Confederacy and the Second American Revolution
Upon the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States, the first states which would eventually form the Confederate States of America met in Montgomery, Alabama in a Provisional Congress on February 4, 1861. Though all the deputies who met were in agreement that secession was the only recourse they had to Lincoln’s election, there were several different differences of opinion in those present. From those who had advocated secession since the Nullification Crisis of the 1830s to those who had striven to preserve the Union at almost any cost, men of widely differing thoughts and opinions were selected to attend the Provisional Congress upon the secession of the first seven Confederate States. These seven states were South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. Throughout the initial meetings of the deputies of the attending states several important decisions were made which would prove important to both the course of the coming war and to the future of the Confederacy.
As President, the Convention selected Robert Toombs of Georgia in a move that surprised many of the attendees and many observers as well. Though an accomplished lawyer and politician, Toombs’ acerbic personality offended many and his personal life was not above reproach. Despite these flaws the assembled deputies knew his sharp legal and political mind and instinct for making the correct decision at the key moment would stand them in good stead in the struggle that many saw approaching over the horizon. The choice, shocking at the time, would indeed prove to be fortuitous. The next choice of the Convention of Robert Barnwell Rhett of South Carolina as Vice-President also shocked many who thought the extreme fire eating views of Rhett were more appropriate to the newspaper editorial than the political realm. Further, the concentration of executive power in the neighboring states of South Carolina and Georgia worried many of the western deputies who had sought the two highest offices for favorite sons of their own, notably Mississippi, which had advocated for Jefferson Davis to assume the Presidency. Though there were some questions which had to be answered and feelings which had to be soothed, the Convention eventually united behind their new executives and their new nation and adjourned with a provisional constitution in place.
Confederate President Robert Toombs
President Toombs wasted no time in the following months as meetings continued in Montgomery. The most important decision which faced the president in the early months was whether or not to allow the South Carolina and Confederate forces in and around Charleston, South Carolina to attack Fort Sumter. The refusal of the US government to evacuate the fort once South Carolina had seceded was a continuous point of irritation and provocation to the newly independent state. Nevertheless, while Toombs sympathized with the feelings of the South Carolinians present in his desire to see the United States give up the fort, he was unwilling to have the Confederacy fire the first shots in the crisis. He knew that the advantages of the South would only continue to accrue to them so long as they stood on the defensive and appeared to be the injured party. If the forces in Charleston began a bombardment, the Confederate States would look like the aggressor in the eyes of the North and the eyes of the rest of the world and this Toombs would not allow. In a speech to the Provisional Congress, Toombs said:
“At this time to attack Sumter is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountain to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal."
This decision allowed President Lincoln to send a ship to resupply the fort under Confederate guns. South Carolinians and fire eaters, most notably Vice-President Rhett, loudly decried this development and accused the President of being afraid to provoke the North. Supporters saw instead the cool, steady hand of one attuned to more than the wishes of the fire-eaters and war hawks and the President’s policy was confirmed in the months to come.
After the call for 70,000 volunteers by President Lincoln on April 20, 1861 many of the deputies felt that the seat of government should be moved to Richmond, Virginia as an inducement to that state to secede and join the Confederacy. Toombs, along with others, refused and narrowly pushed through a resolution confirming Montgomery as the permanent capital. The President had only to look at a map to see that Richmond was far too close to the United States to safely serve as the seat of the new government. Further, he knew that Virginia, with or without the lure of hosting the national capital would sooner or later be compelled to secession. This prediction came true on April 27 when the states of Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Arkansas all passed ordinances of secession and joined the Confederate States. Lincoln’s resort to force and coercion against the heretofore peaceful South was the primary cause of these further gains for the Confederacy. Many have wondered what pushed Lincoln to this decision and while opinions differ, the most commonly accepted explanation is that without any hostile act by the South he was forced to manufacture a resolution to the crisis to continue to justify his policy to his Cabinet and his party against the Confederacy. Regardless of his reasons, the North only reluctantly armed itself and began to build the army Lincoln had called for. Volunteers filled the numbers that the President had called for but many state militia units were reluctant to serve under Federal orders.
The Confederate Capital, Montgomery, Alabama
Meanwhile, President Toombs had himself requested an army of 100,000 men to be enlisted for a year or for the duration of the current crisis. Many thought that that war, if it were to come, would be over in a matter of weeks or months. In fact, said many both in and outside of government, one big battle ought to show the Yankees that they were no match for Southern manhood and should be enough to secure freedom for the Confederacy in a few hours. The President simply nodded and smiled and continued to press his own policy of enlistment on the Congress. With so many who thought it would not be necessary to have an army for longer than a year Toombs’ proposal was passed and the Confederate Army quickly began to grow. The knowledge that the needed force would not melt away upon the expiration of yearlong enlistments allowed Secretary of War Jefferson Davis to build the Confederacy’s army, appoint officers to command and dispatch forces to Virginia and Tennessee to watch the growing Union armies across the border. The President also saw to it that the new nation would have a Navy worthy of its thousands of miles of coastline and appointed Stephen Mallory of Florida as Secretary of the Navy. The new Secretary was authorized to recruit as many men as he deemed necessary and to seek to purchase ships and materials for a navy in Europe. The seizure of Harpers Ferry by Virginian and Confederate forces before the vast naval stores there could be removed or destroyed by the retreating US forces greatly aided in this project and allowed the CSA to equip a small but strong naval force in a relatively short time.
The war that many in the South and the North as well had hoped would not come finally arrived on Southern soil with the invasion of Virginia in July, 1861. Union forces marched south and were met and repulsed by General Joseph E. Johnston’s Army of Virginia near Manassas Junction. A series of running battles throughout the northern portion of the state led finally to the Union forces being forced to withdraw after Johnston’s decisive victory near Culpeper, Virginia. In the Shenandoah Valley General P.G.T. Beauregard likewise conducted a skillful defensive campaign in which he prevented successive Union forces from uniting against him. These battles likewise ended with Union withdrawal from Virginia. The initial campaigns in the East were not without cost as Confederate casualties across the theater were over 35,000 in 4 months of active campaigning and included several officers of note who had won fame in the First Mexican War, among them Brigadier General Thomas Jackson of Virginia.
The Eastern Theater, however, was not the primary focus of the Union war effort in the first year of war. The conventional wisdom was that if the Confederate capital could be taken then the war would be speedily brought to a conclusion. This led many Union planners to focus the majority of their manpower and attention on the West and a drive to Montgomery. In this attempt the US made several blunders which would prove fortunate for the CSA and the outcome of the war. The state of Kentucky, though it, along with Missouri, had sent delegates to the Provisional Congress (now a permanent body with the coming of war) had not seceded and had in fact declared itself a neutral in the conflict. This was unacceptable to Union politicians and generals, who saw a drive through the state as the most direct path to Tennessee and thus to Montgomery. With this overarching strategic goal in mind, Union forces invaded Kentucky in August, 1861. This ill-timed move served to swing public opinion away from neutrality and towards membership in the Confederate States. Kentucky formally seceded on August 18, 1861 and petitioned the Confederacy for membership soon after, a membership which was soon granted and which brought the total number of Confederate States to 12. After so serious a blunder, the situation was compounded by the ham-fisted campaign of Union general U.S. Grant, who attempted to bludgeon his way south to Alabama seemingly over the corpses of his own men. With Confederate river ironclads able to keep the Mississippi mostly free of Union interference and thus allowing CS reinforcement and supply to flow easily, Confederate General James Longstreet conducted a brilliant campaign of defense, inflicting 40,000 casualties on Grant in three months. The final straw was Grant’s ill-advised assault on entrenched CS troops outside Paducah which led to 10,000 US casualties and the General’s own death as he drowned while trying to withdraw to Illinois under fire from CS artillery. Thus ended the initial campaigns in the West.
1862 came with Confederate fortunes in the field at a high tide. Union offensives in East and West had been defeated and the accession of Kentucky to the CSA brought needed manpower and industrial resources to the new nation. The winter season was not spent idly by either side as both continued to raise new armies, seek new strategies and search for ways to bring the war to a speedy conclusion. Early 1862 saw the first Confederate diplomats reach Europe. While purchasing agents for the Navy had been present in European, principally British, cities since mid-1861, formally recognized diplomats had still not been received by any of the nations of Europe. President Toombs sought this recognition as a necessary precondition of forcing the Union to the peace table, as President Lincoln had repeatedly denied the existence of the Confederate States as an independent nation. Toombs’ foreign policy, ably directed by Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, sought to gain diplomatic recognition for the CSA from the United Kingdom, France, Prussia and Russia. While the South had enough trained diplomats to court all four of these nations, the blockade thrown around the Southern coastline by the United States was extremely effective in closing off trans-Atlantic travel and commerce in all but a few cases. The Hampton Roads area, home of Norfolk and the primary Confederate naval shipyard was open to traffic, due to Secretary Mallory’s crash program of ironclad construction which saw a squadron of Southern ironclads led by the flagship CSS Virginia break the Union blockade there and sink the rival US ironclad USS Monitor in late 1861. Union efforts to interdict licensed British shipments to the port city were warned off by British warships which escorted the vital naval machinery. This action, not strictly in keeping with the British policy of neutrality, was justified by the Prime Minister as the Confederacy was clearly acting in self-defense. Lincoln’s invasion of the South opened the conflict and Northern troops and ships fired the first shots of the war, which helped the Southern pleas in European capitals that they were merely fighting to defend themselves immense credence.
Despite this local success, several Confederate ports were effectively closed but for the efforts of blockade runners and so President Toombs was forced to concentrate his efforts of those nations which could bring the most aid the quickest, ergo Britain and France. Diplomats in both countries were received with some warmth but official recognition was not in the offing while the war was still in doubt. Mediation in the conflict without recognition was somewhat more palatable to the two European powers but both waited to see what gains they themselves could gain before they sought to commit themselves to such a course.
As spring began, the Union forces again took the field. The Confederates in western Texas had organized an expedition to the Arizona Territory to try and conquer the sparsely settled land for the CSA. The Territory was claimed by both Union and Confederacy and while Union military resources in the far West were few, they were enough to blunt the Confederate drive and repel the Southerners back into Texas. In the Indian Territory, likewise claimed by both sides, Cherokee, Creek and Choctaw tribes aligned with both nations fought a swirling and ever changing series of battles for control of the territory. Pro-Confederate Cherokee tribes under General Stand Watie took over effective control of half the territory but pro-Union tribes along with some Kansas cavalry units prevented the CSA from cementing control of the Territory. The two sides were essentially locked in a draw which would last until the end of the war.
Missouri was also a battleground, though one not nearly as agreeable to the Confederate government in Montgomery. While a slave state which had sent some delegates to Montgomery, the majority of the state’s population was opposed to slavery. The pro-secession governor, Claiborne F. Jackson, attempted to take the state out of the Union and into the CSA but pro-Union forces throughout the state seized arsenals, called out the militia and with the assistance of irregular forces evicted Jackson and his pro-secession government from the state. These actions effectively ensured Missouri would remain in the United States and though Missouri troops joined others in the Confederate Department of the Trans-Mississippi the possibility of the entire state coming over to the Confederate side was ended.
At sea, though the Confederate Navy was able to keep Norfolk, Virginia open and control the Mississippi, it was unable to resist the much larger Union Navy when it began to assault several of the Sea Islands off the coasts of North and South Carolina. These victories for the Union helped to bolster Northern morale and gave the Union bases from which they could threaten key Southern ports. The most damaging and dangerous Union naval operation was the amphibious invasion and seizure of New Orleans, the gateway of the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico and one of the South’s most important cities. Despite strong resistance from the city’s defenders and a valiant but doomed effort by the Confederate Gulf Squadron the US Navy swept the Confederates from the seas, landed 15,000 men and seized the city. The US Navy then attempted to drive upriver but luckily CS river ironclads were able to bottle up the Union forces south of Nachitoches. Despite this success, the loss of the Crescent City was a heavy blow for the CSA.
The opening offensives in Virginia saw Federal General Burnside leading his 80,000 strong Army of Maryland back into Northern Virginia. General Johnston and his Army of Virginia again skillfully applied the ideas of a strategic defense coupled with a tactical offense and, despite giving up ground, he inflicted several sharp defeats on Union forces culminating in a final, decisive victory at Fredericksburg which evicted Burnside from Virginia and lost him his command. After months of fighting in the Old Dominion Burnside had lost 35,000 casualties and taken some important towns but Richmond remained unconquered and Johnston’s move to cut Burnside off from his supply base in Maryland forced him to return to the North with nothing to show for his efforts. In Western Virginia, however, Union forces scored decisive success. The western portion of the state had never supported secession and leaders in that section had almost immediately organized themselves to counter-secede from the Confederacy back to the United States. An army under Virginian Robert E. Lee invaded the western part of the state and won several small victories using Lee’s daring tactics of splitting his small force to outmaneuver and attack the Federal units in the new Union state. On the cusp of a final victory which could have brought the westerners back into Virginia proper the Federal commander, General George McClellan, wisely concentrated his forces, defeated all three of Lee’s numerically inferior columns in detail and drove the Confederates out of western Virginia with Lee himself falling during the retreat. This ultimate Union victory resulted in the state formed from the western counties naming itself Appalachia and entering the United States.
In the west Union forces again attempted to penetrate Kentucky, cross Tennessee and take the capital at Montgomery. General Longstreet, in overall command of the Army of the West along with his capable subordinates Generals J.E.B. Stuart, Robert Rodes and Barnard Bee effectively resisted the 100,000 men of the Union’s Army of Ohio as they pushed into Kentucky. Longstreet kept his army concentrated and centrally located in Kentucky while the Union commanders moved with little coordination which allowed Longstreet to meet each thrust, defeat it and reform and maneuver into position to meet the next Union attack. By the end of summer three Union offensives had come to grief with nothing to show save for the capture of Louisville, an important city but not vital to the war effort. In return for this Longstreet had inflicted 45,000 casualties while sustaining only 28,000 himself. In addition, except for the Union forces surrounded in Louisville the rest of Kentucky was free of Yankees with the rest of the invading armies having ignominiously retreated back across the Ohio.
As winter 1862 set in and the year’s campaigns drew to a close the Confederacy stood in a strong position. Despite setbacks in Arizona, Missouri, Appalachia, the Sea Islands and most damaging in New Orleans the main Union attacks had been repulsed with heavy losses and little gain. Total US casualties in the war so far were over 160,000 while Confederate losses were approximately 110,000. The policy pressed home by the President, that of drawing Union forces into the South and then inflicting punishing blows once they were exposed, was paying heavy dividends. The selection of generals willing and able to pursue this strategy ensured that Southern armies remained as well supplied as rudimentary Southern manufacturing could keep them while fresh manpower continued to flow to the fighting fronts. The successes of the Confederate Navy kept the Union blockade from completely closing down Southern shipping and ports and prevented the Union from ignoring their new Southern rival. Most importantly, the heavy Union losses along with the introduction of conscription in the United States led to a huge upswing in anti-war sentiment, especially in the Midwest. Lincoln had imprisoned several journalists and anti-war politicians but this only heightened the sense among many in the US that their president had started a war unnecessarily, was now becoming a dictator and was only fighting to save face and to keep his campaign promises. Republicans now found themselves in danger of losing power as meteorically as they had gained it and voices inside the party began to murmur that perhaps it was time to seek peace before things got any worse. Lincoln, typically, wouldn’t listen to reason and continued to insist that the South had to be returned to the Union for there to be any chance at peace, at the point of a bayonet if necessary.
In Montgomery, President Toombs began to hear encouraging words from his agents in Europe. The UK was still not ready to formally recognize the CSA despite Palmerston and Gladstone’s favorable opinion of the Confederacy, bolstered by the war being caused by Union aggression. The string of Confederate victories and the successes of the Confederate Navy in keeping some of the South open to British trade likewise influenced the opinions of these two eminent statesmen. France under Napoleon III, however, was much more open to formal recognition as Confederate agents in Paris promised advantageous trading deals, Southern cotton for French mills at favorable rates. A second inducement was the possibility of Confederate troops entering Mexico to support the French client emperor Maximillian once victory over the US was secured Though the French emperor was his usual canny self, the Confederate diplomats reported to Toombs that the offer enticed the French emperor and could continue to be pursued.
The final year of the Second American Revolution opened in 1863 with new Union generals on both of the principal fronts. In the East, General Meade took command of the Army of Maryland, in the West General Hooker took the Army of Ohio. In this season, however, the Confederates struck first. Longstreet moved against Louisville and in ten days isolated the city from the Ohio River, surrounded it and compelled the Union forces to surrender. In Virginia Johnston, prodded by Secretary of War Davis, moved to invade Maryland. Despite his reluctance the Army of Virginia moved north with 68,000 men and succeeded in crossing the Potomac and taking Frederick, Maryland. This forced Meade to act and he moved to eject Johnston from the first Northern state to feel the presence of Southern arms. In three days of battle Johnston expertly positioned his forces to counter the succession of Yankee attacks and drove Meade’s attacking army of 80,000 from the field with 15,000 casualties in a near rout. The reserve divisions under General John Bell Hood attacked Meade’s rearguard and caused the Army of Maryland to nearly disintegrate as it withdrew north into Pennsylvania. Panic gripped Washington DC as the Confederates turned south and moved towards the capital. In desperation, Lincoln threw fresh forces against the victorious Southerners and forced his armies in the West to press into Kentucky once again in an attempt to draw Confederate attention away from the East. At this point the brittle Union morale of the last two years finally cracked. Widespread mutinies occurred in most of the field armies. State militias called out to stem the Confederate tide melted away at first contact with the warriors in gray. Draft riots made further conscription impossible. Faced with disaster in the East and defeat in the West as Longstreet again pummeled Union forces attempting to cross the Ohio the Republican cabinet and members of Congress finally abandoned Dishonest Abe and forced him to seek a peace treaty. On June 11, 1863 Lincoln telegraphed Montgomery requesting an armistice. President Toombs agreed. Johnston halted his army 20 miles north of Washington and fortified his position while Longstreet built defenses on the shores of the Ohio. On June 13, the armistice went into effect. On June 18, France officially recognized the CSA, followed by the UK on June 21.
Union and Confederate diplomats met in Washington to formalize a final treaty from July 6-18, 1863. The South, flushed with victory at first demanded harsh terms, as the war was entirely the result of Northern aggression. Claims on Maryland, Appalachia, Delaware, Arizona, Missouri and the Indian Territory were all pressed, most vociferously by Vice-President Rhett. President Toombs, however, exercised his vaunted discretion and sagacity in pressing only mild terms. The final provisions of the Treaty of Washington were remarkably mild, which led to some anger in Southern circles, particularly the fire eaters. Toombs, and many other, however saw that the two nations would need to live alongside one another from here on out and a harsh treaty was the shortest way to another war.
The provisions of the Treaty:
- The independence of the 12 states of the CSA formally recognized by the USA
- The CSA renounced all claims to Maryland, Missouri, Appalachia and Delaware
- The Indian Territory awarded to the CSA
- A commission appointed to survey the Arizona Territory and recommend a final settlement within two years of the treaty coming into effect
- An indemnity of 20 million US dollars payable in specie from the USA to the CSA over a period of three years
Final territorial settlement at the end of the Second American Revolution