The Confederate States Of America Essay, Research Paper
A culture is the beliefs and interests of a particular group of people. About 150 years ago, a proud and noble culture was created in the Southern portion of the United States. It was created by Southerners from all walks of life, ranging from the gentry to the “good ol’ boys.” They loved their culture so much that they created a country. It was a country of blue skies, green hills, beautiful meadows and forests, and old-fashioned Southern hospitality. There were large plantations that grew some of the finest crops in the world. Though this country seemed Utopian, its creation soon instituted the bloodiest war in American history, the War For Southern Independence. The beautiful countryside suddenly became a battlefield. The blue skies turned gray with the smoke of rifles and cannons. The blood of Rebels and Yankees stained the grass as the meadows and forests became overwhelmed with the foul stench of death. Johnny Reb fought hard for what he believed in and what he thought to be right. Though the “boys in gray” lost the greatest battle of their lives, they and their ancestors still hold a special place in their hearts for this short-lived nation. This nation was independent for roughly four years, but the legacy of the Confederate States of America will not be forgotten.
As far as the Constitution of the Confederate States goes, it was not all that different from that of the United States. One difference is that it enables the president to serve a six-year term, as opposed to a four-year term in the United States. Also, the Confederate Congress is prohibited from placing a protective tariff on imported items and goods. The last major difference is that the Constitution grants more reserved powers to state government. In the United States Constitution, state governments had less of these powers. This was the major cause of the War, because Southern states felt that each state should have more reserved powers. Just as the United States government, the Confederate government was divided into three major branches: legislative, judicial, and executive branches. The legislative branch was known as the Confederate Congress. The components of the Confederate Congress were a Senate and a House of Representatives. District courts were the primary components of the judicial branch. A supreme court was never established, because of continuing controversy over the matter. The executive branch of the Confederate government was divided into six different departments. They are the Departments of State, Treasury, War, Navy, Justice, and the Post Office.
Unlike that of the North, the economy of the South was based on agriculture and plantations. The cash crop of the time was cotton, which was shipped to many different countries. There was very little immigration to the South, therefore there were not many cities and there were very few factories. “Slavery was an asset” to the Confederate States. It provided cheap labor for the South’s numerous plantations. Inflation rose so high that Confederate money became almost worthless. The government had printed between one and two billion dollars in paper money. About five hundred million dollars in “notes and fractional currency” was issued. The Southern economy was badly hurt for years.
When Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States, the Southern states began to secede from the Union. There were eleven original Confederate states. Twenty-three states remained in the Union. The population of the Confederacy was about nine million and the Union population was about twenty-three million. Although the Union had greater naval power, the Confederate States had easier access to transportation for troop movements. Northern armies were given the names for rivers, such as the Army of the Potomac, but Southern armies were named for regions, such as the Army of Northern Virginia. The Union usually referred to battles by the name of the nearest stream; however, the Confederates referred to them by the name of the nearest town or community.
On December 20, 1860, South Carolina officially seceded from the Union by a unanimous vote. From Januray 9, 1861 to February 1, six more states joined South Carolina and seceded. These states included Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Southern delegates from these states met in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, to set up a government. Five days later, the delegates elected Jefferson Davis as president and Alexander Stephens was elected vice-president. On March 11, a constitution was adopted for the Confederate States of America. On April 12, at approximately 4:30 a.m., the War For Southern Independence began. Confederate soldiers opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Fort Sumter surrendered even though there were no casulaties on either side. From April 17 to May 20, four more states seceded from the Union. They included Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The day after North Carolina’s secession, Richmond, Virginia was chosen as the capital of the Confederate States and Robert E. Lee resigned from the United States Army in order to fight for his homeland. The first Battle of Bull Run occurred at Manassas Junction, Virginia on July 21. General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson led the Confederate forces to a victory.
On February 6, 1862, Fort Henry fell at the hands of Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Ten days later, General Grant captured Fort Donelson. On the morning of March 9, the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. Merrimac engaged the Union ironclad U.S.S. Monitor. After an inconclusive battle, the Merrimac retreated. The United States Navy never again used a wooden ship. The Confederate Congress passed the Conscription Act on April 16, due to lack of enlistment. The same day, Union Admiral David G. Farragut took New Orleans. On June 3, Union Generals Grant, Henry Halleck, and Don Carlos Buell captured Memphis, Tennessee. The bloodiest battle of the war, thus far, occured from September 17 to 18. Union General George B. McClellan defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s forces at the Battle of Antietam.
On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect and the slaves were freed. Early in March, the Union followed the example of the Confederacy and passed the Conscription Act. General Lee attacked Union General Joseph Hooker at Chancellorsville, Virginia on May 2. Lee and Jackson defeated Hooker, but Jackson was accidentally shot by one of his own men and his left arm was amputated. Eight days later, General Jackson died of the effects of the amputation and pneumonia. From May 16 to 18, General Grant laid siege to Vicksburg, Mississippi. the Western counties of Virginia broke away and West Virginia was admitted was admitted to the Union on June 20. On July 1, the Battle of Gettysburg began. Union General George G. Meade defeated General Lee after four fierce days of battle. Casualties on both sides were very high, as it was the bloodiest battle of the War. On July 9, Union forces took Port Hudson, Louisiana. The Union now controlled the Mississippi River. President Lincoln remarked, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” Confederate General Braxton Bragg attacked Union General William S. Rosecrans on September 19. The two-day battle of Chickamauga began. Union forces were badly defeated. On November 19, President Lincoln made his famous Gettysburg Address. Statesman Edward Everett, who spoke for two hours before, wrote to Lincoln, “I should be gald if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes.”
Union General Grant was appointed commander in chief of all Union forces on March 9, 1864. From September 2 to November 14, Union General William T. Sherman razed Atlanta and a large portion of Georgia. On February 3, 1865, peace talks between President Lincoln and Vice-President Stephens failed. General Lee made his final attack of the War on April 1, but did not succeed. Six days later, General Lee received General Grant’s message requesting surrender. On April 9, at about 1:30 p.m., almost exactly four years since the War began, General Lee surrendered to General Grant in Appomattox Court House, which is close to where the War originally began. Five days later, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. On May 29, President Andrew Johnson issued reconstruction plans.
The most conflicting issue after the War was reconstruction of the South. Some wanted a swift, harsh reconstruction plan. This was known as radical reconstruction. The United States Congress preferred radical reconstruction, so that the South would be punished for its secession. President Lincoln did not approve of such a reconstruction plan. Lincoln wanted a more lenient reconstruction in order to bring the North and the South back together. His plan was to pardon all Confederates if an oath of loyalty to the United States was taken. After Lincoln’s assassination, Andrew Johnson became president. President Johnson also defied Congress by issuing the more lenient reconstruction.
Contrary to popular belief, there were many black soldiers who voluntarily fought for the Confederate States. The estimated number of black soldiers fighting for the Confederacy range from 38,000 men to 90,000 men. At the start of the War, blacks were not allowed to enlist in the Confederate Army. Confederate Major General Patrick Cleburne was the first to support the enlistment of blacks.
Of all the factors in the War, sicknesses and diseases killed more soldiers than any other. Illnesses such as measles and chicken pox were very common and affected many soldiers. Whole batallions could be stricken with dysentery from bad or undercooked meat. Soldiers injured in battle wound often die from from minor wounds. Gangrene often developed in the wounds, resulting in amputation or death.
At times, the Confederates had plenty of food, but usually, there was not nearly enough. Not eating for days was a common occurence. Those who could cook well were “highly appreciated.” When food was very scarce, “slosh” was made. It is a mixture of boiled bacon grease, flour, and water. To make a “slap jack,” less water and less bacon grease were added. Soldiers in the field often relied on poor slices of fat meat, usually pork, and biscuits, known as “hard tack.” When able, a Confederate soldier would fry the hard tack in grease. Though it was despised and done only when hunger became too severe, soldiers would scour the battlefield in search of food in possession of the dead. “If there is anything which will overcome the natural abhorrence which a man feels for the enemy, the loathing of the bloated dead and the awe engendered by the presence of death, solitude and silence, it is hunger.”
Foragers often returned with nothing, but sometimes returned “well laden with good things.” Wild fruits and sorghum was sought by soldiers. Sorghum was made into a sweet beverage. Union troops were laden with items such as coffee, sugar, bread, crackers, beef, vegetables, peaches, lobsters, tomatoes, milk, soda, salt, liquors, wines, cigars, and tobacco. Confederates usually obtained food from farmers, but never by force. Those who could, often worked for local farmers doing chores. Farmers gave soldiers money or food in return for their services. Confederate soldiers craved corn. The corn was roasted and, to everyone’s delight, made a “grateful meal.” There are a few accounts of corn being stolen from fields.
Jefferson Davis was born on June 3, 1808 in Kentucky. Davis was enrolled at Transylvania University in Lexington. He graduated from the United States Military academy in 1828. Davis fought in the Mexican War and was wounded at Buena Vista. He resigned from the Army, in 1835, due to his health. Davis was a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1835 to 1846 and 1857 to 1861. Davis withdrew from the Senate, in 1861, when Mississippi seceeded from the Union. He was elected President of the Confederate States on February 18, 1861 and was inaugurated in Richmond, Virginia on February 22, 1862. Governers of the states were against Davis’ wish to have high military officers appointed by the president. Davis received recognition for raising such a formidable army with so few resources and his encouragement of industry in the South. His courage and faith inspired Confederate soldiers. After the War, on May 10, 1865, Davis was captured by federal troops at Irwinville, Georgia. He was imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was released on a bond of $100,000. Davis lived in Biloxi, Mississippi from 1878 until his death, on December 6, 1889, in New Orleans. Jefferson Davis is buried in Richmond, Virginia.
Robert Edward Lee was born on January 19, 1807 in Stratford, Virginia. His father was Revolutionary War hero Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee and his mother was Ann Hill Carter Lee. Robert was their fourth child and was raised as a Christian. He graduated second in his class at the United States Military Academy. Lee received no demerits as a cadet and was given a commission as an engineer. Lee married Mary Custis, who was George and Martha Washington’s granddaughter. In 1845, when the Mexican War began, Lee was appointed to General Winfield Scott’s staff. Lee learned many skills and got to know many people he would later side with and fight against on the battlefield. He worked with men such as James Longstreet, Thomas J. Jackson, George Pickett, and Ulysses S. Grant. Lee became one of the best officers in the United States. Though it was offered to him, Lee refused command of the Union Army. He was openly against secession, but his homeland of Virginia seceeded. Thus, Lee resigned from the Union Army and he was made a general in the Confederate Army. After the War, Lee became President of Washington College. The college later changed its named to Washington and Lee. He moved into the Custis Mansion near Washington, D.C. The mansion now overlooks Arlington National Cemetery. Robert Edward Lee died in 1870.
John Williams Jones wrote of Lee, “He possessed every virtue of the great commanders, without their vices. He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy; and a man wihtout guilt. He was a Caesar without his ambition; a Frederick without his tyranny; a Napoleon without his selfishness; and a Washington without his reward. He was obedient to authority as a servant, and loyal in authority as a true king. He was gentle as a woman in life; modest and pure as a virgin in thought; watchful as a Roman vestal in duty; submissive to law as Socrates; and grand in battle as Achilles.”
Though it has been long gone, the Confederate States of America has not been forgotten by any American. It left such an impact on American history that it will be long remembered. In his last address to the people, Jefferson Davis said it best, “It would be unwise, even were it possible, to conceal the great moral as well as material injury to our cause that must result from the occupation of Richmond by the enemy. It is equally unwise and unworthy of us, as patriots engaged in a most sacred cause, to allow our energies to falter, our spirits to grow faint, or our efforts to become relaxed under reverses, however calamitous. While it has been a source of national pride that for four years of unequaled warfare we have been able, in close proximity to the center of the enemy’s power, to maintain the seat of our chosen government free from the pollution of his presence; while the memories of the heroic dead who have freely given their lives to its defense must ever remain enshrined in our hearts; while the preservation of the capital, which is usually regarded as the evidence to mankind of a separate existence, was an abject very dear to us, it is also true, and should not be forgotten, that the loss which we have suffered is not without compensation.”
P.S.: I wrote this in 1999. Unfortunately, I have lost my bibliography notes since then. I express my deepest apologies to the author’s of my sources. I assure you that if I do manage to locate my sources, I will give them credit where credit is due. I hope you understand.