|“||In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-the greatest material interest of the world.
|~ Mississippi's declaration of secession from the United States.|
The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or the Confederacy, was an unrecognized breakaway state that existed from February 8, 1861, to May 9, 1865, and that fought against the United States of America during the American Civil War. Eleven states with declarations of secession from the Union formed the main part of the CSA. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Kentucky and Missouri also had declarations of secession and full representation in the Confederate Congress during their Union army occupation.
The CSA was mostly formed around the principles of state's rights (the idea that individual states should be able to operate independent of the Federal government) and upholding African slavery, white supremacy, and the slave trade, which they believed the Federal government intended to abolish. In particular, they believed that the Federal government intended to prevent the further expansion of slavery into the Western territories, as President Abraham Lincoln was a member of the free soil Republican party.
The Confederacy was formed on February 8, 1861 by an initial seven slave states: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. All seven of the states were located in the Deep South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture—particularly cotton—and a plantation system that relied upon slaves of African descent for labor. Convinced that white supremacy and the institution of slavery were threatened by the November 1860 election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the U.S. presidency, on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories, the Confederacy declared its secession from the United States, with the loyal states becoming known as the Union during the ensuing American Civil War. In a speech known today as the Cornerstone Address, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens described its ideology as centrally based "upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition".
Before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, a provisional Confederate government was established on February 8, 1861. It was considered illegal by the United States federal government, and many Northerners thought of the Confederates as traitors. After war began in April, four slave states of the Upper South—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—also joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy later accepted the slave states of Missouri and Kentucky as members, accepting rump state assembly declarations of secession as authorization for full delegations of representatives and senators in the Confederate Congress; they were never substantially controlled by Confederate forces, despite the efforts of Confederate shadow governments, which were eventually expelled. The government of the United States (the Union) rejected the claims of secession as illegitimate.
The first three months of 1865 saw the Federal Carolinas Campaign, devastating a wide swath of the remaining Confederate heartland. The "breadbasket of the Confederacy" in the Great Valley of Virginia was occupied by Philip Sheridan. The Union Blockade captured Fort Fisher in North Carolina, and Sherman finally took Charleston, South Carolina, by land attack.
The Confederacy controlled no ports, harbors or navigable rivers. Railroads were captured or had ceased operating. Its major food producing regions had been war-ravaged or occupied. Its administration survived in only three pockets of territory holding only one-third of its population. Its armies were defeated or disbanding. At the February 1865 Hampton Roads Conference with Lincoln, senior Confederate officials rejected his invitation to restore the Union with compensation for emancipated slaves. The three pockets of unoccupied Confederacy were southern Virginia – North Carolina, central Alabama – Florida, and Texas, the latter two areas less from any notion of resistance than from the disinterest of Federal forces to occupy them. The Davis policy was independence or nothing, while Lee's army was wracked by disease and desertion, barely holding the trenches defending Jefferson Davis' capital.
The Confederacy's last remaining blockade-running port, Wilmington, North Carolina, was lost. When the Union broke through Lee's lines at Petersburg, Richmond fell immediately. Lee surrendered a remnant of 50,000 from the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. "The Surrender" marked the end of the Confederacy. Five days later, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by Confederate loyalist John Wilkes Booth in retaliation.
The CSS Stonewall sailed from Europe to break the Union blockade in March; on making Havana, Cuba, it surrendered. Some high officials escaped to Europe, but President Davis was captured May 10; all remaining Confederate land forces surrendered by June 1865. The U.S. Army took control of the Confederate areas without post-surrender insurgency or guerrilla warfare against them, but peace was subsequently marred by a great deal of local violence, feuding and revenge killings. The last confederate military unit, the commerce raider CSS Shenandoah, surrendered on November 6, 1865 in Liverpool.
Historian Gary Gallagher concluded that the Confederacy capitulated in early 1865 because northern armies crushed "organized southern military resistance". The Confederacy's population, soldier and civilian, had suffered material hardship and social disruption. They had expended and extracted a profusion of blood and treasure until collapse; "the end had come". Jefferson Davis' assessment in 1890 determined, "With the capture of the capital, the dispersion of the civil authorities, the surrender of the armies in the field, and the arrest of the President, the Confederate States of America disappeared ... their history henceforth became a part of the history of the United States."
After the war, Confederate states were readmitted to the Congress during the Reconstruction era, after each ratified the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing slavery.
The Ku Klux Klan was founded by disaffected former Confederate generals in Tennessee in December 1865 as a way of continuing the legacy and original mission of the Confederacy. The Klan would go on to become the most infamous and violent hate group in American history.
In later years, the "Lost Cause of the Confederacy" was developed. The Lost Cause was an idealized view of the Confederacy, depicting the CSA as valiantly fighting for a just cause. It emerged in the decades after the war among former Confederate generals and politicians, as well as organizations such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Particularly intense periods of Lost Cause activity developed around the time of World War I, and during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s in reaction to growing public support for racial equality. Lost Cause advocates sought to ensure future generations of Southern whites would continue to support white supremacist policies such as the Jim Crow laws through activities such as building prominent Confederate monuments and writing school history textbooks to paint the Confederacy in a favorable light. The "Lost Cause" has become a common rallying ideology for many Alt-Right groups of the modern era.
The modern display of Confederate flags primarily started during the 1948 presidential election when the battle flag was used by the Dixiecrats in opposition to the Civil Rights Movement and segregationists continue the practice as a rallying flag for demonstrations to the present day.