When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 the pro-slavery Southern States feared that their way of life was under threat. They seceded from the United States and formed their own separate government.
The Confederate States of America lasted for four years and three months. It was formed in February 1861 when several American states formed their own government and ceased to exist in May 1865 when the Confederacy was defeated in the American Civil War.
The Confederate States of America was intended to be a separate nation, but it never gained legitimacy or international recognition. During most of its existence, it was engaged in a war with the Union states, and although it was defeated it still has a cultural legacy today.
The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 prompted several Southern states to leave the Union and create their own federal country. South Carolina was the first to leave in December 1860 and it was swiftly joined by another six states.
A provisional Confederate government was formed in February 1861 when representatives of the states met in Monterey, Alabama. It used the US constitution as its basis but had crucial differences in relation to the protection of slavery.
Jefferson Davis, a former US senator, was chosen as the first president. A further four states joined the Confederacy and in November 1861 elections were held to elect members of the newly constituted Confederate Congress and to confirm Davis as president.
The Confederacy quickly moved to create all the symbols of a national government such as its own currency, stamps, and a national flag known as the “stars and bars”. Although it looked and acted like a separate nation it was never recognized internationally, and they were regarded as rebel states.
President Davis initially sought to maintain peace with their northern neighbors, but war was inevitable. The first shots were fired on 12 April 1861 when Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumpter and when the United States retaliated a full-blown civil war ensued.
The Confederates enjoyed initial success, with victory at the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. In May 1862 Robert E. Lee was appointed as general of the Confederate forces and was instrumental in much of their military success.
He secured important victories over the Union at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, but his aggressive tactics resulted in the heavy loss of men. At the decisive Battle of Gettysburg in November 1863 Lee was defeated and 28,000 Confederate soldiers were killed.
The Battle of Gettysburg wiped out about a third of Lee’s army and marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. The Confederate states did not have the manpower, the industrial infrastructure, or the finance to wage a long-term war.
The economy of the Confederate States was based on the export of cotton. There were very few engineering firms that could manufacture the vast quantity of guns, ammunition, and other material that was required to supply a large army.
The Union forces successfully blockaded the southern ports to cut off the supply of weapons, food, and clothing. It also preventing cotton from being exported and restricting the amount of money coming into the country.
The Confederate government responded by printing more money, which led to high inflation, and ultimately the currency became almost worthless. This meant that soldiers could not be paid and even if supplies could enter the country, they could not afford to be purchased.
The poorly equipped Confederate army became badly demoralized which affected their ability to fight. After a series of defeats, General Lee finally surrendered at Appomattox in April 1865.
The war continued with a few minor skirmishes until the final terms of surrender were completed on 2 June 1865. With military defeat confirmed, the Confederate States ceased to exist, and the rebel states gradually rejoined the Union.
Although the Confederacy officially ended in 1865 its legacy can still be felt today. Some parts of the southern community keep the spirit of the confederacy going by flying confederate flags and holding rallies.
The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 resulted in most states banning the official use of the Confederate flag and Mississippi voted to change its state flag, which had incorporated the stars and bars. Statues of some Confederate heroes have also been removed.
The official use of the Confederate flag may have ended in 2020, but white supremacists continue to rally around its use.