The Confederate States of America were born in 1861 and suffered many disappointments in its short life. The Confederacy never achieved recognition by any other nation and prosecuted a war which had no formal end. The Civil War began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, which preceded the secession of four states which were critical to the Confederacy – Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The Southern leaders who led the formation of the Confederacy were unabashed in their support of the slavery system. Its Vice-President, Alexander Stephens stated clearly that the new government formed by the seceding states rested 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.”
Both Delaware and Maryland were states in which slavery was legal but neither chose to join the Confederacy, although Maryland did send troops to fight in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate Government entered into treaties with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Tribes, and granted representation for the Five Civilized Tribes in the Confederate Congress. As in the United States Constitution, a site for a new capital city for the Confederacy was specified in its Constitution, although it was never built and Richmond, Virginia served as the Capital for most of the war.
Here are some interesting facts regarding the Confederate States of America which are often overlooked.
Government Intervention in Private Industry
Although the Confederate States seceded in part to support the rights of freedmen and to limit the intrusion of federal government it quickly established national policies which seized property and forced compliance with the war effort. The South had a widely agrarian economy and little industry in comparison to the North, but nonetheless would have been ranked as the fourth richest economy in the world in 1860 had it been recognized as independent of the United States.
In both agriculture and manufacturing a significant portion of the work force was slave labor. Richmond’s Tredegar Iron Works, the third largest in North America, used slaves for almost half of its work force. Nearby the Gallego Flour Mills was the largest producer of high quality milled flour in the world. It too used a significant number of slaves to support operations.
The Confederate Government almost immediately sought to seize control of industry and agriculture in the Confederacy. Nearly all of the products produced by Confederate factories and farms were needed to support the war effort, and Conscription acts passed in 1862 and 1863 gave the government authority to dispense exemptions to those who filled government contracts – thus protecting their workers from being subject to the draft while supplying the government.
Though the North far excelled the Confederacy in manufacturing, 70% of pre-secession exports from the United States had come from the South. The combination of a confused tariff policy, with local interests outweighing those of the government in Richmond and the Union blockade of Southern ports soon stripped the Confederacy of this economic advantage.
Early in the war cotton growers and brokers hoarded their bales in the hope of obtaining higher prices from Europe due to shortages of the commodity. This severely weakened the cash flow to the Southern Railroads, which moved cotton from the inland plantations to the ports. The loss of jobs as a result left the railroads in a poor position to support the war effort and the Confederate Government responded by 1863 when it placed control of all Southern Railroads in the hands of its military commanders.