Confederate States of America

Confederate States of America

Flag of Confederate States of America
Flag (1861–63)

Great Seal (1863–65)

Motto: “Deo Vindice” (Latin)
“Under God, our Vindicator”

  • None official
  • “God Save the South” (unofficial)
  • “The Bonnie Blue Flag” (popular)
  • “Dixie” (de facto)
The Confederate States in 1862 in dark green. Light green denotes claims made by the Confederacy. Medium green denotes western counties of Virginia that separated from that State and were admitted to the Union as West Virginia. Teal denotes the still contested Indian Territory.

The Confederate States in 1862 in dark green. Light green denotes claims made by the Confederacy. Medium green denotes western counties of Virginia that separated from that State and were admitted to the Union as West Virginia. Teal denotes the still contested Indian Territory.
Status Unrecognized state[1]
  • Montgomery, Alabama (until May 29, 1861)
  • Richmond, Virginia (until April 3, 1865)
Common languages English (de facto)
Government Federal/Confederal presidential non-partisan republic
• 1861–1865
Jefferson Davis
Vice President  
• 1861–1865
Alexander H. Stephens
Legislature Congress
• Upper house
• Lower house
House of Representatives
Historical era
  • American Civil War / International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919)
• Provisional constitution
February 8 1861
• American Civil War
April 12, 1861
• Permanent constitution
February 22, 1862
• Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia
April 9, 1865
• Military Collapse
April 26, 1865
• Dissolution
May 5, 1865
18601 1,995,392 km2 (770,425 sq mi)
• 18601
• Slaves2
  • Confederate States dollar
  • State currencies

Preceded by

Succeeded by
South Carolina
North Carolina
Arizona Territory
West Virginia
North Carolina
South Carolina
Arizona Territory
Today part of  United States

  •  Alabama
  •  Arizona
  •  Arkansas
  •  Florida
  •  Georgia
  •  Louisiana
  •  Mississippi
  •  New Mexico
  •  North Carolina
  •  South Carolina
  •  Tennessee
  •  Texas
  •  Virginia
  •  West Virginia
  • 1 Area and population values do not include Missouri, Kentucky, or the Arizona Territory. Water area: 5.7%.
  • 2 Slaves included in above population (1860 Census).

The Confederate States of America (CSA or C.S.), commonly referred to as the Confederacy and the South, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.[2]

Each state declared its secession from the United States, which became known as the Union during the ensuing civil war, following 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. Before Lincoln took office in March, a new Confederate government was established in February 1861, which was considered illegal by the government of the United States. States volunteered militia units and the new government hastened to form its own Confederate States Army from scratch practically overnight. After the American Civil War began in April, four slave states of the Upper South—Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina—also declared their secession and joined the Confederacy. The Confederacy later accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members, although neither officially declared secession nor were they ever largely controlled by Confederate forces; Confederate shadow governments attempted to control the two states but were later exiled from them.

Map of the division of the states in the American Civil War (1861–1865). Blue (the U.S. Army’s uniform color) indicates the northern Union states; light blue represents five Union states that permitted slavery (border states). Red represents southern seceded states in rebellion, also known as the Confederate States of America. Uncolored areas were U.S. territories, with the exception of the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma).

The government of the United States (the Union) rejected the claims of secession and considered the Confederacy illegally founded. The War began with the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, a Union fort in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. No foreign government officially recognized the Confederacy as an independent country,[1][3][4] although Great Britain and France granted it belligerent status, which allowed Confederate agents to contract with private concerns for arms and other supplies. In early 1865, after four years of heavy fighting which led to 620,000–850,000 military deaths,[5][6] all the Confederate forces surrendered and the Confederacy vanished. The war lacked a formal end; nearly all Confederate forces had been forced into surrender or deliberately disbanded by the end of 1865, by which point the dwindling manpower and resources of the Confederacy were facing overwhelming odds.[2] By 1865, Jefferson Davis lamented that the Confederacy had “disappeared”.[7]

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  • 1 Span of control
  • 2 History

    • 2.1 A revolution in disunion

      • 2.1.1 Causes of secession
      • 2.1.2 Secessionists and conventions
      • 2.1.3 Attempts to thwart secession
      • 2.1.4 Inauguration and response
    • 2.2 Secession

      • 2.2.1 States
      • 2.2.2 Territories
      • 2.2.3 Capitals
    • 2.3 Unionism
    • 2.4 Diplomacy

      • 2.4.1 United States, a foreign power
      • 2.4.2 International diplomacy
    • 2.5 Confederacy at war

      • 2.5.1 Motivations of soldiers
      • 2.5.2 Military strategy
      • 2.5.3 Armed forces

        • Raising troops
        • Conscription
      • 2.5.4 Victories: 1861
      • 2.5.5 Incursions: 1862
      • 2.5.6 Anaconda: 1863–64
      • 2.5.7 Collapse: 1865
    • 2.6 Postwar history

      • 2.6.1 Amnesty and treason issue
      • 2.6.2 Texas v. White
    • 2.7 Theories regarding the Confederacy’s demise

      • 2.7.1 “Died of states’ rights”
      • 2.7.2 “Died of Davis”
  • 3 Government and politics

    • 3.1 Political divisions
    • 3.2 Constitution

      • 3.2.1 Executive
      • 3.2.2 Administration and cabinet
      • 3.2.3 Legislative
      • 3.2.4 Judicial
      • 3.2.5 Post Office
    • 3.3 Civil liberties
  • 4 Economy

    • 4.1 Slaves
    • 4.2 Political economy

      • 4.2.1 National production
    • 4.3 Transportation systems

      • 4.3.1 Horses and mules
    • 4.4 Financial instruments
    • 4.5 Food shortages and riots
    • 4.6 Devastation by 1865
    • 4.7 Effect on women and families
  • 5 National flags
  • 6 Geography

    • 6.1 Region and climate
  • 7 Demographics

    • 7.1 Population
    • 7.2 Rural and urban population
    • 7.3 Religion
  • 8 Military leaders
  • 9 See also
  • 10 Notes
  • 11 References
  • 12 Further reading

    • 12.1 Overviews and reference
    • 12.2 Historiography
    • 12.3 State studies

      • 12.3.1 Border states
      • 12.3.2 Alabama and Mississippi
      • 12.3.3 Florida and Georgia
      • 12.3.4 Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and West
      • 12.3.5 North and South Carolina
      • 12.3.6 Virginia
    • 12.4 Social history, blacks, women
    • 12.5 Intellectual history
    • 12.6 Political history
    • 12.7 Foreign affairs
    • 12.8 Economic history
    • 12.9 Primary sources
  • 13 External links

Span of control

On February 22, 1862, the Confederate Constitution of seven state signatories – Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas – replaced the Provisional Constitution of February 8, 1861, with one stating in its preamble a desire for a “permanent federal government”. Four additional slave-holding states – Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina – declared their secession and joined the Confederacy following a call by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln for troops from each state to recapture Sumter and other seized federal properties in the South.[8]

Missouri and Kentucky were represented by partisan factions adopting the forms of state governments without control of substantial territory or population in either case. The antebellum state governments in both maintained their representation in the Union. Also fighting for the Confederacy were two of the “Five Civilized Tribes” – the Choctaw and the Chickasaw – in Indian Territory and a new, but uncontrolled, Confederate Territory of Arizona. Efforts by certain factions in Maryland to secede were halted by federal imposition of martial law; Delaware, though of divided loyalty, did not attempt it. A Unionist government was formed in opposition to the secessionist state government in Richmond and administered the western parts of Virginia that had been occupied by Federal troops. The Restored Government later recognized the new state of West Virginia, which was admitted to the Union during the war on June 20, 1863, and re-located to Alexandria for the rest of the war.[8]

Confederate control over its claimed territory and population in congressional districts steadily shrank from 73% to 34% during the course of the American Civil War due to the Union’s successful overland campaigns, its control of the inland waterways into the South, and its blockade of the southern coast.[9] With the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the Union made abolition of slavery a war goal (in addition to reunion). As Union forces moved southward, large numbers of plantation slaves were freed. Many joined the Union lines, enrolling in service as soldiers, teamsters and laborers. The most notable advance was Sherman’s “March to the Sea” in late 1864. Much of the Confederacy’s infrastructure was destroyed, including telegraphs, railroads and bridges. Plantations in the path of Sherman’s forces were severely damaged. Internal movement became increasingly difficult for Southerners, weakening the economy and limiting army mobility.[10]

These losses created an insurmountable disadvantage in men, materiel, and finance. Public support for Confederate President Jefferson Davis’s administration eroded over time due to repeated military reverses, economic hardships, and allegations of autocratic government. After four years of campaigning, Richmond was captured by Union forces in April 1865. A few days later General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant, effectively signalling the collapse of the Confederacy. President Davis was captured on May 10, 1865, and jailed in preparation for a treason trial that was ultimately never held.[11]


Evolution of the Confederate States, December 20, 1860 – July 15, 1870

The initial Confederacy was established in the Montgomery Convention in February 1861 by seven states (South Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, adding Texas in March before Lincoln’s inauguration), expanded in May–July 1861 (with Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina), and was disintegrated in April–May 1865. It was formed by delegations from seven slave states of the Lower South that had proclaimed their secession from the Union. After the fighting began in April, four additional slave states seceded and were admitted. Later, two slave states (Missouri and Kentucky) and two territories were given seats in the Confederate Congress. Southern California, although having some pro-Confederate sentiment, was never organized as a territory.

Many southern whites had considered themselves more Southern than American[12][13] and were prepared to fight for their state and their region to be independent of the larger nation. That regionalism became a Southern nationalism, or the “Cause”. For the duration of its existence, the Confederacy underwent trial by war.[14] The “Southern Cause” transcended the ideology of states’ rights, tariff policy, or internal improvements. This “Cause” supported, or descended from, cultural and financial dependence on the South’s slavery-based economy. The convergence of race and slavery, politics, and economics raised almost all South-related policy questions to the status of moral questions over way of life, commingling love of things Southern and hatred of things Yankee (the North). Not only did national political parties split, but national churches and interstate families as well divided along sectional lines as the war approached.[15] According to historian John M. Coski,

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The statesmen who led the secession movement were unashamed to explicitly cite the defense of slavery as their prime motive … Acknowledging the centrality of slavery to the Confederacy is essential for understanding the Confederate.[16]

Southern Democrats had chosen John Breckinridge as their candidate during the U.S. presidential election of 1860, but in no Southern state (other than South Carolina, where the legislature chose the electors) was support for him unanimous; all of the other states recorded at least some popular votes for one or more of the other three candidates (Abraham Lincoln, Stephen A. Douglas and John Bell). Support for these candidates, collectively, ranged from significant to an outright majority, with extremes running from 25% in Texas to 81% in Missouri.[17] There were minority views everywhere, especially in the upland and plateau areas of the South, with western Virginia and eastern Tennessee of particular concentration.[18]

Following South Carolina’s unanimous 1860 secession vote, no other Southern states considered the question until 1861, and when they did none had a unanimous vote. All had residents who cast significant numbers of Unionist votes in either the legislature, conventions, popular referendums, or in all three. Voting to remain in the Union did not necessarily mean that individuals were northern sympathizers. Once hostilities began, many of these who voted to remain in the Union, particularly in the Deep South, accepted the majority decision, and supported the Confederacy.[19]

The American Civil War became an American tragedy, what some scholars termed the “Brothers’ War”, pitting “brother against brother, father against son, kin against kin of every degree”.[20][21]

A revolution in disunion

According to historian Avery O. Craven in 1950, the Confederate States of America was created by secessionists in Southern slave states who believed that the federal government was making them second-class citizens and refused to honor their belief that slavery was beneficial to the Negro.[22] They judged the agent of change to be abolitionists and anti-slavery elements in the Republican Party, whom they believed used repeated insult and injury to subject them to intolerable “humiliation and degradation”.[22] The “Black Republicans” (as the Southerners called them) and their allies soon dominated the U.S. House, Senate, and Presidency. On the U.S. Supreme Court, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (a presumed supporter of slavery) was 83 years old, and ailing.

During the campaign for president in 1860, some secessionists threatened disunion should Lincoln (who opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories) be elected, most notably William L. Yancey. Yancey toured the North calling for secession as Stephen A. Douglas toured the South calling for union in the event of Lincoln’s election.[23] To the Secessionists the Republican intent was clear: to contain slavery within its present bounds, and, eventually, to eliminate it entirely. A Lincoln victory presented them with a momentous choice (as they saw it), even before his inauguration – “the Union without slavery, or slavery without the Union”.[24]

Causes of secession

The immediate catalyst for secession was the victory of the Republican Party and the election of Abraham Lincoln as president in the 1860 elections. American Civil War historian James M. McPherson suggested that, for the Southerners, the most ominous feature of the Republican victories in the Congressional and Presidential elections of 1860 was the magnitude of those victories. Republicans captured over 60 percent of the Northern vote, and won three-fourths of its Congressional delegations. The Southern press said that such Republicans represented the anti-slavery portion of the North, “a party founded on the single sentiment … of hatred of African slavery”, and now the controlling power in national affairs. The “Black Republican party” could overwhelm conservative Yankees. The New Orleans Delta said of the Republicans, “It is in fact, essentially, a revolutionary party” to overthrow slavery.[25]

By 1860, sectional disagreements between North and South relate primarily to the maintenance or expansion of slavery in the United States. Historian Drew Gilpin Faust observed that “leaders of the secession movement across the South cited slavery as the most compelling reason for southern independence”.[26] Although most white Southerners did not own slaves, the majority supported the institution of slavery and benefited in indirect ways from the slave society. For struggling yeomen and subsistence farmers, the slave society provided a large class of people ranked lower in the social scale than they.[27] Secondary differences related to issues of free speech, runaway slaves, expansion into Cuba, and states’ rights.

Historian Emory Thomas assessed the Confederacy’s self-image by studying the correspondence sent by the Confederate government in 1861–62 to foreign governments. He found that Confederate diplomacy projected multiple contradictory self-images:

The Southern nation was by turns a guileless people attacked by a voracious neighbor, an ‘established’ nation in some temporary difficulty, a collection of bucolic aristocrats making a romantic stand against the banalities of industrial democracy, a cabal of commercial farmers seeking to make a pawn of King Cotton, an apotheosis of nineteenth-century nationalism and revolutionary liberalism, or the ultimate statement of social and economic reaction.[28]

Alexander H. Stephens. CSA Vice President; author of ‘Cornerstone Speech’

In what later became known as the Cornerstone Speech, C.S. Vice President Alexander H. Stephens declared that the “cornerstone” of the new government “rest[ed] 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. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth”.[29] After the war Stephens made efforts to qualify his remarks, claiming they were extemporaneous, metaphorical, and intended to refer to public sentiment rather than “the principles of the new Government on this subject”.[30][31]

Four of the seceding states, the Deep South states of South Carolina,[32]
Mississippi,[33] Georgia,[34] and Texas,[35] issued formal declarations of causes, each of which identified the threat to slaveholders’ rights as the cause of, or a major cause of, secession. Georgia also claimed a general Federal policy of favoring Northern over Southern economic interests. Texas mentioned slavery 21 times, but also listed the failure of the federal government to live up to its obligations, in the original annexation agreement, to protect settlers along the exposed western frontier. Texas resolutions further stated that governments of the states and the nation were established “exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity”. They also stated that although equal civil and political rights applied to all white men, they did not apply to those of the “African race”, further opining that the end of racial enslavement would “bring inevitable calamities upon both [races] and desolation upon the fifteen slave-holding states”.[35]

Alabama did not provide a separate declaration of causes. Instead the Alabama ordinance stated “the election of Abraham Lincoln … by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama, preceded by many and dangerous infractions of the Constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security”. The ordinance invited “the slaveholding States of the South, who may approve such purpose, in order to frame a provisional as well as a permanent Government upon the principles of the Constitution of the United States” to participate in a February 4, 1861 convention in Montgomery, Alabama.[36]

The secession ordinances of the remaining two states, Florida and Louisiana, simply declared their severing of ties with the federal Union, without stating any causes.[37][38] Afterward, the Florida secession convention formed a committee to draft a declaration of causes, but the committee was discharged before completion of the task.[39] Only an undated, untitled draft remains.[40]

Four of the Upper South states initially rejected secession until after the clash at Ft. Sumter (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina).[19][41][42][43][44] Virginia’s ordinance stated a kinship with the slave-holding states of the Lower South, but did not name the institution itself as a primary reason for its course.[45]

Arkansas’s secession ordinance primarily revolved around strong objection to the use of military force to maintain the Union as its motivating factor.[46] Prior to the outbreak of war, the Arkansas Convention had on March 20 given as their first resolution: “The people of the Northern States have organized a political party, purely sectional in its character, the central and controlling idea of which is hostility to the institution of African slavery, as it exists in the Southern States; and that party has elected a President … pledged to administer the Government upon principles inconsistent with the rights and subversive of the interests of the Southern States.”[47]

North Carolina and Tennessee limited their ordinances to simply withdrawing, although Tennessee went so far as to make clear they wished to make no comment at all on the “abstract doctrine of secession”.[48][49]

In a message to the Confederate Congress on April 29, 1861 Jefferson Davis cited both the tariff and slavery for the South’s secession.[50]

Secessionists and conventions

The Fire-Eaters, calling for immediate secession, were opposed by two factions. “Cooperationists” in the Deep South would delay secession until several states went together, maybe in a Southern Convention. Under the influence of men such as Texas Governor Sam Houston, delay would have had the effect of sustaining the Union.[51] “Unionists”, especially in the Border South, often former Whigs, appealed to sentimental attachment to the United States. Southern Unionists’ favorite presidential candidate was John Bell of Tennessee, sometimes running under an “Opposition Party” banner.[51]

Many secessionists were active politically. Governor William Henry Gist of South Carolina corresponded secretly with other Deep South governors, and most southern governors exchanged clandestine commissioners.[52]Charleston’s secessionist “1860 Association” published over 200,000 pamphlets to persuade the youth of the South. The most influential were: “The Doom of Slavery” and “The South Alone Should Govern the South”, both by John Townsend of South Carolina; and James D. B. De Bow’s “The Interest of Slavery of the Southern Non-slaveholder”.[53]

Developments in South Carolina started a chain of events. The foreman of a jury refused the legitimacy of federal courts, so Federal Judge Andrew Magrath ruled that U.S. judicial authority in South Carolina was vacated. A mass meeting in Charleston celebrating the Charleston and Savannah railroad and state cooperation led to the South Carolina legislature to call for a Secession Convention. U.S. Senator James Chesnut, Jr. resigned, as did Senator James Henry Hammond.[54]

Elections for Secessionist conventions were heated to “an almost raving pitch, no one dared dissent”, said Freehling. Even once–respected voices, including the Chief Justice of South Carolina, John Belton O’Neall, lost election to the Secession Convention on a Cooperationist ticket. Across the South mobs expelled Yankees and (in Texas) executed German-Americans suspected of loyalty to the United States.[55] Generally, seceding conventions which followed did not call for a referendum to ratify, although Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee did, as well as Virginia’s second convention. Kentucky declared neutrality, while Missouri had its own civil war until the Unionists took power and drove the Confederate legislators out of the state.[56]

Attempts to thwart secession

In the antebellum months, the Corwin Amendment was an unsuccessful attempt by the Congress to bring back the seceding states to the Union and to prevent the border slave states to remain.[57] It was a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution by Ohio Congressman Thomas Corwin that would shield “domestic institutions” of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress.[58][59]

It was passed by the 36th Congress on March 2, 1861. The House approved it by a vote of 133 to 65 and the United States Senate adopted it, with no changes, on a vote of 24 to 12. It was then submitted to the state legislatures for ratification.[60] In his inaugural address Lincoln endorsed the proposed amendment.

The text was as follows:

No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.

Had it been ratified by the required number of states prior to 1865, it would have made institutionalized slavery immune to the constitutional amendment procedures and to interference by Congress.[61][62]

Inauguration and response

The inauguration of Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Alabama

The first secession state conventions from the Deep South sent representatives to meet at the Montgomery Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 4, 1861. There the fundamental documents of government were promulgated, a provisional government was established, and a representative Congress met for the Confederate States of America.[63]

The new ‘provisional’ Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a call for 100,000 men from the various states’ militias to defend the newly formed Confederacy.[63] All Federal property was seized, along with gold bullion and coining dies at the U.S. mints in Charlotte, North Carolina; Dahlonega, Georgia; and New Orleans.[63] The Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia, in May 1861. On February 22, 1862, Davis was inaugurated as president with a term of six years.[64]

The newly inaugurated Confederate administration pursued a policy of national territorial integrity, continuing earlier state efforts in 1860 and early 1861 to remove U.S. government presence from within their boundaries. These efforts included taking possession of U.S. courts, custom houses, post offices, and most notably, arsenals and forts. But after the Confederate attack and capture of Fort Sumter in April 1861, Lincoln called up 75,000 of the states’ militia to muster under his command. The stated purpose was to re-occupy U.S. properties throughout the South, as the U.S. Congress had not authorized their abandonment. The resistance at Fort Sumter signaled his change of policy from that of the Buchanan Administration. Lincoln’s response ignited a firestorm of emotion. The people of both North and South demanded war, and young men rushed to their colors in the hundreds of thousands. Four more states (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas) refused Lincoln’s call for troops and declared secession, while Kentucky maintained an uneasy “neutrality”.[63]


Secessionists argued that the United States Constitution was a contract among sovereign states that could be abandoned at any time without consultation and that each state had a right to secede. After intense debates and statewide votes, seven Deep South cotton states passed secession ordinances by February 1861 (before Abraham Lincoln took office as president), while secession efforts failed in the other eight slave states. Delegates from those seven formed the CSA in February 1861, selecting Jefferson Davis as the provisional president. Unionist talk of reunion failed and Davis began raising a 100,000 man army.[65]


Initially, some secessionists may have hoped for a peaceful departure.[66] Moderates in the Confederate Constitutional Convention included a provision against importation of slaves from Africa to appeal to the Upper South. Non-slave states might join, but the radicals secured a two-thirds hurdle for them.[67]

Seven states declared their secession from the United States before Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861, and Lincoln’s subsequent call for troops on April 15, four more states declared their secession:[68]

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USA G. Washington stamp
10-cent U.S. 1861
CSA G. Washington stamp
20-cent C.S. 1863
Both sides honored George Washington as a Founding Father (and used the same Gilbert Stuart portrait)

Kentucky declared neutrality but after Confederate troops moved in, the state government asked for Union troops to drive them out. The splinter Confederate state government relocated to accompany western Confederate armies and never controlled the state population. By the end of the war, 90,000 Kentuckians had fought on the side of the Union, compared to 35,000 for the Confederate States.[69]

In Missouri, a constitutional convention was approved and delegates elected by voters. The convention rejected secession 89–1 on March 19, 1861.[70] The governor maneuvered to take control of the St. Louis Arsenal and restrict Federal movements. This led to confrontation, and in June Federal forces drove him and the General Assembly from Jefferson City. The executive committee of the constitutional convention called the members together in July. The convention declared the state offices vacant, and appointed a Unionist interim state government.[71] The exiled governor called a rump session of the former General Assembly together in Neosho and, on October 31, 1861, passed an ordinance of secession.[72][73] It is still a matter of debate as to whether a quorum existed for this vote. The Confederate state government was unable to control very much Missouri territory. It had its capital first at Neosho, then at Cassville, before being driven out of the state. For the remainder of the war, it operated as a government in exile at Marshall, Texas.[74]

Neither Kentucky nor Missouri was declared in rebellion in Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Confederacy recognized the pro-Confederate claimants in both Kentucky (December 10, 1861) and Missouri (November 28, 1861) and laid claim to those states, granting them Congressional representation and adding two stars to the Confederate flag. Voting for the representatives was mostly done by Confederate soldiers from Kentucky and Missouri.[75]

The order of secession resolutions and dates are:

1. South Carolina (December 20, 1860)[76]
2. Mississippi (January 9, 1861)[77]
3. Florida (January 10)[78]
4. Alabama (January 11)[79]
5. Georgia (January 19)[80]
6. Louisiana (January 26)[81]
7. Texas (February 1; referendum February 23)[82]
Bombardment of Fort Sumter (April 12) and President Lincoln’s call up (April 15)[83]
8 Virginia (April 17; referendum May 23, 1861)[84]
9. Arkansas (May 6)[85]
10. Tennessee (May 7; referendum June 8)[86]
11. North Carolina (May 20)[87]

In Virginia, the populous counties along the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders rejected the Confederacy. Unionists held a Convention in Wheeling in June 1861, establishing a “restored government” with a rump legislature, but sentiment in the region remained deeply divided. In the 50 counties that would make up the state of West Virginia, voters from 24 counties had voted for disunion in Virginia’s May 23 referendum on the ordinance of secession.[88] In the 1860 Presidential election “Constitutional Democrat” Breckenridge had outpolled “Constitutional Unionist” Bell in the 50 counties by 1,900 votes, 44% to 42%.[89] Regardless of scholarly disputes over election procedures and results county by county, altogether they simultaneously supplied over 20,000 soldiers to each side of the conflict.[90][91] Representatives for most of the counties were seated in both state legislatures at Wheeling and at Richmond for the duration of the war.[92]

Attempts to secede from the Confederacy by some counties in East Tennessee were checked by martial law.[93] Although slave-holding Delaware and Maryland did not secede, citizens from those states exhibited divided loyalties. Regiments of Marylanders fought in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.[94] But overall, 24,000 men from Maryland joined the Confederate armed forces, compared to 63,000 who joined Union forces.[69]

Delaware never produced a full regiment for the Confederacy, but neither did it emancipate slaves as did Missouri and West Virginia. District of Columbia citizens made no attempts to secede and through the war years, referendums sponsored by President Lincoln approved systems of compensated emancipation and slave confiscation from “disloyal citizens”.[95]


Elias Boudinot secessionist, Rep. Indian Territory, Cherokee

Citizens at Mesilla and Tucson in the southern part of New Mexico Territory formed a secession convention, which voted to join the Confederacy on March 16, 1861, and appointed Lewis Owings as the new territorial governor. They won the Battle of Mesilla and established a territorial government with Mesilla serving as its capital.[96] The Confederacy proclaimed the Confederate Arizona Territory on February 14, 1862, north to the 34th parallel. Marcus H. MacWillie served in both Confederate Congresses as Arizona’s delegate. In 1862 the Confederate New Mexico Campaign to take the northern half of the U.S. territory failed and the Confederate territorial government in exile relocated to San Antonio, Texas.[97]

Confederate supporters in the trans-Mississippi west also claimed portions of United States Indian Territory after the United States evacuated the federal forts and installations. Over half of the American Indian troops participating in the Civil War from the Indian Territory supported the Confederacy; troops and one general were enlisted from each tribe. On July 12, 1861, the Confederate government signed a treaty with both the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indian nations. After several battles Union armies took control of the territory.[98]

Indian Territory was never formally ceded into the Confederacy by American Indian councils, but like Missouri and Kentucky, the Five Civilized Nations received representation in the Confederate Congress and their citizens were integrated into regular Confederate Army units. After 1863 the tribal governments sent representatives to the Confederate Congress: Elias Cornelius Boudinot representing the Cherokee and Samuel Benton Callahan representing the Seminole and Creek people. The Cherokee Nation, aligning with the Confederacy, alleged northern violations of the Constitution, waging war against slavery commercial and political interests, abolishing slavery in the Indian Territory, and that the North intended to seize additional Indian lands.[99]


Montgomery, Alabama served as the capital of the Confederate States of America from February 4 until May 29, 1861, in the Alabama State Capitol. Six states created the Confederate States of America there on February 8, 1861. The Texas delegation was seated at the time, so it is counted in the “original seven” states of the Confederacy; it had no roll call vote until after its referendum made secession “operative”.[100] Two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in Montgomery, adjourning May 21.[101] The Permanent Constitution was adopted there on March 12, 1861.[102]

First Capitol, Montgomery, Alabama
Second Capitol, Richmond, Virginia

The permanent capital provided for in the Confederate Constitution called for a state cession of a ten-miles square (100 square mile) district to the central government. Atlanta, which had not yet supplanted Milledgeville, Georgia as its state capital, put in a bid noting its central location and rail connections, as did Opelika, Alabama, noting its strategically interior situation, rail connections and nearby deposits of coal and iron.[103]

Richmond, Virginia was chosen for the interim capital at the Virginia State Capitol. The move was used by Vice President Stephens and others to encourage other border states to follow Virginia into the Confederacy. In the political moment it was a show of “defiance and strength”. The war for southern independence was surely to be fought in Virginia, but it also had the largest Southern military-aged white population, with infrastructure, resources and supplies required to sustain a war. The Davis Administration’s policy was that, “It must be held at all hazards.”[104]

The naming of Richmond as the new capital took place on May 30, 1861, and the last two sessions of the Provisional Congress were held in the new capital. The Permanent Confederate Congress and President were elected in the states and army camps on November 6, 1861. The First Congress met in four sessions in Richmond from February 18, 1862, to February 17, 1864. The Second Congress met there in two sessions, from May 2, 1864, to March 18, 1865.[105]

As war dragged on, Richmond became crowded with training and transfers, logistics and hospitals. Prices rose dramatically despite government efforts at price regulation. A movement in Congress led by Henry S. Foote of Tennessee argued for moving the capital from Richmond. At the approach of Federal armies in mid-1862, the government’s archives were readied for removal. As the Wilderness Campaign progressed, Congress authorized Davis to remove the executive department and call Congress to session elsewhere in 1864 and again in 1865. Shortly before the end of the war, the Confederate government evacuated Richmond, planning to relocate farther south. Little came of these plans before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.[106] Davis and most of his cabinet fled to Danville, Virginia, which served as their headquarters for about a week.


Unionism was widespread in the Confederacy, especially in the mountain regions of Appalachia and the Ozarks.[107] Unionists, led by Parson Brownlow and Senator Andrew Johnson, took control of eastern Tennessee in 1863.[108] Unionists also attempted control over western Virginia but never effectively held more than half the counties that formed the new state of West Virginia.[109][110][111]

Map of the county secession votes of 1860–1861 in Appalachia within the ARC definition. Virginia and Tennessee show the public votes, while the other states show the vote by county delegates to the conventions.

Union forces captured parts of coastal North Carolina, and at first were welcomed by local unionists. That changed as the occupiers became perceived as oppressive, callous, radical and favorable to the Freedmen. Occupiers engaged in pillaging, freeing of slaves, and eviction of those refusing to take or reneging on the loyalty oaths, as ex-Unionists began to support the Confederate cause.[112]

Support for the Confederacy was perhaps weakest in Texas; Claude Elliott estimates that only a third of the population actively supported the Confederacy. Many unionists supported the Confederacy after the war began, but many others clung to their unionism throughout the war, especially in the northern counties, the German districts, and the Mexican areas.[113] According to Ernest Wallace: “This account of a dissatisfied Unionist minority, although historically essential, must be kept in its proper perspective, for throughout the war the overwhelming majority of the people zealously supported the Confederacy …”[114] Randolph B. Campbell states, “In spite of terrible losses and hardships, most Texans continued throughout the war to support the Confederacy as they had supported secession”.[115] Dale Baum in his analysis of Texas politics in the era counters: “This idea of a Confederate Texas united politically against northern adversaries was shaped more by nostalgic fantasies than by wartime realities.” He characterizes Texas Civil War history as “a morose story of intragovernmental rivalries coupled with wide-ranging disaffection that prevented effective implementation of state wartime policies”.[116]

In Texas local officials harassed unionists and engaged in large-scale massacres against unionists and Germans. In Cooke County 150 suspected unionists were arrested; 25 were lynched without trial and 40 more were hanged after a summary trial. Draft resistance was widespread especially among Texans of German or Mexican descent; many of the latter went to Mexico. Potential draftees went into hiding, Confederate officials hunted them down, and many were shot.[113]

Civil liberties were of small concern in North and South. Lincoln and Davis both took a hard line against dissent. Neely explores how the Confederacy became a virtual police state with guards and patrols all about, and a domestic passport system whereby everyone needed official permission each time they wanted to travel. Over 4,000 suspected unionists were imprisoned without trial.[117]


United States, a foreign power

During the four years of its existence under trial by war, the Confederate States of America asserted its independence and appointed dozens of diplomatic agents abroad. None were ever officially recognized by a foreign government. The United States government regarded the southern states in rebellion and so refused any formal recognition of their status.

Even before Fort Sumter, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward issued formal instructions to the American minister to Britain, Charles Francis Adams:

[Make] no expressions of harshness or disrespect, or even impatience concerning the seceding States, their agents, or their people, [those States] must always continue to be, equal and honored members of this Federal Union, [their citizens] still are and always must be our kindred and countrymen.[118]

Seward instructed Adams that if the British government seemed inclined to recognize the Confederacy, or even waver in that regard, it was to receive a sharp warning, with a strong hint of war:

[if Britain is] tolerating the application of the so-called seceding States, or wavering about it, [they cannot] remain friends with the United States … if they determine to recognize [the Confederacy], [Britain] may at the same time prepare to enter into alliance with the enemies of this republic.[118]

The United States government never declared war on those “kindred and countrymen” in the Confederacy, but conducted its military efforts beginning with a presidential proclamation issued April 15, 1861.[119] It called for troops to recapture forts and suppress what Lincoln later called an “insurrection and rebellion”.[120]

Mid-war parleys between the two sides occurred without formal political recognition, though the laws of war predominantly governed military relationships on both sides of uniformed conflict.[121]

On the part of the Confederacy, immediately following Fort Sumter the Confederate Congress proclaimed that “war exists between the Confederate States and the Government of the United States, and the States and Territories thereof”. A state of war was not to formally exist between the Confederacy and those states and territories in the United States allowing slavery, although Confederate Rangers were compensated for destruction they could effect there throughout the war.[122]

Concerning the international status and nationhood of the Confederate States of America, in 1869 the United States Supreme Court in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 700 (1869) ruled Texas’ declaration of secession was legally null and void.[123]Jefferson Davis, former President of the Confederacy, and Alexander H. Stephens, its former Vice-President, both wrote postwar arguments in favor of secession’s legality and the international legitimacy of the Government of the Confederate States of America, most notably Davis’ The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

International diplomacy

Once war with the United States began, the Confederacy pinned its hopes for survival on military intervention by Great Britain and France. The Confederates who had believed that “cotton is king” – that is, that Britain had to support the Confederacy to obtain cotton – proved mistaken. The British had stocks to last over a year and had been developing alternative sources of cotton, most notably India and Egypt. They were not about to go to war with the U.S. to acquire more cotton at the risk of losing the large quantities of food imported from the North.[124][125] The Confederate government repeatedly sent delegations to Europe, but historians give them low marks for their poor diplomacy.[126]James M. Mason went to London and John Slidell traveled to Paris. They were unofficially interviewed, but neither secured official recognition for the Confederacy.

In late 1861 the seizure of two senior Confederate diplomats aboard a British ship by the U.S. navy outraged Britain and led to a war scare in the Trent Affair. Queen Victoria insisted on giving the Americans an exit route and Lincoln took it, releasing the two diplomats. Tensions cooled, and the Confederacy gained no advantage. In recent years most historians argue that the risk of actual war over the Trent Affair was small, because it would have hurt both sides.[127]

Lord John Russell, British foreign secretary and later PM, considered mediation in the ‘American War’.
French Emperor Napoleon III sought joint French–British recognition of CSA.

Throughout the early years of the war, British foreign secretary Lord John Russell, Emperor Napoleon III of France, and, to a lesser extent, British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston, showed interest in recognition of the Confederacy or at least mediation of the war. William Ewart Gladstone, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister, in office 1859–1866), whose family wealth was based on slavery, was the key Minister calling for intervention to help the Confederacy achieve independence. He failed to convince prime minister Palmerston.[128] By September 1862 the Union victory at the Battle of Antietam, Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and abolitionist opposition in Britain put an end to these possibilities.[129] The cost to Britain of a war with the U.S. would have been high: the immediate loss of American grain-shipments, the end of British exports to the U.S., and the seizure of billions of pounds invested in American securities. War would have meant higher taxes in Britain, another invasion of Canada, and full-scale worldwide attacks on the British merchant fleet. Outright recognition would have meant certain war with the United States; in mid-1862 fears of race war (as had transpired in the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804) led to the British considering intervention for humanitarian reasons. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation did not lead to interracial violence, let alone a bloodbath, but it did give the friends of the Union strong talking points in the arguments that raged across Britain.[130]

John Slidell, the Confederate States emissary to France, did succeed in negotiating a loan of $15,000,000 from Erlanger and other French capitalists. The money went to buy ironclad warships, as well as military supplies that came in with blockade runners.[131] The British government did allow the construction of blockade runners in Britain; they were owned and operated by British financiers and sailors; a few were owned and operated by the Confederacy. The British investors’ goal was to get highly profitable cotton.[132]

Several European nations maintained diplomats in place who had been appointed to the U.S., but no country appointed any diplomat to the Confederacy. Those nations recognized the Union and Confederate sides as belligerents. In 1863 the Confederacy expelled European diplomatic missions for advising their resident subjects to refuse to serve in the Confederate army.[133] Both Confederate and Union agents were allowed to work openly in British territories. Some state governments in northern Mexico negotiated local agreements to cover trade on the Texas border.[134]Pope Pius IX wrote a letter to Jefferson Davis in which he addressed Davis as the “Honorable President of the Confederate States of America”. The Confederacy appointed Ambrose Dudley Mann as special agent to the Holy See on September 24, 1863. But the Holy See never released a formal statement supporting or recognizing the Confederacy. In November 1863, Mann met Pope Pius IX in person and received a letter supposedly addressed “to the Illustrious and Honorable Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America”; Mann had mistranslated the address. In his report to Richmond, Mann claimed a great diplomatic achievement for himself, asserting the letter was “a positive recognition of our Government”. The letter was indeed used in propaganda, but Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin told Mann it was “a mere inferential recognition, unconnected with political action or the regular establishment of diplomatic relations” and thus did not assign it the weight of formal recognition.[135][136]

Nevertheless, the Confederacy was seen internationally as a serious attempt at nationhood, and European governments sent military observers, both official and unofficial, to assess whether there had been a de facto establishment of independence. These observers included Arthur Lyon Fremantle of the British Coldstream Guards, Fitzgerald Ross of the Austrian Hussars and Justus Scheibert of the Prussian Army.[137] European travelers visited and wrote accounts for publication. Importantly in 1862, the Frenchman Charles Girard’s Seven months in the rebel states during the North American War testified “this government … is no longer a trial government … but really a normal government, the expression of popular will”.[138]
Fremantle went on to write in his book Three Months in the Southern States that he had

not attempted to conceal any of the peculiarities or defects of the Southern people. Many persons will doubtless highly disapprove of some of their customs and habits in the wilder portion of the country; but I think no generous man, whatever may be his political opinions, can do otherwise than admire the courage, energy, and patriotism of the whole population, and the skill of its leaders, in this struggle against great odds. And I am also of opinion that many will agree with me in thinking that a people in which all ranks and both sexes display a unanimity and a heroism which can never have been surpassed in the history of the world, is destined, sooner or later, to become a great and independent nation.[139]

French Emperor Napoleon III assured Confederate diplomat John Slidell that he would make “direct proposition” to Britain for joint recognition. The Emperor made the same assurance to British Members of Parliament John A. Roebuck and John A. Lindsay.[140] Roebuck in turn publicly prepared a bill to submit to Parliament June 30 supporting joint Anglo-French recognition of the Confederacy. “Southerners had a right to be optimistic, or at least hopeful, that their revolution would prevail, or at least endure.”[141] Following the dual reverses at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July 1863, the Confederates “suffered a severe loss of confidence in themselves”, and withdrew into an interior defensive position. There would be no help from the Europeans.[142]

By December 1864 Davis considered sacrificing slavery in order to enlist recognition and aid from Paris and London; he secretly sent Duncan F. Kenner to Europe with a message that the war was fought solely for “the vindication of our rights to self-government and independence” and that “no sacrifice is too great, save that of honor”. The message stated that if the French or British governments made their recognition conditional on anything at all, the Confederacy would consent to such terms.[143] Davis’s message could not explicitly acknowledge that slavery was on the bargaining table due to still-strong domestic support for slavery among the wealthy and politically influential. European leaders all saw that the Confederacy was on the verge of total defeat.[144]

Confederacy at war

Motivations of soldiers

The great majority of young white men voluntarily joined Confederate national or state military units. Perman (2010) says historians are of two minds on why millions of men seemed so eager to fight, suffer and die over four years:

Some historians emphasize that Civil War soldiers were driven by political ideology, holding firm beliefs about the importance of liberty, Union, or state rights, or about the need to protect or to destroy slavery. Others point to less overtly political reasons to fight, such as the defense of one’s home and family, or the honor and brotherhood to be preserved when fighting alongside other men. Most historians agree that, no matter what he thought about when he went into the war, the experience of combat affected him profoundly and sometimes affected his reasons for continuing to fight.[145][146]

Military strategy

Civil War historian E. Merton Coulter noted that for those who would secure its independence, “The Confederacy was unfortunate in its failure to work out a general strategy for the whole war”. Aggressive strategy called for offensive force concentration. Defensive strategy sought dispersal to meet demands of locally minded governors. The controlling philosophy evolved into a combination “dispersal with a defensive concentration around Richmond”. The Davis administration considered the war purely defensive, a “simple demand that the people of the United States would cease to war upon us”.[147] Historian James M. McPherson is a critic of Lee’s Offensive Strategy: “Lee pursued a faulty military strategy that ensured Confederate defeat”.[148]

As the Confederate government lost control of territory in campaign after campaign, it was said that “the vast size of the Confederacy would make its conquest impossible”. The enemy would be struck down by the same elements which so often debilitated or destroyed visitors and transplants in the South. Heat exhaustion, sunstroke, endemic diseases such as malaria and typhoid would match the destructive effectiveness of the Moscow winter on the invading armies of Napoleon.[149]

The Great Seal, symbols of an independent agricultural Confederacy surrounding an equestrian Washington, sword encased[150]

Early in the war both sides believed that one great battle would decide the conflict; the Confederate won a great victory at the First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces). It drove the Confederate people “insane with joy”; the public demanded a forward movement to capture Washington, relocate the Confederate capital there, and admit Maryland to the Confederacy.[151] A council of war by the victorious Confederate generals decided not to advance against larger numbers of fresh Federal troops in defensive positions. Davis did not countermand it. Following the Confederate incursion halted at the Battle of Antietam in October 1862, generals proposed concentrating forces from state commands to re-invade the north. Nothing came of it.[152] Again in early 1863 at his incursion into Pennsylvania, Lee requested of Davis that Beauregard simultaneously attack Washington with troops taken from the Carolinas. But the troops there remained in place during the Gettysburg Campaign.

The eleven states of the Confederacy were outnumbered by the North about four to one in white men of military age. It was overmatched far more in military equipment, industrial facilities, railroads for transport, and wagons supplying the front.

Confederate military policy innovated to slow the invaders, but at heavy cost to the Southern infrastructure. The Confederates burned bridges, laid land mines in the roads, and made harbors inlets and inland waterways unusable with sunken mines (called “torpedos” at the time). Coulter reports:

Rangers in twenty to fifty-man units were awarded 50% valuation for property destroyed behind Union lines, regardless of location or loyalty. As Federals occupied the South, objections by loyal Confederate concerning Ranger horse-stealing and indiscriminate scorched earth tactics behind Union lines led to Congress abolishing the Ranger service two years later.[153]

The Confederacy relied on external sources for war materials. The first came from trade with the enemy. “Vast amounts of war supplies” came through Kentucky, and thereafter, western armies were “to a very considerable extent” provisioned with illicit trade via Federal agents and northern private traders.[154] But that trade was interrupted in the first year of war by Admiral Porter’s river gunboats as they gained dominance along navigable rivers north–south and east–west.[155] Overseas blockade running then came to be of “outstanding importance”.[156] On April 17, President Davis called on privateer raiders, the “militia of the sea”, to make war on U.S. seaborne commerce.[157] Despite noteworthy effort, over the course of the war the Confederacy was found unable to match the Union in ships and seamanship, materials and marine construction.[158]

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to success in the 19th-century warfare of mass armies was the Confederacy’s lack of manpower, and sufficient numbers of disciplined, equipped troops in the field at the point of contact with the enemy. During the winter of 1862–63, Lee observed that none of his famous victories had resulted in the destruction of the opposing army. He lacked reserve troops to exploit an advantage on the battlefield as Napoleon had done. Lee explained, “More than once have most promising opportunities been lost for want of men to take advantage of them, and victory itself had been made to put on the appearance of defeat, because our diminished and exhausted troops have been unable to renew a successful struggle against fresh numbers of the enemy.”[159]

Armed forces

The military armed forces of the Confederacy comprised three branches: Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

The Confederate military leadership included many veterans from the United States Army and United States Navy who had resigned their Federal commissions and had won appointment to senior positions in the Confederate armed forces. Many had served in the Mexican–American War (including Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis), but some such as Leonidas Polk (who graduated from West Point but did not serve in the Army) had little or no experience.

The Confederate officer corps consisted of men from both slave-owning and non-slave-owning families. The Confederacy appointed junior and field grade officers by election from the enlisted ranks. Although no Army service academy was established for the Confederacy, some colleges (such as The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute) maintained cadet corps that trained Confederate military leadership. A naval academy was established at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia[160] in 1863, but no midshipmen graduated before the Confederacy’s end.

The soldiers of the Confederate armed forces consisted mainly of white males aged between 16 and 28. The median year of birth was 1838, so half the soldiers were 23 or older by 1861.[161] In early 1862, the Confederate Army was allowed to disintegrate for two months following expiration of short-term enlistments. A majority of those in uniform would not re-enlist following their one-year commitment, so on April 16, 1862, the Confederate Congress enacted the first mass conscription on the North American continent. (The U.S. Congress followed a year later on March 3, 1863, with the Enrollment Act.) Rather than a universal draft, the initial program was a selective service with physical, religious, professional and industrial exemptions. These were narrowed as the war progressed. Initially substitutes were permitted, but by December 1863 these were disallowed. In September 1862 the age limit was increased from 35 to 45 and by February 1864, all men under 18 and over 45 were conscripted to form a reserve for state defense inside state borders. By March 1864, the Superintendent of Conscription reported that all across the Confederacy, every officer in constituted authority, man and woman, “engaged in opposing the enrolling officer in the execution of his duties”.[162] Although challenged in the state courts, the Confederate State Supreme Courts routinely rejected legal challenges to conscription.[163]

Many thousands of slaves served as laborers, cooks, and pioneers. Some freed blacks and men of color served in local state militia units of the Confederacy, primarily in Louisiana and South Carolina, but their officers deployed them for “local defense, not combat”.[164] Depleted by casualties and desertions, the military suffered chronic manpower shortages. In early 1865, the Confederate Congress, influenced by the public support by General Lee, approved the recruitment of black infantry units. Contrary to Lee’s and Davis’s recommendations, the Congress refused “to guarantee the freedom of black volunteers”. No more than two hundred black combat troops were ever raised.[165]

Raising troops

Recruitment poster: “Do not wait to be drafted”. Under half re-enlisted.

The immediate onset of war meant that it was fought by the “Provisional” or “Volunteer Army”. State governors resisted concentrating a national effort. Several wanted a strong state army for self-defense. Others feared large “Provisional” armies answering only to Davis.[166] When filling the Confederate government’s call for 100,000 men, another 200,000 were turned away by accepting only those enlisted “for the duration” or twelve-month volunteers who brought their own arms or horses.[167]

It was important to raise troops; it was just as important to provide capable officers to command them. With few exceptions the Confederacy secured excellent general officers. Efficiency in the lower officers was “greater than could have been reasonably expected”. As with the Federals, political appointees could be indifferent. Otherwise, the officer corps was governor-appointed or elected by unit enlisted. Promotion to fill vacancies was made internally regardless of merit, even if better officers were immediately available.[168]

Anticipating the need for more “duration” men, in January 1862 Congress provided for company level recruiters to return home for two months, but their efforts met little success on the heels of Confederate battlefield defeats in February.[169] Congress allowed for Davis to require numbers of recruits from each governor to supply the volunteer shortfall. States responded by passing their own draft laws.[170]

The veteran Confederate army of early 1862 was mostly twelve-month volunteers with terms about to expire. Enlisted reorganization elections disintegrated the army for two months. Officers pleaded with the ranks to re-enlist, but a majority did not. Those remaining elected majors and colonels whose performance led to officer review boards in October. The boards caused a “rapid and widespread” thinning out of 1700 incompetent officers. Troops thereafter would elect only second lieutenants.[171]

In early 1862, the popular press suggested the Confederacy required a million men under arms. But veteran soldiers were not re-enlisting, and earlier secessionist volunteers did not reappear to serve in war. One Macon, Georgia, newspaper asked how two million brave fighting men of the South were about to be overcome by four million northerners who were said to be cowards.[172]


Unionists throughout the Confederate States, resisted the 1862 conscription

The Confederacy passed the first American law of national conscription on April 16, 1862. The white males of the Confederate States from 18 to 35 were declared members of the Confederate army for three years, and all men then enlisted were extended to a three-year term. They would serve only in units and under officers of their state. Those under 18 and over 35 could substitute for conscripts, in September those from 35 to 45 became conscripts.[173] The cry of “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” led Congress to abolish the substitute system altogether in December 1863. All principals benefiting earlier were made eligible for service. By February 1864, the age bracket was made 17 to 50, those under eighteen and over forty-five to be limited to in-state duty.[174]

Confederate conscription was not universal; it was a selective service. The First Conscription Act of April 1862 exempted occupations related to transportation, communication, industry, ministers, teaching and physical fitness. The Second Conscription Act of October 1862 expanded exemptions in industry, agriculture and conscientious objection. Exemption fraud proliferated in medical examinations, army furloughs, churches, schools, apothecaries and newspapers.[175]

Rich men’s sons were appointed to the socially outcast “overseer” occupation, but the measure was received in the country with “universal odium”. The legislative vehicle was the controversial Twenty Negro Law that specifically exempted one white overseer or owner for every plantation with at least 20 slaves. Backpedalling six months later, Congress provided overseers under 45 could be exempted only if they held the occupation before the first Conscription Act.[176] The number of officials under state exemptions appointed by state Governor patronage expanded significantly.[177] By law, substitutes could not be subject to conscription, but instead of adding to Confederate manpower, unit officers in the field reported that over-50 and under-17-year-old substitutes made up to 90% of the desertions.[178]

The Conscription Act of February 1864 “radically changed the whole system” of selection. It abolished industrial exemptions, placing detail authority in President Davis. As the shame of conscription was greater than a felony conviction, the system brought in “about as many volunteers as it did conscripts.” Many men in otherwise “bombproof” positions were enlisted in one way or another, nearly 160,000 additional volunteers and conscripts in uniform. Still there was shirking.[180] To administer the draft, a Bureau of Conscription was set up to use state officers, as state Governors would allow. It had a checkered career of “contention, opposition and futility”. Armies appointed alternative military “recruiters” to bring in the out-of-uniform 17–50-year-old conscripts and deserters. Nearly 3000 officers were tasked with the job. By late 1864, Lee was calling for more troops. “Our ranks are constantly diminishing by battle and disease, and few recruits are received; the consequences are inevitable.” By March 1865 conscription was to be administered by generals of the state reserves calling out men over 45 and under 18 years old. All exemptions were abolished. These regiments were assigned to recruit conscripts ages 17–50, recover deserters, and repel enemy cavalry raids. The service retained men who had lost but one arm or a leg in home guards. Then, in April 1865, Lee surrendered an army of 50,000. Conscription had been a failure.[181]

The survival of the Confederacy depended on a strong base of civilians and soldiers devoted to victory. The soldiers performed well, though increasing numbers deserted in the last year of fighting, and the Confederacy never succeeded in replacing casualties as the Union could. The civilians, although enthusiastic in 1861–62, seem to have lost faith in the future of the Confederacy by 1864, and instead looked to protect their homes and communities. As Rable explains, “This contraction of civic vision was more than a crabbed libertarianism; it represented an increasingly widespread disillusionment with the Confederate experiment.”[182]

Victories: 1861

The American Civil War broke out in April 1861 with a Confederate victory at the Battle of Fort Sumter in Charleston.

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina
First Bull Run (First Manassas), the North’s “Big Skedaddle”[183]

In January, President James Buchanan had attempted to resupply the garrison with the steamship, Star of the West, but Confederate artillery drove it away. In March, President Lincoln notified South Carolina Governor Pickens that without Confederate resistance to the resupply there would be no military reinforcement without further notice, but Lincoln prepared to force resupply if it were not allowed. Confederate President Davis, in cabinet, decided to seize Fort Sumter before the relief fleet arrived, and on April 12, 1861, General Beauregard forced its surrender.[184]

Following Sumter, Lincoln directed states to provide 75,000 troops for three months to recapture the Charleston Harbor forts and all other federal property.[185] This emboldened secessionists in Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina to secede rather than provide troops to march into neighboring Southern states. In May, Federal troops crossed into Confederate territory along the entire border from the Chesapeake Bay to New Mexico. The first battles were Confederate victories at Big Bethel (Bethel Church, Virginia), First Bull Run (First Manassas) in Virginia July and in August, Wilson’s Creek (Oak Hills) in Missouri. At all three, Confederate forces could not follow up their victory due to inadequate supply and shortages of fresh troops to exploit their successes. Following each battle, Federals maintained a military presence and occupied Washington, DC; Fort Monroe, Virginia; and Springfield, Missouri. Both North and South began training up armies for major fighting the next year.[186] Union General George B. McClellan’s forces gained possession of much of northwestern Virginia in mid-1861, concentrating on towns and roads; the interior was too large to control and became the center of guerrilla activity.[187][188] General Robert E. Lee was defeated at Cheat Mountain in September and no serious Confederate advance in western Virginia occurred until the next year.

Meanwhile, the Union Navy seized control of much of the Confederate coastline from Virginia to South Carolina. It took over plantations and the abandoned slaves. Federals there began a war-long policy of burning grain supplies up rivers into the interior wherever they could not occupy.[189] The Union Navy began a blockade of the major southern ports and prepared an invasion of Louisiana to capture New Orleans in early 1862.

Incursions: 1862

The victories of 1861 were followed by a series of defeats east and west in early 1862. To restore the Union by military force, the Federal strategy was to (1) secure the Mississippi River, (2) seize or close Confederate ports, and (3) march on Richmond. To secure independence, the Confederate intent was to (1) repel the invader on all fronts, costing him blood and treasure, and (2) carry the war into the North by two offensives in time to affect the mid-term elections.

General Burnside halted at the bridge. Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg)
Burying Union dead. Antietam, Maryland[190]

Much of northwestern Virginia was under Federal control.[191]
In February and March, most of Missouri and Kentucky were Union “occupied, consolidated, and used as staging areas for advances further South”. Following the repulse of Confederate counter-attack at the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, permanent Federal occupation expanded west, south and east.[192] Confederate forces repositioned south along the Mississippi River to Memphis, Tennessee, where at the naval Battle of Memphis, its River Defense Fleet was sunk. Confederates withdrew from northern Mississippi and northern Alabama. New Orleans was captured April 29 by a combined Army-Navy force under U.S. Admiral David Farragut, and the Confederacy lost control of the mouth of the Mississippi River. It had to concede extensive agricultural resources that had supported the Union’s sea-supplied logistics base.[193]

Although Confederates had suffered major reverses everywhere, as of the end of April the Confederacy still controlled territory holding 72% of its population.[194] Federal forces disrupted Missouri and Arkansas; they had broken through in western Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Louisiana. Along the Confederacy’s shores, Union forces had closed ports and made garrisoned lodgments on every coastal Confederate state except Alabama and Texas.[195] Although scholars sometimes assess the Union blockade as ineffectual under international law until the last few months of the war, from the first months it disrupted Confederate privateers, making it “almost impossible to bring their prizes into Confederate ports”.[196] British firms developed small fleets of blockade running companies, such as John Fraser and Company, and the Ordnance Department secured its own blockade runners for dedicated munitions cargoes.[197]

CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, (Monitor and Merrimac) nearby destroyed Union warship
CSS Alabama off Cherbourg, location of the only cruiser engagement

During the Civil War fleets of armored warships were deployed for the first time in sustained blockades at sea. After some success against the Union blockade, in March the ironclad CSS Virginia was forced into port and burned by Confederates at their retreat. Despite several attempts mounted from their port cities, CSA naval forces were unable to break the Union blockade. Attempts were made by Commodore Josiah Tattnall’s ironclads from Savannah in 1862 with the CSS Atlanta.[198] Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory placed his hopes in a European-built ironclad fleet, but they were never realized. On the other hand, four new English-built commerce raiders served the Confederacy, and several fast blockade runners were sold in Confederate ports. They were converted into commerce-raiding cruisers, and manned by their British crews.[199]

In the east, Union forces could not close on Richmond. General McClellan landed his army on the Lower Peninsula of Virginia. Lee subsequently ended that threat from the east, then Union General John Pope attacked overland from the north only to be repulsed at Second Bull Run (Second Manassas). Lee’s strike north was turned back at Antietam MD, then Union Major General Ambrose Burnside’s offensive was disastrously ended at Fredericksburg VA in December. Both armies then turned to winter quarters to recruit and train for the coming spring.[200]

In an attempt to seize the initiative, reprovision, protect farms in mid-growing season and influence U.S. Congressional elections, two major Confederate incursions into Union territory had been launched in August and September 1862. Both Braxton Bragg’s invasion of Kentucky and Lee’s invasion of Maryland were decisively repulsed, leaving Confederates in control of but 63% of its population.[194] Civil War scholar Allan Nevins argues that 1862 was the strategic high-water mark of the Confederacy.[201] The failures of the two invasions were attributed to the same irrecoverable shortcomings: lack of manpower at the front, lack of supplies including serviceable shoes, and exhaustion after long marches without adequate food.[202] Also in September Confederate General William W. Loring pushed Federal forces from Charleston, Virginia, and the Kanawha Valley in western Virginia, but lacking re-inforcements Loring abandoned his position and by November the region was back in Federal control.[203][204]

Anaconda: 1863–64

The failed Middle Tennessee campaign was ended January 2, 1863, at the inconclusive Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro), both sides losing the largest percentage of casualties suffered during the war. It was followed by another strategic withdrawal by Confederate forces.[205] The Confederacy won a significant victory April 1863, repulsing the Federal advance on Richmond at Chancellorsville, but the Union consolidated positions along the Virginia coast and the Chesapeake Bay.

Bombardment of Vicksburg, Mississippi. Federal gunboats controlled rivers
Closing of Mobile Bay, Alabama. The Union blockade ended trade with the Confederate states.

Without an effective answer to Federal gunboats, river transport and supply, the Confederacy lost the Mississippi River following the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Port Hudson in July, ending Southern access to the trans-Mississippi West. July brought short-lived counters, Morgan’s Raid into Ohio and the New York City draft riots. Robert E. Lee’s strike into Pennsylvania was repulsed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania despite Pickett’s famous charge and other acts of valor. Southern newspapers assessed the campaign as “The Confederates did not gain a victory, neither did the enemy.”

September and November left Confederates yielding Chattanooga, Tennessee, the gateway to the lower south.[206] For the remainder of the war fighting was restricted inside the South, resulting in a slow but continuous loss of territory. In early 1864, the Confederacy still controlled 53% of its population, but it withdrew further to reestablish defensive positions. Union offensives continued with Sherman’s March to the Sea to take Savannah and Grant’s Wilderness Campaign to encircle Richmond and besiege Lee’s army at Petersburg.[207]

In April 1863, the C.S. Congress authorized a uniformed Volunteer Navy, many of whom were British.[208] Wilmington and Charleston had more shipping while “blockaded” than before the beginning of hostilities.[209] The Confederacy had altogether eighteen commerce destroying cruisers, which seriously disrupted Federal commerce at sea and increased shipping insurance rates 900%.[210] Commodore Tattnall unsuccessfully attempted to break the Union blockade on the Savannah River in Georgia with an ironclad again in 1863.[211] Beginning in April 1864 the ironclad CSS Albemarle engaged Union gunboats and sank or cleared them for six months on the Roanoke River North Carolina.[212] The Federals closed Mobile Bay by sea-based amphibious assault in August, ending Gulf coast trade east of the Mississippi River. In December, the Battle of Nashville ended Confederate operations in the western theater.

Large numbers of families relocated to safer places, usually remote rural areas, bringing along household slaves if they had any. Mary Massey argues these elite exiles introduced an element of defeatism into the southern outlook.[213]

Collapse: 1865

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 NC, and Sherman finally took Charleston SC by land attack.[193]

Armory, Richmond, Virginia. Fires denied advancing Federals
Appomattox courthouse, site of “the Surrender”

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 one-third 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.[193] 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.[214] 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 the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. “The Surrender” marked the end of the Confederacy.[215]
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.[216] The last confederate military unit, the commerce raider CSS Shenandoah, surrendered on November 6, 1865 in Liverpool.[217]

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”.[218] 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.”[219]

Postwar history

Amnesty and treason issue

When the war ended over 14,000 Confederates petitioned President Johnson for a pardon; he was generous in giving them out.[220] He issued a general amnesty to all Confederate participants in the “late Civil War” in 1868.[221] Congress passed additional Amnesty Acts in May 1866 with restrictions on office holding, and the Amnesty Act in May 1872 lifting those restrictions. There was a great deal of discussion in 1865 about bringing treason trials, especially against Jefferson Davis. There was no consensus in President Johnson’s cabinet and there were no treason trials against anyone. In the case of Davis there was a strong possibility of acquittal which would have been humiliating for the government.[222]

Davis was indicted for treason but never tried; he was released from prison on bail in May 1867. The amnesty of December 25, 1868, by President Johnson eliminated any possibility of Jefferson Davis (or anyone else associated with the Confederacy) standing trial for treason.[223][224][225]

Henry Wirz, the commandant of a notorious prisoner-of-war camp near Andersonville, Georgia, was tried and convicted by a military court, and executed on November 10, 1865. The charges against him involved conspiracy and cruelty, not treason.

The U.S. government began a decade-long process known as Reconstruction which attempted to resolve the political and constitutional issues of the Civil War. The priorities were: to guarantee that Confederate nationalism and slavery were ended, to ratify and enforce the Thirteenth Amendment which outlawed slavery; the Fourteenth which guaranteed dual U.S. and state citizenship to all native-born residents, regardless of race; and the Fifteenth, which made it illegal to deny the right to vote because of race.[226]

By 1877, the Compromise of 1877 ended Reconstruction in the former Confederate states. Federal troops were withdrawn from the South, where conservative white Southern Democrats had already regained political control of state governments, often through extreme violence and fraud to suppress black voting. Confederate veterans had been temporarily disenfranchised by Reconstruction policy. The prewar South had many rich areas; the war left the entire region economically devastated by military action, ruined infrastructure, and exhausted resources. Continuing to be dependent on an agricultural economy and resisting investment in infrastructure, the region remained dominated by the planter elite into the 20th century. After 1890 the Democratic-dominated legislatures worked to secure their control by passing new constitutions and amendments at the turn of the 20th century that disenfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. This exclusion of blacks from the political system, and great weakening of the Republican Party, was generally maintained until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Solid South of the early 20th century was built on white Democratic control of politics. The region did not achieve national levels of prosperity until long after World War II.[227]

Texas v. White

In Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869) the United States Supreme Court ruled – by a 5–3 majority – that Texas had remained a state ever since it first joined the Union, despite claims that it joined the Confederate States of America. In this case, the court held that the Constitution did not permit a state to unilaterally secede from the United States. Further, that the ordinances of secession, and all the acts of the legislatures within seceding states intended to give effect to such ordinances, were “absolutely null”, under the Constitution.[228] This case settled the law that applied to all questions regarding state legislation during the war. Furthermore, it decided one of the “central constitutional questions” of the Civil War: The Union is perpetual and indestructible, as a matter of constitutional law. In declaring that no state could leave the Union, “except through revolution or through consent of the States”, it was “explicitly repudiating the position of the Confederate states that the United States was a voluntary compact between sovereign states”.[229]

Theories regarding the Confederacy’s demise

“Died of states’ rights”

Historian Frank Lawrence Owsley argued that the Confederacy “died of states’ rights”.[230][231][232] The central government was denied requisitioned soldiers and money by governors and state legislatures because they feared that Richmond would encroach on the rights of the states. Georgia’s governor Joseph Brown warned of a secret conspiracy by Jefferson Davis to destroy states’ rights and individual liberty. The first conscription act in North America authorizing Davis to draft soldiers was said to be the “essence of military despotism”.[233][234]

Vice President Alexander H. Stephens feared losing the very form of republican government. Allowing President Davis to threaten “arbitrary arrests” to draft hundreds of governor-appointed “bomb-proof” bureaucrats conferred “more power than the English Parliament had ever bestowed on the king. History proved the dangers of such unchecked authority.”[235] The abolishment of draft exemptions for newspaper editors was interpreted as an attempt by the Confederate government to muzzle presses, such as the Raleigh NC Standard, to control elections and to suppress the peace meetings there. As Rable concludes, “For Stephens, the essence of patriotism, the heart of the Confederate cause, rested on an unyielding commitment to traditional rights” without considerations of military necessity, pragmatism or compromise.[235]

In 1863 governor Pendleton Murrah of Texas determined that state troops were required for defense against Plains Indians and Union forces that might attack from Kansas. He refused to send his soldiers to the East.[236] Governor Zebulon Vance of North Carolina showed intense opposition to conscription, limiting recruitment success. Vance’s faith in states’ rights drove him into repeated, stubborn opposition to the Davis administration.[237]

Despite political differences within the Confederacy, no national political parties were formed because they were seen as illegitimate. “Anti-partyism became an article of political faith.”[238] Without a two-party system building alternative sets of national leaders, electoral protests tended to be narrowly state-based, “negative, carping and petty”. The 1863 mid-term elections became mere expressions of futile and frustrated dissatisfaction. According to historian David M. Potter, this lack of a functioning two-party system caused “real and direct damage” to the Confederate war effort since it prevented the formulation of any effective alternatives to the conduct of the war by the Davis administration.[239]

“Died of Davis”

The enemies of President Davis proposed that the Confederacy “died of Davis”. He was unfavorably compared to George Washington by critics such as Edward Alfred Pollard, editor of the most influential newspaper the Richmond Examiner. Coulter summarizes, “The American Revolution had its Washington; the Southern Revolution had its Davis … one succeeded and the other failed.” Beyond the early honeymoon period, Davis was never popular. He unwittingly caused much internal dissension from early on. His ill health and temporary bouts of blindness disabled him for days at a time.[240]

Coulter says Davis was heroic and his will was indomitable. But his “tenacity, determination, and will power” stirred up lasting opposition of enemies Davis could not shake. He failed to overcome “petty leaders of the states” who made the term “Confederacy” into a label for tyranny and oppression, denying the “Stars and Bars” from becoming a symbol of larger patriotic service and sacrifice. Instead of campaigning to develop nationalism and gain support for his administration, he rarely courted public opinion, assuming an aloofness, “almost like an Adams”.[240]

Escott argues that Davis was unable to mobilize Confederate nationalism in support of his government effectively, and especially failed to appeal to the small farmers who comprised the bulk of the population. In addition to the problems caused by states rights, Escott also emphasizes that the widespread opposition to any strong central government combined with the vast difference in wealth between the slave-owning class and the small farmers created insolvable dilemmas when the Confederate survival presupposed a strong central government backed by a united populace. The prewar claim that white solidarity was necessary to provide a unified Southern voice in Washington no longer held. Davis failed to build a network of supporters who would speak up when he came under criticism, and he repeatedly alienated governors and other state-based leaders by demanding centralized control of the war effort.[241]

Davis was not an efficient administrator. He attended to too many details. He protected his friends after their failures were obvious. He spent too much time on military affairs versus his civic responsibilities. Coulter concludes he was not the ideal leader for the Southern Revolution, but he showed “fewer weaknesses than any other” contemporary character available for the role.[242]Robert E. Lee’s assessment of Davis as President was, “I knew of none that could have done as well.”[243]

Government and politics

Political divisions


The Southern leaders met in Montgomery, Alabama, to write their constitution. Much of the Confederate States Constitution replicated the United States Constitution verbatim, but it contained several explicit protections of the institution of slavery including provisions for the recognition and protection of slavery in any territory of the Confederacy. It maintained the ban on international slave-trading while protecting the existing internal trade of slaves among slaveholding states.

In certain areas, the Confederate Constitution gave greater powers to the states (or curtailed the powers of the central government more) than the U.S. Constitution of the time did, but in other areas, the states lost rights they had under the U.S. Constitution. Although the Confederate Constitution, like the U.S. Constitution, contained a commerce clause, the Confederate version prohibited the central government from using revenues collected in one state for funding internal improvements in another state. The Confederate Constitution’s equivalent to the U.S. Constitution’s general welfare clause prohibited protective tariffs (but allowed tariffs for providing domestic revenue), and spoke of “carry[ing] on the Government of the Confederate States” rather than providing for the “general welfare”. State legislatures had the power to impeach officials of the Confederate government in some cases. On the other hand, the Confederate Constitution contained a Necessary and Proper Clause and a Supremacy Clause that essentially duplicated the respective clauses of the U.S. Constitution. The Confederate Constitution also incorporated each of the 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution that had been ratified up to that point.

The Confederate Constitution did not specifically include a provision allowing states to secede; the Preamble spoke of each state “acting in its sovereign and independent character” but also of the formation of a “permanent federal government”. During the debates on drafting the Confederate Constitution, one proposal would have allowed states to secede from the Confederacy. The proposal was tabled with only the South Carolina delegates voting in favor of considering the motion.[244] The Confederate Constitution also explicitly denied States the power to bar slaveholders from other parts of the Confederacy from bringing their slaves into any state of the Confederacy or to interfere with the property rights of slave owners traveling between different parts of the Confederacy. In contrast with the language of the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution overtly asked God’s blessing (“… invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God …”).


The Montgomery Convention to establish the Confederacy and its executive met on February 4, 1861. Each state as a sovereignty had one vote, with the same delegation size as it held in the U.S. Congress, and generally 41 to 50 members attended.[245] Offices were “provisional”, limited to a term not to exceed one year. One name was placed in nomination for president, one for vice president. Both were elected unanimously, 6–0.[246]

Jefferson Davis
President 1861–65

Jefferson Davis was elected provisional president. His U.S. Senate resignation speech greatly impressed with its clear rationale for secession and his pleading for a peaceful departure from the Union to independence. Although he had made it known that he wanted to be commander-in-chief of the Confederate armies, when elected, he assumed the office of Provisional President. Three candidates for provisional Vice President were under consideration the night before the February 9 election. All were from Georgia, and the various delegations meeting in different places determined two would not do, so Alexander H. Stephens was elected unanimously provisional Vice President, though with some privately held reservations. Stephens was inaugurated February 11, Davis February 18.[247]

Davis and Stephens were elected President and Vice President, unopposed on November 6, 1861. They were inaugurated on February 22, 1862.

Historian E. M. Coulter observed, “No president of the U.S. ever had a more difficult task.” Washington was inaugurated in peacetime. Lincoln inherited an established government of long standing. The creation of the Confederacy was accomplished by men who saw themselves as fundamentally conservative. Although they referred to their “Revolution”, it was in their eyes more a counter-revolution against changes away from their understanding of U.S. founding documents. In Davis’ inauguration speech, he explained the Confederacy was not a French-like revolution, but a transfer of rule. The Montgomery Convention had assumed all the laws of the United States until superseded by the Confederate Congress.[248]

The Permanent Constitution provided for a President of the Confederate States of America, elected to serve a six-year term but without the possibility of re-election. Unlike the United States Constitution, the Confederate Constitution gave the president the ability to subject a bill to a line item veto, a power also held by some state governors.

The Confederate Congress could overturn either the general or the line item vetoes with the same two-thirds votes required in the U.S. Congress. In addition, appropriations not specifically requested by the executive branch required passage by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress. The only person to serve as president was Jefferson Davis, due to the Confederacy being defeated before the completion of his term.

Administration and cabinet

The Davis Cabinet
President Jefferson Davis 1861–65
Vice President Alexander H. Stephens 1861–65
Secretary of State Robert Toombs 1861
Robert M.T. Hunter 1861–62
Judah P. Benjamin 1862–65
Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger 1861–64
George Trenholm 1864–65
John H. Reagan 1865
Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker 1861
Judah P. Benjamin 1861–62
George W. Randolph 1862
James Seddon 1862–65
John C. Breckinridge 1865
Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory 1861–65
Postmaster General John H. Reagan 1861–65
Attorney General Judah P. Benjamin 1861
Thomas Bragg 1861–62
Thomas H. Watts 1862–63
George Davis 1864–65

Davis’s cabinet in 1861, Montgomery, Alabama
Front row, left to right: Judah P. Benjamin, Stephen Mallory, Alexander H. Stephens, Jefferson Davis, John Henninger Reagan, and Robert Toombs
Back row, standing left to right: Christopher Memminger and LeRoy Pope Walker
Illustration printed in Harper’s Weekly


Provisional Congress, Montgomery, Alabama

The only two “formal, national, functioning, civilian administrative bodies” in the Civil War South were the Jefferson Davis administration and the Confederate Congresses. The Confederacy was begun by the Provisional Congress in Convention at Montgomery, Alabama on February 28, 1861. It had one vote per state in a unicameral assembly.[249]

The Permanent Confederate Congress was elected and began its first session February 18, 1862. The Permanent Congress for the Confederacy followed the United States forms with a bicameral legislature. The Senate had two per state, twenty-six Senators. The House numbered 106 representatives apportioned by free and slave populations within each state. Two Congresses sat in six sessions until March 18, 1865.[250]

The political influences of the civilian, soldier vote and appointed representatives reflected divisions of political geography of a diverse South. These in turn changed over time relative to Union occupation and disruption, the war impact on local economy, and the course of the war. Without political parties, key candidate identification related to adopting secession before or after Lincoln’s call for volunteers to retake Federal property. Previous party affiliation played a part in voter selection, predominantly secessionist Democrat or unionist Whig.[251]

The absence of political parties made individual roll call voting all the more important, as the Confederate “freedom of roll-call voting [was] unprecedented in American legislative history.[252] Key issues throughout the life of the Confederacy related to (1) suspension of habeas corpus, (2) military concerns such as control of state militia, conscription and exemption, (3) economic and fiscal policy including impressment of slaves, goods and scorched earth, and (4) support of the Jefferson Davis administration in its foreign affairs and negotiating peace.[253]


The Confederate Constitution outlined a judicial branch of the government, but the ongoing war and resistance from states-rights advocates, particularly on the question of whether it would have appellate jurisdiction over the state courts, prevented the creation or seating of the “Supreme Court of the Confederate States;” the state courts generally continued to operate as they had done, simply recognizing the Confederate States as the national government.[254]

Confederate district courts were authorized by Article III, Section 1, of the Confederate Constitution,[255] and President Davis appointed judges within the individual states of the Confederate States of America.[256] In many cases, the same US Federal District Judges were appointed as Confederate States District Judges. Confederate district courts began reopening in early 1861, handling many of the same type cases as had been done before. Prize cases, in which Union ships were captured by the Confederate Navy or raiders and sold through court proceedings, were heard until the blockade of southern ports made this impossible. After a Sequestration Act was passed by the Confederate Congress, the Confederate district courts heard many cases in which enemy aliens (typically Northern absentee landlords owning property in the South) had their property sequestered (seized) by Confederate Receivers.

When the matter came before the Confederate court, the property owner could not appear because he was unable to travel across the front lines between Union and Confederate forces. Thus, the District Attorney won the case by default, the property was typically sold, and the money used to further the Southern war effort. Eventually, because there was no Confederate Supreme Court, sharp attorneys like South Carolina’s Edward McCrady began filing appeals. This prevented their clients’ property from being sold until a supreme court could be constituted to hear the appeal, which never occurred.[256] Where Federal troops gained control over parts of the Confederacy and re-established civilian government, US district courts sometimes resumed jurisdiction.[257]

Supreme Court – not established.

District Courts – judges

Post Office

When the Confederacy was formed and its seceding states broke from the Union, it was at once confronted with the arduous task of providing its citizens with a mail delivery system, and, in the midst of the American Civil War, the newly formed Confederacy created and established the Confederate Post Office. One of the first undertakings in establishing the Post Office was the appointment of John H. Reagan to the position of Postmaster General, by Jefferson Davis in 1861, making him the first Postmaster General of the Confederate Post Office as well as a member of Davis’ presidential cabinet. Through Reagan’s resourcefulness and remarkable industry, he had his department assembled, organized and in operation before the other Presidential cabinet members had their departments fully operational.[258][259]

When the war began, the US Post Office still delivered mail from the secessionist states for a brief period of time. Mail that was postmarked after the date of a state’s admission into the Confederacy through May 31, 1861, and bearing US postage was still delivered.[260] After this time, private express companies still managed to carry some of the mail across enemy lines. Later, mail that crossed lines had to be sent by ‘Flag of Truce’ and was allowed to pass at only two specific points. Mail sent from the South to the North states was received, opened and inspected at Fortress Monroe on the Virginia coast before being passed on into the U.S. mail stream. Mail sent from the North to the South passed at City Point, also in Virginia, where it was also inspected before being sent on.[261][262]

With the chaos of the war, a working postal system was more important than ever for the Confederacy. The Civil War had divided family members and friends and consequently letter writing increased dramatically across the entire divided nation, especially to and from the men who were away serving in an army. Mail delivery was also important for the Confederacy for a myriad of business and military reasons. Because of the Union blockade, basic supplies were always in demand and so getting mailed correspondence out of the country to suppliers was imperative to the successful operation of the Confederacy. Volumes of material have been written about the Blockade runners who evaded Union ships on blockade patrol, usually at night, and who moved cargo and mail in and out of the Confederate States throughout the course of the war. Of particular interest to students and historians of the American Civil War is Prisoner of War mail and Blockade mail as these items were often involved with a variety of military and other war time activities. The postal history of the Confederacy along with surviving Confederate mail has helped historians document the various people, places and events that were involved in the American Civil War as it unfolded.[263]

Civil liberties

The Confederacy actively used the army to arrest people suspected of loyalty to the United States. Historian Mark Neely found 4,108 names of men arrested and estimated a much larger total.[264] The Confederacy arrested pro-Union civilians in the South at about the same rate as the Union arrested pro-Confederate civilians in the North.[265] Neely argues:

The Confederate citizen was not any freer than the Union citizen – and perhaps no less likely to be arrested by military authorities. In fact, the Confederate citizen may have been in some ways less free than his Northern counterpart. For example, freedom to travel within the Confederate states was severely limited by a domestic passport system.[266]



Across the South, widespread rumors alarmed the whites by predicting the slaves were planning some sort of insurrection. Patrols were stepped up. The slaves did become increasingly independent, and resistant to punishment, but historians agree there were no insurrections. In the invaded areas, insubordination was more the norm than loyalty to the old master; Bell Wiley says, “It was not disloyalty, but the lure of freedom.” Many slaves became spies for the North, and large numbers ran away to federal lines.[267]

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order of the U.S. government on January 1, 1863, changed the legal status of 3 million slaves in designated areas of the Confederacy from “slave” to “free”. The long-term effect was that the Confederacy could not preserve the institution of slavery, and lost the use of the core element of its plantation labor force. Slaves were legally freed by the Proclamation, and became free by escaping to federal lines, or by advances of federal troops. Many freed slaves served as volunteers in the federal army as teamsters, cooks, laundresses and laborers, and eventually as soldiers.[268] Plantation owners, realizing that emancipation would destroy their economic system, sometimes moved their slaves as far as possible out of reach of the Union army.[269] By “Juneteenth” (June 19, 1865, in Texas), the Union Army controlled all of the Confederacy and had liberated all its slaves. Their owners never received compensation.[270][271]

Political economy

Most whites were subsistence farmers who traded their surpluses locally. The plantations of the South, with white ownership and an enslaved labor force, produced substantial wealth from cash crops. It supplied two-thirds of the world’s cotton, which was in high demand for textiles, along with tobacco, sugar, and naval stores (such as turpentine). These raw materials were exported to factories in Europe and the Northeast. Planters reinvested their profits in more slaves and fresh land, for cotton and tobacco depleted the soil. There was little manufacturing or mining; shipping was controlled by outsiders.[272][273]

New Orleans. South’s largest port city, only pre-war population over 100,000. Port and region’s agriculture lost to Union April 1862
Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond VA. South’s largest factory. Ended locomotive production in 1860 to make arms and munitions

The plantations that enslaved over three million black people were the principal source of wealth. Most were concentrated in “black belt” plantation areas (because few white families in the poor regions owned slaves.) For decades there had been widespread fear of slave revolts. During the war extra men were assigned to “home guard” patrol duty and governors sought to keep militia units at home for protection. Historian William Barney reports, “no major slave revolts erupted during the Civil War.” Nevertheless, slaves took the opportunity to enlarge their sphere of independence, and when union forces were nearby, many ran off to join them.[274][275]

Slave labor was applied in industry in a limited way in the Upper South and in a few port cities. One reason for the regional lag in industrial development was top-heavy income distribution. Mass production requires mass markets, and slaves living in small cabins, using self-made tools and outfitted with one suit of work clothes each year of inferior fabric, did not generate consumer demand to sustain local manufactures of any description in the same way a mechanized family farm of free labor did in the North. The Southern economy was “pre-capitalist” in that slaves were put to work in the largest revenue-producing enterprises, not free labor market. That labor system as practiced in the American South encompassed paternalism, whether abusive or indulgent, and that meant labor management considerations apart from productivity.[276]

Approximately 85% of both North and South white populations lived on family farms, both regions were predominantly agricultural, and mid-century industry in both was mostly domestic. But the Southern economy was pre-capitalist in its overwhelming reliance on the agriculture of cash crops to produce wealth, while the great majority of farmers fed themselves and supplied a small local market. Southern cities and industries grew faster than ever before, but the thrust of the rest of the country’s exponential growth elsewhere was toward urban industrial development along transportation systems of canals and railroads. The South was following the dominant currents of the American economic mainstream, but at a “great distance” as it lagged in the all-weather modes of transportation that brought cheaper, speedier freight shipment and forged new, expanding inter-regional markets.[277]

A third count of southern pre-capitalist economy relates to the cultural setting. The South and southerners did not adopt a work ethic, nor the habits of thrift that marked the rest of the country. It had access to the tools of capitalism, but it did not adopt its culture. The Southern Cause as a national economy in the Confederacy was grounded in “slavery and race, planters and patricians, plain folk and folk culture, cotton and plantations”.[278]

National production

The Union had large advantages in men and resources at the start of the war; the ratio grew steadily in favor of the Union

The Confederacy started its existence as an agrarian economy with exports, to a world market, of cotton, and, to a lesser extent, tobacco and sugarcane. Local food production included grains, hogs, cattle, and gardens. The cash came from exports but the Southern people spontaneously stopped exports in early 1861 to hasten the impact of “King Cotton”. When the blockade was announced, commercial shipping practically ended (the ships could not get insurance), and only a trickle of supplies came via blockade runners. The cutoff of exports was an economic disaster for the South, rendering useless its most valuable properties, its plantations and their enslaved workers. Many planters kept growing cotton, which piled up everywhere, but most turned to food production. All across the region, the lack of repair and maintenance wasted away the physical assets.

The eleven states had produced $155 million in manufactured goods in 1860, chiefly from local grist-mills, and lumber, processed tobacco, cotton goods and naval stores such as turpentine. The main industrial areas were border cities such as Baltimore, Wheeling, Louisville and St. Louis, that were never under Confederate control. The government did set up munitions factories in the Deep South. Combined with captured munitions and those coming via blockade runners, the armies were kept minimally supplied with weapons. The soldiers suffered from reduced rations, lack of medicines, and the growing shortages of uniforms, shoes and boots. Shortages were much worse for civilians, and the prices of necessities steadily rose.[279]

The Confederacy adopted a tariff or tax on imports of 15%, and imposed it on all imports from other countries, including the United States.[280] The tariff mattered little; the Union blockade minimized commercial traffic through the Confederacy’s ports, and very few people paid taxes on goods smuggled from the North. The Confederate government in its entire history collected only $3.5 million in tariff revenue. The lack of adequate financial resources led the Confederacy to finance the war through printing money, which led to high inflation. The Confederacy underwent an economic revolution by centralization and standardization, but it was too little too late as its economy was systematically strangled by blockade and raids.[281]

Transportation systems

Main railroads of Confederacy, 1861; colors show the different gauges (track width); the top railroad shown in the upper right is the Baltimore and Ohio, which was at all times a Union railroad

Passers-by abusing the bodies of Union supporters near Knoxville, Tennessee. The two were hanged by Confederate authorities near the railroad tracks so passing train passengers could see them.

In peacetime, the South’s extensive and connected systems of navigable rivers and coastal access allowed for cheap and easy transportation of agricultural products. The railroad system in the South had developed as a supplement to the navigable rivers to enhance the all-weather shipment of cash crops to market. Railroads tied plantation areas to the nearest river or seaport and so made supply more dependable, lowered costs and increased profits. In the event of invasion, the vast geography of the Confederacy made logistics difficult for the Union. Wherever Union armies invaded, they assigned many of their soldiers to garrison captured areas and to protect rail lines.

At the onset of the Civil War the South had a rail network disjointed and plagued by changes in track gauge as well as lack of interchange. Locomotives and freight cars had fixed axles and could not use tracks of different gauges (widths). Railroads of different gauges leading to the same city required all freight to be off-loaded onto wagons for transport to the connecting railroad station, where it had to await freight cars and a locomotive before proceeding. Centers requiring off-loading included Vicksburg, New Orleans, Montgomery, Wilmington and Richmond.[282] In addition, most rail lines led from coastal or river ports to inland cities, with few lateral railroads. Due to this design limitation, the relatively primitive railroads of the Confederacy were unable to overcome the Union naval blockade of the South’s crucial intra-coastal and river routes.

The Confederacy had no plan to expand, protect or encourage its railroads. Southerners’ refusal to export the cotton crop in 1861 left railroads bereft of their main source of income.[283] Many lines had to lay off employees; many critical skilled technicians and engineers were permanently lost to military service. In the early years of the war the Confederate government had a hands-off approach to the railroads. Only in mid-1863 did the Confederate government initiate a national policy, and it was confined solely to aiding the war effort.[284] Railroads came under the de facto control of the military. In contrast, the U.S. Congress had authorized military administration of Union-controlled railroad and telegraph systems in January 1862, imposed a standard gauge, and built railroads into the South using that gauge. Confederate armies successfully reoccupying territory could not be resupplied directly by rail as they advanced. The C.S. Congress formally authorized military administration of railroads in February 1865.

In the last year before the end of the war, the Confederate railroad system stood permanently on the verge of collapse. There was no new equipment and raids on both sides systematically destroyed key bridges, as well as locomotives and freight cars. Spare parts were cannibalized; feeder lines were torn up to get replacement rails for trunk lines, and rolling stock wore out through heavy use.[285]

Horses and mules

The Confederate army experienced a persistent shortage of horses and mules, and requisitioned them with dubious promissory notes given to local farmers and breeders. Union forces paid in real money and found ready sellers in the South. Both armies needed horses for cavalry and for artillery.[286] Mules pulled the wagons. The supply was undermined by an unprecedented epidemic of glanders, a fatal disease that baffled veterinarians.[287] After 1863 the invading Union forces had a policy of shooting all the local horses and mules they did not need – in order to keep them out of Confederate hands. The Confederate armies and farmers experienced a growing shortage of horses and mules, which hurt the Southern economy and the war effort. The South lost half of its 2.5 million horses and mules; many farmers ended the war with none left. Army horses were used up by hard work, malnourishment, disease and battle wounds; they had a life expectancy of about seven months.[288]

Financial instruments

Both the individual Confederate states and later the Confederate government printed Confederate States of America dollars as paper currency in various denominations, with a total face value of $1.5 billion. Much of it was signed by Treasurer Edward C. Elmore. Inflation became rampant as the paper money depreciated and eventually became worthless. The state governments and some localities printed their own paper money, adding to the runaway inflation.[289] Many bills still exist, although in recent years counterfeit copies have proliferated.

1862 $10 CSA note depicting a vignette of Hope flanked by R.M.T. Hunter (left) and C.G. Memminger (right).

The Confederate government initially wanted to finance its war mostly through tariffs on imports, export taxes, and voluntary donations of gold. After the spontaneous imposition of an embargo on cotton sales to Europe in 1861, these sources of revenue dried up and the Confederacy increasingly turned to issuing debt and printing money to pay for war expenses. The Confederate States politicians were worried about angering the general population with hard taxes. A tax increase might disillusion many Southerners, so the Confederacy resorted to printing more money. As a result, inflation increased and remained a problem for the southern states throughout the rest of the war.[290] By April 1863, for example, the cost of flour in Richmond had risen to $100 a barrel and housewives were rioting.[291]

The Confederate government took over the three national mints: the Charlotte Mint in North Carolina, the Dahlonega Mint in Georgia, and the New Orleans Mint in Louisiana. During 1861, the first two produced small amounts of gold coinage, the latter half dollars. Since the mints used the current dies on hand, these issues remain indistinguishable from those minted by the Union. In New Orleans the Confederacy used its own reverse design to strike four half dollars. US coinage was hoarded and did not have any general circulation. U.S. coinage was admitted as legal tender up to $10, as were British sovereigns, French Napoleons and Spanish and Mexican doubloons at a fixed rate of exchange. Confederate money was paper and postage stamps.[292]

Food shortages and riots

Richmond bread riot, 1863

By mid-1861, the Union naval blockade virtually shut down the export of cotton and the import of manufactured goods. Food that formerly came overland was cut off.

Women had charge of making do. They cut back on purchases, brought out old spinning wheels and enlarged their gardens with flax and peas to provide clothing and food. They used ersatz substitutes when possible, but there was no real coffee and it was hard to develop a taste for the okra or chicory substitutes used. The households were severely hurt by inflation in the cost of everyday items like flour and the shortages of food, fodder for the animals, and medical supplies for the wounded.[293][294]

State governments pleaded with planters to grow less cotton and more food. Most refused. When cotton prices soared in Europe, expectations were that Europe would soon intervene to break the blockade and make them rich.[295] The myth of omnipotent “King Cotton” died hard. The Georgia legislature imposed cotton quotas, making it a crime to grow an excess. But food shortages only worsened, especially in the towns.[296]

The overall decline in food supplies, made worse by the inadequate transportation system, led to serious shortages and high prices in urban areas. When bacon reached a dollar a pound in 1863, the poor women of Richmond, Atlanta and many other cities began to riot; they broke into shops and warehouses to seize food. The women expressed their anger at ineffective state relief efforts, speculators, and merchants. As wives and widows of soldiers they were hurt by the inadequate welfare system.[297][298][299][300]

Devastation by 1865

By the end of the war deterioration of the Southern infrastructure was widespread. The number of civilian deaths is unknown. Every Confederate state was affected, but most of the war was fought in Virginia and Tennessee, while Texas and Florida saw the least military action. Much of the damage was caused by direct military action, but most was caused by lack of repairs and upkeep, and by deliberately using up resources. Historians have recently estimated how much of the devastation was caused by military action. Paul Paskoff calculates that Union military operations were conducted in 56% of 645 counties in nine Confederate states (excluding Texas and Florida). These counties contained 63% of the 1860 white population and 64% of the slaves. By the time the fighting took place, undoubtedly some people had fled to safer areas, so the exact population exposed to war is unknown.[301]

The eleven Confederate States in the 1860 United States Census had 297 towns and cities with 835,000 people; of these 162 with 681,000 people were at one point occupied by Union forces. Eleven were destroyed or severely damaged by war action, including Atlanta (with an 1860 population of 9,600), Charleston, Columbia, and Richmond (with prewar populations of 40,500, 8,100, and 37,900, respectively); the eleven contained 115,900 people in the 1860 census, or 14% of the urban South. Historians have not estimated what their actual population was when Union forces arrived. The number of people (as of 1860) who lived in the destroyed towns represented just over 1% of the Confederacy’s 1860 population. In addition, 45 court houses were burned (out of 830). The South’s agriculture was not highly mechanized. The value of farm implements and machinery in the 1860 Census was $81 million; by 1870, there was 40% less, worth just $48 million. Many old tools had broken through heavy use; new tools were rarely available; even repairs were difficult.[302]

The economic losses affected everyone. Banks and insurance companies were mostly bankrupt. Confederate currency and bonds were worthless. The billions of dollars invested in slaves vanished. Most debts were also left behind. Most farms were intact but most had lost their horses, mules and cattle; fences and barns were in disrepair. Paskoff shows the loss of farm infrastructure was about the same whether or not fighting took place nearby. The loss of infrastructure and productive capacity meant that rural widows throughout the region faced not only the absence of able-bodied men, but a depleted stock of material resources that they could manage and operate themselves. During four years of warfare, disruption, and blockades, the South used up about half its capital stock. The North, by contrast, absorbed its material losses so effortlessly that it appeared richer at the end of the war than at the beginning.[302]

The rebuilding took years and was hindered by the low price of cotton after the war. Outside investment was essential, especially in railroads. One historian has summarized the collapse of the transportation infrastructure needed for economic recovery:[303]

One of the greatest calamities which confronted Southerners was the havoc wrought on the transportation system. Roads were impassable or nonexistent, and bridges were destroyed or washed away. The important river traffic was at a standstill: levees were broken, channels were blocked, the few steamboats which had not been captured or destroyed were in a state of disrepair, wharves had decayed or were missing, and trained personnel were dead or dispersed. Horses, mules, oxen, carriages, wagons, and carts had nearly all fallen prey at one time or another to the contending armies. The railroads were paralyzed, with most of the companies bankrupt. These lines had been the special target of the enemy. On one stretch of 114 miles in Alabama, every bridge and trestle was destroyed, cross-ties rotten, buildings burned, water-tanks gone, ditches filled up, and tracks grown up in weeds and bushes … Communication centers like Columbia and Atlanta were in ruins; shops and foundries were wrecked or in disrepair. Even those areas bypassed by battle had been pirated for equipment needed on the battlefront, and the wear and tear of wartime usage without adequate repairs or replacements reduced all to a state of disintegration.

Effect on women and families

Confederate memorial tombstone at Natchez City Cemetery in Natchez, Mississippi

About 250,000 men never came home, some 30 percent of all white men aged 18 to 40, in 1860. Widows who were overwhelmed often abandoned the farm and merged into the households of relatives, or even became refugees living in camps with high rates of disease and death.[304] In the Old South, being an “old maid” was something of an embarrassment to the woman and her family. After the war it became almost a norm.[305] Some women welcomed the freedom of not having to marry. Divorce, while never fully accepted, became more common. The concept of the “New Woman” emerged – she was self-sufficient and independent, and stood in sharp contrast to the “Southern Belle” of antebellum lore.[306]

National flags

This Confederate Flag pattern is the one most often thought of as the Confederate Flag today; it was one of many used by the Confederate armed forces. Variations of this design served as the Battle Flag of the Armies of Northern Virginia and Tennessee, and as the Confederate Naval Jack.

The first official flag of the Confederate States of America – called the “Stars and Bars” – originally had seven stars, representing the first seven states that initially formed the Confederacy. As more states joined, more stars were added, until the total was 13 (two stars were added for the divided states of Kentucky and Missouri). During the First Battle of Bull Run, (First Manassas) it sometimes proved difficult to distinguish the Stars and Bars from the Union flag. To rectify the situation, a separate “Battle Flag” was designed for use by troops in the field. Also known as the “Southern Cross”, many variations sprang from the original square configuration. Although it was never officially adopted by the Confederate government, the popularity of the Southern Cross among both soldiers and the civilian population was a primary reason why it was made the main color feature when a new national flag was adopted in 1863. This new standard – known as the “Stainless Banner” – consisted of a lengthened white field area with a Battle Flag canton. This flag too had its problems when used in military operations as, on a windless day, it could easily be mistaken for a flag of truce or surrender. Thus, in 1865, a modified version of the Stainless Banner was adopted. This final national flag of the Confederacy kept the Battle Flag canton, but shortened the white field and added a vertical red bar to the fly end.

Because of its depiction in the 20th-century and popular media, many people consider the rectangular battle flag with the dark blue bars as being synonymous with “the Confederate Flag”, but this flag was never adopted as a Confederate national flag. The “Confederate Flag” has a color scheme similar to the official Battle Flag, but is rectangular, not square. (Its design and shape matches the Naval Jack, but the blue bars are darker.) The “Confederate Flag” is a highly recognizable symbol of the South in the United States today, and continues to be a controversial icon.


Region and climate

The Confederate States of America claimed a total of 2,919 miles (4,698 km) of coastline, thus a large part of its territory lay on the seacoast with level and often sandy or marshy ground. Most of the interior portion consisted of arable farmland, though much was also hilly and mountainous, and the far western territories were deserts. The lower reaches of the Mississippi River bisected the country, with the western half often referred to as the Trans-Mississippi. The highest point (excluding Arizona and New Mexico) was Guadalupe Peak in Texas at 8,750 feet (2,670 m).

Map of the states and territories claimed by the Confederate States of America


Much of the area claimed by the Confederate States of America had a humid subtropical climate with mild winters and long, hot, humid summers. The climate and terrain varied from vast swamps (such as those in Florida and Louisiana) to semi-arid steppes and arid deserts west of longitude 100 degrees west. The subtropical climate made winters mild but allowed infectious diseases to flourish. Consequently, on both sides more soldiers died from disease than were killed in combat,[310] a fact hardly atypical of pre–World War I conflicts.



The United States Census of 1860[311] gives a picture of the overall 1860 population of the areas that joined the Confederacy. Note that population-numbers exclude non-assimilated Indian tribes.

State Total
number of
number of
Total number[312]
% of Free
as % of
Alabama 964,201 435,080 96,603 529,121 33,730 6% 45% 2,690
Arkansas 435,450 111,115 57,244 324,335 11,481 4% 26% 144
Florida 140,424 61,745 15,090 78,679 5,152 7% 44% 932
Georgia 1,057,286 462,198 109,919 595,088 41,084 7% 44% 3,500
Louisiana 708,002 331,726 74,725 376,276 22,033 6% 47% 18,647
Mississippi 791,305 436,631 63,015 354,674 30,943 9% 55% 773
North Carolina 992,622 331,059 125,090 661,563 34,658 5% 33% 30,463
South Carolina 703,708 402,406 58,642 301,302 26,701 9% 57% 9,914
Tennessee 1,109,801 275,719 149,335 834,082 36,844 4% 25% 7,300
Texas 604,215 182,566 76,781 421,649 21,878 5% 30% 355
Virginia 1,596,318 490,865 201,523 1,105,453 52,128 5% 31% 58,042
Total 9,103,332 3,521,110 1,027,967 5,582,222 316,632 6% 39% 132,760

(Figures for Virginia include the future West Virginia.)

Age structure 0–14 years 15–59 years 60 years and over
White males 43% 52% 4%
White females 44% 52% 4%
Male slaves 44% 51% 4%
Female slaves 45% 51% 3%
Free black males 45% 50% 5%
Free black females 40% 54% 6%
Total population 44% 52% 4%

(Rows may not total to 100% due to rounding)

In 1860 the areas that later formed the eleven Confederate States (and including the future West Virginia) had 132,760 (1.46%) free blacks. Males made up 49.2% of the total population and females 50.8% (whites: 48.60% male, 51.40% female; slaves: 50.15% male, 49.85% female; free blacks: 47.43% male, 52.57% female).[314]

Rural and urban population

A Home on the Mississippi, Currier and Ives, 1871

The CSA was overwhelmingly rural land. Few towns had populations of more than 1,000 – the typical county seat had a population of fewer than 500 people. Cities were rare. Of the twenty largest U.S. cities in the 1860 census, only New Orleans lay in Confederate territory[315] – and the Union captured New Orleans in 1862. Only 13 Confederate-controlled cities ranked among the top 100 U.S. cities in 1860, most of them ports whose economic activities vanished or suffered severely in the Union blockade. The population of Richmond swelled after it became the Confederate capital, reaching an estimated 128,000 in 1864.[316] Other Southern cities in the Border slave-holding states such as Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Wheeling (W.Va., formerly Va.), Alexandria, Louisville, and St. Louis never came under the control of the Confederate government.

The cities of the Confederacy included most prominently in order of size of population:

# City 1860 population 1860 U.S. rank Return to U.S. control
1. New Orleans, Louisiana 168,675 6 1862
2. Charleston, South Carolina 40,522 22 1865
3. Richmond, Virginia 37,910 25 1865
4. Mobile, Alabama 29,258 27 1865
5. Memphis, Tennessee 22,623 38 1862
6. Savannah, Georgia 22,619 41 1864
7. Petersburg, Virginia 18,266 50 1865
8. Nashville, Tennessee 16,988 54 1862
9. Norfolk, Virginia 14,620 61 1862
10. Augusta, Georgia 12,493 77 1865
11. Columbus, Georgia 9,621 97 1865
12. Atlanta, Georgia 9,554 99 1864
13. Wilmington, North Carolina 9,553 100 1865

(See also Atlanta in the Civil War, Charleston, South Carolina, in the Civil War, Nashville in the Civil War, New Orleans in the Civil War, Wilmington, North Carolina, in the American Civil War, and Richmond in the Civil War).


St. John’s Episcopal Church in Montgomery, Alabama, established in 1834. The church building was completed in 1855. The Secession Convention of Southern Churches was held here in 1861.

The CSA was overwhelmingly Protestant.[317] Both free and enslaved populations identified with evangelical Protestantism. Baptists and Methodists together formed majorities of both the white and the slave population (see Black church). Freedom of religion and separation of church and state were fully ensured by Confederate laws. Church attendance was very high and chaplains played a major role in the Army.[318]

Most large denominations experienced a North–South split in the prewar era on the issue of slavery. The creation of a new country necessitated independent structures. For example, the Presbyterian Church in the United States split, with much of the new leadership provided by Joseph Ruggles Wilson (father of President Woodrow Wilson). In 1861, he organized the meeting that formed General Assembly of the Southern Presbyterian Church and served as its chief executive for thirty-seven years.[319] Baptists and Methodists both broke off from their Northern coreligionists over the slavery issue, forming the Southern Baptist Convention and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, respectively.[320][321] Elites in the southeast favored the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Confederate States of America, which reluctantly split off the Episcopal Church (USA) in 1861.[322] Other elites were Presbyterians belonging to the 1861-founded Presbyterian Church in the United States. Catholics included an Irish working class element in coastal cities and an old French element in southern Louisiana. Other insignificant and scattered religious populations included Lutherans, the Holiness movement, other Reformed, other Christian fundamentalists, the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, the Churches of Christ, the Latter-day Saints movement, Adventists, Muslims, Jews, Native American animists, deists and irreligious people.[323][324]

The southern churches met the shortage of Army chaplains by sending missionaries. The Southern Baptists started in 1862 and had a total of 78 missionaries. Presbyterians were even more active with 112 missionaries in January 1865. Other missionaries were funded and supported by the Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans. One result was wave after wave of revivals in the Army.[325]

Military leaders

General Robert E. Lee: for many, the face of the Confederate army

Military leaders of the Confederacy (with their state or country of birth and highest rank)[326] included:

  • Robert E. Lee (Virginia) – General-in-Chief of the Armies of the Confederate States
  • P. G. T. Beauregard (Louisiana) – General
  • Braxton Bragg (North Carolina) – General
  • Samuel Cooper (New York) – General
  • Albert Sidney Johnston (Kentucky) – General
  • Joseph E. Johnston (Virginia) – General
  • Edmund Kirby Smith (Florida) – General
  • Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. (Kentucky) – Lieutenant General
  • Jubal Early (Virginia) – Lieutenant General
  • Richard S. Ewell (Virginia) – Lieutenant General
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest (Tennessee) – Lieutenant General
  • Wade Hampton III (South Carolina) – Lieutenant General
  • William J. Hardee (Georgia) – Lieutenant General
  • A. P. Hill (Virginia) – Lieutenant General
  • Theophilus H. Holmes (North Carolina)  – Lieutenant General
  • John Bell Hood (Kentucky) – Lieutenant General (temporary General)
  • Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson (Virginia now West Virginia) – Lieutenant General
  • Stephen D. Lee (South Carolina) – Lieutenant General
  • James Longstreet (South Carolina) – Lieutenant General
  • John C. Pemberton (Pennsylvania) – Lieutenant General
  • Leonidas Polk (North Carolina) – Lieutenant General
  • Alexander P. Stewart (North Carolina) – Lieutenant General
  • Richard Taylor (Kentucky) – Lieutenant General (son of U.S. President Zachary Taylor)
  • Joseph Wheeler (Georgia) – Lieutenant General
  • Richard H. Anderson (South Carolina) – Major General (temporary Lieutenant General)
  • John C. Breckinridge (Kentucky) – Major General, former Vice President of the United States, last Confederate States Secretary of War
  • Patrick Cleburne (Ireland) – Major General
  • John Brown Gordon (Georgia) – Major General
  • Henry Heth (Virginia) – Major General
  • Daniel Harvey Hill (South Carolina) – Major General
  • Edward Johnson (Virginia) – Major General
  • Joseph B. Kershaw (South Carolina) – Major General
  • Fitzhugh Lee (Virginia) – Major General
  • George Washington Custis Lee (Virginia) – Major General
  • William Henry Fitzhugh Lee (Virginia) – Major General
  • William Mahone (Virginia) – Major General
  • George Pickett (Virginia) – Major General
  • Camille Armand Jules Marie, Prince de Polignac (France) – Major General
  • Sterling Price (Missouri) – Major General
  • Stephen Dodson Ramseur (North Carolina) – Major General
  • Thomas L. Rosser (Virginia) – Major General
  • J. E. B. Stuart (Virginia) – Major General
  • Earl Van Dorn (Mississippi) – Major General
  • John A. Wharton (Tennessee) – Major General
  • Edward Porter Alexander (Georgia) – Brigadier General
  • Francis Marion Cockrell (Missouri) – Brigadier General
  • Clement A. Evans (Georgia) – Brigadier General
  • John Hunt Morgan (Kentucky) – Brigadier General
  • William N. Pendleton (Virginia) – Brigadier General
  • Stand Watie (Georgia) – Brigadier General (last to surrender)
  • Lawrence Sullivan Ross (Texas) – Brigadier General
  • John S. Mosby, the “Grey Ghost of the Confederacy” (Virginia) – Colonel
  • Franklin Buchanan (Maryland) – Admiral
  • Raphael Semmes (Maryland) – Rear Admiral

See also

  • History of the Southern United States
  • Congress of the Confederate States of America
  • President of the Confederate States of America
  • Cabinet of the Confederate States of America
  • Confederate war finance
  • Confederate States Army
  • Confederate Patent Office
  • Confederate postage stamps and postal history
  • Confederate Seal
  • Confederate Flag
  • List of treaties of the Confederate States of America
  • Prisoner of war camps
  • List of Confederate arms manufacturers
  • List of Confederate arsenals and armories
  • Confederados
  • Confederate colonies
  • Golden Circle (proposed country)
  • C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America 2004 film
  • Commemoration of the American Civil War
  • Commemoration of the American Civil War on postage stamps
  • List of Confederate monuments
  • National Civil War Naval Museum


  1. ^ ab “Preventing Diplomatic Recognition of the Confederacy, 1861–65”. U.S. Department of State. Archived from the original on August 28, cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ ab Arrington, Benjamin P. “Industry and Economy during the Civil War”. National Park Service. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
  3. ^ McPherson, James M. (2007). This mighty scourge: perspectives on the Civil War. Oxford University Press US. p. 65. ISBN 9780198042761.
  4. ^ Thomas, Emory M. The Confederate Nation, 1861–1865 (1979) pp. 256–257.
  5. ^ “Learn – Civil War Trust” (PDF). Retrieved August 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Hacker, J. David (2011-09-20). “Recounting the Dead”. Opinionator. Retrieved 2018-05-19.
  7. ^ Davis, Jefferson (1890). Short History of the Confederate States of America. p. 503. Retrieved February 10, 2015.
  8. ^ ab David R. Zimring, “‘Secession in Favor of the Constitution’: How West Virginia Justified Separate Statehood during the Civil War.” West Virginia History 3.2 (2009): 23–51. online
  9. ^ Martis, Kenneth C., op. cit., 1994, pp. 43–53.
  10. ^ Burke Davis, Sherman’s march (2016) ch 1.
  11. ^ Weigley (2000), p. 453.
  12. ^ Laurence F. Jones; Edward C. Olson (1996). Political Science Research: A Handbook of Scope and Methods. HarperCollins College Publishers. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-06-501637-6. Then, in the buildup to the Civil War, large numbers of Americans began thinking of themselves as something other than American, for example, southerners.
  13. ^ Emory M. Thomas (1 February 2011). The Confederate Nation: 1861 to 1865. HarperCollins. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-06-206946-7.
  14. ^ Thomas. The Confederate Nation. pp. 3–4.
  15. ^ Thomas. The Confederate Nation. pp. 4–5 and notes.
  16. ^ Coski, John M. (2005). The Confederate Battle Flag: America’s Most Embattled Emblem. pp. 23–27. ISBN 978-067402986-6.
  17. ^ “1860 Presidential General Election Results”. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  18. ^ The first six signatory states establishing the Confederacy counted about one-fourth its population. They voted 43% for pro-Union candidates. The four states which entered after the attack on Fort Sumter held almost half the population of the Confederacy and voted 53% for pro-Union candidates. The three big turnout states voted extremes. Texas, with 5% of the population, voted 20% for pro-Union candidates. Kentucky and Missouri, with one-fourth the Confederate population, voted a combined 68% for the pro-Union Lincoln, Douglas and Bell. See Table of election returns at United States presidential election, 1860.
  19. ^ ab “Reluctant Confederates”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  20. ^ Coulter, E. Merton (1950). The Confederate States of America 1861–1865. p. 61.
  21. ^ Craven, Avery O. The Growth of Southern Nationalism 1848–1861. p. 390.
  22. ^ ab Craven, Avery O., The Growth of Southern Nationalism. 1848–1861 (1953). p. 350
  23. ^ Freehling, William W. (1990). The Road to Disunion: Volume II, Secessionists Triumphant. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 398.
  24. ^ Craven. The Growth of Southern Nationalism. p. 366.
  25. ^ McPherson. pp. 232–233.
  26. ^ Faust, Drew Gilpin (1988). The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  27. ^ Murrin, John (2001). Liberty, Equality, Power. p. 1000.
  28. ^ Emory M. Thomas, The Confederate Nation: 1861–1865 (1979), pp. 83–84.
  29. ^ McPherson p. 244, quoting Stephens’ “Cornerstone Speech”.
  30. ^ Davis, William C. (1994). A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy. New York: Free Press. pp. 294–295. ISBN 978-0-02-907735-1.
  31. ^ “What I Really Said in the Cornerstone Speech” Stephens, Alexander Hamilton; Avary, Myrta Lockett (1998). Recollections of Alexander H. Stephens: his diary kept when a prisoner at Fort Warren, Boston Harbor, 1865, giving incidents and reflections of his prison life and some letters and reminiscence. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 172. ISBN 978-0-8071-2268-6.
  32. ^ “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”. Avalon Project. Yale Law School. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  33. ^ “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union”. Avalon Project. Yale Law School. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  34. ^ “Georgia’s secession declaration”. Avalon Project. Yale Law School. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  35. ^ ab “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union”. Avalon Project. Yale Law School. Retrieved October 10, 2014.
  36. ^ “Constitution of 1861, Ordinances 1 – 20”. Archived from the original on April 26, 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  37. ^ “Ordinance of secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  38. ^ “Young Sanders Center”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  39. ^ “More details on Florida’s ‘declaration of causes'”
  40. ^ “Florida Declaration of Causes”
  41. ^ “Library of Virginia: Civil War Research Guide – Secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  42. ^ “A Nation Divided: Arkansas in the Civil War – History”. Archived from the original on March 26, 2014. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  43. ^ “Civil War Era NC | North Carolina voters rejected a secession convention, February 28, 1861”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  44. ^ Whiteaker, Larry H. “Civil War | Entries”. Tennessee Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  45. ^ “Virginia Ordinance of Secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  46. ^ “Ordinances of Secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  47. ^ Journal of Both Sessions of the Conventions of the State of Arkansas: Which Were Begun and Held in the Capitol, in the City of Little Rock, 1861, pp. 51–54
  48. ^ “Ordinances of Secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  49. ^ “Ordinances of Secession”. Retrieved April 19, 2014.
  50. ^ Annual Register… for 1861 (1862) pp.233–239
  51. ^ ab Freehling, pp. 448+
  52. ^ Freehling, p. 445
  53. ^ Freehling, pp. 391–394
  54. ^ Freehling, p. 416
  55. ^ Freehling, pp. 418+
  56. ^ Ralph Young (2015). Dissent: The History of an American Idea. NYU Press. p. 193.
  57. ^ Samuel Eliot Morison (1965). The Oxford History of the American People. Oxford University Press. p. 609.
  58. ^ “Constitutional Amendments Not Ratified”. United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 2012-07-02. Retrieved 2013-11-21.
  59. ^ Walter, Michael (2003). “Ghost Amendment: The Thirteenth Amendment That Never Was”. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  60. ^ Christensen, Hannah (April 2017). “The Corwin Amendment: The Last Last-Minute Attempt to Save the Union”. The Gettysburg Compiler. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  61. ^ “A proposed Thirteenth Amendment to prevent secession, 1861”. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  62. ^ Lee, R. Alton (January 1961). “The Corwin Amendment – In the Secession Crisis”. Ohio History Journal. 70 (1): 1–26.
  63. ^ abcd Freehling, p. 503
  64. ^ John D. Wright (2013). The Routledge Encyclopedia of Civil War Era Biographies. Routledge. p. 150.
  65. ^ February 28, 1861, Congress authorized Davis to accept state militias into national service. Confederate Act of Congress for “provisionals” on March 6, 1861, authorized 100,000 militia and volunteers under Davis’ command. May 6, Congress empowered Davis to accept volunteers directly without state intermediaries. Keegan, John. The American Civil War: a military history 2009.
    ISBN 978-0-307-26343-8, p. 49
  66. ^ Thomas, Emory T., The Confederate Nation: 1861–1865, 1979.
    ISBN 0-06-090703-7 Chapter 3. “Foundations of the Southern Nation”. pp. 59, 81.
  67. ^ Thomas, Emory T., The Confederate Nation: 1861–1865, 1979.
    ISBN 0-06-090703-7 Chapter 3. “Foundations of the Southern Nation”.
  68. ^ Some southern unionists blamed Lincoln’s call for troops as the precipitating event for the second wave of secessions. Historian James McPherson argues that such claims have “a self-serving quality” and regards them as misleading. He wrote:

    As the telegraph chattered reports of the attack on Sumter April 12 and its surrender next day, huge crowds poured into the streets of Richmond, Raleigh, Nashville, and other upper South cities to celebrate this victory over the Yankees. These crowds waved Confederate flags and cheered the glorious cause of southern independence. They demanded that their own states join the cause. Scores of demonstrations took place from April 12 to 14, before Lincoln issued his call for troops. Many conditional unionists were swept along by this powerful tide of southern nationalism; others were cowed into silence.

    — McPherson p. 278

    Historian Daniel W. Crofts disagrees with McPherson. Crofts wrote:

    The bombardment of Fort Sumter, by itself, did not destroy Unionist majorities in the upper South. Because only three days elapsed before Lincoln issued the proclamation, the two events viewed retrospectively, appear almost simultaneous. Nevertheless, close examination of contemporary evidence … shows that the proclamation had a far more decisive impact.

    — Crofts p. 336

    Crofts further noted that,

    Many concluded … that Lincoln had deliberately chosen “to drive off all the Slave states, in order to make war on them and annihilate slavery”.

    — Crofts pp. 337–338, quoting the North Carolina politician Jonathan Worth (1802–1869).

  69. ^ ab James W. Loewen (July 1, 2015). “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong”. Washington Post.
  70. ^ Journal and Proceedings of the Missouri State Convention Held at Jefferson City and St. Louis, March 1861, George Knapp & Co., 1861, p. 47
  71. ^ Eugene Morrow Violette, A History of Missouri (1918). pp. 393–395
  72. ^ “Secession Acts of the Thirteen Confederate States”. Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  73. ^ Weigley (2000) p. 43 See also, Missouri’s Ordinance of Secession.
  74. ^ A. C. Greene (1998). Sketches from the Five States of Texas. Texas A&M UP. pp. 27–28.
  75. ^ Wilfred Buck Yearns (2010). The Confederate Congress. University of Georgia Press. pp. 42–43.
  76. ^ The text of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession. Also, “South Carolina documents including signatories”. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  77. ^ The text of Mississippi’s Ordinance of Secession.
  78. ^ The text of Florida’s Ordinance of Secession.
  79. ^ The text of Alabama’s Ordinance of Secession.
  80. ^ The text of Georgia’s Ordinance of Secession.
  81. ^ The text of Louisiana’s Ordinance of Secession.
  82. ^ The text of Texas’ Ordinance of Secession.
  83. ^ The text of Lincoln’s calling-up of the militia of the several States
  84. ^ The text of Virginia’s Ordinance of Secession. Virginia took two steps toward secession, first by secession convention vote on April 17, 1861, and then by ratification of this by a popular vote conducted on May 23, 1861. A Unionist Restored government of Virginia also operated. Virginia did not turn over its military to the Confederate States until June 8, 1861. The Commonwealth of Virginia ratified the Constitution of the Confederate States on June 19, 1861.
  85. ^ The text of Arkansas’ Ordinance of Secession.
  86. ^ The text of Tennessee’s Ordinance of Secession. The Tennessee legislature ratified an agreement to enter a military league with the Confederate States on May 7, 1861. Tennessee voters approved the agreement on June 8, 1861.
  87. ^ The text of North Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession.
  88. ^ Curry, Richard Orr, A House Divided, A Study of Statehood Politics and the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1964, pg. 49
  89. ^ Rice, Otis K. and Stephen W. Brown, West Virginia, A History, Univ. of Kentucky Press, 1993, 2nd edition, pg. 112. Another way of looking at the results would note the pro-union candidates winning 56% with Bell 20,997, Douglas 5,742, and Lincoln 1,402 versus Breckenridge 21,908. But the “deeply divided sentiment” point remains.
  90. ^ The Civil War in West Virginia Archived 2004-10-15 at the Wayback Machine. “No other state serves as a better example of this than West Virginia, where there was relatively equal support for the northern and southern causes.”
  91. ^ Snell, Mark A., West Virginia and the Civil War, Mountaineers Are Always Free, History Press, Charleston, South Carolina, 2011, pg. 28
  92. ^ Leonard, Cynthia Miller, The General Assembly of Virginia, July 30, 1619 – January 11, 1978: A Bicentennial Register of Members, Virginia State Library, Richmond, Virginia, 1978, pgs. 478–493
  93. ^ “Marx and Engels on the American Civil War”. Army of the Cumberland and George H. Thomas. and “Background of the Confederate States Constitution”.
  94. ^ Glatthaar, Joseph T., General Lee’s Army: from victory to collapse, 2008.
    ISBN 978-0-684-82787-2
  95. ^ Freedmen & Southern Society Project, Chronology of Emancipation during the Civil War, University of Maryland. Retrieved January 4, 2012.
  96. ^ Bowman, p. 48.
  97. ^ Farish, Thomas Edwin (1915). History of Arizona,. 2.
  98. ^ Troy Smith. “The Civil War Comes to Indian Territory”, Civil War History (2013) 59#3 pp. 279–319.
  99. ^ Declaration by the People of the Cherokee Nation of the Causes Which Have Impelled Them to Unite Their Fortunes With Those of the Confederate States of America.
  100. ^ The Texas delegation was seated with full voting rights after its statewide referendum of secession on March 2, 1861. It is generally counted as an “original state” of the Confederacy. Four upper south states declared secession following Lincoln’s call for volunteers: Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. “The founders of the Confederacy desired and ideally envisioned a peaceful creation of a new union of all slave-holding states, including the border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri.” Kentucky and Missouri were seated in December 1861. Kenneth C. Martis, The Historical Atlas of the Congresses of the Confederate States of America 1861–1865 (1994) p. 8
  101. ^ The sessions of the Provisional Congress were in Montgomery, Alabama, (1) First Session February 4 – March 10, and (2) Second Session April 29 – May 21, 1861. The Capital was moved to Richmond May 30. The (3) Third Session was held July 20 – August 31. The (4) Fourth Session called for September 3 was never held. The (5) Fifth Session was held November 18, 1861 – February 17, 1862.
  102. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 7–8.
  103. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 100
  104. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America p. 101. Virginia was practically promised as a condition of secession by Vice President Stephens. It had rail connections south along the east coast and into the interior, and laterally west into Tennessee, parallel the U.S. border, a navigable river to the Hampton Roads to menace ocean approaches to Washington DC, trade via the Atlantic Ocean, an interior canal to North Carolina sounds. It was a great storehouse of supplies, food, feed, raw materials, and infrastructure of ports, drydocks, armories and the established Tredegar Iron Works. Nevertheless, Virginia never permanently ceded land for the capital district. A local homeowner donated his home to the City of Richmond for use as the Confederate White House, which was in turn rented to the Confederate government for the Jefferson Davis presidential home and administration offices.
  105. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 2.
  106. ^ Coulter, “Confederate States of America”, p. 102.
  107. ^ Noe, Kenneth W.; Wilson, Shannon H., eds. (1997). Civil War in Appalachia.
  108. ^ McKenzie, Robert Tracy (2002). “Contesting Secession: Parson Brownlow and the Rhetoric of Proslavery Unionism, 1860–1861”. Civil War History. 48 (4): 294–312. doi:10.1353/cwh.2002.0060.
  109. ^ Curry, Richard O. (1964). A House Divided, Statehood Politics and the Copperhead Movement in West Virginia. Univ. of Pittsburgh. p. 8. ISBN 9780822977513.
  110. ^ McGregor, James C. (1922). The Disruption of Virginia.
  111. ^ Zimring, David R. (2009). “Secession in Favor of the Constitution’: How West Virginia Justified Separate Statehood during the Civil War”. West Virginia History. 3 (2): 23–51. doi:10.1353/wvh.0.0060.
  112. ^ Browning, Judkin (2005). “Removing the Mask of Nationality: Unionism, Racism, and Federal Military Occupation in North Carolina, 1862–1865”. Journal of Southern History. 71 (3): 589–620. JSTOR 27648821.
  113. ^ ab Elliott, Claude (1947). “Union Sentiment in Texas 1861–1865”. Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 50 (4): 449–477. JSTOR 30237490.
  114. ^ Wallace, Ernest. Texas in Turmoil. p. 138.
  115. ^ Campbell, Randolph B. Gone to Texas. p. 264.
  116. ^ Baum, Dale (1998). The Shattering of Texas Unionism: Politics in the Lone Star State during the Civil War Era. LSU Press. p. 83. ISBN 0-8071-2245-9.
  117. ^ Neely, Mark E. Jr. (1999). Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism. University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0-8139-1894-4.
  118. ^ ab William Seward to Charles Francis Adams, April 10, 1861 in Marion Mills Miller, (ed.) Life And Works Of Abraham Lincoln (1907) Vol 6.
  119. ^ Carl Sandburg (1940). Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years and the War Years. p. 151. ISBN 9781402742880.
  120. ^ Abraham Lincoln (1920). Abraham Lincoln; Complete Works, Comprising His Speeches, State Papers, and Miscellaneous Writings. Century. p. 542.
  121. ^ Violations of the rules of law were precipitated on both sides and can be found in historical accounts of guerilla war, units in cross-racial combat and captives held in prisoner of war camps, brutal, tragic accounts against both soldiers and civilian populations.
  122. ^ Moore, Frank (1861). The Rebellion Record. I. G.P. Putnam. pp. 195–197. ISBN 0-405-10877-X. Doc. 140. The places excepted in the Confederate States proclamation that “a war exists” were the places where slavery was allowed: States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Delaware, and the Territories of Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Indian Territory south of Kansas.
  123. ^
    Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.
  124. ^ Blumenthal (1966)
  125. ^ Lebergott, Stanley (1983). “Why the South Lost: Commercial Purpose in the Confederacy, 1861–1865”. Journal of American History. 70 (1): 61. JSTOR 1890521.
  126. ^ Blumenthal (1966); Jones (2009); Owsley (1959)
  127. ^ Francis M. Carroll, “The American Civil War and British Intervention: The Threat of Anglo-American Conflict.” Canadian Journal of History (2012) 47#1 pp. 94–95.
  128. ^ Richard Shannon (2008). Gladstone: God and Politics. p. 144. ISBN 9781847252036.
  129. ^ Thomas Paterson, et al. American foreign relations: A history, to 1920: Volume 1 (2009) pp. 149–155.
  130. ^ Howard Jones, Abraham Lincoln and a New Birth of Freedom: The Union and Slavery in the Diplomacy of the Civil War (2002), p. 48
  131. ^ Judith Fenner Gentry, “A Confederate Success in Europe: The Erlanger Loan”, Journal of Southern History (1970) 36#2 pp. 157–188 in JSTOR
  132. ^ Stanley Lebergott, “Through the blockade: the profitability and extent of cotton smuggling, 1861–1865”. Journal of Economic History 41#4 (1981): 867–888. in JSTOR
  133. ^ Alexander DeConde, ed. Encyclopedia of American foreign policy (2001) vol. 1 p. 202 and Stephen R. Wise, Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War, (1991), p. 86.
  134. ^ Wise, Stephen R. Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War. University of South Carolina Press, 1991
    ISBN 0-87249-799-2
    ISBN 978-0-87249-799-3, p. 86. An example of agents working openly occurred in Hamilton in Bermuda, where a Confederate agent openly worked to help blockade runners.
  135. ^ The American Catholic Historical Researches. 1901. pp. 27–28.
  136. ^ Don H. Doyle, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War (2014) pp 257–270.
  137. ^ Thomas, The Confederate Nation, pp. 219–220
  138. ^ Scholars such as Emory M. Thomas have characterized Girard’s book as “more propaganda than anything else, but Girard caught one essential truth”, the quote referenced. (Thomas, The Confederate Nation, p. 220.)
  139. ^ Fremantle, Arthur (1864). Three Months in the Southern States. University of Nebraska Press. p. 124. ISBN 9781429016667.
  140. ^ Thomas, The Confederate Nation, p. 220
  141. ^ Thomas, The Confederate Nation pp. 219, 220, 221.
  142. ^ Thomas, The Confederate Nation pp. 243.
  143. ^ Richardson, James D., ed. (1905). A compilation of the messages and papers of the Confederacy: including the diplomatic correspondence, 1861–1865. Volume II. Nashville: United States Publishing Company. p. 697. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  144. ^
    Levine, Bruce (2013). The Fall of the House of Dixie. Random House. p. 248.
  145. ^ Michael Perman; Amy Murrell Taylor, eds. (2010). Major Problems in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Cengage. p. 178. ISBN 0618875204.
  146. ^ James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War (1998)
  147. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 342–343
  148. ^ James M. McPherson Professor of American History Princeton University (1996). Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War: Reflections on the American Civil War. Oxford U.P. p. 152. ISBN 9780199727834.
  149. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 348. “The enemy could not hold territory, a hostile people would close in behind. The Confederacy still existed wherever there was an army under her unfurled banners.”
  150. ^ The cash crops circling the Great Seal are wheat, corn, tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar cane. Like Washington’s equestrian statue honoring him at Union Square NYC 1856, slaveholding Washington is pictured in his uniform of the Revolution securing American independence. While armed, he does not have his sword drawn as he is depicted in the equestrian statue at the Virginia Capitol, Richmond, Virginia. The plates for the Great Seal were engraved in England but never received due to the Union Blockade.
  151. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 343
  152. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 346
  153. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 333–338.
  154. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 286. After capture by Federals, Memphis, TN became a major source of supply for Confederate armies, comparable to Nassau and its blockade runners.
  155. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 306. Confederate units harassed them throughout the war years by laying torpedo mines and loosing barrages from shoreline batteries.
  156. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 287–288. The principal ports on the Atlantic were Wilmington, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia for supplies from Europe via Bermuda and Nassau. On the Gulf were Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana for those from Havana, Cuba and Mexican ports of Tampico and Vera Cruz.
  157. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 296, 304. Two days later Lincoln proclaimed a blockade, declaring them pirates. Davis responded with letters of marque to protect privateers from outlaw status. Some of the early raiders were converted merchantmen seized in Southern ports at the outbreak of the war
  158. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 299–302. The Torpedo Bureau seeded defensive water-borne mines in principal harbors and rivers to compromise the Union naval superiority. These “torpedoes” were said to have caused more loss in U.S. naval ships and transports than by any other cause. Despite a rage for Congressional appropriations and public “subscription ironclads”, armored platforms constructed in blockaded ports lacked the requisite marine engines to become ironclad warships. The armored platforms intended to become ironclads were employed instead as floating batteries for port city defense.
  159. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 321
  160. ^ “1862blackCSN”.
  161. ^ Joseph T. Glatthaar, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee (2011) p. 3, ch 9
  162. ^ Coulter, E. Merton, The Confederate States of America: 1861–1865, op. cit., p. 313–315, 318.
  163. ^ Alfred L. Brophy, ‘Necessity Knows No Law’: Vested Rights and the Styles of Reasoning in the Confederate Conscription Cases”, Mississippi Law Journal (2000) 69: 1123–1180.
  164. ^ Rubin p. 104.
  165. ^ Levine pp. 146–147.
  166. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 308–311. The patchwork recruitment was (a) with and without state militia enrolment, (b) state Governor sponsorship and direct service under Davis, (c) for under six months, one year, three years and the duration of the war. Davis proposed recruitment for some period of years or the duration. Congress and the states equivocated. Governor Brown of Georgia became “the first and most persistent critic” of Confederate centralized military and civil power.
  167. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 310–311
  168. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 328, 330–332. About 90% of West Pointers in the U.S. Army resigned to join the Confederacy. Notably, of Virginia’s West Pointers, not 90% but 70% resigned for the Confederacy. Exemplary officers without military training included John B. Gordon, Nathan B. Forrest, James J. Pettigrew, John H. Morgan, Turner Ashby and John S. Mosby. Most preliminary officer training was had from Hardee’s “Tactics”, and thereafter by observation and experience in battle. The Confederacy had no officers training camps or military academies, although early on, cadets of the Virginia Military Institute and other military schools drilled enlisted troops in battlefield evolutions.
  169. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 310–311. Early 1862 “dried up the enthusiasm to volunteer” due to the impact of victory’s battle casualties, the humiliation of defeats and the dislike of camp life with its monotony, confinement and mortal diseases. Immediately following the great victory at the Battle of Manassas, many believed the war was won and there was no need for more troops. Then the new year brought defeat over February 6–23: Fort Henry, Roanoke Island, Fort Donelson, Nashville – the first capital to fall. Among some not yet in uniform, the less victorious “Cause” seemed less glorious.
  170. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America p. 312. The government funded parades and newspaper ad campaigns, $2,000,000 for recruitment in Kentucky alone. With a state-enacted draft, Governor Brown with a quota of 12,000 raised 22,000 Georgia militia.
  171. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 313, 332. Officially dropping 425 officers by board review in October was followed immediately by 1,300 “resignations”. Some officers who resigned then served honorably as enlisted for the duration or until they were made casualties, others resigned and returned home until conscription.
  172. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America p. 313
  173. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 313–314. Military officers including Joseph E. Johnston and Robert E. Lee, advocated conscription. In the circumstances they persuaded Congressmen and newspaper editors. Some editors advocating conscription in early 1862 later became “savage critics of conscription and of Davis for his enforcement of it: Yancey of Alabama, Rhett of the Charleston ‘Mercury’, Pollard of the Richmond ‘Examiner’, and Senator Wigfall of Texas”.
  174. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 313–314, 319. Apart from their respective system exemptions, populations under Federal administration were subject to a “wheel of fortune” draft by aggregate number from each state in each draft, rather than the Confederate’s universal selection by age. Overrun areas such as Kentucky and Missouri were not subject to the draft, these areas expanded as the war progressed. The act abolishing the substitute system and nullifying the principal’s exemption was challenged in court as a violation of contract, but “no court of importance so held”.
  175. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 315–317.
  176. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 320. One such exemption was allowed for every 20 slaves on a plantation, the May 1863 reform required previous occupation and that the plantation of 20 slaves (or group of plantations within a five-mile area) had not been subdivided after the first exemption of April 1862.
  177. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 317–318. There were no organized political parties, but elective offices were also exempted. Virtually every position was contested with as many as twenty candidates for each office. Some scholars such as Martis interpret this as robust democratic society in wartime. Coulter attributes the widely new found enthusiasm for political careers as a means to “get out of the army or keep from getting into it”. State Governor patronage expanded most notably in the tens of thousands in Georgia and North Carolina. In Greene County, Georgia, two dozen men ran for three offices; in protest, the women of the county ran a ticket of three men older than the 45 years conscription age.
  178. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 319.
  179. ^ Coulter, “The Confederates States of America”, p. 324.
  180. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America pp. 322–324, 326. The Conscription Bureau was run by Brigadier General Gabriel J. Rains until May 1863, Brigadier General Charles W. Field until July 1864, Colonel John S. Preston until “the bitter end”. The “odium and disgrace” of conscription led many to volunteer. The Bureau was “undoubtedly very inefficient” as officers were culled from those unwanted for field service. Virginia had 26,000 volunteers to 9,000 conscripts. Governor Vance NC “vigorously supported conscription”, uncharacteristically netting 21,343 conscripts to 8,000 volunteers. Necessary railroad positions once demeaned as “blacks only” were in 1864 taken by whites of military age.
  181. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 323–325, 327. Those governors with constitutional reservations refused to participate in conscription. In Fall 1864, Lee required of Davis a total number of 150,000 to match Grant’s numbers, “else I fear a great calamity will befall us”. This led to Davis appointing officers such as General Pillow to recruiting positions. As a military recruiting officer, Gideon J. Pillow for whom Fort Pillow, was named, brought in 25,000 for Braxton Bragg and Joseph E. Johnston.
  182. ^ Rable (1994) p. 265.
  183. ^ Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington (1942)
  184. ^ Stephens, Alexander H. (1870). A Constitutional View of the Late War Between the States (PDF). 2. p. 36. I maintain that it was inaugurated and begun, though no blow had been struck, when the hostile fleet, styled the ‘Relief Squadron’, with eleven ships, carrying two hundred and eighty-five guns and two thousand four hundred men, was sent out from New York and Norfolk, with orders from the authorities at Washington, to reinforce Fort Sumter peaceably, if permitted ‘but forcibly if they must’ … After the war, Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens maintained that Lincoln’s attempt to resupply Sumter was a disguised reinforcement and had provoked the war.
  185. ^
    Lincoln’s proclamation calling for troops from the remaining states (bottom of page); Department of War details to States (top).
  186. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 352–353.
  187. ^ The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Series 1. 5. p. 56.4
  188. ^ Rice, Otis K. and Stephen W. Brown, West Virginia, A History, University of Kentucky Press, 1993, 2nd edition, pg. 130
  189. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 353.
  190. ^ Glatthaar, Joseph T., General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, Free Press 2008.
    ISBN 978-0-684-82787-2, p. xiv. Inflicting intolerable casualties on invading Federal armies was a Confederate strategy to make the northern Unionists relent in their pursuit of restoring the Union.
  191. ^ Ambler, Charles, Francis H. Pierpont: Union War Governor of Virginia and Father of West Virginia, Univ. of North Carolina, 1937, p. 419, note 36. Letter of Adjutant General Henry L. Samuels, August 22, 1862, to Gov. Francis Pierpont listing 22 of 48 counties under sufficient control for soldier recruitment.
    Congressional Globe, 37th Congress, 3rd Session, Senate Bill S.531, February 14, 1863 “A bill supplemental to the act entitled ‘An act for the Admission of the State of ‘West Virginia’ into the Union, and for other purposes’ which would include the counties of “Boone, Logan, Wyoming, Mercer, McDowell, Pocahontas, Raleigh, Greenbrier, Monroe, Pendleton, Fayette, Nicholas, and Clay, now in the possession of the so-called confederate government”.
  192. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 27. In the Mississippi River Valley, during the first half of February, central Tennessee’s Fort Henry was lost and Fort Donelson fell with a small army. By the end of the month, Nashville, Tennessee was the first conquered Confederate state capital. On April 6–7, Federals turned back the Confederate offensive at the Battle of Shiloh, and three days later Island Number 10, controlling the upper Mississippi River, fell to a combined Army and Naval gunboat siege of three weeks.

    Federal occupation of Confederate territory expanded to include northwestern Arkansas, south down the Mississippi River and east up the Tennessee River. The Confederate River Defense fleet sank two Union ships at Plum Point Bend (naval Fort Pillow), but they withdrew and Fort Pillow was captured downriver.

  193. ^ abc Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 28.
  194. ^ ab Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 27. Federal occupation expanded into northern Virginia, and their control of the Mississippi extended south to Nashville, Tennessee.
  195. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 354. Federal sea-based amphibious forces captured Roanoke Island, North Carolina along with a large garrison in February. In March, Confederates abandoned forts at Fernandia and St. Augustine Florida, and lost New Berne, North Carolina. In April, New Orleans fell and Savannah, Georgia was closed by the Battle of Fort Pulaski. In May retreating Confederates burned their two pre-war Navy yards at Norfolk and Pensacola. See Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 287, 306, 302
  196. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 294, 296–7. Europeans refused to allow captured U.S. shipping to be sold for the privateers 95% share, so through 1862, Confederate privateering disappeared. The CSA Congress authorized a Volunteer Navy to man cruisers the following year.
  197. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 288–291. As many as half the Confederate blockade runners had British nationals serving as officers and crew. Confederate regulations required one-third, then one-half of the cargoes to be munitions, food and medicine.
  198. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 287, 306, 302, 306 and CSS Atlanta, USS Atlanta. Navy Heritage. In both events, as with the CSS Virginia, the Navy’s bravery and fighting skill was compromised in combat by mechanical failure in the engines or steering. The joint combined Army-Navy defense by General Robert E. Lee, and his successor and Commodore Josiah Tattnall, repelled amphibious assault of Savannah for the duration of the war. Union General Tecumseh Sherman captured Savannah from the land side in December 1864. The British blockade runner Fingal was purchased and converted to the ironclad CSS Atlanta. It made two sorties, was captured by Union forces, repaired, and returned to service as the ironclad USS Atlanta supporting Grant’s Siege of Petersburg.
  199. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 303. French shipyards built four corvettes, and two ironclad rams for the Confederacy, but the American minister prevented their delivery. British firms contracted to build two additional ironclad rams, but under threat from the U.S., the British government bought them for their own navy. Two of the converted blockade runners effectively raided up and down the Atlantic coast until the end of the war.
  200. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 354–356. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign caused the surprised Confederates to destroy their winter camp to mobilize against the threat to their Capital. They burned “a vast amount of supplies” to keep them from falling into enemy hands.
  201. ^ Nevin’s analysis of the strategic highpoint of Confederate military scope and effectiveness is in contra-distinction to the conventional “last chance” battlefield imagery of the High-water mark of the Confederacy found at “The Angle” of the Battle of Gettysburg.
  202. ^ Allan Nevins, War for the Union (1960) pp 289–290. Weak national leadership led to disorganized overall direction in contrast to improved organization in Washington. With another 10,000 men Lee and Bragg might have prevailed in the border states, but the local populations did not respond to their pleas to recruit additional soldiers.
  203. ^ Rice, Otis K.; Brown, Stephen W. (1993). West Virginia, A History (2nd ed.). Univ. of Kentucky Press. pp. 134–135. ISBN 0-8131-1854-9.
  204. ^ “The Civil War Comes to Charleston”.
  205. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 357
  206. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 356
  207. ^ Martis (1994) p. 28.
  208. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 297–298. They were required to supply their own ships and equipment, but they received 90% of their captures at auction, 25% of any U.S. warships or transports captured or destroyed. Confederate cruisers raided merchant ship commerce but for one exception in 1864.
  209. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 294. Confederates estimated that the Union Blockade interdicted no more than 10% of the cotton exported, but the Lincoln administration claimed one of every three blockade runners were being captured.
  210. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, pp. 305–306. The most successful Confederate merchant raider 1863–1864, CSS Alabama had ranged the Atlantic for two years, sinking 58 vessels worth $6,54,000 [sic?], but she was trapped and sunk in June by the chain-clad USS Kearsarge off Cherbourg, France.
  211. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, in 1862, CSS Atlanta, USS Atlanta. Navy Heritage, in 1863 the ironclad CSS Savannah
  212. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 305
  213. ^ Mary Elizabeth Massey, Refugee Life in the Confederacy (1964)
  214. ^ Foote, Shelby (1974). The Civil War, a narrative: Vol III. p. 967. ISBN 0 394 74622 8. Sherman was closing in on Raleigh, whose occupation tomorrow would make it the ninth of the eleven seceded state capitals to feel the tread of the invader; all, that is, but Austin and Tallahassee, whose survival was less the result of their ability to resist than it was of Federal oversight or disinterest.
  215. ^ Coulter, The Confederate States of America, p. 287
  216. ^ The French-built ironclad CSS Stonewall had been purchased from Denmark and set sail from Spain in March. The crew of the CSS Shenandoah hauled down the last Confederate flag at Liverpool in the UK on November 5, 1865. John Baldwin; Ron Powers. Last Flag Down: The Epic Journey of the Last Confederate Warship (May 6, 2008 ed.). Three Rivers Press. p. 368. ISBN 0-307-23656-0.
  217. ^ United States Government Printing Office, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, United States Naval War Records Office, United States Office of Naval Records and Library, 1894
    This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  218. ^ Gallagher p. 157
  219. ^ Davis, Jefferson. A Short History of the Confederate States of America, 1890, 2010.
    ISBN 978-1-175-82358-8. Available free online as an ebook. Chapter LXXXVIII, “Re-establishment of the Union by force”, p. 503. Retrieved March 14, 2012.
  220. ^ Dorris, J. T. (1928). “Pardoning the Leaders of the Confederacy”. Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 15 (1): 3–21. JSTOR 1891664.
  221. ^ Johnson, Andrew. “Proclamation 179 – Granting full pardon and amnesty for the offense of treason against the United States during the late Civil War”, December 25, 1868. Accessed July 18, 2014.
  222. ^ Nichols, Roy Franklin (1926). “United States vs. Jefferson Davis, 1865–1869”. American Historical Review. 31 (2): 266–284. JSTOR 1838262.
  223. ^ Jefferson Davis (2008). The Papers of Jefferson Davis: June 1865 – December 1870. Louisiana State UP. p. 96. ISBN 9780807133415.
  224. ^ Nichols, “United States vs. Jefferson Davis, 1865–1869”.
  225. ^ Eberhard P. Deutsch, “United States v. Jefferson Davis: Constitutional Issues in the Trial for Treason”. American Bar Association Journal (1966): 139–145. in JSTOR and Vol. 52, No. 3 (MARCH 1966), pp. 263–268 part 2 in JSTOR
  226. ^ John David Smith, ed. Interpreting American History: Reconstruction (Kent State University Press, 2016).
  227. ^ Cooper, William J.; Terrill, Tom E. (2009). The American South: a history. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. xix. ISBN 0-7425-6095-3.
  228. ^ Murray, Robert Bruce (2003). Legal Cases of the Civil War. Stackpole Books. pp. 155–159. ISBN 0-8117-0059-3.
  229. ^ Zuczek, Richard. “Texas v. White (1869)”. Encyclopedia of the Reconstruction Era. p. 649. ISBN 0-313-33073-5.
  230. ^ Owsley, Frank L. (1925). State Rights in the Confederacy. Chicago.
  231. ^ Thomas. The Confederate Nation. p. 155.
  232. ^ Owsley (1925). “Local Defense and the Overthrow of the Confederacy”. Mississippi Valley Historical Review. 11: 492–525. JSTOR 1895910.
  233. ^ Rable (1994) 257. For a detailed criticism of Owsley’s argument see Beringer, Richard E.; Still, William N. Jr.; Jones, Archer; Hattaway, Herman (1986). Why the South Lost the Civil War. University of Georgia Press. pp. 443–57. Brown declaimed against Davis Administration policies: “Almost every act of usurpation of power, or of bad faith, has been conceived, brought forth and nurtured in secret session.”
  234. ^ See also Beringer, Richard; et al. (1986). Why the South Lost the Civil War. University of Georgia Press. pp. 64–83, 424–57.
  235. ^ ab Rable (1994). The Confederate Republic: A Revolution Against Politics. pp. 258, 259. ISBN 9780807821442.
  236. ^ Moretta, John (1999). “Pendleton Murrah and States Rights in Civil War Texas”. Civil War History. 45 (2): 126–146. doi:10.1353/cwh.1999.0101.
  237. ^ Moore, Albert Burton (1924). Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy. p. 295.
  238. ^ Cooper (2000) p. 462. Rable (1994) pp. 2–3. Rable wrote, “But despite heated arguments and no little friction between the competing political cultures of unity and liberty, antiparty and broader fears about politics in general shaped civic life. These beliefs could obviously not eliminate partisanship or prevent Confederates from holding on to and exploiting old political prejudices. … Even the most bitter foes of the Confederate government, however, refused to form an opposition party, and the Georgia dissidents, to cite the most prominent example, avoided many traditional political activities. Only in North Carolina did there develop anything resembling a party system, and there the central values of the Confederacy’s two political cultures had a far more powerful influence on political debate than did organizational maneuvering.”
  239. ^ Donald, David Herbert, ed. (1996). Why the North Won the Civil War. pp. 112–113. Potter wrote in his contribution to this book, “Where parties do not exist, criticism of the administration is likely to remain purely an individual matter; therefore the tone of the criticism is likely to be negative, carping, and petty, as it certainly was in the Confederacy. But where there are parties, the opposition group is strongly impelled to formulate real alternative policies and to press for the adoption of these policies on a constructive basis. … But the absence of a two-party system meant the absence of any available alternative leadership, and the protest votes which were cast in the [1863 Confederate mid-term] election became more expressions of futile and frustrated dissatisfaction rather than implements of a decision to adopt new and different policies for the Confederacy.”
  240. ^ ab Coulter. Confederate States of America. pp. 105–106.
  241. ^ Escott, Paul (1992). After Secession: Jefferson Davis and the Failure of Confederate Nationalism. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-1807-9.
  242. ^ Coulter. Confederate States of America. pp. 108, 113, 103.
  243. ^ “Jefferson Davis (1808–1889)”. Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved March 12, 2012.
  244. ^ Davis p. 248.
  245. ^ Coulter, “Confederate States of America”, p. 22. The Texas delegation had four in the U.S. Congress, seven in the Montgomery Convention.
  246. ^ Coulter, “Confederate States of America”, p. 23. While the Texas delegation was seated, and is counted in the “original seven” states of the Confederacy, its referendum to ratify secession had not taken place, so its delegates did not yet vote on instructions from their state legislature.
  247. ^ Coulter, “Confederate States of America”, pp. 23–26.
  248. ^ Coulter, “Confederate States of America”, pp. 25, 27
  249. ^ Martis, Kenneth C. (1994). The Historical Atlas of the Congresses of the Confederate States of America: 1861–1865. Simon & Schuster. p. 1. ISBN 0-13-389115-1.
  250. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 1
  251. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 72–73
  252. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 3
  253. ^ Martis, Historical Atlas, pp. 90–91
  254. ^ Legal Materials on the Confederate States of America in the Schaffer Law Library”, Albany Law School”. Archived from the original on November 3, 2007. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  255. ^ Constitution of the Confederate States of America – Wikisource, the free online library. Retrieved July 6, 2018.
  256. ^ ab [Moise, E. Warren, Rebellion in the Temple of Justice (iUniverse 2003)]
  257. ^ “Records of District Courts of the United States, National Archives”. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  258. ^ “JOHN H. REAGAN – The Old Roman”. John H. Reagan Camp #2156; Sons of Confederate Veterans. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  259. ^ “REAGAN, John Henninger, (1818–1905)”.
    Biographical Directory of the United States. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  260. ^ “U.S. Postal Issue Used in the Confederacy (1893)”. Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved January 29, 2011.
  261. ^ Walter Flavius McCaleb, “The Organization of the Post-Office Department of the Confederacy”, American Historical Review Vol. 12, No. 1 (Oct. 1906), pp. 66–74 in JSTOR
  262. ^ L. R. Garrison, “Administrative Problems of the Confederate Post Office Department I”, Southwestern Historical Quarterly Vol. 19, No. 2 (Oct. 1915), pp. 111–141 and Vol. 19, No. 3 (Jan. 1916), pp. 232–250 in JSTOR and in JSTOR
  263. ^ “Confederate States Post Office”. Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Retrieved November 17, 2010.
  264. ^ Neely (1999) p. 1
  265. ^ Neely (1999) p. 172. Neely notes that. “Most surprising of all, the Confederacy at a greater rate than the North arrested persons who held opposition political views at least in part because they held them, despite the Confederacy’s vaunted lack of political parties. Such arrests were more common before 1863 while memories of the votes on secession remained fresh.”
  266. ^ Neely (1993) pp. 11, 16.
  267. ^ Wiley, Bell Irvin (1938). Southern Negroes, 1861–1865. pp. 21, 66–69.
  268. ^ “African Americans In The Civil War”. History Net: Where History Comes Alive – World & US History Online.
  269. ^ Litwack, Leon F. (1979). Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery. New York: Knopf. pp. 30–36, 105–66. ISBN 0-394-50099-7.
  270. ^ Vorenberg, Michael, ed. (2010). The Emancipation Proclamation: A Brief History with Documents.
  271. ^ Kolchin, Peter (2015). “Reexamining Southern Emancipation in Comparative Perspective”. Journal of Southern History. 81 (1): 7–40.
  272. ^ Thomas, The Confederate Nation pp. 13–14
  273. ^ R. Douglas Hurt, Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South (2015)
  274. ^ William L. Barney (2011). The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Civil War. Oxford Up. p. 291. ISBN 9780199878147.
  275. ^ Leslie Alexander (2010). Encyclopedia of African American History. ABC-CLIO. p. 351. ISBN 9781851097746.
  276. ^ Thomas The Confederate Nation pp. 12–15
  277. ^ Thomas The Confederate Nation pp. 15–16
  278. ^ Thomas The Confederate Nation p. 16
  279. ^ Thomas Conn Bryan (2009). Confederate Georgia. U. of Georgia Press. pp. 105–9. ISBN 9780820334998.
  280. ^ Tariff of the Confederate States of America, May 21, 1861.
  281. ^ Ian Drury, ed. American Civil War: Naval & Economic Warfare (2003) p. 138.
    ISBN 0-00-716458-0. “The Confederacy underwent a government-led industrial revolution during the war, but its economy was slowly strangled.”
  282. ^ Hankey, John P. (2011). “The Railroad War”. Trains. Kalmbach Publishing Company. 71 (3): 24–35.
  283. ^ Charles W. Ramsdell, “The Confederate Government and the Railroads, American Historical Review, (1917) 22#4 pp. 794–810 in JSTOR
  284. ^ Mary Elizabeth Massey. Ersatz in the Confederacy (1952) p. 128.
  285. ^ Ramsdell, “The Confederate Government and the Railroads”, pp. 809–810.
  286. ^ Spencer Jones, “The Influence of Horse Supply Upon Field Artillery in the American Civil War”, Journal of Military History, (April 2010), 74#2 pp 357–377,
  287. ^ G. Terry Sharrer, “The great glanders epizootic, 1861–1866”, Agricultural History, (1995) 69#1 pp 79–97 in JSTOR
  288. ^
    Keith Miller, “Southern Horse”, Civil War Times, (February 2006) 45#1 pp 30–36 online
  289. ^ Cooper, William J. (2010). Jefferson Davis, American. Knopf Doubleday. p. 378. ISBN 9780307772640.
  290. ^ Burdekin, Richard; Langdana, Farrokh (1993). “War Finance in the Southern Confederacy, 1861–1865”. Explorations in Economic History. 30 (3): 352–376. doi:10.1006/exeh.1993.1015.
  291. ^ Wright, John D. (2001). The Language of the Civil War. p. 41. ISBN 9781573561358.
  292. ^ Coulter. Confederate States of America. pp. 151–153, 127.
  293. ^ Kidd, Jessica Fordham (2006). “Privation and Pride: Life in Blockaded Alabama”. Alabama Heritage Magazine. 82: 8–15.
  294. ^ Massey, Mary Elizabeth (1952). Ersatz in the Confederacy: Shortages and Substitutes on the Southern Homefront. pp. 71–73.
  295. ^ Coulter, E. Merton (1927). “The Movement for Agricultural Reorganization in the Cotton South during the Civil War”. Agricultural History. 1 (1): 3–17. JSTOR 3739261.
  296. ^ Thompson, C. Mildred (1915). Reconstruction In Georgia: Economic, Social, Political 1865–1872. pp. 14–17, 22.
  297. ^ McCurry, Stephanie (2011). “Bread or Blood!“. Civil War Times. 50 (3): 36–41.
  298. ^ Williams, Teresa Crisp; Williams, David (2002). “The Women Rising’: Cotton, Class, and Confederate Georgia’s Rioting Women”. Georgia Historical Quarterly. 86 (1): 49–83. JSTOR 40584640.
  299. ^ Chesson, Michael B. (1984). “Harlots or Heroines? A New Look at the Richmond Bread Riot”. Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 92 (2): 131–175. JSTOR 4248710.
  300. ^ Titus, Katherine R. (2011). “The Richmond Bread Riot of 1863: Class, Race, and Gender in the Urban Confederacy”. The Gettysburg College Journal of the Civil War Era. 2 (6): 86–146.
  301. ^ Paskoff, Paul F. (2008). “Measures of War: A Quantitative Examination of the Civil War’s Destructiveness in the Confederacy”. Civil War History. 54 (1): 35–62. doi:10.1353/cwh.2008.0007.
  302. ^ ab Paskoff, “Measures of War”
  303. ^ Ezell, John Samuel (1963). The South since 1865. pp. 27–28.
  304. ^ Frank, Lisa Tendrich, ed. (2008). Women in the American Civil War.
  305. ^ Faust, Drew Gilpin (1996). Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War. pp. 139–152. ISBN 0-8078-2255-8.
  306. ^ Jabour, Anya (2007). Scarlett’s Sisters: Young Women in the Old South. U of North Carolina Press. pp. 273–280. ISBN 978-0-8078-3101-4.
  307. ^ Coulter, Ellis Merton. The Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 Retrieved 2012-06-13, published in LSU’s History of the South series, on page 118 notes that beginning in March 1861, the Stars-and-Bars was used “all over the Confederacy”.
  308. ^ Sansing, David. Brief History of the Confederate Flags at “Mississippi History Now” online Mississippi Historical Society. Second National Flag, “the stainless banner” references, Devereaux D. Cannon, Jr., The Flags of the Confederacy, An Illustrated History (St. Lukes Press, 1988), 22–24. Section Heading “Second and Third National Flags”. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  309. ^ Sansing, David, Brief History of the Confederate Flags at “Mississippi History Now” online Mississippi Historical Society. Third National Flag, “the bloodstained banner” references 19. Southern Historical Society Papers (cited hereafter as SHSP, volume number, date for the first entry, and page number), 24, 118. Section Heading “Second and Third National Flags”. Retrieved October 4, 2012.
  310. ^ Two-thirds of soldiers’ deaths occurred due to disease. Nofi, Al (June 13, 2001). “Statistics on the War’s Costs”. Louisiana State University. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  311. ^ “1860 Census of Population and Housing”. January 7, 2009. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  312. ^ “Form available for viewing atshows how data on slave ownership was collected” (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on July 7, 2011. Retrieved September 1, 2008.
  313. ^ Calculated by dividing the number of owners (obtained via the census) by the number of free persons.
  314. ^ All data for this section taken from the University of Virginia Library, Historical Census Browser, Census Data for Year 1860 Archived October 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine..
  315. ^ “U.S. Bureau of the Census, Population of the 100 Largest Urban Places: 1860, Internet Release date: June 15, 1998”. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  316. ^ Dabney 1990 p. 182
  317. ^ Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan, eds. Religion and the American Civil War (1998) excerpt and text search; complete edition online
  318. ^ Pamela Robinson-Durso, “Chaplains in the Confederate Army.” Journal of Church and State 33 (1991): 747+.
  319. ^ W. Harrison Daniel, “Southern Presbyterians in the Confederacy.” North Carolina Historical Review 44.3 (1967): 231–255. online
  320. ^ W. Harrison Daniel, “The Southern Baptists in the Confederacy.” Civil War History 6.4 (1960): 389–401.
  321. ^ G. Clinton Prim. “Southern Methodism in the Confederacy”. Methodist history 23.4 (1985): 240–249.
  322. ^ Edgar Legare Pennington, “The Confederate Episcopal Church and the Southern Soldiers.” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church 17.4 (1948): 356–383. online
  323. ^ David T. Gleeson, The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America (2013).
  324. ^ Sidney J. Romero, “Louisiana Clergy and the Confederate Army”. Louisiana History 2.3 (1961): 277–300.
  325. ^ W. Harrison Daniel, “Southern Protestantism and Army Missions in the Confederacy”. Mississippi Quarterly 17.4 (1964): 179+.
  326. ^ Eicher, Civil War High Commands.


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  • Bowman, John S. (ed), The Civil War Almanac, New York: Bison Books, 1983
  • Eicher, John H., & Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001,
    ISBN 0-8047-3641-3
  • Martis, Kenneth C. The Historical Atlas of the Congresses of the Confederate States of America 1861–1865 (1994)
    ISBN 0-13-389115-1

Further reading

Overviews and reference

  • American Annual Cyclopaedia for 1861 (N.Y.: Appleton’s, 1864), an encyclopedia of events in the U.S. and CSA (and other countries); covers each state in detail
  • Appletons’ annual cyclopedia and register of important events: Embracing political, military, and ecclesiastical affairs; public documents; biography, statistics, commerce, finance, literature, science, agriculture, and mechanical industry, Volume 3 1863 (1864), thorough coverage of the events of 1863
  • Beringer, Richard E., Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones, and William N. Still Jr. Why the South Lost the Civil War. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1986.
    ISBN 0-8203-0815-3.
  • Boritt, Gabor S., and others., Why the Confederacy Lost, (1992)
  • Coulter, E. Merton The Confederate States of America, 1861–1865, 1950
  • Current, Richard N., ed. Encyclopedia of the Confederacy (4 vol), 1993. 1900 pages, articles by scholars.
  • Davis, William C. (2003). Look Away! A History of the Confederate States of America. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-684-86585-8.
  • Eaton, Clement A History of the Southern Confederacy, 1954
  • Faust, Patricia L., ed. Historical Times Illustrated History of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
    ISBN 978-0-06-273116-6.
  • Gallagher, Gary W. The Confederate War. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.
    ISBN 978-0-674-16056-9.
  • Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War: A Political, Social, and Military History. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.
    ISBN 978-0-393-04758-5. 2740 pages.
  • McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford History of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
    ISBN 978-0-19-503863-7. standard military history of the war; Pulitzer Prize
  • Nevins, Allan. The War for the Union. Vol. 1, The Improvised War 1861–1862. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959.
    ISBN 0-684-10426-1; The War for the Union. Vol. 2, War Becomes Revolution 1862–1863. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960.
    ISBN 1-56852-297-5; The War for the Union. Vol. 3, The Organized War 1863–1864. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
    ISBN 0-684-10428-8; The War for the Union. Vol. 4, The Organized War to Victory 1864–1865. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
    ISBN 1-56852-299-1. The most detailed history of the war.
  • Roland, Charles P. The Confederacy, (1960) brief survey
  • Rubin, Sarah Anne A Shattered Nation: The Rise & Fall of the Confederacy 1861–1868 (2005)
  • Thomas, Emory M. The Confederate Nation, 1861–1865. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.
    ISBN 978-0-06-014252-0. Standard political-economic-social history
  • Wakelyn, Jon L. Biographical Dictionary of the Confederacy Greenwood Press
    ISBN 0-8371-6124-X
  • Weigley, Russell F. A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861–1865. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2000.
    ISBN 0-253-33738-0.


  • Bailey, Anne J., and Daniel E. Sutherland. “The history and historians of Civil War Arkansas.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 58.3 (1999): pp 232+
  • Boles, John B. and Evelyn Thomas Nolen, eds. Interpreting Southern History: Historiographical Essays in Honor of Sanford W. Higginbotham (1987)
  • DeCredio, Mary. “The Confederate Home Front”, in Lacy Ford, ed., A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), pp 258–76
  • Gallagher, Gary W., “Disaffection, Persistence, and Nation: Some Directions in Recent Scholarship on the Confederacy”, Civil War History, 55 (September 2009), 329–53.
  • Grant, Susan-Mary, and Brian Holden Reid, eds. The American civil war: explorations and reconsiderations (Longman, 2000.)
  • Link, Arthur S. and Rembert W. Patrick, eds. Writing Southern History: Essays in Historiography in Honor of Fletcher M. Green (1965)
  • Woodworth, Steven E. ed. The American Civil War: A Handbook of Literature and Research, 1996 750 pages of historiography and bibliography

State studies

  • Tucker, Spencer, ed. American Civil War: A State-by-State Encyclopedia (2 vol 2015) 1019pp

Border states

  • Ash, Stephen V. Middle Tennessee society transformed, 1860–1870: war and peace in the Upper South (2006)
  • Cooling, Benjamin Franklin. Fort Donelson’s Legacy: War and Society in Kentucky and Tennessee, 1862–1863 (1997)
  • Cottrell, Steve. Civil War in Tennessee (2001) 142pp
  • Crofts, Daniel W. Reluctant Confederates: Upper South Unionists in the Secession Crisis. (1989)
    ISBN 0-8078-1809-7.
  • Dollar, Kent, and others. Sister States, Enemy States: The Civil War in Kentucky and Tennessee (2009)
  • Durham, Walter T. Nashville: The Occupied City, 1862–1863 (1985); Reluctant Partners: Nashville and the Union, 1863–1865 (1987)
  • Mackey, Robert R. The Uncivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861–1865 (University of Oklahoma Press, 2014)
  • Temple, Oliver P. East Tennessee and the civil war (1899) 588pp online edition

Alabama and Mississippi

  • Fleming, Walter L. Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (1905). the most detailed study; Dunning School full text online from Project Gutenberg
  • Rainwater, Percy Lee. Mississippi: storm center of secession, 1856–1861 (1938)
  • Rigdon, John. A Guide to Alabama Civil War Research (2011)
  • Smith, Timothy B. Mississippi in the Civil War: The Home Front University Press of Mississippi, (2010) 265 pages; Examines the declining morale of Mississippians as they witnessed extensive destruction and came to see victory as increasingly improbable
  • Sterkx, H. E. Partners in Rebellion: Alabama Women in the Civil War (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1970)
  • Storey, Margaret M. “Civil War Unionists and the Political Culture of Loyalty in Alabama, 1860–1861”. Journal of Southern History (2003): 71–106. in JSTOR
  • Storey, Margaret M., Loyalty and Loss: Alabama’s Unionists in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2004.
  • Towns, Peggy Allen. Duty Driven: The Plight of North Alabama’s African Americans During the Civil War (2012)

Florida and Georgia

  • DeCredico, Mary A. Patriotism for Profit: Georgia’s Urban Entrepreneurs and the Confederate War Effort (1990)
  • Fowler, John D. and David B. Parker, eds. Breaking the Heartland: The Civil War in Georgia (2011)
  • Hill, Louise Biles. Joseph E. Brown and the Confederacy. (1972); He was the governor
  • Inscoe, John C. (2011). The Civil War in Georgia: A New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion. University of Georgia Press. ISBN 9780820341828.
  • Johns, John Edwin. Florida During the Civil War (University of Florida Press, 1963)
  • Johnson, Michael P. Toward A Patriarchal Republic: The Secession of Georgia (1977)
  • Mohr, Clarence L. On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia (1986)
  • Nulty, William H. Confederate Florida: The Road to Olustee (University of Alabama Press, 1994)
  • Parks, Joseph H. Joseph E. Brown of Georgia (LSU Press, 1977) 612 pages; Governor
  • Wetherington, Mark V. Plain Folk’s Fight: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia (2009)

Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and West

  • Bailey, Anne J., and Daniel E. Sutherland, eds. Civil War Arkansas: beyond battles and leaders (Univ of Arkansas Pr, 2000)
  • Ferguson, John Lewis, ed. Arkansas and the Civil War (Pioneer Press, 1965)
  • Ripley, C. Peter. Slaves and Freedmen in Civil War Louisiana (LSU Press, 1976)
  • Snyder, Perry Anderson. Shreveport, Louisiana, during the Civil War and Reconstruction (1979)
  • Underwood, Rodman L. Waters of Discord: The Union Blockade of Texas During the Civil War (McFarland, 2003)
  • Winters, John D. The Civil War in Louisiana (LSU Press, 1991)
  • Woods, James M. Rebellion and Realignment: Arkansas’s Road to Secession. (1987)
  • Wooster, Ralph A. Civil War Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2014)

North and South Carolina

  • Barrett, John G. The Civil War in North Carolina (1995)
  • Carbone, John S. The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (2001)
  • Cauthen, Charles Edward; Power, J. Tracy. South Carolina goes to war, 1860–1865 (1950)
  • Hardy, Michael C. North Carolina in the Civil War (2011)
  • Inscoe, John C. The Heart of Confederate Appalachia: Western North Carolina in the Civil War (2003)
  • Lee, Edward J. and Ron Chepesiuk, eds. South Carolina in the Civil War: The Confederate Experience in Letters and Diaries (2004), primary sources


  • Ayers, Edward L. and others. Crucible of the Civil War: Virginia from Secession to Commemoration (2008)
  • Bryan, T. Conn. Confederate Georgia (1953), the standard scholarly survey
  • Davis, William C. and James I. Robertson, Jr., eds. Virginia at War 1861. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2005.
    ISBN 978-0-8131-2372-1; Virginia at War 1862 (2007); Virginia at War 1863 (2009); Virginia at War 1864 (2009); Virginia at War 1865 (2012)
  • Snell, Mark A. West Virginia and the Civil War, Mountaineers Are Always Free, (2011)
    ISBN 978-1-59629-888-0.
  • Wallenstein, Peter, and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, eds. Virginia’s Civil War (2008)
  • Furgurson, Ernest B. Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War (1997)
    ISBN 978-0679746607

Social history, blacks, women

  • Ash, Stephen V. The Black Experience in the Civil War South (2010) online
  • Bartek, James M. “The Rhetoric of Destruction: Racial Identity and Noncombatant Immunity in the Civil War Era.” (PhD Dissertation, University of Kentucky, 2010). online; Bibliography pp 515–52.
  • Brown, Alexis Girardin. “The Women Left Behind: Transformation of the Southern Belle, 1840–1880” (2000) Historian 62#4 pp 759–778.
  • Cashin, Joan E. “Torn Bonnets and Stolen Silks: Fashion, Gender, Race, and Danger in the Wartime South.” Civil War History 61#4 (2015): 338–361. online
  • Chesson, Michael B. “Harlots or Heroines? A New Look at the Richmond Bread Riot.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 92#2 (1984): 131–175. in JSTOR
  • Clinton, Catherine, and Silber, Nina, eds. Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (1992)
  • Davis, William C. and James I. Robertson Jr., eds. Virginia at War, 1865 (2012) online
  • Elliot, Jane Evans. Diary of Mrs. Jane Evans Elliot, 1837–1882 (1908)
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War (1996)
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (2008)
  • Frank, Lisa Tendrich, ed. Women in the American Civil War (2008)
  • Frankel, Noralee. Freedom’s Women: Black Women and Families in Civil War Era Mississippi (1999)
  • Gleeson. David T. The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America (U of North Carolina Press, 2013); online review
  • Levine, Bruce. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (2013)
  • Lowry, Thomas P. The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War (Stackpole Books, 1994).
  • Lowry, Thomas P. Sexual Misbehavior in the Civil War: A Compendium (Xlibris Corporation, 2006).[self-published source]
  • Litwack, Leon F. Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (1979), on freed slaves
  • Massey, Mary Elizabeth Bonnet Brigades: American Women and the Civil War (1966)
  • Massey, Mary Elizabeth Refugee Life in the Confederacy, (1964)
  • Mobley, Joe A. (2008). Weary of war: life on the Confederate home front. Praeger. ISBN 9780275992026.
  • Rable, George C. Civil Wars: Women and the Crisis of Southern Nationalism (1989)
  • Slap, Andrew L. and Frank Towers, eds. Confederate Cities: The Urban South during the Civil War Era (U of Chicago Press, 2015). 302 pp.
  • Stokes, Karen. South Carolina Civilians in Sherman’s Path: Stories of Courage Amid Civil War Destruction (The History Press, 2012).
  • Whites, LeeAnn. The Civil War as a Crisis in Gender: Augusta, Georgia, 1860–1890 (1995)
  • Wiley, Bell Irwin Southern Negroes: 1861–1865 (1938)
  • Wiley, Bell Irwin Confederate Women (1975)
  • Wiley, Bell Irwin The Plain People of the Confederacy (1944)
  • Woodward, C. Vann, ed. Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, 1981, detailed diary; primary source

Intellectual history

  • Bernath, Michael T. Confederate Minds: The Struggle for Intellectual Independence in the Civil War South (University of North Carolina Press; 2010) 412 pages. Examines the efforts of writers, editors, and other “cultural nationalists” to free the South from the dependence on Northern print culture and educational systems.
  • Bonner, Robert E., “Proslavery Extremism Goes to War: The Counterrevolutionary Confederacy and Reactionary Militarism”, Modern Intellectual History, 6 (August 2009), 261–85.
  • Downing, David C. A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy. (2007).
    ISBN 978-1-58182-587-9
  • Faust, Drew Gilpin. The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South. (1988)
  • Hutchinson, Coleman. Apples and Ashes: Literature, Nationalism, and the Confederate States of America. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2012.
  • Lentz, Perry Carlton Our Missing Epic: A Study in the Novels about the American Civil War, 1970
  • Rubin, Anne Sarah. A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861–1868, 2005 A cultural study of Confederates’ self images

Political history

  • Alexander, Thomas B., and Beringer, Richard E. The Anatomy of the Confederate Congress: A Study of the Influences of Member Characteristics on Legislative Voting Behavior, 1861–1865, (1972)
  • Cooper, William J, Jefferson Davis, American (2000), standard biography
  • Davis, William C. A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy. New York: The Free Press, a division of Macmillan, Inc., 1994.
    ISBN 978-0-02-907735-1.
  • Eckenrode, H. J., Jefferson Davis: President of the South, 1923
  • Levine, Bruce. Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War. (2006)
  • Martis, Kenneth C., “The Historical Atlas of the Congresses of the Confederate States of America 1861–1865” (1994)
    ISBN 0-13-389115-1
  • Neely, Mark E. Jr., Confederate Bastille: Jefferson Davis and Civil Liberties (1993)
  • Neely, Mark E. Jr. Southern Rights: Political Prisoners and the Myth of Confederate Constitutionalism. (1999)
    ISBN 0-8139-1894-4
  • George C. Rable The Confederate Republic: A Revolution against Politics, 1994
  • Rembert, W. Patrick Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet (1944).
  • Williams, William M. Justice in Grey: A History of the Judicial System of the Confederate States of America (1941)
  • Yearns, Wilfred Buck The Confederate Congress (1960)

Foreign affairs

  • Blumenthal, Henry. “Confederate Diplomacy: Popular Notions and International Realities”, Journal of Southern History, Vol. 32, No. 2 (May 1966), pp. 151–171 in JSTOR
  • Daddysman, James W. The Matamoros Trade: Confederate Commerce, Diplomacy, and Intrigue. (1984)
  • Foreman, Amanda. A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War (2011) especially on Brits inside the Confederacy;
  • Hubbard, Charles M. The Burden of Confederate Diplomacy (1998)
  • Jones, Howard. Blue and Gray Diplomacy: A History of Union and Confederate Foreign Relations (2009)
  • Jones, Howard. Union in Peril: The Crisis Over British Intervention in the Civil War. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, Bison Books, 1997.
    ISBN 978-0-8032-7597-3. Originally published: Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
  • Mahin, Dean B. One War at a Time: The International Dimensions of the American Civil War. Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 2000.
    ISBN 978-1-57488-301-5. Originally published: Washington, DC: Brassey’s, 1999.
  • Merli, Frank J. The Alabama, British Neutrality, and the American Civil War (2004). 225 pp.
  • Owsley, Frank. King Cotton Diplomacy: Foreign Relations of the Confederate States of America (2nd ed. 1959)
  • Sainlaude, Steve. La France et la Confédération sudiste (2011)
  • Sainlaude, Steve. Le gouvernement impérial et la guerre de Sécession (2011)

Economic history

  • Black, III, Robert C. The Railroads of the Confederacy. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1952, 1988.
    OCLC 445590.
  • Bonner, Michael Brem. “Expedient Corporatism and Confederate Political Economy”, Civil War History, 56 (March 2010), 33–65.
  • Dabney, Virginius Richmond: The Story of a City. Charlottesville: The University of Virginia Press, 1990
    ISBN 0-8139-1274-1
  • Grimsley, Mark The Hard Hand of War: Union Military Policy toward Southern Civilians, 1861–1865, 1995
  • Hurt, R. Douglas. Agriculture and the Confederacy: Policy, Productivity, and Power in the Civil War South (2015)
  • Massey, Mary Elizabeth Ersatz in the Confederacy: Shortages and Substitutes on the Southern Homefront (1952)
  • Paskoff, Paul F. “Measures of War: A Quantitative Examination of the Civil War’s Destructiveness in the Confederacy”, Civil War History (2008) 54#1 pp 35–62 in Project MUSE
  • Ramsdell, Charles. Behind the Lines in the Southern Confederacy, 1994.
  • Roark, James L. Masters without Slaves: Southern Planters in the Civil War and Reconstruction, 1977.
  • Thomas, Emory M. The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience, 1992

Primary sources

  • Carter, Susan B., ed. The Historical Statistics of the United States: Millennial Edition (5 vols), 2006
  • Commager, Henry Steele. The Blue and the Gray: The Story of the Civil War As Told by Participants. 2 vols. Indianapolis and New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1950.
    OCLC 633931399. Many reprints.
  • Davis, Jefferson. The Rise of the Confederate Government. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2010. Original edition: 1881.
    ISBN 978-1-4351-2066-2.
  • Davis, Jefferson. The Fall of the Confederate Government. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2010. Original edition: 1881.
    ISBN 978-1-4351-2067-9.
  • Harwell, Richard B., The Confederate Reader (1957)
  • Hettle, Wallace, ed. The Confederate Homefront: A History in Documents (LSU Press, 2017) 214 pp
  • Jones, John B. A Rebel War Clerk’s Diary at the Confederate States Capital, edited by Howard Swiggert, [1935] 1993. 2 vols.
  • Richardson, James D., ed. A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence 1861–1865, 2 volumes, 1906.
  • Yearns, W. Buck and Barret, John G., eds. North Carolina Civil War Documentary, 1980.
  • Confederate official government documents major online collection of complete texts in HTML format, from University of North Carolina
  • Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 (7 vols), 1904. Available online at the Library of Congress0

External links

  • Confederate offices Index of Politicians by Office Held or Sought
  • Civil War Research & Discussion Group -*Confederate States of Am. Army and Navy Uniforms, 1861
  • The Countryman, 1862–1866, published weekly by Turnwold, Ga., edited by J.A. Turner
  • The Federal and the Confederate Constitution Compared
  • Confederate Currency at the Wayback Machine (archived July 19, 2011)
  • Confederate Postage Stamps
  • Photographs of the original Confederate Constitution and other Civil War documents owned by the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at the University of Georgia Libraries.
  • Photographic History of the Civil War, 10 vols., 1912.
  • DocSouth: Documenting the American South – numerous online text, image, and audio collections.
  • The Boston Athenæum has over 4000 Confederate imprints, including rare books, pamphlets, government documents, manuscripts, serials, broadsides, maps, and sheet music that have been conserved and digitized.
  • Oklahoma Digital Maps: Digital Collections of Oklahoma and Indian Territory
  • Confederate States of America Collection at the Library of Congress
  • Works by or about Confederate States of America at Internet Archive
  • Works by Confederate States of America at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Works by Confederate States of America at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)

North West Company

North West Company
Former type
Industry Fur trade
Fate Merger
Successor Hudson’s Bay Company
Founded 1789
Founder Benjamin Frobisher, Joseph, Simon McTavish, Robert Grant, Nicholas Montour, Patrick Small, William Holmes, George McBeath
Defunct 1821 (1821)
Headquarters Montreal, Lower Canada
Area served
United States territory, Spanish territory, Russian Empire territory, Qing Dynasty China, British Canada
Website Edit this on Wikidata

The North West Company was a fur trading business headquartered in Montreal from 1779 to 1821. It competed with increasing success against the Hudson’s Bay Company in what is present-day Western Canada. With great wealth at stake, tensions between the companies increased to the point where several minor armed skirmishes broke out, and the two companies were forced by the British government to merge.


  • 1 Before the Company
  • 2 Beginnings
  • 3 Official founding of The Company
  • 4 Frobisher-McTavish deal
  • 5 Late 18th/early 19th century
  • 6 Forced merger
  • 7 Social and ethnic structure

    • 7.1 Bourgeois
    • 7.2 Engagés
    • 7.3 Social dynamics
  • 8 Company staff
  • 9 Organizational history
  • 10 Revival
  • 11 References
  • 12 Further reading
  • 13 See also
  • 14 External links

Before the Company

After the French landed in Quebec in 1608, coureurs des bois spread out and built a fur trade empire in the St. Lawrence basin. The French competed with the Dutch (from 1614) and English (1664) in New York and the English in Hudson Bay (1670). Unlike the French who travelled into the northern interior and traded with First Nations in their camps and villages, the English made bases at trading posts on Hudson Bay, inviting the indigenous people to trade. After 1731, La Vérendrye pushed trade west beyond Lake Winnipeg. After the British conquest of New France in 1763 (and defeat of France in Europe), management of the fur trading posts was taken over by English-speakers. These so-called “pedlars” began to merge because competition cost them money and because of the high costs of outfitting canoes to the far west.


There are historical references to a North West Company, as early as 1770, involving the Montreal-based traders Benjamin Frobisher, Isaac Todd, Alexander Henry the elder and others, but the standard histories trace the Company to a 16-share organization formed in 1779. For the next four years, it was little more than a loose association of a few Montreal merchants who discussed how they might break the stranglehold the Hudson’s Bay Company held on the North American fur trade. In the winter of 1783-84, the North West Company was officially created on a long-term basis, with its corporate offices on Vaudreuil Street in Montreal. It was led by businessmen Benjamin Frobisher, his brother Joseph, and Simon McTavish, along with investor-partners who included Robert Grant, Nicholas Montour, Patrick Small, William Holmes, and George McBeath.

Simon McTavish dominated the company, until his death in 1804. His nephew William McGilivray ran the company, until the Hudson’s Bay Company merger of 1821.

Official founding of The Company

In 1787 the North West Company merged with a rival organization, Gregory, McLeod and Co., which brought several more able partners in, including John Gregory,[1]Alexander Mackenzie, and his cousin Roderick Mackenzie. The 1787 Company consisted of twenty shares, some held by the agents at Montreal (see below), and others by wintering partners, who spent the trading season in the fur country and oversaw the trade with the aboriginal peoples there.

The wintering partners and the Montreal agents met each July at the Company’s depot at Grand Portage on Lake Superior, later moved to Fort William, Ontario. Also under the auspices of the Company, Alexander Mackenzie conducted two important expeditions of exploration. In 1789, he descended the Grand River (now called the Mackenzie River) to the Arctic Ocean,[2] and in 1793 he went overland from Peace River to the Pacific Ocean[3] Further explorations were performed by David Thompson, starting in 1797, and later by Simon Fraser. These men pushed into the wilderness territories of the Rocky Mountains and all the way to the Gulf of Georgia on the Pacific Coast.[4]

Frobisher-McTavish deal

The death of Benjamin Frobisher opened the door to a takeover of the North West Company by Simon McTavish, who made a deal with Frobisher’s surviving brother Joseph. The firm of McTavish, Frobisher and Company, founded in November 1787, effectively controlled eleven of the company’s twenty outstanding shares. At the time the company consisted of 23 partners, but “its staff of Agents, factors, clerks, guides, interpreters, more commonly known today as voyageurs amounted to 2000 people.”[5] In addition to Alexander Mackenzie, this group included Americans Peter Pond and Alexander Henry the elder. Further reorganizations of the partnership occurred in 1795 and 1802, the shares being subdivided each time to provide for more and more wintering partners.

Vertical integration of the business was completed in 1792, when Simon McTavish and John Fraser formed a London house to supply trade goods and market the furs, McTavish, Fraser and Company. While the organization and capitalization of the North West Company came from Anglo-Quebecers, both Simon McTavish and Joseph Frobisher married French Canadians. Numerous French Canadians played key roles in the operations both in the building, management, and shareholding of the various trading posts scattered throughout the country, as well numbering among the voyageurs involved in the actual trading with natives.

In the northwest, the Company expanded its operations as far north as Great Bear Lake,[6] and westwards beyond the Rocky Mountains. For several years, they tried to sell furs directly to China, using American ships to avoid the British East India Company’s monopoly, but little profit was made there. The company also expanded into the United States’ Northwest Territory (today’s Midwest of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin). In 1796, to better position themselves in the increasingly global market, where politics played a major role, the North West Company briefly established an agency in New York City.

Despite its efforts, the North West Company was at a distinct disadvantage in competing for furs with the Hudson’s Bay Company, whose charter gave it a virtual monopoly in Rupert’s Land, where the best furs were trapped. The company tried to persuade the British Parliament to change arrangements, at least so the North West Company could obtain transit rights to ship goods to the west needed for trading for furs. It is said that Simon McTavish made a personal petition to Prime Minister William Pitt, but all requests were refused.

Charlton island

A few years later, with no relief to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s stranglehold, McTavish and his group decided to gamble. They organized an overland expedition from Montreal to James Bay and a second expedition by sea. In September 1803, the overland party met the company’s ship at Charlton Island in what is now Nunavut Territory. There, they lay claim to the region inhabited by the Inuit, in the name of the North West Company, and were able to capitalize on the rich furs of the area. Their expansion northwestward cut into the profits of the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1800, HBC profited £38,000 in trade compared to the North West Company’s £144,000 in 1800.[7] This bold move caught the Hudson’s Bay Company off guard. In succeeding years it retaliated rather than reaching a compromise, which McTavish had hoped might be negotiated.

Late 18th/early 19th century

Original flag of the North West Company

The Company’s flag after 1801

Simon McTavish brought several members of his family into the company, but nepotism took a back seat to ability. His brother-in-law, Charles Chaboillez, oversaw the Lower Red River trading post. McTavish also hired several cousins and his nephews William McGillivray and Duncan McGillivray to learn the business. William McGillivray was groomed by his uncle to succeed him as Director of the North West Company, and by 1796 he had effectively done so, acting as Montreal agents’ representative at the annual meetings at Grand Portage, and later at Fort William.

Simon McTavish was an aggressive businessman who understood that powerful forces in the business world were always ready to pounce on any weakness. As such, his ambition and forceful positions caused disagreements between him and some of the shareholders, several of whom eventually left the North West Company during the 1790s. Some of these dissidents formed their own company, known unofficially as the “XY Company”, allegedly because of the mark they used on their bales of furs. Their cause was greatly strengthened in 1799, when the North West Company’s hero explorer, Alexander Mackenzie, quit his old partnership and soon after joined them.

There was intense competition between the rivals. When Simon McTavish died on July 6, 1804, the new head William McGillivray set out to put an end to the four years’ rivalry. It had escalated to a point where the master of the North West Company post at Great Bear Lake had been shot by an XY Company employee during a quarrel. McGillivray was successful in putting together an agreement with the XY Company in 1804. It stipulated that the old North West Company partners held 75 per cent of the shares, and the former XY Company partners the remaining 25 per cent. Alexander Mackenzie was excluded from the new joint partnership.[8]

Under William McGillivray, the Company continued to expand, and apparently to profit, during the first decade of the 19th century. Competition with the Hudson’s Bay Company was intense, however, and profit margins were squeezed. The North West Company branch in New York City had allowed the Canadians to get around the British East India Company’s monopoly and ship furs to the Chinese market. Cargo ships owned by the North West Company conveniently sailed under the American flag, and doing so meant continued collaboration with John Jacob Astor.

However, Astor was as aggressive as Simon McTavish had been. An intense rivalry soon developed between him and William McGillivray over the Oriental market and westerly expansion to unclaimed territory in what is now the Columbia River basin, in the present-day states of Washington and Oregon. Astor’s Pacific Fur Company beat the North West Company in an effort to found a post near the mouth of the Columbia, Fort Astoria. A collapse in the sea otter population and the imminent possibility of British seizure of Astoria during the War of 1812 led to its sale to the North West Company in 1813. When HMS Racoon and its Captain Black arrived, he went through a ceremony of possession, even though the fort was already ostensibly under British control. Due to treaty complications of the Treaty of Ghent requiring the return of seized assets, putative ownership of the site was returned to the United States in 1817. Renamed as Fort George by the North West Company, continued to operate until the Hudson’s Bay Company’s takeover and the replacement of Fort Astoria by Fort Vancouver.[8]

The Canadian fur trade began to change in 1806, after Napoleon Bonaparte ordered the blockade of the Baltic Sea as part of the ongoing struggle between France and Britain for world dominance. Britain was dependent for almost all of her timber on the Baltic countries and on the US states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts (which at that time included the large territory of Maine). By then, however, tensions had also begun to escalate again between Britain and the United States.

In 1809 the American Government passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which effectively brought about an almost complete cessation of trade between the two countries. Britain became totally dependent on her Canadian colony for her timber needs, especially the great white pine used for ships’ masts. Almost overnight, timber and wood products replaced fur as Canada’s number one export. Fur remained profitable, however, as it had a high value-to-bulk ratio. In an economy short of ready money, fur was routinely used by Canadian merchants to remit value to their London creditors.

Forced merger

By 1810, another crisis hit the fur industry, brought on by the over-harvesting of animals, the beaver in particular. The destruction of the North West Company post at Sault Ste. Marie by the Americans during the War of 1812 was a serious blow during an already difficult time. In addition, the company was hurt by the refusal after the war of the United States to let Canadian traders freely cross its northern border. This reduced much of the border trade, which had previously been profitable for them, and artificially divided traders’ relations with those several Native American tribes whose territories spanned the border.

All these events intensified competition between the companies. When Thomas Douglas convinced his fellow shareholders in the Hudson’s Bay Company to grant him the Selkirk Concession, it marked another in a series of events that would lead to the demise of the North West Company. The Pemmican Proclamation, the ensuing Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816, and its violence, resulted in Lord Selkirk arresting William McGillivray and several North West Company proprietors. He ordered the seizure of their outpost property in Fort William and charged them in the deaths of 21 people at Seven Oaks. Although this matter was resolved by the authorities in Montreal, over the next few years some of the wealthiest and most capable partners began to leave the North West Company, fearful of its future viability. The form of nepotism within the company too had changed, from the strict values of Simon McTavish to something that was harming the business in both its costs and morale of others.[9][10]

By 1820, the company was issuing coinage, each copper token representing the value of one beaver pelt.[11] But the continued operations of the North West Company were in great doubt, and shareholders had no choice but to agree to a merger with their hated rival after Henry Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, ordered the companies to cease hostilities. In July 1821, under more pressure from the British government, which passed new regulations governing the fur trade in British North America, a merger agreement was signed with the Hudson’s Bay Company. By this the North West Company name disappeared after more than 40 years of operations. At the time of the merger, the amalgamated company consisted of 97 trading posts that had belonged to the North West Company and 76 that belonged to the Hudson’s Bay Company. When the competition between both companies came to an end, new board of directors wanted two field governors to oversee the newly defined territory, and George Simpson was appointed to the Northern Department.[12]George Simpson (1787–1860), the Hudson’s Bay Company Governor-in-Chief of Rupert’s Land, who became the Canadian head of the northern division of the greatly enlarged business, made his headquarters in the Montreal suburb of Lachine. The trading posts were soon reduced in number to avoid redundancy.

Social and ethnic structure

The masters or the bourgeois of the North West Company were most often of Scottish descent, whether born in Canada or Scotland, and brought capital to the enterprise. Over time, many were related, since sons and nephews were recruited. The servants or engagés were most often canadiens, peasants’ sons from the countryside around Montreal. Many Métis sons followed in their fathers’ footstep, whether as bourgeois or engagés. Through descent and education, the bourgeois laid claim to the status of gentlemen, while the engagés did the physical labour.[13]


The bourgeois or masters of the North West Company belonged to three different levels, depending on the role performed in the company.

Montreal merchants, or agents de Montréal were owners of trading companies and shareholders in the North West Company. They were responsible for hiring staff, exporting furs, acquiring supplies, merchandise and provisions, and organizing their shipment to the inland trading posts. For this, they received commissions, in addition to the profits they made as shareholders.[14]

Wintering partners or associés were also shareholders in the Company, owning one or two shares each. They were not salaried, but received their income from the Company’s profits through their shares. Trading goods were advanced to them on credit by the agents of Montreal. They wintered in the interior, managing a district with several trading posts, and were in charge of the actual trade with the Indians. During the summer, the agents and the associates met at Fort William. The wintering partners normally began their career path as clerks.[14]

The clerks or commiss were salaried employees. They began their career as apprentices serving five to seven years, before advancing to clerks and bookkeepers. Each hoped to become a shareholding partner, although many remained clerks.[14]


The engagés or servants did not constitute a uniform group with equal status. The lowest level of the status pyramid was formed by the voyageurs, who paddled between Montreal and the posts around the Great Lakes. Seasonally employed, they were known by their diet and referred to as mangeurs du lard (porkeaters). Hivernants, or wintering servants, who paddled canoes from the Great Lakes to the interior trading posts, and worked at them during the winter, formed the next higher band of employees. Status and pay differed depending of a man’s role in the canoe. The milieu or middleman was the drudge of canoe travel, while the responsibilities of the bowsman or devant and the steersman or gouvernail were rewarded with up to five times as high pay as a common middleman, especially if serving as leader of a brigade of canoes. Interpreters and guides could earn up to three times as much as a middleman.[15]

Social dynamics

The social dynamics of the Company was rooted in kinship and descent or ethnic origin. The Company was formed by a closed network of persons of Scots descent related through blood or marriage. Several important Montreal agents were related to Simon McTavish; and his successors, brothers William and Duncan McGillivray, were his nephews. Of 128 leading figures in the Company, 77 were of Scots descent. Due to the prevalent kinship structures, it was all but impossible for unrelated men to advance from engagé to bourgeois.[16]

Company staff

Beyond the non-operating investors, these were some of the post proprietors, clerks, interpreters, explorers and others of the nearly 2,500 persons employed by the North West Company in 1799:[17]

  • Athabaska (Fort George, Fort McLeod, Fort St. James, Rocky Mountain Portage):

    • John Finlay (proprietor), Simon Fraser, Alexander MacKenzie, Duncan Livingston, John Stuart, James Porter, John Thompson, James McDougall, G. F. Wintzel, John Steinbrucks;
  • Upper English River:

    • Angus Shaw (proprietor), Donald MacTavish (proprietor), Alexander MacKay, Antoine Tourangeau, Joseph Cartier, Simon Réaume;
  • Lower English River:

    • Alexander Fraser (proprietor), John MacGillivray, Robert Henry, Louis Versailles, Charles Messier, Pierre Hurteau;
  • Fort Dauphin:

    • A. N. McLeod (proprietor), Hugh McGillis, Michel Allary, Alexander Farguson, Edward Harrison, Joseph Grenon, François Nolin, Nicholas Montour;
  • Upper Fort des Prairies and Rocky Mountains:

    • Daniel Mackenzie (proprietor), John MacDonald (proprietor), James Hughes, Louis Châtellain, James King, François Décoigne, Pierre Charette, Pierre Jérôme, Baptiste Bruno, David Thompson, J. Duncan Campbell, Alexander Stewart, Jacques Raphael, Francois Deschamps;
  • Lower Fort des Prairies:

    • Pierre Belleau, Baptiste Roy, J. B. Filande, Baptiste Larose;
  • Upper Red River:

    • John Macdonell (proprietor), George MacKay, J. Macdonell, Jr., Joseph Auger, Pierre Falcon, François Mallette, William Munro, André Poitvin;
  • Lower Red River:

    • Charles Chaboillez (proprietor), Alexander Henry the younger, J. B. Desmarais, Francois Coleret, Antoine Déjarlet, Louis Giboche;
  • Lac Winipic:

    • William MacKay (proprietor), John Cameron, Donald MacIntosh, Benjamin Frobisher, Jacques Dupont, Joseph Laurent, Gabriel Attina, Francois Amoit;
  • Nipigon

    • Duncan Cameron (proprietor), Ronald Cameron, Dugald Cameron, Jacques Adhémar, Jean-Baptiste Chevalier, Allen MacFarlane, Jean-Baptiste Pominville, Frederick Shults;
  • Pic:

    • J. B. Perrault, Augustin Roy;
  • Michipicoten and the Bay:

    • Lemaire St-Germain, Baptiste St-Germain, Léon Chênier
  • Sault Ste. Marie and Sloop “Otter”:

    • John Burns, John Bennet, John Johnston;
  • South of Lake Superior:

    • Michel Cadotte (partner), Simeon Charrette, Charles Gauthier, Pierre Baillarge;
    • Francois Malhiot,[18] clerk in charge at Lac du Flambeau
  • Fond du Lac:

    • John Sayer (proprietor), J. B. Cadotte, Charles Bousquet, Jean Coton, Ignace Chênier, Joseph Réaume, Eustache Roussin, Vincent Roy;
  • Lac La Pluie:

    • Peter Grant (proprietor), Arch. MacLellan, Charles Latour, Michel Machard;
  • Grand Portage:

    • Doctor Munro, Charles Hesse, Zacharie Clouthier, Antoine Colin, Jacques Vandreil, François Boileau, Mr. Bruce.

Organizational history

The history of the partnership is complex, but it is necessary to keep track of who was competing with whom. Note that the definition of partner is not completely clear. For example, after Duncan McDougall surrendered Fort Astoria, he became a NWC partner with one one-hundredth of a share.

  • 1771: William Grant and several others form a partnership which they call the “N. W. Société”
  • 1775: Alexander Henry the elder speaks of a pool on the North Saskatchewan similar to 1779 (see Fort Sturgeon).
  • 1779: Of 16 shares: 2 shares: Todd & McGill, B & J Frobisher, McGill & Patterson, McTavish & Co, Holmes & Grant, Wadden & Co, McBeath & Co; 1 share: Ross & Co, Oakes & Co. The first three were large and closely connected. Peter Pond was a partner of McBeath and Patrick Small of McTavish.
  • 1784: McGill & Todd secede. Of 16 shares: 3 shares: Simon McTavish, B & J Frobisher; 2 shares: George McBeath, Robert Grant, Nicholas Montour, Patrick Small; 1 share: Peter Pond, William Holmes. The agreement was made in January and confirmed that summer when the winterers arrived at Grand Portage for the first meeting.
  • 1787: McTavish buys 1 of McBeath’s 2 shares. Gregory & McLeod join. Of 20 Shares: 4 shares: McTavish; 3 shares: Joseph Frobisher; 2 shares: Patrick Small, Nicholas Montour, Robert Grant; 1 share: McBeath, Peter Pond, Holms; former Gregory & McLeod members with 1 share each: John Gregory, Norman McLeod, Peter Pangman, Alexander MacKenzie.
  • 1788: Merger creates McTavish, Frobisher & Co which controls half of the NWC.
  • 1790: Of 20 shares: 6 shares: McTavish & Frobisher: 2 shares: Montour, Robert Grant, Patrick Small, John Gregory, Peter Pangman, Alexander MacKenzie; 1 share: McTavish’s nephew and Donald Sutherland.
  • 1792: Now 46 shares. 20 Shares: McTavish, Frobisher &Co (with new partner John Gregory), 6 Shares: Alexander MacKenzie, 2 Shares: Todd, McGill & Co, Forsyth, Richardson & Co, Montour, Sutherland, Angus Shaw, 1 Share: Alexander Henry the elder & Alexander Henry the younger, Grant, Campion & Co, Robert and Cuthbert Grant, Roderick McKenzie and others.
  • 1796: Frobisher retires.
  • 1802: 6 shares added to be distributed to clerks.
  • 1804: McTavish dies, replaced by William McGillivray. Merger with XY Company.
  • 1806: McTavish, Frobisher & Co becomes McTavish, McGillivrays & Co
  • 1821: Merged with Hudson’s Bay Company. Former NWC owners have half the capital but little power.

XY Company or formally the New North West Company, and sometimes Alexander MacKenzie & Co. In 1798 Forsyth, Richardson & Co, Parker, Gerrand & Ogilvy and John Mure of Quebec formed the XY Company. In 1799 MacKenzie left the NWC and went to England. Next year he bought shares in XY and soon became effective head of the firm. Alexander Henry the younger was an XY winterer. They built a number of posts close to NWC and HBC posts. The murder of an HBC man by an XY man at Fort de l’Isle led to the Canada Jurisdiction Act which extended Quebec law to western Canada. In 1804 it merged with the NWC, having 25% interest in the combined company.

The South West Company: was an 1811 attempted partnership between two North West Company firms (McTavish, McGillivrays & Co and Forsyth, Richardson & Co) and John Jacob Astor to import goods through New York and deal with the Great Lakes trade. It was mostly blocked by the War of 1812 but remnants existed until at least 1820. Astor had been dealing with the NWC since around 1787.

McTavish, Fraser & Co. was the London agent of Simon McTavish, from about 1790. John Fraser was his cousin. Simon McGillivray worked there and became a partner in 1805. Edward Ellice, a man of great influence, was involved.

Todd & McGill was formed in 1776, was in the NWC by 1779, separated in 1784 and rejoined in 1792. They apparently wanted to concentrate on the southern Great Lakes.

Gregory & McLeod joined in 1787. They employed Alexander Mackenzie, Peter Pangman and John Ross.


In 1987, the northern trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company were sold to an employee consortium that revived the name The North West Company in 1990. The new company is a grocery and merchandise store chain based in Winnipeg, with stores in Northern Canada, Alaska, US Pacific territories and the Caribbean. Its headquarters are across the street from the Forts Rouge, Garry, and Gibraltar National Historic Site of Canada, the site of an old North West Company fort.


  1. ^ Campbell, Marjorie Wilkins (1983). “Gregory, John”. In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:”””””””‘””‘”}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url(“//”)no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  2. ^ Mackenzie, Alexander (1903). Voyages from Montreal Through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in 1789 and 1793. Vol I. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  3. ^ Mackenzie, Alexander (1903). Voyages from Montreal Through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans in 1789 and 1793. Vol II. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  4. ^ Innis, Harold A. (2001) [1930]. The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History (reprint ed.). Toronto, Ontario: University of Toronto Press. ISBN 978-0-8020-8196-4. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  5. ^ Kingsford, William (July 1881). “John Johnston, of Sault Ste. Marie: A Passage in Canadian History”. In Adam, G. Mercer. Canadian Monthly and National Review. VII. Toronto: Rose-Belford Publishing Co. p. 3. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  6. ^ Keith, Lloyd, ed. (2001). North of Athabasca: Slave Lake and Mackenzie River Documents of North West Company, 1800-1821. Rupert’s Land Record Society series. Montreal, Quebec & Kingston, Ontario: McGill-Queens University Press. p. 38. ISBN 0-7735-2098-8. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  7. ^ Friesen, Gerald (1987). The Canadian Prairies. University of Toronto Press. p. 62. ISBN 0-8020-6648-8.
  8. ^ ab Rich, E.E. (1966). Montreal and the Fur Trade. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queens University Press. ISBN 978-0-7735-9431-9.
  9. ^ Friedley, Russell W., ed. (1967). Aspects of the Fur Trade; Selected Papers of the 1965 North American Fur Trade Conference. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minnesota Historical Society.
  10. ^ Davies, K.G.; “From Competition to Union”
  11. ^ North West Company – 1820
  12. ^ Keith, H. Lloyd. “‘Shameful Mismanagement, Wasteful Extravagance, and the Most Unfortunate Dissention’ : George Simpson’s Misconceptions of the North West Company.” Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 2001, p. 434. Academic OneFile
  13. ^ “Class Structure of the North West Company circa 1816.” Fort William Historical Park. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  14. ^ abc “Organisations des activités de traite de la CNO.” McGill University.” Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  15. ^ Podruchny, Carolyn (1999). “Unfair Masters and Rascally Servants? Labour Relations Among Bourgeois, Clerks and Voyageurs in the Montréal Fur Trade, 1780-1821,” Labour/Le Travail 43, p. 48.
  16. ^ Pannekoek, Frits (1987). Western Canadian Society 1670-1870, Canadian Historical Association Booklet # 43.
  17. ^ Masson, L.R., ed. (1890). Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest. 2. Québec: De L’Imprimerie Générale A. Coté et Cie. Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  18. ^ Malhiot, Francois Victor (1910). “A Wisconsin Fur-Trader’s Journal, 1804-05”. Wisconsin Historical Collections. pp. 163–233. Retrieved 5 October 2015.

Further reading

Further information on the North West Company can be found in Marjorie Wilkins Campbell’s 1957 book The North West Company, as well as her 1962 biography of William McGillivray, McGillivray, Lord of the North West. Campbell served as a consultant to the government of Ontario for the restoration of the North West Company trading post in Fort William, Ontario, Fort William Historical Park. Campbell also wrote a book for young adults—The Nor’westers—which won the 1954 Governor General’s Awards. In addition, the North West Company is a case example in John Roberts The Modern Firm (Oxford).

.mw-parser-output .refbegin{font-size:90%;margin-bottom:0.5em}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>ul{list-style-type:none;margin-left:0}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>ul>li,.mw-parser-output .refbegin-hanging-indents>dl>dd{margin-left:0;padding-left:3.2em;text-indent:-3.2em;list-style:none}.mw-parser-output .refbegin-100{font-size:100%}

  • Canada. Bill An Act to Incorporate the North West Company. Ottawa: I.B. Taylor, 2004.
    ISBN 0-659-04993-7
  • Fox, William A. Archaeological Investigation of the North West Company Great Hall Cellar, Fort William, 1976. Data box research manuscript series, 348. [Toronto]: Ministry of Culture and Recreation, Historical Planning and Research Branch, 1977.
  • Hoag, Donald R. Agents of the North West Company in the Fond du Lac District. Duluth: The Author, 1981.
  • Keith, Lloyd. North of Athabasca Slave Lake and Mackenzie River Documents of the North West Company, 1800-1821. Rupert’s Land Record Society series. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001.
    ISBN 0-7735-2098-8
  • M’Gillivray, Duncan, and Arthur Silver Morton. The Journal of Duncan M’Gillivray of the North West Company at Fort George on the Saskatchewan, 1794-5. Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada, 1929.
  • Schwörer, Ute. The Reorganization of the Fur Trade of the Hudson’s Bay Company After the Merger with the North West Company, 1821 to 1826. Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1988.
    ISBN 0-315-35812-2
  • Selkirk, Thomas Douglas. A Sketch of the British Fur Trade in North America With Observations Relative to the North West Company of Montreal. New-York: Printed for James Eastburn and Co. [by] Clayton & Kingsland, 1818.
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. Documents Relating to the North West Company. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968.
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. “Documents Relating to the North West Company”. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1934.

See also

  • Coureur des bois
  • Fort William Historical Park, a reconstruction of the Fort William fur trade post as it existed in 1816, near Thunder Bay, Ontario.
  • Fur trade
  • Grand Portage Indian Reservation
  • Isaac Todd – a ship built at Québec in 1811 for John McTavish to wrest Fort Astoria and its trade from the Pacific Fur Company
  • List of trading companies
  • North West Company Post, a restored post near Pine City, Minnesota operated as a living history museum by the Minnesota Historical Society
  • North-Western Territory
  • Rupert’s Land
  • The North West Company, the restored company.
  • Voyageurs

External links

  • Fort Frances Museum & Cultural Centre Fort Frances, Ontario: Celebrating Community[permanent dead link]
  • Nor’Westers and Loyalist Museum
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. Documents Relating to the North West Company. Toronto: Champlain Society, 1934.

North American fur trade

A fur trader in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta in the 1890s.

The North American fur trade was the industry and activities related to the acquisition, trade, exchange, and sale of animal furs in North America. Aboriginal peoples in Canada and Native Americans in the United States of different regions traded among themselves in the Pre-Columbian Era, but Europeans participated in the trade beginning from the time of their arrival in the New World and extended its reach to Europe. The French started trading in the 16th century, the English established trading posts on Hudson Bay in present-day Canada in the 17th century, and the Dutch had trade by the same time in New Netherland. The 19th-century North American fur trade, when the industry was at its peak of economic importance, involved the development of elaborate trade networks.

The fur trade became one of the main economic ventures in North America attracting competition among the French, British, Dutch, Spanish, and Russians. Indeed, in the early history of the United States, capitalizing on this trade, and removing the British stranglehold over it, was seen as a major economic objective. Many Native American societies across the continent came to depend on the fur trade as their primary source of income. By the mid-1800s changing fashions in Europe brought about a collapse in fur prices. The American Fur Company and some other companies failed. Many Native communities were plunged into long-term poverty and consequently lost much of the political influence they once had.


  • 1 Origins
  • 2 New France in the 17th century
  • 3 Anglo-French competition
  • 4 Aboriginal response to French-English competition – over exploitation and depletion of beavers
  • 5 Building relationships
  • 6 English colonies
  • 7 Company formation

    • 7.1 New Netherland Company
    • 7.2 Hudson’s Bay Company
    • 7.3 North West Company
    • 7.4 Missouri Fur Company
    • 7.5 American Fur Company
    • 7.6 Russian-American Company
  • 8 Fur trade in the western United States

    • 8.1 Montana
    • 8.2 Mountain men
    • 8.3 Great plains
    • 8.4 Pacific coast
  • 9 Southeastern fur trade

    • 9.1 Background
    • 9.2 Effect of the deerskin trade on Native Americans
    • 9.3 Post European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries
    • 9.4 Beginning of the 18th century
    • 9.5 Mississippi river valley
    • 9.6 Mid-18th Century
    • 9.7 Post-Revolutionary War
  • 10 Social and cultural impact

    • 10.1 Métis people
  • 11 Modern day
  • 12 See also
  • 13 References

    • 13.1 Notes
    • 13.2 Sources
  • 14 External links


French explorer Jacques Cartier in his three voyages into the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the 1530s and 1540s conducted some of the earliest fur trading between European and First Nations peoples associated with sixteenth century and later explorations in North America. Cartier attempted limited fur trading with the First Nations in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the St. Lawrence River. He concentrated on trading for furs used as trimming and adornment. He overlooked the fur that would become the driving force of the fur trade in the north, the beaver pelt, which would become fashionable in Europe.[1]

Fur cleaning tools

The earliest European trading for beaver pelts dated to the growing cod fishing industry that spread to the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic in the 16th century. The new preservation technique of drying fish allowed the mainly Basque fishermen to fish near the Newfoundland coast and transport fish back to Europe for sale. The fisherman sought suitable harbors with ample lumber to dry large quantities of cod. This generated their earliest contact with local Aboriginal peoples, with whom the fisherman began simple trading.

The fishermen traded metal items for beaver robes made of sewn-together, native-tanned, beaver pelts. They used the robes to keep warm on the long, cold return voyages across the Atlantic. These castor gras in French became prized by European hat makers in the second half of the 16th century, as they converted the pelts to fur felt.[2] The discovery of the superior felting qualities of beaver fur, along with the rapidly increasing popularity of beaver felt hats in fashion, transformed the incidental trading of fishermen in the sixteenth century into a growing trade in the French and later English territories in the next century.

New France in the 17th century

Map of New France (Champlain, 1612)

The transition from a seasonal coastal trade into a permanent interior fur trade was formally marked with the foundation of Quebec on the St. Lawrence River in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain. This settlement marked the beginning of the westward movement of French traders from the first permanent settlement of Tadoussac at the mouth of the Saguenay River on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, up the St. Lawrence River and into the pays d’en haut (or “upper country”) around the Great Lakes. What followed in the first half of the 17th century were strategic moves by both the French and the indigenous groups to further their own economic and geopolitical ambitions.

Samuel de Champlain led the expansion while centralizing the French efforts. As native peoples had the primary role of suppliers in the fur trade, Champlain quickly created alliances with the Algonquin, Montagnais (who were located in the territory around Tadoussac), and most importantly, the Huron to the west. The latter, an Iroquoian-speaking people, served as middlemen between the French on the St. Lawrence and nations in the pays d’en haut. Champlain supported the northern groups in their preexisting military struggle with the Iroquois Confederacy to the south. He secured the Ottawa River route to Georgian Bay, greatly expanding the trade.[3] Champlain also sent young French men to live and work among the natives, most notably Étienne Brûlé, to learn the land, language, and customs, as well as to promote trade.[4]

Champlain reformed the business of the trade, creating the first informal trust in 1613 in response to increasing losses due to competition.[5] The trust was later formalized with a royal charter, leading to a series of trade monopolies during the term of New France. The most notable monopoly was the Company of One Hundred Associates, with occasional concessions, such as to habitants in the 1640s and 1650s, permitting them limited trading. While the monopolies dominated the trade, their charters also required payment of annual returns to the national government, military expenditures, and expectations that they would encourage settlement for the sparsely populated New France.[6]

The vast wealth in the fur trade created enforcement problems for the monopoly. Unlicensed independent traders, known as coureurs des bois (or “runners of the woods”), began to do business in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Over time, many Métis were drawn to the independent trade; they were the descendants of French trappers and native women. The increasing use of currency, as well as the importance of personal contacts and experience in the fur trade, gave an edge to independent traders over the more bureaucratic monopolies.[7] The newly established English colonies to the south quickly joined the lucrative trade, raiding the St. Lawrence River valley and capturing and controlling Quebec from 1629 to 1632.[8]

While bringing wealth to a few select French traders and the French regime, the fur trade also brought profound changes to the indigenous groups living along the St. Lawrence. European wares, such as iron axe heads, brass kettles, cloth, and firearms were bought with beaver pelts and other furs. The widespread practice of trading furs for rum and whiskey led to problems associated with inebriation and alcohol abuse.[9] The subsequent destruction of beaver populations along the St. Lawrence heightened the fierce competition between the Iroquois and Huron for access to the rich fur-bearing lands of the Canadian Shield.[10] The competition for hunting is believed to have contributed to the earlier destruction of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians in the valley by 1600, likely by the Iroquois Mohawk tribe, who were located closest to them, were more powerful than the Huron, and had the most to gain by controlling this part of the valley.[11]

Iroquois access to firearms through Dutch and later English traders along the Hudson River increased the casualties in the warfare. This greater bloodshed, previously unseen in Iroquoian warfare, increased the practice of “Mourning Wars”. The Iroquois raided neighboring groups to take captives, who were ritually adopted to replace the dead Iroquois; thus a cycle of violence and warfare escalated. More significantly, new infectious diseases brought by the French decimated native groups and broke up their communities. Combined with warfare, disease led to the near destruction of the Huron by 1650.[10]

Anglo-French competition

Map of French and British North American possessions in the early 18th century. Note French expansion into Lake Winnipeg and British control of Hudson Bay, both prime fur-producing areas.

During the 1640s and 1650s, the Beaver Wars initiated by the Iroquois (also known as the Haudenosaunee) forced a massive demographic shift as their western neighbors fled the violence. They sought refuge west and north of Lake Michigan.[12] The Five Nations of the Iroquois, who had a predatory attitude towards their neighbors even at the best of times, constantly raiding neighboring peoples in “mourning wars” in search of captives who would become Iroquois, were determined to be the only middlemen between the Europeans and the other Indians who lived in the West, and quite consciously set about eliminating any rivals as such as the Wendat (Huron).[13] By the 1620s, the Iroquois had become dependent upon iron implements, which they obtained by trading fur with the Dutch at Fort Nassau (modern Albany, New York).[13] Between 1624–1628, the Iroquois drove out their neighbors, the Mahican, to allow themselves to be the one people in the Hudson river valley able to trade with the Dutch.[13] By 1640, the Five Nations had exhausted the supply of beavers in Kanienkeh (“the land of the flint”-the Iroquois name for their homeland in what is now upstate New York), and moreover Kanienkeh lacked the beavers with the thick pelts that the Europeans favored and would pay the best price for, which were to be found further north in what is now northern Canada.[13]

The Five Nations launched the “Beaver Wars” to take control of the fur trade by allowing themselves to be only middlemen who would deal with the Europeans.[14] The Wendat homeland, Wendake, lies in what is now southern Ontario being bordered on three sides by Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay, and it was through Wendake that the Ojibwa and Cree who lived further north traded with the French. In 1649, the Iroquois made a series of raids into Wendake that were intended to destroy the Wendat as a people with thousands of Wendat taken to be adopted by Iroquois families with the rest being killed.[13] The war against the Wendat was at least just as much a “mourning war” as a “beaver war” as the Iroquois obsessively raided Wendake for ten years after their great raids of 1649 to take single Wendat back to Kanienkeh, even though they did not possess much in the way of beaver pelts.[15] The Iroquois’s population had been devastated by losses due to European diseases like smallpox which they had no immunity to, and it is notable that when the Iroquois finally made peace with the French in 1667, one of the terms was the French had to hand over all of the Wendat who had fled to New France to them.[15]

The Iroquois had already clashed with the French in 1609, 1610 and 1615, but the “beaver wars” caused a lengthy struggle with the French who had no intention of allowing the Five Nations to set themselves up as the only middlemen in the fur trade.[16] The French did not fare well at first, with the Iroquois inflicting more casualties then they suffered, French settlements frequently cut off, canoes bringing fur to Montreal intercepted and sometimes the Iroquois blockaded the St. Lawrence.[16] New France was a proprietary colony run by the Compagnie des Cent-Associés who went bankrupt in 1663 because of the Iroquois attacks which made the fur trade unprofitable for the French.[16] After the Compagnie des Cent-Associés went bankrupt, New France was taken over by the French Crown. King Louis XIV wanted his new Crown colony to turn a profit and dispatched the Carignan-Salières Regiment to defend it.[16] In 1666, the Carignan-Salières Regiment made a devastating raid upon Kanienkeh, which led the Five Nations to sue for peace in 1667.[16] The era from roughly 1660 through 1763 saw a fierce rivalry grow between France and Great Britain as each European power struggled to expand their fur-trading territories. The two imperial powers and their native allies competed in conflicts that culminated in the French and Indian War, a part of the Seven Years’ War in Europe.

The 1659–1660 voyage of French traders Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard Chouart des Groseilliers into the country north and west of Lake Superior symbolically opened this new era of expansion. Their trading voyage proved extremely lucrative in furs. More importantly, they learned of a frozen sea to the north that provided easy access to the fur-bearing interior. Upon their return, French officials confiscated the furs of these unlicensed coureurs des bois. Radisson and Groseilliers went to Boston and then to London to secure funding and two ships to explore the Hudson Bay. Their success led to England’s chartering of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670, a major player in the fur trade for the next two centuries.

French exploration and expansion westward continued with men such as La Salle and Marquette exploring and claiming the Great Lakes as well as the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. To bolster these territorial claims, the French constructed a series of small fortifications, beginning with Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario in 1673.[17] Together with the construction of Le Griffon in 1679, the first full-sized sailing ship on the Great Lakes, the forts opened the upper Great Lakes to French navigation.[18]

More native groups learned about European wares and became trading middlemen, most notably the Ottawa. The competitive impact of the new English Hudson’s Bay Company trade was felt as early as 1671, with diminished returns for the French and the role of the native middlemen. This new competition directly stimulated French expansion into the North West to win back native customers.[19] What followed was a continual expansion north and west of Lake Superior. The French used diplomatic negotiations with natives to win back trade and an aggressive military policy to temporarily eliminate the Hudson’s Bay Company competition.[20] At the same time, the English presence in New England grew stronger, while the French were occupied with trying to combat the coureurs de bois and allied
Indians from smuggling furs to the English for often higher prices and higher quality goods than they could offer.[21]

In 1675, the Iroquois made peace with the Machian while finally defeating the Susquenhannock.[22] In the late 1670s and early 1680s, the Five Nations started to raid what is now the Midwest, battling the Miami and the Illinois while alternatively fighting against and attempting to make an alliance with the Ottawa.[22] One Onondaga chief, Otreouti, whom the French called La Grande Gueule (“the big mouth”), announced in a speech in 1684 that the wars against the Illinois and Miami were justified because “They came to hunt beavers on our lands…”.[22] Initially, the French took an ambivalent attitude towards the Iroquois push west. On one hand, having the Five Nations at war with other nations prevented those nations from trading with the English at Albany while on the other hand, the French did not want to the Iroquois become the only middlemen in the fur trade.[17] But as the Iroquois continued to win against the other nations, prevented French and Algonquin fur traders from entering the Mississippi river valley, and the Ottawa showed signs of finally making an alliance with the Five Nations, in 1684 the French declared war on the Iroquois.[17] Otreouti in an appeal for help correctly noted: “The French will have all the beavers and are angry with us for bringing you any”.[17] Starting in 1684, the French repeatedly raided Kanienkeh, burning crops and villages as Louis gave orders to “humble” the Five Nations once and for all, and to teach them to respect the “grandeur” of France.[17] The repeated French raids took their toll with the Mohawk who could field about 300 warriors in the 1670s to able to field only 170 warriors in the summer of 1691.[23] The Iroquois struck back by making raids into New France with the most successful being a raid on Lachine in 1689 that killed 24 Frenchmen while taking 80 captives, but the superior resources of the French state proceeded to grind them down until they finally made peace in 1701.[24]

The settlement of native refugees from the Iroquois Wars in the western and northern Great Lakes combined with the decline of the Ottawa middlemen to create vast new markets for French traders. Resurgent Iroquoian warfare in the 1680s also stimulated the fur trade as native French allies bought weapons. The new more distant markets and fierce English competition stifled direct trade from the North West with Montreal. The old system of native middlemen and coureurs de bois traveling to trade fairs in Montreal or illegally to English markets was replaced by an increasingly complex and labor-intensive trade network. Licensed voyageurs, allied with Montreal merchants, used water routes to reach the far-flung corners of the North West with canoe loads of trade goods. These risky ventures required large initial investments and had a very slow return. The first revenues from fur sales in Europe did not arrive until four or more years after the initial investment. These economic factors concentrated the fur trade in the hands of a few large Montreal merchants who had available capital.[25] This trend expanded in the eighteenth century, and reached its zenith with the great fur-trading companies of the nineteenth century.

Aboriginal response to French-English competition – over exploitation and depletion of beavers

The effect on beaver stocks of competition between the English and the French was disastrous. The status of beavers changed dramatically as it went from being a source of food and clothing for the Aboriginals to a vital good for exchange with the Europeans. The French were constantly in search of cheaper fur and trying to cut off the Aboriginal middleman which led them to explore the interior all the way to Lake Winnipeg and the Central Plains. While some historians dispute the claims that the competition was predominantly responsible for over-exploitation of stocks,[26] others have used empirical analysis to emphasize the changing economic incentives for Aboriginals and role of the Europeans in the matter.[27] Innis holds that the population of beavers decreased dramatically even before the rivalry in the 1700s and stocks in far-flung western areas were increasingly being tapped before there was any serious competition between the English and the French.[citation needed] There is widespread agreement on the matter in ethnohistory literature that Aboriginals depleted the resource. Calvin Martin holds that there was a breakdown of the relationship between man and animal in the values of the Aboriginals which made them drastically accelerate the exploitation of reserves.[28]

The English and French had very different trading hierarchical structures. The Hudson’s Bay Company had a technical monopoly of the beaver trade within the drainage basin of Hudson Bay while the Compagnie d’Occident was given a monopoly of the beaver trade farther south. The English organized their trade on strictly hierarchical lines while the French used licenses to lease the use of their posts. This meant that the French incentivized the extension of trade, and French traders did indeed infiltrate much of the Great Lakes region. The French established posts on Lake Winnipeg, Lac des Praires and Lake Nipigon which represented a serious threat to flow of furs to the York Factory. The increasing penetration near English ports now meant that the Aboriginals had more than one place to sell their goods.

As competition increased between the English and French in the 1700s, the fur was still predominantly caught by Aboriginal tribes which acted as the middleman. The response to increased competition led to a severe over-harvesting of beavers. Data from three of the trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company show this trend.[29] The simulation of beaver populations around trading posts are done by taking into account the beaver returns from each trading post, biological evidence on beaver population dynamics and contemporary estimates of beaver densities. While the view that increased competition between the English and the French led to over-exploitation of beaver stocks by the Aboriginals does not receive uncritical support, most believe that Aboriginals were the primary actors in depleting animal stocks. There is a lack of critical discussion on other factors such as beaver population dynamics, the number of animals harvested, nature of property rights, prices, role of the English and the French in the matter.

The primary effect of increased French competition was that the English raised the prices they paid to the Aboriginals to harvest fur. The result of this was greater incentive for Aboriginals to increase harvests. Increased price will lead to a gap between demand and supply and to a higher equilibrium in terms of supply. Data from the trading posts show that the supply of beavers from the Aboriginals was price-elastic and therefore traders responded with increased harvests as prices rose. The harvests were further increased due to the fact that no tribe had an absolute monopoly near any trade and most of them were competing against each other to derive the maximum benefit from the presence of the English and the French.[citation needed]

Additionally, the problem of the commons is also glaringly visible in this matter. Open access to resources leads to no incentive to conserve stocks, and actors which try to conserve lose out compared to the others when it comes to maximizing economic output. Therefore, there appeared to be a lack of concern by tribes of the First Nations about the sustainability of the fur trade. The problem of over-exploitation is not helped by the fact that the efforts by the French to remove the middlemen such as the Huron who increasingly resented their influence meant that stocks were put under more pressure. All these factors contributed to an unsustainable trade pattern in furs which depleted beaver stocks very fast.[citation needed]

An empirical study done by Ann M. Carlos and Frank D. Lewis shows that apart from the settling to a lower level of stable population, further declines were caused by over-harvesting in two of the three English trading posts (Albany and York). The data from the third trading post are also very interesting in that the post did not come under French pressure and was therefore shielded from the kind of over-exploitation of stocks which resulted at the other trading posts. At Fort Churchill, the stocks of beaver adjusted to the maximum sustained yield level. The data from Churchill further reinforce the case of over-exploitation of stocks caused by the French-English competition.[citation needed]

Building relationships

It was a common practice on the part of the Indian women to offer marriage and sometimes just sex in exchange for fur traders not trading with their rivals.[30] Radisson described visiting one Ojibwa village in the spring of 1660 where during the welcoming ceremony: “The women throw themselves backwards on the ground, thinking to give us tokens of friendship and wellcome [welcome]”.[31] Radisson was initially confused by this gesture, but as the women started to engage in more overtly sexual behavior, he realized what was being offered. Radisson was informed by the village elders that he could have sex with any unmarried women in the village provided that he did not trade with the Dakota [Sioux], who were the enemies of the Ojibwa at the time.[31] Likewise, the fur trader Alexander Henry in visiting an Ojibwa village in what is now Manitoba in 1775 described the “facility with which the women abandoned themselves to my Canadiens” to such an extent that he believed it would cause violence as the Ojibwa men would become jealous, causing him to order his party to leave at once, though it is likely that the women were in fact acting with the approval of their menfolk.[31] Henry claimed that he had leave at once out of the fear of violence from jealous Ojibwa men, but it seemed more likely that he was afraid that his French-Canadian voyageurs might enjoy themselves too much with the Ojibwa women at this one village and would not want to travel further west.[31] The American historian Bruce White described the way in which the Ojibwa and the other Indian peoples sought to “use sexual relations as a means of establishing long-term relationships between themselves and people from another society was a rational strategy, one that has been described in many parts of the world”.[31] One fur trader who married an Ojibwa woman himself described how the Ojibwa would initially shun a fur trader until they could give gauge his honesty and provided he proved himself an honest man, “the chiefs would take together take their marriageable girls to his trading house and he was given the choice of the lot”.[31] If the fur trader married, the Ojibwa would trade with him as he became part of the community and if he refused to marry, then the Ojibwa would not trade with him as Ojibwa only traded with a man who “took one of their women for his wife”.[31]

Virtually all Indian communities encouraged fur traders to take an Indian wife in order to build a long-term relationship that would ensure the continual supply of European goods to their communities and discourage fur traders from dealing with other Indian tribes.[31] The fur trade did not involve barter in the way that most people presuppose, but were a credit/debit relationship when a fur trader would arrive in a community in the summer or fall, hand out various goods to the Indians who would pay him back in the spring with the furs from the animals they had killed over the winter; in the interim, there much further exchanges, which often involved both Indian men and women.[32] Indian men were the trappers who killed the animals for their furs, but normally it was the women who were in charge of the furs that their menfolk had collected, making women into important players in the fur trade.[33] Indian women normally harvested the rice and made the maple sugar that were such important parts of the traders’ diets, for which they were usually paid with alcohol.[33] Henry mentioned how at one Ojibwa village, the men only wanted alcohol in exchange for furs while the women demanded a wide variety of European goods in exchange for rice.[34] Manufacturing canoes was work done by both Indian men and women, and accounts of fur traders often mentioned bartering goods with women in exchange for canoes.[35] One French-Canadian voyageur named Michel Curot listed in his journal how in the course of one expedition, he traded goods for furs with Ojibwa men 19 times, with Ojibwa women 22 times, and another 23 times in which he did not list the gender of the people he was trading with.[36] As women held a very low status in French-Canada (Quebec did not grant women the right to vote until 1940), White argued it is likely that the majority of the anonymous Indians that Curot traded with were women whose names were not considered important enough to write down.[36]

For the Indians, dreams were viewed as messages from the world of the spirits, which was seen as a vastly more powerful and important world than the one inhabited by them.[37] Gender roles were not fixed in Indian communities, and it was possible for a woman who had dreams of herself performing a masculine role being able to persuade her community on the basis of her dreams to be allowed to take part in work that was normally performed by men, since this was evidently what the spirits wanted.[37] Ojibwa women in their teenage years embarked upon “vision quests” to find out what fate the spirits wanted for them.[38] The Indians who lived around the Great Lakes believed that when a girl started to menstruate (regarded as giving women a special spiritual power) that whatever her dreams she might have were messages from the spirits, and many fur traders mentioned how women who were regarded as being especially favored with their dream-messages from the world of the spirits played important roles as decision-makers within their communities.[37] Netnokwa, a charismatic Ojibwa matron living in the Red River region whose dreams were considered to be especially powerful messages from the spirits, traded directly with fur traders.[39]John Tanner, her adopted son, noted she received “ten gallons of spirits” for free every year from the fur traders as it considered to be wise to stay in her good graces and whenever she visited Fort Mackinac “she was saluted by a gun from the fort”.[39] As menstrual blood was seen as sign of women’s spiritual power, it was understood that men must never touch it.[37] When Ojibwa girls entered puberty, they embarked upon fasting and ceremonies that marked the beginning of their “vision quests” to establish a relationship with the spirits with their dreams being seen as messages from the spirit world.[37] Sometimes, Ojibwa girls would consume hallucinogenic mushrooms during their ceremonies to receive further messages from the world of the spirits. Having established a relationship with a particular spirit at puberty, women would go on further vision quests throughout their lives with more ceremonies and dreams to continue the relationship.[37]

Fur traders found that marrying the daughters of chiefs would ensure the co-operation of an entire community.[40] Marriage alliances were also made between Indian tribes. In September 1679, the French diplomat and soldier Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, called a peace conference at Fond du Lac (modern Duluth, Minnesota) of all the “nations of the north” which was attended by Ojibwa, Dakota, and Assiniboine leaders, where it was agreed that the daughters and sons of the various chiefs would marry each other to promote peace and ensure the flow of French goods into the region.[41] The French fur trader Claude-Charles Le Roy wrote that the Dakota had decided to make peace with their traditional enemies, the Ojibwa, in order to obtain French goods that the Ojibwa were blocking them from receiving.[41] Le Roy wrote the Dakota “could obtain French merchandise only through the agency of the Sauteurs [Ojibwa]” so they made “a treaty of peace by which they were mutually bound to give their daughters in marriage on both sides”.[41] Indian marriages usually involved a simple ceremony involving the exchange of valuable gifts from the parents of the bride and groom, and unlike European marriages, could be dissolved at anytime by one partner choosing to walk out.[41]

The Indians were organized into kinship and clan networks, and marrying a woman from one of these kinship networks would make a fur trader into a member of these networks, thereby ensuring that Indians belonging to whatever clan the trader had married into were more likely to deal only with him.[42] Furthermore, the fur traders discovered that the Indians were more likely to share food, especially during the hard months of winter, to those fur traders who were regarded as part of their communities.[42] One fur trader who married a 18-year old Ojibwa girl described in his diary his “secret satisfaction at being compelled to marry for my safety”.[43] The converse of such marriages was that a fur trader was expected to favor whatever clan/kinship network that he had married into with European goods, and a fur trader who did not would ruin his reputation. For the Ojibwa, like the other Indians, saw all life in this world being based upon reciprocal relationships, with Ojibwa women leaving behind “gifts” of tobacco when harvesting plants to thank nature for providing the plants while when a bear was killed, a ceremony was held to thank the bear for “giving” up its life to them.[38] The Ojibwa believed if the plants and animals were not thanked for “giving” themselves to them, then the plants and animals would be less “giving” the next year, and the same principle applied to their relations with other peoples such as the fur traders.[38] The Ojibwa, like other First Nations, always believed that animals willingly allowed themselves to be killed, and that if a hunter failed to give thanks to the animal world, then the animals would be less “giving” the next time around.[38] As the fur traders were predominately male and heterosexual while there were few white women beyond the frontier, the Indians were well aware of the sexual attraction felt by the fur traders towards their women, who were seen as having a special power over white men.[44] From the Ojibwa viewpoint, if one of their women gave herself to a fur trader, it created the reciprocal obligation for the fur trader to give back.[44] Fur-trading companies encouraged their employees to take Indian wives, not only to built long-term relationships that were good for business, but also because an employee with a wife would have to buy more supplies from his employer, with the money for the purchases usually subtracted from his wages.[42] White decried the tendency of many historians to see these women as simply “passive” objects that were bartered for by fur traders and Indian tribal elders, writing that these women had “exert influence and be active communicators of information” to effective as the wife of a fur trader, and that many of the women who married fur traders “embraced” these marriages to achieve “useful purposes for themselves and for the communities that they lived in”.[45] One study of the Ojibwa women who married French fur traders maintained that the majority of the brides were “exceptional” women with “unusual ambitions, influenced by dreams and visions-like the women who become hunters, traders, healers and warriors in Ruth Landes’s account of Ojibwa women”.[46] Out of these relationships emerged the Métis people whose culture was a fusion of French and Indian elements.

One Ojibwa woman from the far western end of Lake Superior, Oshahgushkodanaqua, who married in 1793 John Johnston, a British fur trader based in Sault St. Marie working for the North West Company, later gave an account in her old age of how she came to be married to a British writer named Anna Brownell Jameson.[46] According to Jameson’s 1838 book Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada, Oshahgushkodanaqua told her when she was 13, she embarked on her “vision quest” to find her guardian spirit by fasting alone in a lodge painted black on a high hill.[46] During Oshahgushkodanaqua’s “vision quest”:

“She dreamed continually of a white man, who approached her with a cup in his hand, saying “Poor thing! Why are you punishing yourself? Why do you fast? Here is food for you!” He was always accompanied by a dog, who looked up at her like he knew her. Also, she dreamed of being on a high hill, which was surrounded by water, and from which she beheld many canoes full of Indians, coming to her and paying her homage; after this, she felt as if she was being carried up into the heavens, and as she looked down on the earth, she perceived it was on fire and said to herself, “All my relations will be burned!”, but a voice answered and said, “No, they will not be destroyed, they will be saved!”, and she knew it was a spirit, because the voice was not human. She fasted for ten days, during which time her grandmother brought her at intervals some water. When satisfied that she had obtained a guardian spirit in the white stranger who haunted her dreams, she returned to her father’s lodge”.[47]

About five years later, Oshahgushkodanaqua first met Johnston, who asked to marry her, but was refused permission by her father who did not think he wanted a long-term relationship.[48] When Johnston returned the next year and again asked to marry Oshahgushkodanaqua, her father granted permission, but she herself declined, saying she disliked the implications of being married until death, but ultimately married under strong pressure from her father.[49] Oshahgushkodanaqua came to embrace her marriage when she decided that Johnston was the white stranger she saw in her dreams during her vision quest.[49] The couple stayed married for 36 years with the marriage ending with Johnston’s death, and Oshahgushkodanaqua played an important role in her husband’s business career.[48] Jameson also noted Oshahgushkodanaqua was considered to be a strong woman among the Ojibwa, writing “in her youth she hunted and was accounted the surest eye and fleetest foot among the women of her tribe”.[48]

White argued that the traditional “imperial adventure” historiography where the fur trade was the work of a few courageous white men who ventured into the wildness was flawed as it ignored the contributions of the Indians. The American anthropologist Ruth Landes in her 1937 book Ojibwa Women described Ojibwa society in the 1930s as based on “male supremacy”, and she assumed this was how Ojibwa society had always been, a conclusion that has been widely followed.[50] Landes did note that the women she interviewed told her stories about Ojibwa women who in centuries past inspired by their dream visions had played prominent roles as warriors, hunters, healers, traders and leaders.[50] In 1978, the American anthropologist Eleanor Leacock who writing from a Marxist perspective in her article “Women’s Status In Egalitarian Society” challenged Landes by arguing that Ojibwa society had in fact been egalitarian, but the fur trade had changed the dynamics of Ojibwa society from a simple barter economy to one where men could become powerful by having access to European goods, and this had led to the marginalization of Ojibwa women.[50] More recently, the American anthropologist Carol Devens in her 1992 book Countering Colonization: Native American Women and the Great Lakes Missions 1630–1900 followed Leacock by arguing that exposure to the patriarchal values of ancien regime France together with the ability to collect “surplus goods” made possible by the fur trade had turned the egalitarian Ojibwa society into unequal society where women did not count for much.[51] White wrote that an examination of the contemporary sources would suggest the fur trade had in fact empowered and strengthened the role of Ojibwa women who played a very important role in the fur trade, and it was the decline of the fur trade which had led to the decline of status of Ojibwa women.[52]

By contrast, the fur trade seems to have weakened the status of Indian women in the Canadian sub-arctic in what is now the North West Territories, the Yukon, and the northern parts of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The harsh terrain imposed a nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle on the people living there as to stay in one place for long would quickly exhaust the food supply. The Indians living in the sub-arctic had only small dogs incapable of carrying heavy loads with one fur trader in 1867 calling Gwich’in dogs “miserable creatures no smaller than foxes” while another noted with the Slavey “dogs were scare and burdens were supported by people’s backs”.[53] The absence of navigable rivers made riparian transport impossible, so everything had to be carried on the backs of the women.[54] There was a belief among the Northern Athabaskan peoples that weapons could be only handled by men, and that for a weapon to be used by a woman would cause it to lose its effectiveness; as relations between the various bands were hostile, the men when traveling were always armed while the women carried all of the baggage.[53] All of the Indian men living in the sub-arctic had an acute horror of menstrual blood, seen as an unclean substance that no men could ever touch, and as a symbol of a threatening femininity.[55] The American anthropologist Richard J. Perry suggested that under the impact of the fur trade that certain misogynistic tendencies that were already long established among the Northern Athabaskan peoples became significantly worse.[55] Owing to the harsh terrain of the subarctic and the limited food supplies, the First Nations peoples living there had long practiced infanticide to limit their band sizes, as a large population would stave.[56] One fur trader in the 19th century noted with the Gwich’in, newly born girls were far more likely to be victims of infanticide than boys owing to the low status of women, adding that female infanticide was practiced to such an extent there was a shortage of women in their society.[56]

The Chipewyan began trading fur in exchange for metal tools and instruments with the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1717, which caused a drastic change in their lifestyle, going from a people engage in daily subsidence activities to a people engaging in far-reaching trade as the Chipewyan become the middlemen between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the other Indians living further inland.[57] The Chipewyan guarded their right to trade with the Hudson’s Bay Company with considerable jealousy and prevented peoples living further inland like the Tłı̨chǫ and Yellowknives from crossing their territory to trade directly with the Hudson’s Bay Company for the entire 18th century.[58] For the Chipewyan, who still living in the Stone Age, metal implements were greatly valued as it took hours to heat up a stone pot, but only minutes to heat up a metal pot while an animal could be skinned far more efficiently and quickly with a metal knife than with a stone knife.[58] For many Chipewyan bands, involvement with the fur trade eroded their self-sufficiency as they killed animals for the fur trade, not food, which forced them into dependency on other bands for food, thus leading to a cycle where many Chipewyan bands came to depend trading furs for European goods, which were traded for food, and which caused them to make very long trips across the subarctic to Hudson’s Bay and back.[58] To make these trips, the Chipewyan traveled though barren terrain that was so devoid of life that starvation was a real threat, during which the women had to carry all of the supplies.[59]Samuel Hearne of the Hudson’s Bay Company who was sent inland in 1768 to establish contact with the “Far Indians” as the company called them, wrote about the Chipewyan:

“Their annual haunts, in the quest for furrs [furs], is so remote from European settlement, as to render them the greatest travelers in the known world; and as they have neither horse nor water carriage, every good hunter is under necessity of having several people to assist in carrying his furs to the company’s Fort, as well as carrying back the European goods which he received in exchange for them. No persons in this country are so proper for this work as the women, because they are inured to carry and haul heavy loads from their childhood and to do all manner of drudgery”.[60]

Hearne’s chief guide Matonabbee told him that women had to carry everything with them on their long trips across the sub-arctic because “…when all the men are heavy laden, they can neither hunt nor travel any considerable distance”.[61] Perry cautioned that when Hearne traveled though the sub-arctic in 1768–1772, the Chipewyan had been trading with the Hudson’s Bay Company directly since 1717, and indirectly via the Cree for at least the last 90 years, so the life-styles he observed among the Chipewyan had been altered by the fur trade, and in no way can be considered a pre-contact life style.[62] But Perry argued that the arduous nature of these trips across the sub-arctic together with the burden of carrying everything suggests that the Chipewyan women did not voluntarily submit to this regime, which would suggest that even in the pre-contact period that Chipewyan women had a low status.[61]

When fur traders first contacted the Gwich’in in 1810 when they founded Fort Good Hope on the Mackenzie river, accounts describe a more or less egalitarian society, but the impact of the fur trade lowered the status of Gwich’in women.[63] Accounts by the fur traders in the 1860s describe Gwich’in women as essentially slaves, carrying the baggage on their long journeys across the sub-arctic.[61] One fur trader wrote about the Gwich’in women that they were “little better than slaves” while another fur trader wrote about the “brutal treatment” that Gwich’in women suffered at the hands of their men.[56] Gwich’in band leaders who became rich by First Nations standards by engaging in the fur trade tended to have several wives, indeed tended to monopolize the women in their bands, which caused serious social tensions as Gwich’in young men found it impossible to have a mate, as their leaders took all of the women for themselves.[64] Significantly, the establishment of fur trading posts inland by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the late 19th century led to an improvement in the status of Gwich’in women as anyone could obtain European goods by trading at the local HBC post, ending the ability of Gwich’in leaders to monopolize the distribution of European goods while the introduction of dogs capable of carrying sleds meant their women no longer had to carry everything on their long trips.[65]

Perry argued that the crucial difference between the Northern Athabaskan peoples living in the sub-arctic vs. those living further south like the Cree and Ojibwa was the existence of waterways that canoes could traverse in the case of the latter.[53] In the 18th century, Cree and Ojibwa men could and did travel hundreds of miles to HBC posts on Hudson’s Bay via canoe to sell fur and bring back European goods, and in the interim, their women were in largely in charge of their communities.[53] At York Factory in the 18th century, the factors reported that flotillas of up to 200 canoes would arrive at a time bearing Indian men coming to barter their fur for HBC’s goods.[55] Normally, the trip to York Factory was made by the Cree and Ojibwa men while their womenfolk stayed behind in their villages.[55] Until 1774, the Hudson’s Bay Company was content to operate its posts on the shores of Hudson’s Bay, and only competition from the rival North West Company based in Montreal forced the Hudson’s Bay Company to assert its claim to Rupert’s Land. By contrast, the absence of waterways flowing into Hudson’s Bay (the major river in the subarctic, the Mackenzie, flows into the Arctic Ocean) forced the Northern Athabaskan peoples to travel by foot with the women as baggage carriers. In this way, the fur trade empowered Cree and Ojibwa women while reducing the Northern Athabaskan women down to a slave-like existence.[53]

English colonies

By the end of the 18th century the four major British fur trading outposts were Fort Niagara in modern New York, Fort Detroit and Fort Michilimackinac in modern Michigan, and Grand Portage in modern Minnesota, all located in the Great Lakes region.[66] The American Revolution and the resulting resolution of national borders forced the British to re-locate their trading centers northward. The newly formed United States began its own attempts to capitalize on the fur trade, initially with some success. By the 1830s the fur trade had begun a steep decline, and fur was never again the lucrative enterprise it had once been.

Company formation

New Netherland Company

Hudson’s Bay Company

North West Company

Missouri Fur Company

American Fur Company

Russian-American Company

Fur trade in the western United States


Mountain men

Great plains

Pacific coast

On the Pacific coast of North America, the fur trade mainly pursued seal and sea otter. In northern areas, this trade was established first by the Russian-American Company, with later participation by Spanish/Mexican, British, and U.S. hunters/traders. Non-Russians extended fur-hunting areas south as far as the Baja California Peninsula.

Southeastern fur trade


Starting in the mid-16th century, Europeans traded weapons and household goods in exchange for furs with Native Americans in southeast America.[67] The trade originally tried to mimic the fur trade in the north, with large quantities of wildcats, bears, beavers, and other fur bearing animals being traded.[68] The trade in fur coat animals decreased in the early 18th century, curtailed by the rising popularity of trade in deerskins.[68] The deerskin trade went onto dominate the relationships between the Native Americans of the southeast and the European settlers there. Deerskin was a highly valued commodity due to the deer shortage in Europe, and the British leather industry needed deerskins to produce goods.[69] The bulk of deerskins were exported to Great Britain during the peak of the deerskin trade.[70]

Effect of the deerskin trade on Native Americans

Native American—specifically the Creek’s—beliefs revolved around respecting the environment. The Creek believed they had a unique relationship with the animals they hunted.[69] The Creek had several rules surround how a hunt could occur, particularly prohibiting needless killing of deer.[69] There were specific taboos against taking the skins of unhealthy deer.[69] But the lucrative deerskin trade prompted hunters to act past the point of restraint they had operated under before.[69] The hunting economy collapsed due to the scarcity of deer as they were over-hunted and lost their lands to white settlers.[69] Due to the decline of deer populations, and the governmental pressure to switch to the colonists’ way of life, animal husbandry replaced deer hunting both as an income and in the diet.[71]

Rum was first introduced in the early 1700s as a trading item, and quickly became an inelastic good.[72] While Native Americans were for the most part acted conservatively in trading deals, they consumed a surplus of alcohol.[69] Traders used rum to help form partnerships.[72] Rum had a significant effect on the social behavior of Native Americans. Under the influence of rum, the younger generation did not obey the elders of the tribe, and became involved with more skirmishes with other tribes and white settlers.[69] Rum also disrupted the amount of time the younger generation of males spent on labor.[72] Alcohol was one of the goods provided on credit, and led to a debt trap for many Native Americans.[72] Native Americans did not know how to distill alcohol, and thus were driven to trade for it.[69]

Native Americans had become dependent on manufactured goods such as guns and domesticated animals, and lost much of their traditional practices. With the new cattle herds roaming the hunting lands, and a greater emphasis on farming due to the invention of the Cotton Gin, Native Americans struggled to maintain their place in the economy.[71] An inequality gap had appeared in the tribes, as some hunters were more successful than others.[69] Still, the creditors treated and individual’s debt as debt of the whole tribe, and used several strategies to keep the Native Americans in debt.[72] Traders would rig the weighing system that determined the value of the deerskins in their favor, cut measurement tools to devalue the deerskin, and would tamper with the manufactured goods to decrease their worth, such as watering down the alcohol they traded.[72] To satisfy the need for deerskins, many males of the tribes abandoned their traditional seasonal roles and became full-time traders.[72] When the deerskin trade collapsed, Native Americans found themselves dependent on manufactured goods, and could not return to the old ways due to lost knowledge.[72]

Post European contact in the 16th and 17th centuries

Spanish exploratory parties in the 1500s had violent encounters with the powerful chiefdoms, which led to the decentralization of the indigenous people in the southeast.[73] Almost a century passed between the original Spanish exploration and the next wave of European immigration,[73] which allowed the survivors of the European diseases to organize into new tribes.[74] Most Spanish trade was limited with Indians on the coast until expeditions inland in the beginning of the 17th century.[67] By 1639, substantial trade between the Spanish in Florida and the Native Americans for deerskins developed, with more interior tribes incorporated into the system by 1647.[67] Many tribes throughout the southeast began to send trading parties to meet with the Spanish in Florida, or used other tribes as middlemen to obtain manufactured goods.[67] The Apalachees used the Apalachiola people to collect deerskins, and in return the Apalachees would give them silver, guns, or horses.[67]

As the English and French colonizers ventured into the southeast, the deerskin trade experienced a boom going into the 18th century.[69] Many of the English colonists who settled in the Carolinas in the late 1600s came from Virginia, where trading patterns of European goods in exchange for beaver furs already had started.[75] The white-tailed deer herds that roamed south of Virginia were a more profitable resource.[69] The French and the English struggled for control over Southern Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley, and needed alliances with the Indians there to maintain dominance.[72] The European colonizers used the trade of deerskins for manufactured goods to secure trade relationships, and therefore power.[68]

Beginning of the 18th century

At the beginning of the 18th century, more organized violence than in previous decades occurred between the Native Americans involved in the deerskin trade and white settlers, most famously the Yamasee War. This uprising of Indians against fur traders almost wiped out the European colonists in the southeast.[72] The British promoted competition between tribes, and sold guns to both Creeks and Cherokees. This competition sprang out of the slave demand in the southeast – tribes would raid each other and sell prisoners into the slave trade of the colonizers.[72] France tried to outlaw these raids because their allies, the Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Yazoos, bore the brunt of the slave trade.[72] Guns and other modern weapons were essential trading items for the Native Americans to protect themselves from slave raids; motivation which drove the intensity of the deerksin trade.[69][76] The need for Indian slaves decreased as African slaves began to be imported in larger quantities, and the focus returned to deerskins.[72] The drive for Indian slaves also was diminished after the Yamasee War to avoid future uprisings.[76]

The Yamasees had collected extensive debt in the first decade of the 1700s due to buying manufactured goods on credit from traders, and then not being able to produce enough deerskins to pay the debt later in the year.[77] Indians who were not able to pay their debt were often enslaved.[77] The practice of enslavement extended to the wives and children of the Yamasees in debt as well.[78] This process frustrated the Yamasees and other tribes, who lodged complaints against the deceitful credit-loaning scheme traders had enforced, along with methods of cheating or trade.[77] The Yamasees were a coastal tribe in the area that is now known as South Carolina, and most of the white-tailed deer herds had moved inland for the better environment.[77] The Yamasees rose up against the English in South Carolina, and soon other tribes joined them, creating combatants from almost every nation in the South.[68][75] The British were able to defeat the Indian coalition with help from the Cherokees, cementing a pre-existing trade partnership.[75]

After the uprisings, the Native Americans returned to making alliances with the European powers, using political savvy to get the best deals by playing the three nations off each other.[75] The Creeks were particularly good at manipulation – they had begun trading with South Carolina in the last years of the 17th century and became a trusted deerskin provider.[77] The Creeks were already a wealthy tribe due to their control over the most valuable hunting lands, especially when compared to the impoverished Cherokees.[75] Due to allying with the British during the Yamasee War, the Cherokees lacked Indian trading partners and could not break with Britain to negotiate with France or Spain.[75]

Mississippi river valley

From their bases in the Great Lakes area, the French steadily pushed their way down the Mississippi river valley to the Gulf of Mexico from 1682 onward.[79] Initially, French relations with the Natchez Indians were friendly and in 1716 the French were allowed to establish Fort Rosalie (modern Natchez, Mississippi) on the Natchez territory.[79] In 1729, following several cases of French land fraud, the Natchez burned down Fort Rosalie and killed about 200 French settlers.[80] In response, the French together with their allies, the Choctaw, waged a near-genocidal campaign against the Natchez as French and Choctaw set out to eliminate the Natchez as a people with the French often burning alive all of the Natchez they captured.[80] Following the French victory over the Natchez in 1731 which resulted in the destruction of the Natchez people, the French were able to begin fur trading down the Arkansas river and greatly expanded the Arkansas Post to take advantage of the fur trade.[80]

Mid-18th Century

Deerskin trade was at its most profitable in the mid-18th century.[71] The Creeks rose up as the largest deerskin supplier, and the increase in supply only intensified European demand for deerskins.[71] Native Americans continued to negotiate the most lucrative trade deals by forcing England, France, and Spain to compete for their supply of deerskins.[71] In the 1750s and 1760s, the Seven Years’ War disrupted France’s ability to provide manufactures goods to its allies, the Choctaws and Chickasaw.[75] The French and Indian War further disrupted trade, as the British blockaded French goods.[75] The Cherokees allied themselves with France, who were driven out from the southeast in accordance with the Treaty of Paris in 1763.[75] The British were now the dominant trading power in the southeast.

While both the Cherokee and the Creek were the main trading partners of the British, their relationships with the British were different. The Creeks adapted to the new economic trade system, and managed to hold onto their old social structures.[69] Originally Cherokee land was divided into five districts but the number soon grew to thirteen districts with 200 hunters assigned per district due to deerskin demand.[72]

Charleston and Savannah were the main trading ports for the export of deerskins.[72] Deerskins became the most popular export, and monetarily supported the colonies with the revenue produced by taxes on deerskins.[72] Charleston’s trade was regulated by the Indian Trade Commission, composed of traders who monopolized the market and profited off the sale of deerskins.[72] From the beginning of the 18th century to mid-century, the deerskin exports of Charleston more than doubled in exports.[69] Charleston received tobacco and sugar from the West Indies and rum from the North in exchange for deerskins.[72] In return for deerskins, Great Britain sent woolens, guns, ammunition, iron tools, clothing, and other manufactured goods that were traded to the Native Americans.[72]

Post-Revolutionary War

The Revolutionary War disrupted the deerskin trade, as the import of British manufactured goods with cut off.[69] The deerskin trade had already begun to decline due to over-hunting of deer.[77] The lack of trade caused the Native Americans to run out of items, such as guns, on which they depended.[69] Some Indians, such as the Creeks, tried to reestablish trade with the Spanish in Florida, where some loyalists were hiding as well.[69][75] When the war ended with the British retreating, many tribes who had fought on their side were now left unprotected and now had to make peace and new trading deals with the new country.[75] Many Native Americans were subject to violence from the new Americans who sought to settle their territory.[81] The new American government negotiated treaties that recognized prewar borders, such as those with the Choctaw and Chickasaw, and allowed open trade.[81]

In the two decades following the Revolutionary War, the United States’ government established new treaties with the Native Americans the provided hunting grounds and terms of trade.[69] But the value of deerskins dropped as domesticated cattle took over the market, and many tribes soon found themselves in debt.[69][71] The Creeks began to sell their land to the government to try and pay their debts, and infighting among the Indians made it easy for white settles to encroach upon their lands.[69] The government also sought to encourage Native Americans to give up their old ways of subsistence hunting, and turn to farming and domesticated cattle for trade.[71]

Social and cultural impact

The fur trade and its actors has played a certain role in films and popular culture. It was the topic of various books and films, from James Fenimore Cooper via Irving Pichels Hudson’s Bay of 1941, the popular Canadian musical My Fur Lady (music by Galt MacDermot) of 1957, till Nicolas Vaniers documentaries. In contrast to “the huddy buddy narration of Canada as Hudson’s country”, propagated either in popular culture as well in elitist circles as the Beaver Club, founded 1785 in Montreal[82] the often male-centered scholarly description of the fur business does not fully describe the history. Chantal Nadeau, a communication scientist in Montreal’s Concordia University refers to the “country wives” and “country marriages” between Indian women and European trappers[83] and the Filles du Roy[84] of the 18th century. Nadeau says that women have been described as a sort of commodity, “skin for skin”, and they were essential to the sustainable prolongation of the fur trade.[85]

Nadeau describes fur as an essential, “the fabric” of Canadian symbolism and nationhood. She notes the controversies around the Canadian seal hunt, with Brigitte Bardot as a leading figure. Bardot, a famous actress, had been a model in the 1971 “Legend” campaign of the US mink label Blackglama, for which she posed nude in fur coats. Her involvement in anti-fur campaigns shortly afterward was in response to a request by the noted author Marguerite Yourcenar, who asked Bardot to use her celebrity status to help the anti-sealing movement. Bardot had successes as an anti-fur activist and changed from sex symbol to the grown-up mama of “white seal babies”. Nadeau related this to her later involvement in French right-wing politics. The anti-fur movement in Canada was intertwined with the nation’s exploration of history during and after the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, until the roll back of the anti-fur movement in the late 1990s.[86] Finally, the PETA celebrity campaign: “I’d rather go naked than wear fur”, turned around the “skin for skin” motto and symbology against fur and the fur trade.

Métis people

As men from the old fur trade in the Northeast made the trek west in the early nineteenth century, they sought to recreate the economic system from which they had profited in the Northeast. Some men went alone but others relied on companies like the Hudson Bay Company and the Missouri Fur Company. Marriage and kinship with native women would play an important role in the western fur trade. White traders who moved west needed to establish themselves in the kinship networks of the tribes, and they often did this by marrying a prominent Indian woman. This practice was called a “country” marriage and allowed the trader to network with the adult male members of the woman’s band, who were necessary allies for trade.[87] The children of these unions, who were known as Métis, were an integral part of the fur trade system.

The Métis label defined these children as a marginal people with a fluid identity.[88] Early on in the fur trade, Métis were not defined by their racial category, but rather by the way of life they chose. These children were generally the offspring of white men and Native mothers and were often raised to follow the mother’s lifestyle. The father could influence the enculturation process and prevent the child from being classified as Métis[89] in the early years of the western fur trade. Fur families often included displaced native women who lived near forts and formed networks among themselves. These networks helped to create kinship between tribes which benefitted the traders. Catholics tried their best to validate these unions through marriages. But missionaries and priests often had trouble categorizing the women, especially when establishing tribal identity.[90]

Métis were among the first groups of fur traders who came from the Northeast. These men were mostly of a mixed race identity, largely Iroquois, as well as other tribes from the Ohio country.[91] Rather than one tribal identity, many of these Métis had multiple Indian heritages.[92] Lewis and Clark, who opened up the market on the fur trade in the Upper Missouri, brought with them many Métis to serve as engagés. These same Métis would become involved in the early western fur trade. Many of them settled on the Missouri River and married into the tribes there before setting up their trade networks.[93] The first generation of Métis born in the West grew up out of the old fur trade and provided a bridge to the new western empire.[94] These Métis possessed both native and European skills, spoke multiple languages, and had the important kinship networks required for trade.[95] In addition, many spoke the Michif Métis dialect. In an effort to distinguish themselves from natives, many Métis strongly associated with Roman Catholic beliefs and avoided participating in native ceremonies.[96]

By the 1820s, the fur trade had expanded into the Rocky Mountains where American and British interests begin to compete for control of the lucrative trade. The Métis would play a key role in this competition. The early Métis congregated around trading posts where they were employed as packers, laborers, or boatmen. Through their efforts they helped to create a new order centered on the trading posts.[97] Other Métis traveled with the trapping brigades in a loose business arrangement where authority was taken lightly and independence was encouraged. By the 1830s Canadians and Americans were venturing into the West to secure a new fur supply. Companies like the NWC and the HBC provided employment opportunities for Métis. By the end of the 19th century, many companies considered the Métis to be Indian in their identity. As a result, many Métis left the companies in order to pursue freelance work.[98]

After 1815 the demand for bison robes began to rise gradually, although the beaver still remained the primary trade item. The 1840s saw a rise in the bison trade as the beaver trade begin to decline.[99] Many Métis adapted to this new economic opportunity. This change of trade item made it harder for Métis to operate within companies like the HBC, but this made them welcome allies of the Americans who wanted to push the British to the Canada–US border. Although the Métis would initially operate on both sides of the border, by the 1850s they were forced to pick an identity and settle either north or south of the border. The period of the 1850s was thus one of migration for the Métis, many of whom drifted and established new communities or settled within existing Canadian, American or Indian communities.[100]

A group of Métis who identified with the Chippewa moved to the Pembina in 1819 and then to the Red River area in 1820, which was located near St. François Xavier in Manitoba. In this region they would establish several prominent fur trading communities. These communities had ties to one another through the NWC. This relationship dated back to between 1804 and 1821 when Métis men had served as low level voyageurs, guides, interpreters, and contre-maitres, or foremen. It was from these communities that Métis buffalo hunters operating in the robe trade arose.

The Métis would establish a whole economic system around the bison trade. Whole Métis families were involved in the production of robes, which was the driving force of the winter hunt. In addition, they sold pemmican at the posts.[101] Unlike Indians, the Métis were dependent on the fur trade system and subject to the market. The international prices of bison robes were directly influential on the well-being of Métis communities. By contrast, the local Indians had a more diverse resource base and were less dependent on Americans and Europeans at this time.

By the 1850s the fur trade had expanded across the Great Plains, and the bison robe trade began to decline. The Métis had a role in the depopulation of the bison. Like the Indians, the Métis had a preference for cows, which meant that the bison had trouble maintaining their herds.[102] In addition, flood, drought, early frost, and the environmental impact of settlement posed further threats to the herds. Traders, trappers, and hunters all depended on the bison to sustain their way of life. The Métis tried to maintain their lifestyle through a variety of means. For instance, they often used two wheel carts made from local materials, which meant that they were more mobile than Indians and thus were not dependent on following seasonal hunting patterns.[103]

The 1870s brought an end to the bison presence in the Red River area. Métis communities like those at Red River or Turtle Mountain were forced to relocate to Canada and Montana. An area of resettlement was the Judith Basin in Montana, which still had a population of bison surviving in the early 1880s. By the end of decade the bison were gone, and Métis hunters relocated back to tribal lands. They wanted to take part in treaty negotiations in the 1880s, but they had questionable status with tribes such as the Chippewa.[104] Many former Métis bison hunters tried to get land claims during the treaty negotiations in 1879–1880. They were reduced to squatting on Indian land during this time and collecting bison bones for $15–20 a ton in order to purchase supplies for the winter. The reservation system did not ensure that the Métis were protected and accepted as Indians. To further complicate matters, Métis had a questionable status as citizens and were often deemed incompetent to give court testimonies and denied the right to vote.[105] The end of the bison robe trade was the end of the fur trade for many Métis. This meant that they had to reestablish their identity and adapt to a new economic world.

Modern day

Modern fur trapping and trading in North America is part of a wider $15 billion global fur industry where wild animal pelts make up only 15 percent of total fur output.

In 2008, the global recession hit the fur industry and trappers especially hard with greatly depressed fur prices thanks to a drop in the sale of expensive fur coats and hats. Such a drop in fur prices reflects trends of previous economic downturns.[106]

In 2013, the North American Fur Industry Communications group (NAFIC)[107] was established as a cooperative public educational program for the fur industry in Canada and the USA. NAFIC disseminates information via the Internet under the brand name “Truth About Fur”.

Members of NAFIC are: the auction houses American Legend Cooperative in Seattle, North American Fur Auctions in Toronto, and Fur Harvesters Auction[108] in North Bay, Ontario; the American Mink Council, representing US mink producers; the mink farmers’ associations Canada Mink Breeders Association[109] and Fur Commission USA;[110] the trade associations Fur Council of Canada[111] and Fur Information Council of America;[112] the Fur Institute of Canada, leader of the country’s trap research and testing program; Fur wRaps The Hill, the political and legislative arm of the North American fur industry; and the International Fur Federation,[113] based in London, UK.

See also

  • Fur Trade
  • Beaver hat
  • Deerskin trade
  • Métis buffalo hunt
  • Economic history of Canada
  • Economic history of the United States
  • British colonization of the Americas
  • French colonization of the Americas




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  107. ^ “Home”. Truth About Fur. North American Fur Industry Communications group (NAFIC). Retrieved 5 October 2015.
  108. ^ Fur Harvesters Auction Inc.
  109. ^ Canada Mink Breeders Association.
  110. ^ Fur Commission USA.
  111. ^ Fur Council of Canada.
  112. ^ Fur Information Council of America.
  113. ^ International Fur Federation.
  114. ^ Bourgeault, Ron (1983). “The Indians, the Metis and the Fur Trade: Class, Sexism and Racism in the Transition from “Communism” to Capitalism”. Studies in Political Economy. 12.


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  • Black, Jeremy (2001). War in the Eighteenth-Century World. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0230370004.
  • Brehaut, Harry Baker (1971). “The Red River Cart and Trails: The Fur Trade”. MHS Transactions. Series. Manitoba Historical Society. 3 (28). Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  • Calloway, Colin G. (1997). First Peoples: A Documentary Survey of American Indian History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5959-X.
  • Calloway, Colin G. (2004). New Worlds for All: Indians, Europeans, and the Remaking of Early America. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. ISBN 0-312-39889-1.
  • Campbell, Marjorie Wilkins (1957). The North West Company. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  • Dolan, Eric Jay (2010). Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0393067101.
  • Gilman, Rhoda R.; Carolyn Gilman; Deborah M. Stultz (1979). The Red River Trails: Oxcart Routes Between St. Paul and the Selkirk Settlement, 1820-1870. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press. ISBN 0-87351-133-6.
  • Huck, Barbara (2002). Exploring the Fur Trade Routes of North America. Winnipeg: Heartland. ISBN 1-896150-04-7.
  • Morse, Eric W. (1969). Fur Trade Canoe Routes of Canada / Then and Now. Minocqua, WI: NorthWord Press. ISBN 1-55971-045-4.
  • “The North West Company”. HBC Heritage. Our History: Acquisitions, Fur Trade. Hudson’s Bay Company. 2007. Retrieved 2008-12-27.
  • Nute, Grace Lee (1955). The Voyageur. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society. ISBN 0-87351-012-7.
  • Perry, Richard (Autumn 1979). “The Fur Trade and the Status of Women in the Western Subarctic”. Ethnohistory. 26 (4). Grand Marais, Minnesota. pp. 363–375.
  • Podruchny, Carolyn (2006). Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-0-8032-8790-7.
  • Richter, Daniel (October 1983). “War and Culture: The Iroquois Experience“. The William and Mary Quarterly. 40 (4). Williamsburg, Virginia.
  • White, Bruce M. (Winter 1999). “The Woman Who Married a Beaver: Trade Patterns and Gender Roles in the Ojibwa Fur Trade“. Ethnohistory. 46 (1). Grand Marais, Minnesota. pp. 109–147.
  • White, Bruce M. (2005). Grand Portage as a Trading Post: Patterns of Trade at “the Great Carrying Place” (PDF). Grand Marais, Minnesota: Grand Portage National Monument, National Park Service.

External links

  • Economic history of the North American fur trade, 1670 to 1870