Confederate States Facts for Kids

  • The Confederate States of America was an attempt by 11 southern states to secede from the Union in 1860.
  • Led by Jefferson Davis, it existed for four years before being defeated in the Civil War.
  • The Confederate States of America was made up of states that were pro-slavery. They were a centralized state that wanted to have slavery for black people.

In the 19th century, the southern and northern United States began to become different. For a long time, people in the South were slaves. After a while, South Carolina and Mississippi wanted to leave because they didn’t have slavery anymore.

In 1860, Southern politics was about states’ rights. In the South, people wanted to keep slavery because it is a big part of their economy. And people in the South wanted to split from the United States and make their own country.

Southerners used to import slaves from Africa. These slaves were often owned by the people who grew crops. Sometimes people would grow tobacco or rice, and they needed these slaves to help with this work. The owners of these plantations would own these slaves to take care of the crops for them because it is not easy to grow them in climatic conditions like those found in America.

Abraham Lincoln

The first President to be openly against slavery was Abraham Lincoln. So some Southern politicians claimed that Lincoln’s election was an act of war.

People think that armies would come and take slaves or force white women to marry black men. So they decided to meet and talk about leaving the Union.

The secession

People in the South thought that because of all the benefits people in America got, they wouldn’t get any if they stayed in the Union. So these people wanted to be in a new country.

In December 1860, seven states left the Union because of slavery. Four more did so after the war began in April 1861. Four slaveholding states stayed with the Union.

Representatives from six southern states met in Montgomery, AL to form the Confederate States of America.  They came from the states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana. Texas representatives arrived later.

Jefferson Davis became the President of the Confederate States of America after he was elected. Alexander H. Stephens used to be an anti-secessionist, but he became Vice-President of the Confederate States after being elected too.

Jefferson Davies (1808–1889)

Davis was named after Thomas Jefferson. He was born in Kentucky but he grew up in Mississippi. After graduating from West Point, Davis served in the military before settling down as a planter and going into politics later on.

He served in the US Senate and then became president of the Confederacy. He didn’t like that he was elected as president of the Confederacy.

Why did the states secede?

The reason the states seceded is that they thought that slavery was important to their economy. All eleven states said this was a big reason for their secession.

In the South, black people were upset about slavery. This made slaveholders in southern states worry because most slaves lived in southern states where the slaves made up the majority of people.

The slaveholder worried that he would lose his slaves and tried to keep them in check with laws that only white people could have guns and with force if necessary.

Northern abolitionists did not agree with these laws. They did not want to return slaves who had escaped. They were responsible for the rescue of a larger number of slaves.

Some people didn’t want to expand slavery or support it at a federal level. This made slaveholders angry and they got angrier when abolitionist John Brown tried to create an uprising with a group of slaves in Virginia.

After the South seceded, people thought that because Southern cotton was so important to Great Britain, they would have to formally recognize the Southern states as an independent country. But Great Britain had a lot of cotton before the start of the war. They did not want to buy more from the South, so they bought Northern wheat and corn. They wanted to stay neutral, so they decided that was the best policy.

The Confederate Constitution

The Confederacy made its own constitution using the US Constitution as a model. They changed some words and some content to do this.

The Confederate president was powerful and could serve six years without reelection. But the Confederate Constitution prohibited the African slave trade.

This constitution said that the states were sovereign. It also recognized slavery. The Confederate States wrote a pro-slavery constitution for a pro-slavery country.

The Confederate States also wanted to limit democracy. They made voting for the right only for white men. Only about 1.5 million of its 9 million people were white men who could vote. Most of the people were not able to vote or do military work, because they were women and slaves. So not many people supported the war effort because they didn’t have any power to change it.

The Confederate constitution was not a new idea. It was made to keep the world of the Old South with slavery and a racial hierarchy based on white supremacy.

In March of 1861, the Arizona Territory’s residents opted to join the Confederacy. The region was divided into two territories: one is still known as New Mexico today.

Civil War begins

As soon as the Confederacy was formed, Confederate soldiers in each state began to take over federal forts. When Lincoln became president on March 4, 1861, only four Southern forts still belonged to the Union.

The most important fort was Fort Sumter. Lincoln chose not to abandon it or to strengthen it. He wanted only to send food.

In April 1861, Confederates started attacking Fort Sumter. The Union soldiers were outgunned and they agreed to leave the fort after it had been bombed for 34 hours. There were no deaths on either side, but two people died when a gun exploded during the surrender ceremony.

News of Fort Sumter falling made the North feel like one. Lincoln called for people to join the army when South Carolina said they would leave the Union. The response was great in all Northern states, but not in Southern states like Virginia and North Carolina.

Then Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee seceded from the Union. That made 11 Confederate states. The western counties of Virginia opposed slavery so they left, too. They became West Virginia in 1863.

The first killing on the battlefield happened about 3 months after Fort Sumter fell, near a little creek near Bull Run. It was only 25 miles from Washington, D.C.

Forced conscription

The war led to many problems. The Confederate government did not have the appropriate resources to fight the Civil War. They tried their best but sometimes they were helpless.

One way they tried to get more power was by suspending “habeas corpus”, which is a way to report unlawful detention to a court. The Confederacy also declared martial law many times during the war.

There were problems with arming the troops and getting supplies to them. This caused war efforts to be slowed down because people had to enlist for a short time. This also made it so that when the war dragged on, there weren’t many people volunteering or re-enlisting. The Union had more troops than the Confederacy did.

When the fighting got worse, each side had to force some people to fight. This is called conscription, a draft that forced people to serve in the army.

In the North, the conscription law led to a lot of people getting angry and causing riots. They happened more in New York City. The economies of both sides changed during the war, as did their roles for African Americans and women.

African Americans made up just 1% of the North’s population, but by the end of the war about 180,000 had fought in the Union Army. 10% of the Northern army was African Americans.

Women helped the war effort by volunteering as nurses. Women who volunteered as Union army nurses included Clara Barton. After the war, Barton founded the American Red Cross to help people in need of medical assistance.

Chaos in the Confederacy

Governors of states often disagreed with Davis about their rights. They thought he was too powerful and had too many ideas.

State governors also disagreed with Davis about federal laws. This was because they often challenged their rights as states, especially laws that conscript people for the military.

The Confederacy also had a lot of economic problems during the war. They couldn’t keep up with the north, and they couldn’t get supplies from other countries because of the war. One problem was that banks were closed and people didn’t have money to buy things.

Despite the new conscription policies, the Confederate army had only a third of the power as their Union opponents. Jefferson Davis faced opposition from Congress and tried to save his position by changing military leadership.

The Confederacy had many losses on the battlefield. Atlanta and Chattanooga were taken by Union forces. The Confederates could not find men to draft, so they closed the Conscript Bureau in 1865.

Some people in the Confederacy wanted to give slaves weapons to use in war. They tried to do this before the Confederate nation ended. The last Confederate Congress voted that slaves could carry guns, but they didn’t vote on whether or not they should be freed.

General Order 14 was made. This gave freedom to slaves who were in the army. In response, the army recruited and trained more black soldiers.

The end of the Civil War

Members of Congress, on the other hand, desired to reunite the North and South. People started resigning from President Lincoln’s cabinet after three weeks because Richmond had fallen and Davis had left for North Carolina.

On April 9, General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. Many people followed him and also surrendered.

Confederate officials announced that the Confederate States of America ended. President Jefferson Davis refused to give up hope and was captured by Union forces in Georgia, and put in prison for 2 years. He never wavered in his devotion to the Confederate cause.

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