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The Southern Confederacy
Read May 11, 1909
More than a hundred years ago the American States rebelled against the
tyranny of England, the mother country, and formed a Confederacy of and
among themselves to work together for their own welfare and prosperity.
It was granted by their Constitution, and by the States, that each or
any individual State had the right under provocation, to withdraw from
Not quite fifty years ago the Southern States of this Union, having
endured provocation after provocation, withdrew from their Northern
oppressors, and formed themselves into the Confederacy, whose brief
existence ran red with the best blood of her chivalrous land. War
was not contemplated. A peaceable separation was desired. A peace
conference was held to which representatives of the States were invited.
Measure after measure was proposed, so that war might be averted. All
were rejected. The recusant States must be whipped back into submission
to the autocrats that would direct their affairs. With restricted
territory, a minority of population, and home interests directly opposed
to those of the over-riding North, what was there to hope for but
continuous degradation? Our leaders have been accused of precipitating
the war for their own personal ambition. It was another "Aaron Burr
conspiracy." Let us hear what they had to say about it.
Jefferson Davis, the fearless soldier and upright citizen—the man who
by reason of his supreme fitness was a little later, chosen President of
the Confederacy, said in his last speech before the United States
"Secession is to be justified upon the basis that the States are
sovereign. When you deny us the right to withdraw from a government
which threatens our rights, we but tread in the paths of our fathers
when we proclaim our independence. I am sure I but express the feelings
of the people whom I represent, toward those whom you represent, when
I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceable relations with you, though
we must part. This step is taken, not in hostility to others, not to
injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary
benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting
the rights we inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit
unshorn to our children."
Alexander Hamilton Stephens, of Georgia, Vice President of the
Confederacy, was a Whig, and like others of the leading statesmen,
loved the Union. When the North began to control the new territories,
and thus denied the South her legitimate share in the government
thereof, Mr. Stephens made a long and powerful argument in the House of
Representatives at Washington, some years before the Secession. He said
"If you men of the North, by right of superior numbers, persist in
ignoring the claims of the South, separation must follow; but why not
in peace? We say as did the patriarch of old, "Let there be no strife,
I pray thee, between me and thee * * * for we be brethren. Is not the
whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me If thou
will take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart
to the right hand then I will go to the left." In other words if we
cannot enjoy this public domain in common, let us divide it. This is a
fair proposition. * * * Unless these bitter and sectional feelings of
the North be kept out of the National Halls, we must be prepared for
the worst. Are your feelings too narrow to make concessions and deal
justly by the whole country? Have you formed a fixed determination to
carry your measures by numerical strength, and then enforce them by
the bayonet? If so the consequences be upon your own head. You may
think that the suppression of an outbreak of the Southern States would
be a holiday job for a few of your Northern regiments, but you may
find to your cost, in the end, that 7,000,000 of people, fighting for
their rights, their homes, and their hearthstones, cannot be easily
conquered. I submit the matter to your deliberate consideration."
Mr. Stephens, in a speech before the Georgia legislature opposed
secession, but said: "Should Georgia determine to go out of the Union,
whatever the result may be, I shall bow to the will of my people. Their
cause is my cause, and their destiny is my destiny."
These speeches and sentiments do not savor of stirring up strife—of
leading the South into rebellion "so that I may be king, and thou
my standard bearer." There could be no treason in doing what the
Constitution of the United States permitted. And so every speech of
farewell made by Southern representatives, was one, first of pleading
for redress—then of sincere regret that self-respect and justice forced
the rupture. The South never desired war, or bloodshed. The North defied
possible war, believing that within a month, at least, any resistance
must certainly be conquered. "We can easily whip them back." Well, it
was done, but not so easily. Not till years of carnage had wrought
John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, Vice President of the United States,
was termed the arch-traitor of all. His published speeches are in the
same spirit of regret, and of affection for the Union. In burning words
he showed how the Northern representatives were trampling down the
Constitution, and in eloquent remonstrance he pointed the way of escape
from threatened disaster. After leaving Congress he entered the
Confederate army as Major General, and served as Secretary of War in the
cabinet of President Davis.
Robert Toombs, of Georgia, was Secretary of State. In his speech before
the U.S. Senate in January, 1861, he reminded his hearers that the
Southern States had hundreds of sympathizers among the men of the North,
"who respect their oaths, abide by compacts, and love justice."
"The brave and patriotic men of the South appealed to the Constitution,
they appealed to justice, they appealed to fraternity, until the
Constitution, justice, and fraternity were no longer listened to in the
legislative halls of their country, and then, sir, they prepared for
the arbitrament of the sword. And now you see the glistening bayonet,
and you hear the tramp of armed men from your Capitol to the Rio
Grand. And all that they have ever demanded is that you abide by the
Constitution, as they have done. What is it that we demand? That we
may settle in present or acquired territories with our property,
including slaves, and that when these territories shall be admitted
as States they shall say for themselves whether they wish to have free
or slave labor. That is our territorial demand. We have fought for this
territory when blood was its price. We have paid for it when gold was
its price. New England has contributed very little of blood or money."
The senator goes on to specify what further measures the South demanded,
in sharp, incisive terms, but this extract suffices to show that our
leaders used every power of tongue and moral suasion to stave off
Houston, Governor of Texas, in a public speech advised constitutional
means—anything in reason to prevent war.
Robert E. Lee, the great, the good, was cut to the heart at the
impending calamity. One of his friends said: "I have seldom seen a more
distressed man." Lee said: "If Virginia stands by the old Union so will
I. But if she secedes, then I shall follow my native state with my
sword, and, if need be with my life. These are my principles and I must
Many public men in the North urged peaceable secession, notably, Horace
Greely. Foreign eyes were turned anxiously toward America. The South was
sending out millions of pounds of cotton every year, of which the
greater part went to England. A London paper of this decade said:
"The lives of nearly two million of our country are dependent upon the
cotton crops of the States. Should any dire calamity befall the land of
cotton, a thousand of our merchant ships would rot idly in dock; ten
thousand mills must stop their busy looms; two thousand mouths would
starve for lack of food to feed them."
In 1860, a Southern Senator said in congress;
"There are 5,000,000 of people in Great Britain who live upon cotton.
Exhaust the supply one week, and all England is starving. I tell you
COTTON IS KING."
But the die was cast. The ordinance of secession of South Carolina
unanimously passed December 20, at a quarter past one o'clock. Great
crowds were outside the hall of conference awaiting results. The
<i>Charleston Mercury</i> issued an extra, of which six thousand copies
were sold. The chimes of St. Michaels pealed exultant notes; bells of
all other churches simultaneously rang. The gun by the post-office
christened "Old Secession" belched forth in thundering celebration.
Cannons in the citadel echoed the glad tidings; houses and shops emptied
their people into the streets; cares of business and family were
forgotten; all faces wore smiles—joy prevailed. Old men ran shouting
down the streets—friend met friend in hearty hand clasp—the sun shone
brilliantly after three days of rain—volunteers donned their uniforms
and hastened to their armories. New palmetto flags appeared everywhere.
Everyone wore a blue cockade in his hat. Great enthusiasm was shown at
the unfurling of a banner on which blocks of stone in an arch typified
the fifteen Southern States. These were surmounted by the statue of John
C. Calhoun, with the Constitution in his hand, and the figures of Faith
and Hope. At the base of the arch were blocks broken in fragments
representing the Northern States. A scroll interpreted the allegory to
mean a Southern Republic built from the ruins of the other half of the
The sentiment of the community was shared by boys firing noisy crackers
and Roman candles. The patricians of Charleston drank champagne with
their dinners. That night there were grand ceremonies, with military
companies, bonfires, and glad demonstrations. The sister states soon
caught the infection, and sharing in the hope of independence, they too
withdrew from the Union.
On February 4, 1861, delegates from the seceded states—Virginia,
Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi,
Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee, had met at Montgomery Alabama
to organize the government of the Confederate States. The President and
Commander-in-chief, Jefferson Davis, was inaugurated at the State House.
Montgomery, February 18, 1861 and again at Richmond, Virginia February
Inauguration of Jefferson Davis
The Congress of Delegates from the seceding States met at Montgomery,
Alabama, on February 4, 1861, and prepared a Provisional Constitution of
the new Confederacy. This Constitution was discussed in detail, and was
adopted on the 8th. On the next day, February 9, an election was held
for the selection of Chief Executive Officers, Jefferson Davis, born in
Kentucky, but a resident of Mississippi, being elected President, and
Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, Vice President. While these important
events were transpiring Mr. Davis was at his home, Briarfield, in
Mississippi. It was his preference to take active service in the field,
but he bowed to the will of his people, and set out for Montgomery to
take the oath of office, and assume the tremendous responsibilities
to which he had been assigned in the great drama about to be enacted.
On his way to Montgomery he passed through Jackson, Grand Junction,
Chattanooga, West Point and Opelika. At every principal station along
the route he was met by thousands of his enthusiastic fellow-countrymen,
clamoring, for a speech. During the trip he delivered about twenty-five
short speeches, and his reception at Montgomery was an ovation. Eight
miles from the capital he was met by a large body of distinguished
citizens, and amid the huzzas of thousands and the booming of cannon
he entered the city.
From the balcony of the Exchange Hotel he addressed, shortly after his
arrival, the immense throng that filled the streets. February 18th had
been chosen for the day of the inauguration, and as the time drew near
the excitement increased. The ceremony was carried out with all the
solemnity and ceremony that could be thrown about it. The military
display was a beautiful one, and the martial maneuvers of the troops
seemed to portend a victorious issue. A platform was erected in front of
the portico of the State House, and standing with uplifted hand on this
eminence, while all the approaches were filled with vast crowds of
people, Jefferson Davis took the oath of office.
As the hour of noon approached an immense procession was formed, and
to the music of fife, drum, and artillery it moved toward the Capitol
building. On the platform awaiting the arrival of Mr. Davis were the
members of Congress, the President of that body, the Governor of Alabama
and Committees, and a number of other distinguished persons. Round after
round of cheers greeted Mr. Davis. After being seated on the platform
the Rev. Dr. Manley arose and offered an impressive prayer. President
Davis arose and read his inaugural address; then turning, he placed
one hand upon the Bible, and with the other uplifted, he listened to
the oath. His face was upturned and reverential in expression. At the
conclusion of the oath, in solemn, earnest voice, he exclaimed: "So help
me God!" He lowered his head in tears, and hundreds wept as they viewed
the solemn scene. Thus was officially launched upon a tempestuous sea
the Confederate Ship of State.
Order of Procession.
Military Escort of Montgomery Fusileers, Capt. Schenssler; Montgomery
Rifles, Capt. Farriss; Eufaula Rifles, Capt. Baker; Columbus (Ga.)Guard,
President-Elect, Vice President and Chaplain in an open carriage, drawn
by six horses.
Congressional Committee on Ceremonies.
Commissioners to the Government from States other than the States of the
Ministers of the Gospel, all in carriages.
Citizens in carriages and on foot.
The Department of State, of Justice, the Treasury, War, Navy,
Post-office the various military corps, with officers and attaches—all
in short, that it takes to form and conduct a government, was ordered
from the best picked material. A Constitution was framed like that of
the United States, in the main; but the unsatisfactory clauses that had
wrought such havoc in the halls of Congress, were changed for the
There were in the Confederate service one commander-in-chief, seven
generals, nineteen lieutenant-generals, eighty-four major-generals and
three hundred and thirteen brigadier-generals. The roster of the Union
greatly exceeded these numbers.
When all the departments were organized ready for the administration
of the new republic, commissioners were sent to President Lincoln at
Washington to negotiate for an equitable transfer of southern forts,
and for terms of an amicable separation. They were refused audience.
Every method known to national and international arbitration was
attempted without success; so when the strife was precipitated, the
south had no resource left but to resist by arms, no matter how
overwhelming the odds of the invading section.
On April 12, 1861, General Beauregard, learning that a fleet was forcing
its way into Charlestown harbor to join Major Anderson at Sumter, opened
fire upon the fort. The North charged the war was thus inaugurated by
the South. The South believed its action was necessary for self-defence.
However that might be, it was the onset of battle—of the greatest Civil
War the world has ever known. President Lincoln and President Davis both
called for troops. Mass meetings were held in every part of the country
North and South. The roll of the drum and the shrill fife of the march
were heard in every direction. Muster rolls were drawn up, drills were
in progress in hall and on the green. Every youth rush to take up arms.
After the great Confederate victory at Bull Run, some one wrote:
<p class="i2"> "They have met at last—as storm—clouds </p>
<p class="i4"> Meet in heaven; </p>
<p class="i2"> And the Northmen back and bleeding </p>
<p class="i4"> Have been driven. </p>
<p class="i2"> And their thunders have been stilled, </p>
<p class="i2"> And their leaders, crushed or killed, </p>
<p class="i2"> And their ranks, with terror thrilled, </p>
<p class="i4"> Rent and riven." </p>
They had indeed met. And they met and met again. Throughout the length
and breadth of the prolific country where cotton was king, the honest
achievements of a hundred years were ground into dust by the engines
The North came on as invaders; the South stood firm as defenders; and
in all the histories of the struggle this fact should be pre-eminent.
Of the hundred battles fought only that of Gettysburg was on Northern
soil. The beautiful lands of the garden spot of earth, as I have said,
were torn and pillaged and ruined, not alone by the fortunes of
civilized warfare, but by the ghastly horrors of cruelty and needless
vandalism. It is not the purpose of this paper to fight those battles
over. The strife lasted four years. The population of the North was
22,000,000; that of the South 9,000,000, of whom three and one-half
millions were slaves. The North was four times as great in numbers
as the South.
The North had three times as many armies. The South could not get enough
small arms for many months. All foundries for cannon, and all except two
powder mills were in the North. The North had food and provisions in
abundance. The South planted cotton and tobacco, but could not even in
times of peace, raise enough food, but were accustomed to buy from the
North and from Europe.
The Union had a treasury and a navy: the Confederacy had neither.
The North could renew supplies from abroad. The Southern ports were
blockaded and many necessaries of life were shut off. The Confederacy
set to work to make arms, ammunitions, blankets, saddles, harness,
and other necessities. Bells from churches and halls, dinner bells,
plantation and fire bells, along with stray pieces of metal, were melted
and cast into cannon. Old nails were saved and blacksmiths made of them
clumsy needles, pins and scissors.
For coffee was used burnt rye, okra, corn, bran, chickory and sweet
potato peelings. For tea, raspberry leaves, corn fodder and sassafras
root. There was not enough bacon to be had to keep the soldiers alive.
Sorghum was used for sugar.
The women and girls helped in every possible manner. Silk dresses
were made into banners, woolen dresses and shawls into soldiers'
shirts—carpets into blankets—curtains, sheets, and all linens, were
made into lint and bandages for the wounded. Soft white fingers knitted
socks, shirts and gloves, to keep the cold from the men in the trenches.
Calico was $10 per yard quite early in the strife. Homespun was made
upon the old colonial wheels and looms that had been kept as souvenirs
and curios. Buttons were obtained from persimmon seeds with holes
pierced for eyes. Women plaited their hats from straw or palmetto leaf,
and used feathers from barnyard fowls.
One mourning dress would be loaned from house to house as disaster came.
Shoes were made of wood, or carriage curtains, buggy tops, saddle tops
or any thing like leather. There were thin iron soles like horse shoes.
They were patched with bits of old silk dresses. For little children
shoes were made from old morocco pocket-books. Flour was $250 per
barrel; meal, $50 a bushel; corn, $40 a bushel; oats, $25; black-eyed
peas, $45; brown sugar, $10; coffee, $12; tea, $35 a pound; French
merino or mohair sold at $800 to $1,000 a yard; cloth cloak, $1000 and
$1500; Balmoral boots, $250 the pair; French gloves, $125 and $150.
The stores came to be opened only on occasions.
Salt was the most difficult of all the necessities. The earth from
old smoke houses was dug up and boiled for the drippings of ham and
bacon—these being crystallized by a primitive process.
Newspapers were printed on coarse half-sheets. Every scrap of blank
paper in old note books, letters or waste was utilized. Wall paper and
pictures were turned for envelopes. Glue from the peach tree gum served
to seal the covers. Poke berries, oak balls, and green persimmons,
The devotion of the people was sublime, always dividing with their
neighbors; and the refugees were noted for heroic acts. The negroes were
faithful in guarding the families, all of whom were left unprotected,
and in working the plantations. Nowhere in the annals of nations has
such fidelity been known.
Two negro men belonging to an army officer's widow who lived with her
young daughters on an Arkansas plantation, conveyed $50,000 in gold in
the cushions of an ambulance to Houston, Texas—a place of safety from
marauding troops, who burned the house and cabins, and captured the
live stock. The Yankees would not molest escaping negroes. These were
faithful to their trust. Similar instances are legion. Leal and true,
always and everywhere.
The memory of those hardships cannot die until all the survivors are
dead. Fertile fields and pleasant villages were destroyed by great
armies. Two billions of dollars in slaves were swept away. Cotton, the
chief staple, was burned, or captured. Wealth placed in Confederate
bonds, was lost forever. Of the 1,000,000 men in the southern army,
three fourths were killed; 400,000 were crippled; and no estimate was
made of the wounded who recovered. The cost of the war was $8,000,000.
Men and horses perished of starvation and disease. The Southern
Confederacy died, not for lack of the will and of the spirit to fight
on—for not even Washington's ragged troops at Valley Forge endured
greater sufferings or displayed greater heroism. The Confederacy died
I have said that the women of the South gave all their energies and
ingenuities to the cause. They shared the burdens of conflict. They
encouraged and stimulated the men by their sympathy and cheerful
fortitude. To their country they gave their dearest and best, and bore
up bravely in defeat as well as in victory. With silent courage they
faced privation and danger. They nursed the sick and wounded; took
charge of farms and plantations. With wonderful resource they supplied
the growing deficiencies in domestic affairs. They cared for and directed
the thousands of negroes left dependent upon them. They never lost their
trust in God, or in the righteousness of their cause though their loved
ones languished in prison, or lay dead on the battle field. Their
patriotism and womanly fidelity will be held in honor while the world
And the women refugees from the Border States suffered in addition, the
cutting off of news from those they left behind them. Letters went by
chance messengers through the lines, or around by Liverpool, England,
and finally, by special indulgence, in one-page missives, unsealed,
by flag-of truce, via Newport News and Norfolk, Va.
Sometimes months of silence elapsed. Oftener the letters were lost.
In many cases they straggled in after two, or three years.
Forty-four years have dragged their slow lengths since the last
roll-call. We, the survivors and descendants, have buckled on the
armor of faithfulness and are honoring the memory of our martyred
heroes. We are rearing monuments to perpetuate their deeds of valor.
We are cleaning their revered names from aspersion. We are striving to
educate the generations to come in the true history of their marvelous
struggle for the inalienable rights of every free-born American. How
sublime that struggle! How undaunted their attitude! How unsurpassed
their fortitude amid the upheaval of their colossal ruin! The conquered
banner's tattered folds hang on the wall her standard-bearer lies in the
dust—the sod is green above the heads of her valiant leaders—her rank
and file sleep in many an unknown grave. <i>We</i> are in the cooling
valleys of peace, where refreshing lies, and above us waves the flag of
the old, old Union our people once loved so well. So mote it be. We were
loyal to the powers that were; we are loyal to the powers that be. Good
citizenship is now, as ever, the watchword of the South. We do not
forget our martyrs. Upon our devoted heads rests this sacred duty of
consecration. Let us cling together in a cause so noble. Let us merge
all thought of self in the glorious work that lies before us.
And what of our beautiful, our historic southland about which the halo
of poesy so lovingly lingers? Nature and man have wrought a mighty
restoration. Through the grand old States of Virginia and South
Carolina, whose annals contain names which will ever adorn the pages
of history, down into the prosperous States of Georgia, Alabama, and
Mississippi, through Louisiana, unrivaled in fertility, on to the vast
expanse of Texas, whose coming wealth and power may not be measured,
there arise prophetic voices from field, forest, mine, and workshop,
fortelling the grand stirring into life of extended commerce,
enterprise, and capital. Her products have increased and multiplied in
kind and in variety, till we hear in the Senate chamber of Congress
an eloquent plea for the protection of her interests in the country's
political economy. We hear from the lips of the Kentucky Senator
a full recognition of our worth, our greatness and alas! the tardy
acknowledgement of our <i>rights</i>.
These beautiful States are swept by the ocean and mountain winds,
and nurtured by the glowing sun and gentle rains. The palmetto and the
cypress and the lordly live oak, stand above the glowing orange grove
and fragrant magnolia bloom, and the grey moss on the trees, wearing the
uniform of the men in grey, wafts a solemn requiem above their narrow
beds. The light of prosperity spreads transcendent radiance over the
land. The throb of commercial triumph pulsates in the hum of the
factory, in the smelting furnace, and ascends in the soft twilight from
the rich furrows of her incomparable fields; while the salt sea billows,
as they rock her shipping, and dash against pier and wharf, add their
exultant voices in prophecy of still greater prosperity.
May advancing wealth rebuild her mansions and fill her coffers, and
fittingly crown the efforts of her ambition, and of her genius. May she
never lose the aspirations that have made her people through sunshine
and storm, a lofty and noble race.
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