The Confederacy selects its first president

On February 9, 1861, delegates of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), a wealthy slaveholding senator from Mississippi, to be its first president. Davis had served as the United States' secretary of war in the mid-1850s under President Franklin Pierce (1804-1869). Dedicated to the principle of states' rights and respected throughout the South, Davis was seen as a solid choice for the presidency, even though he had expressed reservations about secession in the past.

Immediately after his February 18, 1861, inauguration, Davis began the process of putting together his administration and organizing a military. Forming a new nation involved a multitude of other tasks, from introducing new legal and government systems to developing new commerce and banking systems that were independent from the North. Davis and other Confederate officials spent a great deal of time and energy on these issues. But although this process of nation-building was complex and time-consuming, it was helped along by a number of different factors.

One major development was the defection of another state to the Confederate side. On February 23, 1861, the vast state of Texas formally seceded from the United States over the strong objections of its governor, Mexican War hero Sam Houston (1793-1863). The addition of Texas to the Confederacy encouraged the white populations of the other secessionist states, some of whom continued to harbor quiet doubts about the course that they had taken.

Csa Vice President
Confederate vice president Alexander H. Stephens. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Another factor that helped the Confederacy develop quickly was the undeniable excitement that many Southerners felt upon beginning this new chapter in their lives. Schools, churches, and taverns throughout the Deep South echoed with songs and speeches touting the many fine qualities of the Confederate states, and pride in the region's history and traditions became even stronger than it had already been. All throughout the Confederacy, the move to secede from the Union was compared to the American Revolution of a century earlier, when independent-minded people re

Map During Civil War
A breakdown of the Union and Confederate states/territories during the Civil War. (Illustration by XNR Productions. Reproduced by permission of The Gale Group.)

belled against the tyrannical orders of a distant ruler.

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