Some Surprising Facts About The Confederacy

Michael T. Griffith
@All Rights Reserved

In recent years it has become increasingly fashionable in some circles,
especially on college campuses and in the media, to demonize anything
and everything related to the Confederate States of America (CSA).
Some critics have gone so far as to compare the Confederacy to Nazi
Germany. Many politicians and liberal groups have sought to erase
any trace of Confederate heritage. They’ve labeled the Confederate
flag as a “loathsome, offensive” symbol and have tried
to ban its display on public property. They’ve also campaigned
to rename public schools, roads, buildings and parks that are named
after Confederate heroes. In some towns, liberal groups have worked
to prevent the Confederate flag from even being flown over the graves
of Confederate soldiers in public cemeteries. In response to the
ongoing campaign to demonize Confederate heritage, I offer the following
facts about the Confederacy:

1. By the latter part of 1864 the CSA was moving toward ending
slavery. In fact, there are indications that the Confederacy would
have ended slavery even if it had survived the war, as prominent
historians like J. G. Randall and David Donald have acknowledged
(see Randall and Donald, The Civil War and Reconstruction, Lexington,
Massachusetts: D.C. Heath and Company, 1969, p. 522).

Critics will reply that the CSA only began to move toward emancipation
as an act of desperation in the face of imminent defeat. If so,
this proves that Southern independence was more important to Confederate
leaders than was the continuation of slavery, that when push came
to shove they were willing to abandon slavery in order to achieve

However, this being duly noted, it should be pointed out that
it was by no means clear in late 1864 that Southern defeat was
imminent. Historians Herman Hattaway and Richard Beringer note
that even in February 1865, just two months before the war ended,
"a considerable degree of determination and high morale did
still persist" in the South (Jefferson Davis, Confederate
President, University Press of Kansas, 2002, p. 357). Militarily
speaking, the situation was far from hopeless in late 1864. Even
when the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered in April 1865,
the situation was not completely hopeless. At the end of the war,
fewer than one-third of Confederate troops on active duty were
deployed against either of the two main Union armies. One of the
arguments made by Southern leaders who opposed the arming and
freeing of slaves was that the South’s situation did not yet require
such a measure. There is certainly room for debate about the CSA’s
military prospects after the fall of Atlanta in September 1864.
It’s also true that Confederate leaders felt that using
slaves as soldiers was a matter of urgent military necessity.
However, few if any Confederate leaders believed the South would
be defeated by April if they didn’t arm and emancipate the
slaves. George Rable noted that even after the fall of Richmond
"a belief that somehow independence could yet be won persisted"
(in Hattaway and Beringer, Jefferson Davis, Confederate President,
p. 357). Historian Robert F. Durden of Duke University echoed
the observations of Hattaway, Beringer, and Rable:

Wracked though the Southerners were with the agony of a war they
were losing, most Confederates, contrary to those persons who
prefer to read history backward, did not know in November 1864
that they were beaten. (The Gray and the Black: The Confederate
Debate on Emancipation, Louisiana Paperback Edition, Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 2000, reprint of 1972 edition,
p. 101)

One could correctly observe that the only reason the Union started
using black troops was that Union casualties were mounting and
that Northern resistance to the draft was increasing. One could
also point out that Lincoln strongly resisted using black troops
until intense pressure from the Radical Republicans coupled with
mounting Union casualties caused him to change his mind. Even
after Lincoln agreed to the use of free blacks and ex-slaves as
troops, he refused to give them equal pay until forced to do so
by Congress.

In his book Forced Into Glory: Abraham Lincoln’s White
Dream (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company, 2000), African-American
author Lerone Bennett presents evidence that Lincoln only issued
the Emancipation Proclamation in response to increasing pressure
from the Radicals and in order to blunt the effect of a more drastic
confiscation measure that Congress had already passed. Bennett
also discusses evidence that Lincoln worked to minimize the effects
of the proclamation almost as soon as he issued it.

In the American Revolution, the Continental Army only began to
use black troops as an act of desperation because the army was
running short of soldiers and because the British had offered
freedom to American slaves who would fight in the British army
(Henry Wiencick, An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves,
and the Creation of America, New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux,
2003, pp. 196-22; James and Lois Horton, In Hope of Liberty: Culture,
Community and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700-1860, New
York: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 55-71). George Washington
initially barred blacks from enlisting in the army. He relented
because he was desperate for more soldiers, because white enlistment
was falling dramatically. (Wiencick, An Imperfect God, pp. 196-227).
Even then, some New England militias continued to bar blacks from
enlistment. It took the Continental Congress two years to formally
agree to black enlistment. Another factor that influenced the
decision to use slaves and free blacks as soldiers in the Continental
Army was the fact that thousands of American slaves were flocking
to British lines in response to the British offer of emancipation.

I might add that after the Revolutionary War, American negotiators
insisted on a provision in the treaty that ended the war, the
Treaty of Paris, that the British return any American slaves who
had fled to British lines during the war. One of those negotiators
was none other than John Adams. In fact, Adams warmly endorsed
the provision (Wiencick, An Imperfect God, p. 254). To their credit,
the British later violated this provision and evacuated thousands
of slaves with them when they left America.

I might also add that when it began to appear that the British
weren’t going to return the runaway American slaves, George Washington
demanded a meeting with the British general who was in charge
of enforcing the Treaty of Paris during the evacuation from New
York, General Guy Carleton. Washington tried to persuade Carleton
to honor the treaty provision on the return of runaway slaves.
To his credit, Carleton stood his ground and refused to hand over
the slaves. Carleton said the Americans could apply for compensation
for the slaves, but that he would not return them. Carleton insisted
the slaves were now free and that it would bring dishonor on England
to return them after promising them safe refuge. Lord North, the
British prime minister, called Carleton’s stand "an act of
justice." King George III himself voiced support for Carleton’s
action "in the fullest and most ample manner." One very
rarely finds any mention of these facts in American history books.

The American colonies’ policies on black troops during
the Revolutionary War and their insistence on the return of American
slaves after the war are admittedly embarrassing and contrary
to the spirit of the Declaration of Independence. However, to
my knowledge, no American historian has expressed regret that
the Americans won the war.

2. The Confederate president himself, Jefferson Davis, came to
strongly support ending slavery. So did CSA Secretary of State
Judah Benjamin, Governor William Smith of Virginia, and leading
CSA Congressmen Ethelbert Barksdale and Duncan Kenner (who was
one of the largest slaveholders in the South).

3. The CSA’s two highest ranking generals, Robert E. Lee and
Joseph E. Johnston, both disliked slavery and supported emancipation
in various forms. Lee called slavery "a moral and political
evil." Johnston called it "a curse." (Johnston
initially opposed using slaves as soldiers only because he feared
it would be disruptive and ineffective, not because he had any
sympathy for slavery. He later came to support the proposal.)
Other Confederate generals who supported emancipation included
General Daniel Govan, General John Kelly, and General Mark Lowrey.

4. The majority of Confederate generals did not own slaves and
did not come from slaveholding families (Hattaway and Beringer,
Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, p. 37).

5. Thousands of African Americans, Hispanics, and Indians fought
for the Confederacy. Many of the slaves who served in the Confederate
army did so because they hoped that by doing so they would be
granted freedom after the war or because they were specifically
promised freedom if they would serve. The same was true of most
of the slaves who fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary

The chief inspector of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, Dr. Lewis
Steiner, reported that he saw about 3,000 well-armed black Confederate
soldiers in Stonewall Jackson’s army–he added that those
soldiers were "manifestly an integral portion of the Southern
Confederate Army" (Issac W. Heysinger, Antietam and the Maryland
and Virginia Campaigns of 1862, New York: Neale Publishing Company,
1912, pp. 122-123; cf. John J. Dwyer, general editor, The War
Between the States: America’s Uncivil War, Denton, Texas:
Bluebonnet Press, 2005, p. 409).

Three Confederate states authorized free blacks to enlist in
state militia units. The first to do so was Tennessee, which passed
a law on June 21, 1861, authorizing the recruitment of state militia
units composed of "free persons of color" between the
ages of 15 and 50. In 1862, Louisiana assembled the all-black
1st Louisiana Native Guard, and Alabama authorized the enlistment
of creoles for a state militia unit in Mobile.

6. The Confederate Congress specified that black soldiers in
the Confederate army were to receive the same pay, rations, and
clothing that white soldiers received. In contrast, black soldiers
in the Union army were paid much less than white soldiers were
paid for over a year. The Union army began using former slaves
and free blacks as soldiers in September 1862. They were paid
$7 per month. Technically, they were paid $10 a month, but they
were forced to pay a clothing allowance of $3, which meant their
net monthly pay was only $7. White soldiers, on the other hand,
received $13 per month and were not forced to pay a clothing allowance.
Thus, in the Union army white soldiers were paid nearly twice
as much as black soldiers were paid. Black Union soldiers didn’t
start receiving equal pay until June 1864. When the Confederate
Congress authorized the recruitment of slaves as soldiers, it
stipulated that they were to receive “the same rations,
clothing and compensation as are allowed to other troops”
(An Act to Increase the Military Force of the Confederate States,
March 13, 1865, Section 3). In addition, when the Confederate
Congress authorized salaries for black musicians in the Confederate
army in 1862, it specified that they were to receive the same
pay as white army musicians, stating "whenever colored persons
are employed as musicians in any regiment or company, they shall
be entitled to the same pay now allowed by law to musicians regularly

7. According to the 1860 census, only 31 percent of Southern
families owned slaves. Seventy-five percent of the families that
owned slaves, owned less than ten and often worked side by side
with them in the fields. Approximately half of the free blacks
in America lived in the South. The percentage of Southern citizens
who held slaves was probably no more than 25 percent (some scholars
put the percentage as low as 10 percent).

8. The Confederate Constitution allowed for the admission of
free states to the Confederacy, banned the overseas slave trade,
and permitted Confederate states to abolish slavery within their
borders if they wanted to do so. During the Confederate debate
on emancipation, both sides readily acknowledged that under the
Confederate Constitution each state had the absolute right to
abolish slavery within its borders (see, for example, Durden,
The Gray and the Black, pp. 98, 115, 170,195).

9. The Confederate Constitution protected every right for its
citizens that the U.S. Constitution protected for U.S. citizens,
if not more (Charles Roland, The Confederacy, University of Chicago
Press, 1960, pp. 25-27; see also below). Even during the war,
the Confederacy held free elections and enjoyed a vibrant free
press (William J. Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, Vintage Books
Edition, New York: Vintage Books, 2001, pp. 349-519; see also

10. The Confederate Constitution contained added protections
against runaway government spending, excessive taxation, and harmful
protective tariffs. Historian Allan Nevins said the following
about the Confederate Constitution:

It differed from the old national model chiefly in its emphasis
on State rights. . . . The general welfare clauses were omitted.
Any Confederate official acting within the limits of a State might
be impeached by the State legislature, though the Constitution,
laws made under it, and treaties were declared “the supreme
law of the land”. . . .

The most remarkable features of the new instrument sprang from
the purifying and reforming zeal of the delegates, who hoped to
create a more guarded and virtuous government than that of Washington.
The President was to hold office six years, and be ineligible
for reelection. Expenditures were to be limited by a variety of
careful provisions, and the President was given budgetary control
over appropriations which Congress could break only by a two-thirds

Subordinate employees were protected against the forays of the
spoils system. No bounties were ever to be paid out of the Treasury,
no protective tariff was to be passed, and no post office deficit
was to be permitted. . . . Some of these changes were unmistakable
improvements, and the spirit behind all of them was an earnest
desire to make government more honest and efficient. (Nevins,
The Emergence of Lincoln, Ordeal of the Union, Volume 2, New York:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950, p. 435)

11. Unlike the federal government, the Confederate government
did not imprison well over 10,000 of its own citizens without
due process in order to suppress internal dissent (some scholars
suggest the number of illegally imprisoned citizens was close
to 30,000); it did not shut down the legislatures of two of its
states because the citizens in those states elected anti-war majorities;
it did not arrest members of a state legislature to prevent the
legislature from even discussing a policy it didn’t like;
it did not shut down over 300 newspapers for expressing "unpatriotic
views"; it did not jail dozens of newspaper editors for expressing
"unpatriotic views"; and it did not impose military
rule on areas that were far removed from combat in order to suppress
internal dissent. The federal government did all these things
and more.

The Confederacy showed an amazing degree of respect for civil
rights during the war. Renowned Civil War scholar (and pro-Lincoln
biographer) David Donald has observed that the Confederacy was
"astonishingly libertarian" and that "disloyal
elements throughout the South had almost unrestricted freedom."
His comments on the Confederacy’s respect for civil rights
and on the contrast between the Confederacy’s policies and
the Lincoln Administration’s policies deserve to be quoted
at length:

If we could free ourselves of the notion that democracy (a “good”
thing) must inevitably have been connected with the winning (hence
“good”) Lincoln government, we would discover abundant
evidence that the Confederacy, not the Union, represented the
democratic forces in American life.

The democratic tendencies of the Confederacy were all too plainly
reflected in its army. . . .

The Confederacy’s tolerance of democracy was not confined
to military affairs. In civil rights, too, the South had an astonishingly
libertarian record. Though engaged in deadly war, the Davis government
preserved the traditional rights of freedom of speech, freedom
of the press, and freedom from arbitrary arrest. . . .

Both Davis and his government were subjected to tirades of abuse.
Davis, said T. R. R. Cobb of Georgia, was “the embodiment
and concentration of cowardly littleness. . . .” The editor
of the influential Richmond Examiner, E. A. Pollard, described
Davis as “a literary dyspeptic who had more ink than blood
in his veins, an intriguer, busy with private enmities.”
Robert Toombs, the Confederacy’s first Secretary of State,
declared: “Davis’s incapacity is lamentable. . . .”
“How God has afflicted us with a ruler!” exclaimed
Linton Stephens, the Vice President’s brother, a leader
in the Georgia House of Representatives. “He is a little,
conceited, hypocritical, sniveling, canting, malicious, ambitious,
dogged, knave and fool.”

Not one of these, nor any of the other critics, of the Confederate
President had his liberty of utterance impaired. . . . “When
Davis’s advisers were to urge that anti-Administration papers
be restrained, he would not hear of it,” Hudson Strode points
out. “As a democrat, he believed in maintaining complete
freedom of the press.” It is true that in January 1862,
the Confederate Congress did pass a law forbidding the publication
of unauthorized news of troop movements, but even this slight
regulation was bitterly protested and flagrantly ignored. No Southern
newspaper was ever suppressed by the Confederate government for
its opinions, however critical or demoralizing. The ardent wish
of Secretary of War George W. Randolph was realized: that “this
revolution may be . . . closed without suppression of one single
newspaper in the Confederate States.”

More significant militarily was the Confederacy’s insistence
upon maintaining the cherished legal rights of freedom from arbitrary
arrest and upon preserving due process of law. This sentiment
was so strong that, though the Confederacy was invaded and Richmond
was actually endangered, President Davis did not dare institute
martial law until he had received the permission of his Congress.
While General George B. McClellan was about to assault the Confederate
capital in 1862, the Southern Congress debated the question and
concluded that their President was “subject to the Constitution
and to the laws enacted by Congress in pursuance of the Constitution.
He can exert no power inconsistent with law, and, therefore, he
cannot declare martial law.” Grudgingly Congress permitted
Davis to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus [protection
against arbitrary arrest and denial of due process] for three
brief periods—once when McClellan was within sight of Richmond,
again during the Fredericksburg-Chancellorsville threat, and once
more when [General Ulysses] Grant was pushing through the Wilderness.
Even then he was allowed to suspend the writ only in limited areas,
not throughout the Confederacy. When he came to Congress for a
renewal of his authority during the grim winter of 1864-1865,
he was refused. . . .

The result, of course, was that disloyal elements throughout
the South had almost unrestricted freedom.

(Donald, "Died of Democracy," in Donald, editor, Why
the North Won the Civil War, Touchstone Edition, New York: Touchstone,
1996, pp. 82, 86-88)

Donald then examines the federal government’s very different
approach to civil rights, noting that “in comparison with
the Confederacy, the Union government did curtail civil liberties”
(Why the North Won the Civil War, p. 88). Says Donald,

As soon as the fighting started, President Lincoln, without delaying
to consult Congress, suspended the privilege of the writ of habeas
corpus, at first for a small area of the East, later for the entire
nation. At a subsequent date he reported his fait accompli to
Congress. . . . Congress had little choice but to ratify, and
the disloyal citizen [i.e., the citizen who opposed Lincoln and/or
the war] had no alternative but to acquiesce. Thousands of citizens
were imprisoned in the North for alleged disloyalty or sedition.
They were arrested upon a presidential warrant and were kept incarcerated
without due process of law. It did the disaffected citizen no
good to go to court for a writ of habeas corpus to end his arbitrary
arrest. On orders from President Lincoln himself, the military
guard imprisoning him refused to recognize a judicial writ even
when it came from Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.

Freedom of the press was also seriously abridged in the North.
. . . Over three hundred Northern newspapers were suppressed,
for varying periods, because they opposed the [Lincoln] administration’s
policies or favored stopping the war. . . . (Why the North Won
the Civil War, pp. 88-89)

Donald further notes that political democracy thrived in the
Confederacy, and that the record was quite different in the North
under Lincoln:

Political democracy, too, was unimpaired in the Confederacy.
Jefferson Davis took care to abridge no Southerner’s political
rights. Elected provisional president through no solicitation
of his own, reelected as the first—and only—regular
President of the Confederacy, Davis did not believe that he should
interfere in politics, either to solicit votes for his friends
or to win support for his measures. . . . When North Carolina
held a critical gubernatorial election in 1864 to choose between
Zebulon Vance, pledged to sustain the war effort, and William
H. Holden, dedicated to withdrawing the state from the Confederacy
and making an independent peace, Davis expressed no public preference
between the candidates. Nor did he make any attempt to secure
the defeat of Governor Joseph E. Brown, of Georgia, though Brown,
with the backing of Vice President Stephens, did all he could
to hamstring the Richmond government. . . . Davis did not try
to replace his arch-rival, Stephens. . . .

The record of the Lincoln government is in marked contrast. Lincoln
regularly used patronage to build up a political machine dedicated
to supporting his policies. . . .

When Republican Governor O. P. Morgan of Indiana was faced in
1863 with a hostile Democratic majority in the state legislature
[which majority that had been elected by the citizens of the state],
which threatened to curb his appointing powers and his control
of the state militia, the Republicans, by prearrangement, walked
out of the chamber, leaving the legislature without a quorum and
unable to transact any business. The Democrats then adjourned
the session, believing that Morton, in order to carry on the government,
must call them promptly back. Instead, the Indiana governor made
a flying trip to Washington, saw Lincoln and Secretary of War
E. M. Stanton, and returned to Indianapolis bearing $250,000 [about
$47 million in today’s dollars] extracted from war department
funds, on which he ran the state government until the next election,
blithely ignoring constitutional regulations and majority rule.

Having learned a lesson from 1862, Lincoln was prepared to take
a more active, preventive role in the presidential elections two
years later. When he saw that the Northwestern states were going
to show a closely balanced vote, he wrote in September 1864 to
General W. T. Sherman, whose army was in a tight spot before Atlanta:
“Any thing you can safely do to let soldiers, or any part
of them, go home to vote at the State election, will be greatly
in point.” Although Lincoln added that “this is, in
no sense, an order,” he was clearly giving a directive,
and it was one which Sherman promptly obeyed. The Republicans
carried the Northwest by narrow majorities. In Pennsylvania, too,
the Democrats were threatening, and it was found possible to furlough
several thousands from Grant’s army before Richmond. Not
all soldiers were Republicans, to be sure—but Democratic
soldiers found it strangely difficult to secure furloughs.

In 1864 a number of Northern states permitted their soldiers
to vote in the field. Republican canvassers were afforded every
facility for getting to the front, but Democratic politicians
were often harassed by long delays in Washington. (Why the North
Won the Civil War, pp. 89-91)

Donald states that most Northern citizens supported the Union
cause and either didn’t know or didn’t care “that
freedom of the press was abridged or that arbitrary arrests were
numerous.” Saying that “most” Northern citizens
felt this way might be a bit of an overstatement, since Lincoln’s
opponent in the 1864 election, George McClellan, received 41 percent
of the vote, in spite of everything the Republicans did to try
to keep McClellan supporters from going to the polls. In any case,
Donald correctly observes that “the test of civil liberties
is not the freedom of the majority but that of the dissenter,”
and that “in the Confederacy the dissenter retained his
democratic rights down to Appomattox” (Why the North Won
the Civil War, p. 89). Indeed, Donald argues that the real "weakness"
of the Confederacy was that "the Southern people insisted
upon retaining their democratic liberties in wartime" (Why
the North Won the Civil War, p. 92).

12. Even though it was being invaded and ravaged, the Confederacy
showed more respect for private property and limited government
than did the federal government. Critics unfairly claim that the
CSA became a highly centralized, micromanaging state, contrary
to the doctrines of states’ rights and limited government. For
one thing, this is hardly a fair argument to begin with, since
the Confederacy wouldn’t have had to take any centralizing measures
if it hadn’t been invaded and ravaged. Furthermore, the federal
government became highly centralized during the war and engaged
in just as much micromanaging as did the Confederate government,
if not more.

Moreover, the degree of CSA centralization has been somewhat
misrepresented by critics. McPherson notes that while Republicans
in the U.S. Congress gave Lincoln the power to seize all railroads
at his discretion and that it established a bureau to build and
manage railroads, the Confederate government “did not achieve
similar control over southern railroads until May 1863 and thereafter
rarely exercised this power” (The Battle Cry of Freedom,
pp. 514-515). In fact, the Confederate Congress did not mandate
strict wartime, emergency control over railroads, telegraph lines,
and water transportation until February 1865 (Hattaway and Beringer,
Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, p. 355).

Critics point out that the Confederate government resorted to
impressment to support the war effort. But so did the federal
government. When Confederate officials impressed goods, each impressing
agent had to show written authority and had to issue the owner
of the goods a certificate indicating the value of the goods that
were being impressed.

In addition, when the Georgia supreme court ruled that major
sections of the 1863 Act to Regulate Impressments were invalid
within the state, the Confederate government respected the decision.
Marshall DeRosa, a professor of political science, observes that
the Confederate government’s response to the Georgia supreme court’s
ruling was "conciliatory" and that there was no support
in the Confederate Congress for any legislation that would force
the state to comply with the entire impressment act (The Confederate
Constitution of 1861: An Inquiry Into American Constitutionalism,
University of Missouri Press, 1991, pp. 117-119).

13. One of the first things the Confederacy did after it was
formed was to send a peace delegation to Washington, D.C., in
an effort to establish friendly relations with the federal government.
Lincoln wouldn’t even meet with the delegation, not even

14. The Confederacy publicly offered to pay the federal government
the Southern states’ share of the national debt, to pay
compensation for all federal installations in the South, and to
allow Northern ships free use of the Mississippi River. The Confederacy
also hoped to establish good, extensive trade relations with the
United States. But Lincoln refused to even consider any Confederate
peace proposals.

15. The Confederacy was created by delegates from the seven states
of the Deep South soon after those states seceded from the Union.
A provisional constitution was produced and a president and vice
president were selected, subject to the approval of voters several
months later. The Deep South states separated from the Union in
a peaceful, democratic manner. In fact, they seceded in the same
manner in which the U.S. Constitution was ratified, i.e., by state
conventions whose delegates were elected by the citizens of their
respective states in special elections. Historian James McPherson
estimates that about 80 percent of those states’ citizens
supported secession (The Battle Cry of Freedom, New York: Oxford
University Press, 1988, p. 235).

The Confederacy grew from seven states to eleven states when
Lincoln made it clear he was going to launch an invasion to force
the seceded states to rejoin the Union. Voters in the Upper South
states of Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia initially
rejected secession by substantial margins. They were willing for
their states to remain in the Union as long as Lincoln allowed
the Deep South states to leave in peace. However, when Lincoln
left no doubt he was going to use force, new votes were held in
the Upper South states, and this time the results were strongly
in favor of secession. It should be noted that these four states
did not secede because of slavery but because they believed it
was illegal and immoral to maintain the Union by violence.

16. Anti-Semitism was more of a problem in the North than it
was in the South (Hattaway and Beringer, Jefferson Davis, Confederate
President, p. 137). In relation to this, it should be pointed
out that the Confederate Secretary of State, Judah Benjamin, was

17. Confederate soldiers were among the bravest, most determined
soldiers in the history of warfare. Even many Union soldiers testified
to the courage and fortitude of Confederate soldiers. This is
an especially interesting fact because Confederate troops were
frequently poorly fed and often suffered from a lack of clothes
and shoes. Some Northern citizens who saw Confederate troops in
Maryland and Pennsylvania commented on how surprised they were
to see that many of those troops wore ragged uniforms and had
no shoes. Confederate leaders did all they could to supply their
soldiers, but the Confederacy was being blockaded and invaded;
so Confederate authorities had a hard time keeping their soldiers
properly provisioned. In addition, Confederate forces were often
outnumbered by two or three to one. Yet, in spite of these hardships,
they fought bravely and tenaciously. One Union officer wrote with
amazement that Confederate soldiers fought so courageously even
though they were so poorly supplied:

It is beyond all wonder how such men . . . can fight on as they
do; that, filthy, sick, hungry, and miserable, they should prove
such heroes in fight, is past explanation. (In McPherson, The
Battle Cry of Freedom, pp. 539-540; see also p. 535)

18. Even when the Confederacy was winning on the battlefield,
Southern leaders wanted to end the war and desired peaceful relations
with the United States (McPherson, The Battle Cry of Freedom,
p. 650; Hudson Strode, Jefferson Davis: Confederate President,
New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1959, pp. 299-302). The
South hoped that, if nothing else, England and France would prevail
upon the Lincoln Administration to end the war or that Lincoln
would eventually grow tired of Union casualties and would decide
to allow the Confederacy to exist in peace. Jefferson Davis did
not desire to conquer the North. He said repeatedly that the South
simply wanted to be allowed to go in peace, and that the Confederacy
wanted peaceful relations with the federal government (see, for
example, William Cooper, Jefferson Davis, American, New York:
Vintage Books, 2000, pp. 379-380). Davis expressed this position
many times. For example, he said the following in his proclamation
to the people of Maryland in 1862:

First, that the Confederate Government is waging this war solely
for self-defense; that it has no design of conquest, or any other
purpose than to secure peace and the abandonment by the United
States of their pretensions to govern a people who have never
been their subjects, and who prefer self-government to a union
with them.

Second, that this Government, at the very moment of its inauguration,
sent commissioners to Washington to treat for a peaceful adjustment
of all differences, but that these commissioners were not received,
nor even allowed to communicate the object of their mission; and
that, on a subsequent occasion, a communication from the President
of the Confederacy to President Lincoln remained without answer,
although a reply was promised by General Scott, into whose hands
the communication was delivered. . . .

Fourth, that now, at a juncture when our arms have been successful,
we restrict ourselves to the same just and moderate demand that
we made at the darkest period of our reverses, the simple demand
that the people of the United States should cease to war upon
us, and permit us to pursue our own path to happiness, while they
in peace pursue theirs. (Proclamation of Jefferson Davis to the
People of Maryland, September 7, 1862)

When judged fairly and objectively, it must be admitted that
the Confederacy was one of the most democratic countries of its
day, if not the most democratic country in terms of the rights
that its citizens enjoyed. The Confederacy was more democratic
than many countries in our day.

What about the fact that the Confederate States of America permitted
slavery? How could the Confederacy have been a democratic country
when it allowed slavery? This is a fair question. On the one hand,
the Confederate Constitution established a marvelously democratic
government for its citizens, but on the other hand it allowed
its citizens to own slaves if they wanted to do so (though, as
mentioned earlier, only about 25 percent of Southern citizens
were slaveholders). Similarly, how could the United States of
America have been a democratic country when it allowed slavery
and when some New England states made huge profits from the overseas
slave trade? This, too, is a fair question. The U.S. Constitution
was the most democratic document of its era for the citizens who
lived under it, but that document also protected slavery, guaranteed
the continuation of the overseas slave trade for twenty years,
and mandated the return of runaway slaves. Most Northern states
that abolished slavery did so very gradually, so gradually that
slaves were held in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Rhode Island
into the 1840s. When the Civil War began, there were over 400,000
slaves in Union states, and most of those slaves weren’t
freed until several months after the war ended. Nevertheless,
historians who are willing to fairly judge the United States as
it was from 1789 to1860 generally conclude that America, for all
her faults, was the most democratic nation in the world at the
time. I would say much the same thing about the Confederacy.