The Provisional Confederate Congress was hard at work this month forming the new nation. This temporary body of lawmakers consisted of one chamber, and it would serve the new nation until a permanent two-chamber Congress could be elected in November. Congressional committees, many of which met in secret, considered various measures needed to get a new nation up and running; these included, among other things, regulation of lighthouses, shipping, railroad, liquor, and Native American relations.
One of the Congress’s first orders of business as to create a Committee on the Confederate Flag, Seal, Coat of Arms, and Motto. The committee submitted its recommendation on a new flag design on the 4th. Designed by Professor Nicola Marschall, the flag had three equally-sized stripes (red, white, and red) with a blue canton two-thirds the size of the flag in the upper left. The canton contained seven white stars, one for each state. Known as the “Stars and Bars,” its close resemblance to the U.S. flag reflected the affection that many southerners still had for their former country.
Eager to hoist the new banner on the day of Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, that afternoon the first “Stars and Bars” were raised over the Confederate Capitol, which also served as the Alabama State Capitol, by the granddaughter of former President John Tyler. While initial reaction to the flag’s design was generally positive, over time southerners would grow to resent it because it reminded them of the hated North. The new national motto became “Deo vindice,” Latin for “Under God, our Vindicator.”
The Congress also continued considering President Jefferson Davis’s nominees for his cabinet. Stephen R. Mallory of Florida was confirmed as navy secretary after some debate. Mallory had served in the U.S. Senate as chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs. He would use this experience to try to build a brand-new national navy from scratch. Also confirmed was John H. Reagan of Texas as postmaster general. Reagan was a former U.S. congressman, delegate to the Texas secession convention, and member of the same Congress that confirmed his appointment.
All of Davis’s cabinet positions were now filled, with one representative from each of the Confederate states (except for Mississippi, Davis’s home state): Robert Toombs of Georgia as secretary of state; Christopher Memminger of South Carolina as treasury secretary; Leroy P. Walker of Alabama as secretary of war; Mallory as navy secretary; Reagan as postmaster general; and Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana as attorney general.
Two days later, the Provisional Congress approved three national defense measures. The first aimed “to provide speedily forces to repel invasion, maintain the rightful possession of the Confederate States, and to secure public tranquility and independence against threatened assault.” President Jefferson Davis was authorized to recruit a militia of up to 100,000 volunteers and to organize them into companies, battalions, regiments, brigades, and divisions. The recruits were to serve up to 12 months. This reflected the growing doubt among Confederate officials that the Lincoln administration would let the southern states leave in peace.
The second bill authorized creation of a Provisional Army of the Confederate States, consisting of regular and volunteer state militia. The president would apportion the officers. If war broke out, these volunteer militiamen would be required to serve for the war’s duration. The 12-month militia would be rolled up into this Provisional Army in time of war. Some opposed this measure because it gave the central government control over state troops, but supporters countered that centralization was needed to evenly regulate the recruiting, training, and supplying of the force.
The third bill authorized the organization of the Army of the Confederate States of America. Patterned after the U.S. Regular Army, this force was to contain 9,420 men. According to President Davis, this small number of professional soldiers indicated that the Confederacy above all else desired peace. Officers leaving the U.S. army would be offered the same rank in the new Confederate army. Ranks above colonel would be awarded by army officials, not politicians, to maintain military professionalism and minimize political influence.
On the 9th, the Provisional Congress authorized issuing up to $1 million in treasury notes in denominations of $50 and up. The notes would be payable after one year at 3.65 percent interest, and they could be used for all public debts except for the export tax that had been imposed on cotton on February 28. A one-year reissue was also authorized.
Acknowledging Louisiana’s contribution to the Confederacy, the Provisional Congress approved a resolution officially thanking the state for the gift of $536,000 seized from the U.S. mint and customs house in New Orleans.
The next order of business would be to replace the Provisional Confederate Constitution with a permanent one. The committee to draft the new document was just about ready to present its result.
- Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government. Kindle Edition 2008, 1889.
- Faust, Patricia L. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
- Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
- Longacre, Edward G. (Patricia L. Faust ed.), Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.
- Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (facsimile of the 1866 edition). New York: Fairfax Press, 1990.