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The Confederate States of America (also called the Confederacy, the Confederate States, and the C.S.A.) was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by eleven Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S. No nation in the world recognized this government. The U.S. government rejected secession as illegal, and used military action to defeat it. The Confederacy's control over its claimed territory shrank steadily during the course of the American Civil War, as the Union took control of much of the seacoast and inland waterways. The leading Confederate General Robert E. Lee successfully stopped repeated Union attempts to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, but after four years of very bloody fighting, the Confederates ran out of men, supplies and public support. In spring 1865 its armies surrendered, its government collapsed, its slaves were emancipated, and the Union imposed a program of Reconstruction to restore the seceding states to normal status.

Secessionists argued that the United States Constitution was a compact among states that could be abandoned at any time without consultation and that each state had a right to secede. After intense debates and statewide votes, seven Deep South cotton states passed secession ordinances by February 1861 (before Abraham Lincoln took office as president), while secession efforts failed in the other eight slave states. Delegates from the seven formed the C.S.A. in February 1861, selecting Jefferson Davis as temporary president until elections could be held in 1862. Talk of reunion and compromise went nowhere, because the Confederates insisted on independence which the Union strongly rejected. Davis began raising a 100,000 man army.[3]

The fighting began with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to recapture lost federal properties in the South, the same number of arms the disunionists confiscated from US forts and arsenals in six seceding states prior to his inauguration.[4] With the developing Federal policy of military coercion to maintain the Union, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia also declared their secession and joined the Confederacy. All the main tribes of the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) aligned with the Confederacy, but efforts to secure secession in Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland failed in the face of federal military action and occupation of those states.

The government of the United States (The Union) regarded secession as illegal and refused to recognize the Confederacy. No European or other foreign nation officially recognized the Confederate States as an independent country,[1][2] but they did allow their citizens to do business with the Confederacy. The Confederate government in Richmond had an uneasy relationship with its member states, with some historians arguing the Confederacy "died of states rights" because of the reluctance of several states to put troops under the control of the Confederate States government.[5]

The Confederacy effectively collapsed after Ulysses S. Grant captured its capital of Richmond, Virginia and Robert E. Lee's army in April 1865. The remaining Confederate forces surrendered by the end of June, as the U.S. Army took control of the South. Because Congress was not sure that white Southerners had really given up slavery or their dreams of Confederate nationalism, a decade-long process known as Reconstruction expelled ex-Confederate leaders from office, enacted civil rights legislation (including the right to vote) that included the freedmen (ex-slaves), and imposed conditions on the readmission of the states to Congress. The war and subsequent Reconstruction left the South economically prostrate, and it remained well below national levels of prosperity until after 1945.[6]

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