Inauguration of the President of the Confederate States, 18 February 1861

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The Alabama State Capitol surrounded by thousands of people during the inauguration of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 1861.
The inauguration of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America in front of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama, 18 February 1861. Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Outside Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery, crowds of bystanders stand to watch and cheer on the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as the first and only President of the Confederate States of America, with his inaugural speech lasting a mere 15 minutes. Known to be a champion of slavery and an embodiment of the planter class, he won 6 out of 7 of the Confederate state vote, which seceded the Union for the best part of 5 years. This photo didn’t go into major circulation until its first publication in “The photographic history of the Civil War” in 1911.

As a promise between moderates and radicals, Davis would be voted into this new separationist government a week before Abraham Lincoln became leader of the Union in 1861, somewhat overshadowing Lincoln’s victory. The former State Senator and General Major of the Army of Mississippi , was nominated as President due to his strong political and military prowess, and would go on to lead the Confederate against the Union at the start of the American Civil War.

Using notions of division and separation within the Southern separationist States from their Northern counterparts, Davis led an ultimately unsuccessful attempt at secession. Differing notions towards slavery was the heart of the matter, with Confederates holding an opinion that banning slavery was an infringement on constitutonal right. Unionists vowed to abolish slavery for the sake of human rights. This led to a clash in ideologies of momentous impact.

Following his inauguration as provisional president, Davis sent peace commissions North to Lincoln. Abraham would have none of this and ignore any peace emissaries ultimately safeguarding the Union at any cost. Lincoln then sent boatloads of ammunition South to Fort Sumter In South Carolina, which Davis would subsequently attack, thus marking the American Civil War – which remains the most deadly war in American History.

The war would start to favour the Confederates in the South at the beginning but as they slowly ran out of steam there would be a turning point. The Battle of Gettysburg provides a nice marker for this turning point, and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 would side the European nations to the Union. This would be a huge blow in terms of funding for the South civil war battle, who had planned to rely on cotton trading with European nations as their main funding towards the war. Davis would push to move his Confederate HQ from the original site of inauguration in Alabama to Kentucky in a bid to solidify defence of key positions.

It would not be until 1865 when the war ended that Davis was stopped and imprisoned. He was later put on trial and released on bail where he fled to his family in Canada, before being pardoned by Andrew Johnson’s 1868 presidential pardon and going on to live a very illustrious life as a company director seemingly unaffected by his previous actions of ‘treason’. For such a staunch supporter of slavery and his indicment of the Union, Davis seemed to do alright for himself in the end.

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