Great Seal of the Confederate States of America
|Great Seal of the Confederate States|
|Armiger||Confederate States of America|
|Adopted||April 30, 1863|
|Use||Intended for commissions and more, but dies arrived too late in war to be used|
The Great Seal of the Confederate States was the official seal of the government of the Confederate States of America, which consisted of eleven states that voted to secede from the United States, leading to the American Civil War.
The seal prominently features George Washington on horseback, in the same position as the 1858 Virginia Washington Monument, located adjacent to the Confederate Capitol in Richmond, Virginia. Washington is pictured in his uniform of the Revolution securing American independence.
Washington's first equestrian statue was by Henry Kirke Brown, erected in New York City in 1856. It has since been moved to Union Square in the center of the park. There, the tri-corner hat is held in his left hand rather than atop his head, as depicted in the equestrian statue at the Virginia Capitol, in Richmond. The Union Square statue is duplicated at the Washington Monument at West Point, a bronze statue cast by Clarence P. Towne, dedicated in 1916. Washington was a model for the Confederacy due to his importance in founding a new nation. He was a model in personal character, a military leader for independence, a new nation's political leader, and, not unimportantly for the Confederacy, a slaveholder.
Washington is surrounded with a wreath, which is made of some of the main agricultural products of the Confederate States: wheat, corn, tobacco, cotton, rice and sugar cane. The top margin of the seal features the words "The Confederate States of America: 22 February 1862". This date on the seal commemorates the establishment of the Government of the Confederate States of America in Richmond, Virginia with the inauguration of Jefferson Davis after the only Confederate general election, and is also Washington's birthday.
The bottom margin contains the national motto, Deo Vindice (variously translated as "Under God, [Our] Vindicator", "With God as [Our] Champion", "With God as [Our] Judge", and "Under the Guidance and Protection of God"). The Confederate Senator Thomas Semmes, in proposing this motto, took pains to stress that the CSA had "deviated in the most emphatic manner from the spirit that presided over the construction of the Constitution of the United States, which is silent on the subject of the Deity".
The design of the seal was finalized on April 30, 1863, and a set of embossing dies ordered from the London engraver Joseph S. Wyon. The seal dies eventually reached Richmond before the end of the war. However, due to the risks of running the naval blockade upon the Confederacy, the accompanying embossing press was only shipped as far as Bermuda. The dies (crafted in silver) were thus unlikely to ever have been used in any official capacity.
Both sets of artifacts initially passed through private ownership before ultimately entering museum collections. The dies now reside in Richmond's Museum of the Confederacy; and the embossing press, equipped with brass replica dies, is in a National Trust Museum in St. George's, Bermuda.
Depicted on the 1864 CSA $500 banknote
- "National Register of Historic Places nomination" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
- "Great Seal of the Confederacy". Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- "The Great Seal of the Confederacy". Retrieved 22 June 2013.
- Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XVI. Richmond, Va. January–December 1888. pp. 416–422.
- "Object Record: Great Seal of the Confederacy". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 6 November 2011.