President of the Confederate States of America

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President of the
Confederate States
Seal of the Confederate States of America.svg
Jefferson Davis.jpg
Only officeholder
Jefferson Davis

February 18, 1861 – May 5, 1865
Provisional: February 18, 1861 – February 22, 1862
StyleHis Excellency
Term length
  • One year
  • Six years
Constituting instrumentConstitution of the Confederate States
  • February 18, 1861
  • February 22, 1862
First holderJefferson Davis
Final holderJefferson Davis
AbolishedMay 5, 1865
DeputyVice president
SalaryCS$25,000 per year

The president of the Confederate States was the head of state and head of government of the Confederate States. The president was the chief executive of the federal government and was the commander-in-chief of the Confederate Army and the Confederate Navy.[1]

Article II of the Constitution of the Confederate States vested executive power of the Confederacy in the president. The power included execution of law, along with responsibility for appointing executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers, and concluding treaties with foreign powers with the advice and consent of the senate. He was further empowered to grant reprieves and pardons, and convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances.[1]

The president was indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a six-year term, and was one of only two nationally elected Confederate officers, the other being the vice president. On February 18, 1861, Jefferson Davis became president of the provisional government, as well as the only person to assume the position. On February 22, 1862, he became president of the permanent government and served in that capacity until the Confederacy's military collapse. The Confederate States cabinet declared the Confederacy dissolved May 5, 1865, after which Davis stopped attempting to exercise his office's powers and duties. May 5 is therefore generally considered to be the day the Confederate States of America (and its presidency) were formally abolished. Davis himself was captured by elements of the United States Cavalry five days later.[2]

Powers and duties[edit]

The constitutional powers of the president of the Confederate States were similar to those of the president of the United States. The permanent Confederate States Constitution made him commander-in-chief of the Army, Navy and militia of the confederated states when called into service of the Confederate States. He was also empowered to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the Confederate States. He was authorized to make treaties; to nominate and appoint diplomatic representatives, judges, and other officers of the Confederate States (including the heads of the executive departments) by and with the consent of the Confederate States Senate; and to remove such representatives and officers. During a Senate recess, he could fill vacancies but not reappoint persons previously rejected by the Senate. He was to supply Congress with information, recommend legislation, receive ambassadors and other public ministers, see that federal laws were faithfully executed, and commission all officers of the military and naval forces of the Confederate States.[2]

Election and oath[edit]

Confederate election ballot, Virginia, November 6, 1861
1861 Inauguration of Jefferson Davis at the Capitol, Montgomery, Alabama

On February 9, 1861, the provisional congress at Montgomery unanimously elected Jefferson Davis president and Alexander H. Stephens vice president. Stephens, who was a delegate to Congress from Georgia, was inaugurated on February 11. Davis was inaugurated on February 18 upon his arrival from Mississippi, where he had gone upon his resignation from the U.S. Senate. Confederate presidents were to be limited to a single term. Davis and Stephens were elected on Wednesday November 6, 1861 for six-years terms, as provided by the permanent constitution. The Capital had been moved in June 1861 to Richmond and the inauguration took place at the statue of Washington on Capitol Square on February 22, 1862.[2]

Before Davis entered on the execution of his office as President of the Confederate States, he was constitutionally required to take the following oath or affirmation:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the Confederate States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution thereof.[1]


In 1861, the president of the Confederate States earned a CS$25,000 annual salary, along with an expense account, and a nontaxable travel account.[3] The President's Office was located on the second floor of the Custom House on Main Street, a structure which also housed the Cabinet Room and the State and Treasury Departments. The City of Richmond purchased the White House of the Confederacy (Brockenbrough House) for presentation to the Confederate government for use as an executive mansion. Davis declined to accept the gift, but the mansion was leased for his use. Referred to as the "White House of the Confederacy" or the "Grey House," the mansion was used by President Davis until Richmond fell to the Union Army in early April 1865. The residence later became a repository for documents, relics, and pictures, and in 1896 it was redesignated the Confederate Museum.[2]


Having been advised by General Robert E. Lee that the fall of Richmond was imminent, late on the evening of April 2, 1865, President Davis, his aides, and members of the presidential Cabinet, except C.S. Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge, departed the burning capital city, traveling southwest on the Richmond and Danville Railroad shortly before Union troops occupied it. Confederate President Davis and his Cabinet stayed at Danville, 140 miles (225 km) southwest of Richmond, until April 10, when hearing of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House further northeast, they continued their flight farther south.

At Greensboro, North Carolina on April 12, the Cabinet met with Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Pierre G. T. Beauregard and discussed surrender of Johnston's Army of Tennessee to Union General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman's forces were then in nearby Goldsboro, North Carolina, having moved north from Savannah through the Carolinas, destroying and pillaging everything in their path — including South Carolina state capital Columbia.

Because the railroad leading south out of Greensboro had been destroyed, the Cabinet's escape from the city was made on horseback and in a train with additional wagons, ambulances, and carriages, also carrying some Confederate archives papers, the C.S.A. Treasury banknotes and remnants of gold/silver bullion. The last official meetings of the presidential Cabinet of the Confederate States took place at Charlotte on April 24 and 26, then later on May 4. When President Davis left Washington, Georgia, the party consisted only of his aides and Postmaster General Reagan. Elements of the United States Cavalry captured Davis and his companions at an encampment near Irwinville, Georgia on May 10, 1865.[2]

Jefferson Davis was imprisoned at Fort Monroe, by the Hampton Roads harbor of tidewater Virginia, until his release on bail on May 13, 1867. During his confinement, the United States federal government prepared to bring him to trial for treason and complicity in the assassination of US President Abraham Lincoln. Davis could not be tried in the Commonwealth of Virginia until the federal court was reestablished there, but by the time the U.S. Circuit Court judges were ready in May 1867, the federal government decided that the outcome of a trial before a local citizen jury was far too uncertain and dropped the indictment. In November 1868, Davis was brought to trial under a new indictment, but federal lower court judges disagreed and the case was referred to the Supreme Court. Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president, issued a general amnesty in December 1868 and the Supreme Court entered a nolle prosequi, freeing Davis.[2]

List of presidents[edit]

Presidency President Party Election Vice President
1 February 18, 1861
[n 1]

May 5, 1865
[n 2]
Jefferson Davis.jpg Jefferson Davis Unaffiliated
[n 3]
Elected by the
Alexander Stephens


  1. ^ Jefferson Davis initially took an oath of office as President of the Confederate States of America on February 18, 1861, in Montgomery, Alabama, under conditions set forth in the Constitution of the Provisional Government. After being elected to the presidency, he took another oath of office (this time for a six-year term) on February 22, 1862, in Richmond, Virginia, as prescribed in the "permanent" Constitution of the Confederate States.
  2. ^ The end of Jefferson Davis' presidency (as well as the abolition of the office) is generally reckoned to be the date Davis and his Cabinet declared the Confederacy dissolved, which was May 5, 1865. Although Davis was not apprehended by the Union Army until May 10, he stopped attempting to exercise the powers and duties of his office after May 5.
  3. ^ Political parties were never organized at the federal level in the Confederacy, although over time members of the Confederate States Congress increasingly came to be identified as either "pro-Administration" or "anti-Administration." Prior to Mississippi's secession from the United States, Jefferson Davis had been a member of the Democratic Party.

Fictional presidents of the Confederate States of America[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c C.S. Congress (provisional) (May 1861) [1st pub. March 1861]. "Article II". C.S. Constitution. Constitutional Convention. Syme & Hall, Printers to the Convention.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Beers, Henry Putney (2004) [1st pub. United States Government Publishing Office:1968]. "Chapter IV: The Presidency". The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. pp. 62–71. ISBN 0-911333-18-5 – via National Archives Trust Fund Board.
  3. ^ Vanfelson, C. A. (1861). The Little Red Book or Department Directory: For the Use of the Public in the Confederate States of America. Richmond: Tyler, Wise and Allegre, Printers. p. 4. OCLC 52558640 – via Enquirer Job Office.

Further reading[edit]

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