Cabinet of the Confederate States of America

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Davis Cabinet
Seal of the Confederate States of America.svg
1st cabinet of Confederate States of America
President-Jefferson-Davis.jpg
Date formed 18 February 1861
Date dissolved 10 May 1865
People and organisations
Head of state Jefferson Davis
Head of government Jefferson Davis
Total no. of ministers 22
Member party Nonpartisan

The Cabinet of the Confederate States existed from February 18, 1861 to May 10, 1865.

Organization and history

The cabinet was largely modeled on the Cabinet of the United States, with its members overseeing a State Department, Treasury Department, War Department, and Post Office Department.

However, unlike the Union, the Confederacy lacked a Department of the Interior, and created a Justice Department (the position of the U.S. Attorney General existed, but the U.S. Department of Justice was only created in 1870, after the end of the Civil War).[1]

The Confederate cabinet was ineffective.[2] Like the Confederate Congress, its membership was undistinguished[2]—a contrast with Lincoln's Cabinet, which included highly talented men.[3] Confederate President Jefferson Davis made many of his initial selections to the Cabinet on the basis of political considerations; his choices "Were dictated by the need to assure the various states that their interests were being represented in the government."[4] Moreover, most Confederate talent went into the military rather than the government, and the cabinet suffered from frequent turnover and reshuffling. Sixteen different men serving as one of six Cabinet officers during the four years of the Confederacy's existence.[2] The most talented—but also the most unpopular—member of the Cabinet was Judah P. Benjamin.[4][5][6] Among the weakest cabinet secretaries was Treasury Secretary Christopher Memminger, who had little experience with fiscal policy; Memminger was placed at the Treasury by Davis due to the influence of South Carolinians, because Memminger had been an influential supporter of that state's secession.[4] Civil War historian Allen C. Guelzo describes the first Confederate secretaries of state and war—Leroy Pope Walker of Alabama and Robert Toombs of Georgia, respectively—as "brainless political appointees."[4]

The cabinet's performance suffered due to Davis's inability to delegate and propensity to micromanage his Cabinet officers.[7] Davis consulted with the Cabinet frequently—meeting with individual cabinet secretaries almost every day and convening meetings of the full Cabinet two or three times a week—but these meetings, which could stretch to five hours or more, "rarely saw anything accomplished."[8] Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory lamented that "From [Davis's] uncontrollable tendency to digression," cabinet meetings "consumed four or five hours without determining anything."[9] Many of the cabinet members became frustrated, especially the secretaries of war; after concluding "that they could not get along with Davis's constant interference and micromanagement," many resigned.[10] Nine of the eleven Confederate states "had representation in the Cabinet at some point during the life of Confederacy"; only Tennessee and Arkansas never had a Confederate cabinet officer.[11]

The final meeting of the Confederate cabinet took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, amid the Confederate collapse.[12] Charlotte was the only place where the full Confederate cabinet met after the fall of Richmond.[13]

Cabinet members

Portfolio Image Secretary Dates
President Jefferson Davis by Vannerson, 1859.jpg Jefferson Davis February 18, 1861 – May 11, 1865
Vice President Alexander Stephens.jpg Alexander H. Stephens February 18, 1861 – May 11, 1865
Secretary of State Robert Toombs - Brady-Handy.jpg Robert Toombs February 25, 1861 – July 25, 1861
RbrtMTHntr.jpg Robert M.T. Hunter July 25, 1861 – February 18, 1862
Browne, William Montague 1.jpg William M. Browne February 18, 1862 – March 18, 1862
Judah P Benjamin crop.jpg Judah P. Benjamin March 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger (1803-1888), Secretary of Treasury Confederate States of America.jpg Christopher Memminger February 25, 1861 – July 18, 1864
GATrenholm.jpg George Trenholm July 18, 1864 – April 27, 1865
JHRegan.jpg John H. Reagan April 27, 1865 – May 10, 1865
Secretary of War Walker, Leroy Pope 1.jpg LeRoy Pope Walker February 25, 1861 – September 16, 1861
Gamble Plantation Judah.P.Benjamin Photo.JPG Judah P. Benjamin September 17, 1861 – March 24, 1862
George Wythe Randolph 1.jpg George W. Randolph March 24, 1862 – November 15, 1862
James Alexander Seddon 1.jpg James Seddon November 21, 1862 – February 5, 1865
John C Breckinridge-04775-restored.jpg John C. Breckinridge February 6, 1865 – May 10, 1865
Attorney General Gamble Plantation Judah.P.Benjamin Photo.JPG Judah P. Benjamin February 25, 1861 – September 17, 1861
Wade Keyes September 17, 1861 – November 21, 1861
Thomas Bragg 1.jpg Thomas Bragg November 21, 1861 – March 18, 1862
Thomas Hill Watts 1860s.jpg Thomas H. Watts March 18, 1862 – October 1, 1863
Wade Keyes October 1, 1863 – January 2, 1864
George Davis.jpg George Davis January 2, 1864 – April 24, 1865
Secretary of the Navy Steph mallory.jpg Stephen Mallory March 4, 1861 – May 2, 1865
Postmaster General JHRegan.jpg John H. Reagan March 6, 1861 – May 10, 1865

Notes

  1. ^ The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference (eds. Margaret E. Wagner, Gary W. Gallagher & Paul Finkelman: Simon & Schuster, 2012), p. 161.
  2. ^ a b c Exploring American History: From Colonial Times to 1877 (Vol. 3: eds. Tom Lansford & Thomas E. Woods: Marshall Cavendish, 2008), p. 241.
  3. ^ Christopher J. Olsen, The American Civil War: A Hands-on History (Hill & Wang, 2006), p. 213: "[Davis] did not get much help from an ineffective Confederate Congress and a mediocre Cabinet. (Lincoln, on the other hand, enjoyed ... a Cabinet distinguished by some truly brilliant members.)."
  4. ^ a b c d Allen C. Guelzo, Fateful Lightning: A New History of the Civil War and Reconstruction (Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 361.
  5. ^ Dennis L. Peterson, Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (MacFarland, 2016), pp. 141-42.
  6. ^ Bell Irvin Wiley, Embattled Confederates: An Illustrated History of Southerners at War (Harper & Row, 1964), p. 19.
  7. ^ Peterson, pp. 12, 18, 24, 91, 127, 150.
  8. ^ Peterson, p. 18.
  9. ^ Geoffrey C. Ward & Kenneth Burns, The Civil War: The Complete Text of the Bestselling Narrative History of the Civil War--Based on the Celebrated PBS Television Series (Vintage Books, 1990),p. 162.
  10. ^ Peterson, p. 24.
  11. ^ Peterson, p. 13.
  12. ^ Clint Johnson, Touring the Carolinas' Civil War Sites, 2nd ed. (John F. Blair, Publisher: 2011), p. 109.
  13. ^ Michael C. Hardy, Civil War Charlotte: The Last Capital of the Confederacy (Arcadia/History Press, 2012).

External links

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