It began with the secession of South Carolina on December 20, 1860 the Union, one and inseparable, was a Union no longer. The igniting spark was the question of slavery but the North and South - one industrial, the other agrarian - had been drawing apart in many ways since Colonial times.
Other states in the South, following South Carolina's lead, seceded early in 1861. Jefferson Davis became President on February 9. At that time the Confederacy consisted of seven states. Following the fall of fort Sumter on April 14, six more states seceded by the end of the year. On April 15, 1861 President Lincoln declared that insurrection existed and called for volunteer troops. The South soon recognized that it could not peacefully part ways with the North. On May 6 the Confederate Congress made known that a state of war existed between the U.S. and Confederate States. It was to last four bloody years.
The leaders of the South well knew the dangers of inflation and did not originally intend unlimited issues of paper money. Further, it was to be backed by cotton. The South in 1860 produced over four million bales of cotton of which three-fourths was exported, over half of which went to England. Planters were asked to contribute a portion of their crop to the government for which bonds were given in return. Or, as vice President Stephens described it, a loan of the cotton with the bonds being a profitable investment selling above par if the Confederacy won the war, if not they will be worth just as much as anything else you have, and nothing else you have will be worth anything. An accurate prediction.
Since the South produced most of the world's supply of cotton at that time there was no question of demand. Keeping the proceeds from the portion of the cotton loaned to it by the planters was expected to provide ample money for the government to the tune of about one hundred million dollars a year.
Unfortunately, a flaw developed in their calculations. England had put in a good supply of cotton and the United States blockaded the Confederacy.
The Seventh Issue was the last but an Eighth Issue for $80,000,000 to pay the Arm was authorized by Congress at its last meeting on March 18, 1865. It was vetoed by President Davis who felt the 1864 issue was to replace older notes and reduce circulation and to authorize another issue would be accepted as a proof that there is no limit to the issue of Treasury notes.
Even without this issue, upwards of two billion dollars in Confederate currency of all issues was produced. The destruction of Columbia, S.C., Confederate printing headquarters, in February 1865, did not entirely stop the deluge. Some equipment was saved and transferred to Anderson, S.C. and Richmond. But by that time it was hardly worth the cost of printing.
Although there were attempts to make them so, Confederate Blue Backs were never legal tender. Worth 95 cents on the dollar in gold when first issued, Confederate currency dropped to 33 cents by 1863, and 1.6 cents by Appomatox (April 9, 1865). May 1, 1865 was the last active trading in Confederate notes at 1,200 for 1. It is of the highest order of patriotism when we observe that except for speculators, most Southerners continued to accept this money to the last. By way of comparison, the lowest point o the legal tender Greenbacks of the North was 39 cents on the dollar in gold, July 11, 1864.
In the end the South was not beaten by General Grant or Sherman - it was beaten by General Hard Times. Its primitive home industries could only partly replace the many necessities cut off by the blockade, and these with inferior goods. It was like a modern mechanized army having to run on kerosene instead of gasoline. The engine collapses on low grade fuel.
We can only guess at the outcome had the Civil War been decided on the military field alone with a fully equipped army. That the Confederate army existed as long as it did (pay for privates was frozen at about $8 a month when cavalry boots alone were costing $500 in inflated currency by 1864) on slim rations and insufficient equipment can only attest to the devotion of these men to the Southern Cause. And, men that believe in such causes often perform so far beyond the call of duty as to be beyond human comprehensive.
Be that as it may, Yankee or Confederate, I'm sure we all are glad to be Americans!
Confederate paper money is collected in the South, North, East, and West - it knows no Mason-Dixon line but is esteemed as one of the most interesting series of American currency.
In supplying the large quantity of paper money required by the Confederacy, not only different papers but many different plates were required to print the notes. The result was many different varieties and plate letters. The best inexpensive book that contains pictures and information on Confederate Money is Confederate States Paper Money by Arlie R. Slabaugh. The book was first printed in 1960 and again in 1990. From my understanding it is now out of print, however we still have several copies and they can be ordered through our Book Site.
The purest may collect only the 7 Series Confederate Notes authorized by the Confederate Congress. These 7 Series all have Confederate States of America printed on the face of the note. However, the various states of the Confederacy also printed their own notes, such as Virginia and Georgia to assist in financing their own state's war costs. In our site to assist the broader collector of Southern Civil War Financial Instruments we have included the Southern States Notes.
For the historian and collector I believe that the individual States issued notes from 1860 to 1864 rightfully belong in any complete collection of the Civil War time period. Consequently you will find the state issued notes along with official Confederate States notes. These will be listed by denomination and state.
Tip: Another area to find Civil War Time Period (1860 to 1865) notes is to check out the Obsolete Banknote section. Many avid Civil War collectors also pursue coins, Obsoletes, Stocks, Bonds and other time period items, such as store cards, encased postage stamps, tokens and the many different cents.
For those interest in further study of America's financial instruments go to the BNR Book Site. They print the best group of numismatic historical books available.
Click here to see Confederate .50 Cent Notes - $1.00 Notes - $2.00 Notes - $5.00 Notes - $10.00 Notes - $20.00 Notes - $50.00 Notes - $100.00 Notes.
Click here for Confederate Currency Collection Set - Confederate Currency Reprints 1st Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 2nd Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 3rd Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 4th Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 5th Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 6th Issue - Confederate Currency Reprints 7th Issue - 1861 to 1865 U.S. Civil War A Nation Divided Commem Note.
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