Exhibit Preview - Breaking Apart

In 1859 the prospect that the United States would break apart and plunge into civil war seemed remote. Few Americans could have imagined a war that would last four years, destroy much of the South, kill 620,000 soldiers and sailors, and free 4 million slaves. Yet just two years later, it happened.

  • What led to the secession of the South?

  • Were there efforts to avoid war?

  • How did the South try to forge a national identity?

You can uncover answers to these and other questions about the beginnings of the Civil War in the documents around you.

Costitution of the Confederate States of America

"We, the People of the Confederate States..."

Adopted on March 11, 1861, the Constitution of the Confederate States closely resembled the Constitution of the United States. It differed chiefly in its emphasis on each state's "sovereign and independent character," its reference to "Almighty God," and its six-year term for President. Citizens could take slaves into the Confederacy's territories as well as from state to state. Like the United States, however, the Confederacy banned the importation of slaves from other nations.

National Archives, War Department Collection of Confederate Records

Read the transcript

confederate constitution