The scene was the 40-year-old town of Montgomery, capital of Alabama; the time was February, 1861. The town did not appear a likely setting for the consummation of great events, yet it was here, in it's raw, new, Greek-pillared capitol building, that the Confederacy was born. Perhaps the only reason Montgomery was chosen for this event was that it was central as a meeting place for the thirty-eight delegates from the six states--South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama--which had then seceded from the Union. Texas would join them later, after most of the business of organization was concluded.
Following a preliminary meeting on February 4, the delegates next day took up the crucial work of forming a new government. By the 8th they had adopted a provisional constitution, basing it on the old Constitution with a few notable exceptions. On the 9th they named a provisional President, and within a week presented to the world a functioning government. Two factors must account for such speed: The intellectual quality of the delegates and the fact that most of their sessions were held in secrecy, which dampened the tendency toward delaying display oratory.
Jefferson Davis was the man they chose as President. Ex-soldier in the Mexican War, Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, Davis accepted the call reluctantly. He sensed what lay ahead for the infant nation. He preferred a military post, where he felt his talents lay. Yet it is doubtful if any other Southerner could have held the Confederacy together as he did for four years of war's attrition. Perhaps the finest tribute paid him, in words which seem to crystallize the tragic linking of the Lost Cause and Jefferson Davis, came from William Lowndes Yancey as he introduced the new President to a crowd in Montgomery: "The man and the hour have met."
On February 18, 1861, in the portico of the Confederacy's temporary capitol in Montgomery, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated provisional President of the Confederate States of America.