Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Secession: Dec. 1860 through April 1861

Dec. 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes from the Union

Dec. 24, 1860: The Federal garrison in Charleston Harbor, SC, commanded by Maj. Robert Anderson, is quietly moved from Ft. Moultrie to Ft. Sumter in the middle of the harbor, a more easily defended fort. SC officials protest to Washington over this "belligerent" move. Later, Gov. Pickens of SC demands that Federal facilities be turned over to the state, but Pres. Buchanan refuses. Buchanan also refuses to send aid, provisions, or reinforcements to Ft. Sumter in order to avoid any semblance of provoking South Carolina.

Jan. 9, 1861: Mississippi secedes from the Union.

Jan. 10, 1861: Florida secedes.

Jan. 11, 1861: Alabama secedes.

Jan. 19, 1861:  Georgia secedes.

Jan. 21, 1861: Sen. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, having called in vain for compromise, gives his last speech in the Senate expressing hope that the U.S. will not use force to repress the seceding states, resigns his office to return home. Senators from Alabama and Florida also resign.

Jan. 26, 1861: Louisiana secedes.

Jan. 29, 1861:  Kansas, after years of internecine violence, ratifies a state constitution that prohibits slavery. Kansas is accepted on this date as the 34th State of the Union.

Jan. 31, 1861: All Federal installations, including the valuable U.S. Arsenal, are captured in New Orleans by Louisiana State troops.

Feb. 1, 1861: Texas secedes.

Feb. 4, 1861: The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America convenes in Montgomery, Alabama to unite the seceded states. On the same date, a Peace Convention meets in Washington, DC, led by former President of the U.S. John Tyler of Virginia, to find a last-ditch compromise to the crisis.

Feb. 8, 1861: The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America adopts a Constitution as the official instrument of combining the seceding states, and the CSA is a reality. Montgomery is the national capital.

Feb. 9, 1861: The Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America elects Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as Provisional President of the Confederate States, with Alexander Stephens of Georgia as Vice President. Davis is reportedly disappointed, as he wished to command troops in the field (he was a graduate of West Point, had commanded a regiment in the Mexican War, and had served as Sec. of War). But, he dutifully accepts the post as President.

Feb. 11, 1861: Jefferson Davis leaves Mississippi to travel to Montgomery for his inauguration. Abraham Lincoln leaves Springfield, Illinois to begin a long trip and speaking tour on the way to Washington. In Montgomery, the C.S. Consitution is signed, making it official.

Feb. 18, 1861: Jefferson Davis is inaugurated in Montgomery as President of the Confederate States.

Feb. 23, 1861: Due to some threats against his life, Abraham Lincoln is safely escorted by night into Washington, DC.

Feb. 28, 1861: Missouri convenes a State Convention to debate and decide on whether to secede, which leads to many weeks of inconclusive wrangling in the state chambers. North Carolina votes in a referendum on secession, and the Union vote defeats this measure, 46,603 votes to 46,409--a slim margin.

March 4, 1961: Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated President of the United States before a large crowd of 30,000 people. "In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of Civil War."

March 6, 1861: The Confederacy calls for 100,000 volunteer soldiers from the states.

March 11, 1861: The Confederate Constitution is adopted officially in its permanent form. Oddly, there is very little difference between this one and the U.S. Constitution--in fact, there isn't even any mention of the legality of secession.

On this date, Gen. Winfield Scott informs Pres. Lincoln that to relieve the U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter would require an assault force of nearly 20,000 men, and therefore considers the project unfeasible. Fort Pickens near Pensacola, Florida and several other forts in the South are in similar peril. Most U.S. arsenals and other Army posts have already been captured by state troops in the seceded states.

March 13, 1861: Lincoln refuses to meet with the three commissioners sent by the Confederate government to negotiate a treaty.

March 16, 1861: Southern sympathizers in the desert Southwest gather in Tucson and organize the Territory of Arizona--and then vote for the Territory of Arizona to secede and join the Confederacy.

March 18, 1861: The Arkansas State Convention holds on vote on secession. The motion is defeated, 39 to 35 votes. Arkansas does not secede--yet.

March 21, 1861: Missouri State Convention votes 98-1 against secession--yet declares itself neutral on the impending crisis.

March 29, 1861: Pres. Lincoln announces a plan to re-supply and relieve Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

April 1, 1861: Lincoln orders the USS Powhatan to Pensacola with some troops for the relief of Ft. Pickens.

April 4, 1861: Virginia votes not to hold a referendum on secession, 89-45

April 6, 1861: A naval expedition for the relief of Ft. Sumter is readied to sail for Charleston. Pres. Lincoln sends a letter to Gov. Francis Pickens of South Carolina, informing him of the relief force, and promising that it is only a peaceful re-supply mission.


  1. Another interesting fact is that when Alabama seceded, a small county within the state called Winston county, disagreed with this decision and tried to secede from the state.

  2. Apparently, this was fairly widespread in different manifestations: the secession impulse was not universal among white Southerners, your example shows, and the mountain counties of Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Virginia were heavily pro-Union. Arkansas, according to one source, did not have a pro-secession majority in their state house until some members carried guns to the capital and forced Unionists not to attend--then they voted to secede.