Civil War Journal is produced by
the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation and Historic Beverly Preservation
in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Entries were
added each week until August of 2011, after which time entries have been
added as historical events warrant. The most recent entries are featured at
the top and the oldest entry is at bottom of the column.
MEDIA ADVISORY for details, and see this
INDEX OF ENTRIES for a
linked chronological list of individual articles published in 2010. See
further articles published at the other year links.
|Entries for 2010 (below)||2011||2012|
New Year's Day of 1861 saw the largest
gathering ever to take place in the city of Parkersburg or Wood County. The
county courthouse was filled with western Virginians who opposed secession.
The group appointed a committee with Gen. John Jackson, Sr. acting as chairman. The committee submitted what would come to be called 'The Parkersburg Resolutions.'
The resolutions declared that secession had no constitutional basis and was therefore 'revolution,' stating, ''our national prosperity, our hopes of happiness and future security, depend upon preserving the Union as it is, and we see nothing in the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency of the United States'as much as we may have desired the election of another'as affording any just or reasonable cause for the abandonment of what we regard as the best Government ever yet devised.' The resolutions also called for a Virginia legislative convention to consider the state's stand upon the revolutionary movement of South Carolina as 'but a Southern ruse.'
In addition to Gen. Jackson, prominent anti-secessionists who spoke to the assembly included his son John J. Jackson, Jr. as well as the future first governor of West Virginia, Arthur I. Boreman, and former member of the General Assembly, James M. Stephenson.
Gen. Jackson was the grandson of George Jackson, a revolutionary army colonel and delegate to Virginia's convention to ratify the constitution. After serving on the staff of Gen. Andrew Jackson, he represented Wood County as a prosecuting attorney and as a member of the state legislature. Less than a year later his son would be nominated as a federal judge by President Abraham Lincoln.
On the national level, just days before the meeting in Parkersburg, President James Buchanan lost yet another cabinet member. Secretary of War John B. Floyd, of Virginia, resigned on December 29. Floyd opposed the president's decision against reversing action by Major Robert Anderson in South Carolina. Major Anderson had transferred his garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter on December 26. South Carolina considered this a violation of the president's agreement not to make military changes in the state. On December 30 the Federal Arsenal in Charleston was commandeered by South Carolinians, leaving Fort Sumter as the last piece of property under federal control in state.
It is no surprise that South Carolina, the
'eye of the storm' since Abraham Lincoln's November 6th election, was the
first state to secede from the Union.
Representatives in South Carolina unanimously adopted an ordinance of secession at 1:30 p.m. on December 20 during the state's Secession Convention. The ordinance stated that 'the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby dissolved.'
The vote came amid a display of marching bands, fireworks, militia, and crowds waving South Carolina's palmetto flag. Four days later the state issued its 'Declaration of Causes of Secession.' This document outlined the state's reasons for secession, citing the abuse of federal power at the expense of states' rights, and abolition. Both were considered subversions of the Constitution. It boldly proclaimed, 'South Carolina has resumed her position among the nations of the world, as a separate and independent state.'
Issues of state's rights and slavery not only divided the country prior to the Civil War. Southern states were also divided in their response to these issues. Immediate secessionists such as South Carolina argued that each state should secede without waiting for the South as a whole. Cooperationists wanted to wait for a collective southern response. Unconditional unionists were found primarily in states bordering the North, a region that included western Virginia.
Not all western Virginians were unionists, however. When news of South Carolina's secession reached Philippi, local secessionists raised the state's palmetto flag to show their support.
Tensions mounted in South Carolina on December 26 when U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson moved his garrison from Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island to Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. Believing Fort Moultrie would soon be attacked, Anderson felt that relocating to the more defensible Fort Sumter would prevent heavy losses. However, South Carolinians considered the transfer a violation of their previous agreement with President Buchanan. State representatives had agreed that South Carolina would not attack federal property as long as the military situation in the state did not change.
The rallying cry for secession and creation of a new federation of states came in a document published on December 13, 1860.
Presented by 23 members of the House of Representatives and seven senators from the South, the 'Southern Manifesto' was first addressed to the Committee of Thirty-three before it was publicly released to newspapers.
The Committee of Thirty-Three was a congressional commission appointed by President James Buchanan. Consisting of one representative from each state, the committee was charged with solving the issue of secession.
The short manifesto stated, 'We are satisfied the honor, safety, and independence of the Southern people are to be found only in a Southern Confederacy'a result to be obtained only by separate State secession'and that the sole and primary aim of each slaveholding State ought to be its speedy and absolute separation from an unnatural and hostile Union.'
A 'Union Meeting' was held the following day in Wheeling. Virginia Congressman Sherrard Clemens of Wheeling was among the many in attendance. A resolution was passed stating that the election of Abraham Lincoln was not grounds for secession. The resolution also stated that 'it is the sacred duty of all men in public offices and all citizens in private life to support and defend the Constitution.' The group feared that western Virginia would be caught in a tug of war between competing powers if the state seceded from the Union.
On December 17th, South Carolina's Secession Convention commenced in Columbia, but was quickly adjourned to Charleston under threat of a smallpox epidemic.
President James Buchanan's attempts to placate both northern and southern interests backfired in early December of 1860.
On December 8th, the president's cabinet began to disintegrate with the resignation of Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb. Cobb, of Georgia, had once been considered a Union loyalist but had come to believe the republican abolitionist movement was out of control. He would join the Confederate government only a few months later.
That same day, a group of congressmen from South Carolina visited President Buchanan and urged him to turn over federal property in the state. The delegation returned December 10th and reached an agreement with the president. On the condition that there was no change in the current military situation, they agreed that South Carolina would not attack federal forts before secession was debated or an agreement was reached between the state and the federal government.
Secretary of State Lewis Cass, former governor and senator from Michigan, resigned on December 12th in protest of the president's choice not to reinforce Charleston, South Carolina's federal defenses, including Fort Sumter.
Meanwhile, in a confidential letter dated December 10th to Senator Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, President-elect Abraham Lincoln reaffirmed his stand as an abolitionist. Lincoln wrote,
'Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground'that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run'is popular sovereignty. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has come & better now than any time hereafter''
President James Buchanan tried to straddle the fence on issues dividing the country after Abraham Lincoln's election, believing the problems facing the nation were Lincoln's to solve.
On December 3, 1860 the outgoing president delivered his State of the Union address to a lame duck Congress. Buchanan attempted to please both the North and South, but fell short on both accounts.
The president blamed the looming issue of secession on the 'intemperate interference of the northern people with the question of slavery.' He said each state had sovereignty and the right to determine the legality of slavery. Buchanan argued for a constitutional amendment protecting slavery in the slave states and territories, and annulling personal liberty laws in northern states. These laws were enacted in response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 which mandated capture and return of runaway slaves to their owners. The president also recommended the acquisition of Cuba for the creation of a new slave state.
An attorney, Buchanan was strongly opposed to secession and believed it was illegal. He reprimanded the South for threats of secession and declared the Union was not 'a mere voluntary association of States'to be annulled at the pleasure of any one of the contracting parties.' However, the president also commented that the federal government could not 'coerce' a state to prevent it from seceding. He declared that while he would not take military action against any state for seceding, he would act to defend federal forts against attack.
As a compromiser, Buchanan hoped to keep his administration intact until the end of his term. However, he was portrayed in the North as a southern sympathizer and both the North and the South were subsequently dissatisfied with the speech.
The following day the House of Representatives attempted to address the issues by forming the Committee of Thirty-three to study the secession crisis and provide recommendations. The committee, composed of one member per state, was charged with reaching a compromise to preserve the Union.
Tensions were on the rise in the south following Abraham Lincoln's election. By mid-November a chain of events which would ultimately lead to war had begun to unfold.
Following the November 13 resignation of South Carolina's senators, President James Buchanan continued to hold out hope for a compromise between the north and south. He was committed to taking no military action regarding federal properties in the Charleston Harbor.
On November 15, U.S. Army Maj. Robert Anderson was dispatched to Charleston. As
a Kentuckian and union loyalist, Anderson was expected to safeguard federal
interests in an increasingly rebellious South Carolina. He would later be
responsible for moving the federal garrison from the dilapidated Fort
Moultrie on Sullivan's Island to the then-unoccupied and incomplete Fort
Sumter in the Charleston Harbor.
Towering nearly 60 ft. above the water,
Fort Sumter's five-foot-thick masonry walls and triple tiers of guns on four
of its five sides was an impressive structure. Though empty, its position
and capacity (135 guns and 650 men) were significant. The fort was 90 percent
complete in late 1860.
A little more than a week after being positioned,
Anderson issued a report identifying the fort as crucial to the harbor's
defense. He also argued in the same report, that for all attempts and
purposes, South Carolina had already seceded from the Union.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Georgia the legislature on November 18 approved $1 million in spending for weapons purchases.
Abraham Lincoln's November 6 election brought immediate reaction, both moderate and extreme, in the southern states. While almost no western Virginians voted for Lincoln or agreed with his policies, the vast majority did not find his election to be a reasonable basis for dissolving the Union.
A public meeting was held in Kingwood, Preston County, on November 12. It was the first of many meetings throughout western Virginia discussing what seemed to be the imminent secession of the state. These meetings were characterized by a near unanimous condemnation of secession and of a Southern Confederacy.
On the national level, newly lame duck President James Buchanan held a cabinet meeting on November 9 in which he proposed a convention of the states to work out a compromise on the escalating problem of secession. The following day, both senators of South Carolina, James Chesnut, Jr., and James H. Hammond, resigned from Congress. On November 13, South Carolina's legislature authorized the enlisting of 10,000 men for the state's defense.
Former Georgia Congressmen (1843-59), and future Vice-President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, spoke to the Alabama Legislature in Montgomery November 14. As a southern moderate he made an address arguing against secession. Stephens said, 'Let'the'fanatics'of the north break the constitution, if such is their fell purpose.'
On Election Day preceding the Civil War, America was divided as never before. Four major candidates competed for the presidency. The result would determine the destiny of a nation torn apart on issues of slavery and states' rights.
On November 6, 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States of America. Southerners were stunned to learn that Lincoln, an abolitionist, would be president. Their response was secession, and ultimately, war
Lincoln won the divisive race after
having received only 39.8% of the popular vote. He competed against John C.
Breckenridge and Stephen A. Douglas, both from the newly splintered
Democratic Party, and John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party.
Lincoln, of Illinois and representing the Republican Party, achieved 180 electoral votes and carried the north. Breckenridge, of Kentucky, gained 72 electoral votes and carried the south. Bell, of Tennessee, won 39 electoral votes from Border States. Douglas, also from Illinois, received only 12 electoral votes'all of Missouri's and 3 of New Jersey's'despite having the second largest popular vote.
No one in present day Randolph and neighboring counties cast a single vote for Lincoln. His only supporters in what would become the 35th state resided in the northern panhandle.
Lincoln's victory was immediately telegraphed to the South Carolina legislature in Columbia, which promptly scheduled a secession convention to take place December 17.
|Entry Title||Date Published|
Nov. 8, 2010
Nov. 15, 2010
Nov. 22, 2010
Nov. 29, 2010
Dec. 6, 2010
Dec. 13, 2010
Dec. 20, 2010
Dec. 27, 2010