Following the Election of 1860, some prominent Southern leaders, Jefferson Davis among them, wanted to give the Lincoln administration a chance to sooth the sectional strife. However, South Carolina sized the initiative, having clearly warned that if the Republicans won the 1860 election then the state would leave the Union.A special convention, attended by Robert Rhett and other noted “fire-eaters,” was convened following the election and unanimously passed a resolution of secession on December 20, 1860.The second to secede was Mississippi. Texas followed suit on February 1.After the secession decisions of the first seven states had been made, the movement halted. Some observers felt this was an encouraging sign and hoped that war could be averted.President James Buchanan did little. Buchanan believed, and would so maintain to the end of his life, that the problem was caused by the actions of the Northern abolitionists. No plan was forthcoming from the president, who eagerly awaited the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.Meanwhile the Southern states were taking steps to bolster their military preparedness. Arsenals and forts were seized by state officials.Two fortified positions did not fall immediately into Southern hands—Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor and Fort Pickens near Pensacola. The President attempted to reinforce the position, but the ship carrying supplies and soldiers was dissuaded by Southern guns.
President James Buchanan and the Secession Crisis
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 triggered a crisis that had been simmering for at least a decade. Outraged by the election of a candidate who was known to be opposed to the spread of enslavement into new states and territories, leaders of the southern states began to take action to split from the United States.
In Washington, President James Buchanan, who had been miserable during his term in the White House and couldn’t wait to leave office, was thrown into a horrendous situation.
In the 1800s, newly elected presidents were not sworn into office until March 4 of the following year. And that meant Buchanan had to spend four months presiding over a nation which was coming apart.
The state of South Carolina, which had been asserting its right to secede from the Union for decades, back to the time of the Nullification Crisis, was a hotbed of secessionist sentiment. One of its senators, James Chesnut, resigned from the U.S. Senate on November 10, 1860, only four days after Lincoln’s election. His state's other senator resigned the next day.
The Dead Hand Of History & 2021’s Possible Secession Crisis
by Shelt Garner
The thing we saw after election night 2020 is, once history begins to have a certain momentum, someone, somewhere is going to pop up to take advantage of it. As such, the talk of recounts popping up here and there across the country is very, very dangerous because all we need is one (1) fraudulent “victory” on the part of Trump and the dead hand of history may take to some pretty dark places — like a secession crisis.
It’s very easy to imagine that initially we have some sort of “nullification” crisis in which Trump runs around the country having rallies where he demands the results of the 2020 election be nullified because he “won.” Because that’s a very dumb, batshit idea that is impossible to do, MAGA state legislatures will YOLO it and start to have secession conventions.
And, yet, it could be this is all a bunch of nothing. Trump talks a good game, but he’s way too lazy to actually do the hard work necessary to start a civil war in 2021. Really, that’s kind of the rub — it wouldn’t be Trump who did it. It would be us. We would do it to ourselves.
The issue is, does this crisis happen this year because of fucking Cyber Ninjas (and others) or does it happen in 2024-2025 because a MAGA controlled Congress tells us all to fuck off and nullifies any Electoral College result it doesn’t approve of. That, no matter what, would be the real moment of truth. Either it becomes conventional wisdom that the only way a Democrat can become president is if Democrats control Congress, or we have a civil war and answer the question of what America is supposed to be, that way.
I honestly don’t what which will happen right now. It’s one of those things where a lot of metrics are flashing red…and it could be that we manage to drift through this particular crisis and nothing really bad happens. Or, if Republicans do again take power — which the ebb and flow of history says they inevitable will — that instead of freaking out and turning us into Trumplandia, we come to some sort of an agreement whereby hard power for generations will be in Republican minority white hands, while soft power will remain in liberal hands via the infotainment industrial complex.
That, I’m afraid, is a very, very sanguine take on our prospects.
More likely we’re pretty much just going to face autocracy or civil war. That’s it — no middle ground any more. But, we’ll see. I’m often wrong.
The 1850s: The Road to Secession
The 1850s: The Road to Secession
During the 1850s, sectional issues such as slavery became very divisive. The issue of slaver polarized people, and Southern slaveowners felt that their rights and interests were no longer being fairly represented. Northerners began to increasingly support free soil and even abolition, so tensions between the two-sided mounted until Southerners became convinced that nothing short of secession could protect them Northern persecution.
Nashville Convention: Delegates of the northern and southern states assembled in the summer of 1850 to decide on the issue of the Compromise of 1850. Fire-eaters discussed southern rights, while suspicion of their secession rose amongst the northerners. The meeting itself led to the ultimate decision on the compromise.
fire-eaters: The fire-eaters were extreme advocates of southern rights. They walked out on the Nashville convention in 1850, raided a mass of Irish canal workers, and whipped and lynched slaves in the 1860s. They were labeled "fire-eaters" due to their recklessness and by making their presence strongly felt by all those around.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Harriet Stowe, a Northern abolitionist outraged by the Fugitive Slave Law, wrote this novel to illustrate the evils of slavery. Though the South denounced the novel, 500,000 copies were sold in the U.S. and others were translated into 20 languages. The novel stimulated Northern action against slavery, contributing to the Civil War.
Harriet Beecher Stowe: Stowe was an abolitionist writer who wrote powerful novels attacking slavery both before and after the Civil War in such novels as Dred, A Tale of Great Dismal Swamp (1856) and The Minister’s Wooing (1859). The novels are rambled in structure, yet rich in pathos and dramatic incident. She also wrote short stories and poetry.
election of 1852: The election of 1852 was the end of the Whig Party. Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act split the Whig Party, and the nomination of General Winfield Scott exacerbated the sectional split. The loss of votes from the South was the result of Scott’s campaign. Franklin Pierce of the Democratic party won the election with 27 of 31 states.
birth of the Republican Party: The party was formed in 1854 by northern Democrats who left the party because of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Former Whigs and Know-Nothings were party members, also. All opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and believed that slavery should be banned from all territories of the nation, except those states where slavery already existed.
election of 1856: Republican Party, Know-Nothing Party: This election was between John C. Fremont of the Republican Party, Millard Fillmore of the Know-Nothing Party, and James Buchanan of Democratic Party. Fillmore’s inexperience weakened his party, increasing the popularity of the Republicans. Buchanan won the election.
John Brown’s raid: The raid took place at Harper’s Ferry in 1859, and was conducted by an abolitionist to raid the federal arsenal and start a slave uprising. It failed and Brown was convicted of treason and hanged because he had ties with the northern abolitionists. At his death, southern fear of future slave uprisings increased, leading to the cruel treatment slaves.
Sumner-Brooks affair: Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts, made a speech titled, "The Crime Against Kansas," denouncing slavery, and, at the same time, ridiculing the South Carolina senator, Charles Butler, in 1856. Preston Brooks, Butler’s nephew came into the Senate chamber and hit him on the head, making Brooks a hero in the South.
Dred Scott Decision: Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that Scott was not a citizen because he was a slave in 1856, therefore, he did not have the right to sue in federal court. It was determined that temporary residence in an area did not make one free, and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it violated the fifth amendment, which did not allow Congress or territorial governments to exclude slavery from any area. Republicans became more suspicious of Slave Power in Congress.
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney: Taney was a Southerner appointed by Jackson as the 5th justice of the Supreme Court. He is well-known for handing down the Dred Scott decision. Under his leadership, the federal government had increased power over foreign relations. Taney ruled in 1861 that Lincoln exceeded his authority in suspending habeas corpus.
John Brown: John Brown was an American abolitionist who attempted to end slavery through the use of violence. This increased the tension between the North and South. He was the leader of John Brown’s raid and the Pottawatomie massacre. His life ended when he was hanged for murder and treason. He is regarded a martyr to the cause of human freedom.
Compact Theory of Government: This theory involves the idea that the United States of America was founded by the union of thirteen individual states creating a federation of states. This plays a major role in justifying the secession of the Southern states by stating that a state had the right to withdraw from the political entity it created.
Election of 1860: candidates, parties, issues: A united republican party attempted to appeal more to the North in order to win the campaign and developed an economic program to amend the damages of the 1857 depression. They nominated Abraham Lincoln, who held a moderate view on slavery. The democrats nominated two candidates, Douglas and Breckenridge, each with opposing viewpoints on the slavery issue. The constitutional party, created by Whigs, nominated John Bell, who had the desire to preserve the Union.
Democratic Party conventions: The first assembly of delegates in Charleston in 1860 resulted in the split of the Democratic party as the Southern "fire-eaters" left the convention. They were unable to agree on a platform based on the protection of slavery. An unsuccessful second attempt to reach a consensus in Baltimore led them to nominate two candidates.
John Bell: Opposed to both Lincoln and Douglas, Whigs nominated Bell in 1860, an opposer of the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Lecompton constitution. Bell created the new Constitutional Union party, which had a platform based on the preservation of the Union, and not on the controversial slavery issue.
John Breckenridge: A division in the Democratic Party led to the nomination of two candidates for the 1860 election. Breckenridge, Buchanan’s vice president, was nominated by secessionists on a platform based on protection of slavery in territories. His nomination completed the split of the Democratic party.
Republican Party of 1860: In order to lure votes from Northern states to their party, an economic system based on protective tariffs, federal aid for internal improvements and the distributing of 160-acre homesteads to settlers in order, was organized in favor of the Northerners. Lincoln’s nonchalant views towards slavery led them to victory.
Buchanan and the secession crisis: Buchanan declared secession of states illegal, yet he had no power to prevent it. He refused Southern demands to remove troops from Fort Sumter. Because his efforts to supply the fort failed and due to failure of a constitutional plan, he left the office disappointed and discredited.
Crittenden Compromise proposal: The compromise was proposed by John Crittenden in an attempt to preserve the Union. The amendments were to bar the federal government from intervening in southern states’ decision of slavery, to restore the Missouri Compromise, and to guarantee protection of slavery below this line. It also repealed personal liberty laws.
New York City’s Secession Crisis
On December 20, 1860, in the wake of the election of Abraham Lincoln, the words that would ignite a war rang out at a state convention in South Carolina: “the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States…is hereby dissolved.” Soon six other Southern states would also leave the Union. And if a colorful but corrupt mayor had had his way, they would have had some unlikely company.
New York City, the North’s largest and wealthiest metropolis, seriously considered exiting the Union only two weeks after South Carolina had done so. Several of the city’s most influential political and business leaders proposed to separate it from the United States in the months prior to the Civil War, and worked tirelessly—though unsuccessfully—to achieve a negotiated accommodation with secessionists from the Southern states.
On January 6, 1861, New York City’s Democratic Mayor Fernando Wood addressed the Common Council in his annual State of the City speech. Wood described how the city’s “great trading and producing interests” were presently “prostrated by a monetary crisis.” Southern secession threatened commercial relationships upon which New York City’s wealth had historically depended. Wood’s solution to the crisis was simple. “[W]hy should not New York City… become also equally independent? As a free city…she would have the whole and united support of the Southern States….” Wood intended to call the independent city-state, comprising Manhattan, Staten Island and Long Island, “Tri-Insula,” meaning “three islands” in Latin. Once separated, it would be free to continue its extraordinarily lucrative cotton trade with the seceded South.
Business relationships between New York City and the South had grown strong in the four decades prior to the Civil War. Mayor Wood, during his campaign for a third term as mayor in 1859, put it simply: “The South is our best customer. She pays the best prices, and pays promptly.” Cotton had become the nation’s top export, accounting for more than half of all American exports, and New York City was America’s undisputed center of the trade. New York City merchants directly benefited from slave labor, and in the antebellum years worked constantly to keep the growing slavery crisis from boiling over into a civil war that would devastate their bottom lines.
Historian Philip S. Foner, in his book Business and Slavery: New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict, explains that “New York dominated every single phase of the cotton trade from plantation to market.” Southern planters financed their operations through New York City banks, negotiated contracts with New York City business agents, transported their crops on New York City ships, insured them through New York City brokers and purchased equipment and household goods from New York City merchants. According to Foner, the South pumped approximately $200 million annually into Gotham’s economy. James De Bow, an economist, statistician and editor of the widely circulated Southern magazine De Bow’s Review, estimated at the time that New York City businessmen received 40 cents for every dollar spent on Southern cotton.
Southern planters regularly traveled to New York to purchase luxury items, married into New York’s leading merchant families, vacationed at Saratoga and socialized with their Northern business partners. One of New York’s top financiers of the cotton trade, August Belmont, was related by marriage to Louisiana Congressman James Slidell, later a Confederate diplomat. Through Slidell, Belmont was connected to the South’s leading politicians and planters. During the secession crisis of 1860-61, Belmont would become a vocal leader in New York City’s continuous efforts to negotiate a solution.
Mayor Wood, himself a former merchant, clearly understood that New York City’s prosperity depended on the enslavement of 4 million African Americans, admitting in 1859 that “the profits… depend upon the products only to be obtained by continuance of slave labor….” The connections between New York City’s merchants and Southern cotton growers were everywhere. Three Lehman brothers were cotton brokers in Alabama before moving north to help establish the New York Cotton Exchange. Today, Lehman Brothers is a major Wall Street investment firm. Shipping magnate John Jacob Astor’s ships hauled Southern cotton. J.P. Morgan studied the cotton trade as a young man.
These strong economic ties had obvious political ramifications. New York merchants were overwhelmingly Democratic, in sympathy with the South and the institution of slavery. When the American Anti-Slavery Society held its annual convention in New York City in 1859, for example, the Democratic New York Herald described the visiting abolitionists as “a little set of crazy demagogues and fanatics.”
One New York City merchant bluntly explained the merchant community’s attitude toward slavery to Syracuse abolitionist Samuel May: “Mr. May, we are not such fools as not to know that slavery is a great evil, a great wrong. But a great portion of the prosperity of the Southerners is invested under its sanction and the business of the North, as well as the South, has become adjusted to it. There are millions upon millions of dollars due from Southerners to the merchants and mechanics alone, the payment of which would be jeopardized by any rupture between the North and the South. We cannot afford, sir, to let you and your associates endeavor to overthrow slavery. It is not a matter of principles with us. It is a matter of business….” Abolitionists, in short, were rocking a boat that was making New York City’s merchants rich.
During the 1860 presidential campaign, Mayor Wood and New York’s merchant community fanned fears of “Black Republican” control in Washington. The New York Daily News, edited by the mayor’s brother, Benjamin Wood, shamelessly appealed to working class racism by warning workers that “if Lincoln is elected you will have to compete with the labor of four million emancipated negroes.” Many businessmen also warned their employees that if Lincoln won in November, the South would soon bolt the Union, taking away its lucrative business and leaving New York City workers without jobs. The anti-Lincoln vote in New York City was 62 percent. But Republican strength upstate outweighed Democratic gains in the metropolis. Lincoln won the state and the election, triggering a nightmare scenario for the South and the New York City merchants who depended upon its trade.
In early December 1860, New York merchants planned to assemble and discuss rumors of South Carolina’s secession and the possible loss of Southern trade. Two hundred invitations were sent out for the December 15 meeting at 33 Pine Street, the offices of a cotton merchant near Wall Street. Over 2,000 worried merchants showed up, a veritable “Who’s Who” of the city’s commercial establishment, determined to show their solidarity with the South and seek an alternative to Southern secession.
Hiram Ketchum, a prominent lawyer, spoke for many New York City merchants at the Pine Street meeting when he begged the South to “give us time to organize and combine, and we will put down any party that attempts to do what the South fears the Republican Party will do . . . .We can right the wrong in the Union, only give us time.” But after decades of cobbled-together, last-second compromises, the South was sick and tired of waiting. Five days after the massive Pine Street meeting, South Carolina seceded from the Union. With about $200 million in outstanding Southern debt still owed New York City, its merchants trembled at the possibility that this massive deficit might be ignored, and the lucrative Southern trade cut off.
In late December, a delegation of 30 New York City merchants journeyed to Washington to sound out lame-duck President James Buchanan about how he planned to respond to South Carolina’s secession. The merchants stood in stunned silence as Buchanan answered their anxious questions by shaking his head and uttering: “I have no power in the matter. I have no power in the matter.” President-elect Lincoln remained silent on the issue, biding his time until he took power in March. The worried merchants next turned to Congress, lobbying in support of the recently introduced Crittenden Compromise, which included constitutional amendments intended to protect slavery in the South forever. (Ultimately, the compromise was narrowly defeated in the Senate, a few days before Lincoln’s March 4 inauguration.)
The secession crisis was proving to be the expected body blow for New York City’s cotton-dependent economy. Many Southerners, long resentful of what they regarded as Gotham’s exploitation of cotton growers, cared little about the city’s dilemma. When the London Times asked editor James De Bow what would happen to New York City without the South, he gleefully replied: “The ships would rot at her docks grass would grow in Wall Street and Broadway, and the glory of New York…would be numbered with the things of the past.”
The city would not wait idly for that disaster to happen. Wood’s proposal that New York City leave the Union in order to continue trading with the South—taking with it the hefty 67 percent of the federal revenue that was the city’s contribution— came shortly after. Wood blamed the secessionist crisis on Republican abolitionists in Albany and New England, and also castigated Albany for its interference with his city’s government.
Wood had a history of bad blood with the state government. The mayor “set the pattern for the institutionalized corruption that plagued nineteenth-century New York politics,” according to Melvin Holli, author of The American Mayor. In the 1856-57 session of the state Legislature, the Albany Republicans had voted to slash Wood’s term as mayor in half. Moreover, Albany had created a new law enforcement entity, the Metropolitan Police, to replace the Wood-controlled Municipal Police. Legislators believed that Wood’s men had become so corrupt and disorganized that they had to intervene. The two police forces clashed in front of City Hall in 1857, and the Metropolitan Police arrested a rebellious Wood for inciting a riot for refusing to disband “his” police force.
Republican reaction to Wood’s secession proposal was predictably hostile. Pro-Lincoln editor Horace Greeley concluded in the New York Tribune that “Fernando Wood evidently wants to be a traitor.” Still, Wood’s proposal would remain a subject of debate until the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter.
Although Wood’s proposal received support among some merchants as one possible option to forestall the commercial crisis, city merchants continued to lobby Congress for a legislative resolution, such as that embodied by the Crittenden Compromise. In late January 1861, a second delegation of New York City businessmen traveled to Washington seeking a compromise to the secession crisis, this time carrying a petition signed by over 40,000 city merchants. The delegation strongly hinted that Wall Street would withhold financial support from the Union unless an agreement with the South was reached. These veiled threats infuriated the Republican press, which viewed them as tantamount to blackmail. Greeley condemned the “mercantile howl” and claimed that the public possessed “a wider range of vision than the shelves of dry goods and warehouses of cotton” and didn’t need these unscrupulous, pro-slavery “money men” to finance the Union cause.
This second New York merchant delegation also left Washington empty-handed, reporting that the escalating crisis was “apparently insurmountable.” The New York Herald expressed disappointment, complaining that “the Southern trade is reduced to nothing, and everything seems to be going to the dogs.” To make matters worse, the Republican Congress soon passed a tariff favoring Northern manufacturers, and the Confederacy followed suit in March by erecting tariff walls to protect Southern trade. Wood’s dream of an independent New York City able to trade freely and peaceably with everyone suffered a severe setback.
President-Elect Lincoln soon arrived into this atmosphere of doom and gloom within New York City’s commercial circles. Hoping to quell secessionist sentiment in the city, he had breakfast on February 20 with 100 of the city’s leading businessmen, nearly all of whom either favored compromising with the South or supported Gotham’s right to secede. In his comments, Lincoln did his best to be noncommittal on secession while stating his support for the law and the Union. When someone pointed out to Lincoln all the millionaires gathered in the room, underscoring their financial muscle, he wryly snapped back: “I’m a millionaire myself. I got a minority of a million in the votes last November.”
Lincoln met with Mayor Wood at City Hall later the same day and in his public remarks seemed to criticize Wood’s secessionist proposal without directly mentioning it. “There is nothing,” said Lincoln, “that can ever bring me to willingly consent to the destruction of this Union, under which not only the commercial city of New York, but the whole country has acquired its greatness.” What went on behind closed doors, and whether or not Lincoln promised to give special treatment to New York City’s commercial interests, is unknown.
When Lincoln gave his long-anticipated Inaugural Address on March 4, he attempted to set a conciliatory tone while holding firm to the principal that “the Union of these states is perpetual.” Tellingly, Lincoln asserted that “the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy.” Lincoln also promised to protect federal property, an indirect reference to the stalemate at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, a political headache he had inherited from the outgoing Buchanan.
In March 1861, faced with high tariffs, a new president seemingly set against recognizing the right of secession and the real possibility of the Confederacy’s repudiation of its debts to New York City, Mayor Wood’s dream of an independent, free-trading “Tri-Insula” was tottering on the ropes. The knockout blow came a few weeks later. Early on the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate shells burst out over Fort Sumter. The following day Major Robert Anderson surrendered the garrison to Confederate forces. The Civil War had begun, ending any realistic possibility of a negotiated settlement—or an independent New York City.
Patriotic fervor spread quickly throughout the North, and a bipartisan rallying ensued around President Lincoln. On April 20, a crowd of between 100,000 to 250,000 people thronged New York’s Union Square to hear patriotic speeches. Wood, caught up in the flag-waving, had even issued a vague proclamation supporting the Union in the days after Fort Sumter. Republicans and other New Yorkers remained skeptical of his supposed change of heart. Prominent attorney George Templeton Strong, who would later work for Lincoln as treasurer of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, wrote about Wood’s apparent transformation in his diary on April 15: “The cunning scoundrel [Wood] sees which way the cat is jumping.”
On April 21, Lincoln disbursed $2 million into the hands of a New York City business organization to purchase arms and supplies, and New York City businessmen would continue to grow rich financing the Union war effort over the next four years. In a moment of supreme irony, Wood sat down to write a letter to Lincoln on April 29, 1861, and made a proposal utterly unlike his one of January 6: “I beg to tender my services in any military capacity consistent with my position as Mayor of New York.” Lincoln, not needing another inexperienced political general, particularly one of questionable loyalty, ignored the offer.
On April 30, the Richmond Dispatch spoke for much of the South in denouncing the sudden transformation of the once-friendly Wood and his metropolis: “We could not have believed, nothing could have persuaded us, that the city of New York, which has been enriched by Southern trade, and had ever professed to be true to…the South, would in one day be converted into our bitterest enemy, panting for our blood, fitting out fleets and armies, and raising millions for our destruction.”
The mayor was far from finished in his duplicity. He ran for reelection later in 1861, roundly criticizing Lincoln and his use of war powers. After one anti-Republican speech, the local U.S. marshal was so outraged that he asked Secretary of State William Seward for permission to arrest Wood. Wood lost his reelection bid, but soon won a seat in Congress, where he became a leading Copperhead and a constant thorn in Lincoln’s side. Whenever the war went badly Wood could always be counted on to criticize the Republican administration, and he was particularly outspoken when Lincoln shifted the focus of the conflict from preserving the Union to emancipating the slaves. He also voted against the 13th Amendment, which guaranteed freedom to former slaves.
When Congressman Wood tried to visit Lincoln at the White House in mid-December of 1863, the exasperated president sent him away, commenting to an aide: “I am sorry he is here. I would rather he should not come about here so much. Tell Mr. Wood I have nothing yet to tell him….”
New York City would remain a center of Copperhead sentiment. Rioting broke out at a draft office on July 13, 1863, after Lincoln instituted a conscription act and soon boiled over into the worst episode of public unrest in American history. The mob’s focus eventually expand-ed from targeting draft officials and wealthy Republicans to targeting African Americans. An officer in charge of mustering new recruits blamed the rioting on Democratic politicians, though he did not name Wood specifically: “The authorities in Washington do not seem able or willing to comprehend the magnitude [of] the opposition to the government which exists in New York. There’s no doubt that most, if not all, of the Democratic politicians are at the bottom of this riot.”
Although New York City and its opportunistic mayor never officially left the Union, keeping the city fighting for the Union cause would be a constant source of anxiety for President Lincoln. The frustrations expressed by Wood on January 6, 1861, would not disappear, but would be transformed into the type of political sniping that Lincoln famously termed “the fire in the rear.”
Chuck Leddy, who writes from Quincy, Mass., is the author of several articles on the Civil War and American history. For additional reading, see Business & Slavery: The New York Merchants and the Irrepressible Conflict, by Philip S. Foner.
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.
December 2, 1859&mdashRadical abolitionist John Brown is hanged in Charles Town, Virginia for attempting to foment a slave revolt.
December 5, 1859-February 1, 1860&mdashA protracted and acrimonious debate over the House speakership occupies Congress for nearly two months. The Republicans initially nominate John Sherman, an Ohioan with moderate views on slavery, but Sherman&rsquos support for a controversial anti-slavery book entitled The Impending Crisis derails his nomination. The Democrats counter with several nominations, including Thomas S. Bocock of Virginia and John A. McClernand of Illinois, but these nominees are also unsuccessful in part because of splits within their party. In February, the Republicans elect William Pennington as Speaker of the House with 119 votes, the exact number needed to win. The debates in Congress during this period are heated and many members carry weapons. Southern congressmen talk openly of secession in the event of a Republican presidential victory in November.
January, 1860&mdashThe Democratic Party of Alabama adopts a resolution which instructs the state&rsquos delegates to the Convention in Charleston to &ldquoinsist&rdquo on a clause in the national platform calling for a law to protect slavery in the territories. Moreover, the delegates are instructed to withdraw from the convention if such a clause is rejected.
February 2, 1860&mdashMississippi Senator Jefferson Davis introduces a series of resolutions in the upper house which call for a federal code protecting slavery in the territories. The resolutions are passed by the Senate Democratic caucus, an action which further divides the party along sectional lines.
February 27, 1860&mdashAbraham Lincoln delivers his famous Cooper Union Address in New York City, which presents a compelling case on the Founding Fathers&rsquo objections to the spread of slavery. The speech is widely reprinted in northern newspapers and helps Lincoln secure his party&rsquos presidential nomination.
March, 1860&mdashThe Virginia House of Delegates overwhelmingly rejects a proposal by South Carolina to organize a convention of southern states.
March 5, 1860&mdashThe Republican-controlled House of Representatives approves the formation of a committee to investigate alleged corruption and malfeasance in the Buchanan administration. The president criticizes the investigation as a partisan plot to besmirch his &ldquopersonal and official integrity.&rdquo Hearings continue through June.
April 30, 1860&mdashFifty southern delegates to the Democratic national convention storm out of Institute Hall in Charleston, South Caroli na in order to protest their party&rsquos unwillingness to endorse a federal code protecting slavery in the territories.
May 9, 1860&mdashThe newly-formed Constitutional Union Party opens its convention in Baltimore. John Bell of Tennessee becomes the party&rsquos presidential nominee. Comprised mainly of conservative Whigs and Know-Nothings concerned about the gathering crisis, the party advertises itself as an alternative to &ldquoBlack Republicanism&rdquo and Democratic demagoguery. The delegates refuse to adopt a platform, instead pledging themselves solely to the preservation of the Union and the Constitution.
May 16, 1860&mdashThe Republican convention opens in Chicago. William Seward emerges early as the party&rsquos strongest presidential candidate, but is defeated by Abraham Lincoln on the third ballot. Lincoln has fewer enemies within the Republican ranks and is viewed by most members as a political moderate. The party platform calls for a higher tariff, a ban on slavery in the territories, federal money for internal improvement projects, and a homestead act.
June 11, 1860&mdashDelegates who joined the walkout in Charleston meet in Richmond in an unsuccessful attempt to nominate a candidate and approve a party platform.
June 18, 1860&mdashThe Democratic national convention reconvenes in Baltimore after the Charleston impasse. Anti-Douglas delegates from Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Maryland, California, Oregon, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas withdraw from the meeting in order to protest the assembly&rsquos decision to seat newly-elected, pro-Douglas state delegations. Stephen A. Douglas is nominated as the Democratic Party&rsquos presidential candidate by the remaining delegates. Shortly thereafter, a group of disgruntled delegates assembles a competing convention in Baltimore which nominates John C. Breckinridge, a federal slave code supporter, for president. The Democratic Party is split into two sectional factions.
June 22, 1860&mdashUnder pressure from the Southern Democracy, President James Buchanan vetoes a homestead bill which calls for the distribution of 160 acres of government land to each citizen willing to improve it. The vote in Congress is along sectional lines. In the House, 114 of the 115 votes in favor of the bill are cast by free-state representatives, while 64 of the 65 &ldquonays&rdquo come from slave-state Congressmen. Southerners realize that the homestead bill will disproportionately benefit the free states. The sectional divide within the Democratic Party strengthens the Republican Party&rsquos chances for victory in November.
July 6, 1860&mdashIn a letter intended for publication, New York City Mayor Fernando Wood proposes that Democrats run John Breckinridge unopposed in southern states and Stephen Douglas alone in northern ones in order to thwart Lincoln&rsquos election.
August 13, 1860&mdashDuring a speech in Boston, William Seward describes Lincoln as &ldquoa soldier on the side of freedom in the irrepressible conflict between freedom and slavery.&rdquo
August 25, 1860&mdashFrom the steps of Norfolk&rsquos City Hall, presidential candidate Stephen Douglas tells a crowd of seven thousand Virginians that he believes Lincoln&rsquos election would not be a just cause for secession and that the federal government has the right to use force in order to preserve the Union.
September 5, 1860&mdashPresidential candidate John Breckinridge tells a crowd in Lexington, Kentucky that Democratic rival Stephen Douglas espouses principles which are &ldquorepugnant alike to reason and the Constitution.&rdquo
October 5, 1860&mdashA massive &ldquoWide-Awake&rdquo torchlight parade takes place in New York City. The Wide-Awakes were young Republicans who staged theatrical nighttime rallies during the campaign of 1860 to show their support for Lincoln&rsquos candidacy.
November 6, 1860&mdashAmericans go the polls and elect Abraham Lincoln as the sixteenth president of the United States. Lincoln receives 1,866,452 popular votes and 180 electoral votes from 17 of the 33 states. Not a single slave state endorses Lincoln. Stephen Douglas receives 1,376,957 popular votes and 12 electoral votes John Breckinridge receives 849, 781 popular votes and 72 electoral votes and John Bell receives 588, 879 popular votes and 39 electoral votes.
November 9, 1860&mdashLame duck president James Buchanan convenes a cabinet meeting to discuss the national crisis that has been unleashed in the wake of Lincoln&rsquos election. Like the country as a whole, his advisors are split over the issue of secession. Buchanan proposes a convention of the states with the object of hammering out a compromise. Secretary of State Lewis Cass (MI) argues that the Union should be preserved at all costs, even if that means using force. Attorney General Jeremiah Sullivan Black (PA) shares Cass&rsquo opinion. Postmaster General Joseph Holt (KY) opposes both secession and Buchanan&rsquos idea for a convention. Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb (GA) believes secession is legal and necessary. Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson (MS) agrees with Cobb and says any show of force by the U.S. government will force his native Mississippi out of the Union. Secretary of War John Floyd (VA) opposes secession because he believes it is unnecessary. Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey (CT) endorses Buchanan&rsquos convention idea.
November 10, 1860&mdashBoth of South Carolina&rsquos senators, James Chesnut, Jr. and James H. Hammond, resign their seats. The legislature of South Carolina orders a convention to meet in Columbia on December 17 to decide whether or not the state should remain in the Union.
November 13, 1860&mdashThe South Carolina legislature authorizes the raising of ten thousand men for the state&rsquos defense.
November 14, 1860&mdashAlexander Stephens, the future vice-president of the Confederacy, addresses the Georgia legislature and speaks out against secession. He argues that the South should pursue a more moderate course and, &ldquoLet the fanatics of the North break the Constitution, if such is their fell purpose.&rdquo
November 18, 1860&mdashThe Georgia legislature authorizes one million dollars for weapon purchases.
November 23, 1860&mdashMajor Robert Anderson issues a report from Charleston which identifies Fort Sumter as the key to the defense of the city&rsquos harbor. In addition, he argues that secession is a fait accompli in South Carolina.
December 4, 1860&mdashPresident Buchanan sends his State of the Union message to Congress, which attempts to appease both northerners and southerners. He views secession as a consequence of the &ldquointemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery&rdquo and urges the North to respect the sovereignty and rights of the southern states. At the same time, Buchanan condemns secession and signals his intent to defend any federal forts in the South that come under attack. Both sides are displeased with the speech. The House of Representatives creates a Committee of Thirty-three (one member per state) to study the country&rsquos crisis and issue recommendations.
December 8, 1860&mdashThe first rupture in Buchanan&rsquos cabinet occurs when Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb (GA) resigns his post. A former unionist, Cobb has come to believe that the &ldquoevil&rdquo of Black Republicanism is &ldquobeyond control&rdquo and must be met with resistance. The same day, a group of South Carolina congressmen visits the White House and encourages Buchanan to relinquish federal property to their state.
December 10, 1860&mdashSouth Carolina congressmen meet with Buchanan and promise that their forces will not attack U.S. forts before the issue of secession is debated, or the two governments reach an agreement, as long as the military status quo is maintained.
December 12, 1860&mdashSecretary of State Lewis Cass (MI) resigns over Buchanan&rsquos decision not to reinforce the federal forts in Charleston.
December 13, 1860&mdashTwenty-three House members and seven Senators from the South make a public announcement calling for the creation of a Southern Confederacy.
December 17, 1860&mdashSouth Carolina&rsquos Secession Convention opens in Columbia.
December 20, 1860&mdashDelegates to South Carolina&rsquos Secession Convention vote 169 to 0 to leave the Union. President Buchanan is stunned by the news. The Palmetto State&rsquos decision emboldens secessionists in other southern states.
December 26, 1860&mdashMajor Robert Anderson moves his small force from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. He believes the former location will soon be attacked and that the change of location is necessary to &ldquoprevent the effusion of blood.&rdquo South Carolinians view the troop transfer as a violation of their agreement with Buchanan to maintain the status quo.
December 29, 1860&mdashSecretary of War John B. Floyd (VA) resigns over Buchanan&rsquos decision not to overrule Anderson&rsquos troop transfer.
December 30, 1860&mdashSouth Carolinians seize the Federal Arsenal at Charleston, making Fort Sumter the last piece of federal property in the state controlled by the United States government.
January 8, 1861&mdashPresident Buchanan sends a special message to Congress which endorses Senator John J. Crittenden&rsquos proposal to resurrect the old Missouri Compromise line. Also, Buchanan places the onus of responsibility for solving the crisis on the legislative branch. The last southerner in the president&rsquos cabinet, Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson (MS), resigns.
January 9, 1861&mdashMississippi secedes from the Union. In Charleston, southern guns fire on the Star of the West as it attempts to re-supply Fort Sumter. The ship withdraws and sets course for New York.
January 10, 1861&mdashFlorida secedes from the Union. Lieutenant Adam Slemmer moves his small federal garrison from Barrancas Barracks at Pensacola to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. Slemmer refuses repeated surrender demands from Florida authorities, allowing Fort Pickens to remain in Union hands for the duration of the war.
January 11, 1861&mdashAlabama secedes from the Union.
January 14, 1861&mdashThe chairman of the Committee of Thirty-three, Thomas Corwin (OH), presents the group&rsquos report to the House of Representatives. Recommendations include a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing slavery where it exists, a repeal of northern &ldquopersonal liberty laws&rdquo, and jury trials for fugitive slaves. The committee does not unanimously approve of the proposals.
January 16, 1861&mdashThe Crittenden Compromise is defeated in the Senate.
January 19, 1861&mdashGeorgia secedes from the Union.
January 21, 1861&mdashFive senators from Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi bid farewell to their colleagues in the upper house. Among them is Senator Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederacy.
January 26, 1861&mdashLouisiana secedes from the Union.
January 29, 1861&mdashKansas is admitted to the Union sans slavery.
February 1, 1861&mdashTexas secedes from the Union.
February 4, 1861&mdashThe convention of seceded states opens in Montgomery, Alabama as a Peace Convention called by Virginia gets underway in Washington. One of the delegates at the latter meeting is former president John Tyler. Louisiana Senators Judah Benjamin and John Slidell resign their seats.
February 8, 1861&mdashDelegates in Montgomery adopt a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America. The document contains only a few variations from the U.S. Constitution, among which are a clause protecting slavery and one that prohibits tariffs designed to protect domestic industry.
February 9, 1861&mdashJefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens are elected Provisional President and Vice-President of the Confederacy respectively. Both men are considered political moderates. In Tennessee, voters reject a call for a secession convention.
February 18, 1861&mdashJefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederacy during a ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama.
February 23, 1861&mdashAbraham Lincoln arrives in Washington on a special train at the behest of his security team. The President-elect&rsquos clandestine journey is lampooned by a number of newspaper cartoonists, who inflate wild rumors that he was disguised as a Scotsman.
February 27, 1861&mdashThe Peace Convention proposes six constitutional amendments to Congress&mdashmost relate to the impasse over slavery. None passes. The House of Representatives rejects a call for a constitutional convention and the Crittenden Compromise.
February 28, 1861&mdashThe House passes a measure supported by President-elect Lincoln which prohibits the federal government from interfering with slavery in states where it exists.
March 1, 1861&mdashConfederate President Jefferson Davis appoints P.G.T. Beauregard as commander of southern forces guarding Charleston. Congress organizes two new territories, Nevada and Dakota, and passes the Morrill Tariff Act, which raises taxes on imports.
March 4, 1861&mdashAbraham Lincoln is inaugurated as President of the United States in Washington. He tells the crowd gathered around the Capitol that he has no intention of interfering with slavery, but that secession is illegal and the Union perpetual.
March 5, 1861&mdashLincoln learns from Major Anderson that Fort Sumter must either be re-supplied or abandoned within a matter of weeks. The president understands that surrendering the fort would mean a loss of federal sovereignty, but that sending supplies would likely start a war. He loses sleep over the situation.
March 29, 1861&mdashAfter days of deliberation and careful consultation with his cabinet, Lincoln decides to re-supply Forts Sumter and Pickens.
April 4, 1861&mdashIn an 89 to 45 vote, the Virginia State Convention rejects an ordinance of secession.
April 6, 1861&mdashLincoln dispatches a State Department employee to inform South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens that the federal government will re-provision Fort Sumter. The president makes it clear that no additional troops will be sent to the fort if supply ships are allowed to land.
April 10, 1861&mdashConfederate Secretary of War LeRoy Walker authorizes Beauregard to use force if the federal government attempts to re-supply Fort Sumter.
April 11, 1861&mdashMajor Anderson refuses a request from the Confederate government to surrender Fort Sumter. A final request would come in the early morning hours of April 12, shortly before the bombardment of the fortress began.
The editorials contained in the Sixteen Months to Sumter site were digitized from the following sources:
Northern Editorials on Secession. 2 vols. Edited by Howard Cecil Perkins. New York: D. Appleton-Century Company for the American Historical Association, 1942.
Southern Editorials on Secession. Edited by Dumond Dwight Lowell. New York: Century Company for the American Historical Association, 1931.
Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy
Rebels in the Making narrates and interprets secession in the fifteen slave states in 1860–1861. It is a political history informed by the socioeconomic structures of the South and the varying forms they took across the region. It explains how a small minority of Southern radicals exploited the hopes and fears of Southern whites over slavery after Lincoln’s election in November of 1860 to create and lead a revolutionary movement with broad support, especially in the Lower South. It reveals a divided South in which the commitment to secession was tied directly to the extent of slave ownership a . More
Rebels in the Making narrates and interprets secession in the fifteen slave states in 1860–1861. It is a political history informed by the socioeconomic structures of the South and the varying forms they took across the region. It explains how a small minority of Southern radicals exploited the hopes and fears of Southern whites over slavery after Lincoln’s election in November of 1860 to create and lead a revolutionary movement with broad support, especially in the Lower South. It reveals a divided South in which the commitment to secession was tied directly to the extent of slave ownership and the political influence of local planters. White fears over the future of slavery were at the center of the crisis, and the refusal of Republicans to sanction the expansion of slavery doomed efforts to reach a sectional compromise. In January 1861, six states in the Lower South joined South Carolina in leaving the Union, and delegates from the seceded states organized a Confederate government in February. Lincoln’s call for troops to uphold the Union after the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861 finally pushed the reluctant states of the Upper South to secede in defense of slavery and white supremacy.
SecessionWilliam Lowndes Yancey Secession is the doctrine that the people of each state, having voluntarily entered the Union, have the right to withdraw from it whenever they come to believe that continued membership represents a threat to their liberties. This prerogative was declared to be unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1869 in the case of Texas v. White, but earlier in the nineteenth century it had been widely discussed. As northern attacks on the institution of slavery began to mount, beginning with the controversy over the admission of Missouri as a slave state in 1819-20, pro-slavery extremists in Alabama and other southern states increasingly referred to secession as their ultimate defense to protect their region's society and economy. Dixon Hall Lewis Following Dixon Lewis's death in 1848, the leadership of the Calhounite faction passed to Montgomery attorney William Lowndes Yancey. In the developing crisis over the admission of California as a free state during 1848-50, Yancey and his allies attempted to push the state's Democrats into adopting an extreme southern rights stance. But with the passage of the Compromise of 1850, which balanced California's admission with a number of other provisions including a law facilitating the recovery of slaves who had fled into the free states, pro-Compromise Democrats formed a coalition with the Whigs and trounced Yancey's southern rights candidates in the state elections of 1851. In the presidential election of 1852, the Yanceyites ran their own candidates for president and vice-president—George M. Troup of Georgia and John A. Quitman of Mississippi, respectively—against both the Democratic and the Whig nominees. They received just 4.6 percent of the poll and carried only Barbour and Lowndes Counties. It is clear, in short, that as late as the early 1850s, the Yanceyites still had the backing of only a tiny handful of Alabama voters. The developments that would lead the state to secession turned on the dissolution of the Whig Party and the rise of Yancey's faction among the Democrats following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Anti-Slavery Cartoon, 1856 The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed voters in these new territories to decide for themselves whether slavery would be legal in them, an arrangement known as popular sovereignty. The opening of these territories to the possibility of slavery, which had been prohibited there by the Missouri Compromise of 1820, was widely seen by anti-slavery northerners as a part of a southern plot to extend slavery throughout the nation, the so-called Slave Power Conspiracy. Anti-slavery northern Whigs, believing that their membership in an intersectional party had prevented them from taking a sufficiently strong stand against slavery's expansion, withdrew from the party and formed the new Republican Party, dedicated to prohibiting the introduction of slavery into every territory. The Whig Party as a national institution then disintegrated. Most southern Whigs, including Alabama's, initially took refuge in the Know-Nothing Party. But that party's virulently anti-Catholic doctrines alienated more moderate Whigs in Alabama as elsewhere. The Know-Nothing presidential candidate in 1856, Millard Fillmore, took only 38 percent of Alabama's vote, and the movement in the state then collapsed. The banner of the opposition, now a mere shadow of itself, passed to an extreme southern rights faction led by Montgomery attorney Thomas J. Judge and humorist and editor Johnson J. Hooper, who argued that pro-slavery southern Democrats were unreliable defenders of their section because their desire for national victory would inevitably lead them to soften their defense of the institution. In the meantime, the increasing success of the new Republican Party in the north, with its adamant opposition to the extension of slavery into the western territories, seemed proof to more and more Alabamians of the northern intention to reduce southerners to second-class citizenship in the union. Essentially all Alabama voters, across the entire political spectrum, believed that the Secession Cartoon, ca. 1861 territories were the common property of all Americans, and therefore that all Americans should be able to go there and take their personal property, including slaves, with them. Therefore, as Republicans won more and more northern offices, Yancey's strident condemnation of Republicans' exclusionary doctrines increasingly made him seem to be a defender of southerners' equal rights as American citizens. And then, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, holding that under the Fifth Amendment, no citizen could be prohibited from taking any property, including slave property, to any territory, gave the Yanceyites' claims clear constitutional authority and made the Republicans seem sectionalist aggressors. More moderate politicians who urged compromise now appeared to be weak appeasers, willing to sacrifice southerners' liberties. Edward C. Bullock As Yancey's inflexible defense of southern rights gained popularity, a host of young Democratic politicians flocked to his leadership, thrusting aside the old Calhounites who had earlier been his constituency. Men such as J. L. M. Curry of Talladega, Edward C. Bullock and the brothers Eli Sims Shorter and John Gill Shorter of Eufaula, Cullen A. Battle of Tuskegee, Hilary A. Herbert of Greenville, and William C. Oates of Abbeville embraced Yancey's cause. These young and ambitious attorneys were eager to prove to the voters that they were firm defenders of the rights of Alabamians, and thus to advance their nascent political careers. Andrew B. Moore In the election, Breckinridge carried Alabama easily, with 54 percent of the poll he lost only ten of the state's counties. This result further strengthened Yancey's influence among Alabama Democrats. Douglas received a mere 15 percent of the state's vote. Whig leaders tried to rally their dispirited forces behind the candidacy of Sen. John Bell of Tennessee, but Bell managed to take just 31 percent of the poll. The Republican nominee, Abraham Lincoln, whose party did not exist in Alabama or most of the South and who consequently was not a candidate there, carried every free state, thus finally providing southerners with unarguable proof that the northern majority was determined to deny their constitutional right to settle in the territories with their slaves. Because Alabama's 1859 legislature had adopted a resolution requiring a referendum to elect delegates to a secession convention if a Republican won the presidency, Gov. Andrew B. Moore therefore issued a proclamation setting the referendum for December 24, 1860.
The convention met on January 7 and elected the Yanceyite attorney William M. Brooks of Perry County as its president. South Carolina had already seceded by the time the convention met, and during the subsequent four days of debate, Mississippi and Florida did so as well. As a result, by the time of the final vote on the Ordinance of Secession on January 11, eight cooperationists believed that the cooperative southern action for which they had campaigned had effectively been achieved and so were willing to vote with the immediate secessionists. The Ordinance was adopted 61 to 39, and Alabama joined other southern states in leaving the Union.
Barney, William L. The Secessionist Impulse: Alabama and Mississippi in 1860. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.
Secession Crisis - History
The Slaveholders’ War : The Secession Crisis in Kanawha County, Western Virginia, 1860-1861
West Virginia’s historians have tended to minimize the importance of slavery in the state’s formation. With fewer than fifteen thousand slaves in the forty-eight counties that formed the state in 1863, the scarcity of the institution appeared to have had little hold over the region. Charles Ambler and George E. Moore contrasted the slave-based plantation economy of eastern Virginia with that of the free labor-based small farms and factories in the west to explain the state’s formation. Richard Orr Curry’s revisionist work shared this view. The slavery issue, he argued, arose only during debates on emancipation at the statehood conventions, not before. Since then, scholars have placed individual counties under the microscope to examine sectional loyalties at the local level. With over two thousand slaves, one-sixth of the total in the forty-eight counties, Kanawha County provides a useful example to show how slavery affected political, social, and economic relations among its residents.
On the evening of October 11, 1860, a troop of mostly German “Wide Awakes” paraded their support for Abraham Lincoln in the north end of Wheeling. At Colonel Thoburn’s house, the German Company C of the Wide Awakes received a wreath for its valiant support of Republicanism. More is revealed when you read the article.
West Virginia’s historians have tended to minimize the importance of slavery in the state’s formation. With fewer than fifteen thousand slaves in the forty-eight counties that formed the state in 1863, the scarcity of the institution appeared to have had little hold over the region. Charles Ambler and George E. Moore contrasted the slave-based plantation economy of eastern Virginia with that of the free labor-based small farms and factories in the west to explain the state’s formation. Richard Orr Curry’s revisionist work shared this view. The slavery issue, he argued, arose only during debates on emancipation at the statehood conventions, not before. Since then, scholars have placed individual counties under the microscope to examine sectional loyalties at the local level. First, James H. Cook’s study of Harrison County argued that Unionists consisting of former Whigs and some Democrats tried to thwart secessionist forces led by local elites. They succeeded by only ten votes. Second, John W. Shaffer’s study of remote Barbour County argued that personal issues like marriage and kinship mattered more than wealth or community in choosing sides. 1 Third, Ken Fones-Wolf revealed how the threat of free-labor ideology added to the strong kinship and community ties among the small number of Wheeling secessionists. These studies have identified many new issues that divided western Virginians on the issue of secession except one: slavery.
The time has come to bring slavery into the debate on how West Virginians chose sides in the Civil War. With over two thousand slaves, one-sixth of the total in the forty-eight counties, Kanawha County provides a useful example to show how slavery affected political, social, and economic relations among its residents. While salt furnaces substituted for cotton plantations there, local slaveholders exhibited many of the same traits as their eastern counterparts. The institution affected whites as much as slaves. As Eugene Genovese has pointed out, “the paternalism of the planters towards their slaves was reinforced by the semi-paternal relationship between the planters and their neighbors” that made the planters “the closest thing to feudal lords imaginable in a nineteenth-century bourgeois republic.” 2 Other studies of Appalachia during this time place slaveholding as a major influence on allegiances. Peter Wallenstein on East Tennessee, Jonathan Sarris on north Georgia, and Martin Crawford on Ashe County in North Carolina each revealed how concentrations of wealth, especially of slaves, split the population into secessionists and cooperationists in 1860-1861. 3 This essay argues that slavery and slaveholding exerted a powerful influence on sectional allegiances in western Virginia. It first explains how slaveholders dominated the county’s economy and its politics before the war. It then examines their use of pro-slavery arguments to win over the majority to support secession. Finally, a detailed comparison of Union and Confederate military records reveals the political, social, and economic differences between the two sides.
The salt business brought slavery to Kanawha County. Natural brine (salt water) deposits made the area one of the largest salt producers in the antebellum United States. Boiling the brine in large kettles separated the powder. Workers packed the powder into barrels, and loaded them on to steamboats for shipment down the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers. Kanawha’s furnaces trebled their production between 1829 and 1849, but declined to 1.2 million by 1857, the last year on record. 4 This process employed a majority of the county’s free labor force, directly or indirectly. Of 3,424 white, free black, and mulatto workers listed in the 1860 census, 464, or 14 percent worked in the salt industry. Their jobs included coopers, well borers, engineers, sales agents, and inspectors. Miners and lumbermen dug coal and chopped wood for the furnaces, and flat- boat pilots and waggoners transported the barrels down the river to market. A further one third of the county’s labor force consisted of laborers possibly employed in the salt business. Those indirectly employed by the salt business included lawyers and clerks who handled bureaucratic issues, and merchants who delivered goods to the salt companies and their workers. 5 In addition to providing food for the general population, farmers provided additional labor to the salt business. A historian of the salt business writes, “Some farmers in the valley supplemented their incomes by manufacturing copper stuff (staves, headings, and hoop poles) from their forest land.” 6 The profitability of salt made a disproportionately small number of Kanawhans wealthy.
Much of that wealth found its way into slave property. A perpetual shortage of free labor forced the salt producers to use enslaved labor. The census listed 2,184 slaves and 241 owners in Kanawha County in 1860. Most owned between two and nineteen slaves. About 10 percent owned twenty or more, elevating them to planter status. One, Samuel J. Cabell, owned one hundred slaves, a rare find in western Virginia. Companies owned eleven additional slaves. 7 Owners leased their slaves to work in the salt business as shippers, coopers, and packers. 8 Some, like lawyer and politician George W. Summers, preferred that their slaves avoid jobs such as coal mining because of the danger. 9 With the exception of Henry Ruffner’s 1847 pamphlet denouncing slavery, 10 few Kanawhans voiced any objection to slavery. The historian of the salt business pointed out that the salt makers “did not hesitate to make the necessary choice. The evidence indicates that Kanawha producers preferred slave labor. There is no sign of ethical opposition or question in the matter.” 11 All told, the largest and most economically productive slave population in western Virginia resided in Kanawha County.
Slavery and slaveholding affected every part of the county. No section, no matter how remote, lacked some connection with the institution. Figure 1 shows how slavery affected the county at the local level. Using the 1860 census and an old map allowed the identification and selection of six districts. They represent a cross-section of Kanawha society, including those involved in the salt production and exportation industry and those less involved. The four areas along the Kanawha River hosted the salt industry, including Coalsmouth near the border with Putnam County, the town of Charleston itself, Kanawha Salines (also known as Malden), and Cannelton on the Fayette County line. The other two, Sissonville and Clendenin (also known as Clifton), are far to the north of the river. Charleston and Kanawha Salines had the largest numbers of slaves with over four hundred each, and dozens of owners. Coalsmouth and Cannelton had fewer, 226 and sixty-one respectively. In contrast, Sissonville had only twenty-five slaves, six owned by town founder Henry C. Sisson and three by his son James. Clendenin had two owners and ten slaves. This sample represents the diverse slaveholding patterns throughout the county.
The mere presence of slaves and owners does not reveal the power that the institution had on society as a whole. A hint of that power lies in the comparison of wealth held by slaveholders and others. Table 1 compares the real-estate holdings and personal wealth of each community to that held by local slaveholders. In Sissonville and Clendenin, slavery had little impact, with between 28 and 6 percent of all real estate owned by slaveholders, and 19 and 20 percent of all personal wealth. Much of this discrepancy comes from the high number of landless persons in the area. The problem was much worse in the river areas, where slaveholders owned between 52 and 87 percent of all real estate, and between 68 and 90 percent of all personal property. Most of Kanawha’s wealth, therefore, lay in the hands of a select few who were deeply involved in the salt business.
Figure 1: The six districts of Kanawha County 12
Comparative wealth between slaveholding and non-slaveholding adult male heads of households, by district 13
The slaveholders used their wealth to control Kanawha’s party politics. From the 1830s onwards, when exports reached their zenith, its people voted for the Whig Party and its platform of encouraging internal improvements and high protective tariffs. A 1911 county history reported that the “salt makers began to think that their special interests needed protection and that it required a Whig to attend to them, and they began to elect Whigs.” 14 Between 1836 and 1859, Kanawhans gave the Whigs and their successors, the American (or Know-Nothing) and Virginia Opposition parties, between 59 and 82 percent of the vote in presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial elections. Kanawhans voted for the Whigs and their successors despite constant changes in population, the fortunes of the salt business, and the constant budding of new counties formed from its territory. The Democratic vote remained constant too, drawing support mostly from the mountain areas. Sissonville and Clendenin were the only places to give the Democrats a majority in the 1856 presidential, 1857 congressional, and 1859 gubernatorial elections. 15 It is significant that the two areas least affected by slavery and slave ownership voted differently from the rest of the county, but, as we shall see, party politics had little influence on how Kanawhans chose sides in the Civil War.
Wealth allowed the slaveholders to dominate political offices. Kanawhans repeatedly rotated their wealthiest citizens through Kanawha’s elective offices, including delegates and senators to the state government in Richmond. Just twenty men held those offices between 1830 and 1860. One delegate, Isaac Noyes Smith, was the son of another delegate, Benjamin H. Smith. Many of the same men also held local offices such as sheriff, deputy sheriff, and commissioner of revenue. 16 The expansion of the franchise in 1851 appears to have made no difference in this rotation. Moreover, service in Richmond allowed the men to make contacts in the east and use them to benefit the county. One of their major accomplishments was the bill approving the construction of the Covington and Ohio Railroad, which promised to expand Kanawha’s salt exports to the rest of the South and beyond. One large rally in September 1859 gathered many of the county’s prominent citizens. 17 The constant repetition of the slaveholders through government offices made them accustomed to wielding authority. The Kanawha electorate appeared to have accepted this hegemony as normal politics. There appears to be no evidence of disparagement by the elites on to the majority, as David Hsiung discovered in upper East Tennessee. 18 This lack of evidence does not mean that none existed.
With so many slaves, it should not be surprising that Kanawha’s slaveholders reacted with great alarm to John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859. Local elites used the event to assert their leadership over the rest of the county in the name of security. At a large rally held on December 19, 1859, a nine-member committee drafted resolutions to express collective anger and resolve. The board resolved that Kanawhans “are ready and willing at all times to perform our part in carrying into effect any measures that Virginia and her sister Southern States may deem proper and expedient to adopt for the purpose of protecting and defending the Rights, Persons, Property and Honor of Slave-holding States.” The meeting accused the Republican Party of inciting anti-Southern opinions, exemplified by Hinton Rowan Helper’s book The Impending Crisis, which “plainly indicates a deadly hostility and bitter hatred on the part of the Black Republicans towards the South, and a fixed determination on their part to interfere with the institutions of the South.” 19 Leaders of the meeting included Benjamin H. Smith, Spicer Patrick, James M. Laidley, James H. Fry, Nicholas Fitzhugh, John D. Lewis, John S. Swann, Thomas L. Broun, and Jacob Goshorn (the first mayor of Charleston). All but the last two owned slaves, and all lived either in the town or downriver in Kanawha Salines. In the initial shock of the raid, Kanawhans appeared to unite for the common defense. As the year ended, however, the slaveholders and their associates chose a separate path.
Some wealthy Kanawhans embraced a more direct form of politics in the wake of John Brown’s raid: forming militia companies. Ostensibly intended to provide an armed response in case of emergency, their real purpose was to gather similar-minded men together and assert their social status. The records left by one militia company, the Charleston Sharpshooters, indicated both their political purpose and elevated social status. Their commander, John Swann, came from Charleston where he owned ten slaves. Other officers, including John Taylor, Charles Ufferman, and Christopher C. Roy, also lived in the town but owned no slaves. The Sharpshooters maintained discipline by requiring regular attendance. Absences resulted in a fine of twenty-five cents, restricting membership to those with means. The Sharpshooters met in late 1859 to establish the political purpose. Their resolutions placed conditions on their continued support of the Union. One stated that their members would support secession if the Union became destructive of “the liberty, the persons or the property of this mother Commonwealth devolves upon her own sons alone and her sister states of the South for protection, [then] the Union is already at an end.” 20 Other resolutions encouraged military preparations such as asking Richmond for weapons. It is unclear if the state ever met their requests. Noticeably absent are any pro-slavery statements.
Another militia, the Coal River Rifles based in Coalsmouth, likewise gathered in response to John Brown. Its resolutions published in the Kanawha Valley Star had a much clearer pro-slavery attitude. On December 17, 1859, its members denounced the treasonous attempts by “a band of fanatics of the North of this Union” to attack Virginia “with an avowed purpose to incite our Negroes to insurrection and to rebellion, and thereby to involve the citizens of this Commonwealth in all the horrors of servile war.” 21 Like the Sharpshooters, the Coal River Rifles declared their intention to arm themselves in case of invasion. They also encouraged Richmond to finish the railroad for reasons of national security. Like the Sharpshooters, the Riflemen’s officers had close connections to slavery. Of the four officers mentioned in these resolutions, three owned slaves. Thomas Lewis and Benjamin S. Thompson each owned five, and J. Frazier Hansford owned three. Thompson lived nearby in Upper Forks of Coal, while the rest resided in Coalsmouth. It appears that the slaveholders worried that the non-slaveholders would not share their concerns to protect the institution. They shaped, at least temporarily, their propaganda to emphasize patriotism to Virginia above all other factors, while never mentioning slavery.
The most important of the militias was the Kanawha Riflemen, whose memorial today stands on Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston. Its members contained many of the county’s leading and wealthiest figures. Their captain, a local lawyer named George S. Patton, personally designed their uniforms and organized a brass band. Other members included Isaac Noyes Smith, James H. Fry, and Alfred Spicer Patrick, each the son of a former delegate. Indeed, Smith himself served in Richmond. The Riflemen made such an impression that, as their later regimental historian notes, they “were often invited to appear at parades, balls, and social functions, earning a reputation that they could dance as well as, and maybe better, than they could fight.” 22 One member, Jonathan Rundle, who owned no slaves, placed his newspaper, the Kanawha Valley Star , at their disposal to promote the secessionist cause. Over the coming months, his paper provided some of the most ardent pro-secession editorials of any paper in western Virginia. 23 Collectively, the militias represented a radical escalation in county politics. Although possessing negligible military skills, they acted as political rallying points for wealthy Kanawhans by assuming, but more like pretending, to assert responsibility for defending the county. These companies formed the basis for Kanawha’s secessionists.
For all their organization and presumed authority, the Kanawha militias had little impact on the 1860 presidential election. This election promised to be controversial because of the powerful Republican Party and its candidate, Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. The Republican platform pledged to protect slavery where it existed but to forbid it in the new western territories. Southern “fire-eaters” saw this as a direct attack on slavery. Moderates saw it as unnecessarily provocative, believing that the Constitution guaranteed them the legal right to take slave property anywhere they chose. As such, the Republican Party did not appear on the ballot in the South, including Kanawha County. The three remaining parties each campaigned on maintaining the status quo. The Constitutional Union Party under John Bell promised to restore national unity by respecting constitutional rights as written. Restoring national unity, the party platform read, required that “the rights of the People and of the States [are] re-established, and the Government again placed in that condition of justice, fraternity and equality, which, under the example and Constitution of our fathers, has solemnly bound every citizen.” 24 This moderate policy sought to allay fears of a confrontation between North and South by appealing to their joint respect for the Constitution itself. True to their long-standing voting patterns, 1,176 or 68 percent of Kanawhans voted for Bell. The National Democrats under Stephen Douglas received fifty-two, while 513 voted for the Southern Democrats under John C. Breckinridge. The election caught their attention, but Kanawhans continued to act as they had before. 25
Regardless, the national result started the secession crisis. The Republicans won the election without the Southern vote. Breckinridge won most of the South, but Bell won Virginia by a narrow margin, as well as Kentucky and Tennessee. Douglas won just Missouri and some of New Jersey’s electoral college votes. In response, many Southerners turned towards secession. The Lower South states of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas openly discussed disunion. A more muted debate took place in the Upper South states of Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia, and in the Border South states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware. The Southern response to the election of the moderate antislavery Lincoln started the most serious crisis in American history.
Kanawhans showed concern over the result but did not panic. Two days after the election, J. Edward Caldwell wrote to his Northern cousin Emily Bigelow about the post-election situation. He wrote, “There is a great deal of excitement here. . . . Most everyone expects that the Union will be dissolved if Lincoln is elected. I am very much afraid there will be some trouble kicked up between the North and the South which I should regret very much as in that case I would not be able to make you all a visit very soon.” 26 Caldwell was correct in saying there would be some trouble kicked up between North and South, but he would not have to travel far to find it. Like the rest of Virginia, Kanawha County became a battleground between secessionists and Unionists. These sides replaced the old parties and competed for the county’s votes.
Unionism dominated the debate from the beginning. Rallies at the courthouse and elsewhere in the county provided Kanawhans the chance to express themselves on the question of disunion. William Clark Reynolds, a twenty-five-year-old clerk from Kanawha Salines, recorded several such meetings in his diary. On January 7, 1861, he reported a “Great Union-Disunion Meeting held in Charleston. Resolutions favoring a perpetuation of the Union were adopted.” He reported other meetings on January 24, where he “heard Fitzhugh and Brooson,” and on February 2 when he “heard Major [Andrew] Parks and Dr. [John] Parks (secessionists) at the Methodist Church.” 27 The pro-secession Richmond Daily Dispatch reported a meeting in early January that called for a state convention on secession. The meeting embraced a platform around which Kanawhans could agree, opposing the “use of force by the General Government to compel or coerce a seceding State.” More importantly, the meeting emphasized the need for unity on this issue, since “we hold it to be the highest duty of each party most scrupulously to avoid any and every occasion of outbreak or collision.” 28 The secessionists appealed to Kanawhans by invoking the things dearest to them, such as liberty and loyalty to Virginia, but avoided a discussion of slavery in order to broaden their appeal. An election for delegates to a Virginia constitutional convention, however, proved that Kanawhans opposed disunion.
The convention election in February 1861 was the first reliable gauge of the strength of secessionism in Virginia. The election had two ballots the first for delegates to the convention to be held in Richmond two weeks later, and a second on whether or not to hold a popular referendum on the convention’s decision. Governor Letcher reluctantly agreed to hold a convention out of concern that the secessionists would exploit it. In the preceding two months, the seven Lower South states had seceded from the Union, and Virginia’s own disunionists eagerly sought their chance. The election turned out to be a decisive victory for the Unionists. Letcher’s biographer wrote that he “made no effort to hide his delight,” when he learned of the Unionist majority. 29 A historian of secession reported that statewide “fewer than one-third of the 152 delegates elected favored secession.” In the reference ballot, in which a yes vote prevented any precipitous secession from the Union, Virginia as a whole voted 103,236 in favor of reference and 46,386 against. Eastern Virginians voted a very close 32,294 and 32,009, respectively, while the west voted 70,942 and 14,377 against a referendum. 30 Despite the intrastate disparity, Unionism held firm across Virginia.
The February election revealed that the majority of Kanawhans opposed disunion. Of 2,187 votes cast in the election, Unionist George W. Summers received 2,012, chosen on 92 percent of all ballots cast. Spicer Patrick, also a Unionist, appeared on 1,730 ballots, or 79 percent of the totals. The two secessionist candidates, Nicholas Fitzhugh (a Rifleman) appeared on 421 ballots or 19 percent while John S. Swann (initially a Sharpshooter, later a Rifleman) appeared 210 times, or 10 percent. In other words, just 20 percent of Kanawha voters supported at least one secessionist candidate. William Reynolds of Kanawha Salines, who later joined the Confederate Army, recorded in his diary that he voted for Summers and Fitzhugh and “No Reference.” 31 The latter did not indicate support for Union or secession. Both sides, with few exceptions, wanted a referendum on the matter. Kanawhans cast 1,793 ballots in the reference ballot, including 1,695 (95 percent) votes that favored reference and just 168 (5 percent) that opposed it.
A Bitter Mockery, A Cruel Delusion: The Secession Crisis of 1861
Through a series of semi-contrived political controversies, the secession crisis of 1861 worsens. The city of New York secedes independently, and the states of Maryland and Virginia form a second Confederacy. A small Union force is sent to reinforce Washington, D.C., but ends up attacking Frederick, MD, on the way. This triggers a war in which the US is widely perceived as the aggressor, with a wave of further secessions in the border states. Compared to the OTL, the Union is smaller and much more internally conflicted, pitted against a larger-than-OTL group of secessionists. After a series of secessionist victories, Great Britain intervenes to stop the war in mid-1863.
In American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard, there are brief descriptions of two plans for further secessions during 1861, neither of which moved much beyond the idea phase:
The ambitious Democratic Mayor Fernando Wood of Confederate-sympathetic New York proposed the formation of the Free City of Tri-Insula (“three islands,” namely Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island), so that trade could be maintained with the Confederacy. The idea was dismissed, but in response a local newspaper did publish details of how the free cities of the Hanseatic League had been structured politically, perhaps signifying some degree of popular discussion and interest.
Various elected officials proposed the idea of a second, “central” or “border” confederacy, to include portions of the upper south (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee), what we know as the border states (Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware), and even some central northern states (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio). This idea was popular even in “The Midlands,” Woodard’s term for the tolerant culture of Scotch and German immigrants stretching from Pennsylvania through much of the Midwest.
The objective for this alternate timeline was that somehow both of those plans come to fruition and the relevant political bodies survive the war intact, with the stipulation that the point of departure be late enough that both plans could actually be formed as they were in reality (i.e., POD occurs in early 1861).
In reality, the confederate attack on Ft Sumter and Lincoln’s subsequent call for 75,000 Union volunteers swung public opinion dramatically - against the confederacy in much of the north, for the confederacy in the upper south. Only after these events did Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas secede. Woodard postulates that Greater Appalachia (the region from the mountain range westward) aligned itself heavily with the Union, but only after Ft Sumter.
Lincoln, however, was quite careful in his approach to the secession crisis, making deliberate Union aggression unlikely. Thus, the central departure of this alternate history (i.e., the place where I put my thumb on the scales) is one of how perceptions are formed and manipulated: initially, Fernando Wood is much more aggressive both in his objectives and his methods after that, happenstance deals Lincoln a bad hand. As a result, Greater Appalachia aligns strongly with the secessionists, and even the Midlanders are of conflicted allegiance.
Lincoln Angers New York Democrats
As Abraham Lincoln passes through Manhattan on the way to his 1861 inauguration, he is baited into a minor political argument with local leaders. New York Mayor Fernando Wood seizes the opportunity to raise his own profile in opposition to Lincoln, leveraging his local influence (especially his brother’s newspaper) to exaggerate the incident. In Wood’s account, Lincoln is dismissive and uncompromising towards not only Confederates but also their sympathizers in the north. Wood’s proposal for the city of New York to secede from the Union, previously dismissed as a ridiculous rhetorical gesture, is again mentioned as a possibility. Wood’s friends among the Irish street gangs of New York foment secessionist protests and violent riots.
In March, as conflicting accounts of the argument spread throughout the country, now-President Lincoln gives a public address, attempting to reconcile the breach with Wood. His words are again twisted to have the opposite effect, compounding the controversy.
The Second Confederacy
Meanwhile, Maryland Governor Thomas Hicks has been corresponding privately with various figures throughout the middle states and the upper south (in particular, Virginia Governor John Letcher) regarding the formation of a second confederacy, theoretically stretching from Virginia to New York and out to Ohio, Indiana, or Illinois. While this idea is also popularly discussed, any specific plans are made only in secret. One member of this circle of correspondents, a Kentuckian, is emboldened by the publicized New York controversy to share Hicks’s plans with Wood.
Wood and his supporters formally secede, not only from the state of New York but from the Union, claiming the lower Hudson Valley, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Long Island as the Free City of New York, under the provisional mayoralty of Wood himself. In early April, after Hicks fails to follow suit, Woods publishes all he knows (plus some substantial fabrications) about the Hicks conspiracy, announcing it as if the secession of the middle states were imminent.
In the CSA, Jefferson Davis bides his time. Seeing the prospect of a larger, peaceful secession, he chooses not to attack federal forts in confederate territory.
The Hicks conspirators have been emboldened by the New York secession, but plans are not yet finalized. With their hand forced by the publication of their conspiracy, Maryland and Virginia leaders hastily meet in secret to draft articles of secession. In mid-April, they secede jointly as the Democratic Confederation of American States (DCAS) with Letcher as the provisional president, expecting their conspirators in the middle/border states (especially Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) to quickly follow. Delaware joins them a few weeks later.
The Battle of Frederick
Lincoln, alarmed at the implications of having the national capital sandwiched between enemy states (and having reason to suspect the city’s residents might join the newer confederacy), calls for five thousand volunteers (a purposefully minuscule number) to defend Washington, D.C. This in itself arouses ample hostility, but the execution will be horribly botched.
Brigadier General Benjamin Butler is given command of the small force, mustered in Pennsylvania. Butler marches overland through northern Maryland, and disaster strikes. A small band of Maryland civilians, angry at the incursion, ambushes the Union troops, and, after a brief skirmish, hides in nearby Frederick, MD. Butler gives chase, leading to further violence in the town and a de facto Union occupation of Frederick. On May 7, 1861, the Civil War begins.
Battle Lines Are Drawn
Everyone is shocked by the “Frederick Massacre.” North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, and Arkansas secede in rapid succession most of these states’ leadership perceive their interests to be more aligned with the DCAS and join accordingly, although Arkansas narrowly chooses to join the CSA. There are attempts at secession in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but none are successful. In Illinois, the secession movement is locally successful in the southern half of the state, but the official state government and the northern half remain firmly unionist. Across the Midwest, divided sympathies on secession erupt into protests and violence.
In the west, the rest of the New Mexico territory joins the secessionists, as do the largest tribes in Indian Territory. A scattered few agitate for secession in California, Utah, and other places, but none are significant. Fifteen (and a half) states, two territories, and one city have left the Union.
The Newly International Order
Davis and other leading figures of the CSA see the formation of a second confederacy as utter folly, unnecessary, and insulting. The DCAS is somewhat more politically diverse, with the leaders of the eastern states seeing themselves as moderating influences between the north and Deep South, siding with but not a part of the latter. From the Appalachians westward, many people see themselves as warriors, banding together to defend against an aggressor, but are deeply distrustful of the rich planters of both the CSA and the DCAS. The partisans of both confederacies view New York’s secession favorably, as a sign of the validity of southern grievances, and of the imminent collapse of the Union.
The North is internally divided along its new border regions, particularly near the Ohio River and in the northern part of New Jersey, but its political leadership is overwhelmingly Unionist. The leadership of New York had hoped either to extract concessions in exchange for remaining in the Union, or at most to propel a bloodless breakup of the Union in a way that would facilitate free trade they are terrified by the outbreak of war. Some panic and attempt to defect back to the Union, but this gives Wood a pretext to take tighter control over the new government.
For each of the new nations, the writing is on the wall: they must band together to stand a chance against the more industrialized and still-numerically-superior Union. The three small powers temporarily overcome their differences to ally and join forces.
The Call of Abolitionists and the Election of Abraham Lincoln
With the appearance of the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe and the publication of key abolitionist newspapers like "The Liberator," the call for the abolition of slavery grew stronger in the north.
And, with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the South felt that someone who was only interested in Northern interests and was against the enslavement of people would soon be president. South Carolina delivered its "Declaration of the Causes of Secession," and the other states soon followed. The die was set and with the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12–13, 1861, open warfare began.
Watch the video: Der Amerikanische Bürgerkrieg I musstewissen Geschichte