Secession! The story of Georgia's Secession from the United States, 1861
About North Georgia
Throughout the 1850's a division in the country between North and South widened(see Causes of the Civil War). However, in spite of the rising rhetoric the state of Georgia is far from becoming a "war machine." In Marietta the Georgia Military Institute goes to the state in search of funds three times between 1852 and 1860. In Rome, effort is being placed on railroads for economic reasons, not reasons of war, and in Atlanta the city is concerned with firefighting equipment for the newly formed fire department, not some military unit. It was life as usual on the home front.
May 3 Southern Democrats withdraw from convention in Charleston, SC over slavery plank.
June 18 Second convention, Baltimore, MD.
June 22 Southern Democrats withdraw for a 2nd time. June 23 Southern Democrats nominate Breckinridge. Northern Democrats nominate Douglas.
With the dawn of a new decade new problems arose. John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, who spent most of his four years as vice-president soothing the political differences of senators and congressmen, runs for President as a Southern Democrat. Steven Douglas, the Northern Democratic candidate, alienated much of the South over the last few years. John Bell, a Constitutional Union candidate from Tennessee, gains support from the northern tier of southern states with a co-operationist stand.
Vying for the Republican nod, Abraham Lincoln seemed a probable runner-up to William Seward. As early as 1857 Seward called slavery an "irrepressible conflict". In 1858 following his nomination for senate by the Illinois Republican Party, Lincoln talked about the increased agitation against slavery. "In my opinion it shall not cease until a crisis has been reached and passed." Lincoln then quoted "A house divided shall not stand" from the Bible and applied it to the pro-slavery forces in the South and the anti-slavery forces in the North.
At the 1860 Republican Convention delegates feel Seward is too weak in some key northern states. Lincoln, the convention's second choice, is selected, but rarely speaks publicly after his nomination. He campaigns from his law offices in Springfield, Illinois. With the other candidates splitting the field, Lincoln wins the election with 39.7% of the popular vote.
Abraham Lincoln, Republican
John C. Breckinridge, Democrat
John Bell, Constitutional Union
Stephen A. Douglas, Democrat
The state of Georgia was deeply divided on the issue of secession. In 1860, Georgia is the second largest state east of the Mississippi, has the best rail system in the deep South and is centrally located. As the legislature meets in Milledgeville in November, the rise of an independent South hinges on Georgia voting for secession. The legislature votes to authorize a convention by statewide vote on January_2, 1861.
Alexander Stephens, Vice-president of the Confederacy
Voting for politicians who are either in favor of "immediate secession" or "co-operationist," the people of Georgia go to the polls across the state. In north Georgia the areas near larger cities are for immediate secession. Floyd County, the area around Rome, voted 3 to 2 in favor of secession. Clarke County, the area around Athens, votes 3 to 1 in favor of secession. However, Murray County was more typical of north Georgia. They vote 3 to 1 in favor of the co-operationist candidate. White County voted 320 to 48 for the co-operationist, and in Dade County, which seceded from the state when Georgia seceded from the Union, the vote was 346 to 42 against secession.
Until the 1970's the vote for secession had been listed as 50,243 in favor of secession to 37,123 against. In 1972 the Georgia Historical Society attempted to recreate the vote because of abnormalities that had been noticed in some counties. For example, Forsyth County and Cobb County showed a higher vote count than for the hotly contested presidential elections two months previous, an unlikely scenario.
Using contemporary sources, mostly local newspapers, the society concluded that the margin for the vote was razor-thin, and it was a vote against secession. The final vote on January_2, 1861 was 42,744 in favor of co-operation and 41,717 in favor of immediate secession.
On January 16, 1861, delegates poured into Milledgeville to attend the so-called "Secession Convention". To say the outcome of the meeting is in doubt is an understatement. Many, if not most, thought Georgia would stay in the Union. Alexander Stephens, who later becomes vice-president of the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis, leads the pro-union movement. Stephens speaks eloquently in favor of the Union.
This step (the secession of Georgia,) once taken can never be recalled; and all the baleful and withering consequences that must follow will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war which this act of yours will inevitably invite and call forth; when our green fields of waving harvests shall be trodden down by the murderous soldiery and fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes; all the horrors and desolation of war upon us--who but this Convention will be held responsible for it?
The secessionists are led by former governor and Speaker of the House Howell Cobb, who four years prior had been pro-Union. Cobb's longtime rival, Judge Henry Benning, speaks eloquently in favor of secession.
In spite of the popular vote outcome, the elected delegates cast two votes, a "test" vote on January 18, and a secession vote on January 19. Both votes are strongly pro-secession. What began a month earlier, with South Carolina seceding on December 20, 1860 was now complete. The deep South is united in the fight against the North. Now attention turns towards Virginia.
A look at life on the home front in war-torn Georgia.
Georgia History Articles about North Georgia history and the state in general. This section is currently being developed. For more information on Georgia History, please see The Civil War in Georgia The Civil War in Georgia Beginning with the Great Locomotive Chase and the battle of Chickamauga, to the Atlanta Campaign and the March to the Sea