January 11th, 1861

4f3a4e1f3ac191da4dcbb480a698327dUntil this point, the states that seceded from the Union had been perhaps more diplomatic when it came to their Ordinances of Secession, passing sweeping statements rather than commentaries on the current political climate or tensions that had arose with the election of 1860. Though the undertones were there, the closest mention even to slavery was the term “Property” used two days prior when Mississippi declared its own intention to withdraw from the United States.

Then, on January 11th, 1861 Alabama became the fourth State to declare itself free of the Constitution and the authority of the Federal Government in Washington D.C.. The language was plain, and without any pretexts, as it declared:

Whereas, the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of president and vice-president of the United States of America, by a sectional party, avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama, preceded by many and dangerous infractions of the constitution of the United States by many of the States and people of the Northern section, is a political wrong of so insulting and menacing a character as to justify the people of the State of Alabama in the adoption of prompt and decided measures for their future peace and security…

In their mind Abraham Lincoln would never be their President, nor would they recognize the authority of a regional Northern Government under Lincoln and Maine Senator turned Vice President-Elect Hannibal Hamlin. They would not respect that authority, nor would they abide by the peaceful transition of power that had been a hallmark of the American republican democracy since the nations inception. No, this election challenged the institution on which the economy of the State of Alabama was built on. Of the over 964,000 people who resided in the state, just over 435,000 were slaves. It drove the prosperity of the state, and to the slaveholding population of the state, it was not just an economic institution, but as the newspapers in the state would also declare, a religious one as well.

The truth was there was little question that Alabama would leave the Union. In February of the year prior the State Legislature had passed legislation requiring the state to elect delegates to a secessionist convention if a “Black Republican” were to win the Presidency. In December those elections were called by Governor Andrew Moore, and the convention was set for January 7th. Moore though had already begun to make moves before the Secessionist Convention even met. Anticipating the state’s desire to leave, he would order troops to seize Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan on Mobile Bay as well as the Arsenal at Mount Vernon as early as the 3rd and the 4th of January. Under his orders 500 Alabama Troops marched to Florida to assist Governor Madison Perry take the Fort at Pensacola, even as the fellow slaveholding state prepared to leave the Union. Not only did they declare that they wished to meet with other slave states to form a new confederacy, but they also acted on it, taking hardline steps to not only chase the Union from their state, to decrease their financial reliance on the North and ensure their own stability during this unstable time, but also to assist their neighbors in this cause.

Even as the fourth of the original six founding states of the Confederate States of America severed its bonds in open defiance to the United States, it wouldn’t be long before the new rebel nation would be formed. Though Richmond would eventually become the Capital, in those early days Montgomery would serve as the first capital of the CSA. Moore would be an influential player, tirelessly working to ensure the election of Jefferson Davis as the first President. Though some would argue for cooler heads to prevail, and for compromise to be struck, it was too late, and Alabama, swayed too heavily by the cause of slavery would not hear it. Still, at least some would remain loyal to the Union, with the 1st Alabama Calvary choosing to place first the United States, over its loyalty to that of its state. It would be at least one sign of the depth of the divide in the nation that would pit brother against brother and neighbor against neighbor as the blood of its people stained the soil, and the soul, of the nation.

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