Please see the bibliography following this chronology for complete information on every source, especially primary sources. The following sources were used repeatedly: Ralph A. Wooster, The Secession Conventions of the South (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962); Charles W. Ramsdell, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter," Journal of Southern History, Volume 3, Issue 3 (Aug., 1937); E. B. Long with Barbara Long, The Civil War Day by Day, An Almanac, 1861 - 1865 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971; reprint, New York, Da Capo Press, 1985); John Amasa May and Joan Reynolds Faunt, South Carolina Secedes (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1962); The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1900; reprint, Historical Times, Inc., 1985); W. Buck Yearns, ed., The Confederate Governors (Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press, 1985); John Shipley Tilley,
Lincoln Takes Command (second printing, Nashville: Bill Coats, Ltd., 1991).
February 24, 1860
Joint Resolutions of the General Assembly of Alabama approved. They would trigger, upon the election of a Republican to the presidency, the calling of a convention "to consider, determine and do whatever in the opinion of said Convention, the rights, interests, and honor of the State of Alabama requires to be done for their protection."
September 21, 1860
Washington, D.C. speech of William Lowndes Yancy, "Equal Rights in a Common Government." The fiery Yancy said, "Revenues have been raised at the rate of two or three dollars in the South to one from any other section for the support of this great Government, but the South makes no complaint of mere dollars and cents. Touch not the honor of my section of the country, and she will not complain of almost anything else you may do; but touch her honor and equality and she will stand up in their defence, if necessary in arms. . . . No matter who may be elected, no matter what may be done, still they (the North) will stand to the Union as the great cause of their prosperity. . . ."
October 19, 1860
Rep. John H. Reagan publishes excellent letter pointing out, among other things, the Northern desire to "strike down the sovereignty and equality of the States," taking of private property in slaves with no compensation, promotion of Helper's book which recommends "treason, blood, and carnage as a proper campaign document" for the Republicans, etc.
November 5, 1860
South Carolina Governor William H. Gist asks the legislature for a state convention if the Republicans win the election.
November 6, 1860
Republican Abraham Lincoln is elected sixteenth President of the United States with Hannibal Hamlin of Maine his Vice-president. Historian David M. Potter in Lincoln and His Party in the Secession Crisis (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1942; reprint, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979), 189, writes that Lincoln was elected by a Northern sectional minority representing the smallest plurality of popular votes in American history. The loser in the next five presidential elections got more popular votes than Lincoln. Of the total 4,682,069 votes cast, Lincoln received 1,866,452 which is 39.9%. The eighteen states voting for him were all above the Mason/Dixon line. He received no electoral votes in fifteen of the thirty-three states. His name was not even on the ballot in ten Southern states. Lincoln's opponents together totaled 2,815,617 which was almost a million votes more than he got.
November 7, 1860
Georgia Governor Joseph E. Brown delivers his long Special Message on Federal Relations encouraging separate state action on secession rather than waiting for a convention of Southern states to jointly decide the issue. His message points out, among many positive issues, Southern economic strength and it ends with "To every demand for further concessions, or compromise of our rights, we should reply, 'The argument is exhausted,' and we now 'stand by our arms.'"
(Some time between November 7-20, 1860, the Resolutions on Secession from Floyd County, Georgia, were issued).
November 10, 1860
South Carolina legislature approves bill calling for secession convention to begin December 17, 1860.
November 12, 1860
Commencement of an entire week of speeches debating secession before the Georgia legislature in Milledgeville. This was a critical debate since Georgia, Empire State of the South, had the largest population and strongest economy in the lower South.
Georgian Thomas Read Roots Cobb's secessionist speech to the Georgia legislature and guests in Milledgeville. This rousing speech pointed out, among other things, flagrant Northern violations of the Constitution, Northern hatred being promoted at all levels toward the South, Northern fanatical abolitionism, possibility of a wall of free states around the Cotton States, and warns of the "gory head" of civil war.
Prices on the New York financial market drop sharply due to heavy selling.
November 14, 1860
Mississippi Gov. Pettus "issued a call for a special session of the legislature on November 26 to consider necessary future safeguards for Mississippi."
Alabama Governor Andrew B. Moore makes it clear that December 24, 1860, will be the day for election of delegates to a secession convention, and the convention was to convene January 7,1861.
November 19, 1860
Secessionist Speech of Georgian Henry L. Benning to members and guests of the Georgia legislature in Milledgeville, going into great detail on the amount of Southern wealth flowing north in the form of bounties, tariffs, subsidies, etc.
November 20, 1860
Georgia legislature approves bill for election of delegates to a secession convention to take place January 2, 1861, and convention January 16, 1861.
November 21, 1860
Lincoln goes to Chicago from Springfield for five days to discuss cabinet appointments with his Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin.
November 26, 1860
Mississippi Gov. Pettus advises a secession convention be called, and a bill was passed dealing with elections of delegates, setting dates, etc.
December 1, 1860
Florida legislature goes into special secession that had been requested by secessionist Governor M. S. Perry to consider calling a secession convention.
December 3, 1860
The Thirty-sixth Congress of the United States, second session, begins in Washington, D.C.
December 4, 1860
Lame duck President James Buchanan gives State of the Union Message blaming fanatical abolitionism for destroying the country. He admits of the sovereignty of each state but that the Federal Government would defend the forts if attacked. He said slavery was on the way out, and he proposed a constitutional amendment protecting property rights in slaves. He condemned secession and said the election of one of our countryman was no legitimate reason to leave the Union, but he admitted he had no power to coerce a state. The Committee of Thirty-three created by the U. S. House of Representatives composed of one representative from each of the 33 states, to analyze the crisis.
December 8, 1860
A South Carolina delegation of U. S. House members warn President Buchanan not to attempt reinforcement of Fort Sumter, which would be an act of coercion and war. They implore him to negotiate with South Carolina Commissioners so the state could get title to all Federal property by paying for it.
December 10, 1860
The Botetourt Resolutions of Judge John J. Allen, President of the Supreme Court of Virginia, forty-nine detailed patriotic statements linking the South today with the times of the Founding Fathers, condemning the North for sectionalism and the promotion of hatred by pharisaical fanatics, and making it clear, among other things, that Virginia had always reserved the right of secession. It was adopted almost unanimously by the people of Botetourt County, Virginia.
In response to Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore's request, the Louisiana legislature met in Baton Rouge and two days later, on December 12, 1860, passed a bill setting January 7, 1861, as the day to elect delegates, and January 23, 1861, as the date of a secession convention to be held in Baton Rouge.
South Carolina delegation presented President Buchanan with a written statement promising not to attack the forts but admonishing him not to try to reinforce them. The South Carolinians got the impression there would be no change in the military situation in Charleston Harbor, and they promised to try and prevent any accidental confrontation. Lincoln wrote Sen. Lyman Trumbell, "Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. . . . The tug has to come & better now, than any time hereafter."
December 11, 1860
Lincoln to Rep. William Kellogg, "Entertain no proposition for a compromise in regard to the extension of slavery. The instant you do, they have us under again. . . ."
December 12, 1860
Committee of Thirty-three doing its job with a variety of proposals, bills and resolutions submitted.
December 13, 1860
Twenty-three representatives and seven senators from the South issue "a manifesto which urged secession and the organization of a Southern Confederacy." Lincoln continues his intense campaign against compromise with the South on slavery in the territories.
December 16, 1860
South Carolina legislature elects Francis Wilkinson Pickens governor. By the 17th he had delivered his Inaugural Message emphasizing, among other things, that South Carolina will open her ports to the world and advocate free trade, that she has fine harbors and important commodities, that South Carolina aceded to the Constitution alone, and will secede alone.
December 17, 1860
South Carolina Secession Convention (Convention of the People of South Carolina) opens at the Baptist Church in Columbia, but due to the presence of smallpox in Columbia, decides to reconvene the next day in Charleston. The Convention did vote on a resolution in favor of seceding, and it passed 159 - 0. David F. Jamison opened the convention and his speech included: "I trust that the door is now forever closed to all further connection with our Northern confederates; for what guarantees can they offer us, more strictly guarded, or under higher sanctions, than the present written compact between us? And did that sacred instrument protect us from the jealousy and aggressions of the North, commenced forty years ago, which resulted in the Missouri Compromise? Did the Constitution protect us from the cupidity of the Northern people, who, for thirty-five years, have imposed the burden of supporting the General Government chiefly on the industry of the South?"
December 18, 1860
South Carolina Secession Convention reconvenes in Institute Hall in Charleston. The United States Senate in Washington passed a resolution for a Committee of Thirteen to investigate the country's problems. It would be similar to the House's Committee of Thirty-three.
Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden presented his plan which became known as the Crittenden Compromise. Its main feature was the revival of the Missouri Compromise line which had been made irrelevant by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed slavery anywhere in the territories, and later by the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court which said slavery could not be kept out of the territories. Crittenden's Compromise was submitted to the new, official Committee of Thirteen two days later.
December 20, 1860
South Carolina secedes by adopting 169 - 0 an "Ordinance To Dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States United with her under the Compact Entitled 'The Constitution of the United States of America.'"
Mississippi elects delegates to its secession convention.
Committee of Thirteen officially named in the United States Senate.
December 21, 1860
Lincoln writes to Democrat Francis P. Blair, Sr., "According to my present view if the forts shall be given up before the inauguration (sic), the General (Scott) must retake them afterwards." He also wrote a like letter to Rep. Elihu B. Washburne.
December 22, 1860
Election of delegates to the Florida Secession Convention.
South Carolina Secession Convention names three commissioners to negotiate the purchase of Federal property in the state, and put all the forts under South Carolina control. Lincoln wrote to Alexander Stephens saying he had no intention of interfering with slavery, only preventing its spread to the territories.
December 24, 1860
Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union adopted in Charleston, South Carolina by the South Carolina Secession Convention. It was written by Christopher Gustavus Memminger who served later as Confederate Secretary of the Treasury. It included many direct references to the right of secession going back to the Revolutionary War, like the following that starts out with a reference to the Articles of Confederation:
Under this Confederation the war of the Revolution was carried on, and on the 3d September, 1783, the contest ended, and a definite Treaty was signed by Great Britain, in which she acknowledged the independence of the Colonies in the following terms:
"Article 1 -- His Britannic Majesty acknowledges the said United States, viz: New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, to be FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that he treats with them as such; and for himself, his heirs and successors, relinquishes all claims to the government, propriety and territorial rights of the same and every part thereof.
Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATES.
The Address of the People of South Carolina, Assembled in Convention, to the People of the Slaveholding States of the United States, adopted by the South Carolina Secession Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. It was written by Charleston Mercury editor Robert Barnwell Rhett.
Delegates elected by Alabamians to the Alabama Secession Convention.
New York Republican William H. Seward proposes a constitutional amendment to the effect that Congress can never interfere with slavery in the states where it exists, and also that fugitives slaves be given jury trials, and that the unconstitutional Personal Liberty Laws and the like on the books in many Northern states be revised.
December 26, 1860
Union Major Robert Anderson secretly moves from Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, into the unfinished Fort Sumter, making a tense national situation much worse.
South Carolina Secession Convention proposed a convention meet in Montgomery, Alabama, to create a constitution for the new Southern Confederacy.
December 27, 1860
Kentucky Governor Magoffin calls special secession of the legislature to meet January 17, 1861, to discuss federal relations.
Letter from Alabama Commissioner S. F. Hale, to Gov. Magoffin of Kentucky. Mr. Hale was a member of the Alabama House of Representatives and Alabama Secession Convention. His letter is one of the most thorough treatments of all the issues together in a persuasive package including Northern fanaticism, constitutional violations, use of the government for its own benefit with tariffs, bounties, subsidies, etc., John Brown and his Northern support, Emmigrant Aid Societies, Lincoln's election by a sectional vote, etc.
December 31, 1860
Senate Committee of Thirteen reports that all proposals defeated in committee. The Crittenden Compromise was the only one that received serious attention.
January 1, 1861
Letter of Commissioner David Clopton of Alabama to Delaware Gov. William Burton
January 2, 1861
Georgia election day for delegates to a secession convention.
January 3, 1861
Florida Secession Convention convenes in Tallahassee on Thursday, January 3, 1861.
Senate Republicans oppose Crittenden's proposal that would allow the public to vote in a referendum on his compromise , though it had some support.
Mid-Southern and border state congressmen meet and form a committee to look at compromises.
January 5, 1861
South Carolina Secession Convention adjourns temporarily.
Missouri Senate calls for Federal Relations Committee to draft a bill for a secession convention.
A caucus of Southern senators from Florida, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia advise secession and a Southern Confederacy for their states.
January 7, 1861
Farewell Address of Sen. Robert Toombs of Georgia to the United States Senate
Mississippi Secession Convention convenes in Jackson, Mississippi.
Alabama Secession Convention convenes in Montgomery.
Louisiana election to delegates to secession convention.
Tennessee Special Secession of the thirty-third legislature called by Governor Isham G. Harris meets in Nashville. Governor Harris delivers a long, passionate message outlining Northern aggressions against the South, from raising to martyrdom John Brown, to harboring one of his criminal fugitive sons. The legislature, among other things, agrees to allow a vote of the people "for or against" a secession convention, and at the same time to elect delegates to said convention.
Personal Explanation of the Hon. W. R. W. Cobb, of Alabama, delivered in the U.S. House of Representatives, pointing out, among other things, that the Republicans, elected by a minority of voters, have no mandate for anything.
Message on Federal Relations of Governor Letcher of Virginia to the Virginia legislature. Letcher points out Northern hated of South, and advocates a convention of Northern and Southern delegates to try and work out problems, or separate peaceably. He rails against John Brown and says Brown should have been denounced by the North but was not. Points out history and New England's secessionist attempt with the Hartford Convention. Blames New England for all the nation's troubles. Includes glowing economic vision of free trade and rapidly growing Southern ports. Favors Southern independence.
Sen. John J. Crittenden speaks passionately in the U. S. Senate for his Compromise.
January 8, 1861
President Buchanan sends to Congress a message asking for pause, North and South, and saying the situation was beyond presidential control and the country needed to hear from the ballot box before a war started. He supports the Crittenden Compromise and the division of the territories by the old line of the Missouri Compromise.
January 9, 1861
The Mississippi Secession Convention passes a secession ordinance 84 - 15. The ensuing wild celebration is said to have inspired the famous Southern song, The Bonnie Blue Flag, when Harry Macarthy spotted a blue silk flag with a single large white star in the middle, floating through the crowds.
The Star of the West, loaded with 250 troops and supplies, is fired on by South Carolina batteries as it tries to enter Charleston Harbor for the purpose of reinforcing Fort Sumter.
January 10, 1861
Florida secedes by a vote of 62 - 7 then, after taking care of other business, adjourns temporarily.
Union Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer moved a small company of artillery a mile and a half from Barrancas Barracks near the Navy Yard, where it had been stationed, into Fort Pickens, at the mouth of Pensacola Bay some six miles from Pensacola, Florida.
January 11, 1861
Speech of E. S. Dargan, in the Secession Convention of Alabama
Alabama votes for secession 61 - 39.
Lincoln writes to Rep. James T. Hale of Pennsylvania stating "Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices...".
New York Legislature passes anti-Southern resolution entitled Concurrent resolutions tendering aid to the President of the United States in support of the Constitution and the Union which starts "Whereas, treason, as defined by the Constitution of the United States, exists in one of more of the States of this confederacy; and whereas, the insurgent State of South Carolina, . . .". It goes on to say that the N.Y. Legislature "is profoundly impressed with the value of the Union, and determined to preserve it unimpaired." A copy of this resolution was sent to all the governors.
January 12, 1861
In Pensacola, Florida, Navy Yard taken over by Florida troops under Colonel W. H. Chase who demanded that Fort Pickens surrender. Slemmer refused.
January 14, 1861
U.S. House Committee of Thirty-three unable to reach agreement on a compromise. Ohio Rep. Thomas Corwin, Chairman of the House Committee of Thirty-three, proposed a constitutional amendment protecting slavery where it exists that could never be further amended without approval of slaveholding states. The slavery protection amendment passed Congress but was never ratified because war started.
January 15, 1861
Mississippi secession ordinance signed.
Rep. John H. Reagan of Texas delivers firey speech in U.S. House of Representatives pointing out Northern economic exploitation of the South, and envisioning a powerful South with manufacturing, trading, etc., and agriculture. Reagan became Confederate Postmaster General and served in Jefferson Davis's Cabinet.
January 16, 1861
Georgia Secession Convention convenes in Milledgeville.
U. S. Senate kills Crittenden Compromise.
Arkansas legislature completes secession referendum bill.
January 17, 1861
Speech of C. Q. Lemmonds, Esq., of Union, North Carolina, on the Convention Bill (bill which called for the convening of a secession convention) delivered in the North Carolina House of Commons.
Kentucky legislature meets and its House tables a convention bill, 54 - 36. Senate bill also died in committee. Resolutions encouraging Southern states to stop seceding, as well as denouncing coercion by the Federal Government were passed, then legislature adjourned until March 20th.
January 18, 1861
In Washington, "nine Southern senators" tried to diffuse the situation and "urged that no attack should be made on Fort Pickens." They believed congressional Republicans wanted war to start while Buchanan was still president, before Lincoln took office.
A copy of the New York resolutions supporting the Union, and pledging men and money to uphold it, while accusing the South of treason, was received by Gov. Joseph E. Brown of Georgia, who then presented the resolution to the Georgia Secession Convention which was in session. Robert Toombs proposed a response which was read and adopted:
Resolved, unanimously, in response to the resolutions of New York, referred to in the Governor's message, that this convention highly approves the energetic and patriotic conduct of Governor Brown in taking possession of Fort Pulaski by Georgia troops, and requests him to hold possession until the relations of Georgia with the Federal Government be determined by this convention; and that a copy of this resolution be transmitted to the Governor of New York.
Massachusetts legislature offers money and men to maintain the Union.
January 19, 1861
Georgia, Empire State of the South, secedes by a vote of 208 - 89.
Virginia legislature adopts Governor Letcher's proposal for a national peace convention or conference. Also adopted around this time was a bill setting February 4th as date for election of delegates to a secession convention, and also to "decide whether the convention had to refer its actions to the voters for their approval." Adopted before this were "resolutions against coercion" and in support of going with the Cotton States if peace turned to war.
January 21, 1861
Farewell Address of Sen. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi to the United States Senate, along with withdrawal of four other Southern senators. Davis noted that "nullification and secession, so often confounded, are indeed antagonistic principles. Nullification is a remedy which it is sought to apply within the Union, and against the agent of the States. It is only to be justified when the agent has violated his constitutional obligation, and a State, assuming to judge for itself, denies the right of the agent thus to act, and appeals to the other States of the Union for a decision; but when the States themselves, and when the people of the States, have so acted as to convince us that they will not regard our constitutional rights, then, and then for the first time, arises the doctrine of secession in its practical application."
New York legislature pledges support to the Union.
January 22, 1861
"Extracts from the message of Louisiana Governor Thomas O. Moore to the Louisiana State Legislature.
Legislatures of Wisconsin and other states pledge Union support inspired by previous action of New York legislature.
January 23, 1861
Georgia Secession Convention passes resolution calling for election of delegates to Confederate provisional congress in Montgomery, Alabama.
Louisiana Secession Convention convenes in Baton Rouge.
Massachusetts pledges support for the Union, following New York and other states.
January 24, 1861
Legislature of Pennsylvania pledges support for the Union.
January 26, 1861
Mississippi Secession Convention adopts A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union. It includes the statement that the North "seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better." The convention adjourns temporarily.
Louisiana secedes by a vote of 113 - 17.
January 28, 1861
Georgia Secession Convention names commissioners to other slaveholding states not yet seceded.
A Monday on which the Convention of Texas had been called after a grass roots movement by leaders of the people of Texas, back in November-December, 1860, after Governor Sam Houston refused over and over to respond to calls for a convention. Article I of the Texas Bill of Rights was cited as giving them the power since it states "that all political power was inherent in the people and that they had at all times the right to alter, reform, or abolish their form of government as they deemed expedient."
January 29, 1861
Florida Senator Stephen R. Mallory "and others, with President Buchanan and his secretaries of War and the Navy" formed an agreement "to the effect that no reinforcement would be sent to Fort Pickens and no attack would be made upon it by the secessionists."
Georgia Secession Convention adopts Causes of Secession, written by Robert Toombs, then temporarily adjourns.
The North Carolina legislature votes to set February 28th as date to vote for or against a secession convention, and also for delegates to said convention.
January 30, 1861
Withdrawal Speech of the Hon. Williamson R. W. Cobb of Alabama from the United States House of Representatives
Washington dinner party of Sen. Stephen Douglas attended by Hon. John A. Campbell of the U.S. Supreme Court, French Minister Mercier, Sens. Crittenden and Seward, and Reps. Genl. Nielson and Miles Taylor, at which Campbell goes into some detail about slavery as a transient institution that was dying out. Seward answers, after being asked whether he knew that only 29 slaves had been carried into the New Mexico territory after 10 years of it being open to slavery, "Only twenty-four, sir."
February 1, 1861
Texas Secession Convention votes secession 166 - 8, pending ratification by the people.
Lincoln wrote Seward "I say now, however, as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question -- that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices, -- I am inflexible."
February 2, 1861
Texas Secession Convention issues Declaration of Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union. Among the reasons noted are: "They (Northerners) have invaded Southern soil and murdered unoffending citizens, and through the press, their leading men and a fanatical pulpit have bestowed praise upon the actors and assassins in these crimes, while the governors of several of their States have refused to deliver parties implicated and indicted for participation in such offenses, upon the legal demands of the States aggrieved. . . . They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides. . . . They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose. . . . They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance."
Speech of Florida Governor M. S. Perry to the Florida House of Representatives, and Senate. Includes many references to Northern gubernatorial and legislative pledges of men and money to the Federal Government for the purpose of coercing the South back into Union.
February 4, 1861
Virginia elects mostly moderates and Unionists to secession convention, and decides any action by the convention would have to be ratified by the people.
Convention of representatives from South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida and Alabama meet in Montgomery, Alabama, and became first session of provisional Confederate Congress.
Peace Convention called by Virginia convenes in Washington, D.C. with 131 members from 21 states that included many prominent people, like former President John Tyler.
February 5, 1861
Farewell Address of Jewish Sen. Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana to the United States Senate. Louisiana's other senator, John Slidell, also resigned. Benjamin later served the Confederacy as Attorney General, chief of the War Department and Secretary of State. A brilliant legal mind, Benjamin said in his address: "The rights of Louisiana as a sovereign state are those of Virginia; no more, no less. Let those who deny her right (Louisiana's) to resume delegated powers, successfully refute the claim of Virginia to the same right, in spite of her (Virginia's) expressed reservation made and notified to her sister states when she consented to enter the Union. And, sir, permit me to say that, of all the causes which justify the action of the Southern States, I know none of greater gravity and more alarming magniturde than that now developed of the denial of the right of secession. A pretension so monstrous as that which perverts a restricted agency (federal government), constituted by sovereighn states for common purposes, into the unlimited despotism of the majority, and denies all legitimate escape from such despotism, when powers not delegated are usurped, converts the whole constitutional fabric into the secure abode of lawless tyranny, and degrades sovereign states into provincial dependencies."
February 7, 1861
Choctaw Indians proclaim their loyalty to the Southern states.
At the Montgomery Convention, Christopher Gustavus Memminger of Charleston, who had been appointed head of a committee to report to the convention the framework for a provisional government, issued his report, which was immediately taken up in secret session.
February 8, 1861
Confederates adopt a Provisional Constitution.
February 9, 1861
Confederate Provisional President elected unanimously: former United States Secretary of War and Senator, Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, considered by most a moderate. He was not in attendance at the convention. Georgia's Alexander "Little Alec" Stephens, is also elected unanimously, as Vice-President.
Tennesseans vote against calling a secession convention, 69,675 to 57,798.
February 10, 1861
Jefferson Davis is stunned to find out he had been elected president. He had expected a military post. He immediately accepts and makes plans to leave for Montgomery.
February 11, 1861
Address of George Williamson, Commissioner from Louisiana to the Texas Secession Convention written (actually delivered March 9, 1961)
Both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln leave their homes, Davis headed to Montgomery, and Lincoln to Washington, both taking circuitous routes. In Montgomery, Alexander Stephens is inaugurated as Vice-President.
Texas Secession Convention votes to join the Confederacy and elected delegates to serve in the Confederate Congress.
February 12, 1861
Confederate Congress takes over decisions related to all forts, from the various states.
February 13, 1861
Virginia Secession Convention assembles in Richmond.
February 18, 1861
Confederate President Jefferson Davis inaugurated in Montgomery, Alabama, stating clearly that he hoped for peace. It was only after reading Davis's Inauguration Address that Lincoln began specifically saying that he was for peace. Davis pointed out that the Confederacy was living proof that "governments rest upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish governments whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established." Davis also reiterated Southern economic strength and plans for free trade.
Arkansans vote 27,412 to 15,826 in favor of calling a secession convention.
Missourians elect delegates to secession convention.
February 23, 1861
Texans vote decisively to ratify secession, 34,794 to 11,235.
February 25, 1861
Letter from Georgia Commissioner A. R. Wright to Governor Thomas H. Hicks of Maryland. Mr. A. R. Wright served brilliantly as a Confederate brigadier general under Lee. His persuasive letter includes much history and documents Northern hatred of the South and agitation over slavery, why North can't be trusted, the right of secession, economic strength of an independent South pointing out that Baltimore would be a great port rivaling New York, etc.
February 26, 1861
Florida Secession Convention reconvenes and ratifies Confederate Constitution 54 - 0.
February 27, 1861
Confederate President Jefferson Davis names A. B. Roman, John Forsyth and Martin J. Crawford as commissioners to Washington.
The Peace Convention reported to Congress six proposed constitutional amendments but none were accepted. The U.S. House of Representatives voted down one proposal after another. The Crittenden Compromise finally died.
February 28, 1861
North Carolinians reject a secession convention 47,323 to 46,672.
Missouri Secession Convention votes to move to St. Louis, where Unionist strength is larger.
U.S. Rep. Thomas Corwin's amendment that slavery could not be interfered with by the government, with the blessing of the House Committee of Thirty-three, is passed and sent to Senate. Lincoln approved of this one.
March 1, 1861
Confederate government takes control of the military situation in Charleston, South Carolina.
March 2, 1861
Texas Ordinance of Secession takes effect.
United States Congress approves Morrill Tariff Act. Also, approved was joint resolution amending Constitution that would protect slavery where it existed, and that protection would be beyond amendment by Congress. This measure was approved by some states, but the war cut short the effort. Senate rejects another attempt by John J. Crittenden, this one to adopt, as a constitutional amendment, the result of the Peace Convention. This was Crittenden's last attempt at compromise.
March 3, 1861
Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard takes command of Confederate forces in Charleston, South Carolina.
March 4, 1861
Lincoln inaugurated in Washington, D.C., as the sixteenth president of the United States, the first purely sectional president elected in American history, having received not a single electoral vote in the South, and in fact was not even on the ballot in 10 Southern states.
Arkansas Secession Convention assembles in Little Rock.
Missouri Secession Convention re-convenes in St. Louis, advocates compromise, and takes anti-coercion stance. It expressed Southern sympathy but does not secede.
The first Confederate flag, reported by the Committee on the Confederate Flag in Montgomery, flies over the state capitol of Alabama, which was also the Confederate capitol at the time.
March 5, 1861
Texas Secession Convention votes to unite with the Confederate States of America.
March 8, 1861
Delaware legislature, after hearing from Cotton State commissioners through the winter, and directing its representatives to support the Crittenden Compromise, does not secede, and in fact Gov. Burton encouraged volunteers to serve the Union, and some 12,000 did.
The three Confederate commissioners, Roman, Forsyth and Crawford, try to contact Seward through Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell.
March 9, 1861
Lincoln meets with his cabinet over Fort Sumter and a long session ensues.
March 11, 1861
Confederate Congress adopts the Confederate Constitution unanimously. Gen. Winfield Scott advises Lincoln that Fort Sumter could not be reinforced without a massive effort and twenty-five thousand troops.
March 12, 1861
Alabama Secession Convention had reconvened March 5th, and on the 12th ratified the Confederate Constitution 87 - 5, then adjourned sine die.
British newspapers and the public were debating recognition of the Confederacy, and there was much support for doing so.
March 13, 1861
Lincoln advises Seward not to see the Confederate commissioners, which would recognize their government as legitimate. Lincoln meets with Gustavus Vasa Fox on Fort Sumter resupply.
March 14, 1861
Lincoln's cabinet meets again on Fort Sumter.
March 15, 1861
Lincoln's cabinet meets and he asks them to submit in writing their positions on provisioning Fort Sumter.
March 16, 1861
Georgia Secession Convention, which had reconvened on March 7th, ratifies Confederate Constitution 276 - 0.
Confederate Provisional Congress ends its first session in Montgomery, having done an effective job setting up the new nation. Three commissioners were named to Britain: William Lowndes Yancy, Pierre A. Rost, and A. Dudley Mann. Their job was to negotiate official recognition. Arizona territory declares for the Confederacy.
Lincoln receives the written recommendations from his cabinet on Fort Sumter.
March 18, 1861
Texas Governor Sam Houston refuses to take oath to the Confederacy and is deposed.
Lincoln still "intensely perturbed over Fort Sumter."
March 20, 1861
Kentucky legislature convenes but does not vote on any secession topic other than to have another border state convention in May.
March 21, 1861
Gustavus Vasa Fox visits Charleston and meets with Major Anderson.
March 23, 1861
Georgia Secession Convention adjourned for the last time.
Texas Secession Convention ratifies the Confederate Constitution then adjourns three days later, sine die.
March 25, 1861
Mississippi Secession Convention reassembled "to consider ratification of the Constitution of the Confederate States of America."
Lincoln confidant Col. Ward Hill Lamon, meets with Gen. Beauregard and Gov. Pickens in Charleston.
March 26, 1861
Louisiana Secession Convention adjourns after previously ratifying the Confederate Constitution 109 - 7.
Lincoln meets long with cabinet.
March 29, 1861
Mississippi Secession Convention ratifies Confederate Constitution.
Lincoln states that "I desire that an expedition, to move by sea, be got ready to sail as early as the 6th of April next" for the resupply and possible reinforcement of Fort Sumter.
March 30, 1861
Address of the Texas Secession Convention to the People of Texas.
March 31, 1861
Seward continues to mislead Confederate commissioners about the evacuation of Fort Sumter.
April 1, 1861
Lincoln signs orders for U.S.S. Powhatan to go to sea with sealed orders. There was confusion and the Powhatan ended up going to Fort Pickens instead of Fort Sumter.
Seward sends Lincoln a list of his opinions/positions, scolding Lincoln in the process. Seward states he would favor starting a foreign war to reunite the country. Lincoln writes back that the decision was his to make and not Seward's.
April 3, 1861
Lincoln's cabinet meets again over Fort Sumter. Allan B. Magruder sent to Richmond to talk to Virginia unionists, on behalf of Lincoln.
April 4, 1861
Virginia Secession Convention rejects secession 89 to 45, for the time being.
Lincoln meets secretly with Virginia unionist John B. Baldwin. It was reported he had hoped to exchange a state for a fort, meaning he hoped to keep Virginia in the Union in exchange for evacuating Fort Sumter.
Lincoln informs Fox the resupply/reinforcement mission would go. Lincoln drafts letter to Anderson letting him know, and saying he hoped Anderson could make it until April 11 or 12 when the expedition "will endeavor also to reinforce you."
April 5, 1861
U.S. Navy Secretary Welles orders U.S.S. Powhatan, Pawnee, Pocahontas, and Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane to Charleston to resupply/reinforce Fort Sumter.
April 6, 1861
Lincoln sends Robert S. Chew, a State Department Clerk, and Capt. Theodore Talbot, to Charleston to inform Gov. Pickens that Fort Sumter would be resupplied and if no resistance was given by the Confederates, then no troops would be thrown in. Otherwise, the fort would be reinforced as well as resupplied.
Lincoln learns that Fort Pickens had not been reinforced. A messenger was sent the next day to Fort Pickens ordering the immediate reinforcement of the fort.
Lincoln meets with Northern governors of Indiana, Ohio, Maine and Pennsylvania, and with Virginia unionists.
April 7, 1861
Gen. Beauregard, suspecting that the Southerners were being misled by Seward's continued assertions that Fort Sumter would be evacuated, ends Anderson's cordial intercourse between the fort, and City of Charleston, as the situation intensifies.
Lincoln meets with John Minor Botts, a Virginia unionist.
April 8, 1861
Virginia Secession Convention votes "to send a three-man commission to ask President Lincoln for a clear expression of his policy regarding the forts."
Lincoln representative Chew arrives in Charleston and reads Lincoln's message to Gov. Pickens and Gen. Beauregard.
Seward continues to mislead Confederate commissioners in Washington, so much so that they wired Gov. Pickens that they believed Fort Sumter would be evacuated.
Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane departs from New York loaded with supplies, amidst much publicity.
April 9, 1861
Gustavus V. Fox departs from New York aboard the steamer Baltic, headed for Fort Sumter.
April 10, 1861
South Carolina Secession Convention approves Jefferson Davis as President, and Alexander H. Stephens as Vice-President of the Confederate States of America, then adjourns, pending recall later by President Jamison.
Confederate Secretary of War Walker wired Beauregard in Charleston and told him if he was certain Fort Sumter was to be resupplied, then he was to demand its surrender and if it refused, "reduce it." Since all Lincoln's representatives had lied to the Confederates about their peaceful intentions, Southerners were unsure if it was finally a true statement that the fort was only to be resupplied.
The U.S.S. Pawnee departed Hampton Roads for Fort Sumter.
Lincoln meets with representative of the Chiriqui Improvement Company to discuss colonization of Negroes in what is today Panama, near Costa Rica.
Confederate floating battery is moved to a position near Sullivan's Island. Confederate troop activity around Charleston Harbor intensifies as all forts are manned.
April 11, 1861
Surrender of Fort Sumter is demanded by Confederate Col. James Chesnut, a former United States Senator and husband of diarist Mary Boykin Chesnut, Captain Stephen D. Lee, later an effective and beloved Confederate general, and Lieut. Col. A. R. Chisolm, representing Gov. Pickens. They had rowed over to Fort Sumter under a white flag of truce. Anderson refused to surrender but commented that he would be starved out in a few days if not battered to pieces. The Confederates, wanting to avoid war to the very last, wired Secretary of War Walker and told him of Anderson's comment. Walker telegraphed back, "Do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter. If Anderson will state the time at which, as indicated by him, he will evacuate, and agree that in the mean time he will not use his guns against us unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter, you are authorized thus to avoid the effusion of blood. . . .". The three Confederate commissioners left Washington after realizing they had been lied to and misled by Seward.
April 12, 1861
Chesnut, Lee and Chisholm row back to Major Anderson arriving at Fort Sumter at 12:45 a.m. with Walker's message. At 3:15 a.m. they got Anderson's reply stating he would evacuate on the 15th but only if he did not receive supplies or additional instructions from his government. This response was unsatisfactory, with an armed flotilla rapidly approaching. Chesnut, Lee and Chisholm wrote a reply to Anderson stating that they had the honor of informing him that Gen. Beauregard would commence firing in one hour, then they rowed over to Fort Johnson, arriving at 4:00 a.m. At 4:30 a.m., from Fort Johnson on James Island, a signal shot was fired by troops under Capt. George S. James, alerting the other batteries to begin firing according to orders. Some of Fort Sumter's guns returned fire after daybreak, but the small number of men under Anderson's command could do little more. The Confederate bombardment continued heavy all day. There were no deaths on either side. In Pensacola, Union troops were landed at Fort Pickens.
April 13, 1861
Fort Sumter surrenders at 2:30 p.m. after four thousand shells had been fired in thirty-four hours of bombardment. The federal fleet, now consisting of the U.S.S. Baltic, U.S.S. Pawnee, and Harriet Lane, stayed just out of danger and did not attempt to help Anderson.
April 14, 1861
Anderson formally surrenders and salutes his colors with drums beating and a fifty gun salute. An accidental explosion kills a man, the first to die in the war.
Union garrison at Fort Sumter surrenders. Lincoln's Cabinet approves of "his call for 75,000 militia" and a special July 4 session of Congress.
Virginia's three-man commission which had sought from Lincoln a statement of clear policy regarding the forts, returns and states that Lincoln was "firm in his resolve to hold the forts."
April 15, 1861
Lincoln issues public proclamation calling for seventy-five thousand volunteers, and calling a special secession of Congress to meet July 4th.
April 17, 1861
Virginia secedes with its Ordinance to repeal ratification of the U. S. Constitution and resume all rights and powers granted under said Constitution. Vote was 88 - 55. This was in response to Lincoln's threat of coercion by calling for seventy-five thousand volunteers to invade the South.
April 19, 1861
Maryland Gov. Hicks calls convention after Baltimore mob fights with Massachusetts troops.
Lincoln calls for blockade of first seven Confederates States. It was later extended to include Virginia and North Carolina. The declaration of a blockade undoubtedly kept some formal trade relationships between the South and Europe from being consummated, which likely was Lincoln's purpose all along, and was related heavily to Lincoln's manipulation of events in Charleston which got the war started. The South was anxious and encouraging free, direct trade with Europe which put the North at a heavy competitive disadvantage due to its astronomical Morrill Tariff. The most important consideration for Lincoln, however, was European recognition of the Confederacy and possible military support along with it. Trade relationships would unquestionably advance the cause of official recognition for the South if not grant it all by themselves, and Europe badly needed Southern cotton.
May 1, 1861
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court John A. Campbell, resigned. He later served as Assistant Secretary of War of the Confederacy.
May 6, 1861
Arkansas Secession Convention votes secession 65 - 5.
Tennessee legislature votes to secede, and sets June 8 as date for ratification of secession as well as acceptance of the Confederate Constitution.
Confederacy officially "recognizes state of war with United States."
Kentucky legislature meets in special session
May 9, 1861
Tennessee legislature adopts address to the people explaining its action in seceding.
Maryland House Committee on Federal Relations adopts report, resigned to fact that situation was hopeless, but condemning the Union's war against the Confederacy and calling for recognition of Southern independence. It passed the Maryland House the next day.
May 10, 1861
Arkansas Secession Convention adopts Confederate Constitution 63 - 8.
May 13, 1861
North Carolinians elect delegates to a secession convention.
May 16, 1861
Kentucky House of Representatives votes 69 - 26 for neutrality, and also, by a vote of 89 - 4, not to fill Lincoln's quota for troops.
May 20, 1861
North Carolina Secession Convention meets in Raleigh and votes unanimously to secede, and to adopt the Confederate Constitution.
May 23, 1861
Virginians ratify secession by the vote of 125,950 to 20, 373.
June 8, 1861
Tennesseans ratify secession 104,913 to 47,238.
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