Secession in America and in Tennessee - part 2 of 3

Saturday, January 12, 2013 - by Chuck Hamilton

The Great Secession(s)


Of course, the biggest and most damaging secession in U.S. history occurred in from late 1860 thru the first half of 1861.  Though side issues of high tariffs, usurious loan rates by Northern banks, and growing influence of northern manufacturers often to the detriment of nascent Southern manufacturing, the overwhelmingly dominant issue was slavery and related matters.


Beginning in December 1814, Federalists in New England met in the Hartford Convention to discuss their grievances of the War of 1812, the dominance of the Republicans and the so-called “Virginia dynasty”, the Three-fifths Clause (in which slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for census purposes and therefore representation in Congress), and other issues.  The more militant delegates wanted to secede from the Union and join Canada, but those desires never gained much ground.  In the end, Andrew Jackson’s spectacular victory in the Battle of New Orleans ended those plans and the outcome of the war greatly discredited the Federalists.


That troublesome state South Carolina threatened secession in 1828 over tariffs, one of the many issues cited by some states (such as Tennessee) in their articles of secession in 1861. 


South Carolina again threatened to secede over the admission of California under the Compromise of 1850 cobbled together by Whig Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky and Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois.


In this, they were not alone.  The most militant pro-slavery advocates called “Fire-Eaters”, representing nine Southern states, held a convention in Nashville, Tennessee, calling for secession of all slave states and a separate union of their own.  The next year legislators in several slave states introduced articles of secession in their assemblies, but Southern Unionists defeated the measures.


The Fire-Eaters came back to the forefront after the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed in 1854, overturned nearly all provisions of the Compromise of 1850.  The violence of “Bleeding Kansas”, as the Kansas-Missouri border war was called and such incidents as the speech of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner in 1856 strongly attacking slavery.  Senator Sumner was one of the very first Senators from the new Republican Party, founded in 1854.


For those who think the recently-departed and lamented-by-none 112th Congress was bitterly divisive, here’s a dose of reality.  Two days after Sumner’s speech, in which he had called Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina a “pimp for slavery”, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks, nephew of Senator Butler, attacked him on the floor of the Senate chamber and beat him nearly to death.  It was three years before Sumner was physically rehabilitated enough to return to the Senate.


The abolitionists had their own extremists, with William Lloyd Garrison, editor of the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, calling for the immediate abolition of slavery and ultimately for the free states to separate themselves from the “Slave Power” of the South.  But the most extreme of abolitionists was John Brown of Kansas, one of the leaders of anti-slave forces in that state’s border war with slave state Missouri, who seized the armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in an attempt to start a slave rebellion in that state to incite a general slave revolution.  Three years of planning and fund-raising preceded the affair.


On 6 November 1860, former Congressman Abraham Lincoln of the anti-slavery, pro-abolition Republican Party was elected President of the United States, setting in motion the chain of events which led to the Great Secession and the American Civil War/War Between the States/War of the Rebellion/War of the Secession.


According to a local myth, the Independent State of Dade seceded from Georgia even before the campaign had started, which, believe it or not, did not begin until July of 1860.  The newspaper Atlanta Constitution, then pro-segregationist, reported upon Dade County’s reentry to the State and the Union on 4 July 1945 that Dade was extremely pro-slavery that it had seceded from both bodies it was then reentering in May 1860.


In truth, Dade had long been known even before that as the State of Dade because of its isolation, there being no road giving the county access to its state.  And while Southern states were already discussing secession after the John Brown affair and the propaganda of the Fire-Eaters, if Dade really seceded at that time, it did so to stay in the Union rather than leave it as much of the state wished.  North Georgia, particularly the northwest counties of Dade and Walker, were hotbeds of Unionist sentiment and wartime pro-Union partisan activity.


In reality, the first entity voting to secede from the Union was the State of South Carolina, which to do so on 20 December 1860.


On 9 January 1861, the legislature of the State of Mississippi, which ten years before had voted that states did not have the right of secession from the Union, also voted to secede.


The State of Florida followed on the next day, 10 January 1861.


The day after that, 11 January 1861, the State of Alabama approved secession, and this brought about the first major dissension from this course of action.  Unionist sentiment was nearly universal in North Alabama, but it had been outvoted by Lower Alabama (the “other” L.A.), whose delegates got to vote for three-fifths of their slaves to continue to keep them in slavery.


Alabama’s secession brought the first serious discussion of secession by a region of a Southern state from that state to preserve a relationship with the Union (barring discovery of evidence of such a motive by the State of Dade).  Political leaders in North Alabama held discussion between themselves and counterparts in East Tennessee to establish a neutral State of Nickajack taking in those Unionist regions of their respective states along with the Unionist counties of Dade and Walker in Northwest Georgia.


Speaking of the State of Georgia, it voted to secede on 19 January 1861.


Some three days later, 22 January 1861, Senator Jefferson Davis in his way home to Mississippi stayed at the Crutchfield House in Chattanooga across James Street (MLK Blvd.) from Union Station. He gave a vehemently pro-secession speech in the main dining room of the hotel and was attacked by William Crutchfield, brother of the owner, trying to do to Davis what Preston Brooks did to Charles Sumner.  Tom Crutchfield, who was pro-secession, broke up the fight and averted the duel that was supposed that place later.


The State of Louisiana voted to secede from the Union on 26 January 1861.


On 8 February 1861, the six former U.S. states that had seceded from the Union so far—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana—voted to join together as the Confederate States of America.


On 9 February 1861, a vote about whether to call a convention to decide if Tennessee should secede failed 69 thousand to 58 thousand.  A clear majority of Tennesseans didn’t want to even discuss leaving the Union.  The vote was the most lopsided in East Tennessee, with only two counties, Sullivan and Meigs, having a majority in favor.  With Tennessee still securely in the Union at that time, the plans of North Alabama for the joint State of Nickajack collapsed.


The State of Texas voted to secede from the Union to join the new Confederacy on 23 February 1861.


On 24 February 1861, the very secessionist Franklin County (seat Winchester) at the eastern edge of Middle Tennessee voted to secede from the State of Tennessee and become the pro-secessionist Free State of Franklin, sending its request to Nashville the same day.


Republican from the State of Illinois Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States on 4 March 1861, replacing one of my collateral ancestors, James Buchanan.


Confederate General G.T. Beauregard, a French Creole from Louisiana, initiated the Battle of Ft. Sumter in Charleston Harbor on 12 April 1861, and accepted the surrender of its garrison under Union Maj. Robert Anderson two days later.  The Civil War had begun.


On 6 May 1861, the State of Arkansas voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy.


The Tennessee General Assembly approved articles of secession on 6 May 1861 and sent them down to voters.  The legislature and Governor Isham Harris, who was very pro-secession, also voted and approved a military league with the Confederacy.


The State of North Carolina voted to secede from the Union and join the Confederacy on 20 May 1861.


The Commonwealth of Virginia followed suit on 23 May 1861.


Chuck Hamilton




Senator Bob Corker Is History Center History Maker Award Honoree

The Chattanooga History Center has announced that its 10th Annual History Makers Award will honor U. S. Senator Bob Corker. The award recognizes local individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to Chattanooga, the region, the state or the country.   "As an entrepreneur, businessman, volunteer, and elected official, Senator Corker's ... (click for more)

City Of Dalton Completes Survey Of Four National Register Districts

ATLANTA (September 25, 2015) – The City of Dalton has completed a historic resources survey of four National Register of Historic Places districts — Thornton Avenue/Murray Hill, McCarty Subdivision, Dalton Commercial, and Crown Mill. The districts were listed in the National Register between 13 and 35 years ago, and updated documentation is critical to future planning for those ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Putting World Class Guitar Collection On Display At The Choo Choo

A world class guitar collection is set to go on display permanently at the Chattanooga Choo Choo. "Songbirds," which is built around the collection of Lookout Mountain businessman Thorpe McKenzie, was introduced to the public on Thursday night. Invited guests at the Choo Choo heard Nashville guitar star Doyle Dykes perform in the Choo Choo's new Revelry Room. He played some ... (click for more)

Father Killed By Train Just After Pushing Daughter To Safety In East Brainerd

A 31-year-old man was killed just after he pushed his 10-year-old daughter to safety in an encounter with a train on a trestle in East Brainerd on Thursday afternoon. Police said two pedestrians were walking on the train tracks on a trestle at Audubon Acres when a train came around a bend and struck one of them. Justin McCary was struck by the train as he pushed ... (click for more)

Regulations As A Whole On Signal Mountain

A few years ago I was flying over Chattanooga on my way to Atlanta.  The sun had just come up and I enjoyed picking out Signal Mountain’s location, on Walden’s Ridge, in the morning light.  What was amazing was that I could not tell that a town existed under the tree canopy.  I hope that the same can be said 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.  During last ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Must Learn To Tell

On July 4th of this year, FBI agents – acting on a tip -- arrested Alexander Ciccolo, a 23-year-old with known mental problems, as he carried a duffel bag full of automatic-attack weapons. Moments before, he had bought the illegal firearms from an undercover informant outside of Boston. As agents later scoured his apartment, they found bomb-making equipment including a pressure ... (click for more)