In this lesson, we will explore the secession of the 11 states that made up the Confederate States of America. We will discover their reasons for leaving the Union and take a look at the motives of the slave states that chose not to join the Confederacy.
Two Cultures, Major Conflicts
Ever since the formation of the United States of America, the North and the South followed different paths. By the mid 1800s, the differences between the two regions were so pronounced that many observers felt like the country was home to two distinct cultures.The North was becoming more and more industrial and dedicated to free labor and immigration. Many Northerners committed themselves to chasing the American dream of the poor man working hard, making a home for himself, and perhaps even doing great things.
Slavery was not common and even banned in some states, and a growing abolitionist movement frequently demanded freedom for all people. The North was also more inclined to support a strong federal government.The South could not have been more different. Its agricultural economy was founded on cotton and slave labor. Southerners tended to favor a less-powerful federal government that allowed more room for states to make their own rules, especially when it came to slavery. Many in the South resented the North and viewed their northern neighbors as trying to destroy their Southern culture with industrial progress and abolitionism.These two contrasting cultures engaged in some major conflicts during the first half of the 1800s, especially over the expansion of slavery into the western territories.
Many in the North believed that slavery should be contained to its current boundaries. They saw the West as a place for small farmers who worked the land themselves and purchased goods made in the North. Southerners, on the other hand, were eying the expansive western lands with the notion of expanding their plantations and, of course, bringing their slaves with them. A series of compromises kept the situation in a tentative balance until 1860.
Then came the 1860 presidential election. Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform that called for the prohibition of slavery’s expansion in the West. Southerners watched nervously; they saw the Republicans as a bunch of abolitionists who wanted to take away their rights and their slaves.
A few impassioned Southerners called ‘Fire-eaters‘ vigorously called for Southern secession if Lincoln won the election, and many of their neighbors agreed. Lincoln did win, and the South was faced with a choice: remain in the Union with a Republican president or take decisive action and secede.
Eleven States Leave
As soon as the election returns were in, South Carolina’s governor and legislature called for a secession convention, which convened on December 17, 1860. It didn’t take long for the delegates to decide what to do. On December 20, they voted unanimously to leave the Union.Their declaration of secession reads in part: ‘We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain that.
.. the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the ‘United States of America,’ is hereby dissolved.’Other states soon followed South Carolina. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas called their own conventions and issued their own declarations of secession by February 1, 1861.
On February 4, delegates from the seceded states met in Montgomery, Alabama, to set up their new government and officially organize the Confederate States of America.Still more states, especially those with slave-based economies, watched closely to see how the U.S.
would respond to the newly established Confederacy. On April 12, 1861, South Carolina troops opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston after the U.S. commander there refused to surrender.
Southern secession had turned violent, and President Lincoln called for troops to put down the rebellion. Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee, ignoring the fact that the South had fired first, seceded in protest against Northern aggression. The Confederacy of eleven states was now complete.
The States That Remained
Some slave states, however, remained in the Union. Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede and soon became known as the Border States. West Virginia, which was made up of fifty counties loyal to the North, broke off from Virginia in 1863 and joined the Union.
These states were extremely important to the North. If they shifted their allegiance to the Confederacy, their white population, resources, and industrial capacity would be a major boon to the South.Lincoln knew he had to move very carefully to keep the Border States loyal.
He refrained from abolitionist rhetoric, focusing instead on preserving the Union, and he was prepared to use any necessary means to prevent the Border States from leaving. For instance, he enacted martial law in some places and even went so far as to order the arrests of pro-South members of the Maryland legislature to prevent them from voting for secession.Eventually, the Border States’ governments decided that it was in their best interests to remain in the Union, but not everyone within their boundaries agreed.
While the Border States provided many Union troops, some of their citizens joined the Confederate army, dividing states, cities, neighborhoods, and families in the process.Violence exploded in the Border States as pro-South Baltimore residents attacked Union troops on April 19, 1861, and Missouri reeled under the horrors of guerrilla warfare throughout the Civil War. Indeed, life in the Border States was anything but easy, for they often found themselves in a tug-of-war between the Union and Confederacy.
By the mid-1800s, the U.
S. was home to two distinct cultures, North and South, which engaged in some major conflicts, especially about the expansion of slavery into the western territories. When Republican Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election, the South, led by the impassioned ‘Fire-eaters,’ faced a difficult choice: to remain in the Union or to secede.South Carolina was the first to go after its secession convention voted to secede on December 20, 1860. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas soon followed. Other slave states waited for a while and monitored the situation closely. After Fort Sumter, however, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee, fed up with what they viewed as Northern aggression, joined the Confederacy.
Some slave states did not secede. These Border States – Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and later, West Virginia – decided to remain in the Union, prodded perhaps by Lincoln’s rhetoric and actions. They did, however, face divisions and violence throughout the Civil War as they experienced the tug of both the North and the South.
Watch and study this video in order to:
- Recollect the economic and cultural differences of the southern and northern states of the Union
- Cite slave abolition and the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln as the core reasons for secession of 11 slave states
- Understand the importance of the ‘Border States’ in holding the Union together