Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey
By February 1861, although no shots had yet been fired, both sides were marching inexorably towards war. The most important events revolved around the formal organization of the Confederate States of America and the approaching inauguration of Abraham Lincoln. For the first time in history, two separate sovereign nations occupied America.
On February 1, the secessionist convention in Texas voted 166 to 7 to secede, calling for a ratification election by the people of Texas. The next day, Texas adopted a Declaration of Causes, a document that specified the reasons that Texas would secede.
On February 4, representatives of 22 states gathered in Washington in a last ditch effort to halt the division. The effort failed. On that same day, the Convention of Seceded States met in Montgomery, Alabama. Four days later, the convention adopted a provisional constitution which officially formed the Confederate States of America. This new constitution gave the individual states more autonomy. On the 9th, Jefferson Davis was elected as the President of the CSA.
On February 5, responding to a demand from South Carolina that Fort Sumter be surrendered, the Buchanan administration announced that the fort would remain in Federal hands.
On February 9, Tennessee voters rejected secession by some 9,000 votes.
On February 11, President-elect Abraham Lincoln boarded a train in Springfield, Illinois on his journey to Washington for his inauguration. In the capitol city, the federal army manned the streets to maintain order as the Electoral College met and confirmed Lincoln’s election victory. On that same day, Jefferson Davis boarded another train in Vicksburg, Mississippi bound for Montgomery, Alabama, the first CSA capitol, for his inauguration.
On February 13, the Virginia House of Delegates met to consider secession.
On February 15, the Provisional Confederate Congress voted to take Ft. Sumter and Ft. Pickens in Florida by force, if necessary.
On February 18, Maryland convened its secessionist convention in Baltimore. The convention ended without a declaration. But passions remained high. Lincoln’s train, which had to pass through the Maryland capitol city, carried heavy security.
In Texas, General David Twiggs surrendered all U.S. military posts in the state to the Confederacy. On the 23rd, Texas citizens voted to secede, by an almost 3-to-1 margin. And on the 28th, North Carolina voters rejected the call for a secession convention. The margin of victory was only 651 votes out of nearly 94,000 cast.
The Confederate Navy was formed on the 20th.
In other events, the territories of Nevada and Colorado were created on the 28th. Russian troops fired on Poles protesting the Russian control of their country. Russia abolished serfdom.
Among the commemoration events planned this month are a series of lectures at the Gettysburg National Park Visitors Center. February 12 at 1:30 p.m., “1861: Ft. Sumter”. February 19th, “Was the Civil War Avoidable?” February 26th, “Dan Sickles: The Colorful and Controversial Commander of Gettysburg” at 1:30 p.m. Admission is free to all lectures.
Another lecture on “The African-American Civil War Experience” will be presented at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland at 11:00 a.m. on the 12th. Admission is free with a Museum admission.
In Harrisburg, PA on the 13th there will be a Civil War Dance Class at the National Civil War Museum.
Next month: the new president walks into the worst crisis in history.
For more information on events nationwide, go to http://www.civilwartraveler.com/events.