Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Southern States of America
Chapter II - Alabama from 1819 to 1865

Alabama Admitted to the Union.

It was not an accident that four western states were admitted into the Union within the brief period of three years extending from December, 1816, to December, 1819. Nor was it entirely due to the skill of politicians that two of these, Illinois and Indiana, came from the northwest, and two, Mississippi and Alabama, from the southwest. The four states grew up with the same western movement of population that followed the War of 1812.

In the South, the conquest of the Mobile district and the battle of New Orleans determined definitely that this whole region was to belong to the United States, and that no foreign power would interfere with the settlers from the eastern states; while the victory of Jackson over the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend, in what is now eastern Alabama, and the resulting treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814, were a definite indication that the Indians were not to be allowed to stand in the way of the development of the new region.

Thus encouraged, immigration poured in steadily in three streams. The rich valley of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama was settled chiefly from Tennessee, and, indirectly, through Tennessee, from Virginia and the older states. The central regions, along the river valleys and in the flat lands, were settled largely from Georgia, and, through Georgia, from North and South Carolina, the settlers often making their way through the Creek territory. The Mobile district and the valleys of the Alabama and the Tombigbee rivers were settled by people from many different states, some coming even from New England. One colony, consisting of French exiles, who had followed the fortunes of Napoleon until his downfall, founded on the Tombigbee River a town, which they called Demopolis, in what later became Marengo county.

In 1817 the territory, which afterwards became the state of Alabama, contained 33,000 inhabitants; in 1818, 67,000; in 1820, 137,000. In 1817, Mississippi state was organized and the remaining portion of the territory became Alabama territory. Two years later, March 2, 1819, Congress passed an enabling act, permitting the people of this territory to form a state government. The act by which Georgia had in 1802 ceded this land to the national government provided that it should be subject to the provisions of the Ordinance of 1787, except as to slavery. The enabling act carried out this idea, and specified that the state constitution should be in accord with that ordinance, save as to slavery, and offered to the state certain land grants for education and funds for internal improvement.

In accordance with this act, a constitutional convention met at Huntsville on July 5, 1819, and continued in session until August 2. Huntsville was at that time the most flourishing town in northern Alabama, and was more distinctly American than Mobile, the leading town of South Alabama. The convention was an able body of men. Some of them had already gained political experience in the older states; many of them were to attain prominence in the later history of Alabama. It is possible to trace in the document which they drew up the influence of Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina ideas; yet the document was not a slavish imitation. It was a good, practical constitution, and it lasted with several small amendments down to the War of Secession. It contained a bill of rights, provided for the usual three departments of government, legislature, governor and courts, and accepted the conditions and the offers of the enabling act. The most interesting sections are an elaborate one concerning banks, and a brief one about slaves, both of which will be referred to later on.

The new constitution was duly approved, and on Dec. 14, 1819, Alabama became a state in the Union. The state government had already been formed, the General Assembly had met at Huntsville on Oct. 25, 1819, and Gov. W. W. Bibb had been inaugurated on Nov. 9, 1819.

Growth and Development.

The new state, which had thus been safely launched, was in some respects a frontier community of pioneers, in other respects it closely resembled the older states farther east. Mobile, although a small town with scarcely more than 2,000 inhabitants, was more than a hundred years old, and had some of the conservatism that naturally came from French and Spanish traditions; but Blakeley, which faced it across the bay, was a new American town, enterprising and western in its character. So were most of the settlements that sprang up on the Alabama and the Tombigbee rivers. With the exception of Mobile, there were few places in Alabama that could boast of being more than ten or twelve years old. The inhabitants were naturally absorbed in the practical task of clearing away the forests and conquering the new soil; but the distance from the older states was so short and the prospect of rapid growth was so clear, that many of the pioneers came from the higher class, and gave an eastern tone to the new state.

The chief towns were Mobile, Hunstville, St. Stephens, Claiborne, Blakeley, Florence, and Tuscaloosa. None of these had more than 2,000 inhabitants, most of them considerably less. Montgomery, the future capital of the state, was a mere village, which had been founded two years before through the joint efforts of John Falconer, of South Carolina, and Andrew Dexter, of Rhode Island. With remarkable forethought, Dexter reserved the crest of a commanding hill for the future state capitol. His dream waited thirty years for its fulfillment, but in 1846 the state capital was moved from Tuscaloosa, and in 1847 the building was erected on the hill where he had planned that it should be. The towns were small, but every one of them expected to be a city, and lots in them sold at fancy prices.

The state was largely agricultural, and was to remain so until the war. The chief crop was cotton, and for transportation the planters depended, in the main, on the rivers. Of these there were two groups, one centering at Mobile, consisting of the Alabama and the Tombigbee rivers and their tributaries, the other consisting of the Tennessee River and its tributaries, which flowed through the northern part of Alabama into the Ohio. These two systems lacked common commercial interests, and thoughtful men feared that the state might ultimately divide into two sections. To overcome this difficulty, the legislature early planned roads to unite the two sections. This was the beginning of many plans to connect the northern and the southern parts of the state, sometimes by canals from the Tennessee to the Coosa, and later by railroads from Gunter's Landing on the Tennessee to the Alabama River at Selma or Montgomery.

A great step in the development of these rivers was taken in 1821, when the first steamboat made its way from Mobile to Montgomery. The trip took five days, which was one-sixth of the time required by barges. The entire population of the little town, Montgomery, turned out to bid it welcome, and well they might, for it was the beginning of a new method of transportation which was to make it possible for the towns to become cities.

Although the state was a new one, with a widely scattered population, dependent almost entirely upon agriculture, nevertheless, churches, schools, and newspapers, the three great institutions of civilization, began their existence early. Naturally, the Roman Catholics took the lead in early Mobile, but Protestants soon followed, and with the coming of settlers from other states, the Methodists and the Baptists became the most numerous. Other denominations followed soon, and in a few years after its admission all the leading churches were represented on its soil.

In early Mobile, education had been carried on, partly at least, in connection with the church. In the other sections of the state private schools sprang up as occasion permitted. Washington Academy had been founded at St. Stephens in 1811, and Green Academy at Huntsville in 1812. Planters not infrequently employed tutors for their children, and sometimes sent their boys to school in the east. The territorial government had as early as 1814 given some financial aid to private academies. The enabling act provided for a state "Seminary of Learning," and set aside certain lands for it and also for the general cause of education. No regular public school system, however, was developed until shortly before the war. To carry out the provisions for a seminary of learning, the University of Alabama was chartered in 1820, and after some years of planning was opened in 1831. From that time until the present day it has exercised a strong and healthy educational influence. When Alabama became a state, newspapers already existed in Mobile, Huntsville, St. Stephens and Florence. The next year they were established at Montgomery, Claiborne, Cahawba, and Tuscaloosa.

The conquest of nature absorbed the inhabitants of the new state so fully that they had little time for political questions; nor did these for some years press upon them for solution. The new state began its career in the "Era of Good Feeling" under President Monroe. The bitter Missouri contest was contemporaneous with its admission, and during the years of political quiet that followed, Alabama knew no politics. The population was nearly half slave ; but the conditions were favorable to slavery, and there was little difference of opinion about it. Laws were passed to regulate the institution, to prevent cruelty on the one hand and wholesale emancipation on the other, to prescribe the status of free negroes, and to maintain order among the slaves and the free. The question then passed into the background, where it slumbered, with one or two brief interruptions, until it was called forth by the great discussions that immediately preceded the war.

The Indian Lands.

The Indian, unlike the negro, early brought the state into touch with the national government and its policies. During the War of 1812, while Alabama was still a part of the Mississippi territory, the Creek Indians had sided with the British, and had perpetrated the massacre of Fort Mims. They had not been definitely checked until Andrew Jackson defeated them at Horshoe Bend. The treaty of Fort Jackson, Aug. 9, 1814, restricted them within definite limits in the eastern part of the state. In 1816 the Cherokees gave up all their lands except a small area in the northeast of the state, and the Chickasaws all save an equally small space in the northwest, and the Choctaws all except a narrow strip west of the Tombigbee.

This left three-quarters of the state open to white settlement. But, as the whites poured in, the demand increased that all Indians should be removed by the national government. In Georgia the same struggle was going on, and, while the treaty of 1826 secured for that state practically all that was asked, Alabama was left without relief. In 1830 the Choctaws gave up their lands, and soon afterward moved west of the Mississippi. But the Creeks, who held the largest territory and were directly in the line of settlers coming from Georgia, still remained, and were at times troublesome. At length in 1832 they consented by the treaty of Dancing Rabbit to give up their lands and go west. White settlers immediately rushed into the ceded land before the time fixed by the treaty. Federal troops were ordered to enforce its terms, and in the attempt in August, 1833, killed a settler named Owens. Excitement ran high. Governor Gayle and Secretary of War Cass had a sharp correspondence, and for a time a struggle seemed imminent between the state and the national governments. Fortunately Francis Scott Key, who was sent from Washington to arrange the matter, showed great tact and fair-mindedness, a compromise was reached, and the dispute was settled amicably.

At length four years later, in 1837, after a lively fight with the whites at Pea Ridge, the Creeks finally left their old home and followed the other Indians across the Mississippi. The Cherokees agreed to leave in 1835, and by 1838 only a few scattered Indians remained in the state, and the Indian question in Alabama was settled forever.


Before this problem was finally disposed of, Alabama was brought face to face with another that raised serious questions as to the relation of the state to the nation. The nullification controversy, which raged so hotly in South Carolina, spread quickly to Alabama, and at one time it seemed possible that the state would endorse the attitude of South Carolina. Many South Carolinians, caught by the westward movement, had emigrated to Alabama, and kept the states in close touch. Moreover the economic conditions that brought about the trouble in the older state were even more marked in the newer. Alabama was an agricultural state and had almost no manufactories at all. Public opinion was therefore naturally opposed to a protective tariff ; and when South Carolina proposed the remedy of nullification, it was an open question whether Alabama would endorse its action. The matter became an issue in the gubernatorial campaign of 1831, John Gayle, who vigorously condemned nullification, was elected, and the legislature by a vote of forty-six to sixteen declared against it.

State Banking.

The decade 1830-40 was an eventful one in the state's history. It not only covered the settlement of the Indian question and the nullification controversy, but it witnessed the culmination and the downfall of the State Bank. While Alabama was still a territory, the need of more money was keenly felt. In addition to the usual demand for capital to develop the resources of a new country, the money in circulation was steadily drained eastward by the sale of government lands. To meet this want, banks were needed which would lend money on ordinary security, and would increase the circulation by issuing bank notes. The territorial legislature established several, usually reserving to the territory an option on a part of the stock. The constitutional convention recognized the importance of the subject, and devoted a long section of the constitution to it.

This section authorized the establishment of a State Bank, safeguarded it as far as was thought wise, and provided that the state should hold at least two-fifths of the stock.

The legislature of 1823 established "The Bank of the State of Alabama." It was to be controlled by a president and twelve directors, all appointed by the legislature. It was to make loans, issue notes, and be the depository of state funds. The Bank was located at the state capital, which was then Cahawba, but it was moved to Tuscaloosa, when that town became capital in 1826. Branches were established in 1832 at Montgomery, Mobile, and Decatur, and in 1835 at Huntsville. The growth of the bank corresponded with the "Flush Times" that culminated in 1836, when speculation and wild finance reached their height. It is hard to apportion to the bank on the one hand and to circumstances on the other their proper shares of responsibility for what happened. But it was certainly badly managed, and there were many accusations of corruption. The appointment of its president and directors for short terms by the legislature put it in politics, and it was openly charged with favoritism and graft. For some years it prospered, or seemed to, and in 1836 the state tax laws were repealed, and the bank was relied on to defray the state's expenses. Scandals connected with its management, combined with the panic of 1837, brought it to grief. Legislative investigation followed, and in 1842-43, under the leadership of Governor Fitzpatrick and John A. Campbell, the legislature put the whole system in liquidation. In 1846 a commission was appointed, of which F. S. Lyon was chairman, to wind up its affairs. Under his able guidance the task was completed in 1853.

Political Conditions.

With the growth of the state, participation in national affairs increased. The Indian problem had been a local one with possibilities of national complications ; the bitter experience with a state bank was, although scarcely recognized as such at the time, a phase of the general financial recklessness that swept over the whole country ; the nullification controversy brought Alabama in touch with a national question that concerned especially an older state to the east of them; in 1836 the struggle of Texas for independence aroused a lively sympathy in a state that was itself largely as yet a land of pioneers. Mass meetings were held, funds were subscribed, and volunteers were organized to help the cause. In the massacre at Goliad was a company of troops organized near Montgomery by Captain Ticknor. They perished almost to a man.

This growing interest in public affairs showed itself quickly in a livelier participation in political life. For years the state had been unquestionably Democratic. The popularity of Andrew Jackson had been very great ; but with his retirement in 1837 the Whig party made rapid strides, especially among the larger planters in the rich farming regions of the central and southern parts of the state. By 1839 they controlled two of the five congressional districts, those embracing Tuscaloosa and Mobile; and in a spectacular campaign in 1840 they came near carrying the state for President Harrison. So anxious did the Democrats become that they urged the selection of congressmen on a "General Ticket" by a joint vote of the entire state instead of by districts. This was done in 1841, but public sentiment pronounced against it. When compelled to return to the old system, they made in 1842-43, a still more significant effort to retain their control by changing the old plan of counting three-fifths of the slaves in determining the population of the congressional districts. Under the new law only whites were to be counted. This is interesting as showing not only the growth of the Whig party, but that its strength at this time lay largely in the districts where slavery was strongest.

Mexican War and Its Relation to the Slavery Question.

In 1846 the Texas question reappeared in the form of a war with Mexico. In spite of memories of Goliad, men enlisted freely. Some served with troops from other states. An Alabama regiment was led by Col. John R. Coffey, and a battalion by Maj. J. J. Seibels. Excitement ran high, and at the close of the war enthusiastic receptions were given to Generals Shields and Quitman when they passed through the state. It is difficult to explain with certainty the great interest that the war aroused among Alabamians. They were stirred by the love of adventure, by the hope of fame, and by a ready and not too critical sympathy with their fellow countrymen who were beset by foreigners. Themselves inhabiting a new and rapidly growing state, they felt the charm of growth and expansion, and dreamed more or less of new boundaries for the nation whose political life was now beginning to pulse vigorously in their veins. Some doubtless foresaw with tolerable clearness an increase of slave territory and planned therefor.

Whatever may have been their motive in waging the war, there is no question that it brought them face to face with the great problem of slavery in the territories, which involved the question of states rights and was to find its solution only in civil war. The states rights sentiment was not a new one in Alabama history. It had been stirred by the Indian question and by the nullification contest. The followers of John C. Calhoun in Alabama had for more than ten years been called "States Rights - Men," especially in opposing the Whig ideas of a National Bank and national aid to internal improvement. They had found an able leader in Dixon H. Lewis, one of the most remarkable men of his day. A warm friend of Calhoun and of Yancey, he is the connecting link between the older South Carolina school of - political philosophy and the later group that followed the leadership of the Alabamian, Yancey.

But none of these discussions brought the question of states rights home to the people of Alabama so persistently or so effectively as did the territorial problems that grew directly and indirectly out of the Mexican War. These touched the slavery question and made it for the first time a great political issue in the state. The legislature had, it is true, from time to time passed laws in regard to slaves, for example, in 1827, to check and to regulate the slave trade, in 1832 to prevent free negroes from coming into the state, in 1834 to require emancipated slaves to leave the state within twelve months after emancipation, and at different times to regulate the patrol system and the management of slaves. But these acts had aroused no serious differences of opinion, and the anti-slavery movement found little sympathy in any part of the state. James G. Birney, who at that time lived at Huntsville, became in the early thirties an agent for the Colonization Society, and established a few feeble branches of it; but his work met with a discouraging reception, and he left the state, joined the out and out abolitionists, and became their candidate for the presidency. In the main, the abolitionists were regarded as dreamers, and the danger from them was too remote to create more than a passing wave of excitement.

But with the acquisition of the lands that came from the Mexican War, the question assumed the new and more practical form, whether slavery should exist in the territories. This became a national issue from the moment that Wilmot of Pennsylvania presented in Congress his well-known proviso excluding it from them. In Alabama, as in the other Southern states, this called forth a general and vigorous protest, which found expression in local meetings in many parts of the state, and culminated in a famous set of resolutions adopted by the State Democratic convention in Montgomery in 1848. This was the most advanced position taken by any Southern state at that time and was taken under the leadership of William L. Yancey, who now succeeded Lewis as the leader of the "States Rights Men, " and was to be from this time until his death in 1863 the most conspicuous of all Alabamians. These resolutions were known far and wide as "The Alabama Platform." They declared that neither Congress nor a territorial legislature had a right to prohibit slavery in the new territories which had been acquired by the common efforts of all the states, that it was the duty of the national government to protect slave property in this territory, and that the party would support no man for the presidency who would not indorse these resolutions.

The first part was merely the logical and final development of Calhoun's philosophy; but the last resolution was a bold statement of a plan of political action, which is the keynote of Yancey's policy. The National Democratic convention which met in Baltimore that year refused to adopt the Alabama Platform; and the Democrats of the state, with the exception of Yancey and a few of his followers, supported Cass for the presidency in spite of the fact that he did not fulfill its requirements. It failed, therefore, at the time, to achieve its purpose, but it aroused a vigorous discussion in Alabama and in other states, and was to reappear twelve years later with important results at the Charleston Convention.
Meanwhile the political pendulum throughout the state swung toward the conservative side. Yancey was denounced by many as a radical and an agitator, the compromise measures of 1850 were indorsed by the Whigs and with some hesitancy by the Democrats, and a Union convention at Montgomery in 1851 went so far as to deny the right of secession.

By 1852, when Pierce was elected to the presidency and William R. King, a distinguished Alabamian, to the vice-presidency, the problems resulting from the Mexican War seemed to have been permanently solved, and the political excitement subsided.

Industrial and Economic Questions.

The lull was a brief one, but it gave the people an opportunity to discuss their economic and industrial needs, and to push forward plans for cooperation in these lines. Indeed no student of the early fifties can fail to be impressed with the beginning made in business development, and to wonder how rapid its progress would have been, if it had not been interrupted by the War of Secession. Business had been the absorbing theme during the state's early years, and it had come near to being the only one during the "flush times" of 1830-36. A traveler who visited the state in 1833 says: "It was a subject of wonder and cogitation to me, who had been for many years constantly taken up with the affairs of government, and the strife of party politics, to listen to my Montgomery friends talking without ceasing of cotton, negroes, land and money." Nor had this interest waned greatly during the fifteen years that followed. The panic of 1837 had seriously checked the progress of many undertakings. The Mexican War and the political turmoil that followed it absorbed public interest at the expense of the discussion of business. But at bottom this still constituted the chief interest of the state, and by the fifties it had made considerable progress. The population had grown to nearly 800,000. Farming was still far the most important industry, and cotton was almost the only crop for sale. But the amount raised was steadily increasing. At Mobile alone the cotton receipts had increased from 10,000 bales in 1819, when the state was admitted, to 237,000 during the flush times of 1836, and to 549,000 in 1852. The means of transportation showed great improvement. Steamboats had grown in number and rivaled in size and comfort those on the Mississippi. A definite movement for good roads had been started, and plank roads had been built with some enthusiasm, but they had proved unsatisfactory and the movement died. Its loss, however, was more than made good by the coming of the railroad. In 1831 the Tuscumbia Railroad was begun. It was to run to Decatur, connecting the two navigable sections of the Tennessee River which were separated by the Muscle Shoals. Forty-four miles of it were finished in 1833. In 1834 the Montgomery Railroad was chartered. Its progress was delayed by the panic, but twelve miles were opened for business in 1840. About twelve years later it reached West Point, Ga., and became an important link in the system by which travelers and merchandise came from the east to Montgomery and thence by steamboats down the Alabama to Mobile. In 1848 the Mobile and Ohio Railroad was chartered and thirty-three miles had been built in 1852. Other lines were planned, and in 1854 the South and North Railroad was incorporated, which was destined to be the first successful attempt to connect the Tennessee and the Alabama River valleys, and thereby to unite in a business way the two sections of the state.

To many men this rapid development seemed to call for more capital than could be furnished by the scanty resources of private individuals, and a strong demand arose for state aid in the building of railroads. Judge L. P. Walker was a leading advocate of this plan. Others who feared the extension of the powers even of their own state government earnestly opposed it. They found a vigorous leader in Governor Winston, who during his two terms, 1853-57, vetoed thirty-three measures of this kind.

Nor did this demand for an enlargement of the activities of the state government restrict itself to such industrial lines as the building of railroads. In 1854 the legislature passed an act establishing the public school system in the state, and money was appropriated for it in addition to the fund set aside by the United States government in the enabling act.

Slavery Controversy.

This prospect of a quiet industrial development was suddenly swept aside when in 1854 Douglas brought forward his Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and the struggle for Kansas began, which in one form or another was to continue until it was settled by the war. The slavery question was thus once more brought to the front, and in a definite and dramatic form. Newspapers and speakers discussed the matter; but the situation demanded action, and Alabama probably did more than any other Southern state, save Missouri, to beat the Emigrant Aid Societies at their own game. Several companies of men went from the state, the largest of which was organized by Jefferson Buford. His purpose is best seen by reading his card in the newspapers: "I wish to raise three hundred industrious, sober, discreet, reliable men, capable of bearing arms, not prone to use them wickedly or unnecessarily, but willing to protect their section in every real emergency." Border warfare is demoralizing, and his men may not have lived up to his ideal; but he and they were in earnest, and seem to have behaved rather better than many others did under trying conditions.

The old friction over fugitive slaves and the new terror and indignation that followed John Brown's raid added fuel to the flame of passion that was fast getting beyond control, while the Dred Scott decision was felt to be a strong indorsement of the constitutional position of the States Rights men. In vain did more conservative men try to stem the current of public opinion as Whigs, or to direct it to other issues as Americans or Know-Nothings, or to control it as a wing of the Democratic party under the leadership of Forsyth, Seibels and Fitzpatrick. The result was inevitable. The current of events carried the Yancey wing of the Democratic party into control, and the state's delegates to the national convention in Charleston in 1860 were instructed to insist upon the adoption of the Alabama Platform by that body, and to withdraw if their request were refused. In vain did Forsyth protest against the demand for a platform which would "scatter the Democrats to the winds." "The result must be," he said, "submission to a Republican administration, or a dissolution of the Union." Alabama had made up its mind to demand what it considered its full rights under the constitution and to abide by the consequences, and the legislature passed an ominous resolution instructing the governor to call a state convention in case Lincoln should be elected.


At Charleston, Yancey in a speech of wonderful force and eloquence urged the demands of his state; but his efforts were unsuccessful, and the Alabama delegates and many others withdrew. The party was hopelessly split and Lincoln was elected.

Now followed the most intense and earnest discussion as to whether the state should secede. Those who opposed secession urged that Lincoln's election made no great change in the situation, that the Supreme Court, which had recently given the Dred Scott decision, was still to be depended upon, and that Congress was still safely conservative. What could Lincoln do? Moreover, how would the situation be improved by secession? Would fugitive slaves be easier to recover if Ohio and Massachusetts belonged to a foreign government? "Let us, at any rate," they said, "consult with the other Southern states, and see whether we can devise some plan to secure our rights in the Union. If not, then we can secede together."

The advocates of immediate secession on the other hand, replied that cooperation had been tried before and had failed, and that the temper of the times made any compromise impossible, even if it were desirable. Their opinion of the significance of Lincoln's election was clearly stated by Governor Moore:

"The Republicans have now succeeded in electing Mr. Lincoln, who is pledged to carry out the principles of the party that elected him. The course of events shows clearly that this party will in a short time have a majority in both branches of Congress. It will be in their power to change the complexion of the Supreme Court so as to make it harmonize with Congress and the President. When that party gets possession of all the departments of the government with the purse and the sword, he must be blind indeed who does not see that slavery will be excluded from the territories, and other free states will in hot haste be admitted into the Union until they have a majority to alter the constitution. Then slavery will be abolished by law in the states. The state of society that will exist in the Southern states with four millions of free negroes and their increase turned loose upon them, I will not discuss-it is too horrible to contemplate."

The struggle over the question of secession was hard and close. Even when the convention met, no one knew what its decision would be. In a test vote, the immediate secessionists won by a majority of fifty-four to forty-five, and the ordinance of secession was finally adopted on Jan. 11, 1861, by a vote of sixty-one to thirty-nine. Twenty-four delegates did not sign it.

A newspaper of the time records that when the result was announced "the rejoicing commenced, and the people seemed wild with excitement, cannon reverberated through the city, the various church bells commenced ringing, and shout after shout might have been heard along the principal streets."

On February 4, less than a month later, the delegates from the seceding states met in Montgomery, and organized the Confederate States of America. In the capitol building, which still stands on the hill reserved for it by Dexter, the Confederate Congress shaped the destinies of the new republic, and on its portico Jefferson Davis was inaugurated on February 18, amidst unbounded enthusiasm. For three months Montgomery continued the capital of the Confederacy, and Alabama occupied the most conspicuous place on the stage.

Alabama's Part in the Confederacy.

In the war that followed, Alabamians played as important a part as in the scenes that ushered it in. In the cabinet of President Davis served two Alabamians, L. P. Walker, as secretary of war, and Thomas H. Watts, as attorney-general. Judge John A. Campbell, who resigned his place on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States at the outbreak of the war, became assistant secretary of war, and, because of his great learning and ability, exercised an influence with the administration almost equal to that of a member of the cabinet. William L. Yancey was at once sent abroad as the representative of the new government to enlist the sympathy and the help of England, and after his return, made the influence of Alabama strongly felt in the Confederate Senate.

On the field and on the sea the state contributed its full share of men and won its full share of glory. Its population in 1860 contained a little more than half a million whites, and the number of soldiers that it furnished to the Confederate cause has been variously estimated at from ninety thousand to one hundred and thirty thousand. These soldiers were found in every important battle of the war. They followed many famous commanders who were born in other states, and served with a fervor that knew no state divisions. They constituted the troops with which Generals Wheeler and Gordon won their first fame; and served under General Longstreet, who, although born in another state, is himself on the official list of generals accredited to Alabama. Raphael Semmes, a resident of Mobile, commanded the Alabama, which did more damage to Northern commerce than any other vessel during the war. In the Confederate army were found six major-generals from Alabama, and twenty-nine brigadier-generals. From Alabama came the "Gallant Pelham," the boy artilleryman, of whom General Lee said, "It is glorious to see such courage in one so young."

While the state did not become the scene of great campaigns, as did Virginia and Georgia, yet its soil was often invaded by Union troops, and there was scarcely any section of it that did not at some time during the war suffer the horrors of invasion, and that did not at its close show its dreadful effects.

After the battle of Shiloh, in 1862, the Confederate army moved southward into Mississippi, and the fertile valley of the Tennessee River in northern Alabama fell into the hands of the Federal troops. It remained in their possession almost continuously until the end of the war. In 1863 Streight made a raid through the hill country of northern Alabama, and was captured after a brilliant pursuit by Gen. K. B. Forrest. It was an Alabama girl, Emma Sansom, who, amidst shot and shell, guided Forrest to a ford near Gadsden, and helped him overtake the Federals.

Raids were made through the central portion of the state by General Rousseau in 1864, and by General Wilson in 1865, resulting in the burning of the state university, the tearing up of railroads and the destruction of much public and private property at Montgomery, Selma and other places.

The port of Mobile was blockaded in 1861. In the summer of 1864 Admiral Farragut, in the desperate battle of Mobile Bay, defeated the Confederate fleet under Admiral Buchanan. The neighboring forts were captured later after a brave resistance, and on April 12, 1865, Mobile surrendered.

With few exceptions, the people of Alabama sustained the cause of the Confederacy to their utmost. While secession was still a question open for discussion, many opposed it; but when war came, they followed their state, and gave their lives and their property freely in behalf of the new government, whose beginning they had witnessed with high hopes in their own capital city, Montgomery.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.-By far the most important collection of material for the history of the state is to be found in the state department of archives and history, which is located in the capitol at Montgomery. Its director, Dr. Thomas M. Owen, has accumulated an invaluable collection of manuscripts, official documents, newspaper files, books, and maps. Some of this material is in course of publication under the editorship of the director. The files in the office of the Montgomery Advertiser are also very helpful. The following are the most important books: Brewer, W.: Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record and Public Men (indispensable for reference); DuBose, J. W.: Life and Times of Yancey (gives full account of the political movements that led to the War of Secession); Fleming, W. L.: Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama (invaluable for the war period); Garrett, William: Reminiscences of Public Men in Alabama (a rich storehouse of information); Hodgson, J.: Cradle of the Confederacy (gives full account of the political movements that led to the war); Owen, T. M.: (ed.) The Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society (4 vols.); Petrie, George: (ed.) Studies in Southern and Alabama History (3 vols.); The Memorial Record of Alabama (2 vols., containing biographical sketches and also important articles on different phases of the state's history by specialists) ; Northern Alabama (containing sketches of men and places by various authors). The earliest historians of the state were A. B. Meek, the author of Romantic Passages in Southwestern History, and A. J. Pickett, whose great History of Alabama covers the first year of this period. Pickett's work has been continued in a brief form by Owen, in his Annals of Alabama. The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion give a great deal of material for the war period; articles on Mobile and Montgomery in Historic Towns of the Southern States, ed. by L. P. Powell, give some idea of the growth of towns in the early days. The three general histories of Alabama by W. G. Brown, L. D. Miller, and J. C. DuBose, intended primarily for school text-books, contain valuable information.

Professor of History and Latin, Alabama Polytechnic Institute.

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus