Monday, February 28, 2011

Colorado Territory Formed

Battle of Glorieta Pass, 1862.
Fought for the control of Colorado Territory

On February 28th, 1861 the territory of Colorado was formed by an act of Congress with the President's signature. While the United States owned much of Colorado since the Louisiana purchase in 1803, few people settled there. But in 1858 gold was discovered in Colorado and the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush began. Over 100,000 gold seekers journeyed to Colorado to try to make their fortune. This rapid growth led to the creation of the Colorado Territory. The gold rush eventually dried up because of the small deposits of gold and the need for soldiers to fight the Civil War. While there were no large scale battles in Colorado during the war, there were skirmishes with Confederate sympathizers, and several regiments were rasped from there to fight for the Union.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Plot on Lincoln's Life in Baltimore

Allan Pinkerton, Lincoln's Detective

In February, 1861 Lincoln traveled from Illinois to Washington, DC in preparation for his inauguration. Along the way there were celebrations and speeches at every stop. Allan Pinkerton, a detective and founder of the Pinkerton Agency, was hired to investigate the security of the railway. He believed that he discovered a plot to assassinate Lincoln in Baltimore. Baltimore was in Maryland, a slave holding state, and had voted strongly against Lincoln. Pinkerton believed that several assassins would be scattered through the crowd to kill Lincoln as he switched trains. Lincoln agreed to pass through the town before the appointed time.

Immediately after speaking in Harrisburg, PA, Lincoln left for Baltimore immediately instead of spending the night. He passed through Baltimore in the middle of the night, and no trouble was encountered. After they passed through safely, Pinkerton telegraphed the President of the railroad, “Plums delivered nuts safely.”

Newspaper Cartoon of Lincoln
When the word spread of Lincoln's trip, the press made fun of his “flight.” The story continued to be retold throughout his life by his enemies. The New York Tribune said, “It is the only instance recorded in our history in which the recognized head of a nation ... has been compelled, for fear of his life, to enter the capital in disguise." Most people at the time, and historians today, believe that the plot was non-existent. This would not be suprising, as Pinkerton frequently greatly over-estimated the Confederate troops when working with the Union government.

Left to Right: Allan Pinkerton, Abraham Lincoln and Gen. George B. McClellan

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jefferson Davis Inaugurated

Davis's Inauguration
Jefferson Davis was inaugurated on February 18th, 1861 as President of the Confederate States of America. The ceremony took place in Montgomery, Alabama, the capital of the new nation. At the same time as this event was occurring, Abraham Lincoln was traveling from Illinois to Washington, DC for his inauguration which would happen on March 4th.

After being escorted to the steps of the capital building by a military guard in a carriage drawn by six horses, Jefferson Davis gave a short speech. He affirmed the right of the South to secede according to the principles of the Constitution of the United States. While Davis hoped that war would be avoided, he knew that it must be prepared for. He declared that if war came, it would be the North's responsibility:
Should reason guide the action of the Government from which we have separated, a policy so detrimental to the civilized world, the Northern States included, could not be dictated by even the strongest desire to inflict injury upon us; but, if the contrary should prove true, a terrible responsibility will rest upon it, and the suffering of millions will bear testimony to the folly and wickedness of our aggressors.
He concluded his speech with:
It is joyous in the midst of perilous times to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people. Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which by his blessing they were able to vindicate, establish, and transmit to their posterity. With the continuance of his favor ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to peace, and to prosperity.
After taking the oath of office, Jefferson Davis became President of the Confederacy and undertook the duties of organizing the government and preparing for possible war with the United States.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jefferson Davis Appointed President

Davis as President
After forming the Confederate States of America and adopting a Constitution, the convention in Montogermy, Alabama needed to choose a man as president of the new nation. On February 9th, 1861 they chose Jefferson Davis.

Jefferson Davis was born on June 3rd, 1808. He attended West Point and became a soldier. He was a military hero in the Mexican American War and later became the American Secretary of State. He served as a representative and senator in the US Congress from Missisippi. When Mississippi seceded he followed his state and went south. He gave a farewell address to the Senate, which you can read here, in which he said:
Then, Senators, we recur to the compact which binds us together; we recur to the principles upon which our Government was founded; and when you deny them, and when you deny to us the right to withdraw from a Government which thus perverted threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard. This is done not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit unshorn to our children.
He was one of the highest military and political leaders in the South at the time and was a qualified cantidate for the office. Personally he expected to be a military commander and was already head of the troops from Mississippi.

As president, Davis had both good and bad qualities. Ever since the Civil War people have claimed that his mistakes caused the South to loose the war. While he did make mistakes, he was fighting on the losing side and it was not his fault that the war was lost. He had problems in dealing with certain factions in the South, which included his vice president, Alexander Stephens. As the leader of the Confederate forces, he had strong friends and strong enemies. Some generals he loved and worked very well with, such as Robert E. Lee. Others' usefulness was hampered because he would not work with them.

After the war Davis was kept in prison for treason, and after his release he was a popluar figure throughout the South. He wrote several books defending the South and his own actions as its president. He died on December 6th, 1889. We will meet him again as the war progresses.

Alexander Stephens, his vice president

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Confederate Constitution

The delegates to the convention in Montgomery, Alabama decided to base the Constitution for the new Confederacy off of the United States Constitution. While they had decided to leave the United States, they still thought that that form of government would be the best with a few minor adjustments. Therefore the new Constitution was word-for-word the same in most sections. We will go over the more important changes and see whether they were good improvements.


We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity—invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God—do ordain and establish this constitution for the Confederate States of America.
They made several important changes to the preamble, which stated the general purpose of the government. The new government would be more limited and the state would be given more power, even though the changes they made were small. They stated more clearly that the states were establishing the new Union as sovereign and independent. They also removed the broad statement "to promote the general welfare," which they thought should be left to the states.

They also invoked the favor of God. God was referenced in the Declaration of Independence, but not in the U.S. Constitution even though almost all of the founders, including those who would not be considered Christians such as Benjamin Franklin, recognized the necessity of the blessing and providence of God. The Southerners wanted to add this idea specifically to the new Constitution.

President’s Term

They changed the term of the President from four-years to six, and he was not allowed to be re-elected. The limit in the number of terms would prevent people from choosing one “tyrant” over and over, but it would also stop a good man from continuing to serve his country. The six years would mean that if a bad choice was made, they were stuck with it for six years. Since the president was not able to be reelected, he would not change his policies as his term came to a close to please the people. This could have good and bad implications. The issue of the president's term was very complicated and the founders spent much time thinking about which was better. Both solutions have their benefits and problems.

State’s Rights

In Article 1 Section 2 they said that the state legislatures could impeach any federal officer or judge who worked solely in that state. This would increase the powers of the states to resist federal encroachments because they had the power to remove government officials that were doing things which they disagreed with.


They attempted to add provisions to restrain the Congress from favoring some industries over others with tariffs. This was one of the reasons they left the Union.. However, by their nature tariffs favor some industries. The real solution was for the congressmen to be very careful about what tariffs they voted for and whether they would unfairly favor an industry.


They specifically banned the slave trade in the new Constitution, which we already discussed in a previous post: . http://civilwar150th.blogspot.com/2010/12/slave-trade.html They also explicitly gave the right to own slaves. However, many today are surprised that their new Constitution did not focus more on this issue. But the focus of the government would not be on slavery, that was just one of the reasons that compelled them to leave the Union.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Montgomery Constitutional Convention

When Alabama seceded, they called for a convention of the Southern states to form a Confederacy. This convened on February 4th, 1861 at the same time as the Washington DC Peace Conference, in which they did not participate. Six of the seven states that had seceded sent delegates, the only one that did not was Texas which was waiting for a vote of the people to confirm secession.

The delegates to the convention were leading politicians elected by state conventions. Many of the delegates were moderates. They were not the ones who were working to push the South to leave the United States.

The delegates wrote and adopted a provisional Constitution which was quickly put into effect, and the official Constitution that was used after it was ratified by the states. Tomorrow we will look at the changes they made to the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Washington DC Peace Conference

John Tyler, a member of the Conference
When Virginia voted to stay in the Union a few weeks ago, it also voted to invite all of the states to a peace conference to attempt to find a way to prevent secession and war. This conference began on February 4th. One-hundred and thirty politicians gathered in Washington, DC, but notably absent were any members from the seceded Deep South states. The seceded states were gathering in Alabama to consider forming a new government. The Peace Conference was called the “Old Gentlemen’s Convention” by some because many of the men there were old politicians such as John Tyler, ex-president of the United States.

In the end the conference had no effect. After meeting for three weeks, a committee suggested Constitutional Amendments very similar to the Crittenden Compromise, which Lincoln and the new Republican Government had blocked from passing. The Senate defeated the suggested amendment 28 to 7. Lincoln’s private secretary wrote, “The deliberations and recommendations of the much-vaunted Peace Conference proved as worthless as Dead Sea fruit."1

1. Abraham Lincoln: A History by John G. Nicolay and John Hay (New York: The Century Co., 1890) vol. 3 Source. http://books.google.com/books?id=TmM6gR-fteAC p. 323

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Texas Leaves the Union

150 years ago today Texas voted to leave the Union, Sam Houston, the governor and one of the founders of Texas opposed secession and it had one of the lowest populations of slaves in the south. You can read their declaration of the causes of their secession here. They pointed back to 1845 when they were the Republic of Texas and they had freely voted to join the United States. They believed that since they had joined the Union freely as a sovereign republic, they retained the right to freely leave and resume their status among the nations of the world.

Sam Houston


The Federal government under Lincoln denied slaveholders the right to settle in the territories which reached to the Pacific Ocean, and the Texans also pointed to the conflict that had resulted in Kansas. The Texans also said that the Federal government had failed to protect them from the Indians and Mexicans on the border and instead the state government had to spend its money to defend themselves.


They sighted many grievances related to slavery. They protested against the North's ignoring the fugitive slave law, and their campaign to overthrow their institutions. The following is an excerpt from the Texas declaration of secession (actual title, if so capitalize and italicize):
For years past this abolition organization has been actively sowing the seeds of discord through the Union, and has rendered the federal congress the arena for spreading firebrands and hatred between the slave-holding and non-slave-holding States.
By consolidating their strength, they hare placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments. ...
And, finally, by the combined sectional vote of the seventeen non-slave-holding States, they have elected as president and vice-president of the whole confederacy two men whose chief claims to such high positions are their approval of these long continued wrongs, and their pledges to continue them to the final consummation of these schemes for the ruin of the slave-holding States.
One of the problems with this document is that they did not believe that the African race was equal to the whites. I would disagree with this, and you can read more about this in my post on slavery.


After Texas left the Union there was a gap in secession. No more states seceded for several months. You can read more about that here.

The Coming War

Samuel Houston refused to take the an oath to join the Confederacy and therefore resigned as governor. In a speech he said this:
Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South