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Saturday, October 25, 2008

book report: Bitterly Divided (2) by David Williams

Proclamations of secession were not roundly well-received in the Southern slave holding states, as noted by David Williams in the book Bitterly Divided.
Some in the Alabama hill country pushed for annexation by Tennessee, where secession had been voted down. Others thought the region should form its own state and ask for admission to the Union. James Bell of Winston County reasoned that north Alabama counties could certainly leave the state, "for they have the same Right as the state had to secede from the united states." After a Union rally in Huntsville, one worried secessionist wrote that the possibility of a new "state of Nickajack to be formed by the counties of North alabama and possibly by adjacent counties of Georgia and eastern Tennessee, looms large." p.38
The secessionists did not like seeing their logic brought to its conclusion. Hence, they forced secession on southerners by back handed tactics, force, and intimidation.
In fact, existing records from the time suggest that the secession was probably defeated by just over a thousand votes [in Georgia].
When Texas governor Sam Houston, in accordance with his state's two-thirds vote against secession, refused to calla convention, an unofficial cabal of secessionists in Austin organized one for themselves. Houston was able to get the convention's secession ordinance submitted to the voters for ratification in what was a "free election" in name only. But in the other six seceding states, ratification was never placed in the hands of voters. pp.38-39
It makes sense that no one would vote for secession because they knew secession would mean war and their own blood for a privilege only a few of their citizens had, slaves. but it also went against what their own ancestors had fought for against the British, which goes against the "Lost Cause" argument that southerners viewed their state in higher priority than the Union.
It was hard for many to forget their ties to the Union, especially those like John Bell, who carried long memories of family sacrifice. Alabama farmer Jacob Albright, whose father had fought in the Revolution, recalled after the war: "I told [the local pro-Confederate vigilance committee] that my father fought for the Union and I could not go against it...and that sooner than turn over [to the Confederacy] I would die right there." A fellow Alabamian, John Phillips, insisted that he "would never go back on 'Old Glory.' I had heard too much from my old grandparents about the sufferings and privation they had to endure during the Revolutionary War ever to engage against the 'Stars and Stripes.'" p.47
The Revolutionary War was perceived to be about freedom from an oppressive government, yet the Lincoln administration had done nothing oppressive to the South which had started secession before he was even sworn into office. Over and over again through the book, Williams reiterates the slogan, "Rich man's war, poor man's fight."

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