Throughout the 1850's a division in the country between North and South widened(see Why). However, in spite of the rising rhetoric the state of Georgia is far from becoming a "war machine." In Marietta the Georgia Military Institute goes to the state in search of funds three times between 1852 and 1860. In Rome, effort is being placed on railroads for economic reasons, not reasons of war, and in Atlanta the city is concerned with fighting equipment for the newly formed fire department, not some military unit. It was life as usual on the home front.
Vying for the Republican nod, Abraham Lincoln is a probable runner-up to William Seward. As early as 1857 Seward calls slavery an "irrepressible conflict". In 1858 following his nomination for senate by the Illinois Republican Party, Lincoln talks about the increased agitation against slavery. "In my opinion it shall not cease until a crisis has been reached and passed." Lincoln then quotes "A house divided shall not stand" from the Bible and applies it to the pro-slavery forces in the South and the anti-slavery forces in the North.
At the 1860 Republican Convention delegates feel Seward is too weak in some key northern states. Lincoln, the convention's second choice, is selected, but rarely speaks publicly after his nomination. He campaigns from his law offices in Springfield, Illinois. With the other candidates splitting the field, Lincoln wins the election with 39.7% of the popular vote.
The state of Georgia is deeply divided on the issue of secession. In 1860, Georgia is the second largest state east of the Mississippi, has the best rail system in the deep South and is centrally located. As the legislature meets in Milledgeville in November, the rise of an independent South hinges on Georgia voting for secession. The legislature votes to authorize a convention by statewide vote on January 2, 1861.
Until the 1970's the vote for secession had been listed as 50,243 in favor of secession to 37,123 against. In 1972 the Georgia Historical Society attempted to recreate the vote because of abnormalities that had been noticed in some counties. For example, Forsyth and Cobb Counties showed a higher vote count than for the hotly contested presidential elections two months previous, an unlikely scenerio.
Using contemporary sources, mostly local newspapers, the society concluded that the margin for the vote was razor-thin, and it was a vote against secession. The final vote on January 2, 1861 was 42,744 in favor of co-operation and 41,717 in favor of immediate secession.
On January 16, 1861, delegates poured into Milledgeville to attend the so-called "Secession Convention". To say the outcome of the meeting is in doubt is an understatement. Many, if not most, think Georgia will stay in the Union. Alexander Stephens, who later becomes vice-president of the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis, leads the pro-union movement. Stephens speaks eloquently in favor of the Union.
This step [the secession of Georgia,] once taken can never be recalled; and all the baleful and withering consequences that must follow will rest on the Convention for all coming time. When we and our posterity shall see our lovely South desolated by the demon of war which this act of yours will inevitably invite and call forth; when our green fields of waving harvests shall be trodden down by the murderous soldiery and fiery car of war sweeping over our land; our temples of justice laid in ashes; all the horrors and desolation of war upon us--who but this Convention will be held responsible for it?
The secessionists are led by former governor and Speaker of the House Howell Cobb, who four years prior had been pro-Union. Cobb's longtime rival, Judge Henry Benning, speaks eloquently in favor of secession.
In spite of the popular vote outcome, the elected delegates cast two votes, a "test" vote on January 18, and a secession vote on January 19. Both votes are strongly pro-secession. What began a month earlier, with South Carolina seceding on December 20, 1860 was now complete. The deep South is united in the fight against the North. Now attention turns towards Virginia.
Civil War in Georgia
North Georgia History
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