Friday, November 5, 2010

ELECTION OF 1860 in Louisiana

Southern Militia Officer
(6th Plate Tintype, author's collection)
By Mike Jones

The election of 1860 in Louisiana was quiet, orderly and showed no unusual alarm. On the ballot were John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, who was the nominee of Southern Democrats; John Bell of Tennessee, nominee for the Constitutional Union Party, which was made up of old Whigs and Know-Nothings; and Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, who was the nominee of the  regular Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party did not appear on the ballot in the state.

Breckinridge won the state by a plurality of the vote with 22,680. Bell received 20,204 and Douglas 7,625. Louisianians, before the election, were clearly split on the question of secession from the Union. But the election of Lincoln rapidly drove them into the pro-secession camp.

A visitor to New Orleans at this time recorded his observation:
"The excitement about the result of the election seems to increase fast. 
The most talk I hear now [in New Orleans] is about the state of the
country. Some anxiety appears to be felt as to the result. The
Southern people think the result of the election is a sort of declaration
of hostility by the North. Nearly every day Lincoln's effigy is hanged
in the principal streets and squares. When it is run up it is saluted
with the firing of cannon & cheers. Secession is openly talked of,
apparently with increasing confidence in its success." (Charles Schultz, “New
Orleans in December 1860” Louisiana Historical Quarterly.)

Governor Thomas Overton Moore, a secessionist leader, called for a Secession Convention in January. Louisianians got to vote on the question when they  elected representatives to the convention. On January 7 voters went to the polls and elected 80 immediate secessionists and 50 cooperationists, meaning they wanted to cooperate with other Southern states before seceding individually.
Also in the period after the election Louisianians started organizing military companies to defend the state. The groups took on such names as the "Crescent Rifles," "Minute Men," "Home Guards," and "Defenders of
Southern Rights." Groups already organized, such as volunteer firemen, steamboatmen and others, formed their own military units. The Louisiana Legislature convened in December in special session to establish a military board headed by the governor and authorized it to appropriate $500 million to arm and equip companies.

Events followed with rapidity: the election of delegates to the secession convention were elected January 7, 1861;  the the U.S. Arsenal in Baton Rouge was seized by  Louisiana troops January 10, Forts Jackson and St. Philip January 11, and Fort Pike and the United States barracks near New Orleans on January 14. Fort Macomb on Chef Mentur Road, guarding the eastern water approaches, was taken January 28, 1861.
'Pellican' flags were flying in all directions, companies drilling. . ." the northern visitor observed at the time. Louisianians were deadly serious about defending their sovereign and independent rights.

No comments: