Alabama Secession Cockades

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Four days after South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, Alabama held a referendum to elect delegates to their own secession convention. Foreseeing a politically divisive presidential election in 1860, the 1859 Alabama state legislature had passed a resolution requiring this referendum - if a Republican won the presidency.

Opposed To Any Other Sort of Union

Pro-secession and pro-Union factions had debated the wisdom of secession in Alabama for years. But after Lincoln's election on November 6, it became clear to many that the Federal government no longer represented the large majority of Southerners. Secession feeling began to run high among both the ladies and the gentlemen. And of course, so did the cockades!

A November 16 newspaper stated, "'Senator Toombs was in the streets of Columbus [GA], on Saturday, the "blue cockade" given him by the fair ladies of Montgomery [AL]. God bless them! We are for them and a union with them, where love, harmony, and good feeling exists, but are opposed to any other sort of Union.' The night that the Senator spoke in Montgomery many ladies wore the badge of secession."

By December, even children were wearing the secession badge. An Alabama correspondent wrote to the New York Times, "The last manifestation of the military furore appeared in our streets the other day, in the shape of a band of about fifty children from four to eight years of age, arrayed in full military costume, and marching laud passibus aequis [in step] to the sound of a drum. Companions of these doubtless were the two little fellows seen by a gentleman standing on a corner of the street, lost in admiration of a cockade worn by one, who was calmly remarking, as the observer passed, 'If it was not for my family, I would go help South Carolina.'"

When the secession convention met on January 7, the delegates were fairly evenly split for and against secession. Many pro-Unionists were concerned about Alabama's fate if she were to secede on her own. But in the ensuing four days of debate, Mississippi and Florida joined South Carolina in seceding and enough delegates changed their votes to make the final tally 61 to 39 in favor of disunion.

Jefferson Davis's Inauguration.
Lithograph by A. Hoen & Co. Baltimore, MD. LOC
The Secession Convention then proceeded to invite all the other Southern states to send delegates to form a new government at Montgomery. On February 11, 1861, the Confederate States of America was born. President Davis's inauguration and two sessions of the Confederate congress would meet there before the capitol of the Confederacy would be moved to Richmond.

An Unbroken Scene of Enthusiasm

A week before secession was voted on, Alabama's Governor Moore had already taken preemptive steps against Union forces. He ordered the seizure of all federal military installations in the state and within one day had bloodlessly conquered Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan and the US Arsenal.

John B. Gordon reminisced later, "Alabama’s governor had given us the coveted 'chance,' and with bounding hearts we joined the host of volunteers then rushing to Montgomery. The line of our travel was one unbroken scene of enthusiasm. Bonfires blazed from the hills at night, and torch-light processions, with drums and fifes, paraded the streets of the towns. In the absence of real cannon, blacksmiths’ anvils were made to thunder our welcome. Vast throngs gathered at the depots, filling the air with their shoutings, and bearing banners with all conceivable devices, proclaiming Southern independence, and pledging the last dollar and man for the success of the cause. Staid matrons and gayly bedecked maidens rushed upon the cars, pinned upon our lapels the blue cockades, and cheered us by chanting in thrilling chorus:

"In Dixie-land I take my stand
To live and die in Dixie."

The Advent of Industry

Like the rest of the South, Alabama was mostly agrarian with little industrial business. However, she did have something quite important - a port and a railroad system.

An 1856 railroad map of Alabama,
showing easy access to the port of Mobile
The port of Mobile was a crucial center for importing supplies and then disbursing them throughout the Confederacy via railroad. Even when Mobile was blockaded by the Union, blockade runners kept up a brisk business. It wasn't until the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 that this Southern supply point was finally choked off.

As the war progressed, Alabama initiated their own industrial revolution. Iron furnaces, rolling mills, powder mills, arsenals, laboratories, and factories were built to supply the Confederacy. The Selma foundry and manufacturing complex alone employed 3,000 men and producing more than 100 of the technologically advanced Brooke rifled cannon. Ironclad ships and submarines were also both pioneered in Alabama.

Though the state was spared much of the bloody fighting that occurred in other Southern areas, she became a significant source of troops, leaders, military material, supplies, food, horses and mules.

An Alabama soldier in Hilliard's Legion

Most Bore Cockades

As Alabamians ran the blockade, built factories and invented machinery, the home front saw wartime innovations as well. Fannie Beers recalled, "Hats and bonnets of all sorts and sizes were made of straw or palmetto, and trimmed with the same. Most of them bore cockades of bright red and white (the "red, white, and red"), fashioned of strips knitted to resemble ribbons. Some used emblems denoting the State or city of the wearer, others a small Confederate battle-flag."