Mississippi Secession Cockades

<- Return to United States page

On January 9, Mississippi became the first state to secede in 1861. South Carolina had led the way in December and South Carolinians were waiting anxiously to see what states, if any, followed their lead.

But they needn't have worried. Exactly a month earlier, a reporter traveling in Mississippi had written: "The further down I get, the more secession I see. Not content with wearing the blue cockade themselves, the people put them up on wagons, carriages, riding horses, etc. At one place where I stopped, all the negroes had them on. You may safely put Mississippi down as dead out for for secession."

The First Secession Convention

Actually, Mississippi was ahead of South Carolina in secession movements. As early as 1850, Mississippians had a secession convention. That secession movement subsided when Congress created the Compromise of 1850.

The secession feeling remained however, as Mississippi felt that Congress was continuing to meddle - or threaten meddling - with States' Rights in the issue of slavery. If States didn't have the right to determine their own course of action, they reasoned, then what was the purpose of a supposed "voluntary" Union of States?

John A. Moore, Co. H, 14 MS Infantry.
Note the cockade on his hat.
Seen in "Remembering Mississippi's Confederates."
In a 1917 historical record of Mississippi, the following was written: "Above all other ideals of popular government in the Western Republic, the Mississipians, ardent followers of Jefferson, Calhoun, and now Jefferson Davis, had enthroned the doctrine of States' Rights. Its emblem adorned the lapel of nearly every Mississippi gentleman, and fair-handed women fashioned the little blue rosettes and presented them to their sweethearts, declaring with a proud lift of the head, that no man should claim their heart and hand who did not wear the 'Blue Cockade.'"

The Texas Republican stated that, "The capital of Mississippi is at present all alive with excitement, and densely crowded with people, who have been drawn to it by the deeply absorbing nature of the occasion of the assemblage of the Legislature in extraordinary session.... The people here, young and old, wear the blue cockade, the principal, if not the only, exceptions to the rule being those who are too well known for their ultra Southernism to need such symbols of their faith.

"Among the blue cockades I observe not a few quite elderly persons. Prominent among them is the veteran Col. Archer, of Claiborne, who declares that since the death of Senator Tazewell, of Virginia, he has become the oldest disunionist in the United States."

Marion B. Harris, Co. C, 19th MS Infantry.
Seen in "A Photographic History of Mississippi
in the Civil War."

"The Price of Blood"

Once the war started, both sides quickly realized the significance of the Mississippi River and concentrated great efforts in that area. Whoever controlled the Mississippi controlled the West. 

Here some of the bloodiest battles of the war were fought, and here generals on both sides gained fame in their campaigns. It wasn't until the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, two and a half years into the war, that the Union finally gained full control of the region. 

Mississippi paid dearly for her secession. Once again, she pre-dated South Carolina (and Georgia) in receiving a devastating march from General Sherman. It was his first trial of "total war." 

But all of that was in the future when the Semi-Weekly Mississippian wrote enthusiastically, "The blue cockade - 'the South must be protected in her rights'” - have made their appearance in large numbers on our streets. Nearly every man in town has one, and doubtless if it becomes necessary to protect our rights at the price of blood, the citizens of Magnolia will not be found wanting in the strife. Three cheers for the blue cockade."