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January 19

In 1861, on this day in Milledgeville the cooperationists led by Herschel Johnson carried the vote at the inappropriately named Secession Convention; the State of Georgia would remain in the Union for the time being at least.

At any Cost and at all HazardsThe shift of just 19 votes to defeat the vote secession was due to in part to a decision take on New Year's Eve. "We are all for Secession" one observer advised Governor Joseph Emerson Brown (pictured). It was hardly a startling insight; Unionists candidates for the state convention were withdrawing from the race. Brown was a former Whig who had in fact been strongly in favour of the secession ever since the election; at the same time though, he was no fan of Jefferson Davis, and had little appetite for Georgian membership of a Southern Confederacy.

"Southern Civilization - it Must be maintained at any cost and at all hazards" ~ Mayor of SavannahActually Brown himself had been in favour of ordering the State Militia to occupy Fort Pulaski which was guardian the Port of Savannah. The history was that President James Madison ordered a new system of coastal fortifications to protect the United States against foreign invasion following the War of 1812. Construction of a fort to protect the port of Savannah began in 1829 under the direction of Major General Babcock, and later Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a recent graduate of West Point. Though completed in 1847, Fort Pulaski was under the control of only two caretakers until 1860. Of course should the State of George secede, the strategic value of the Fort to the defence of the Union would be effectively zero. In short, it was a military white elephant not worth fighting over.

The preciptive action to occupy the Fort would be certain to cross the line of interference with private property should the State of George secede from the Union; but it did'nt. That very day, Federal Representatives arrived from Washington, delivering a persuasive letter from the President-elect; the Union's best interest lay in abandoning the Fort, at least for now, it said. The Federal Officials in charge of coastal roads were being withdrawn, and their threat to mobilize labour for defence was best disregarded by the State Government. It was timely advice; the Major of Savannah spoke at the convention, "Southern Civilization - It Must be maintained at any cost and at all hazards". Fortunately, since Lincoln's assassination, cooler heads had prevailed in Washington. Determined attempts were now being made to avoid any such "hazards" that could force the country on the road to a disasterous Civil War. At least for now, another flashpoint had been avoided.






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