Preparing for War:Alabama to Richmond
January 14–June 20, 1861
We have met for the last time under the government of the United
—Thomas Joyce McClellan
Four days after South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, Alabama governor A. B. Moore called for the election of delegates from all the counties of the state to attend the Alabama Secession Convention in Montgomery starting on January 7. On January 6, 1861, Thomas Joyce McClellan arrived in Montgomery by train from Limestone County, along with Nicholas Davis from Madison County. Elected by the citizens of northern Alabama, they were two of the “cooperationist” delegates who were not in favor of immediate secession. Few of these delegates actually opposed secession, but the north Alabama faction was competing for power within the state Democratic party by taking a stance that opposed the south Alabamians’ position on secession. Led by William Lowndes Yancey, the south Alabamians were attempting to push through the convention an ordinance of secession that would immediately take Alabama out of the Union. As one historian has observed, the cooperationists’ real objective “was to raise doubts in the popular mind about the extent to which immediate secession was a carefully considered response to the threat. Yancey’s opponents wished to make it appear a hasty, radical proposal, generated by emotion and replete with concealed pitfalls.”1 The delegates from the northern counties (Limestone, Madison, Jackson, Lawrence, Morgan, Marshall, and DeKalb) led a strong effort to oppose immediate secession, and they looked for ways to preserve slavery and Southern institutions while keeping Alabama from finding itself alone and out of the Union.
Attitudes toward secession may have also been shaped by both cooperationists and secessionists who attempted to determine the possibilities for securing redress of their political grievances and for guaranteeing their rights as citizens in the Union.2 Age may also have played a factor, as “older” delegates such as Thomas McClellan found themselves in opposition to younger delegates who became the proponents of the secession movement. Rather than just being a cooperationist, Thomas McClellan was guided by a more Reconstructionist Union sentiment.