LIFE AT THE CONFEDERATE CAPITALS
WHEN THE DELEGATES AND THEIR FAMILIES BEGAN DRIFTING INTO Montgomery a few days before the convention they found a pleasant and provincial city located on a high bluff adjoining the Alabama River. Though small, the city was second in size and importance to Mobile and could boast of a number of iron foundries, mills, warehouses, and factories located on its outskirts. Communication was adequately handled by the Montgomery and West Point Railroad and by the Alabama River, which was navigable for some distance above the town. Most of the homes, fairly well centered in the town, were comfortable frame buildings with large gardens attached.
At the end of a long street up the city's hill and only a few minutes' walk from the business district stood the old state Capitol where the Provisional Congress met. It was a plain, quadrangular structure with Grecian pillars on its south front and broad flights of steps leading to its side porticoes. From a distance it appeared stately and imposing as it dominated the lesser buildings around it, but a closer look revealed an unkempt lawn and a general coating of tobacco juice, the customary plight of state houses then and now. The Alabama House of Representatives lent Congress its quarters during the stay in Montgomery. This was a large chamber with a gallery running half way around it which, together with the space directly beneath, accommodated curious visitors who when permitted flocked into the sessions of Congress. The downstairs visitors' area was separated from the congressmen's chairs only by a light, low screen, which did little to impede conversation when debate became dull. During the first few weeks the Montgomery ladies kept two tables in the hall covered with meat, fruit, and bread for the refreshment of members and visitors, but they discontinued this courtesy when the place became famous around town as a source of a good, free meal.