January 19, 1861 – Delegates to the Georgia State Convention at Milledgeville voted 208 to 89 to secede from the United States.
Georgians had initially taken a moderate approach to secession, led by Benjamin H. Hill, Herschel V. Johnson, and Alexander H. Stephens. But the election of Abraham Lincoln and the departure of neighboring states helped secessionists such as Francis S. Bartow, Howell Cobb, and Thomas R.R. Cobb to shift sentiment toward leaving the Union.
Georgia officials had already taken steps to secure their state by seizing Fort Pulaski on January 3. This strong fort near the mouth of the Savannah River could hold a large garrison, and state authorities took it before it could fall under Federal occupation.
After voting to secede, the delegates at the convention defeated a motion to postpone the secession. As a moderate noted, four states “have already seceded… In order to act with them, we must secede with them.” Celebrations took place this evening in Milledgeville.
Five days after Georgia seceded, 800 state troops backed by Governor Joseph E. Brown seized the Federal arsenal at Augusta. The troops overwhelmed the arsenal commander, Captain Arnold Elzey, and took the shops, equipment, and property. This was one of the first Federal installations to be seized by secessionists.
Georgia troops followed this up by seizing the Oglethorpe Barracks and Fort Jackson at Savannah in accordance with orders from Governor Brown.
- Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 12
- Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 21, 27-29
- Longacre, Edward G., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 30
- McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 237