North Carolina and Tennessee Lean South

April 26, 1861 – North Carolina Governor John Ellis joined Tennessee in rejecting President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to destroy the Confederacy.

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit:
The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit:

Soon after Lincoln issued his proclamation, North Carolina militia seized Forts Macon, Caswell, and Johnston, as well as the Federal arsenal at Fayetteville. William Howard Russell, a correspondent for the London Times touring the South, was in Greensborough when news arrived that the Confederates captured Fort Sumter. Although North Carolina had not yet seceded, Russell wrote that celebrations exploded with “flush faces, wild eyes, screaming mouths hurrahing for ‘Jeff Davis’ and ‘the Southern Confederacy,’ so that the yells overpowered the discordant bands which were busy with ‘Dixie’s Land’… Here was the true revolutionary furor in full sway.”

Governor Ellis called for a special legislative session to assemble and consider secession after responding to Lincoln:

“Your dispatch is received, and, if genuine–which its extraordinary character leads me to doubt–I have to say, in reply, that I regard the levy of troops made by the Administration, for the purpose of subjugating the States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution, and a usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.”

Ellis joined fellow Governor Isham Harris of Tennessee, who responded to Lincoln’s call in similar fashion: “Tennessee will not furnish a single man for the purpose of coercion, but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights and those of our Southern brothers.”

Harris also protested to Republican Governor Richard Yates of Illinois for posting Illinois militia at Cairo, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers met, and imposing “a rather tight blockade of the rivers.” Harris asserted that Tennessee still belonged to the Union, and the “obstruction of the navigation of the Mississippi River and the seizure of public and private property by an armed force are violations of the comity of States and a palpable infringement of the Constitution.” This helped move Tennessee closer to secession.

The Nashville Patriot reported that the “community of interest existing in all the slaveholding States” must serve to unite them to defend “justice and liberty.”



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