The Mississippi Secession

Voters in Mississippi had elected a strong majority of secessionists to the state convention, which opened in Jackson on the 7th. Most of the secessionist delegates were planters and lawyers who wanted to maintain the status quo. By contrast, those still undecided on secession were mostly older, less wealthy Mississippians.

An anti-secession Whig introduced a resolution to negotiate with the Federal government, but it failed by a vote of 78 to 21. This lopsided result led many of the undecideds to join the secession camp, resulting in an overwhelming vote to secede on the 9th, 84 to 15. Of the 100 delegates, 98 ultimately signed the official ordinance of secession.

Ladies of Jackson presented the delegates with a blue silken banner with a single white star, which symbolized Mississippi’s new “independent nation status.” Delegates celebrated their exit from the Union by parading the banner through the convention hall. This was said to have inspired the patriotic song “Bonnie Blue Flag,” written by comedian Harry McCarthy using the tune from “The Irish Jaunting Car.” Celebrations took place in the streets of Jackson that night, as a New York Herald correspondent reported: “The churches are decorated with evergreens and the lone star is prominent.”

Three days later, the Mississippi congressmen resigned their seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Albert G. Brown resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate. The state legislature approved a call to form a convention of delegates from the seceded states, and state militia seized Ship Island, at the mouth of the Mississippi River. This was an important fueling station for shipping in the Gulf of Mexico. The troops occupied an unfinished fort on the island, which would later be named Fort Massachusetts.

Governor John J. Pettus authorized the placement of artillery on the bluffs of Vicksburg to protect shipping on the Mississippi. He also followed the recommendation of the secession convention and commissioned Jefferson Davis as a major-general in command of the Mississippi militia. Davis and Pettus soon began discussions on how best to defend the state.



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