The Upper South Holds, the Southwest Does not

In Missouri, voters had elected a large majority of Unionists to a convention at St. Louis to consider leaving the Union. Not surprisingly, the delegates voted 98 to 1 against it. Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice Hamilton R. Gamble, chairman of the Committee on Federal Relations, issued a statement:

“To involve Missouri in revolution under the present circumstances is certainly not demanded by the magnitude of the grievances of which we complain nor by the certainty that they cannot be otherwise and more peacefully remedied, or even diminished by such revolution.”

Gamble declared that Missouri, being a border state, would face “utter destruction” if she seceded and the Lincoln administration decided to wage war to force her back into the Union. Joining the Confederates would “ruin ourselves, without doing them any good.”

The delegates approved a program endorsing Senator John J. Crittenden’s compromise plan, supporting a constitutional amendment guaranteeing Federal non-interference with slavery, and denouncing any attempt by the Lincoln administration to force seceded states back into the Union. The delegates rejected secessionist Governor Claiborne R. Jackson’s bill to bolster the state militia, leaving him without the strength he would need to fight off any Federal effort to keep Missouri in the Union by force. Missouri would stay in the Union for now, but not without conditions.

An election was held in Arkansas for delegates to a secession convention. Voters selected a predominantly Unionist slate, 23,626 to 17,927. These delegates gathered at Little Rock and rejected secession by a vote of 39 to 35. They also unanimously approved putting the question to a popular vote, which was scheduled to take place in August.

To the southwest, the people of the Arizona Territory gathered at Mesilla to consider secession. Arizona had been created the previous year from the part of the New Mexico Territory that runs through present-day New Mexico and Arizona south of the 34-degree line. The New Mexico government at Santa Fe had had problems governing this region, and a lack of U.S. military presence there made it highly vulnerable to Native American attacks. Congress did not sanction this new territory, but its government acted as a de facto authority in the region nonetheless.

By the time of the southern secession, many in the Arizona Territory were growing resentful of the Federal government’s lack of protection from Natives, as well as its refusal to recognize the new territorial government. The closure of the Butterfield Overland Mail route, which had connected Arizona to California and Texas, also played a role, along with the fact that most residents of the area were former southerners.

On the 16th, delegates at the Mesilla convention voted in favor of seceding from the Union and joining the Confederacy. They cited common interests, the need for protection, and reinstatement of a viable mail route as the reasons. The ordinance was sent to a convention that served western Arizonans at Tucson, and that convention voted for secession as well. The delegates elected a provisional governor and a delegate to get approval for admission from the Confederate government.


  • Cutrer, Thomas W., Theater of a Separate War: The Civil War West of the Mississippi River. The University of North Carolina Press, (Kindle Edition), 2017.
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day. New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971.
  • Thomas, Emory M., The Confederate Nation. HarperCollins e-books, Kindle Edition, 1976.

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