Virginia’s Secession Convention and Confederate Flag Suggestions

Wednesday, February 13, 1861 – Ash Wednesday

The House of Delegates in Richmond, Virginia was packed with officials attending the state’s Secession Convention and spectators filling the galleries to watch the event. It was largely believed that most convention delegates were pro-Union and would remain so unless the Federal government turned to violence against the South.

Offices and positions for the meeting were voted upon and it was agreed that the convention should adjourn until the next day, meeting in the larger Mechanics Hall.

With that, Virginia’s fate (for now) was about to be decided.1

__________________

Outpacing Virginia, the Congress of the Confederate States was presented with several ideas for national flags. The ladies of Charleston had made a flag composed of a blue cross with seven white stars (one for each seceded state) on a field of red. Some men of Charleston proposed having fifteen stars (one for each slave state).

A committee of six was then formed made up of one delegate from each state – Texas had not yet arrived. The Mississippi delegate wished for the national flag of the Confederacy to look exactly like the United States flag, only with less stars. He gave such a stirring eulogy to that old standard that it caused other committee members to accuse him of treason to the Confederacy. The Mississippian withdrew the suggestion.

The flag question would be solved soon enough.2

__________________

Lincoln traveled by train from Cincinnati to Columbus, Ohio – a trip of only five hours. A huge crowd of 60,000 greeted him in the state capitol, which only had a population of 20,000. Lincoln was beginning to become travel-weary and was possibly even catching a cold.

Perhaps it was because of this that he made a rather strange speech that made very little sense to anyone. He defended his silence since being elected and boasted, “there has fallen upon me a task such as did not rest even upon the Father of this country.”

That task, however, was then trivialized when he added, “It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety, for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that when we look out there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political questions, but nobody is suffering anything.”3



  1. Richmond Daily Dispatch, February 14, 1861. []
  2. Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, Volume 1 []
  3. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
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10 thoughts on “Virginia’s Secession Convention and Confederate Flag Suggestions

  1. To say Lincoln BOASTED that he faced greater problems than the Founding Fathers, perhaps he was COMPLAINGING, or here is a clue — stating the obvious.

    There were already plots to capture the capital, to kill Lincoln, and to spread slavery as ordained by God, and the torture and terror of it.

    Lincoln understated the difficulty, if anything.

    Lincoln’s quote about “its a good thing we only disagree on politics — there is nothing that is going to hurt anyone (paraphrasing)” was said in ironic jest, and to perhaps dampen down the violent rhetoric all around the country.

    What should he say “OH BROTHER, looks like a GIANT war — gosh darn, go get your guns, lets kill us some rebels”? Would that make you happy?

    LIke Obama recently said of his retiring ambassador that will run against him for president “No doubt the fact the he worked well with me, will be a big plus to him in the Repubican primaries” — paraphrased.

    Lincoln had long said the country was going to be all slave, or all free. He already had a good idea of the dangers and violence ahead. So he was probably trying to play down the violent rhetoric all around him.

    It’s called irony, look it up.

    1. Mark, listen. I agree with 95% of what you’re saying, but why do you have to be such a complete ass while saying it?

      Seriously, what is your problem?

      I’ve deleted two or three of your other comments because they were even more pointlessly hostile than this one. Do you not understand that being personally insulting gets you nowhere?

      Please stop commenting on my blog.

      -Eric

  2. Why should we speak candidly ?

    Because for 150 years, we have spoken too politely, too politically correct.

    We have stood by while lunatics have claimed the South was for freedom, and Lincoln was the despot. Enough already.

    Let’s just tell the truth. The Southern leaders bragged it was about the spread of slavery, and issued their absurd ultimatums to spread slavery, and the Southern newspapers announcedd these ultimatums loudly and proudly.

    We now know, for example, that Lee had young women tortured, and sold their white looking babies.

    Do you think if we found Lincoln’s account books, and it showed in his own handwriting, that he paid six times the normal fee for the capture of a specific slave girl, then had her tortured, then sold her white looking baby, that Southern writers would barely mention it, in passing?

    I think 150 years is enough. Enough of helping the apologist pretend up is down. Let’s just tell the truth. If you can’t handle that, write fiction, and don’t pretend it’s history

    1. “Candidly” does not equal being an ass.

      Either stick to the topics in the post, engaging in some sort of logical/sensible discussion, or stop commenting. It’s your choice.

      Insulting people isn’t going to serve your cause. Stop writing like some insane, ranty religious zealot and you might actually have a discernible point.

  3. Methinks we have a person with no sense of perspective in our friend Mark. Slavery was a blight on our nation. It nearly destroyed the necessary cohesion that developed one of the most flexible and economically powerful nations in history. However, taken in context, and with an understanding of the world at the time, it was very easy for the South to attempt a justification of their position.

    The institution of slavery was broadly accepted and was financially relevant to nearly every nation on the planet at the time. It was really the anti-slavery position that was revolutionary. If the United States could figure out a way to overcome that difference you’d think we could survive minor differences of perspective on a Civil War blog, eh?

    Keep up the good work. Minor variations on focus aside I am enjoying your snapshots of the daily events of 150 yrs ago… =)

    – Sean

    1. Thanks, Sean!

      I think you’ll see the focus shift come spring and summer, when the focus of the war shifted. Hopefully it doesn’t shift farther away from readers.
      Thanks!

      -Eric

  4. On a different note:

    An interesting thought occurred to me after reading that account of the Mississippi delegate and his idea for the confederate flag. What if instead of “seceeding” and calling themselves the “Confederate States of America”, they took an entirely different angle on it? Suppose they instead “expelled” the free states for violation of the constition, which was their grounds for secession anyway, and called themselves the true “United States of America” and used that US flag with less stars as proposed by that delegate.

    I wonder if there may have been a different attitude in the North.

    1. Thanks for the comment. That’s actually a pretty interesting idea. The western counties of Virginia (what’s now West Virginia) did that by declaring all of the government seats “vacant.” Everybody knew they were talking about secession and that most of Virginia would still be loyal to Richmond and the South, but that’s how they went about it.

      For the South to have done that, it would have been more of a protest and would, I’d think, have to involve some foreign power (that wasn’t Mexico). Being a fan of “what ifs,” the possibilities are basically endless there.

      -Eric

  5. I picture Lincoln’s speech here in the voice of “Evil Holographic Lincoln” from Futurama. It makes more sense that way.

    To be fair, maybe it was just being in Columbus. It makes me a little loopy too.

    I bet the flag debate showed a lot about the ideas at the time. A spectrum from the almost-U.S. to another, new kind of country. Strange tensions between past loyalties and ideology there…

  6. I really like the idea of the Confederate States attempting to throw the north out of the Union. That is a novel way to re-imagine the process. It’s a fun proposition even if it comes down to semantics! The separation, however it occurred, was about a fundamental difference in human rights that essentially turned the economics of the new hemisphere on it’s head…

    Michael and Ryan also have far more enjoyable ways of suggesting an alternative view of events than Mark. Candid disagreements don’t have to be expressed by behaving like an ass-hat. After all, you are hardly putting up this blog as a means of requesting that slavery come back. Taking a neutral position doesn’t have to be interpreted as being pro-South. We all know that slavery sucked.

    It’s okay to be somewhat less than reverent when reviewing Lincolns public speaking at times. He was a fine president. He was a good man. But, perfect he was not. If you interpreted one of his speeches as boastful that’s hardly the end of the universe. ;-D.

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