Monday, January 10, 2011

Jackson County and the Secession of Florida, January 10, 1861

Adam McNealy, Jackson County Delegate
By Dale Cox

 Today marks the 150th anniversary of Florida’s secession from the Union. It was the first step that would lead to Florida becoming part of the Confederate States of America and set it on the path to take part in the bloodiest war in American history.
Although it is commonly believed today that virtually everyone in the South was in favor of the movement, this was not the case. In Jackson County, for example, even many of the largest plantation owners opposed the move, as did a majority of the farmers and merchants. This surprised many at the time, as Jackson County planter John Milton, an ardent secessionist, was the state’s governor-elect.
Proof of strong Unionist sentiment in the county is easy to come by. When a statewide election was held on December 22, 1860, to pick delegates to the Secession Convention that was to convene in Tallahassee in January, all four of the delegates elected in Jackson County were strongly pro-Union.
James L.G. Baker, Adam McNealy, Joseph A. Collier and Sidney S. Alderman were elected to represent the county at the convention. All were Constitutional Unionists and their election shocked Democratic Party leaders in the state.
When the Secession Convention convened in Tallahassee on January 3, 1861, the Jackson County delegates were among those who waged a fierce floor fight in favor of delaying any attempt to withdraw the state from the Union.
Defeated in attempt to delay the drafting of a secession ordinance, Baker, McNealy, Collier and Alderman all voted in favor of an unsuccessful amendment that would have given the voters of the state the right to decide on secession. When that amendment failed by a vote of 39-30, they then supported an amendment that would have delayed any action until the neighboring states of Alabama and Georgia decided their course. That amendment failed by a vote of 43-27.
In the end, the secession ordinance passed by a vote of 62-7. James L.G. Baker of Jackson County was one of the seven delegates who opposed the move. Adam McNealy in the end changed his mind and voted in favor of the ordinance, as did Sidney Alderman and Joseph Collier. The latter two men issued a joint statement that was included in the minutes of the Convention:

The undersigned wish distinctly to announce to this Convention and the country, that they have been and are now fully alive to the wrongs perpetuated by the North against the South, as any many member of the Convention, and only differed with the Convention as to the mode and manner of redress.

The ordinance was passed and Florida seceded from the Union on January 10, 1861. The bloody War Between the States or Civil War would follow. In Jackson County, most of those who opposed secession ultimately supported the Confederacy. Their loyalty was to their state first.

Note: To learn more about Jackson County during the Civil War, please consider my book, The History of Jackson County, Florida: The War Between the States. It can be ordered by clicking the link at left and is available locally at Chipola River Book & Tea in Downtown Marianna (on the same block as the Gazebo Restaurant).

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