"The enemy never sees the backs of my Texans!"
-General Robert E. Lee: The Battle of the Wilderness, 1864
"Secession is not treason!"
- Salamon P. Chase, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Cort to President Andrew Johnson: July 1867
Following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States in 1860, the Southern secessionist movement began in earnest. South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union when it passed an Ordinance of Secession on December 20, 1860. During January 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana followed South Carolina’s lead and each approved their own Ordinance of Secession. Throughout Texas, the debate over whether or not the state should leave the Union was heated. Most Texans favored secession, the memories of the Texas Revolution, including the massacres of Santa Anna, the battles of Goliad, Gonzales, the Alamo, and San Jacinto were still fresh in the minds of many Texans, but there were some notable exceptions.
When the Republic of Texas was annexed into the United States in 1845 under President Andrew Jackson's administration, it joined the Union as a slave state. Many of the people who immigrated to the Republic of Texas (1835-1844), as well as following annexation, came from the southern states. Texas, with its cotton and sugar production, had an economic system based on slavery the same as other southern states like Virginia and South Carolina; yet only 5% of the est. 125,00o population were slave owners. Secession sentiment was therefore very strong in this part of the state, not only on the basis of shared economic and political systems but also on the basis that many of the citizens of this part of Texas were fairly recent immigrants from Southern states.
In the north, west and central Texas secession sentiment was more muted. This was due in part to the threat still faced by Comanche and Apache tribes. Citizens in these parts of the state relied on federal troops for protection and they were, therefore, less inclined to support secession than citizens in the eastern part of the state - except for El Paso County, which was threatened of retaliation of Mexican forces. The pro-Union sentiment was also stronger among some of the European immigrant groups living in Texas, particularly the free-thinkers German immigrants living in the central Texas hill country region in Kerr, Gillispie, Burnett, Blanco, Williamson, and Travis Counties.
Most Texas elected officials and political and business leaders supported Texas secession. Sam Houston, former President of the Republic of Texas and the current governor of the state, was the sole politician willing to take a public stand opposing secession. In the weeks leading up to the secession convention, the secessionist movement had reached its boiling point due to the speeches and letters from Governor Houston trying to persuade Texans that it was in their best interests for the State of Texas to remain in the Union they had struggled to be a part of. The strongest voice in Texas for secession was the State's Supreme Court Chief Justice, Oran Roberts.
In the City of Houston, the Secession Convention was held on February 1st, 1861 at the Grand Hotel. Although Governor Houston was invited to observe the proceedings, he didn't attend nor sent notice of his disinclination. From across Texas, 174 delegates made the argues trip and unanimously elected Chief Justice Roberts as its presiding officer. Among the delegates was famed Texas Ranger John "RIP" Ford, Statesman Alfred M. Hobby, and City of San Antonio Mayor Samual A. Maverik. After the day-long debates and speeches to adopt an Ordinance of Secession, the quorum voted near-unanimously 166-8 in favor of. This ordinance was officially adopted the following day.
Throughout the South, as states began seceding, citizens were concerned about what would happen with the federal troops stationed in the South. In Texas, in the days leading up to secession, there were approximately 2,700 United States troops stationed throughout the state under the command of Major General David E. Twiggs. Approximately 100 of these troops were stationed at the Alamo, whose remaining buildings were being used as a quartermaster depot by the United States Army, and 50 were posted at the Federal Arsenal. Texan citizens began worrying about the federal troops stationed in Texas and what would happen when the ordinance was approved and secession official. During this time members of the Committee of Public Safety, including Benjamin McCulloch, began working with Major General Twiggs to negotiate the surrender of Union forces in Texas, without President Lincoln's approval.
In the weeks leading up to secession, then Union Colonel Robert E. Lee was touring and inspecting the troops & federal installations in Texas, including the Alamo. On February 13th, Lee is ordered to return to Washington from the regimental headquarters at Fort Mason in Mason County to assume command of the Union Army. Instead, Lee resigned his commission to the U.S. Army stating his loyalty was to Virginia first.
On February 16, 1861, after receiving a letter from Mayor Maverick to safeguard the Alamo over the fear of its destruction; Ben McCulloch led a group of volunteers — many of whom were descendants of the veterans of the Texas Revolution including Tejanos, German, Irish, Korean, Italian, and English immigrants — through the streets of San Antonio from the Gran Plaza to surround the Alamo where Maj. Gen. Twiggs was garrisoned. Twiggs peacefully surrendered all federal property in the state and agreed to evacuate all Union troops - all without the approval of Abraham Lincoln. This group of volunteers later became known as the "Alamo City Guards". Confederate forces occupied the Alamo throughout the Civil War, but no military battles took place at the Alamo or in San Antonio.
This Ordinance of Secession was ratified by Texas voters on February 23, 1861, which coincidentally was the anniversary of the start of the siege of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. On March 11, 1861, Texas became one of the seven states that comprised the Confederate States of America (CSA). Governor Houston refused to swear an oath to the Confederacy or acknowledge its legitimacy and was therefore divested of his position as Governor and replaced by then Lt. Governor Edward Clark. Houston retired to Huntsville, Alabama where he remained until he passed away in July of 1863.
TEXAS SECESSION - 1861