Dec. 20, 2010 marks the beginning of a period over the next five and half years marking the 150th anniversary of one of the darkest times of American history. Largely seen as the start of the Civil War, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860. ABC News reports one group is holding a gala celebration honoring the 170 men who stood up to the federal government. The NAACP is holding a counter-rally in Charleston on the same night as the 150th anniversary observance goes forward.
The lead up to the secession had many factors. Here’s a look at events which led up to South Carolina becoming the first state of the union to secede before the Civil War.
Nov. 6, 1860: Abraham Lincoln elected president
As the first ever Republican president in history, Abraham Lincoln was elected president just a month and a half before South Carolina secedes from the Union. Garnering only 40 percent of the popular vote, Lincoln defeated Stephen Douglas and two other candidates. History.com reports Lincoln’s anti-slavery stance was what led South Carolina’s state government to ponder secession from the union.
Nov. 7, 1860: President Buchanan ponders attacking forts
With South Carolina’s insistence on leaving the union becoming a more real threat, President James Buchanan begins to have a series of meetings on how to deal with the possible uprising. Dickinson College reports the first meeting was held with Secretary of War John B. Floyd and later in the week Buchanan holds high-level cabinet meetings.
Dec. 3, 1860: Reinforcements are called for
Major Robert Anderson’s request for reinforcements for federal forts in South Carolina is discussed amongst Buchanan’s cabinet. The move comes as more and more lawmakers in South Carolina are secession from the union. A week later, Buchanan’s cabinet collapses as Howell Cobb (Treasury) and Lewis Cass (Secretary of State) both resign within five days of each other. Buchanan’s grip on the situation is quickly turning dire.
Dec. 20, 1860: South Carolina secedes
By a vote of 169-0, a convention held in Charleston voted to secede from the Union. The convention was called by the South Carolina legislature according to the Charleston Post and Courier. Almost have the delegates owned 50 or more slaves and Lincoln’s anti-slavery stance was largely viewed as the cause of South Carolina’s secession. Parades were held to commemorate the event and at the time the men were hailed as heroes.
In the end, South Carolina’s secession was just another turning point in decades of struggle between the rights of the federal government versus the states. Slavery would be a major issue as to which entity controlled who could own slaves, Congress or the States. The subsequent war would cost hundreds of thousands of American lives and the disruption of a nation which very nearly collapsed.