Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10, 1861 - Florida Secedes from the Union & Fort Caswell is seized in North Carolina

Florida's Old Capitol
January 10, 1861

150 years ago today, as a large crowd gathered outside the historic Old Capitol building in Tallahassee, the delegates to Florida's Secession Convention voted by a margin of 62 to 7 to secede from the Union.

Governor-elect John Milton, an ardent secessionist, read the state's ordinance of secession from the east portico of the capitol:

We, the people of the State of Florida in Convention assembled, do solemnly ordain, publish and declare: That the State of Florida hereby withdraws herself from the Confederacy of States existing under the name of the United States of America, and from the existing Government of said States: and that all political connection between her and the Government of said States ought to be and the same is hereby totally annulled, and said union of States dissolved: and the State of Florida is hereby declared a Sovereign and Independent Nation: and that all ordinances heretofore adopted in so far as they create or recognize said Union, are rescinded: and all laws or parts of laws in force in this State, in so far as they recognize or assent to said Union be and they are hereby repealed.

Florida became the third state to leave the Union and the announcement ignited celebrations not only in Tallahassee, but in communities across the state as well as in South Carolina and Mississippi. If you would like to learn more about the state's historic Old Capitol, please visit

Meanwhile, military movements continued across the South. At Charleston Harbor, Union troops in Fort Sumter worked to mount guns and improve their defenses while state troops continued to mount guns and build batteries in Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson and at other points bearing on Sumter. In Louisiana, the Baton Rouge Arsenal and Barracks were seized. In Florida, a small force of around 80 U.S. soldiers and sailors moved across Pensacola Bay from Fort Barrancas and occupied a more defensible position at Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. In North Carolina, citizens took matters into their own hands at captured Fort Caswell.  
Historical Marker for Fort Caswell
Located at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, Fort Caswell was a strongly built masonry fort that had been completed in 1836. Designed to mount 61 cannon, it looked out over the channel that led from the Atlantic Ocean up the Cape Fear River to the key port city of Wilmington.

Believing that war was inevitable, a local military company called the Cape Fear Minutemen moved on the fort and seized it from its lone caretaker. The move was done without authorization from the governor or anyone else and a potential crisis loomed. Since North Carolina had not yet decided whether it would secede from the Union, Governor John Ellis ordered Fort Caswell returned to the U.S. government. His orders were followed.

You can learn more about Fort Caswell at

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