Civil War Wednesday: Repealing Secession

James Johnson, Provisional Governor of Georgia

James Johnson, Provisional Governor of Georgia, 1865. Courtesy of New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Responding to a call from Provisional Governor James Johnson, elected delegates gathered in convention in Milledgeville on October 25, 1865, to develop a new state constitution. On the second day of the proceedings, the body unanimously approved an ordinance repealing the 1861 declaration of secession. The official printer of the convention – The Southern Recorder newspaper – reported the act in their October 31 edition.

An Ordinance

To repeal certain ordinances and resolutions therein mentioned, heretofore passed by the people of the State of Georgia in Convention.

We, the People of the State of Georgia in Convention, at our seat of Government, do declare and ordain, That an ordinance adopted by the same people, in convention, on the nineteenth day of January, A.D. eighteen hundred and sixty-one, entitled “An ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Georgia and other States united with her under a compact of government entitled ‘the constitution of the United States of America’”; also an ordinance adopted by the same on the sixteenth day of March in the year aforesaid, entitled “An ordinance to adopt and ratify the constitution of the Confederate States of America”; and also all ordinances and resolutions of the same, adopted between the sixteenth day of January and the twenty-fourth day of March, in the year aforesaid, subversive of, or antagonistic to the civil and military authority of the government of the United States of America, under the constitution thereof, be, and the same are hereby repealed.

Various newspapers across the nation informed their readers of Georgia’s action, and critical reviews often proved the result, especially among members of the northern press. The Philadelphia Enquirer, in their October 31 edition, criticized the state in a story entitled “Georgia Lags.” The editors pronounced, “Georgia is not coming up to the necessities of the times with the alacrity which was expected from her.” Comparing results in Milledgeville to similar bodies, previously meeting in other states, they did not find favor with the deeds of the delegates. “Georgia follows the lead of South Carolina, and merely repeals [italics in original] that ordinance, thus justifying the argument that it was legal, and that all that was done under it was lawful, and that the same yet remains of binding force in regard to everything not specially declared unlawful.” One week later, the same editors proposed the original act of secession resulted in “Thousands of her sons…slaughtered…the ruins of homesteads within the broad track of SHERMAN [caps in original]…Georgia is a waste and weeping place….”

Continuing the trend of negative comments on the proceedings in Milledgeville, the Albany Evening Journal reported on October 30, “Georgia is even less practicable and loyal than South Carolina in addressing herself to the work of reconstruction.” A reporter with the Boston Daily Advertiser, who traveled to Milledgeville to cover the convention, offered a slightly more favorable commentary in a November 8 story, which recapped several proceedings from the convention. Noting the delegates’ act of passing a constitution abolishing slavery, he closed the account: “So, without a word to warm the blood of friend or foe, the great Empire State of the South took up the banner of liberty and fell into the ranks of progression.”

Looking for some balance in the news emerging from Milledgeville, a reporter with the Macon Daily Telegraph hoped “…the correspondence of the Northern press…will be confined strictly to facts, and the true spirit of the proceedings…my acquaintance with those, already here, leads me to believe this will be the case!” As the delegates worked to complete a new constitution, the citizens of Georgia faced greater difficulty, as the tumultuous period of reconstruction awaited.

Old State Capitol Building

Old State Capitol Building, Milledgeville

Traveling to Milledgeville today, one can tour the building where the convention delegates met and explore the treasures found in the Old Capitol Museum’s collection. For more information, visit

MikeMichael K. Shaffer is a Civil War historian, author, newspaper columnist and lecturer. He can be contacted at:

April’s Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage is a Walk Through Time

Ezell Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Ezell-Tatum House in Eatonton, Georgia

Middle Georgia’s 100-mile Antebellum Trail of seven communities offers an abundant look into 19th century life and earlier. Visitors can travel the trail year-round, but many choose April 18 – 21 for the annual Pilgrimage. $25 covers entrance to everything during these four days, with passes available at each community’s welcome center. (Find welcome center addresses at Macon and Athens bookend the Antebellum Trail with abundance and distinctive opportunities fill the communities in between.

The years leading to 1860 are the focus of the trail. I entered the back edge of the Civil War, not battlefield center, with connections to Revolutionary War veterans and families, too.


Uncle Remus Museum in Eatonton

Eatonton is the 1848 birthplace of Joel Chandler Harris, and the Uncle Remus Museum is 50 years old. Go to the source. You know these tales. Old and new at the same time is the Old School History Museum. Sleep in Watkinsville because the Ashford Manor wraps visitors in history and hospitality.  Choose the 1840s cottage for an antebellum night or the main house, an 1893 Queen Anne. “Artland,” Watkinsville is called, and art is abundant in the 1827 Haygood House, home and gallery of Jerry and Kathy Chappelle. Frontier years enticed me, especially Eagle Tavern built in 1801 on land given to a Revolutionary War veteran.

The 1811 Heritage Hall in Madison provides family stories, exquisite furnishings and lifestyle insight in a two-story Greek Revival home with docent-led tours.The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center stretches antebellum, built in 1895, but enjoy the architecture, theater, Arts and Crafts-style furniture gallery, and history museum anyway.


Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville

Milledgeville was home to Georgia’s governors from 1839 – 1868, and their house is grandly interpreted as the Old Governor’s Mansion. Those governors received salaries but not entertainment budgets, so note the difference as you follow the Antebellum Trail. Macon’s Hay House of the same era was private, and it’s lavish. In Milledgeville’s Old Capital Museum, an 1807 Gothic building, peer into tableaux of eight antebellum women, researched from diaries and written records, most with a book you and I could read, too. Then go upstairs to imagine the mood where Georgia’s four-day secession convention was held in 1861.

These are just some of musings possible on the Antebellum Trail Pilgrimage. Click here for information on how to attend the 2013 pilgrimage.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at