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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: FLORIDA SECEDES! (again)

Monday, January 24, 2011



Ordinance of Secession

"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 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in so far as they create or recognize said Union are rescinded;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recognize or assent to said Union be and they are hereby repealed."

Done in open Convention, January 10th, A.D. 1861

In early January of 1861, delegates from all over what was then Florida met in Tallahassee at the Old Capitol to consider whether or not the state should declare its independence from the United States (united States). The state legislature had previously voted to hold a statewide election on December 22, 1860 to select the delegates to attend this convention and Governor Madison Starke Perry had issued a proclamation to this effect.

These elected delegates convened for the first time on Thursday, January 3, 1861. At this initial gathering , Colonel John Cooper Pelot of Alachua County was chosen temporary chairman of the group.

Sentiments toward splitting from the Union were strong in the state with both Governor Perry and Governor-elect John Milton being outspoken supporters of secession.

On January 10, 1861 the convention, under the leadership of John McGehee of Madison County who had been elected president of the convention, voted 62 to 7 to withdraw from the Union. Florida was declared to be "a sovereign and independent nation". The following day the delegates held a ceremony on the east steps of the Capitol to sign a formal Ordinance of Secession. Later, on April 13, the Convention ratified the Constitution which had been adopted by the Confederate States of America. By this action Florida, the third state to secede, became a member of the Confederacy.

Besides Judge John McGehee, the convention president, there were a number of interesting individuals in attendance for this momentous occasion. Among these were delegate Joseph Finegan of Nassau County who would later become a Confederate Major General; delegate William George Mackey Davis who financed the 1st Florida Cavalry and would eventually become a Confederate Brigadier General; Edmund Ruffin of South Carolina, a leading " fire-eater", who attended as a visiting dignitary to speak in favor of secession; Francis Rutledge, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Florida, who gave the opening and closing prayer of the convention and A.K. Allison, representing Gadsden County, who would later serve as Speaker of the House, Senate President and even Acting Governor on two occasions. Allison, by the way, some four years after the convention would serve with the Gadsden County Home Guard ("The Gadsden Grays") at Natural Bridge in the last significant Confederate victory of the War for Southern Independence.

Now, fast forward 150 years to Saturday, January 8, 2011. A large group of Southern history enthusiasts assembled in the Senate chamber of the Old Capitol to commemorate the actions of the 1861 convention by having a reenactment of that important event in Florida history. The Senate chamber was filled with reenactors portraying members of the 1861 convention and many others in period clothing representing the non-delegates who were in attendance that day in 1861 to watch history in the making.

The participants included members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Order of Confederate Rose and Southern history buffs from other historical groups. What made the cast of characters even more appropriate was that the performers came from throughout the state just as had the 1861 participants.

There were character portrayals by modern-day Confederates from Crawfordville, Tampa, Tallahassee, Lake City, Havana, Marianna, Wesley Chapel, Lakeland, Jacksonville, Fort White, Orlando, Bagdad (Florida, that is), DeBary, Archer and Mayo.

Despite limited rehearsal opportunities for the participants because of the wide geographic distribution, the production came off extremely well and the viewing audience was quite impressed. One attendee later sent an email saying that he experienced a strong emotional reaction after the roll call vote was taken and it was announced that the delegates had voted for secession. The entire production was first-class and everyone involved should be commended. From the procuring of period clothing to the production of the written program for the event, every necessary task was accomplished admirably.

While the Confederacy was not big on individual awards (the Confederate Army did not award medals, for instance), there are some individuals who do warrant mention.

Jamey Creel of Havana was chairman of the reenactment committee and the driving force behind the event. From the conception of the convention reenactment to the actual event on January 8, Jamey logged about nine months of constant involvement. I well remember his presentation in Ocala back in May to the assembled General Executive Council of the Florida Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, at the Division Reunion (state convention).

Kelly Crocker of Tallahassee should be commended for his extensive archival research regarding the events and words spoken by the delegates of the 1861 convention. Wayne Torbert of Tallahassee was instrumental (along with Jamey Creel) in the script writing and editing of the materials used by the participants which allowed for the production to come off flawlessly.

And, finally, Phil Walters and Lunelle Siegel of the Tampa area were there and willing when the call went out for more forces to " ride toward the sound of the guns".

Mention should also be made of the cooperation by the staff of the Historic Old Capitol without whose help the event would not have been possible. A special "shout-out" to Andy Edel in this regard.

Well, this was not the first, nor shall it be the last, commemoration of this sort. There will be similar events all over the South and in other parts of the country as the 150th anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the great war of 1861-65 is commemorated. In this column last month I mentioned the initial event (as far as we Southerners are concerned) of the Sesquicentennial which took place in Charleston, South Carolina on December 20. I wrote of how some media types, filled with anger and anti-Southern and anti-Confederate hate, had spoken or written negatively of the Charleston event and even any commemoration event by people of the South. (As an aside, one of the most outspoken of these media types, Keith Olbermann, is no longer host of his show. Interesting.)

I am happy to write that the local newspaper, the Tallahassee DEMOCRAT, had two articles in the Sunday edition following the event and neither delved into Confederate muckraking. Bill Cotterell of the Florida Capital Bureau of the paper had a fine piece, long and detailed, about the history of the 1861 convention and of the times. Elizabeth Mack, staff writer for the paper, had a shorter piece about the commemoration event which had no anti-Confederate bias at all. The two articles were placed together in a prime location in the paper and accompanied by three fine photographs by staff photographer Glenn Beil. It was, altogether, very good coverage of the event.

The only negative from the paper was an article by Gerald Ensley that appeared on another day expressing his usual disdain (for the umpteenth time) for anything Confederate. This was to be expected and his opinions should merely be taken for what they are worth. By the way, the "cornerstone" of his article was that anyone who doesn't believe or admit that the whole reason for the War was slavery is a "fool" (his word). Obviously he is unaware of Biblical admonitions against the use of that characterization.

As I mentioned, there are many events planned in many places during the next four years. While the Tallahassee event was going on there was a simultaneous commemoration being held in Ocala. There possibly were more in other parts of Florida that I am unaware of.

There were events held in Mississippi and Alabama during this same time period as Mississippi seceded one day earlier than Florida and Alabama seceded one day later. A major event will be held in Montgomery, Alabama on Saturday, February 19 which will include a Heritage March to the Historic Capitol, a reenactment of the swearing-in ceremony of Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States of America, many speeches, a reenactment of the raising of the first Confederate flag and much more. This event is sponsored by the Sons of Confederate Veterans but anyone who has "South in the Heart" should be there.

I'm sure there will be much negative coverage by the left-leaning media of all Confederate commemorations during the next four years. I'm equally sure there will be many commentaries by left-wing pundits during this period misconstruing what our ancestors fought for and what kind of people they were (not to mention what they think of we modern-day Confederates). What these folks don't seem to understand is that there are legions of us, with the number growing continually, who know the truth about history and, especially, about the epic conflict of 1861-65 (actually the conflict has been occuring for over 225 years, the armed part was 1861-65).

A note to these pundits: we are not going away. We are not about to stop honoring our ancestors who fought for independence and self-determination. We are not about to feel shame or guilt and we will continue to endeavor to spead the truth about history. Our ancestors deserve no less. We are Southerners and proud of it. God Bless The South!


Note: Many of you who regularly read this column have inquired about the availability of past CONFEDERATE JOURNAL articles. My daughter and I are in the process of compiling into a book all the articles from the beginning of the column in October 2005 through the December 2007 issue . We are optimistic that we will go to the printer in the very near future, possibly a couple of weeks. Within a few months we hope to repeat the process with another book to include all articles from January 2008 through December 2009. We will have some books for sell on-site at events but if you are interested in ordering on-line please go to Thank you all for reading this column and for your comments over the years.

Bob Hurst is a Southern Patriot with special interests in Confederate history and the antebellum architecture of the South. He is Commander of Col. David Lang Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, in Tallahassee and 2nd Lt. Commander of the Florida Division, SCV. He can be contacted at or 850-878-7010.


Blogger Stephen Clay McGehee said...

Thank you for the post. I am particularly interested in this since Judge John C. McGehee, president of the convention, was a collateral ancestor of mine. I consider it an honor to have our family name so closely associated with the secession of Florida. My deepest appreciation to all who participated in this - I only wish I had known about it in advance.

Stephen Clay McGehee

9:49 AM  

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