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Civil War 

For fifteen years before the Civil War, Alabamians took prominent roles in a national debate over the expansion of slavery into the western territories. A series of compromises maintained peace until 1860, when the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln for president on an aggressively anti-expansion platform.

After Lincoln won the election, secessionists clamored for slaveholding states to leave the Union. Delegates to an Alabama convention met in the State Capitol in January 1861 and, by a vote of 61 to 39, decided to secede.

Alabama invited other seceding states to Montgomery, where delegates adopted a constitution for the new Confederate States of America. On February 18, Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president at the Alabama Capitol.


Montgomery was the seat of the Confederate government for three months. From the Winter Building at Court Square, officials telegraphed authorization for the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, the opening salvo to four years of devastating war.

War brought dramatic change for nearly every Alabamian. Three-fourths of white Alabama men of fighting age served in the Confederacy, and around twenty-seven thousand of them died. Many whites in the hill country opposed secession, and some fought for the Union. Eight thousand runaway slaves from Alabama volunteered for the Federal army.


On the home front, white women, their families, and the enslaved kept plantations and farms in operation. Residents struggled under repeated shifts of control by Federal and Confederate forces in north Alabama, where much of the land was devastated. Thousands of slaves leased to the government built Confederate defenses and armaments. Alabama’s young ironmaking industry produced essential munitions for the Confederacy and became the target of Federal campaigns late in the war.

On August 5, 1864, Confederate troops at Fort Morgan mounted a fierce but unsuccessful defense of Mobile Bay against a Federal fleet intent on capturing the last major port under Confederate control.

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