The Little Round Table will review the first four months of the Secession Crisis (Dec 1860-March 4, 1861. Our focus will be on the actions of the seceding states to establish their government, the inaction of the Buchanan Administration to prevent dis-union, the Congressional attempts to write compromise legislation to preserve the Union, and the seizure or defense of Federal property in the southern states. David Lady will facilitate our discussion.

Secession Crisis Study Questions:

  1. Which states convened secession conventions upon Lincoln’s election? Choose a state and review the path to secession.
  2. Who were the southern Conditionalists? Were there really any southern Unionists? Can you find any interest in ‘reconstruction.’
  3. As the Confederacy of southern states established a government in Feb 4, 1861, which politicians were most notable in writing the Constitution and establishing the government?
  4. What was the attitude of the Buchanan administration to secession and to the restoration of the Union?
  5. Describe Secretary of War John Floyd’s actions to have arms shipped to southern arsenals in 1860 and 1861? Describe the circumstances of Floyd’s resignation.
  6. Describe those attempts at compromise, designed to induce the southern states to remain in the Union:  Crittenden Compromise; Committee of 33 recommendations; the Corwin Amendment; the visit of the Peace Commissioners from the “Confederacy” to President Buchanan.
  7. What were the provisions of the original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, developed and passed by Congress in 1861?
  8. What was the attitude of the Republicans in Congress to the compromise attempts? Of President-elect Lincoln? Secretary of State-designee Seward?
  9. Why was the US Army unable to do more than hold a few southern coastal forts for the Union?
  10. What Federal property was surrendered to southern militias? What forts were held for the Union, and which commanders were notable for taking action to hold onto government property?
  11. What was the Star of the West incident?
  12. Describe the attitude of Texas Governor Sam Houston’s attitude to secession.
  13. Why did MG (bvt) David Twiggs surrender the US Army Department of Texas to militia? What action did President Buchanan take when learning of the surrender? What became of the nearly 3,000 US soldiers in Texas in early 1861?
  14. How was Washington City secured for the inauguration? Who commanded the Federal forces and militia protecting the ceremony?
  15. What legislation was passed by the US Congress, after the southern Congressmen resigned?

Some notable individuals during the crisis; look into any of them, for I intend to mention them all during our meeting:

  • President James Buchanan
  • President Jefferson Davis
  • Gov Francis Pickens, S.C.
  • Governor Sam Houston, TX
  • Senator John Crittenden
  • MG (LTG bvt) Winfield Scott
  • MG bvt David Twiggs
  • Howell Cobb of GA
  • William Yancey of AL
  • Robert Barnwell of S.C.
  • LT Adam Slemmer
  • MAJ Robert Anderson
  • COL Charles P. Stone


  • There are some excellent Wikipedia articles: American secession, the Confederate States of America, articles on all of the individuals listed above; Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens have their articles.
  • Texas archives have a wealth of information on the surrender of the Department of Texas to state militia.
  • Civil War histories all have their Secession Crisis sections: Notably McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, but also including the works of Foote, Catton, Pratt, Kegan.
  • Biographies of James Buchanan, Jefferson Davis, Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, Abraham Lincoln, William Seward all may be useful to you.
  • WE HAVE THE WAR UPON US, by Will Cooper, specifically covers this period and the political machinations to prevent or preserve the Union.