As many of you know, yesterday was the day – Secession Day. 150 years ago, South Carolina seceded from the Union. I chose not to post yesterday for one very large reason: most North Carolinians, 150 years ago, would have had no idea what had happened in South Carolina for days. Yes, there were a few places like Wilmington and Raleigh that were connected to the telegraph so their citizens knew that the Union was being torn asunder, but the rural folks across the state would be without the news for days.
For those places that did receive the telegraphed news, the information quickly lit a fire. Wilmington is a good example. As soon as the news arrived that the Palmetto State had withdrawn from the Union, the Wilmington Minute Men, a local militia group that had organized in November, began firing a 100- gun salute along the waterfront. This was answered by the schooner Marine, anchored in the Cape Fear River, that “answered the salute gun for gun.” Wilmington was not the only town to offer up the salutes. There were 100-gun salutes also in Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; and Montgomery, Alabama.
This is not to say that everyone in Wilmington was thrilled with the idea. On December 21, the Wilmington Daily Herald published a piece entitled “The Fearful Leap Taken” believing that “It may be a dreadful civil war, a civil war such as the civilized world has never seen...” The Daily Herald also believed that the number of American flags flying from ships at anchor in the river actually grew as the salute went on.
Just because there were some in the state who were supportive of the secession of South Carolina, there were many others opposed. An oft-repeated story is of a North Carolina mountaineer attending a secession meeting and shouting, “For God’s sake! Let South Carolina nullify, resolute, secess, and be damned!”