Order of Secession During the American Civil War

Lincoln Visits Civil War Headquarters
President Abraham Lincoln visits Civil War headquarters. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

The election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 was the final straw for many southerners. They felt that his goal was to ignore states rights and remove their ability to own slaves. Before it was all over, eleven states seceded from the Union. Four of these (Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee) did not secede until after the Battle of Fort Sumter that occurred on April 12, 1861. Four additional states were Border Slave States that did not secede from the Union: Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware.

In addition, the area that would become West Virginia was formed on October 24, 1861, when the western portion of Virginia chose to break away from the rest of the state instead of seceding.

Order of Secession During the American Civil War

The following chart shows the order in which the states seceded from the Union. 

StateDate of Secession
South CarolinaDecember 20, 1860
MississippiJanuary 9, 1861
FloridaJanuary 10, 1861
AlabamaJanuary 11, 1861
GeorgiaJanuary 19, 1861
LouisianaJanuary 26, 1861
TexasFebruary 1, 1861
VirginiaApril 17, 1861
ArkansasMay 6, 1861
North CarolinaMay 20, 1861
TennesseeJune 8, 1861


The Civil War had many causes, and Lincoln's election on November 6, 1860, made many in the South feel that their cause was never going to be heard. The southern economy had become a one-crop economy with its dependence on cotton and the slaves that were necessary to make this a viable economic crop.

However, the northern economy focused on industry over agriculture. They purchased the cotton and finished it for sale. Thus, an economic disparity was set up between the two sections of the country. 

Espousing State's Rights 

In addition, many southerners espoused the idea of states' rights. They felt that the federal government should not be able to impose its will on the states.

In fact, the idea of nullification espoused by John C. Calhoun was strongly supported in the south. This idea would allow states to decide if federal actions were unconstitutional according to their own constitutions. However, the Supreme Court decided against the south and said that nullification was not legal. 

As America expanded, one of the key questions that came up as each territory moved towards statehood would be whether slavery was allowed in the new state. Southerners felt that if they did not get enough 'slave' states, then their interests would be significantly hurt in Congress. This led to issues such as 'Bleeding Kansas' where the decision of whether to be free or slave was left up to the citizens through the concept of popular sovereignty. Fighting ensued with individuals from other states streaming in to try and sway the vote. 

The Call of Abolitionists and the Election of Abraham Lincoln

With the appearance of the novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe and the publication of key abolitionist newspapers like the Liberator, the call for the abolition of slavery grew stronger in the north. 

Thus, with the election of Abraham Lincoln, the South felt that someone who was only interested in Northern interests and anti-slavery would soon be president.

South Carolina delivered its "Declaration of the Causes of Secession," and the other states soon followed. The die was set and with the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12-14,1861, open warfare began. 

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Kelly, Martin. "Order of Secession During the American Civil War." ThoughtCo, Jan. 3, 2018, thoughtco.com/order-of-secession-during-civil-war-104535. Kelly, Martin. (2018, January 3). Order of Secession During the American Civil War. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/order-of-secession-during-civil-war-104535 Kelly, Martin. "Order of Secession During the American Civil War." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/order-of-secession-during-civil-war-104535 (accessed April 25, 2018).