Government Records Paper Archives

Documenting Secession

Today we welcome guest blogger Alanna Patrick, director of the Paper Archives section at MDAH. In the coming months, she will bring us a series on secession-related documents from the MDAH collection.

When the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, many in the South believed he would undermine the institution of slavery and reduce or eliminate the rights of the southern states to govern themselves. This opinion, together with the widespread fear of slave insurrection—Jim Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry was still fresh on the nation’s memory—made the election one of the most contested in American history.

Governor Pettus' address 353.9762 M69gp (MDAH Collection)
MDAH Collection. Governor Pettus' Address. Call number: 353.9762/M69gp

When the results of the national elections became known in Mississippi, Governor John J. Pettus called an extraordinary session of the legislature for the purpose of electing delegates for a convention to consider seceding from the Union. The secession convention convened in Jackson on January 7, 1861, and elected William Barry as its president. Former United States Senator L.Q.C. Lamar was elected chairman of the committee charged with drafting the ordinance of secession. On January 9, 1861, the Ordinance was approved by a vote of eighty-four to fifteen and signed by all but one delegate.

Miller Family Papers, Z 2215.000 (MDAH Collection)
Miller Family Papers, MDAH Collection, Z/2215.000, Box 12. Hugh Reid Miller's certificate as a delegate to the Mississippi secession convention

Hugh Reid Miller of Pontotoc served as representative in the Mississippi House of Representatives and, later, circuit judge of the Seventh District of Mississippi. He was elected a delegate to the Secession Convention on December 20, 1860, and was one of the “Committee of Fifteen” who drafted the Ordinance of Secession. Miller organized the “Pontotoc Minute Men” (later Company G, Second Regiment, Mississippi Infantry, Confederate States Army) and was elected captain of the unit. He went on to organize the Forty-Second Regiment, Mississippi Infantry, which took an active part in the Gettysburg Campaign (June-July 1863). Miller was mortally wounded at the Battle of Cemetery Hill, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863.

John L. Thornton Scrapbooks, Z 0146.000 (MDAH Collection)
John L. Thornton Scrapbooks, MDAH Collection. Z/0146.000, Box 2, folder 1. John L. Thornton’s certificate appointing him Surgeon of the 22nd Mississippi Militia.

Physician John L. Thornton of Brandon carries the distinction of being the only delegate not to sign the Ordinance of Secession. In a newspaper article written several years after the Civil War, a colleague quoted Thornton as telling the convention “his constituents elected him to vote and work against secession, and the fame of Ceasar’s [sic] or Alexander could not induce him to forfeit the trust imposed in him.” Thornton would go on to serve as surgeon of the Twenty-Second Regiment, Mississippi Militia, and later as colonel of the Sixth Regiment, Mississippi Infantry. He was wounded at the Battle of Shiloh, April 1862. Thornton resigned from the Confederate States Army on May 25, 1862, and returned to Brandon to resume his medical practice.


Boatner, Mark Mayo. The Civil War Dictionary. New York: Vintage Books, Inc., 1991.

Busbee, Westley F. Mississippi: A History. Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, 2005.

Museums & Historic Sites

“Secession Revisted” this Friday at Old Capitol

This program is Friday, January 7, 2011 from 10 a.m.-noon in the House of Representatives Chamber at the Old Capitol Museum. It will feature the following speakers:

  • Reenactment of the speech of John Wood, delegate to the Secession Convention from Kosciusko, by Ray McFarland
  • “Into the Abyss: Secession and Confederate Revolution” by George Rable
  • “Observations on the Mississippi Secession Convention” by Timothy Smith

January 7 is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Secession Convention, which convened in Jackson (at the Old Capitol, of course) to discuss Mississippi’s exit from the Union in 1861. The Ordinance of Secession document, signed by members of the convention, will be on display in the Chancery Court at the Old Capitol for the program and for the rest of 2011.

For more information, please call 601-576-6920.

Artifacts Digital Archives Maps Museums & Historic Sites Paper Archives Photographs Portraits Postcards Sketches & Engravings

New Civil War Sesquicentennial Website!

Sesquicentennial website screen shot
Screen shot of the new website (click the image to go to the site).

Check out the new website from the Mississippi Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission! It was recently unveiled and will serve as a clearing house for the various statewide events commemorating the 150 anniversary of the Civil War. Other fun stuff on the website: a timeline of Civil War action, photos, videos, reading lists, visitor information, related collections at various institutions (including MDAH) and more!

The website was developed by the Mississippi State University Libraries Web Services Department.

Digital Archives Paper Archives Photographs Portraits

Jefferson Davis Died Today in 1889

The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers, Oath of J.U. Payne, image id #6-1 (MDAH Collection)
"Oath of J.U. Payne," The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers Online: Harrison County Chancery Court Case 463A, Jefferson Davis Will and Probate File, Series 1818, County Court Cases/Harrison County, image id #6-1 (MDAH Collection)

Portrait photograph of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, 1867, taken in Montreal by W. Notman. Governor's Mansion Collection, PI/HH/1983.0019/No. 12, MDAH
Portrait photograph of Jefferson and Varina Howell Davis, 1867, taken in Montreal by W. Notman. Governor's Mansion Collection, PI/HH/1983.0019/No. 12, MDAH

On December 6, 1889 Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America, died in New Orleans. His estate papers are available to view online in the Digital Archives. They include his will and probate file from the Harrison County Chancery Court.

Collection Description – The Jefferson Davis Estate Papers

Harrison County Court Case # 463-A is the file for the settlement of the estate of Jefferson Davis. It includes documents filed between December 1889 and February 1893. In addition, an inquiry was made in February 1930, which concerned the settlement of his estate, and this letter with its reply from the Chancery Clerk is also included in the file. The online collection consists of the digitized estate papers that are described and made available within the MDAH Electronic Archives User Interface.

Museums & Historic Sites Photographs Portraits

Governor’s Mansion during the Civil War

Today we continue the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion series, written by guest blogger Mary Lohrenz, curator of the mansion.   
Governor John J. Pettus. Call Number: PI/1989.0008 (MDAH Collection)
Governor John J. Pettus. Call Number: PI/1989.0008 (MDAH Collection)
Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys. Call Number: PI/1989.0008 (MDAH Collection)
Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys. Call Number: PI/1989.0008 (MDAH Collection)

On January 9, 1861, Mississippi seceded from the Union and was soon involved in fighting for its life against forces of the United States.  On May 6, 1863, as Union troops advanced towards the capital of Jackson, state government bureaus and offices were forced to evacuate the city and Governor John Jones Pettus had to flee his residence in the Governor’s Mansion.  Jackson fell to Union troops on May 14, 1863, who then left the city to take part in their campaign against Vicksburg.  On May 29, 1863, Dr. R. N. Anderson addressed Governor Pettus that he was using the Mansion to care for wounded and ill Confederate soldiers.  In early June 1863, Governor Pettus returned to Jackson, but after the surrender of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, he left the city before it was reoccupied by Northern soldiers. On the evening of July 18, 1863, General William T. Sherman and other Union officers dined in the Governor’s Mansion and toasted the joint successes of the U.S. Army and Navy.

During the remainder of the Civil War, restless state government offices remained on the move and exiled from their capital city, Jackson.  First settling briefly in Meridian, the capital moved to Columbus and Macon.  Furniture from the Governor’s Mansion was sent to the temporary capital of Macon for safekeeping.  In the wake of the tragic war, in October 1865, Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys authorized a person to retrieve the Mansion furniture from Macon.  It, however, had been either stolen or destroyed and could not be located.

Sofa belonging to Gov. Humphreys. Accession Number: 93.1.1 (Governor's Mansion Collection)
Sofa belonging to Gov. Humphreys. Accession Number: 93.1.1 (Mississippi Governor's Mansion Collection)

Today, Mansion visitors can view the c. 1850 sofa (on exhibit in the Gold Bedroom) which belonged to Governor Benjamin G. Humphreys and was probably used in the Governor’s Mansion during his 1865 – 1868 term as governor.  This Rococo Revival style sofa was the private property of Governor Humphreys and was donated to the Governor’s Mansion by his descendents in 1993.

Read more about the Mansion’s history and view frequently asked questions about the mansion. 

Free tours of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion are given Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. on the half-hour.  Reservations are required for groups of ten or more.  Because the mansion may be closed for official state functions, you should call 601-359-6421 to confirm tour availability.


Cain, Helen and Anne D. Czarniecki.  An Illustrated Guide to the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion.  Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi, 1984.

Howell, H. Grady, Jr.  Chimneyville:  “likenesses”of early days in Jackson, Mississippi.  Madison, Mississippi:  Chickasaw Bayou Press, 2007.

Lohrenz, Mary.  Mississippi Governor’s Mansion Docent Manual.  January 2011.

Sansing, David G. and Carroll Waller.  A History of the Mississippi Governor’s Mansion.  Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi, 1977.

Skates, John Ray.  Mississippi’s Old Capitol: Biography of a Building.  Jackson:  Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 1990.

Smith, Timothy B.  Mississippi in the Civil War:  The Home Front.  Jackson:  University Press of Mississippi for the Mississippi Historical Society and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, 2010.