State-by-state comparison of secession referendum numbers

Posted on December 9, 2008 by


Being just plain curious about the secession referendum in other states, I started looking-up the numbers a short time ago, and what I found surprised me. Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia appear to be the only states to actually allow the public to voice their opinion on the idea of secession.

In Texas, the vote was held on February 23, 1861 and resulted in 46,153 in favor and 14,747 (24%) against; but there is evidence that this vote was compromised. In fact, I just ran across a resource recently that focuses on the way the referendum was compromised, but I just can’t seem to locate it right now.

Granted, I’ve talked about Virginia’s referendum before, but for the sake of comparison, I’m throwing-in the numbers here once again. In Virginia, the vote was held on May 23, 1861 and resulted in 132,201 in favor and 37,451 (22%) against. Believe me, that 22% you see is not representative of the soon-to-be counties of West Virginia. In addition to opposition in the counties of the Old Dominion that are still counties in the Old Dominion, I’ve found a good deal that shows various forms of coercion in my dealings with Virginia’s Southern Claims Commission applications, and I’ve just scratched the surface so far. Despite the way the results read on paper (in the Shenandoah Valley, for example), even in Rockbridge County, where only the “village idiot” voted against secession (so sayeth a character in the movie Gods & Generals), there were more opposed to secession than meets the eye. I’ve even heard about how the town of Lexington was faced with some issues when it came to Unionists.

In Tennessee, the vote was held on June 8, 1861 and resulted in 104,913 in favor and 47,238 (31%) against. I can’t say too much on this one as I’m not so familiar with the goings-on in Tennessee. I probably need to spend some time looking through Tennessee SCC applications. Any contributions to the discussion on Tennessee’s referendum would be most welcome.

So, why did the other Southern states not conduct a referendum vote? I’ve heard, but haven’t found evidence yet, that Georgia may have had one, but tossed the results as they did not reflect favorably on the act of secession. I’m not so sure that is correct, but will keep looking into it.

Yes, this probably belongs over in the Southern Unionists Chronicles, and I’m sure I’ll put it over there soon enough, but when it comes to Civil War “memory,” it’s significant here as well.