Abbeville in Abbeville County, South Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)
On November 22, 1860, a mass meeting on this site was one of the first held in the South after Abraham Lincoln’s election as president on November 6. A procession from the town square, numbering 2,000 to 3,000, made its way to a grove here, near the Greenville & Columbia RR depot. Many in the crowd wore palmetto cockades as bands played, militia and volunteer companies marched with flags and banners, and some units even fired cannon salutes.
Andrew G. Magrath, arguing “the time for action has arrived,” was typical of most speakers, who called for South Carolina’s immediate secession from the Union. The meeting passed resolutions urging secession and recommended delegates to represent Abbeville District at the Secession Convention in December. This hill, then known as “Magazine Hill” for a powder magazine here, was soon renamed “Secession Hill” and has been known by that name since 1860.
Erected 2010 by Abbeville County Historical Society. (Marker Number 1-14.)
Topics and series. This historical marker War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the South Carolina, Abbeville County Historical Society/Commission series list. A significant historical month for this entry is November 1874.
Location. 34° 10.717′ N, 82° 22.5′ W. Marker is in Abbeville, South Carolina, in Abbeville County. Marker is on Secession Road (State Highway 120). Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Abbeville SC 29620, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 10 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Secession Hill (within shouting distance of this marker); First Secession Meeting Boulder (within shouting distance of this marker); Henry McNeal Turner (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Marie Cromer Seigler (about 300 feet away); Conservation Cabin (about 300 feet away); This Water Fountain (about 300 feet away); First Secession Meeting Columns (about 700 feet away); Clarence E. Pressley (approx. 0.2 miles away); Abbeville County Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); Operation Desert Shield / Storm Monument (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Abbeville.
Also see . . .
1. Secession Hill. Secession Hill, just east of modern-day Secession Street in Abbeville, (Submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
2. History of Secession Hill. Video of Robert Hayes discussing the history of Secession Hill. (Submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
3. Andrew Gordon Magrath. Andrew Gordon Magrath (February 8, 1813 – April 9, 1893) was the last Confederate Governor of South Carolina from 1864 to 1865. (Submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
4. Andrew Gordon Magrath (1831-1893) Find-a-Grave Memorial. He served as Governor of South Carolina from 1864 until he was ousted by Union authorities and imprisoned in 1865. (Submitted on June 20, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
5. Greenville and Columbia Railroad. The Greenville and Columbia Railroad was a railroad that served South Carolina in the 19th century. (Submitted on June 20, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.)
1. The Great Secession Meeting
The Great Secession Meeting
November 22, 1860
Robert R. Hemphill
May 2, 1907
Hon. A.G. Magrath of Charleston was the first speaker and I remember his first sentence was, “The time for speaking has passed and the time for action has arrived.” He rolled his “r’s” in fine style. He was a very handsome man and made a capital speech urging immediate action on the part of South Carolina at any and every hazard. He was followed by Hon. M.L. Bonham who also favored immediate action. Resolutions were unanimously adopted favoring secession of the state.
A Committee of Twenty was appointed to select nominees for the Convention which met December 17, 1860. While this Committee was out, speeches were made by Samuel McGowan, W.C. Davis, and J.N. Cochran. The following gentlemen
It was not however, the official action of the mass meeting that I now undertake to record. It is the small and commonplace incidents of the day. I came down with several students from Due West which was rather a conservative community, a place where the war spirit had not reached. Four of us did not join the procession but stood on the sidewalk where the post office now is. Near us was a great watch hung out as a sign that H.T. Tusten was in business there. W.W. Lindsay and I.L. Grier of Due West, Robert Yeldell of Alabama and I kept together during the way. Yeldell would not march in the procession because he was afraid of giving offence to Samuel Jordan, a kinsman who held strong Union sentiments. We could not get near enough to hear much of the speeches and so we sat down on the ground and watched the firing of a cannon at intervals during the meeting. It was all new to us and we wondered how anyone could stand before artillery. In time, however, we learned the lesson. The last I saw of Yeldell, he was a lieutenant in an Alabama artillery company
There was a man in the crowd that day from Turkey Creek on the Saluda side of the District. His name was Wesley A. Robertson. He was up in years, well past the military age, slender in figure, with keen eyes, and full of good humor. When Judge Wardlaw in his speech inquired what we would do if a revenue cutter of the U.S. Navy would come into Charleston harbor to collect duties on imports, W.W. Perryman made some interruption and Robertson shouted, “I’d wade in and sink her, ---- her, sink her.” He never heard the last of it while the war was on. He was nor the kind of man to help get up a fight and not back out of it. He and his boys went to the front. He did all his age and strength would allow as a member of Co. G, Orr’s Rifles, the famous command. In the winter of 1863-1864 when camped near Orange, he was sent up the mountains upon light duty to look after commissary supplies. Returning from his detail when he came in sight of the regiment, he wore a high crowned, white stove pipe hat and was mounted on a skewbald or calico horse. He was greeted with the cry, “sink her, ---- her, sink her,” and
I write this narrative to keep in the minds of our people a son of Abbeville past the vigor of young manhood and gray haired, who fought a good fight and risked all for his home and friends.
— Submitted April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
2. Statement by Judge Andrew G. Magrath Upon His Resignation From Office
In the political history of the United States, an event has happened of ominous import to fifteen slaveholding States. The State of which we are citizens has been always understood to have to have deliberately fixed its purpose whenever that event should happen. Feeling an assurance of what will be the action of the State, I consider it my duty, without delay, to prepare to obey its wishes. That preparation is made by the resignation of the office I have held. For the last time I have,
May I not say to you that, in the future which we are about to penetrate, next to the reliance we should place in the goodness of that God who will guide us in the right way, should be our confidence in our State, and our obedience to its laws. We are about to sever our relations with others, because they have broken their covenant with us. Let us not break the covenant we have made with each other. Let us not forget that what the laws of our State require, become our duties. And that he who acts against the wish, or without the command of his State, usurps that sovereign authority which we must maintain inviolate. (Richmond Daily-Dispatch, November 10, 1860.)
— Submitted June 20, 2011, by Brian
3. Judge Andrew Gordon Magrath by Leroy F. Youmans
Andrew Gordon Magrath was born, lived and died in Charleston, South Carolina. He closed his eyes forever in the city where they first saw the light—the city of his long life's devotion, where his busy and brilliant career of more than fourscore eventful years began, culminated and ended—the old City by the Sea. The depth and intensity of that devotion have recently been brought out again in bold relief by the publication, since his death, of his war correspondence as Governor of South Carolina, in the official records of "The War of the Rebellion."
He was born February 8, 1813, of Irish descent, his father having been engaged in the Irish rebellion of 1798, for which he was arrested, but escaped, fled to this country, and engaged in business as a merchant in Charleston, where he died at an advanced age.
Mr. Magrath's early education was received at the famous school of Bishop England, where his marked excellence gave no uncertain promise of the rare literary taste which characterized him through life, and of the rich and abundant fruitage which his intellectual powers bore in their maturity. An incident which occurred while he was under the tutelage of the good Bishop enables us to image him in our mind as a youth ambitious
The studies so auspiciously begun under Bishop England in Charleston were prosecuted with the greatest zeal, zest and success at the South Carolina College, Columbia, then as both before and since the alma mater of so many Southern statesmen, jurists and orators. This he entered in 1827, and was graduated thence with distinction in the class of 1831. No unwilling or laggard pupil he, in his undergraduate course, but conspicuous among the youths of high promise (including, among others, the great Presbyterian divine, James H. Thornwell,) who sat at the feet of the great teacher, Thomas Cooper, who then enunciated ex cathedra doctrines of political economy and the philosophy of government, which took deep root in South Carolina and the South—Thomas Cooper, whose political life was one continued struggle against
After the close of this academic career, the future Judge and Governor commenced his legal novitiate under the superintendence in his studies of the foremost man of the South Carolina bar, James L. Petigru, and completed it at the law school of Harvard University, under the instructions of the able corps of professors who have made that the first law school on the continent. To the last the impress of his two great law masters, Petigru and Story, was perceptible upon him in matters purely legal, though never in matters of the Federal constitution or of politics. In these regards, as in the case of so many of his Southern contemporaries of mark, the influence of Thomas Cooper and John C. Calhoun was ever pronounced and dominant. He was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1835, and thenceforth to the close of his life devoted himself with the greatest assiduity to the practice of his chosen profession; the periods during which he was in high official station, necessarily incompatible therewith, only excepted. That jealous mistress, the law, never had in his affections or ambitions a successful rival. In 1840 he was elected and in 1842 was reelected to the South Carolina House of Representatives from the parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael. In his career as a Representative he distinguished himself by his devotion to
This position he accepted and filled most acceptably to the bar, suitors, the Government, and the country, until the popular vote in November, 1860, rendered the election of Abraham Lincoln to the presidency unmistakable and certain. Lincoln was known to be as fully committed to Seward's doctrine of "the irrepressible conflict" as Seward himself, and had openly declared in his widely circulated speech made at Springfield, Illinois, July, 1858, both his belief "that the
He thought that the dictates of honor and interest of principle and expediency alike required that the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention a&sembled, should as speedily as possible exercise the sovereign right of secession from the Federal Union, and maintain that right at all hazards, peaceably if they could, forcibly if they must. He voiced his convictions with no uncertain utterance, and gave to the movement all the force of his trained intellect and his burning speech. The historic scene enacted in the United States court-room in Charleston will long be remembered. Robert N. Gourdin, foreman of the grand jury, having said that "the verdict of the Northern section of the country, announced to the country through the ballot box, has swept away the last hope for the permanence and stability of the Federal Government. The vast and solemn issues which have been forced upon us involve the existence of the Government. In these extraordinary circumstances the grand jury respectfully decline to proceed with their presentments."" Thereupon, in brief but most solemn and thrilling language, Judge Magrath made the last utterance heard for many a day from the Federal judgment-seat in South Carolina, and, suiting the action to the word, the word to the action, disrobed himself of the Federal ermine he had so worthily worn. His resignation, and the resignation of James Conner, United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, and William F. Colcock, Collector of the Port of Charleston, and the impassioned utterances of these three late officials of the Federal Government to masses of people in Charleston, and also in Columbia, where the Legislature was then convened in extra session by Governor Gist, added the most combustible of fuel to the flame which had been gathering head for thirty years.
Immediately after his resignation from the Federal judiciary, Judge Magrath was elected a delegate from the parishes of St. Philip and St. Michael, to the most momentous convention of the people of the State of South Carolina which ever sat—the convention which, on December 20, 1860, passed the first ordinance of secession of a State from the American Union. As an evidence of the regard in which he was held by the people of his home in this crisis of the history of the State, it is worthy of note that Judge Magrath was elected by a large majority at the head of the twenty-two delegates whom these parishes sent to that convention, though embraced in the roll were men of commanding intellect, of national reputation, and great popular favorites. As a member of that historic body he distinguished himself and added to the high reputation which he by merit had achieved, and the great esteem in which he was deservedly held by the wisdom of his counsel, the force and point of his contributions to grave debates, and the directness and decision of his action.
The convention on December 27, 1860, passed an ordinance in respect to the executive department, "that the Governor should immediately appoint four persons, with the advice and consent of the convention, who, together with the Lieutenant-Governor (W.W. Harllee), should form a council, to be called the Executive Council, whose duty it should be, when required by the Governor, to advise with him upon all matters which might be submitted to their consideration." Governor Pickens, on December 30, 1860, in accordance with this ordinance, nominated to the convention for their confirmation as members of this Council, David F. Jamison (the president of the convention), A.G. Magrath, C.G. Memminger, and A.C. Garlington. On the same day these nominations were confirmed by the convention in secret session and ordered to be made public. In this cabinet Judge Magrath was most fitly and appropriately assigned to the Department of State. How delicate, difficult and exacting were the duties of the presiding officer of this department in South Carolina during Judge Magrath's administration of it, and how fitly and fully he met and discharged those duties, are indelibly stamped upon the history of those exciting times. The critical exigencies of the position may be to some extent realized when we remember the events big with fate for South Carolina and the South which were crowded into that momentous period, and when we picture the unique and isolated position this commonwealth occupied as a separate State from the time of her secession from the United States to the time of the formation of the Government of the Confederate States, the old ties of Union broken and new ones not yet formed. He was appointed to this high and most responsible station only four days after that eventful night after Christmas on which Major Anderson, by his rash action in secretly dismantling Fort Moultrie, spiking his cannon, burning his gun-carriages, and removing his command to Fort Sumter, so complicated the situation and precipitated the solution by blood and arms of the gravest questions which should have been settled with calmness, temperance and judgment. Renewed interest has been awakened since the war in the instructions which Judge Magrath gave from the Department of State of South Carolina to Isaac W. Hayne, Attorney-General of South Carolina, who was sent as special envoy to President Buchanan in relation to the Fort Sumter imbroglio, in consequence of the discussions had between Jefferson Davis and Jeremiah Black (Federal Secretary of State), in the closing days of Buchanan's administration, as to the matters which had been in controversy between the United States and South Carolina at that time. On April 8, 1861, the South Carolina convention by ordinance declared that the faithful servants of the State who had theretofore constituted the Executive Council should be relieved from the duties that had been assigned them so soon as in the opinion of the Governor the pressing exigency of public affairs would permit.
Soon after the formation of the Confederate Government, Judge Magrath was appointed by President Davis to the position in that Government corresponding to that which he had resigned in the Government of the United States—that of Confederate States Judge for South Carolina. The most notable of his decisions as United States Judge were those in regard to the importation of Africans, a subject which created great excitement and gave rise to wide-spread discussion at the time. The most notable of his decisions as Confederate States Judge were on questions of public law, decisions of prize law with reference to belligerent vessels bearing commissions of the Confederate States, and most especially as to the sequestration act of Congress of the Confederate States confiscating the property of alien enemies. The argument on the issues involved in the discussion of the sequestration act was participated in by his old law preceptor, James L. Petigru, and quite a number of most distinguished members of the bar, the subject being one of wide-spread and far-reaching interest. He discharged the duties of Confederate States Judge and filled his position under the new Government as ably and faithfully as he had done under the old, until December, 1864, when the darkening times induced the Legislature of the State to call upon him to leave judicial for executive functions by electing him Governor of the State. It was thought by the wisest and most influential members of that body, and by the best balanced intellects of the State, that if any of her sons could rescue South Carolina in the gloomy and perilous condition which enveloped her, that man was Andrew Gordon Magrath. This was the most potent, most convincing and most freely used of the arguments urged in favor of his election as Governor, and was a most striking proof of the confidence of his countrymen. His inaugural address, amid all the pall-like gloom which hung over South Carolina, on December 20, 1864, was eloquent, ringing, and full of cheer. But the fates were against the Governor, against the State, against the Confederacy, against the South; and Governor Magrath, though he bent every energy of his being to the Herculean task before him, could do only what could be done by "A brave man, struggling in the storms of fate, and greatly falling, with a falling State."
The Confederate and State forces were utterly unable to prevent the vandal march of Sherman through the State; and Columbia, the beautiful capital city of the State, which Governor Magrath left on the morning of the day on which the Federal army occupied it, a city of gardens, he returned to find sacked and in ashes. After the passage of Sherman's army through the State, he attempted to evoke order out of chaos. But in vain. The Confederacy fell. He was arrested by order of the Government of the United States and imprisoned as a prisoner of state in Fort Pulaski, along with George A. Trenholm, Confederate Secretary of the Treasury; John A. Campbell, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States; ex-Senator D.L. Ulee and Governor Allison, of Florida; Governor Clark, of Mississippi, and General Hugh R. Mercer, of Georgia. The South Carolina State convention—which, at the instance of Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, and Benjamin F. Perry, whom President Johnson had appointed Provisional Governor of South Carolina, met in September, 1865,—made a strong appeal to the President for his release, but he was not released until late in December, 1865, after the expiration of the term of Provisional Governor Perry and the inauguration of Governor Orr, and then only on parole. He never aspired to public office again.
Resuming the practice of his profession, which he had left in 1856, the courts, the bar and suitors at once recognized in him a leader returning to the familiar scenes of his early triumphs, and it is as judge, jurist, counselor, practitioner at the bar, and advoate, that he will be best known in history and tradition. In regard to his career as United States Judge, he regarded himself as entitled to claim that he found the United States Court in South Carolina an effete institution, little known or respected, and that under his auspices and direction it had risen to as great consequence and enjoyed as much respect and confidence as any other court in the State. In regard to his career as Confederate States Judge, he said that on account of his adherence to his convictions he became obnoxious to the Government at Richmond, and that the opinion he had of the Government had excluded him from its confidence and deprived him of its favor. Among counselors, practitioners of the law, and advocates, he was in the front rank, both before he was placed on the bench and after he had left it forever. As a student, he had sat at the feet of the Gamaliels of the profession, both North and South, and his style revealed the impress left by his great law master, Story. He came to the bar as thoroughly equipped and armed cap-a-pie, as factns ad unguem, as could be, without that which experientia sola docet, and this his extensive and varied practice enabled him rapidly to acquire. He was eminent in all the departments of his profession, and always appeared to advantage, both before juries and judges, on circuit and in the courts of highest and last resort, State and Federal. He knew his profession thoroughly, its philosophy and its history. He considered law the noblest system of reason ever wrought by the brain of man—a regular system, not a promiscuous collection of rules and precedents, the disjecta membra of wise saws and modern instances— a liberal science, an artistic study, not a mere gainful craft. His nature, intellectual and moral, recoiled from the sneer of Aaron Burr, "that law is whatever is boldly asserted and plausibly maintained." He was equally familiar with both the theory and practice of the law, knew it both as a science and an art, and was conversant as well with its minute practical details as its enlarged speculative reaches.
As an advocate his rare power of expression, his happy command of language, his capacity for historic and literary illustration, his marvelous tact, his bursts of indignant eloquence when the subject or its environments demanded it, gave him a vantage ground whose potent force, all either allied with him or opposed to him felt most keenly. Like Rufus Choate, it did not require numbers to arouse his powers, and perhaps he never displayed them more in evidence and impassioned play than at times when the judges and counsel were the sole auditors.
It seemed natural in him to rise to leadership. He had in him somewhat of that spirit of command which Kent recognized in Lear when he met the fiery old king in the wilderness—that magnetic power, that indefinable nesciv quid which seemed not only to put him en rapport with, but to give him ascendancy over others. Men as unlike each other as Benjamin Robbins Curtis and Morrison R. Waite equally felt his charm. He fascinated men as unlike each other as James Conner and Ulysses Grant. Conner said he was the wisest man in council he had ever met; a kind word from him was a passport to Grant's consideration. He was the prince of hosts, and in all parts of this broad land are tender memories of the charm of his generous and kind hospitality, presided over by the all-accomplished hostess now widowed and desolate. He was the truest of friends, and all his friends were lovers. His juniors of the bar felt for him not only admiration, but affection; pages loved to wait upon him. Women—from the ball-room belle scarce out of her teens, to the experienced, mature matron of society—could not resist being favorably affected by his genial, gallant bearing, his esprit, his exquisite urbanity, his courtliness of the old school of the old world. The phrase senatorius decor was as appropriate to the flesh and blood Magrath as to the ideal creation, Audley Egerton, for whom Bulwer says it seemed coined.
He sank peacefully to sleep on the 9th day of April, 1893, in the eighty-first year of his age, the last of the judges who presided before the war in the United States Courts as District Judge for South Carolina—the last of South Carolina's war Governors—the last of South Carolina's Governors elected by her Legislature—the last of South Carolina's Governors under the constitution of 1790.
With him expired not only the pronounced, individual, personal characteristics which marked him as one of nature's noblemen, but also one of the last striking, typical products of the old ante-bellum South Carolina civilization—a civilization we will always revere, but the ashes on whose hearths have gone out forever; for its environment, the atmosphere in which it lived and moved and had its being, is no more and can never live again. If autobiography is the best of biography, and best discloses the real life of motive and purpose and feeling, this feeble tribute to the memory of one whose career stands out with the relief of an antique column covered all over with the record of honorable achievement can find no more appropriate close than this extract from the last of his utterances as Governor, made at the crash of the Confederacy, in the darkest hour for himself and the city and State he loved so well. Speaking of his action in the most trying time through which Governor and State ever passed, Andrew Gordon Magrath said: "Whatever I have said, I believed to be true; whatever I have done, I believed to be right." (Source: South Carolina Bench and Bar, Volume I by Ulysses Robert Brooks (1908) pp 238-247.)
— Submitted June 20, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 19, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 2,320 times since then and 323 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 7. submitted on November 16, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 8. submitted on November 15, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 9. submitted on November 16, 2008, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 10. submitted on November 19, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 11. submitted on April 14, 2011, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 12. submitted on November 19, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina. 13. submitted on May 3, 2009, by Brian Scott of Anderson, South Carolina.