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Rare copy of Ordinance of Secession discovered

Harvey S. Teal

Posted: January 31, 2014 1:14 p.m.
Updated: February 3, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Locally Unknown Copy of Ordinance of Secession


In early October 2013 a friend from the Chicago area mailed me this copy of his recently acquired lettersheet. It contains a printed copy of the Ordinance of Secession on the back page. Page one contains a letter dated December 29, 1860, Columbia, S. C. from one P. B. Smucker to "Brother Andrew."

For those who might not know, in antebellum times printers or others created a lettersheet by folding an 11 X 17 inch sheet of paper in half. This created four 8 ½ X 11 inch pages by using the front and back of the folded sheet.

Before U. S. postage stamps came along in 1847 and for a time thereafter, the fourth page was used for mailing purposes. This was done by further folding the sheet so that only return and mailing addresses were visible. After sealing it with wax, a folded letter had been created.

The fourth page of the lettersheet also could be used to print such items as advertisements, a "Prices Current" list or, as in this case, a copy of the Ordinance of Secession. These lettersheets also could be folded and mailed in envelopes which were more commonly used by 1860 as was the case with this lettersheet.

This lettersheet potentially could be used for non-mail purposes. It could be folded in half to show only the printed Ordinance side and framed or placed in a scrapbook. By removing the blank page, the lettersheet could be "converted" into a Confederate broadside.

My friend wished to know if copies of this printed version of the Ordinance of Secession were in the collections of the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina or elsewhere in the state. He also sought further information on P. B. Smucker.

A search of the collections at this library and consultations with library curators failed to unearth a copy. It should be noted that this library contains manuscripts collections of over a third of the signers of the Ordinance of Secession. Enquires at the South Carolina Historical Society at Charleston did not locate a copy.

The former Deputy Director of the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Dr. Charles H. Lesser, has never seen a copy. He is author of Relic of the Lost Cause, The Story of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession and is the foremost authority on the Ordinance.

City directories of Charleston and Columbia, 1859-61, did not list a P. B. Smucker or any other Smuckers. A search of failed to produce a match for P. B. Smucker in Columbia.

P. B. Smucker addressed his letter to "Brother Andrew" and closed it by requesting to hear from "our people in Cin.[cinnati]." These references suggest three other possibilities beyond a blood relationship between P. B. and Brother Andrew, a religious, fraternal or business one. Brother Andrew’s last name may not have been Smucker! In any event, this lettersheet has many connections with Kershaw District and Camden.


Local Connections to Ordinance of Secession


Isaac B. Alexander, a local painter, miniaturist, and daguerreotypist, painted the banner for the Secession Convention that hung in Secession Hall while the convention was in session. Secession Hall burned in a non-war related fire in Charleston in 1861 but the banner was saved and is now in the South Carolina Historical Society collection.

Kershaw District sent three of its most experienced and noteworthy sons to represent them at the Convention, James Chesnut, Jr., Judge Thomas J. Withers and Joseph B. Kershaw.

Chesnut was a former U. S. Senator, a noted planter and a lawyer who would go on to become CSA President Jefferson Davis’ Chief of Staff. Perhaps he is best known today as the husband of Mary Boykin Chesnut, the famous diarist and journal writer and author of A Diary From Dixie.

Withers possessed a superior legal mind and became a noted attorney and Judge. Kirkland and Kennedy in Historic Camden devote an entire chapter to him.

Kershaw’s family dates to colonial times in Camden and Kershaw District. The District then and the county today bear that family name. He would go on to distinguish himself in many engagements in the Civil War.



Printing questions

and some answers

The first printed version of the Ordinance of Secession appeared in the Charleston Mercury newspaper as an Extra edition on December 21, 1860. The Secession Convention authorized the printing of 200 lithographic copies of the Ordinance . Since the matter had been under consideration for a few days, Evans & Cogswell anticipated its approval and went ahead and printed these lithographic copies before the end of 1860. Later during the Civil War, Union forces captured some of these lithographic copies and thought they had the original. The original never left state hands and is in the S. C. State Archives collection today.

Before the end of December 1860, Evans & Cogswell had printed for the Secession Convention a pamphlet entitled, Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union. Christopher G. Memminger, later Secretary of the CSA Treasury, headed a committee to draft this publication.

From the records of conventions in 1832, 1833 and 1852 when South Carolina threatened secession, Memminger’s committee had ample published material from which to list and describe the "causes." After the election of Abraham Lincoln as President in early November 1860, on the 15th of the month the South Carolina General Assembly authorized state Printer, R. W. Gibbes of Columbia to reprint the journals of those three conventions. This publication also may have been used by Memminger’s committee.

In 1861 the Secession Convention authorized the publication of their proceedings as Journal of the Convention of the People of South Carolina Held in 1860-61 Together with the Reports, Resolutions, Etc., 1861.

In these two publications (Causes of Secession and Journal of the Convention) Evans & Cogswell gave themselves this credit line, "Printers to the Convention." They also placed their name on the Lithographic copies of the Ordinance. However, no official action taken by the Secession Convention designating them as official printers could be found.

Questions remain. Who, where, when, why and how many copies of this Ordinance of Secession Lettersheet were printed?

The manuscript type face and overall design of the lettersheet to an extent make it a companion piece to the lithographic copy of the ordinance also in manuscript which Evans and Cogswell printed at this time. They likely created it as a souvenir of this pivotal event in S. C. and United States history, the secession of South Carolina from the Union. However, a number of Charleston or Columbia firms could have printed it. It is known to have been printed December 21-28, 1860.

Wherever printed, likely only a few hundred copies came off the press. Today, only two or three copies are extant, including this recently discovered one.

Research on this matter will continue.


(The Kershaw County Historical Society provided this column, written by historian Harvey S. Teal, to the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.)



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