April 12: The Civil War begins when Confederates fire at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, acting upon instructions telegraphed from Montgomery.

1861 .. 1865 in Alabama (in brief)
194 military land events and 8 naval engagements occurred within the boundaries of Alabama during the Civil War including:
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Streight's Raid in north Alabama (April-May 1863);

Rousseau's Raid through north and east-central Alabama (July 1864);

Wilson's Raid through north and central Alabama (March-April 1865);

Battle of Mobile Bay (August 1864) and the subsequent campaign which involved action at Spanish Fort (April 8, 1865) and Blakeley (April 9) before the fall of the city of Mobile (April 12).
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General Richard Taylor surrenders last sizable Confederate force at Citronelle, Mobile County (May 4, 1865).

1861 .. 1865 in Alabama (in depth)
January 4, 1861: A full week before Alabama secedes from the Union, Gov. A. B. Moore orders the seizure of federal military installations within the state. By the end of the next day Alabama troops controlled Fort Gaines, Fort Morgan, and the U.S. Arsenal at Mount Vernon.

January 11, 1861: The Alabama Secession Convention passes an Ordinance of Secession, declaring Alabama a "Sovereign and Independent State." By a vote of 61-39, Alabama becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union.

February 4, 1861: Delegates from six states that had recently seceded from the Union meet in Montgomery to establish the Confederate States of America. Four days later this provisional Confederate Congress, comprising representatives of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, organized the Confederacy with the adoption of a provisional constitution.

February 18, 1861: After being welcomed to Montgomery with great fanfare, Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as president of the Confederate States of America on the portico of the Alabama capitol. Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi, lived in Montgomery until April, when the Confederate government was moved from Montgomery to its new capital of Richmond, Virginia.
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February-May, 1861: Montgomery serves as C.S.A. capital until move to Richmond, Virginia.
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March 4, 1861: The first Confederate flag is raised over the Alabama capitol at 3:30 PM by Letita Tyler, granddaughter of former U.S. president John Tyler. The flag, which flew on a flagpole by the capitol clock, was not the Confederate battle flag, but the "First National Pattern," also known as the stars and bars.

March 11, 1861: The Confederate Congress, meeting in Montgomery, adopts a permanent constitution for the Confederate States of America to replace the provisional constitution adopted the previous month. The seceded states then ratified the essentially conservative document, which was based largely on the United States Constitution.

May 21, 1861: The Confederate Congress meets for the last time in Montgomery. Montgomery served as capital for just three months, from February to May 1861. After Virginia joined the Confederacy in April 1861, leaders urged the move to the larger city of Richmond, which was closer to the military action.

April 1, 1862: As the first year of the Civil War comes to a close, an order by Gov. John Gill Shorter prohibiting the distillation of hard liquors in Alabama goes into effect. Shorter was willing to make some exceptions, but was determined to prevent distillers from "converting food necessary to sustain our armies and people into poison to demoralize and destroy them."

July 10, 1862: Forty men from the hill country of northwest Alabama sneak into Decatur to join the Union army, prompting Gen. Abel Streight to mount an expedition to the south to recruit more volunteers. With the help of an impassioned speech from fervent Unionist Christopher Sheats of Winston County, a center of anti-secessionist sentiment, Streight added another 150 Alabamians to his force.

March 17, 1863: John Pelham, a 24-year-old Confederate hero from Calhoun County, is mortally wounded on the battlefield at Kelley's Ford, Virginia. He died the next day and his body lay in state in the capitol at Richmond before being taken to Alabama for burial. Pelham's skill and daring as an artillery commander distinguished him from the outset of the Civil War and earned him the nickname "the gallant Pelham" from Robert E. Lee.

May 2, 1863: Sixteen-year-old Emma Sansom becomes a Confederate heroine when she helps Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest cross Black Creek near Gadsden as he pursues Union forces led by Col. A.D. Streight.
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February 17, 1864: The H.L. Hunley, a Confederate submarine built in Mobile, becomes the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship. After torpedoing the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor the Hunley never returned to port--until its recovery in August 2000.
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June 19, 1864: The CSS Alabama, captained by Mobile’s Raphael Semmes, is sunk at the end of a fierce naval engagement with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France. The Alabama had docked there for maintenance and repairs after 22 months of destroying northern commerce on the high seas during the Civil War.
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August 5, 1864: The Battle of Mobile Bay begins. U.S. Admiral David Farragut, with a force of fourteen wooden ships, four ironclads, 2,700 men, and 197 guns, assaulted greatly outnumbered Confederate defenses guarding the approach to Mobile Bay. Farragut's victory removed Mobile as a center of blockade-running and freed Union troops for service in Virginia.
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June 21, 1865: President Andrew Johnson appoints Lewis Parsons provisional governor of Alabama.

April 9, 1865: Confederate commander Robert E. Lee surrenders forces to Union army at Appomattox, Virginia.

1865 .. 1876
Era of Reconstruction in the South.

1865 September 12
New Alabama Constitution adopted to comply with Presidential Reconstruction dictates to rejoin Union; rejected by U.S. Congress.

1865 December 6
The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S Constitution is ratified, thus officially abolishing slavery.

Ku Klux Klan formed in Pulaski, Tennessee
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Lincoln Normal School founded as private institution for African-Americans at Marion; relocated to Montgomery (1887) and evolved into Alabama State University.

Reconstruction Constitution ratified (February) gaining Alabama readmission to the Union, and allowing black suffrage for the first time.

State population=996,992.

1870 Federal Census:

White population=521,384
African-American population=475,510
Urban population=62,700
Rural population=934,292
Cotton production in bales=429,482
Corn production in bushels=16,977,948
Number of manufacturing establishments=2,188.

Birmingham founded; evolves into center of Southern iron and steel industry.
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Huntsville Normal and Industrial School chartered; evolves into Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University.

November: James Rapier of Lauderdale County elected to U.S. Congress, one of three African American congressmen elected from Alabama during Reconstruction. Benjamin Turner served from 1871- 1873 and Jeremiah Haralson served 1875-1877.
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State elections return conservative Democrat "Bourbon Redeemers" to political power.

November 16: Alabama’s Constitution of 1875 is ratified. The Bourbon Democrats, or "Redeemers," having claimed to “redeem” the Alabama people from the Reconstruction rule of carpetbaggers and scalawags, wrote a new constitution to replace the one of 1868. It was a conservative document that gave the Democrats, and especially Black Belt planters, a firm grip on their recently reacquired control of state government.

State population= 1,262,505.

1880 Federal Census:

White population= 662,185
African-American population= 600,103
Urban population= 68,518
Rural population= 1,193,987
Cotton production on bales= 699,654
Corn production in bushels= 25,451,278
Number of manufacturing establishments= 2,070.

National Baptist Convention (African-American Baptists) organized at Montgomery.

June 27: Helen Keller is born in Tuscumbia. Having lost both sight and hearing by illness as a small child, Keller's life story and activism inspired new attitudes toward those with handicaps.
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February 10: The Alabama Legislature establishes Tuskegee Institute as a "normal school for the education of colored teachers." The law stipulated that no tuition would be charged and graduates must agree to teach for two years in Alabama schools. Booker T. Washington was chosen as the first superintendent and arrived in Alabama in June 1881. Washington's leadership would make Tuskegee one of the most famous and celebrated historic black colleges in the U.S.

1887 .. 1896
Farmers' Alliance grew out of earlier Grange (1870s) and Agricultural Wheel (early 1880s) organizations; evolved into the Populist movement which challenged conservative Democrats for control of state politics.

State population= 1,513,401.

1890 Federal Census:

White population= 833,718
African-American population= 678,489
Urban population= 152,235
Rural population= 1,361,166
Cotton production in bales= 915,210
Corn production in bushels= 30,072,161
Number of manufacturing establishments= 2,977.

February 22: The first Auburn/Alabama football game is played in Birmingham's Lakeview Park before a crowd of 5,000 spectators. Auburn won this first match-up 32-22. The rivalry continued until 1907 when the games were stopped, with the renewal of the series not coming until 1948.
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September 30: Julia Tutwiler persuades the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama to try a qualified form of co-education. A faculty committee agreed to "admit young women of not less than 18 years of age, of good character and antecedents, who are able to stand the necessary examinations: for entrance to the sophomore class or higher." A required proviso was that "suitable homes and protection" be provided. In the fall of 1893, two women students entered the university.
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Booker T. Washington speech to Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition urges racial accommodation, suggesting blacks seek economic independence rather than political/social equality.
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February 16: Alabama formally adopts a state flag for the first time. The legislature dictated "a crimson cross of St. Andrew upon a field of white," which was the design submitted by John W. A. Sanford, Jr., who also sponsored the bill. This flag remains Alabama's flag today.

October 8: George Washington Carver arrives in Macon County to direct Tuskegee Institute's agricultural school. Born a slave in Missouri during the Civil War, Carver was studying in Iowa when school president Booker T. Washington invited him to Alabama. He remained at Tuskegee until his death in 1943, and although he dedicated much of his work to helping black farmers in the South, Carver's international fame came from his innovative uses of peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other southern products.
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October 12: The Alabama Girls’ Industrial School opens its doors as the first state-supported industrial and technical school devoted to training girls to make a living. The school later became known as Alabama College, and is now the University of Montevallo.
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Plessy v. Ferguson decision by U.S. Supreme Court establishes "separate but equal" doctrine in racial policy.

Spanish-American War.
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State population= 1,828,697.

1900 Federal Census:

White population= 1,001,152
African-American population= 827,307
Urban population= 216,714
Rural population= 1,611,983
Cotton production in bales= 1,106,840
Corn production in bushels= 35,053,047
Number of manufacturing establishments= 5,602.

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See also This Week in Alabama History