Confederate History & Heritage Month: Who are the Eufaula Regency?

An excerpt From Mike Bunn's “Civil War Eufaula.”:

"It was cotton, “white gold,” that greased the wheels of Eufaula’s economy and brought about a remarkable concentration of wealth that catapulted it into urban sophistication. Evidence of the affluence of the city was not hard to find. Perhaps among the most visible manifestations were the many magnificent homes built in the city during this time on its broad, tree-lined boulevards. Wealthy planters, many of whom had extensive landholdings elsewhere in the county, built most of them even as they engaged in other business in town. The profits these enterprises produced facilitated a relatively luxuriant lifestyle that became the subject of much comment by visitors and residents. A local banker, for example, was remembered as having ridden in a silver-trimmed carriage, worn Irish linen and Scottish tweeds, drank Chinese tea and vacationed abroad every year. Many others, perhaps not as ostentatious but equally possessing of such means, more modestly wore the latest fashions, lived in the most lavishly decorated homes and subscribed to the most erudite journals the nation could offer."

Later, Bunn adds:

"While the influence of the Regency is well documented in the historiography of the secession movement, stating precisely who comprised it is a difficult task. This is because the group operated a loose fraternity of Eufaula and Barbour County citizens with shared goals, not a formal organization with a charter, official positions or membership rolls. It would be from the rapidly swelling ranks of the city’s lawyers—one historian of Eufaula has written that the young city “fairly bristled” with them—that many of its leading citizens of the era would come. As did men in similar positions elsewhere in the South at the time, many of these lawyers saw themselves as planters first and commonly held political aspirations above and beyond their legal careers. Primarily young self-made men who had carved out their position of influence through a combination of hard work and timely seizure of opportunities, they were seasoned by life in a frontier environment and well accustomed to speaking their mind. They were also as a group well educated and, as a result of their backgrounds and professional contacts, relatively sophisticated in their knowledge and understanding of national politics. Like so many ambitious and upwardly mobile young men of their generation in the South, they saw in the emerging sectional crisis both the institutional foundation of the society in which they lived and, just as importantly, their own future prosperity and opportunity for advancement gravely imperiled. As tensions began to mount over the issue of slavery, several of these lawyers banded together over shared interests in a determined effort to awaken their fellow Southerners to the import of events playing out on the national stage. [10]
Available evidence indicates that the Regency was led by the following: Alpheus Baker, Jefferson Buford, Edward C. Bullock, Lewis Lewellen Cato, Sterling G. Cato, Henry D. Clayton, John Cochran, James L. Pugh, Paul Tucker Sayre, Eli Sims Shorter, John Gill Shorter and Jeremiah N. Williams. From this small but influential group would come an impressive four members of the Alabama state secession convention, two secession commissioners, one member of the Provisional Confederate Congress, two members of the Confederate Congress, four Confederate army officers and a governor of the state of Alabama. Many other prominent citizens of Eufaula and the surrounding region, including newspaper publisher John Black; lawyer and later Confederate brigadier general Cullen A. Battle; lawyer, publisher and soldier Tennant Lomax; and lawyer, Confederate colonel and later governor of Alabama William C. Oates were also associated to varying degrees with the Regency. Several politicians and editors elsewhere in the state were also known to sympathize with the group, none more so than William L. Yancey. Yancey was not only one of the primary reasons for the group’s existence by way of his support for the formation of Southern Rights Associations but also a constant ally of the Eufaula group and a personal friend of many of its members."[11]

Front page of the October 15, 1850 issue of the Spirit of the South. 

"The Regency formally announced its stance—and, informally, the extent of its local influence—on October 15, 1850, when the weekly Eufaula Democrat officially changed its name to the Spirit of the South. Featuring a masthead boldly proclaiming, “Equality in the Union, or Independence Out of It,” editors Alpheus Baker and John Black (also proprietor) positioned the paper to become the foremost publication in the region to work in support of Southern interests, as well as the unofficial organ for the Regency. Later editors Edward C. Bullock and Paul T. Sayre would continue in the mission. The first few issues of the paper carried a succinct explanation of the Spirit of the South’s reason for being that clearly demonstrated its close connection with the local Southern Rights Association, as well as its bipartisan origins:
“Whereas several members of the Eufaula Southern Rights Association of both political parties have conceived the idea of establishing in this place a paper called the “Spirit of the South,” to be devoted exclusively to the maintenance of the doctrines advocated by the Southern Rights Party. Therefore, resolved, that this Association hereby recommends this paper to the confidence and patronage of all friends of the Southern cause. [12]

"The paper continually and forcefully agitated in favor of secession throughout the 1850s to a degree unrivaled in the state of Alabama and only rarely so in other Southern states. A leading forum for secessionist thought, it continued in publication until the latter part of the Civil War. It carried updates on the activities of other Southern Rights Associations in the region, regularly featured articles and editorials from around the South and nation discussing the growing sectional tension over the issue of slavery and closely followed debate over legislation that might affect the institution. The paper’s editors even attempted to sway public opinion in favor of secession via rhyme. Editor John Black published several poems that set the viewpoint of the Regency and what it felt was at stake to verse:

“Ye patriot whigs of old Barbour, 
Ye patriot democrats too, 
Your bright sunny south is in danger, 
She calls on her sons to be true. 
Our glorious loved constitution, 
Abolitions’ fell spirit would wield 
To wrest from us rights ’neath its sanction 
Of which it’s the bulwark and shield. 
Concession—we’ve made no concession 
Borne insult, and outrage and wrong; 
In forbearance, there’ll soon be no virture 
’Twill be found in secession before long. 
The heritage won by our valor 
Ye are robbed by a fanatic crew 
And bright California never 
Will yield her rich treasures to you. 
When you gave up your rights in Missouri, 
Acquiesced in the compromise line, 
You thought abolition would slumber 
You saw no ulterior design. 
Her steps were at first slow and cautious 
For patience she knew was her game; 
But in the south’s ear she now thunders
“To crush you’s my end and my aim.”
“Already my girdle is round you 
Already the rubicon’s passed; 
To your fate you must yield in submission,  
I’ll curb your proud spirit at last. 
Your threats of secession are idle. 
I treat them with scorn and disdain 
You’ve threatened before—yet you’ve yielded, 
You’ll sink to submission again. 
Ye men of the south, can ye longer 
Brook language of insult and scorn; 
Will you shout for the union hosanna 
Till your rights and your honor is gone. 
The union’s a band of oppression. 
’Tis oppression we ask you to meet; 
Plant your feet on the old constitution 
And strike, ere your ruin’s complete. 
Our fathers resisted oppression— 
Fell bleeding for freedom and right, 
Let their sons resist northern aggression 
Have 36, 30, or fight. 
Yes, sons of the south, to the rescue!
Your armour gird on and be firm”
“You can make the old captain surrender 
And send Cochran to congress next term. 
To the house, then send Shorter and Jason, 
They’re able, true southern rights men 
In the senate place gallant Flewellen, 
Leave Sanford at home to sooth Ben. 
Then the patriots bosom shall gladden, 
And full satisfaction be his; 
We can read with a zest the “black numbers” 
Of the shield as it was—as it is.” [13]

Excerpt From: Mike Bunn. “Civil War Eufaula.” iBooks.

[10]  Walker, Backtracking in Barbour County, 161; Barney, Secessionist Impulse, xv. For biographical summaries of the Regency’s membership, see Barney, Secessionist Impulse.

[11]  For a more detailed account of the formation, functioning and influence of the Regency, see Bunn, “Eufaula Regency.” The name “Eufaula Regency” made its first appearance in the historiography of the secession movement with the publication of Lewy Dorman’s Party Politics in Alabama from 1850 through 1860. Dorman did not cite a specific source, only noting that local Unionists probably coined the term in denigration of what they saw as the group’s presumption to speak for all of Barbour County’s citizens. No evidence has surfaced that any members of the group referred to themselves with the term, and no historian who has written on the topic since Dorman has discovered a more definitive source for the sobriquet.

[12]  Eufaula Spirit of the South, October 15, 1850, and October 22, 1850.

[13]  Smartt, History of Eufaula, 61.

Restoring the honor!


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