Confederate History & Heritage Month: An introduction to the Eufaula Regency

An excerpt from Mike Bunn's, "The "Eufaula Regency": Alabama's Most Celebrated Secessionist Faction." Eufaula Heritage Association. Kindle Edition.

The location of Eufaula within Barbour County, Alabama. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia)

"Eufaula, Alabama occupies an important but little understood role in the events leading to the secession of Alabama in 1861. During the decade prior to the outbreak of the Civil War members of a small but vocal group based in the city, the so-called “Eufaula Regency,” worked as outspoken advocates for the rights of slaveholders and urged consideration of secession as a viable remedy for Southern grievances over the issue of slavery. The group has been recognized widely by historians as perhaps the most consistent secessionists in the state of Alabama in the 1850s. [1] It was involved in the publication of one of the most stridently secessionist newspapers in the South, and some of its members were responsible for an outrageous pro-slavery scheme during the 1850s which briefly placed it in the middle of a national controversy. Yet to date there have only been scattered and inadequate references to the group in the historiography of the events leading to secession, and even histories focusing on the city of Eufaula and the surrounding region have mentioned it only in passing with no attempt to explain fully its organization, activities or membership. membership. [2] This book attempts to shed light on the Eufaula Regency and begin an assessment of its influence and role in bringing about Alabama’s secession."

"At first glance, Eufaula in 1850 would have appeared a most unlikely spot to serve as a home for any organization known as the “regency.” The small town of about 2,000 on the banks of the Chattahoochee River in southeast Alabama had been in existence less than two decades. [3] Although the largest city in Barbour County and an emerging regional trade center, nearby Montgomery, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia dwarfed it in terms of both size and influence. While the city did feature a small concentration of prosperous business establishments clustered along Broad Street and could boast of several fine churches and many splendid homes, for the most part its dirt streets were flanked by simple wood-frame buildings that gave the town a quaint appearance. [4] Decidedly not cosmopolitan, Eufaula was a place where hogs roaming the streets and cows and pigs grazing in the city cemetery were serious issues on the city council agenda, and a place where vigilant respect of the Sabbath made it illegal to unload steamboats or dray goods on Sundays."

The first house built in Eufaula. It was later used as a Confederate hospital. 

"Yet in 1850 Eufaula was also a growing city in the heart of the lower South’s plantation belt experiencing some of the most dramatic growth in its short history. The city was proving to be an attractive place for young men who sought to make their fortunes, and their mark on the world, through the lucrative opportunities presented by a developing city unencumbered with the imposing tradition of establishment. 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. [6] As did men in similar position 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 rough-and-tumble 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. [7] As tensions began to mount over the issue of slavery, a small group 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. They have become known to historians as the “Eufaula Regency.”"

[1] Lewy Dorman, Party Politics in Alabama From 1850 Through 1860 (Tuscaloosa, 1995), 36, 47; David Williams, Rich Man’s War: Class, Caste, and Confederate Defeat in the Lower Chattahoochee Valley (Athens, 1999), 45-46.

[2] In addition to Party Politics and Rich Man’s War, the Regency is referenced in a host of historical works including William Warren Rogers, Alabama: The History of a Deep South State (Tuscaloosa, 1994); Albert Burton Moore, History of Alabama (Tuscaloosa, 1934); Catherine Clinton, ed., Southern Families at War: Loyalty and Conflict in the Civil War South (New York, 2000), Clarence Phillips Denman, The Secession Movement in Alabama (Montgomery, 1933); Marshall J. Rachleff, “Racial Fear and Political Factionalism: A Study of the Secession Movement in Alabama, 1819-1861” (PhD. diss., University of Massachusetts, 1974); William W. Freehling, The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant (New York, 2007); Malcolm C. McMillan, The Disintegration of a Confederate State: Three Governors of Alabama’s Wartime Homefront, 1861-1865 (Macon, 1986); Glenn W. LaFantasie,Rouge, 2008); Eric H. Walther, William L. Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War (Chapel Hill, 2006); Lucille Blanche Griffith, Alabama: A Documentary History to 1900 (Tuscaloosa, 1972); Samuel Webb and Margaret England Armbrester, Alabama Governors: A Political History of the State (Tuscaloosa, 2001); Henry James Walker, Jr., “Henry Delamar Clayton: Secessionist, Soldier, Redeemer” (PhD. diss., University of Alabama, 1995); Anne Kendrick Walker, Backtracking in Barbour County: A Narrative of the Last Alabama Frontier (Richmond, 1941); Lewy Dorman, History of Barbour County, Alabama (Eufaula, 2006); Robert H. Flewellen, Along Broad Street: A History of Eufaula, Alabama 1823-1984 (Eufaula, 1991); Charles M. Crook, Fendall Hall: A True Story of Good Times and Bad Times on the Chattahoochee River (Montgomery, 2004); Aylward Shorter and Maggie Price Taylor, The Shorter Family: England, America and Africa in the History of a Family

[3] Although American settlement of the area that became Eufaula dates to the 1820s, the city was incorporated as Irwinton, in honor of General William Irwin, by an act of the Alabama legislature in January of 1832. The name was officially changed to Eufaula, in honor of the Creek tribe that inhabited the area prior to American settlement, in 1843.

[4] Flewellen, Along Broad Street, 28-45.

[5] Ibid.; Eufaula City Council Minutes Record Book for 1847-1857.

[6] Walker, Backtracking in Barbour County, p. 161.

Restoring the honor!


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