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[5] had fallen under the control of a party favoring a policy so antagonistic to the rights and interests of the South. Yet even at this stage there was a small minority who resolutely strove to stem the swelling tide. A speech was made by Alexander H. Stephens before the legislature, firmly opposing immediate disunion; while, on the other hand, Howell Cobb, in a letter apparently invincible in logic, demanded immediate secession. Herschel V. Johnson and Benjamin H. Hill stood by Stephens.

The momentous news that the convention of South Carolina had adopted an ordinance of secession from the United States, telegraphed to the important cities and towns of Georgia on the afternoon of December 20, 1860, added impetus to the universal excitement, and to the enthusiasm of those who favored immediate secession. Popular approval of this decisive step was manifested in all the large cities and towns by the firing of cannon, the ringing of bells, and bonfires. The volunteer companies of the State that had been organized under acts of the legislature began to offer their services to the governor, and many new companies were formed even in December, 1860.

As the convention was to meet January 16, 1861, all acts savoring of State independence would normally have been postponed until after the result of its deliberations should be announced. But in the latter part of December the fears of the people of Georgia were aroused by the action of the United States garrison of Fort Moultrie in abandoning that exposed position and taking possession of Fort Sumter, where, isolated from land approach and nearer the open sea, reinforcements and provisions might be expected and resistance made to the demand of the State for the relinquishment of its territory. On the Georgia coast there were two United States forts, Jackson and Pulaski, near Savannah. One of these, Fort Pulaski, was situated (similarly to Sumter) at the mouth of the Savannah river, on Tybee Roads.

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