Proclamation and letter from Governor Andrew G. Magrath expressing his views on the state and the Confederate cause, December 1864 & 11 January 1865

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Document Description:

This proclamation and letter come from the papers of South Carolina Governor Andrew G. Magrath (1813-1893). He served as governor from 1864 to 1865 in the closing months of the American Civil War. As the last Confederate governor, his papers document the frustrations, anxieities, fears, and hopes of South Carolinians.

In the run-up to the war, Magrath became a fire-eater—one among many Carolinians calling for immediate secession in 1860, and often in impassioned public speeches designed to rally emotional support for leaving the Union, alone if need be, upon Lincoln’s election. In these two pieces—one a public proclamation; the other a letter to a Confederate general, reading in places as if the governor thought it might be made public—we see Magrath as the last of the fire-eaters, breathing defiance to the bitter end. What he says explicitly in the proclamation is implicit in the letter. There is no self-interest, no private business. There is no self-preservation. There is but “one class of men”: those bound to the State, and bound by honor and duty to her protection. The State and The Cause are one, twined together by immediate circumstance but also, and more deeply, by history. Reading empathetically, we notice that the State itself, the idea of it, has been stripped of all but its essentials. The State is honor and duty. To lose Charleston, as he writes in his letter, is to lose all.

It is easy to be cynical about charismatic language, knowing as we do how the end came, and knowing as we do (just as Magrath knew) that plenty of people did choose self-interest and self-preservation. Yet here, even in the eye of Magrath’s apocalyptic warnings, we glimpse something about secession and the idealism that drove it. Magrath is calling upon a sense of rebirth and regeneration present in the founding vision of secession. We see, as well, just how thoroughly that vision embraced slavery as the fundamental, core meaning of the war, both as its central organizing cause and its organizing motive for secession and war to the bitter end. As they did in 1860, so in 1865: it is whites who fear subjugation, degradation, and servile humiliation—not of the chattel kind, but of the political and social kind. --Dr. Paul Anderson, Clemson University


Governor Andrew G. Magrath’s Proclamation to “The People of South Carolina.” December 1864. Series 513004. Governor Andrew Gordon Magrath, Letters received and sent, 1864-1865. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Governor Andrew G. Magrath to General William J. Hardee. 11 January 1865. Series 513004. Governor Andrew Gordon Magrath, Letters received and sent, 1864-1865. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3-4.3 Explain the reasons for South Carolina’s secession from the Union, including the abolitionist movement, states’ rights, and the desire to defend South Carolina’s way of life.

Indicator 3-4.4 Outline the course of the Civil War and South Carolina’s role in significant events, including the Secession Convention, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Union blockade in South Carolina, and Sherman’s march through South Carolina.

Indicator 3-4.5 Summarize the effects of the Civil War on the daily lives of people of different classes in South Carolina, including the lack of food, clothing, and living essentials and the continuing racial tensions.

Indicator 3-4.6 Explain how the Civil War affected South Carolina’s economy, including destruction of plantations, town, factories, and transportation systems.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalist fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, states’ rights, the election of 1860, and secession.

Indicator 4-6.6 Explain the impact of the Civil War on the nation, including its effects on the physical environment and on the people—soldiers, women, African Americans, and the civilian population of the nation as a whole.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.

Indicator 8-3.6 Compare the effects of the Civil War on the daily life in South Carolina, including the experiences of plantation owners, women, Confederate and Union soldiers, African Americans, and children.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the success and failures of the abolitions movement, the conflicting views on state’s rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.

Related Virtual Tour and Resources:

Virtual Tour: Governor Andrew G. Magrath And The Box They Buried The State In

Governor Andrew G. Magrath Papers


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