Texplainer: When Did Texas Actually Secede?

Most media organizations put the date of Texas secession as Feb. 1, 1861 — 150 years ago today. But the reality was a little more complicated.

Austin History Center

Hey, Texplainer: On what date did Texas actually secede from the Union?

Most media organizations, from The New York Times to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, put the date of Texas secession as Feb. 1, 1861 — 150 years ago today. But in reality it was a little more complicated.

On Feb. 1, a secessionist convention composed of elected delegates, meeting in the old statehouse in Austin, did in fact vote overwhelmingly to secede, 166-8, and at the day's end they signed an "ordinance of secession."

However, partly because of arm-twisting by Texas's Unionist governor Sam Houston, the ordinance did not take effect immediately. It was contingent on ratification by Texas voters and, if it passed, it would "be in force on or after the second day of March, AD 1861."

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On Feb. 23, Texas voters ratified secession by more than a 3-1 margin, and on March 2, the fledgling Confederate States of America government approved the admission of Texas. On March 5, the Texas secession convention officially applied to join the Confederacy.

So, what's the answer? The most reasonable response seems to come from the Texas State Historical Association's online Texas handbook. It puts March 2, which had been cited in the secession ordinance, as the date Texas clocked out of the Union. That's also, perhaps not coincidentally, Texas Independence Day. March 5, says the handbook, was a day that Texas "took further steps to join the Confederacy." So it appears that Texas became an independent country once more — for at least three days.

Got a question for Texplainer? E-mail us at texplainer@texastribune.org.

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