150th Anniversary of the Montgomery Telegram Authorizing the Civil War


By Tim Lennox

As Southern states seceded from The Union, Confederate troops gathered at federal forts in Pensacola, Florida, and in South Carolina, planning to take those forts by force.  But before the first shot could be fired, the new Confederate government in Montgomery had to give the okay.

It came in the form of that telegram from the Confederate Secretary of War. It was permission to open fire if there was no way to avoid bloodshed. The telegram was sent from a telegraph office in The Winter Building at the end of Dexter Avenue.

Alabama Department of Archives and History archivist Bob Bradley says the little office "was the CNN of April 1861. Everything that was happening in the Confederacy and in the union of any consequence, the messages were coming through here. There were crowds out here..the messages, if they were allowed to , they would read to the crowds, if not then straight across the street to Confederate officials and back would come another telegram and off it would go. This was the only telephone, in town, it was the only email in town. It was CNN."

Lawyer John Bowman is part owner of the building, which his law firm restored and occupied for a number of years: "My first office was I think in the corner of the second floor, that had to be where the telegraph office! Then when I moved to the third floor I said, oh no, it was really up her on the third floor corner office! We have absolutly no idea where it really was."

A developer is in the process of buying the building to turn it and two buildngs next door into a boutique hotel.

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