Thursday, April 29, 2010

First Capitol of the Confederacy - Montgomery, Alabama

From the top of Goat Hill in Alabama's capital city of Montgomery, the state's historic Capitol has witnessed some of the most dramatic historical events in American history.

Completed in 1851 atop the ruins of an earlier structure that had been destroyed by fire, the beautiful old structure was built in the Greek Revival style. Its remarkable interior spiral staircase was designed by Horace King, a former slave who had been given full freedom by Act of the Alabama State Legislature in recognition of his accomplishments as an engineer and builder.

When the Cotton States began to leave the Union in December of 1860 and January of 1861, Montgomery was selected as a central location for a meeting of delegates to decide on a common future. The convention started on February 4, 1861, in the Senate Chambers and the delegates quickly declared themselves to be the provisional legislature of the Confederate States of America.

Montgomery would remain the Capital of the Confederacy until May of 1861, when the government was relocated to Richmond, Virginia. During that time, the Alabama State Capitol served as the First Capitol of the Confederacy. President Jefferson Davis was inaugerated on the front portico on February 18, 1861. A bronze star marks the place where he stood to take the oath of office and deliver his inaugural address.

Inside the historic building, the Confederate legislators drafted a constitution and undertook the work of establishing a new national government for the Southern states.

The Alabama State Capitol was occupied by Union troops at the end of the war, but like the nearby First White House of the Confederacy, somehow escaped the destruction visited on many other key Southern structures of the War Between the States.

During the 20th century, the building became a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement and was the backdrop for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s noted "How Long, Not Long" speech.

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