Andrew B. Moore (1807-1873) was Alabama’s governor from 1857-61. He is remembered in the state’s history as the governor who took Alabama out of the Union. Ironically, however, he was elected as the moderate, non-secessionist choice of Alabama voters. The son of a Revolutionary War and War of 1812 veteran, Moore was six feet tall, well built, with sharp facial features. Although sometimes rigid, he was generally frank and cordial, a master at political party maneuvering, and possessed of a logical mind. One legislative contemporary described Moore as “a clever fellow but scary,” who “has a good opinion of himself.” By the end of his second term as governor, Moore was faced with the reality that events beyond his control had moved his state to abandon the Union it had joined only 42 years before.
Andrew Barry Moore Andrew Barry Moore, the son of Charles and Jane Barry Moore, was born on March 7, 1807, in the Spartanburg District of South Carolina. Although no information about his early education has survived, Moore evidently received a good one. In 1820, Moore’s father registered land in Perry County, where he joined an older son, Thomas W. B. Moore, who was the first of the family to settle in Perry County. The elder Moore established a plantation west of Marion near the old Fairview Presbyterian Church and became a successful cotton planter.
In 1826 young Andrew Moore arrived in Marion, which was still a frontier town with log cabins. One account suggests that he had remained in South Carolina to complete his education; another that he came to Marion on business and had no intention of remaining permanently. He apparently was convinced by townspeople to stay and teach at a local school for two years, however. He then read law and was admitted to the bar in 1833. On December 5, 1832, Moore, a Presbyterian, married Mary Ann Goree, the daughter of a neighboring cotton planter, with whom he had four children.
Moore served as a justice of the peace for eight years and in 1839 was elected to the state House of Representatives on the Democratic ticket. The Whig party was strong in Perry County, and Moore was defeated in 1840 but regained his legislative seat in 1842. In the legislative session the following year, Moore supported the idea of counting only the white population to determine representation in the legislature, despite the preference in his Black Belt community for counting all people, including those who were enslaved, which would have increased the legislative power of those counties. Nonetheless, Moore retained the confidence of his constituency and held his seat for three more sessions.
Benjamin Fitzpatrick Moore was elected speaker of the state House of Representatives in 1843, 1844, and 1845. From this powerful position, he supported Governor Benjamin Fitzpatrick in his campaign to liquidate the Alabama state bank. Moore believed that the irregularities and excessive loans being exposed by legislative investigations of the state bank were destroying the credibility of the state government. He favored the relocation of the capital from Tuscaloosa to Montgomery, and he supported a constitutional amendment providing for biennial sessions of the legislature. When the House was in session, Moore often called for another member to take the speaker’s chair so he could mingle on the floor and participate in the debate. Moore was the last person to speak in the old statehouse in Tuscaloosa, when he responded to a resolution of appreciation for his service as speaker.
In 1846 Moore returned to his law practice in Marion but remained active in the Democratic Party, often serving as a peacemaker between its moderate Hunker and pro-states’ rights Chivalry factions. In 1848, Moore was a presidential elector for the Democratic ticket, and in 1850 he represented Alabama as a delegate to the Nashville Convention, at which slave states met to discuss the potential ramifications of the Compromise of 1850. In 1851, Governor Henry W. Collier appointed him to a vacancy on the First Circuit Court, where Moore served until 1857, when he accepted the Democratic party’s nomination for governor. His nomination occurred after 26 ballots and a spirited contest between several candidates. Moore was conservative, and although he supported states’ rights, he was moderate on the issue of secession, whereas three of his opponents were extremists. Moore did not think the people of Alabama were ready for secession, and he believed the South’s grievances did not yet justify disunion. The national Democratic Party, Moore argued, was the best protector of the South’s rights within the Union. The Know-Nothing and Whig parties were weak in Alabama, and there was no opposition to Moore’s candidacy in the general election.
Moore’s first years in office were relatively quiet and reflected a reformist attitude. He supervised the construction of the state hospital for the insane in Tuscaloosa and saw it opened under Peter Bryce the supervision of physician Peter Bryce. Moore took a special interest in the hospital because his wife suffered from mental illness. In addition, the Alabama School for the Deaf (now the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind) in Talladega opened its doors in 1858. Moore pushed for completion of the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad, which would connect north and south Alabama and provide transportation from the Tennessee River to the Alabama River. Unfortunately, the railroad was completed only to Blue Mountain near Talladega by the time the Civil War began in 1861. Moore supported increased appropriations for Alabama schools and a separate state prison for female inmates.
In 1859 Moore was renominated, but in this election he faced spirited opposition from William F. Samford, who represented the extreme southern-rights faction. A strong secessionist, Samford considered Moore too weak in his defense of the South, but because of poor health, he circulated flyers and wrote hundreds of letters to newspapers and political leaders instead of campaigning. Moore won reelection by a comfortable margin and continued a cautious course, still convinced that Alabamians were not yet ready for secession. John Brown’s raid on the armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in October 1859 changed his mind, however, and in his second inaugural speech, delivered in December 1859, he addressed the issue of southern rights forcefully.
During the 1859-60 session of the legislature, Moore recommended and the legislature approved a number of acts to prepare the state to defend itself. A military bill provided for a volunteer corps in every county and a $200,000 appropriation to equip the troops. Two scholarships were funded for each county to send students to military schools. Moore recommended that the mineral district around Birmingham be developed and that construction of the South and North Railroad be expedited so that the vast mineral resources of Alabama could be connected with the rest of the South. Although he advocated reducing taxes during his campaign, Moore shifted his position after the election and advised the legislature to first address reduction of the state’s debt.
Moore refused, however, to go along with South Carolina governor William H. Gist’s request for a convention to consult on secession. He preferred, instead, a resolution pending in the Alabama legislature that instructed him to call an election of delegates to a secession convention if Lincoln was elected President. This was the conservative alternative, for Moore was still convinced that the Democratic party candidate would win in 1860 and thus avert a crisis one more time. When the results of the presidential votes in the North began to reach Montgomery in early November, people became excited and a mass meeting was called. Moore spoke to the crowd, finally admitting that he saw secession as the only option. The crowd cheered when he said that Alabama should protect its sovereignty.
The somewhat reluctant governor called for a special election to select delegates to a secession convention. He sent letters to state banks asking that they suspend specie payments and hold reserves for the state. Moore dispatched agents into northern states to purchase arms and ammunition for the state’s militia, and sent commissioners to other southern states to consult on the issue of secession. On January 3, 1861, four days before the secession convention was to meet, Moore ordered Alabama troops to seize federal installations in the state: the arsenal at Mount Vernon and Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the entrance to Mobile Bay. In this executive order, both praised and condemned, Moore took control of federal property while Alabama was technically still in the Union.
On January 11 the Alabama secession convention adopted an ordinance which dissolved “the Union between the State of Alabama and other States united under the compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America’.” In the remaining months of his term, John Gill Shorter Moore welcomed delegates to the Confederate Congress and arranged through his daughter’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Napoleon Lockett, to have artist Nicola Marschall design a Confederate flag. Publicly, Moore took a back seat during the months when Montgomery was the capital of the Confederacy, but he appointed both an adjutant general and a quartermaster general for the state and took steps to prevent speculators from benefiting from the scramble for supplies and food.
Moore’s term of office ended on December 2, 1861. Although he turned the responsibility of government over to his successor, John Gill Shorter, he continued to support the war effort as a special aide to the new governor. In this capacity, Moore travelled to north Alabama to recruit troops and supplies, and throughout the war he worked to supply salt and food to the state’s poor and to the widows and wives of Confederate soldiers.
At war’s end in the spring of 1865, Moore was imprisoned by federal troops at Fort Pulaski, Georgia, along with several other southern governors and political leaders. Because of his poor health, he was released from prison in August and returned to his home in Marion. In the years after the war, he practiced law as his health allowed. Moore died at his home on April 5, 1873. Obituaries in the Selma Times and the Mobile Register gave no cause of death, but praised his integrity, charity, courage, and leadership for the state during the crisis of secession and war.
Note: This entry was adapted with permission from Alabama Governors: A Political History of the State, edited by Samuel L. Webb and Margaret Armbrester (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2001).
Lewy Dorman. Party Politics in Alabama from 1850 through 1860. 1935. Reprint, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.
McMillan, Malcolm C. The Disintegration of a Confederate State: Three Governors and Alabama’s Wartime Home Front, 1861-1865. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1986.
Andrew B. Moore Papers, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, Alabama.
Stewart, John Craig. The Governors of Alabama. Gretna, La.: Pelican Publishing, 1975.