Francis Wilkinson Pickens

Fort Sumter National Monument

Photo of Francis Pickens
Francis Pickens

Quick Facts

Wartime governor of South Carolina
Place Of Birth:
St. Paul's Parrish, Colleton District, SC
Date Of Birth:
April 7, 1805
Place Of Death:
Edgefield, SC
Date Of Death:
January 25, 1869
Place Of Burial:
Edgefield, SC
Cemetery Name:
Willow Brooke Cemetery

Francis Wilkinson Pickens was a lawyer, state and federal legislator, U.S. ambassador and, in the 1830s, an ardent supporter of the principle of nullification, whereby state law is held to supersede federal law. In 1850, at the Nashville Convention of Southern Leaders, Pickens emerged as strong advocate of secession but gradually moderated his views as the decade advanced.

In 1860 Pickens was elected Governor of South Carolina and was installed just days after the state voted to secede from the Union. On January 9, 1861, he initiated the first military action of the Civil War when he authorized South Carolina troops to fire on the merchant ship Star of the West as it attempted to relieve the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter. He abandoned politics for a time in 1862, retiring to his plantation along the Toodoogoo River, but returned at war's end to represent his district in the state's constitutional convention. Pickens, as convention delegate, recommended South Carolina adopt a policy of cooperation with the Johnson administration and personally introduced a bill to repeal South Carolina's Ordinance of Secession. It passed by a margin of 105 to 3.

Last updated: June 17, 2015