Tension was brewing between northern and southern states for many years prior to the Civil War. The slave states of the south could only guarantee the continuation of their slave-based economy by maintaining equal representation in the legislature. New free states entering the Union threatened the southern states by creating a power imbalance.
There were attempts to make concessions to both the North and the South prior to the Civil War, as conversations over the permission or prohibition of slavery continued. The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, admitted Missouri as a state which permitted slavery, while simultaneously admitting Maine as a state which prohibited it. This compromise ensured that slave states and free states remained equally represented in the legislature.
Territorial disputes also sprang up after land was acquired on the west coast. The Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state, but also included the Fugitive Slave Act, which required all U. S. citizens to return runaway slaves, and made officials liable for fines if they did not arrest alleged runaways. The Compromise also abolished the slave trade in Washington D.C., previously the home of the largest slave market in North America.
At first, Louisiana was against secession from the Union due to the state’s dependency on northern trade along the Mississippi. However, sentiments began to change in 1860, when Abraham Lincoln, a Republican who opposed the expansion of slavery, was elected president. Many in Louisiana took this as a threat to the state’s slave-based economy. Louisiana became the sixth state to formally secede from the Union on January 26, 1861, and was an independent nation until the state officially joined the Confederacy on May 21, 1861.
A popular vote in West Baton Rouge Parish actually did not favor complete separation from the Union - approximately 70 % of voters wished to cooperate with the Union. Nevertheless, the citizens of the parish prepared for war, which began when Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina on April 12, 1861.