« AnteriorContinuar »
FINANCIAL CONDITION OF THE COUNTRY.
monetary crisis was impending, and then commenced business restrictions and the withdrawal of capital from investment. Manufacturers and importers became anxious to get rid of their stocks on hand, and the markets, in commercial centers, were soon crowded.
By the middle of November, remittances from the South had almost entirely ceased, partly on account of the dishonesty of a large class who had resolved not to pay, partly because of the absolute inability of others to do so, and partly because of the high rates of exchange on the Northern commercial cities and the depreciation of Southern bank-notes, the Legislatures of several States having authorized the banks to suspend specie payments. The consequence was the subjection of large business houses, and, indeed, whole communities in the North, to great financial straits. Added to this was the sad condition of the National exchequer, and consequent distrust of Government paper.
IIowell Cobb, the treacherous Secretary of the Treasury, who found the coffers of the Government so overflowing when they came into his custods, in 1857, that the treasury notes next due were bought in, had so adroitly managed his scheme for the paralysis of this strong arm of the Republic, for the benefit of the conspirators, that it was empty in the summer of 1860; and in the autumn of that year he was in the market as a borrower of money to carry on the ordinary operations of the Government and to pay the interest on its loans. His management had created such distrust in financial circles, that he was compelled to pay ruinous premiums at a time when money was never more abundant in the country. Even bids on this loan were not all paid in; and early in December he left the treasury greatly embarrassed, to the delight of his fellow-conspirators.
The cereal crop of the West had filled the granaries to repletion, and operators were pushing heavy quantities to the sea-board cities for exportation; while the cotton-growers, anticipating great trouble ahead, were in equal haste to press the heavy crop of their staple on the market. But capital had hidden in fear of danger, and could not be found to assist in the movement of these materials of national wealth. Doubt and uncertainty every where prevailed, and a desolating panic seemed inevitable.
Fortunately for the Republic and the cause of free governinent, the country was never really so rich as at th:t moment. Never were the people generally in such easy circumstances. The banks in the North were in a Very healthy condition. The exports had greatly exceeded the imports. The exportation of cotton and grain had been very large, and the tide of trade and exchange was running so heavily in our favor toward the close of November, that coin soon came flowing into the country from Europe in immense volume. The pressure on the market, in the mean time, of unsalable foreign exchange, was so great, and the wants of commission merchants had become so pressing, that the banks of New York City, to give reliet, purchasert iwo millions five hundred thousand dollars of foreign exchange, upon which gold might be realized in thirty day. They also resolved upon a liberal line of discounts, by a consolidated fund arrangement with the Clearing-house, and thus they set
1 See Trescot's letter in note 2, page 44.
BRIGHTER PROSPECTS OBSERVED.
loose ten millions of dollars, and saved many first-class mercantile houses
from failure. General John A. Dix, of New York, soon afterward January 11, succeeded Cobb as Secretary of the Treasury, and confidence in its management and soundness was restored.
The portentous clouds of a commercial panic were dispersing when South Carolinians declared the Union to be dissolved, and there was an equipoise in the mind of the people of the Free-labor States, in view of their financial condition, which made them strong and hopeful.
While, as we have observed, all, and especially heavy merchants and manufacturers, deprecated national disturbance, and were willing to make costly sacrifices for the sake of peace and quiet, there were seen in the North great calmness, firmness, and steadiness among the masses of the people, which indicated confidence in their material and moral strength, and a coir sciousness of having done no wrong to the constituents of their turbulent maligners, the politicians of the South. They were sensible of the existence of sufficient virtue to save the Republic, and they resolved to plant their feet firmly on the Constitution, and fight manfully against the banded enemies of our nationality.
The people, after the opening of Congress, had no hope of aid in the impending struggle from the Chief Magistrate of the nation, then sitting in the chair of Washington and Jackson ; but their hearts were amazingly strengthened by the oracular utterances of the accredited organ of the President elect, when it said: “If South Carolina does not obstruct the collection of the revenues at her ports, nor violate another Federal law, there will be no trouble, and she will not be out of the Union. If she violates the law, then comes the tug of war. The President of the Unite:l States, in such an emergency, h:18 a plain duty to perform. Mr. Buchanan may shirk it, or the emergency may not exist during his administration. If not, then the Union will last through his term of office. If the overt act, on the part of South Carolina, takes place on or after the 4th day of March, 1861, then the duty of executing the laws will devolve upon Mr. Lincoln."
1 The Journal, published at Springfield, Illinois, the home of the President elect.
THE FORTS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR.
EVENTS IN CHARLESTON AND CHARLESTON HARBOR IN DECEMBER, 1860. — THE
CONSPIRATORS ENCOURAGED BY THE GOVERNMENT POLICY.
MAA VENTS that transpired in the harbor of Charleston during
the latter part of December, 1860, were quite as exciting
Castle Pinckney is situated upon the southern extremity of marshy land known as Shute's Folly Island, and is near the city. It presents a circular front on the harbor side, as seen in the engraving. It is not strong, and was never considered very valuable as a defensive work. At the time in question it had about fifteen guns mounted en barbette, or on the parapet;, and some columbiads, and a small supply of powder, shot, and shell, were within its walls, but no garrison to use them.
Fort Moultrie is on Sullivan's Island, between three and four miles from Charleston, near the site of the famous little palmetto-log fort of that name, which defied the British fleet -in 1776. At the time we are considering, it was
in reality only a large inclosed water-battery, constructed with an outer and inuer wall of brick, capped with stone, and filled between with sand, and presenting a solid mass about sixteen feet in thickness. It was built with salient and re-entering angles on all sides, having a front on the southeast, or water side, of about three hundred feet,
and a mean depth of about two hundred and forty PLAN OF PORT MOULTRIIN DEGIM- feet. During the autumn, about one hundred and
seventy men had been employed by the post com
1 Erplanation of the Diagram.-A, gate and draw-bridge; B, B, B, B, abutments commanding the gate and approaches; C, C, old sally-ports; D, moat; E, E, bastionettes commanding moat; F, furnace for heating shot; G, powder-magazine; H, barracks; I, officers' quarters; J, kitchen, storehouses, &c.
FORT SUMTER AND ITS COMMANDERS.
mander, Colonel John L. Gardner, of the First Regiment of Artillery, in repairing, making additions, and generally strengthening the fort. It was the only one of the four that was garrisoned.
SOUTII TIEW OF FONT MOULTRIE.
PLAN OF FORT-SUNTER IN 1860.1
Fort Sumter, then the largest and by far the best of the strongholds, stands in the middle of the entrance to Charleston Harbor proper, on the southwestern edge of the ship-channel, and nearly three and a half miles from the city. It was a work of solid brick and concrete masonry, a truncated pentagonal in form, and built upon an artificial island resting on a mud-bank. The island was constructed of chips from New England granite-quarries,
carried there during a period of ten consecutive years, at the cost of half a million of dollars. The fort itself cost another half million. The walls were sixty feet
in hight, and from eight to twelve feet in thickness, F the weakest part being on the south or Morris Island
side. It was pierced for three tiers of guns on the north, east, and west sides. The two lower tiers were under bomb-proof casemates. The first wa designed for 42-pounder Paixbans, and the second for 8 and 10-inch Columbiads. The third tier
was open, so that the ordnance, to consist of mortars and 24-pounder guns, would be en barbette, or nearly so, there being embrasures. Its complement of heary guns was one hundred and forty, but only seventy-five were now in the work. For some time a large number of men had been employed in mounting ordnance there, and otherwise putiing the fort in order for defense, yet there was no regular garrison to man it.
Fort Johnson, on James Island, directly West from Fort Sumter, was of but little account then as a fortification. It was a relic of the old war for Independence.
In October, 1860, Colonel Gardner. was removed from the command in Charleston Harbor, by Floyd, for attempting to increase his supply of ammunition, and Major Robert Anderson, a native of Kentucky, and a meritorious officer in the war with Mexico, was appointed to succeed bim in November. He arrived there on the 20th, and assumed the command. He was convincerl, from the tone of conversation and feeling in Charleston, and the military drills continually going on there, with other preparations of like nature, that the conspirators had resolved to inaugurate a revolution. “That there is a settled determination," be said, in a letter to Adjutant-General Cooper, on the 23d of November, " to leave the Union and to obtain possession of this
1 Explanation of the Diagram.-A, wharl; B, B, esplanade; C, sally. port; D, right gorge angle; E, left gorge angle; F, right flank; G, left flank; II, right shoulder angle; 1, lett shoulder angle; K, right face; L. left face; M, salient; parade,
? Ilistory of the War for the Preservation of the l'nion : by Lorenzo II. Whiting. t. 145.
ANDERSON'S APPEAL FOR STRENGTH.
work [Moultrie], is apparent to all.” In that letter, which subsequent events converted into a most important historical document, he announced to the Government the weakness of the forts in Charleston harbor, and urged it to take immediate and effective measures for strengthening them. He told the Secretary of War that Fort Moultrie was so weak as to invite an attack, then openly threatened, for the garrison was only between fifty and sixty in number, and had a line of ramparts to defend, fifteen hundred feet in length. “ Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney,” he said, “must be garrisoned immediately, if the Government determines to keep command of this harbor." Sumter, he said, was supplied with forty thousand pounds of cannonpowder and ammunition sufficient for one tier of guns, but was lying at the mercy of insurgents. Should they take possession of it, its guns would command Fort Moultrie, and soon drive out its occupants. Sumter was the key to the harbor; and Castle Pinckney was so near the city, and utterly undefended, that the Charlestonians considered it already in their possession. He informed the Government that two heavy mortars had been taken to the Arsenal in Charleston, several months before, with the professed design of having them repaired, but they had never been returned ; and that Captain Foster had actually been requested, by the adjutant of a South Carolina regiment, to show him the roll of his workmen on the fort, that they might be enrolled by the State authorities for military duty, as they were organizing and drilling men in Charleston and elsewhere.
“The clouds are threatening," wrote the patriotic Anderson, "and the storm may burst upon us at any moment. I need not say to you how anxious I am, indeed determined, as far as honor will permit, to avoid collision with the citizens of Sonth Carolina. Nothing will, however, be better calculated to prevent bloodshed, than our being found in such an attitude that it would be madness and folly to attack us. I do, then," he repeated, “most earnestly entreat that a re-enforcement be immediately sent to this garrison, and that at least two companies be sent to Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney; half a company, under a judicious commander, sufficing, I think, for the latter work. I feel the full responsibility of making the above suggestions, because I firmly believe that, as soon as the people of South Carolina learn that I have demanded re-enforcements, and that they have been ordered, they will occupy Castle Pinckney and attack this fort.” If these precautionary measures should be taken, he said, “I shall feel that, by the blessing of God, there may be a hope that no blood will be shed, and that South Carolina will attempt to obtain possession of the forts iu the harbor by diplomacy, and not by arms. If we neglect, however, to strengthen ourselves, she will, unless these works are surrendered on her first demand, most assuredly attack them immediately. I will thank the Department to give me special instructions, as my position here is rather politico-military than a military one. . . . Unless otherwise directed, I shall make future communi