Imágenes de páginas



[ocr errors]

The Legislature of Mississippi levied an additional tax of fifty per cent. upon the amount of the existing State tax, and authorized the Governor to borrow two millions of dollars at ten per cent. interest, payable in one, two, and three years, out of the resources of the State, raised chiefly by taxation. These measures alarmed the capitalists and large property-holders, who desired no change; but many of them had already been threatened with personal violence and confiscation of their estates, and all were compelled to acquiesce in any measures which the leaders of secession saw fit to employ. Already a system of terrorism, sharp and implacable, had begun to make the expressed voice of the people of Mississippi a “ unit in favor of secession." By these means the conspirators silenced all opposition. The hopes of the late General Quitman (a former Governor of the State), a native of the State of New York, one of the most persistent and dangerous enemies of American nationality, and on whom fell the mantle of Calhoun, as the chief leader of secessionists, were soon realized. The State was placed in an attitude of open revolt in the maintenance of the doctrine of State Supremacy.

When the Mississippi Convention had finished the business for which it had assembled, it adjourned until the 25th of March, for an object which will be hereafter considered.

Florida, purchased of Spain less than half a century ago,' and the most unimportant State in the l'nion in population and developed resources, was early made the theater of seditious speech and treasonable action. Its politicians at home, and its representatives in Congress, were more haughty and pretentious, if possible, than those of South Carolina, in the assumption of supreme sovereignty for their dependent commonwealth, as we have already observed.” They were anxious to establish an independent empire on the borders of the Gulf; and early in January, 1861, they met in Convention to take the first step in the necessary revolution, by declaring Florida no longer a member of the l'nion. The Convention assembled at Tallahassee, the capital of the State, a city of less than two thousand inhabitants, on the 3d, when Colonel Petit was chosen temporary Chairman, and Bishop Rutledge invoked the blessing of God upon the wicked acts it was about to perform. The number of its members was sixty-nine; and it was found that not more than onethird of them were “ Co-operationists.” The Legislature, fully prepared to work in harmony with the Convention, assembled at the same place on the 5th.

On the 10th of January an Ordinance of Secession was adopted by the Florida Convention, by a vote of sixty-two ayes to seven noes. amble set forth, that “all hopes of preserving the Union upon terms consistent with the safety and honor of the Slaveholding States” had been "fully dissipated;" and it was declared that the State, acting in its " sovereign capacity,” was, by this ordinance, withdrawn from the Union, and Florida had become “a sovereign and independent nation.” On the following day the ordinance was signed, amidst the firing of cannon and the

Its pre

"The population of the State, in 1860, was one hundred and forty thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine, of wbom only a little more than half were white.

? See page 60.




ringing of bells; and the glad tidings were sent swiftly over the Gulf States and other portions of the Union by the telegraph. The representatives of Florida in the National Congress, and especially Senators Mallory and Yulee, received the announcement with great satisfaction, but, unlike the South Carolina Senators, they remained in their seats, that they might be

more mischievous to the Government than they could be out of January, them. On the 14th,» Yulee wrote to the Chairman of the Con

vention, from his desk in the Senate Chamber, to that effect, saying "It seemed to be the opinion [at a conference of conspirators in

Washington) that if we left here, force, loan, and volunteer bills might be passed, which would put Mr. Lincoln in immediate condition for hostilities; whereas, by remaining in our places until the 4th of March, it is thought we can keep the hands of Mr. Buchanan tied, and disable the Republicans from effecting any legislation which will strengthen the hands of the incoming Administration.” Other Senators, as we shall observe hereafter, wrote similar letters to their constituents. These infamous epistles were sent free in

the national mail, under the official frank of their more infamous authors.

The Convention at Tallahassee was addressed by L. W. Spratt, of South Carolina, the great advocate of the African Slave-trade. Delegates were appointed to a general convention, to assemble at Montgomery, Alabama; and other measures were adopted to secure the “sovereignty” of Florida. The Legislature authorized the emission of the sum of five hundred thousand dollars in treasury notes; and they defined the crime of treason against the State to be, in one form, the holding of office under the National Government, in the event of actual collision between the State and Government troops, to be punished with death.

Before the Ordinance of Secession was passed, the Governor of Florida (Perry) made secret preparations, in conjunction with the Governor of Alabama, to seize the national property within the limits of the State. This consisted of Fort Jefferson, at the Garden Key, Tortugas; Fort Taylor, at Key West; Forts Pickens, McRee, and Barrancas, near the entrance to Pensacola Bay (a fine expanse of water at the mouth of the Escambia River), and the Navy Yard, at the little village of Warrington, five miles from the entrance to the Bay. He ascertained that the defenders and defenses of Forts Jefferson and Taylor were too strong for any force Florida might send against them, so he prudently confined his efforts to the harbor of Pensacola. He issued orders, immediately after the passage of the



1 The original letter, now before me, was found at Fernandina, Florida, when the national troops took possession of that place, on the 3d of March, 1862. It was directed to “ Joseph Finegad, Esq. (Sovereignty Convention), Tallahassee, Florida."




Ordinance of Secession, for the seizure of these forts and the Navy Yard, and disloyal men were in them ready to assist in the work. Fortunately, the command of the forts was in the hands of Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, a young, brave, and patriotic officer from Pennsylvania, who, like Anderson, could not be moved by the threats or persuasions of the enemies of his country.

Governor Perry had already been to New York and Philadelphia, and purchased one thousand Maynard rifles and five thousand Minió muskets for the use of the State.

Fort Pickens is on Santa Rosa Island, and commands the entrance to the harbor. Nearly opposite, but a little farther seavard, on a low sand-spit, is Fort McRee. Across from Fort Pickens, on the main, is Tort Barrancas, built by the Spaniards, taken from them by General Jackson, and repaired by the National Government. Nearly a mile eastward of the Barrancas, was the Navy Yard (since destroyed), then in charge of Commodore Armstrong, a veteran captain in the Navy.

Rumors reached Slemmer early in January, that the works in his charge would be seized by the Governor of Florida, when a Secession Ordinance should be passed. He believed the report when word came to him that the forts near Mobile had been surrendered to Alabama troops, and he resolved to take immediate measures to save those at Pensacola, if possible. On the 7th of January, accompanied by Lieutenant Gilman, he called on Commodore Armstrong, and asked his co-operation. Armstrong declined it, because he had no special orders to do so. Slemmer resolved to do what he might without his co-operation, and he at once took measures to secure the powder in. Fort Barrancas, which he had been occupying. He caused the batteries to be put in working order, strengthened the guard, and, at sunset, raised the draw-bridge. That evening about

• January 8 twenty armed men approached the fort, with the evident intention of seizing it. They were discovered by a sentinel, and an alarm was given. Perceiving this, and finding the draw-bridge up, the insurgents fled.

On the following day, Slemmer received instructions from his Government to use all diligence and power for the protection of the forts. At the same time, Armstrong received instructions to co-operate with Slemmer. These commanders held a consultation. It was agreed that the sinall garrison could hold only one fort, and it was resolved that that one should be Pickens, the stronger, less liable to be attacked, and the one that might most easily be re-enforced. It was arranged for Armstrong to send the steamship Wyandot, Captain Berryman, to take the little garrison from the Barrancas to Fort Pickens, increase the force by as many men as could be spared from the Navy Yard, and order the Wyandot and the store-ship Supply, Captain Walke, to anchor under the guns of the fort.





Slemmer was soon ready for the movement, but Armstrong failed to perform an essential part of his business in the matter.

He could only send the garrison over in the Wyandot, and furnish some provisions from the Navy Yard. Slemmer went immediately to the Commodore for an explanation. He charged Armstrong with deception, and inquired, indignantly, how he supposed the fort, calculated for twelve hundred men, could be defended with only forty-six, the actual number of the garrison then fit for duty ? Slemmer did not know that the Commandant was surrounded by traitors just ready to desert their flag and betray their country. He did not know that when, at that interview, he sent for Commander E. Farrand and Lieutenant F. B. Renshaw, and ordered them to see that the plans agreed upon by himself and Slemmer were carried out, these very men were then foremost at that post in disloyal designs. It was even so.

[graphic][merged small]


On the morning of the 10th," the Wyandot carried over • January,

Slemmer's command. All night long, and all the day before,

the men, the officers and their wives, and even children, worked without ceasing in preparations for removal. For twenty-four hours no one slept, or even rested.

Among those workers were the heroic wives of Lieutenants Slemmer and Gilman, who bore a conspicuous part in the history of Fort Pickens at that time, because of their labor and fortitude.

The families at the Barrancas were embarked on the Supply, while the war-ship bore the garrison. The latter landed at Pickens at ten o'clock, and was re-enforced by only about thirty ordinary seamen from the Navy Yard, who were without arms or equipments of any kind. Nearly all the powder and fixed ammunition at the Barrancas were also carried over to the strong fort on the same day; and all the guns of the abandoned post,

1 Fort McRee, on the main, is secu in the distance, on the extreme right of the picture.



fifteen in number, bearing upon the bay, were, by Slemmer's orders, spiked in position, for he had neither time nor means to dismount them.

The arrangement for the Wyandot and Supply to anchor near Fort Pickens was not carried out; and, to the astonishment of Slemmer, he was informed that Commodore Armstrong had ordered both vessels away, the former to the south side of Cuba, and the latter to her final destination off Vera Cruz, with coals and stores for the Home Squadron there. He remonstrated, but in vain. That night Captain Berryman sent him some muskets which he had procured, with difficulty, from the Navy Yard, to arm his seamen; and Captain Walke assured him that he would afford him all the aid in his power, in defense of the fort.

On the morning of the 10th, about five hundred troops of Florida and Alabama, and a few from Mississippi, commanded by Colonel Lomax, of Florida, appeared at the Navy Yard, and demanded its immediate surrender to the authorities of the State. Armstrong was powerless. Of the sixty officers and men under his command, he afterward said, more than threefourths of them were disloyal, and some were active traitors. Commander Farrand was actually among the insurgents who demanded the surrender


[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

of the post. These disloyal men would have revolted, had the Commodore made the least resistance, and he was compelled to yield. Lieutenant Renshaw, the Flag-officer, and one of the leading traitors there, immediately ordered the National standard to be pulled down. When at a little less than half-mast it was allowed to fall suddenly to the ground, when a greatır portion of the men present, led by Lieutenant J. R. Eggleston, of the Wyandot, greeted the dishonored banner with derisive shouts. The command of the Navy Yard was then given to Captain V. M. Randolph, another naval officer who had abandoned his flag; and the post, with ordnance stores valued at one hundred and fifty-six thousand dollars, passed into the hands of the authorities of Florida. At the same time Colonel Lomax and some men took possession of Fort Barrancas, and restored the disabled guns; and another party was soon afterward thrown into Fort McRee. Farrand, Renshaw, Randolph, and Eggleston had already sent their resignations to

1 When Colonel Lomas demanded the surrender of the Navy Yard, Commodore Armstrong said, that he had served his country faithfully all his life; that he loved the old flag, and had protected it in sunshine and in storm; that his heart was bleeding because of the distractions of his country; that he was a native of Kentucky, which had no navy, and, therefore, he knew not where he should go to make a livelihood in his declining years; that he bad no aequate force to make resistance, and if he had, he would rather lose his own life than to destroy the lives of his countrymen. He then said that he "relinquished his authority to the representatives of the Sovereignty of Florida.“– Pensacola Observer, January 15, 1861.

« AnteriorContinuar »