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170

SEIZURE OF NATIONAL PROPERTY.

1861.

Washington, and they were accepted before the Government was aware of their treachery. At the same time, the insolent leaders of the insurrection in Florida sent word to the President, through Senators Yulee and Mallory, that the seizure of the public property within the limits of the State of Florida was in consequence of the transfer of troops to Fort Pickens, and proposed a restoration when that strong fortress should be evacuated !

Already, even before the Ordinance of Secession was passed, Florida January & troops had seized the Chattahoochee Arsenal, with five hun

dred thousand rounds of musket cartridges, three hundred thousand rifle cartridges, and fifty thousand pounds of gunpowder.' They had January 7.

also taken possession of Fort Marion, at St. Augustine, formerly

the Castle of St. Mark, which was built by the Spaniards more than a hundred years before. It contained an arsenal, the contents of which fell into the hands of the insurgents. On the 15th they seized the

Coast-survey schooner F. W. Dana, and appropriated it to their use.

Slemmer heard of the movement at the Navy Yard through Commander Walke, who had received instructions from Armstrong to put to sea immediately with the Supply, if the post should be attacked. Slemmer sent a note at once to the Commodore, saying :-“I am informed that the Navy Yard is besieged. In case you determine to capitulate, please send the marines to strengthen my command." To this he received no reply. A few hours afterward, he saw the old flag go down at the Navy Yard, and heard, with mingled surprise and indignation, that the Commodore had ordered the Wyandot to co

operate with Fort Pickens under strange restrictions. Captain Berryman was ordered not to fire a shot unless his vessel should be attacked. In case Pickens should be assailed,

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A CASEMATE IN PORT PICKENS.2

1 The Arsenal was in the keeping of Sergeant Powell and three men. Powell h:1d been in the employment of the Government for twenty years. He made the following speech on this occasion :

"OFFICERS AND SOLDIERS:-Five minutes ago I was the commander of this Arsenal; but, in consequence of the weakness of my command, I am obliged to surrender—an act which I have hitherto never had to do during my whole military career. If I had a force equal to, or half the strength of yours, I'll be d-d if you would have ever entered that gate until you walked over my dead body. You see that I have but three men. These are laborers, and cannot contend against you. I now consider myself a prisoner of war. Take my sword, . Captain Jones."

Jones returned it, saying, "Take your sword; you are too brave a man to disarm." The troops then garo three cheers for Powell. - Correspondence of the Jacksonville Southern Confederacy.

? To those not familiar with military names, it may be proper to observe, that a casemate is a vaulted chamber in a fort, with an opening outward for the use of cannon, and spacious cnongh, in large regular works, to be used as quarters and hospital to a garrison during war. They are made bomb-proof, so that these terrible missiles cannot enter them. Our little picture is a good delineation of a casemate, seen from the interior of the fort. Sometimes they are made only large enough for a gun and the gunners.

THE TEMPTER AND THE TEMPTED,

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the Wyandot must be a passive spectator! She might as well have been on the south side of Cuba, if these instructions had been obeyed.

Slemmer was now left to his own resources. He was in one of the strongest forts on the Gulf coast, but his garrison consisted of only eighty one souls, officers and men. There were fifty-four guns in position and fit for service, and five months' provisions. The casemate guns, of which there were fourteen in order, were 32-pounders. Beside these there were seven 12-pounders; one 8-inch sea-coast howitzer; one 10-inch columbiad; six field-pieces; and twenty-five 24-pound howitzers for flank defense. The garrison labored unceasingly in putting every thing in working order, doing guard duty, &c., for an attack was hourly expected.

On the 12th, Captain Randolph, Major Marks, and Lieutenant Rutledge, all in military dress, presented themselves at the gate of

• January, Fort Piekens, and demanded admittance as citizens of Florida and Alabama. They were not permitted to enter, but were allowed an interview at the gate with Lieutenant Slemmer. “ We have been sent,” they said, “to demand a peaceable surrender of this fort, by the Governors of Florida and Alabama.” Slemmer immediately replied: “I am here under the orders of the President of the United States, and by direction of the General-in-chief of the Army; and I recognize no right of any governor to demand a surrender of United States property. My orders are distinct and explicit.” The intruders immediately withdrew, and Slemmer prepared for an attack that night, which was dark and stormy. All night long sentinels were posted beyond the glacis,' and the men stood at their guns. On the 15th, Colonel William H. Chase, of Massachusetts,

, ,

January formerly of the United States Army, but now in command of all of the insurgent troops in Florida, accompanied by Farrand, of the Navy, who had just abandoned his flag, asked for an interview with Slemmer. It was granted. Chase informed him that he had full power from the Chief Magistrate of Florida to take possession of the fort, and he desired to do so without bloodshed. “You can contribute toward this desirable result,” he said," and, in my judgment, without the sacrifice of the honor of yourself or your gallant officers and men.” He said he came to demand a surrender of the fort, which was to be held subject to any agreement that might be entered into between the Commissioners of the State (Senators Mallory and Yulee, then in their official seats at Washington) and the National Government. “I would not counsel you to do aught that was dishonorable," said the tempter.

“On the contrary, to do that which will secure for you the commendation of all Christian gentlemen.” He entreated him not to be guilty of allowing fraternal blood to flow. “Listen to me then," he continued, “I beg of you, and act with me in preventing the shedding of the blood of your brethren.” He promised Slemmer and his garrison comfortable quarters at Barrancas, if he would only prove unfaithful to his trust; and, in conclusion, he said: “Consider this well, and take care that you will so act as to have no fearful recollections of a tragedy

' The glacis is the superior slope of the parapet of the covered way, extended in a gentle declivity to tho surrounding country.

172

CONVENTION IN ALABAMA.

that you might have avoided, but rather to make the present moment one of the most glorious, because Cbristian-like, of your life.” The Serpent could not charm the Patriot. Slemmer did so act as to make it the most glorious moment of his life, by first consulting with the Commanders of the Wyandot and Supply, and then positively refusing to give up the fort. The insurgents on shore now commenced preparations for assailing Fort

Pickens, and on the 18th, Chase again demanded its surrender, January, saying he was re-enforced, and more troops were expected. 1861.

Slemmer remained firm. Then commenced the siege of Fort Pickens, which will be considered hereafter,

While these events were transpiring near Pensacola,' the Convention at Tallahassee were working in harmony with the Legislature. They appointed Senators Mallory and Yulee, then in the Senate at Washington, commissioners to treat with the National Government concerning its property within the limits of Florida, and also appointed delegates to a general convention at Montgomery.

On the day after the Florida Ordinance of Secession was passed, the politicians of Alabama assembled at Montgomery, the capital of the State, committed a similar act of folly and crime. We have already observed the preliminary movements to this end, in that State, with Governor Moore as an active leader. The election of members of the Convention was held

on the 24th of December, and, as in other States, the politicians

were divided into two classes, namely, "immediate Secessiorists” and “Co-operationists." The latter were also divided; one party wishing the co-operation of all the Slave-labor States, and the other caring only for the co-operation of the Cotton-producing States. The vote, as reported, for all but ten counties was, for secession, twenty-four thousand four hundred and forty-five; and for co-operation, thirty-three thousand six hundred and eighty-five. Of the ten counties, some were for secession and others for co-operation.

The Convention assembled at Montgomery on the 7th of • 1861.

January. Every county in the State was represented, and the number of delegates was one hundred. William Brooks was chosen President. On the same day, the representatives of Alabama* in the Congress at Washington, on consultation, resolved to telegraph to the Convention their advice to pass an ordinance of secession immediately.

The Convention was marked by a powerful infusion of Union sentiment, which found expression in attempts to postpone secession under the plea of the desirableness of co-operation. Resolutions of this tenor were offered on the 9th; while another proposed that the powers of the State should be pledged to “resist any attempt on the part of the Federal Government to

* 1860.

1 The foregoing brief narrative of the movements in Pensacola Bay, immediately after the passage of the Ordinance of Secession by the Convention of Florida politicians, is compiled chietly from the manuscript report of Lieutenant Slemmer, now before me, made to Adjutant-General Thomas, on the 26th of January, 1961.

2 The city of Pensacola is eight miles northeastward from the Navy Yard, and about ten miles from the entrance to the bay. It contained about two thousand inhabitants at the time we are considering.

* See page 60.

* Benjamin Fitzpatrick and Clement C. Clay, Senators; James L. Pugh, David Clopton, Sydenham Moore, George S. Houston, W. R. W. Cobh, J. A. Stallworth, J. L. M. Curry, Representatives.

A DISCORDANT ASSEMBLAGE.

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* 1819.

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coerce any seceding State.” After discussing various resolutions, it was finally resolved, by unanimous vote, that the people of Alabama would not submit to a Republican administration.

On the 10th an ordinance of secession was reported by the majority of a Committee of Thirteen, appointed to draft it, of whom seven were Secessionists” and six “Co-operationists." It was longer than any of its predecessors, but similar to them in tenor. With that groundless sophistry and reckless disregard of the plainest historic truths which characterized the speeches and writings of the men of the State Supremacy school, they assumed that their commonwealth, which was created by the National Government, first a Territoryand then a State, had “delegated sovereign powers” to that Government, which were “ resumed and vested in the people of the State of Alabama.” This was an act as sensible as if Man should say to his Maker, “I will resume the life I have delegated to you, vest it in myself, and henceforth there shall be no union between us !” The ordinance favored the formation of a confederacy of Slave-labor States, and formally invited the others to send delegates to meet those of Alabama in convention, on the 4th of February, in the city of Montgomery, for consultation on the subject.

The Alabama Convention was not harmonious. Some seriously discordant notes were heard. The Union element was not inclined to yield every thing without a struggle. There was a minority report on secession; and many men were favorable to postponing action altogether, until the 4th of March, with the hope of preserving the Union. doubtful was the final result, that, so late as the 17th,' a dispatch

January, was sent by telegraph to the Alabama delegation in Congress, to retain their seats until further advised. This opposition exasperated the ultra-secessionists, and they became very violent. When, in the debate that followed the presentation of the two reports, Nicholas Davis, of Huntsville, in northern Alabama, declared his belief that the people of that section would not submit to any disunion schemes of the Convention, William L. Yancey, whose business for many months had been to “fire the Southern heart and precipitate the Cotton States into revolution,” sprang to bis feet, denounced the people of northern Alabama as “Tories, traitors, and rebels,” and said they ought to be coerced into submission. This high criminal, who had talked so defiantly about the sin of “coercion” on the part of the National Government, when its authority was resisted, was now ready to use brute force to coerce Union-loving and loyal men into submission to the treasonable schemes of a few politicians assembled in convention ! Mr. Davis was not intimidated by Yancey's bluster, but calmly assured the conspirators that the people of his section would be ready to meet their enemies on the line, and decide the issue at the point of the bayonet.

The final vote on the Ordinance of Secession was taken at about two o'clock on the 11th, and resulted in sixty-one ayes to thirty

January. nine noes. This result created great joy. An immense mass meeting was held in front of the State House in Montgomery, during the afternoon; and weak-kneed “Co-operationists,” carried away by the popular enthusiasm, pledged their constituents to a support of the ordinance. A secession flag, which the women of Montgomery had pre

1861.

174

REJOICINGS IN ALABAMA,

sented to the Convention, was raised over the Capitol, amidst the firing of cannon, the ringing of bells, and the shouts of the multitude. There was no less excitement in Mobile, whither the news went with lightning speed. It continued until late at night, and was intensified by intelligence of the socalled secession of Florida. Government Street was filled with jubilant people of both sexes. They gathered in a dense crowd around a "secession pole” that had been erected at the foot of the street, from the top of which a “Southern banner” was displayed. A hundred and one guns were fired in honor of Alabama, and fifteen in praise of Florida. The bells rang out merrily, and all business ceased. The crowd formed in procession, and followed a band of music, that played the “Southern Marseillaise,” to the Custom House, over which waved a Lone-star flag. On all sides were seen the fluttering of women's handkerchiefs, and the voices of men speaking to surging crowds were heard, while the military thronged the public square and there fired salvos of artillery. At night the city blazed with fireworks of every description; and the most popular pieces of all were the « Southern Cross" and the “Lone Star."

When the excitement of the hour was over, the Convention resumed its sittings. From beginning to end, these were in secret, and the public were indulged with only a crumb of intelligence that fell occasionally from the table of the conclave.. It leaked out, however, that the Union feeling in the Convention was potently mischievous toward the ultra-secessionists, and that several delegates absolutely refused to sign the Ordinance, unless its action should be postponed until the 4th of March.

The Convention adjourned on the 30th of January until the 4th of March, after having resolved against the opening of the African Slave-trade, and making provision for the due execution of the Ordinance of Secession. At the close of the session, the President (Brooks) said :-“The people of Alabama are now independent; sink or swim, live or die, they will continue free, sovereign, and independent. Dismiss the idea of a reconstruction of the old Union, now and forever.” Soon afterward, Thomas J. Judge was appointed a commissioner to negotiate with the National Government for the surrender of forts and other property to the authorities of Alabama.

A week before the Ordinance of Secession was passed at Montgomery, volunteer troops, in accordance with an arrangement made with the Governors of Louisiana and Georgia, and by order of the Governor of Alabama, had seized the Arsenal at Mount Vernon, about thirty miles above Mobile, and Fort Morgan, at the entrance to the harbor of Mobile, about thirty miles below the city. The expedition to seize the Mount Vernon Arsenal was commanded by Captain Danville Leadbetter, of the United States Engineer Corps, and a native of the State of Maine.' For this purpose the Governor made him his special aid, with the rank of

colonel. He left Mobile on the steamer Selma, at near midnight

of the 3d of January," with four companies of volunteers, and at dawn surprised Captain Reno, who was in command of the Arsenal. By

• 1861.

1 This man appears to have been one of the most fiendish of the persecutors nf Union men in Alabama and East Tennessee, at the beginning of the civil war. His atrocious conduct in East Tennessee is darkly portrayed by Governor Brownlow, in his Sketches of the Rise, Progress, and Decline of Secession, page 311.

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