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PLUNDER OF NATIONAL PROPERTY.
people of the State remained loyal-passively if not actively so. "In our section," a gentleman from the lower part of the State wrote, "the excitement is confined to the politicians; the people generally being borne along with the current, and feeling the natural disposition of sustaining their section. I think that ninety-nine out of every hundred of the people sincerely hope that some plan will yet be devised to heal up the dissensions, and to settle our difficulties to the satisfaction of both the North and the South."
January 9, 1861.
The popular vote at the election on the 8th of January was small. It was of such a complexion, however, that it made the secessionists confident of success-so confident that on the following day," prompted by advice from Slidell, Benjamin, and other representatives of the State at Washington, the Governor sent military expeditions from New Orleans to seize Forts Jackson and St. Philip on the Mississippi, below the city, then in command of Major Beauregard; also Fort Pike on Lake Pontchartrain, and the Arsenal at Baton Rouge, then in charge of Major Haskin.
The expedition against the forts down the Mississippi consisted of a part of General Palfrey's Division. They left the city in the steamer Yankee, at near midnight, cheered by a multitude on the levee and vessels. They reached Fort St. Philip at eight o'clock the next evening." It was in charge of a man named Dart, who had a few negroes at work there. Dart gladly gave the fort into the custody of the Louisiana Foot Rifles, who garrisoned it in the name of the State. Fort Jackson was taken possession of on the same evening, at nine o'clock. Sergeant Smith, of the National Army, gave the keys to the insurgents, under protest, and a company of the Washington Artillery took possession of the fort. At the same time, Fort Livingston, on Grand Terre Island, Barataria Bay, was seized by State troops; and on the 20th of the month, the unfinished fort on Ship Island, off the coast of Mississippi, was seized, and held by the insurgents. Another unfinished fort (Clinch) on Amelia Island, off the coast of Georgia, was taken possession of by insurgents of that State.
The troops detailed for the capture of the Government Arsenal and Barracks at Baton Rouge left New Orleans on the evening of the 9th, on the steamer National, and arrived at their destination the next evening. Baton Rouge insurgents had already prepared to attack and seize the Arsenal, but at the critical moment their courage had failed them, notwithstanding there were only eight men under arms, with Major Haskin, to defend it. The New Orleans troops, three hundred in number, were commanded by Colonel Walton, of the Washington Artillery. They were paraded at dawn, on the morning of the 11th, and proceeded immediately to surround the property to be seized. Major Haskin had no adequate means for defense, and was compelled to surrender without offering resistance. By this success, the insurgents procured fifty thousand small arms, four howitzers, twenty heavy pieces of ordnance, two field batteries (one of 6 and the other of 12 pounders), three hundred barrels of gunpowder, and a
Annual Cyclopedia for 1861, page 423.
CONVENTION IN LOUISIANA.
large quantity of other munitions of war. Governor Moore, as we have seen, turned over to Governor Pettus, of Mississippi, a part of this plunder.' On the 11th, the barracks below New Orleans, which had been for some time occupied as a Marine hospital by the National Government, were seized by Captain Bradford, of the State infantry, in the name of Louisiana, by order of the Governor. The Collector at New Orleans was required to remove the two hundred and sixteen patients immediately, as the State wanted the buildings for the use of the gathering insurgents. General Dix was then at the head of the Treasury Department. As soon as he was fully informed of the matter, he wrote to the Collector (Hatch) that he could not "believe that a proceeding so discordant with the character of the people of the United States, and so revolting to the civilization of the age, had been sanctioned by the Governor of the State of Louisiana." He directed him to remonstrate with the Governor. Humanity or shame prevailed, and the invalids were permitted to remain.
The Legislature of Louisiana convened at Baton Rouge on the 21st of January, when a flag with fifteen stars (the number of the Slave-labor States) was raise dover the Capitol. The Convention met at the same place on the
23d. The number of delegates present was one hundred and thirty. Ex-Governor Alexander Mouton,
an intimate friend and willing instrument of Slidell, was chosen President, and J. Thomas Wheat, Secretary. J. L. Man
ning, of South Carolina, and J. A. Winston, of Alabama, Commissioners from their respective States, were invited to seats in the Convention, and made vehement speeches in favor of secession. The Governor was formally
See page 164.
The politicians more directly under the influence of Slidell seem to have had the management of the Convention. It had been all arranged beforehand, apparently, that Mouton should be made President of that body. He was elected on the first ballot. As early as the 14th of the month (January), nine days before the Convention assembled, a letter written by Slidell, and signed by himself and Judah P. Benjamin, and Representatives J. M. Landrum and J. G. Davidson, of Louisiana, was addressed, from the Capitol at Washington, "To the Convention of the State of Louisiana," directed to "Hon. Alexander Mouton, President of the Convention," &c. This letter (the original is before me) occupies six pages of large foolscap paper, and contains an expression of the views of the arch-conspirator and his colleagues on the great topic of the hour. It urges the necessity of immediate and energetic action; and after referring to the fact, that many of the people of the State were unwilling to accept secession as a remedy for grievances, because it seemed like revolution, it avers the right of a people to resist oppression, and says:-"You may well treat the difference between secession and revolution as one more of words than of substance-of ideas rather than of things." It denounces Holt as "the unconstitutional head of the War Department—an open and virulent enemy of the South”—who had submitted a plan to the Government of a campaign on a gigantic scale for the subjugation of the seceding States." They confess that they united in a recommendation to the Governor, on the accession of Holt, to "take possession at once of the forts and arsenals of the United States within the jurisdiction of Louisiana." They recommend "immediate and unqualified secession," and express a belief that every Slaveholding State, except Maryland and Delaware, will join in the revolutionary movement. "Without slavery, we perish!" they exclaim. They then express an earnest desire that the Convention should fully recognize the right of navigating the Mississippi freely by all citizens on its borders, and the lands watered by its tributaries, with a wish and hope," they say, "to reconstruct our Confederacy with such materials as are not irreconcilably hostile." It was the delusive dream of some of the conspirators, and the hope of the politicians of Louisiana, that the people of
SLIDELL'S SEDITIOUS LETTER.
It had been a subject of cament deliberation amory the delegations of the Stules where Carvactions have been called, whattoeven after their Stiles have seleeded
measures tending to thengthen the incoming
FAC-SIMILE OF A PART OF SLIDELL'S LETTER.
the Western and Northwestern States, governed by self-interest alone, would become partners in their revolutionary schemes.*
"It had been a subject of earnest deliberation," they say, the "among
delegations of the States wherein Conventions had been held, whether, even after their States had seceded. they might not possibly render better service to their constituents by remaining here, and opposing the passage of any measures tending to strengthen the incoming Administration in a policy of coercion." It says that they came to the conclusion that no certainty existed of their being able to do so. See extract of Yulee's letter, on page 166. A fac-simile of the above paragraph (the whole letter is in Slidell's handwriting) is given on this page. I am indebted to the Hon. Mark D. Wilbur, afterward in the National military service at Baton Rouge, for the original.
A year earlier than this, a Cincinnati paper noticed the fact, that "agents of the politicians of the Gulf States had been in that city, consulting with leading politicians of the Buchanan party, and endeavoring to create a sentiment among business men favorable to the establish
ment of a Confederacy, leaving out Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and all New England. Free trade was to be the basis of union.
These agents, it asserted, were in all of the Northwestern States, and their aim was to spring the issue soon among the citizens of those States."-McPherson's Political History of the Great Rebellion, page 42.
LOUISIANA ORDINANCE OF SECESSION.
thanked by the Convention for seizing the forts. A Committee of Fifteen was appointed to draft an Ordinance of Secession. It reported on the 24th, by their Chairman, John Perkins, Jr., and its ordinance was adopted, two days afterward, by a vote of one hundred and thirteen ayes to seventeen noes. Like Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama, Louisiana, the creature of the National Government, speaking in this ordinance through disloyal politicians, declared that it resumed the rights and powers "heretofore delegated to the Government of the United States of America," its creator.
The galleries of the hall were densely crowded with spectators at this time, who observed the casting of the ballots in profound silence. When the result was known, there was an outburst of the most enthusiastic applause. It ceased, and then President Mouton arose, with great solemnity of manner, and said:-"In virtue of the vote just announced, I now declare the connection between the State of Louisiana and the Federal Union dissolved, and that she is a free, sovereign, and independent power." Then Governor Moore entered the hall with a military officer (Captain Allen), bearing a Pelican flag.' This was placed in the hands of the President, while the mass of spectators and delegates were swayed with excitement, and cheered vehemently.
• January 26, 1861.
THE PELICAN FLAG.
When all became quiet, a solemn prayer was offered, and the flag was "blessed according to the rites and forms of the Roman Catholic Church, by Father Hubert." Then a hundred heavy guns were fired, and to each member was presented a gold pen where
with to sign the Ordinance. After their signatures were affixed, to the number of one hundred and twenty-one, the Convention adjourned," to meet in the City Hall, at New Orleans, on the 29th, at which time the session was opened with prayer by the Rev. Dr. Palmer, whose Thanksgiving sermon, a few weeks before, we have already considered.3
Before the adjournment, the Convention, sensible of the folly of the Mississippi insurgents in planting a blockading battery at Vicksburg, and in accordance with the recommendation of Slidell and his Congressional colleagues, resolved unanimously, that they recognized the right of a "free navigation of the Mississippi River and its tributaries by all friendly States bordering thereon;" also "the right of egress and ingress of the mouths of the Mississippi by all friendly States and Powers." A motion to submit the Secession Ordinance to the people, for ratification or rejection, was lost.
On the day when the Convention reassembled at New OrJanuary 29. leans, an event occurred there which produced a profound sensation throughout the Union. Secretary Dix had sent William Hemphill
The Committee of the Convention appointed to prepare a new flag and seal for the State, discovering that the device of a Pelican feeding her young had the idea of Union in it, were glad to find, also, that the pelican was not a fit emblem of Louisiana, because its form was unsightly, its habits filthy, and its nature cowardly, and so they had a good excuse for dispensing with the time-honored device on the flag and seal of Louisiana. flag adopted by the Convention was composed of fifteen stripes, alternate red, white. and blue, with a red square in one corner, on which was a single yellow star. It was the National flag deprived of its beauty and significance.
2 Journal of the Convention, page 18.
3 See note 8, page 38.
4 See note 2, page 182.
PROMPT ACTION OF GENERAL DIX.
Jones as special agent of the Treasury Department, to secure from seizure the revenue cutters Lewis Cass at Mobile, and Robert McClelland at New Orleans. He found the Cass, as we have observed, in possession of the authorities of Alabama.' He hastened to New Orleans, and in a note to Captain J. G. Breshwood, of the Me Clelland, inclosing one from Secretary Dix, he directed that officer to proceed immediately with his vessel to New York. Breshwood instantly replied:-"Your letter, with one of the 19th of January from the Honorable Secretary of the Treasury, I have duly received, and, in reply, refuse to obey the order." Jones immediately communicated the fact of this refusal to the Secretary, by telegraph, and informed him that Collector Hatch sustained the action of the rebel. Dix instantly telegraphed back, saying:-"Tell Lieutenant Caldwell to arrest Captain Breshwood, assume command of the cutter, and obey the order through you. If Captain Breshwood, after arrest, undertakes to interfere with the command of the cutter, tell Lieutenant Caldwell to consider him as a mutineer, and treat him accordingly. If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."
The conspirators, who held control of the telegraph in New Orleans, did not allow this dispatch to pass. Collector
Hatch was in complicity with them, and the Me Clelland fell into the hands of the insurgents. Two days afterward, the National Mint and the Custom House, with all the precious metals that they contained, in coin and bullion, were seized as legitimate plunder by the authorities of Louisiana.3 By an ordinance of the State Convention, a greater part of the coin and bullion then seized, to the amount of five hundred and thirty-six thousand dollars, was placed in the coffers of the State.
JOHN A. DIX.
General Dix's order soon went over the land by telegraph and newspapers; and its last sentence thrilled every loyal heart with a hope that the hour of hesitation and temporizing, on the part of the Administration, had forever passed by. It had the ring of true loyalty and patriotism; and the words, "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot," went from lip to lip like electric fire, and became a proverb in every true American's thoughts. It was heard with dismay by the more timid insurgents, while its promises gave joy to the lover of his country. A small medal was
1 See page 175.
The original is before me. It reads thus: "This letter will be presented to you by Wm. Hemphill Jones, a special agent of this Department. You are required to obey such directions as may be given you, either verbally or in writing, by Mr. Jones, with regard to the vessel under your command."
The value of gold and silver then in the Mint was $118.311, and in the Sub-treasury, in the Custom House, $453,984. Soon after this seizure a draft for $300,000 was received from the Treasury Department. The Sub-treasurer refused to pay it, saying, "The money in my custody is no longer the property of the United States, but of the Republic of Louisiana." Provision was made by the Convention for the payment of certain drafts; and the funds in the Post-office, amounting to $31,164, remained untouched by the insurgents.
When Farragut's fleet approached New Orleans, in April, 1862, and the McClelland was set on fire and abandoned by the traitors in charge of her, David Ritchie, a bold sailor, boarded her, and saved from the flames the flag to which Secretary Dix alluded; also the "Confederate" flag which had been raised in its place. These