Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

180

REVOLUTIONARY WORK IN LOUISIANA.

for maintaining, by force of arms, the independence of Georgia. They appointed delegates to the proposed General Convention at Montgomery, and adjourned to an early day in March.

Just one week after the so-called secession of Georgia, the politicians of Louisiana declared the withdrawal of that State from the Union. It was one of the most suicidal acts that madmen ever committed. The prosperity of its great commercial capital (New Orleans, containing one hundred and eighty thousand inhabitants) was a blessing almost wholly derived from the Union. Indeed, no State of the Republic was more dependent on the Union for its permanent growth in population and wealth than Louisiana. The device upon the Great Seal of the Commonwealth was a perpetual acknowledgment of the fact-a Pelican brooding over and feeding her young, emblematic of the fostering care of the National Government for its children, the States created by its will.

We have already observed the early movements of the politicians of Louisiana, led by Slidell, Benjamin, Moore, Walker of the Delta, and others, in drawing the people into the vortex of revolution.' In the Legislature, which assembled at Baton Rouge in special session on the 10th of December, the Union sentiment was powerful, yet not sufficiently so to avert mischief to the Commonwealth. An effort was made to submit the question of “ Convention or No Convention” to the people. It failed; and an election of delegates to a convention was ordered to be held on the 8th of January, the anniversary of the battle of New Orleans, in 1815. No efforts, fair or unfair, were spared to excite the people against the Government, and elect secessionists.

The activity of the politicians in New Orleans was wonderful. They expected the example of the city would be followed in the rural districts,

and they sought to make that example boldly revolutionary by frequent public displays of their disunion feelings. On the 21st of December, they publicly celebrated the socalled secession of South Carolina, with demonstrations of great enthusiasm. They fired cannon a hundred times; paraded the

streets with bands of musicians playing the Marseillaise Hymn and polkas, but no National air; flung out the Pelican flag of the State from the Custom House and other public buildings; and their orators addressed the excited multitude in favor of immediate secession. Four days afterward, there was a public ratification of the nomination of secession or “Southern Rights” candidates, with the accompaniments of cannon, and flags, and speeches. Yet, with all these manifestations of disaffection in the city, the great mass of the

[graphic]

CUSTOM HOUSE AT NEW ORLEANS.?

I See page 61.

? This building is not yet (1865) finished.

PLUNDER OF NATIONAL PROPERTY.

181

6

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.”

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 January 9, 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.

Jannary 10. 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 Ísland, 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

1 Annual Cyclopedia for 1861, page 428.

182

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

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. Manning, 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

Е. . Meouton

one

[ocr errors]

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 shonld be maile 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 "lIon. Alexander Mouton, President of the Convention," &c. This letter (the original is before me) occupies six pages of large foolscap paper, anıl 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 sccession 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 IIolt as - the unconstitutional head of the War Department-an open and virulent enemy of the South"-who had submitted & 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 esclaim. They then express an carnest 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.

183

[ocr errors]

to their

swoice

f of lamest dele beration among

te delegation of the ftdu

, ohne

bowatias habe been called, thottieven after then Files have decided

[ocr errors]

ser.der better

John Shieleld

i me Laaretum

a Daniellule

In istration in a policy of a

raining

measures tanca

[ocr errors]

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, “among the 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, anıl 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 file-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.

thach been

# 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, conTAC-SIMILE OF A PART OF SLIDELL'S LEITER

sulting with lending politicians of the Buchanan party, and endeavoring to crente a sentiment

among business men favorable to the establishment 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 these States. *-MePierson's Political History of the Great Rebellion, page 42.

184

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 en

When all became quiet, a tered the hall with a mili

solemn prayer was offered, tary officer (Captain Allen),

and the flag was “blessed bearing a Pelican flag.

according to the rites and This was placed in the

forms of the Roman Cathohands of the President,

lic Church, 'by Father while the mass of specta

Hubert." Then a hundred tors and delegates were

heavy guns were fired, and swayed with excitement,

to each member was preand cheered vehemently.

sented a gold pen wherewith to sign the Ordinance. After their signatures were affixed, to the num

ber of one hundred and twenty-one, the Convention adjourned, • January 26,

to meet in the City Hall, at New Orleans, on the 29th, at which 1861.

time the session was opened with prayer by the Rev. Dr. Palmer, whose Thanksgiving sermon, a few weeks before, we have alre:dy considered.

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

[graphic]

THE PELICAN FLAG.

1 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 einblem 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. The 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. : Journal of the Convention, page 13 3 See note 3, page 38.

* See note 2, page 182.

« AnteriorContinuar »