Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

A FLAG FOR THE CONFEDERACY.

255

could never be effaced. “Sir," he said, “let us preserve it as far as we can. Let us continue to hallow it in our memory, and still pray that

"Long may it wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.' !

His eulogy of the old flag, which the leading traitors now affected to despise, was so full of Union sentiment that it was regarded as almost treasonable, and Brooke was severely rebuked. William Porcher Miles, of South Carolina, the Chairman of the Committee, protested against the resolution and the utterances of the mover. He gloried more a thousand times in the Palmetto flag of his State. He had regarded, “ from his youth, the Stars and Stripes as the emblem of oppression and tyranny.” This bold conspirator was so warmly applauded, that menaced Brooke, “at the suggestion of a friend," withdrew his motion.

W. W. Boyce, of South Carolina, who had been a member of the National Congress for seven years, presented a model for a flag, which he had received, with a letter, from a woman of his State (Mrs. C. Ladd, of Winnsboro"), who described it as "tri-colored, with a red union, seven stars, and the crescent moon.” She offered her three boys to her “country;" and suggested “Washington Republic” as the name of the new nation. In presenting the flag and letter, Boyce indulged in the usual turgid oratory of his class, saying:-"I will take the liberty of reading her letter to the Congress. It is full of authentic fire. It is worthy of Rome in her best days, and might well have been read in the Roman Senate on that disastrous day when the victorious banner of the great Carthaginian was visible from Mont Aventine. And I may add, Sir, that as long as our women are impelled by these sublime sentiments, and our mountains yield the metals out of which weapons are forged, the lustrous stars of our unyielding Confederacy will never pale their glorious fires, though baffled oppression may threaten with its impotent sword, or, more dangerous still, seek to beguile with the siren song of conciliation.”

Chilton, Toombs, Stephens, and others, also presented devices for flags. They were sent in almost daily from various parts of the Cotton-growing States, a great many of them showing attachment to the old banner, yet accompanied by the most fervid expressions of sympathy with the “Southern cause." The Committee finally made an elaborate report on the subject, in which they confessed that they did not share in the sentiment of attachment to the “Stars and Stripes” too often repeated in communications.

1

1 Many members liked the suggestion, but the more radical men, like Rhett and Toombs, opposed it, probably because it might have such strong associations with the old Government as to canse a desire for " reconstruction." so powerful became the feeling in the Convention in favor of the name of " Washington Republic," that it was voted down by only one majority.

: Two young women, Rebecca C. Ferguson and Mollie A. D. Sinclair, in the Art Department of the “Tascogee Female College," sent in seven designs. In their accompanying letter they said, that “ amidst all their efforts at originality, there ever danced before them visions of the star-gemmed flag, with its parti-colored stripes, that floated so proudly over the late United States. ... Let us snatch from the eagle of the cliff our idea of independence, and cull from the earth diamonds, and gems from the heavens, to deck the flag of the Southern Confederacy. With Cotton for King, there are seren States bound by a chain of sisterly love that will strengthen by time, as onward, right onward, they move up the glorious path of Southern independence.” In the seven devices offered, the principal members were an eagle, stars, and a cotton-bale. These devices were presented with highly commendatory words by Mr. Chilton, of Alabama.

3 These drawings are among the archives of the “Confederate Government," at Washington City,

256

FIRST ASSUMPTION OF SOVEREIGNTY.

They thought there was no propriety in retaining the emblems of a Government which had become so oppressive and injurious to their interests as to require a separation from it. Yet they did pay deference to that sentiment in others, by recommending a flag that bad a certain resemblance to the one they were deserting. It was to consist of “a red field with a white space extending horizontally through the center, and equal in width to one-third

the width of the flag”-in other words, three
stripes, two of them red, and one white: the
union, blue, extending down through the white
space, and stopping at the lower red space.
the center of the union a circle of white stars,
corresponding in number with the States of the
“Confederacy.” This was the flag under which the

maddened hosts of that “Confederacy” rushed to TIIE CONSPIRATORS' FLAG. battle, at the beginning of the war that ensued.

It was first displayed in public on the 4th of March, when it was unfurled over the State House at Montgomery. The first assumption of sovereignty on the part of the Convention was on

the 12th,' when it was resolved that the new Government should • February, take under its charge all questions and difficulties then existing

“between the Sovereign States of this Confederacy and the Government of the United States," relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, navy yards, and other public establishments. The President of the Convention was requested to communicate this resolution to the Governors of the sereral States. This was extremely offensive to the South Carolinians. They saw in it dark visions of the passing away of the "sovereignty” of their State. That Commonwealth, so lately proclaimed a “nation," was thereby shorn of its greatness, and placed on a common level with “sister States.” The Mercury, speaking for the Hotspurs of the coast region, at once preached

rebellion against the usurpers at Montgomery. It declared February 14.

that Fort Sumter belonged to South Carolina alone. It was the pet victim of the Palmettoese, and no other wolf should seize it. two efforts," said the Mercury, “to obtain peaceable possession of Fort Sumter, and a submission, for two months, to the insolent military domination in our bay of a handful of men, the honor of the State requires that no further intervention, from any quarter, should be tolerated, and that this fort should be taken, and taken by South Carolina alone. By any other course, it appears to us, unless all the positions of the Governor are false, the State must be disgraced.” The South Carolinians were pacified by promises, and, as we shall observe, were gratified in their belligerent desires.

On the 13th, John Gregg, one of the delegates from Texas, appeared and took a seat in the Convention, although the Ordinance of Secession adopted in that State had not been ratified by the people, according to legal requirement. The rest of the delegation were on their way. In this act, as in all others, the conspirators utterly disregarded the will of the people. On the same day, the Convention commenced preparations for war, by instructing

[graphic]

" After

1 The delegation was composed of Louis T. Wigfali, J. H. Reagan, J. Hemphill, T. N. Waul, John Gregg, W. S. Oldhain, and W. B. Ochiltree.

RECEPTION OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.

257

the Military and Naval Committees to report plans for the organization of an army and navy, and to make provision for the officers in each service who had deserted their flag and were seeking employment from the Confederates at Montgomery.

Preparations were now made for the reception and inauguration of Davis. He was at his home near Vicksburg when apprised of his election, and he hastened to Montgomery on the circuitous • February 15 railway route by the way of Jackson, Grand Junction, Chattanooga, and West Point. His journey was a continuous ovation. He made twenty-five speeches on the way, all breathing treason to the Government by whose bounty he had been educated and fed, and whose laws he had frequently sworn to uphold. A committee of the Convention and the public authorities of Montgomery met him eight miles from the city." At Opelika, two companies from Columbus, Georgia, joined the ° February 18 escort. He reached his destination at ten o'clock at night, where he was received with unbounded enthusiasm. Cannon thundered a welcome, and the shouts of a vast multitude filled his ears. At the railway station he was formally received, and made a speech, in which he briefly reviewed the then position of the South, and said the time for compromises had passed. “We are now determined,” he said, “ to maintain our position, and make all who oppose us smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel.” He had no doubts of the result, if coercion should be persisted in. “We will maintain our rights and our government,” he said, “at all hazards. We ask nothing; we want nothing; and will have no complications. If the other States join our Confederacy, they can freely come in on our terms. Our separation from the old Union is complete, and no compromise, no reconstruction can now be entertained.”

Davis was conducted from the station to the Exchange Hotel, where a large crowd, many of them women, awaited his arrival. He made a speech from the balcony or gallery to the assembled populace, while on each side of him stood a negro, with a candle, that the people might see his face. He addressed them as “Brethren of the Confederated States of America." He expressed undoubting confidence in the success of the revolution they had just inaugurated. They had nothing to fear at home, for they were united as one people; and they had nothing to fear from abroad, for if war should come, their valor would be sufficient for any occasion.

The inaugural ceremonies took place at noon on the 18th, upon a platform erected in front of the portico of the State House. Davis and Stephens, with the Rev. Dr. Manly, riding in an open

• February barouche, and followed by a large concourse of State officials and citizens, moved from the Exchange Hotel to the Capitol, while cannon were thundering. The eminence on which the Capitol stands was crowded at an early hour. It is said that so grand a spectacle had not been seen in the Slavelabor States since the ovation given in New Orleans to the victorious General Jackson, in January, 1815.

At one o'clock in the afternoon, after a prayer by Dr. Manly, Davis commenced pronouncing his Inaugural Address. He defended the right of secession; and he declared that, “ moved by no interest or passion to invade the rights of others, and anxious to cultivate peace and commerce with the

VOL. I.-17

258

INAUGURATION OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.

nations,” if they could not hope to avoid war, they might at least expect that posterity would acquit them of having needlessly engaged in it. “Doubly justified,” he said, “ by the absence of wrong on their part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others,” there could be no doubt of success. The world must have their "agricultural productions” (meaning cotton), and mutual interest would invite good-will and kind offices, especially from the manufacturing and navigating States of the Union. “If, however,” he said, “ passion or lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency, and maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, that position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth.” He declared that they had separated from the old Union from necessity, and not from choice. Having done so, they must prepare to stand alone; and he recommended the immediate organization of an army and navy. He suggested privateering or piracy as an arm of strength for them. “Besides the ordinary remedies," he said, “the well-known resources for retaliation upon the commerce of an enemy will remain to us." He closed by invoking the protection of the Almighty, while they should be performing the work of destroying the noble fabric of free institutions erected by the fathers. At the close of the address, the oath of office was administered to Davis by Howell Cobb, the President of the Convention. In the evening, after the inauguration, Davis, in imitation of the custom

at the National Capital, held a levee at Estelle Hall; and Montgomery was brilliantly lighted up by bonfires and illuminations. A spacious mansion was soon afterward provided for Davis and his family, and it became distinguished as the “White House of the Southern Confederacy.""

Davis chose, from among the most active of his fellow-conspirators, fitting agents to assist him in his nefarious work,

and ostentatiously titled them in imitation of the National Government. He called Robert Toombs to act as “Secretary of State;" Charles G. Memminger, as “Secretary of the Treasury;" Le Roy Pope Walker, as “Secretary of War;" Stephen R: Mallory, as “Secretary of the Navy,” and John H. Reagan, as “PostmasterGeneral.” Afterward, Judah P. Benjamin was appointed to be " AttorneyGeneral.” William M. Browne, late editor of the Washington Constitution,

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

THE

WIIITE HOUSE

AT MONTGOMERY.

1 The official residence of the President of the United States, at Washington City, being white, has always been better known by the title of " The White House" than by any other.

DAVIS AND HIS CHIEF COUNSELORS.

259

sury.”

JOHN H. REAGAN.

President Buchanan's official organ, was appointed “ Assistant Secretary of State," and Philip Clayton, of Georgia, “ Assistant Secretary of the Trea

He offered John Slidell a seat in his “cabinet," but that conspirator preferred a safer sphere of action, as minister to some foreign court. He was gratified; and Davis's leading associates in crime were all soon supplied with places of honor and profit.

Jefferson Davis was about fifty-four years of age at the time we are considering. His person was sinewy and light, a little above the middle hight, and erect in posture. His features were regular and well-deined; his face was thin and much wrinkled; one eye was sightless, and the other was dark and piercing. He was born in Kentucky, and was taken to reside in Mississippi in early boyhood. He was educated at the Military Academy at West Point, on the Hudson River; served under his father-in-law, General Taylor, in the war with Mexico; occupied a seat in the National Senate, and was a member of President Pierce's Cabinet, as Secretary of War. He was a man of much ability, and considerable refinement of manner when in good society. As a politician, he was utterly unscrupulous. In public life, he was untruthful and treacherous. He was not a statesman, nor a high-toned partisan. He was calm, audacious, reticent, polished, cold, sagacious, rich in experience of State affairs, possessed of great concentration of purpose, an imperious will, abounding pride, and remarkable executive ability. He was a relentless foe, and was well fitted to be the leader in the commission of a crime greater in magnitude than any recorded in the annals of mankind.

Alexander H. Stephens, the lieutenant of the chief of the conspirators, was a few years the junior of Davis, having been born in Georgia in 1812. He had climbed to distinction from obscurity by the force of his own genius. Sickness had kept his frame weak from boyhood, and he never weighed a hundred pounds avoirdupois. His voice was effeminate, yet, when it was used in glowing oratory, of which he was often a charming master, it became, at times, quite sonorous. He was for several years an able representative of his State in the National Congress. More conservative and honest, and less courageous than Davis, he performed a comparatively passive part in the great drama of crime in which he was an actor. Three of the members of Davis's privy council, namely, Toombs, Mallory, and Benjamin, had lately left their seats in the National Senate. Their previous career we shall hereafter consider. Memminger was a man of fine culture, and eminent as a lawyer. So also was Walker, whose social and professional position in northern Alabama was inferior to but few. Reagan was a lawyer of ability, and was a judge in Texas when he rebelled against his Government.

The Confederates, having assumed for their league a national character, at once presented their claims to recognition as such by the powers of the earth. They sent commissioners to Europe to secure formal recognition by,

[graphic]
« AnteriorContinuar »