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CHAP. VII. Clernand's troops, from the land side, soon after
entered the work and took formal possession. On the same day Grant telegraphed to Halleck, “Fort
Henry is ours"; and his dispatch bore yet anto Halleck, other significant announcement eminently char
acteristic of the man, “I shall take and destroy Fort Donelson on the 8th.”
Feb. 6, 1862.
W.R. Vol. VII.,
CAMERON AND STANTON
W and deel area war to perpetuate and extend
HEN the men of the South plotted secession CHAP. VIII.
and extend slavery, they little dreamed what a sure and relentless agency for its destruction they set in motion. It has been related how hostilities opened with Butler's offer to suppress a slave rising in Maryland, and how from some of the earlier camps fugitives were returned to their owners; also how in a few months the practice of the army changed to giving them wholesale shelter and employment, and to enforcing the confiscation act of Congress which broke the legal bondage of those whom the rebels employed in hostile military service. The unavoidable processes of war soon moved the question forward another step. If the army undertook to employ negroes in military work at exposed points, must it not protect them, and, as a necessary consequence, must it not permit them to protect themselves and furnish them weapons for defense ? This question became important when the sea-coast expeditions were organized, particularly in the one destined for Port Royal, where a district with a largely preponderant slave population was to be attacked. Friendly blacks in great numbers would be sure to
CHAP. VIII. flock to the Union lines, and, the climate being
extremely unhealthy for Northern troops, it was desirable to employ them for labor and fatigue duty whenever possible. The Government could not do otherwise than give the commander permission to use every military advantage which might present itself.
In drawing up instructions on this point, the Assistant Secretary of War, after referring to prior orders, continued: “Special directions adapted to special circumstances cannot be given. Much must be referred to your own discretion as commanding general of the expedition. You will, however, in general, avail yourself of the services of any persons, whether fugitives from labor or not, who may offer them to the National Government. You will employ such persons in such service as they may
be fitted for - either as ordinary employés, or, if T. A. Scott special circumstances seem to require it, in any
other capacity, with such organization (in squads, 1861. T W 'R. companies, or otherwise) as you may deem most
beneficial to the service.” When this instruction was read to President Lincoln, he foresaw that the latitude it gave might cause a terrible outcry of malicious criticism, and he therefore interlined with his own hand the following qualifying sentence: “This, however, not to mean a general arming of them for military service."
If any political design lay hidden within the original phraseology of the instruction as it came from the War Department, it escaped notice or comment, because it represented the actual re
quirements of the moment in all save the caution· ary limit which Mr. Lincoln's amendment supplied.
to T. W. Sherman,
I.N. Arnold, “Lincoln
His own prudence in dealing with the slavery CHAP. VIII. question was, however, not imitated by all those about him. The Frémont incident sharply marked the rapid drift and development of public opinion on this sensitive topic, and men were becoming either more conservative or more progressive, according to their several convictions. It was not unnatural that political leaders should begin to trim their sails to this fresh breeze of popular sentiment, and before long it furnished an occurrence out of which grew the first change in President Lincoln's Cabinet. In preparing to transmit to Congress, at its December session, the customary official documents which accompany the President's message, Mr. Lincoln found, to his surprise, that the annual report of the Secretary of War had been printed, and, without being submitted to his inspection, mailed to the postmasters of the chief cities to be handed to the press as soon as the telegraph should announce that the reading of the message was completed in Congress. When a copy came to his hands the reason for this haste was quite apparent; in its closing paragraphs Secretary Cameron's report took distinct ground in favor of arming the negroes and incorporating them in the military service. Referring to the slaves abandoned by their owners in the territory captured by the Port Royal expedition, the report said:
Those who make war against the Government justly forfeit all rights of property, privilege, or security derived from the Constitution and laws against which they are in armed rebellion; and as the labor and service of their slaves constitute the chief property of the rebels, such property should share the common fate of war, to
of War, Dec. 1, 1861,
CHAP. VIII. which they have devoted the property of loyal citizens. . .
It is as clearly a right of the Government to arm slaves, when it may become necessary, as it is to use gunpowder taken from the enemy. Whether it is expedient to do so is purely a military question. What to do with that species of property is a question that time and circumstance will solve, and need not be anticipated further than to repeat that they cannot be held by the Government as slaves. It would be useless to keep them as prisoners of war; and self-preservation, the highest duty of a government, or of individuals, demands that they should be disposed of or employed in the most effective manner that will tend most speedily to suppress the insurrection and restore the authority of the Government. If it shall be found that the men who have been held by the
rebels as slaves are capable of bearing arms and performReport, ing efficient military service, it is the right, and may
become the duty, of the Government to arm and equip 1st Edition them, and employ their services against the rebels, under Suppressed
proper military regulation, discipline, and command.
While Mr. Lincoln agreed perfectly with the Secretary of War in the abstract right of the Government to use abandoned or fugitive negroes in any military capacity, he did not think the time had arrived for forming them into marching regiments; neither did he deem it expedient that an official declaration of such a purpose should be published by a prominent officer of his Administration. The pamphlet copies of the report were still in the leading post-offices. These were hastily recalled by telegraph, and Secretary Cameron printed a new edition, modified according to the President's direction, by omitting all that portion of the argument relating to the controverted question, and in its place inserting a short paragraph to the effect that the slaves on captured or abandoned plantations should not be returned to their