« AnteriorContinuar »
invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." By the words "property and places belonging to the Government," I chiefly allude to the military posts and property which were in possession of the Government when it came into my hands. But if, as now appears to be true, in pursuit of a purpose to drive the United States authorities from these places, an unprovoked assault has been made upon Fort Sumter, I shall hold myself at liberty to repossess it, if I can, like places which had been seized before the Government was devolved upon me; and in any event I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force. In case it proves true that Fort Sumter has been assaulted, as is reported, I shall, perhaps, cause the United States mails to be withdrawn from all the States which claim to have seceded, believing that the commencement of actual war against the Government justifies and possibly demands it. I scarcely need to say that I consider the military posts and property situated within the States which claim to have seceded, as yet belonging to the Government of the United States as much as they did before the supposed secession. Whatever else I may do for tho purpose, I shall not attempt to collect the duties and imposts by any armed invasion of any part of the country; not meaning by this, however, that I may not land a force deemed necessary to relieve a fort upon the border of the country. From the fact that I have quoted a part of the inaugural address, it must not be inferred that I repudiate any other part, the whole of which I reaffirm, except so far as what I now say of the mails may be regarded as a modification.
The Governors of Virginia and Kentucky, thoroughly in fellowship with the South Carolina policy from the outset, promptly sent back defiant messages in response to tho President's call for troops. "Kentucky will furnish no troops," said Governor Magoffin, "for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States." "The militia of Virginia," wrote Letcher to Secretary Cameron, " will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view." Similar was the reply of Governor Harris, of Tennessee. Governor Ellis, of North Carolina, with greater moderation in his language, plainly intimated his purpose not to respond to tho President's call. On the 17th, the Virginia Convention, yielding at length to the artifices and intimidations of the busy conspirators, in whose service an ignorant mob wag conspicuous, passed, in the darkness of a secret conclave, an ordinance of secession. The processes resorted to for tho accomplishment of this object were yet insufficient to move many honorable delegates from their fidelity, but the fatal majority was obtained. Although there was still to be, nominally, a vote of the people on this question, on the 23d of May, Union sentiments were no longer tolerated at Richmond. Violence and terror insured a majority for the insurrection in a State which, on a fair vote, would still have pronounced emphatically > against secession.
The conspirators in North Carolina also triumphed, as was to be expected after this defection, and Tennessee and Arkansas followed. Thus four States were gained to the " Confederacy"—by no means through a fair or honest vote—as a result of the war begun in Charleston harbor. The desperate efforts to win over Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri, utterly failed, as would have been tho case with the other four States, just named, had the pacific policy of the Administration been permitted to continue.
The week following the President's proclamation was crowded with important events. Public meetings were held all through the loyal States, and the response to the call for troops was hearty and universal. Companies and regiments were rapidly filled up and started for the National Capital. But a few hours intervened before Massachusetts had one regiment at its rendezvous, and ready for departure. Pennsylvania and New York were on the alert, and a battalion of volunteers, from the former State, were the first to reach Washington, while the New York Seventh was at nearly the same time on its way. The spirit already roused throughout the country was greatly intensified by tho attempts of a secession mob in Baltimore to prevent the passage of the Massachusetts Sixth through that city. Here tfte first blood of Union troops was shed, on an ever memorablo anniversary, the 19th day of April. Enlistments followed with such rapidity, that it was soon only a question whose services should be declined, of the tens of thousands offering themselves. The city of Washington, an object of threatened attack, and thronged with people, who either openly proclaimed their hos* tility to the Government, or were of doubtful fidelity, was full of excitement—liable at any moment to an cmeute or to an irruption of rebel troops already in the field in Virginia. Alexandria was in their possession, or easily accessible at any moment from Richmond. Rumors were current of an immediate intention on the part of the Confederate leaders to occupy Arlington Heights, completely commanding the city, while as yet only a few companies of the regular service, with two or three light field batteries, were in Washington for its defense. To these were added a few hundred volunteer militia, made up chiefly of transient sojourners at the Capital. A few dragoons, with a detachment of artillery, guarded the Long Bridge, and the Navy Yard and other portions of the city had a small guard of extemporized infantry. There was also a single company of sappers and miners, under Lieut. (now General) Weitzel. Thus passed an anxious week, while every exertion was made by the Government and its loyal supporters to assemble an adequate defensive force. How easily the place might have been taken, with not one of the present numerous and strong fortifications, with no army but half a dozen scattered companies of infantry, cavalry and artillery, and with so large a number within ready to rise and give active weleome to the assailing force they so eagerly expected, need not here be discussed. From one extremity of the country to the other, the danger was seen and felt. The few days needful, fortunately were gained.
The 19th of April is further memorable for the proclamation issued on that day, declaring a blockade of every port of the States in insurrection, in the following terms:
Whereas, An insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue can not be efficiently executed therein conformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:
And Whereas, A combination of persons, engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on
the lives, vessels, and property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States:
And Whereas, An Executive Proclamation has already been issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary session to deliberate and determine thereon:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their Lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall have ceased, have further deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the laws of nations in such cases provided. For this purpose a competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a Vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave any of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will indorse on her register the fact and date of such warning; and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize as may be deemed advisable.
And I hereby proclaim and declare, that if any person, under the pretended authority of said States, or under any other pretense, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln.
William H. Seward, Secretary of State. Washington, April 19, 1861.
Intelligence having been received that Virginia troops were marching on Harper's Ferry, to take possession of the important Government property there, the public works were destroyed and the place evacuated by Lieut. Jones, the commandant. Almost simultaneously the Fourth Massachusetts Rogiment, dispatched by wise forethought, arrived at Fortress Monroe (soon after reinforced by the First Vermont, under Col. Phelps), and secured a permanent occupation of that strong position in the Old Dominion, which had now become (without waiting for the consummation of the farce of a popular vote under duress) the eighth State of the Rebel Confederacy.
During this brief period—at the close of a week of unprecedented excitement at Washington and of loyal enthusiasm throughout the country—earnest appeals were made to the President by prominent Marylanders to stop all attempts to transport troops through that State to the National Capital. His prompt reply set all such petitions at rest. The usual thoroughfares, meanwhile, had been obstructed. Treason hoped the work was already accomplished, and relief cut off. Timorous or hesitating men feared that the effort would be useless. But the purpose of Mr. Lincoln was not for an instant shaken. The route by Annapolis was opened by Gen. Butler and his Massachusetts force, and on the 25th of April troops from tho North began to pour into Washington, relieving all immediate anxiety. The people had nobly responded. The "great uprising" was an assured event.
Toward the veteran Lieutenaut-General of the Army all eyes were turned as the fit organizer and leader of the Government forces. His counsels were potent, necessarily, in the formation of plans suited to the juncture. Compelled to resort to force by armed aggressive rebellion, the foremost purpose was strictly a defensive one. To protect the capital first of all— for in the flush of triumph over the reduction of Fort Sumter, the determination to take Washington, a city surrounded by territory claimed as destined to form part of the Confederacy, was boldly avowed, alike by the Rebel Secretary of War and by the organs of public opinion every-where in the insurrectionary States—was the object aimed at by the President, and energetically undertaken by Gen. Scott. Secondary to this, and a labor for the future, was the reoccupation and re-possession of Federal forts and Federal property already seized by the Rebels, and the retention of such as were threatened, as