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He called on General Scott for his opinion, which the General gave at length, to the effect that troops might be brought through Maryland, without going through Baltimore, by either carrying them from Perrysville to Annapolis, and thence by rail to Washington, or by bringing them to the Relay House on the Northern Central Railroad, and marching them to the Relay House on the Washington Railroad, and thence by rail to the Capital. If the people would permit them to go by either of those routes uninterruptedly, the necessity of their passing through Baltimore would be avoided. If the people would not permit them a transit thus remote from the city, they must select their own best route, and, if need be, fight their way through Baltimore-a result which the General earnestly deprecated.
The President expressed his hearty concurrence in the desire to avoid a collision, and said that no more troops should be ordered through Baltimore, if they were permitted to go uninterruptedly by either of the other routes suggested. In this disposition the Secretary of War expressed his participation.
Mayor Brown assured the President that the city authorities would use all lawful means to prevent their citizens from leaving Baltimore to attack the troops in passing at a distance; but he urged, at the same time, the impossibility of their being able to promise any thing more than their best efforts in that direction. The excitement was great, he told the President; the people of all classes were fully aroused, and it was impossible for any one to answer for the consequences of the presence of Northern troops anywhere within our borders. He reminded the President, also, that the jurisdiction of the city authorities was confined to their own population, and that he could give no promises for the people elsewhere, because he would be unable to keep them if given. The President frankly acknowledged this difficulty, and said that the Government would only ask the city authorities to use their best efforts with respect to those under their jurisdiction.
The interview terminated with the distinct assurance, on the part of the President, that no more troops would be sent through Baltimore unless obstructed in their transit in other directions, and with the understanding that the city authorities should do their best to restrain their own people.
In accordance with this understanding, troops were forwarded to Washington by way of Annapolis, until peace and order were restored in Baltimore, when the regular use of the highway through that city was resumed, and has been continued without interruption to the present time.
On the 19th of April the President issued the following proclamation, blockading the ports of the seceded States:
By the President of the Unitted States.
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 cannot be efficiently executed therein conformable to that provision of the Constitution which required 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 the 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 been already 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 pietended authority of such States, or under any other pretence, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.
By the President.
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State,
WASHINGTON, April 19, 1861.
These were the initial steps by which the Government sought to repel the attempt of the rebel Confederacy to overthrow its authority by force of arms. Its action was at that time wholly defensive. The declarations of rebel officials, as well as the language of the Southern press, indicated very clearly their intention to push the war begun at Sumter into the North. Jefferson Davis had himself declared, more than a month previous, that whenever the war should open, the North and not the South should be the field of battle. At a popular demonstration held at Montgomery, Ala., on hearing that fire had been opened upon Sumter, L. P. Walker, the rebel Secretary of War, had said, that while "no man could tell where the war would end, he would prophesy that the flag which now flaunts the breeze here, would float over the dome of the old Capitol at Washington before the first of May," and that it "might float eventually over Faneu Hall itself." The rebel Government had gone forward with great vigor to prepare the means for making good these predictions. Volunteers were summoned to the field. Besides garrisoning the fortresses in their possession along the Southern coast, a force of nearly twenty thousand men was pushed rapidly forward to Virginia. A loan of eight millions of dollars was raised, and Davis issued a proclamation offering letters of marque to all persons who might desire to aid the rebel Government and enrich themselves by depredations upon the rich and extended commerce of the United States. The South thus plunged openly and boldly into a war of aggression; and the President, in strict conformity with the declaration of his Inaugural, put the Government upon the defensive, and limited the military operations of the moment to the protection of the Capital.
The effect of these preliminary movements upon the Border Slave States was very decided. The assault upon Sumter greatly excited the public mind throughout those States. In Virginia it was made to inure to the benefit of the rebels. The State Convention, which had been in session since the 13th of February, was composed of a hundred
and fifty-two delegates, a large majority of whom were Union men. The Inaugural of President Lincoln had created a good deal of excitement among the members, and a very animated contest had followed as to its proper meaning. The secessionists insisted that it announced a policy of coercion towards the South, and had seized the occasion to urge the immediate passage of an ordinance of secession. This gave rise to a stormy debate, in which the friends of the Union maintained their ascendency. The news of the attack upon Sumter created a whirlwind of excitement, which checked somewhat the Union movement; and, on the 13th of April, Messrs. Preston, Stuart, and Randolph, who had been sent to Washington to ascertain the President's intentions towards the South, sent in their report, which was received just after Governor Pickens, of South Carolina, had announced the attack upon Sumter, and had demanded to know what Virginia intended to do in the war they had just commenced, and in which they were determined to triumph or perish. The Commissioners reported that the President had made the following reply to their inquiries:
To Hon. Messrs. PRESTON, STUART and RANDOLPH :
GENTLEMEN :-As a committee of the Virginia Convention, now in session, you present me a preamble and resolution in these words:
Whereas, In the opinion of this Convention, the uncertainty which prevails in the public mind as to the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue towards the seceded States, is extremely injurious to the industrial and commercial interests of the country, tends to keep up an excitement which is unfavorable to the adjustment of the pending difficulties, and threatens a disturbance of the public peace:-Therefore,
Resolved, That a committee of three delegates be appointed to wait on the President of the United States, present to him this preamble, and respectfully ask him to communicate to this Convention the policy which the Federal Executive intends to pursue in regard to the Confederate States.
In answer I have to say, that having, at the beginning of my official term, expressed my intended policy as plainly as I was able, it is with deep regret and mortification I now learn there is great and injurious uncertainty in the public mind as to what that policy is, and what course I intend to pursue. Not having as yet seen occasion to change, it is now my purpose to pursue the course marked out in the Inaugural Address. I commend a careful consideration of the whole document as the best ex
pression I can give to my purposes. As I then and therein said, I now repeat, "The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belonging to the Government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what is necessary for these objects there will be no 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 authority 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 the 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.
On the 17th, two days after this report was presented, and immediately after receiving the President's proclamation calling for troops, the Convention passed an ordi nance of secession by a vote of eighty-eight to fifty-five; and Virginia, being thus the most advanced member of the rebel Confederacy, became the battle-field of all the earlier contests which ensued, and on the 21st of May the capital of the rebel Government was transferred to Richmond. Very strenuous efforts were made by the rebel authorities to secure the adhesion of Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri to the Confederacy; but the wise forbearance of the President in his earlier measures had checked these endeavors, and held all those States but