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NEW YEAR'S DAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE.
authorities of South Carolina." They told him that they had felt kindly, and, by forbearance, had acted kindly toward him, because of the delicacy of his position, but he had deceived them. "You have decided," they said. "You have resolved to hold by force what you have obtained by misplaced confidence; and by refusing to disavow the act of Major Anderson, have converted his violation of orders into a legitimate act of your executive authority. Be the issue what it may, of this we are assured, that if Fort Moultrie has been recorded in history as a memorial of Carolina gallantry, Fort Sumter will live upon the succeeding page as an imperishable testimony of Carolina faith. By your course you have probably rendered civil war inevitable. Be it so. If you choose to force this issue upon us, the State of South Carolina will accept it, and, relying upon Him who is the God of Justice, as well as God of Hosts, will endeavor to perform the great duty which lies before her, bravely and thoroughly."
The President made no reply to this letter, but returned it to the "Commissioners," indorsed with these words:-"This paper, just presented to the President, is of such
a character that he
NORTH FRONT OF THE WHITE HOUSE, FROM PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE
crowded on such occasions, was almost deserted. Only a few Army and Navy officers made their appearance. Many Unionists and secessionists, it is said, declined to
1 Much has been said concerning the visit to Charleston, at about this time, of Caleb Cushing, the distinguished citizen of Massachusetts who presided over the Democratic Convention in that city, seven months before. One of the most careful chroniclers of the events immediately preceding, and at the outbreak of the civil war, says, that he was sent there by President Buchanan as his confidential agent, to assure the insurgents that he would not "re-enforce Major Anderson, nor initiate any hostilities against the Secessionists, provided they would evince a like pacific spirit, by respecting the Federal authority down to the close of his Administration" He says the time of this mission was at "the middle of December," and that General Cushing, having been informed that his being a "representative of the Federal authority had cast a sudden mildew on his popularity in that stronghold of secession," remained there but five hours, when he returned to Washington, and his report was "the theme of a stormy and protracted Cabinet meeting." See The American Conflict: by Horace Greeley, i., 409. I have the authority of a letter from General Cushing himself, dated 26th March, 1865, for saying, that the single and sole object of his visit (which was on the 20th of December) was to endeavor to counteract the mad scheme of secession." The visit was suggested or promoted by gentlemen at Washington of the very highest authority, North and South, including the President. At the very moment when General Cushing entered Charleston, the bells were beginning to ring, and salutes to be fired, in honor of the passage of the Ordinance of Secession. Of course there was nothing for him to do at Charleston, and he left for Washington the next morning. His agency went no further. He had no authority to say any thing on the subject of the torts or of hostilities, and, of course, he did not.
THE ADMINISTRATION STRENGTHENED.
shake hands with the President. He appeared, according to the newspaper correspondents, "pale, haggard, care-worn, and weary." The city, at the same time, was heaving with excitement. Union and secession cockades were worn by men and women in the streets. Full fifty Union flags were displayed; and that night a police force was detailed to guard the house where the "Commissioners" dwelt.
Thus terminated the diplomatic correspondence between the President of the Republic and the Embassadors of a treasonable Oligarchy in one of the weaker States of the Union. Having occupied the ministerial ⚫January 5, residence on K Street ten days, they left it," and returned home, to engage in the work of conspiracy with all their might. Trescot had started for Charleston on New Year's Day.
With the opening of the new year, the faith of the people in the Administration was somewhat revived by evidences of its determination to enforce the laws. The President, under better counselors, seemed disposed to do his duty boldly. It was evident that plans for the seizure of Washington City and the Government were fast ripening. Lieutenant-General Scott was called into cabinet meetings for consultation; and measures were taken for the military defense of the Capital, by the organization of the militia of the District of Columbia, and the concentration at Washington of a few companies of artillery, under the charge of Captain Charles P. Stone, of the Ordnance Department. It was also resolved to strengthen the garrisons of the forts on the coasts of the Slave-labor States, particularly in Charleston harbor. For the latter purpose, the naval force at hand was totally inade. quate. The steam-frigate Brooklyn, which had lately arrived at Norfolk, after a three years' cruise, was the only armed vessel of any importance on the Atlantic coast, the conspirators having managed to procure the dispersion of the Navy in distant seas.
In view of the threatening aspect of affairs, the crew of the Brooklyn was not discharged on her arrival, but was kept in readiness for duty. At the Cabinet meeting whose proceedings compelled Secretary December 14, Cass to resign,' it was proposed to send her with troops to 1860. Charleston. The Secretary of the Navy (Toucey), it is alleged, refused to give the order for the purpose,' and the President yielded; now, under the advice of General Scott and Secretary Holt, orders were given for her to be made ready to start at a moment's notice. This order was revealed to the conspirators. Virginians were ready to seize any vessels that might attempt to leave Norfolk with troops; and the lights of the shore-beacons in Charleston harbor were extinguished, and the buoys that marked the channels were removed. Informed of this betrayal of his secret, the President countermanded the order; and when Thompson, the Secretary of the Interior, who was doubtless the criminal in the matter, threatened the President with his resignation because of such order, the latter promised that none like it should be issued, "without the question being first considered and decided in the Cabinet."
1 "I should have told you that Toucey has refused to have the Brooklyn sent from Monroe."-Autograph Letter of Charles" to the Editor of the Charleston Mercury, December 22, 1860, already cited on page 143. 2 Speech of ex-Secretary Thompson at Oxford, Mississippi.
EXPEDITION OF THE STAR OF THE WEST.
Pledges to men had to yield to the public interest. It was evident that there were those in the Cabinet who could not be trusted. Dangers were thickening. Fortunately, the President listened to his new counselors, Secretary Holt and General Scott; and it was resolved to send troops and supplies to Fort Sumter by a more secret method than had yet been devised. Instead of employing a vessel-of-war for the purpose, the stanch merchant-steamer Star of the West, built to run between New York and Aspinwall, on the California route, was chartered by the Government and quickly laden with supplies. She was cleared for New Orleans and Savannah, in order to mislead spies. She left her wharf at New York at sunset on the 5th of January, and far down the bay she received, under the cover of thick darkness, four officers and two hundred and fifty artillerists and marines, with their arms and ammunition. She crossed the bar at Sandy Hook at nine o'clock the same evening, and proceeded to sea under her commander, Captain John McGowan.
In consequence of the reception of a letter from Major Anderson, stating that he regarded himself secure in his position, and intelligence that the
insurgents had erected strong batteries at the mouth of Charleston harbor that could destroy an unarmed vessel, the Government, with the concurrence of General Scott, countermanded the order for the sailing of the Star of the West.' The countermand was sent by the General-in-chief to Colonel H. L. Scott, of his staff, then in New York, by telegraph, but it reached that city after the vessel had left. It is a pity that it was too late. The American people will ever recur to the page of their history on which the record of that expedition is written with regret and humiliation, because it tells the fact that their powerful Government was so weakly administered, that it seemed necessary to resort to clandestine acts in the maintenance of its rightful authority.
The South Carolinians, meanwhile, were making preparations to attack Fort Sumter and strengthen their position. They affected to regard the refusal of the President to hold further intercourse with their arrogant representatives as an insult to their "Sovereign State." Every man in
1 Letter of Secretary IIolt to ex-Secretary Thompson, March 5, 1861.
VIGILANCE IN CHARLESTON.
Charleston and vicinity, liable to do military duty, was immediately called Measures were taken to increase the strength and armament of Fort Moultrie. A garrison composed of the Charleston Rifles, under Captain J. Johnson, was sent to occupy Fort Johnson. The erection of batteries that would command the ship-channel of the harbor, and bear heavily upon Fort Sumter, was commenced on Morris and Sullivan's Islands, and a thousand negro slaves were employed in the work. The commander of Castle Pinckney ordered that no boat should approach its wharf-head except by permission. The city of Charleston was placed under the protection of a military patrol. Look-out boats scouted the outer harbor at night. The telegraph was placed under the most rigid censorship, and Major Anderson was denied all communication with his Government. The United States Sub-treasurer at Charleston (Pressley) was forbidden by the author ities to cash any more drafts from Washington.' The National Collector of the Port (Colcock), participating in the treasonable work, announced that all vessels from and for ports outside of South Carolina must enter and clear at Charleston. The Convention, assuming supreme authority, passed an ordinance on the 1st of January, defining treason against the State; and with a barbarous intent unknown in a long obsolete British law, and with a singular misunderstanding of its terms, they declared the punishment to be "death, without benefit of the clergy."" On that morning" they had received intelligence from the "Commissioners" at Washington that their mission would be fruitless; and the Rev. Mr. Du Pré, in the prayer at the opening of the Convention, evidently believing that war was inevitable, supplicated the Almighty, saying:-" Wilt thou bring confusion and discomfiture upon our enemies, and wilt thou strengthen the hearts, nerves, and arms of our sons to meet this great fire." Then a bust of John C. Calhoun, cut from pure white marble, was placed on the table before the President, bearing a curious inscription on a piece of paper.
• January 1, 1861
Frantic appeals were now made to the politicians of other Southern coast States to seize the forts and arsenals of the Republic within their borders. The organs of the South Carolina conspirators begged that Fort Pickens, and the Navy Yard and fortifications on the shores of Pensacola Bay, and Forts Jefferson and Taylor, at the extremity of the Florida Peninsula, might be seized at once-also Fort Morgan, near Mobile; for a grand scheme of piracy, which was inaugurated a hundred days later, was then in embryo.
1 This dishonest order plagued Governor Pickens in a way that provoked much merriment. With amazing assurance, that officer, then in open insurrection against his Government, wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury for three thousand dollars, due him on his salary as Minister to Russia. The Secretary sent him a draft on the Sub-treasurer at Charleston, who, pursuant to his instructions, refused to honor it. See Harper's History of the Great Rebellion, page 36.
2 The term in the old criminal law was, "without benefit of clergy," not of the clergy; for it had no reference to the attendance of a clergyman upon a criminal, of which favor the South Carolinians intended to deprive him. It was a law in Roman Catholic countries, or where that form of Christianity, as a system, prevailed. That church claimed the right to try its own clergy at its own tribunals. When a man was condemned, and was about to be sentenced, he might, if he had the right, claim that he was a clergyman, and he was relieved from the power of the civil law and remanded to the ecclesiastical tribunal, under the privilege called "benefit of clergy." In certain cases of heinous offenses, this "benefit of clergy" was denied.
3 Associated Press Dispatch from Charleston. January 1, 1861. The following is the inscription:-"Truth, Justice, and Fraternity, you have written your name in the Book of Life, fill up the page with deliberationthat which is written, execute quickly-the day is far spent, the night is at hand. Our names and honor summon all citizens to appear on the parade-ground for inspection."
THE STAR OF THE WEST AT CHARLESTON.
155 Speaking for those who, true to the instructions of their ancestral traditions, were anxious to revive that species of maritime enterprise which made Charleston so famous and so rich in far back colonial times, the Mercury shouted, Seize those forts, and then "the commerce of the North in the Gulf will fall an easy prey to our bold privateers; and California gold will pay all such little expenses on our part." There was a wild cry for somebody, in the interest of the conspirators, to capture the California treasureships; and the Louisianians were invoked to seize the mint at New Orleans, and to put into the coffers of their State its precious metals. This piracy— this plunder-this violation of every principle of honor-were counseled by the South Carolina conspirators before the politicians in any other State had even held a convention to determine on secession! It was the spirit of an outlaw, whose life is forfeit to offended justice, armed to the teeth, and with the frenzy of desperation, defying all power, denying all right, and, desiring to drag every one down to his own base level.
Cut off by the insurgents from communication with his Government, Major Anderson could not know whether his appeals for re-enforcements and supplies had been heard or heeded. Anxiously all eyes in Sumter were hourly turned ocean-ward, with a desire to see some vessel bearing the National flag that might promise relief. With that apparition they were greeted on the morning of the 9th of January," when the Star of the West was seen coming over the bar, and making her way toward the fort. She had arrived at the bar at half-past one o'clock, and finding all the lights put out, extinguished her own, and lay there until morning. At dawn she was discovered by the scouting steamer, General Clinch, which at once burned colored lights as signals, passed the bar into the ship-channel, and ran for the inner harbor. The Star of the West followed her, after putting all the soldiers below, and giving her the appearance of a mere merchant vessel, with only crew enough to manage her. The deception was fruitless. Her name, her character, and the object of her voyage, had already been made known to the authorities of South Carolina, by a telegraphic dispatch to the Charleston Mercury,' and by Thompson, one of the conspirators in Buchanan's Cabinet, who was afterward an accomplice in deeds exceeding in depravity of conception the darkest in the annals of crime. Some spy had revealed the secret to this man, and he, while yet in the pay of the Government, betrayed it to its enemies. "As I was writing my resignation," he said, "I sent a dispatch to Judge Longstreet that the Star of the West was coming with re-enforcements." He also gave a messenger another dispatch to be sent, in which he said, as if by authority, "Blow the Star of the West out of the water." The messenger patriotically withheld the dispatch.
1 On the 24th of January, 1861, the following card appeared in the New York Tribune :—
"I have to state that I am no spy, as charged in your paper of this morning. I utterly detest the name, and am incapable of acting the part of one.
"I have been for some time employed as a special telegraph news reporter for a few Southern newspapers, including one in Charleston. My business has been to send them, when occasion required it, important commer cial intelligence and general news items of interest. Hence, in the discharge of my duty as a telegraph reporter, I did send an account of the sailing of the Star of the West. If that was treason, all I have to say in conclusion is, make the most of it. ALEXANDER JONES,
HERALD OFFICE, NEW YORK, January 23, 1861."
• Speech at Oxford, Mississippi.