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Mr. Seward refuses to meet the Rebel Commissioners—Lincoln's Forbearance-Fort Sumter-Call for 75,000 Troops-Troubles in Maryland— Administrative Prudence-Judge Douglas-Increase of the ArmyWinthrop and Ellsworth -Bull Run-General M'Clellan.
T was on the 12th of March, 1861, that the rebel
or Confederate States sent Commissioners to the United States to adjust matters in reference to secession. Mr. Seward refused to receive them, on the ground that they had not withdrawn from the Union, and were unable to do so unless it were by the authority of a National Convention acting according to the Constitution of the United States. On the 9th of April the Commissioners left, declaring in a letter that "they accepted the gage of battle." As yet there was no decided policy in the North, and prominent Democrats like Douglas were not in favour of compelling the seceding States to remain. Mr. Everett was preaching love, forgiveness, and union, while the Confederate Government was seizing on "all the arsenals, forts, custom-houses, post-offices, ships, ordnance, and material of war belonging to the United States, within the seceding States." In fact, the South knew exactly what it meant to do,
His Wise Forbearance.
and was doing it vigorously, while the North was entirely undecided. In the spring of 1861, Congress had adjourned without making any preparation for the tremendous and imminent crisis.
But the entire South had not as yet seceded. The Border States were not in favour of war. In the words of Arnold, "to arouse sectional feeling and prejudice, and secure co-operation and unanimity, it was deemed necessary to precipitate measures and bring on a conflict of arms." It was generally felt that the first blood shed would bring all the Slave States into union. The anti-war party was SO powerful in the North, that it now appears almost certain that, if President Lincoln had proceeded at once to put down the rebellion with a strong hand, there would have been a counter-rebellion in the North. For not doing this he was bitterly blamed, but time has justified him. By his forbearance, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were undoubtedly kept in the Federal Union. His wisdom was also shown in two other respects, as soon as it was possible to do so. There had existed for years in New York an immense slave-trading business, headed by a Spaniard named Suarez. Vessels were bought almost openly, and Government officials were bribed to let these pirates loose. This infamous traffic was very soon brought to an States were concerned.
end, so far as the United
Another task, which was
rapidly and well performed, was the "sifting out" of rebels, or rebel sympathisers, from Government offices, where they abounded and acted as spies. Even General Scott, an old man full of honour, who was at the head of the army, though true to the Union, was Southern by sympathy and opposed to coercion, and most of the officers of the army were like him in this respect.
The refusal of Mr. Seward to treat with the rebel government was promptly made the occasion for the act of violence which was to unite the Confederacy. There was, near Charleston, South Carolina, a fort called Sumter, held for the United States by Major Robert Anderson, a brave and loyal man. On the 11th of April, 1861, he was summoned to surrender the fort to the Confederate Government, which he refused to do. As he was, however, without provisions, it was eventually agreed, on the 12th April, that he should leave the fort by noon on the 15th. But the rebels, in their impatience, could not wait, and they informed him that, unless he surrendered within one hour, the fort would be bombarded. This was done, and, after a bombardment of thirtythree hours, bravely borne, the Major and his band of seventy men were obliged to surrender.
It is true that this first firing on the American flag acted like the tap of the drum, calling all the South to arms in a frenzy, and sweeping away all the
The Fall of Sumter.
remnants of attachment to the old Union lingering in it. The utmost hopes of the rebel leaders were for the time fully realised. But the North was, to their amazement, not paralysed or struck down, nor did the Democratic sympathisers with the South arise and crush "Lincoln and his minions." On the contrary, the news of the fall of Sumter was "a live coal on the heart of the American people;" and such a tempest of rage swept in a day over millions, as had never before been witnessed in America. Those who can recall the day on which the news of the insult to the flag was received, and how it was received, have the memory of the greatest conceivable outburst of patriotic passion. For a time, all party feelings were forgotten; there was no more thought of forgiveness, or suffering secession; the whole people rose up and cried out for war.
Hitherto, the press had railed at Lincoln for wanting a policy; and yet if he had made one step towards suppressing the rebels, "a thousand Northern newspapers would have pounced upon him as one provoking war." Now, however, his policy was formed, shaped, and made glowing hot by one terrible blow. On April 15th, 1861, he issued a proclamation, announcing that, as the laws of the United States were being opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, by com
binations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, he, the President of the United States, called forth the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. In strong contrast to the threats of general slaughter, and conflagration of Northern cities, so freely thrown out by Jefferson Davis, President Lincoln declared that, while the duty of these troops would be to repossess the forts and property taken from the Union, "in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens, in any part of the country." He also summoned an extraordinary session of Congress to assemble on the 4th of July, 1861.
This proclamation awoke intense enthusiasm, "and from private persons, as well as by the Legislature, men, arms, and money were offered in unstinted profusion in support of the Government. Massachusetts was first in the field; and on the first day after the issue of the proclamation, the 6th Regiment started from Boston for the national capital. Two more regiments departed within forty-eight hours. The 6th Regiment, on its way to Washington, on the 19th April, was attacked by a mob in Baltimore,