to the country towns, and for a whole week the Union flag practically disappeared from Maryland
While these events were taking place to the north, equally threatening incidents were occurring to the south of Washington
The State of Virginia
had been for many weeks balancing uneasily between loyalty and secession.
In the new revolutionary stress her weak remnant of conditional Unionism gave way; and on April 17, two days after the President
's call, her State convention secretly passed a secession ordinance, while Governor Letcher
ordered a military seizure of the United States navy-yard at Norfolk
and the United States armory at Harper's Ferry
Under orders from Washington
, both establishments were burned to prevent their falling into insurrectionary hands; but the destruction in each case was only partial, and much valuable war material thus passed to rebel uses.
All these hostile occurrences put the national capital in the greatest danger.
For three days it was entirely cut off from communication with the North
by either telegraph or mail.
Under the orders of General Scott
, the city was hastily prepared for a possible siege.
The flour at the mills, and other stores of provisions were taken possession of. The Capitol
and other public buildings were barricaded, and detachments of troops stationed in them.
Business was suspended by a common impulse; streets were almost deserted except by squads of military patrol; shutters of stores, and even many residences, remained unopened throughout the day. The signs were none too reassuring.
In addition to the public rumors whispered about by serious faces on the streets, General Scott
reported in writing to President Lincoln
on the evening of April 22:
Of rumors, the following are probable, viz.: First,