Chapter 15: siege of Fort Pickens.--Declaration of War.--the Virginia conspirators and, the proposed capture of Washington City.
- The Florida forts, 361.
-- Affairs at Key West, 362.
-- the secessionists watched
-- forts Jefferson and Taylor re-enforced, 363.
-- siege of Fort Pickens
-- hesitation of the Government, 364.
-- orders to re-enforce Fort Pickens, 365.
-- Lieutenant Worden sent to Pensacola, 366.
-- a loyal spy, 367.
-- Fort Pickens re-enforced, 368.
-- imprisonment of Worden
-- Colonel Brown relieves Lieutenant Slemmer, 369.
-- honors to the defenders of Fort Pickens, 370.
-- Jefferson Davis authorizes piracy, 371.
-- the President's proclamation concerning pirates
-- action of the “Confederate” Congress, 372.
-- the “Confederate” Navy, 373.
-- treachery of professed Unionists, 374.
-- Convention of Virginia secessionists, 375.
-- Virginia Commissioners in Washington, 376.
-- how the Virginia Ordinance of Secession was passed, 377.
-- the Richmond secessionists jubilant, 378.
-- Alexander H. Stephens in Richmond
-- the seizure of Washington the chief object of the conspirators, 379.
-- the offenders wish to “be let alone,” 381.
We have observed that on the fall of Fort Sumter
the conspirators were very anxious to seize Fort Pickens
before it should be re-enforced.
We left Lieutenant Slemmer
and a small garrison there, besieged by insurgents, who were continually increasing in number.1
We have also observed that the Governor
had made secret preparations to seize Forts Jefferson
before the politicians of his State had passed an Ordinance of Secession.
is at the Garden Key
, one of the Tortugas Islands
, off the southern extremity of the Florida peninsula
, and Fort Taylor
is at Key West
, not far distant from the other.
The walls of Fort Jefferson
were finished, as to hight, and the lower tier of ports was completed, in the.
autumn of 1860; but the upper embrasures were entirely open; temporary sally-ports, for the convenience of laborers, remained unstopped, and the works were exposed to easy capture at any time.
was nearer completion.
Its casemate-battery was mounted, and Captain
) J. M. Brannan
, with a company of the First Artillery, occupied barracks about half a mile distant.
The seizure of these forts by the secessionists was delayed chiefly because the laborers employed on them were mostly slaves belonging to
the friends of the conspirators, and their owners did not wish to lose the revenue derived from their labor any sooner than would be absolutely necessary.
It was believed that the forts might be seized by the Floridians at any time.
There was an armed band of secessionists at Key West
, headed by the clerk of Fort Taylor
, whose second in command was the editor of a violent secessionist newspaper there.
connected with the forts were known to be secessionists, and these afterward abandoned their flag and joined its enemies; and some of the most respectable of the residents, holding office under the Government
, had declared their intention to oppose Captain Brannan
to the utmost, if he should attempt to take possession of and occupy Fort Taylor
The disaffected were so numerous that Brannan
was compelled to act with the greatest circumspection.
At one time it seemed impossible for him to be of any practical service to his country, so completely was he in the power of the secessionists, civil and military.
At that time the United States
, Captain T. A. Craven
, was cruising for slave-ships in the vicinity of the Florida Keys
and the coast of Cuba
; and at about the time of Mr. Lincoln
's election, Captain
) M. C. Meigs
arrived, to take charge of the works at the Tortugas.
He went by land, and was satisfied from what he heard on the way that an attempt would be made by the secessionists to seize the forts at the Keys, for their possession would be an immense advantage to the conspirators in the event of war.
It was determined to defeat their designs, and to this end Captain Meigs
worked assiduously, with his accustomed energy and prudence in conjunction with Captain Brannan
and the officers of the Navy at that station, whom he supposed he could trust.
Within a week after the arrival of Captain Meigs
, a crisis seemed to be approaching, and
preparations were made to throw Captain Brannan
's company into Fort Taylor
, and strengthen both fortresses against all enemies A little
stratagem was necessary; so the Mohawk
, which had been lingering near Key West
, weighed anchor and departed, professedly on a cruise in search of slave-ships.
This was to lull into slumber the vigilance of the secessionists, who were uneasy and wide awake when the Mohawk
She went to Havana
on the 16th,
where her officers boarded two of the steamers of lines connecting Key West
with both New Orleans and Charleston
, and requested to be reported as “after slavers.” . As soon as they were gone she weighed anchor, and on Sunday morning, the 18th, returned to Key West
, Captain Stanley
, was there, and had taken position so that her battery would command the bridge that connected Fort Taylor
with the island.
While the inhabitants of Key West
were in the churches, Captain Brannan
quietly marched his company by a back path, crossed the bridge, and took possession of the fort.
He had sent munitions and stores by water.
The two forts were immediately put in a state of defense, and they and the port of Key West
were irretrievably lost to the insurgents.
The Administration did not like these performances of loyal commanders, because they were “irritating” to the secessionists; and Captain Craven
received peremptory orders from the Navy Department to go on a cruise.
He lingered around the Keys, believing that his services would be needed near those important forts that guarded the northern entrance to the Gulf of Mexico
He was not mistaken.
The presence of his vessel admonished the secessionists to be cautious.
At length, on the 18th of January, the day on which the insurgents at Pensacola
demanded, a second time, the surrender of Fort Pickens
the steamer Galveston
, from New Orleans, bearing a military force for the purpose of capturing the forts near Key West
, appeared in sight.
At the same time the United States
transport Joseph Whitney
was there; and a company of artillery, under Major Arnold
, was disembarking from her at Fort Jefferson
, then in command of Captain Meigs
This apparition caused the Galveston
to put about and disappear.
were now in a condition to resist the attacks of ten thousand men. Various plans of the secessionists to capture these forts were partially executed, but no serious attack was ever attempted afterward.5
Let us now consider the siege of Fort Pickens
From the 18th of January, on which day Colonel Chase
, the commander of the insurgents near Pensacola
, demanded the surrender of Fort Pickens
, and was refused,6 Lieutenant Slemmer
and his little garrison, like Anderson
and his men in Fort Sumter
, worked faithfully, in the midst of hourly perils, to strengthen the fort.
Like the dwellers in Fort Sumter
, they were compelled to be non-resistant while seeing formidable preparations for their destruction.
The country, meanwhile, was in a state of feverish anxiety, and loyal men at the seat of Government, like Judge Holt
, the Secretary of War
, and General Scott
, strongly urged the propriety of re-enforcing and supplying that fort.
The President was averse to any “initiatory” movement
on the part of the Government
; but when, at the middle of January, it was announced that the insurgents had actually seized the Navy Yard
, and Forts Barrancas
, and were menacing Fort Pickens
, he consented to have re-enforcements sent.
These, consisting of only a single company of artillery, under Captain Vogdes
, ninety in number, were taken from Fortress Monroe
, whose garrison was already too weak to be safe against an attack by Virginians
, while at the same time General
held three hundred troops in readiness for the purpose, at Fort Hamilton
, in New York harbor, where they were not needed.7
On the 24th of January, the National
left Fortress Monroe
for Fort Pickens
, with Captain Vogdes
and ten artillerymen, and provisions and military stores.
It was also determined to employ three or four small steamers, then in the Coast-Survey service, for the same purpose, under the command of Captain J. H. Ward
of the Navy,8
who was an early martyr in the cause of his country.
These movements were suspended in consequence of a telegraphic dispatch sent from Pensacola
on the 28th,
by Senator Mallory
, to Senators Slidell
, and Bigler
, in which was expressed an earnest desire for peace, and an assurance that no attack would be made on Fort Pickens
if the then present status
should be preserved.9
This proposal was carefully considered, both with a view to the safety of the fort, and the effect which a collision might have upon the Peace Convention about to assemble in Washington
The result was that a joint telegraphic dispatch, prepared by the Secretaries of War
and the Navy, was sent, the next day, to Lieutenant Slemmer
and the naval commmanders off Pensacola
, in which instructions were given for the Brooklyn
not to land any troops at Fort Pickens
unless it should be attacked, but to give the garrison any needed stores.
The commanders of the Brooklyn
and other vessels were charged to be vigilant, and to act promptly in the event of an attack.
It was stipulated, in the sort of armistice then agreed upon, that the commander of each arm of the service should have the right of free intercourse with the Government
while the arrangement should last.
This proposition proved to be only a trick on the part of Mallory
and his associates to gain time for the collection of a larger force near Fort Pickens
, while that
work should remain comparatively empty and absolutely weak, and so be made an easy prey through treachery or assault.
Thus for more than two months re-enforcements were kept out of Fort Pickens
while the rebellion was gaining head, although the armistice really ended with the closing of the Peace Convention, and its failure to effect a reconciliation.
When the new Administration came into power, on the 4th of March, a new line of policy was adopted, more consistent with the National
dignity, but not less cautious.
Informed that the insurgents were greatly augmented in numbers near Pensacola
, and were mounting guns in Fort McRee
, and constructing new batteries near, all to bear heavily on Fort Pickens
, General Scott
again advised the Government
to send re-enforcements and supplies to the garrison of that post.
The Government acted upon his advice, and by its directions on the same day
dispatched a note to Captain Vogdes
of the Brooklyn
, saying:--“At the first favorable moment you will land with your company, re-enforce Fort Pickens
, and hold the same till further orders.”
It was unsafe to send such orders by mail or telegraph, for the insurgents controlled Both in the Gulf
States, and this was sent from New York, in duplicate, by two naval vessels.
From that time unusual activity was observed in the Navy Yard
; also on Governor's Island
and at Fort Hamilton
, at the entrance to the harbor of New York
There was activity, too, in the arsenals of the North
, for, while the Government
wished for peace, it could scarcely indulge a hope that the wish would be gratified.
With the order for the fitting out of an expedition for the relief of Fort Sumter
was issued a similar order in relation to Fort Pickens
Supplies and munitions for this purpose had been prepared in ample quantity, in a manner to excite the least attention, and between the 6th and 9th of April the chartered steamers Atlantic
and the steam frigate Powhatan
departed from New York for the Gulf of Mexico
with troops and supplies.11
In the mean time the Government
had dispatched Lieutenant John L. Worden
of the Navy (the gallant commander of the first Monitor
, which encountered the Merrimack
in Hampton Roads
), with an order to Captain Adams
, of the Sabine
, then in command of the little squadron off Fort Pickens
to throw re-enforcements into that work at once.
The previous order of General Scott
to Captain Vogdes
had not been executed, for Captain Adams
believed that the armistice was yet in force.
Colonel Braxton Bragg
, the artillery officer in the battle of Buena Vista
, in Mexico
, to whom, it is said, General Taylor
coolly gave the order, in the midst of the fight--“a little more grape, Captain Bragg
” --was now in command of all the insurgent forces at and near Pensacola
, with the commission of brigadiergeneral; and Captain Duncan N. Ingraham
, of the United States Navy (who behaved so well in the harbor of Smyrna
, a few years before, in defending the rights of American citizens, in the case of the Hungarian
, Martin Kostza
), had charge of the Navy Yard
On the day of Lieutenant Worden
's arrival there, Captain Adams
had dined with these faithless men, and had returned to his ship.
had acted with great energy and discretion.
At eleven o'clock on the night of the 6th of April he received orders from the Secretary of the Navy
to take dispatches with all possible speed to Captain Adams
He left Washington City
early the next morning, arrived at Montgomery
late at night on the 9th, and departed early the following
morning for Pensacola
, by way of Atlanta, in Georgia
He observed great excitement prevailing.
Troops and munitions of war were being pushed forward toward Pensacola
, and he thought it likely that he might be arrested; so, after reading his dispatches carefully, he tore them up. At dawn on the morning of the 11th, while seeking for a boat to convey him to the squadron, a “Confederate” officer interrogated him, and on ascertaining his rank and destination, directed him to report to General Bragg
An officer was sent with him to the General
's Headquarters at the Naval Hospital
(whither they had been conveyed in a small steamer), where he arrived at ten o'clock in the morning.
He told Bragg
that he had come from Washington
, under orders from the Navy Department to communicate with the commander of the squadron off that harbor.
immediately wrote a “pass,” and as he handed it to Worden
, he remarked, “I suppose you have dispatches for Captain Adams
replied, “I have no written ones, but I have a verbal communication to make to him from the Navy Department.”
then left Bragg
and made his way to the Wyandotte
, the flag-of-truce vessel lying inside the lower harbor.
The wind was high, and the Wyandotte
did not go outside until the next morning.
At noon Worden
's message was delivered to Captain Adams
, and Fort Pickens
was re-enforced that night.14
's arrival was timely.
It frustrated a well-matured
plan of General Bragg
's for seizing the fort, which was to have been executed on the night of the 11th, but which, on account of the rough weather, was deferred until the following night, and was not unknown to Lieutenant Slemmer
That officer had been kept acquainted with affairs in the insurgent camp at Warrington
by Richard Wilcox
, a loyal watchman at the Navy Yard
, who addressed him over the signature of “A friend to the Union
During the siege, Slemmer
had been allowed to send a flag of truce to the yard every day. The bearer was carefully conducted from his boat to the yard and back.
was generally on hand to perform that duty, and used these opportunities to communicate with Slemmer
On the 10th of April he discovered that one of Slemmer
's sergeants was holding treasonable correspondence with two secessionists on shore (Sweetman and Williams
), who were employed by General Bragg
The sergeant had arranged to assist in betraying the fort into the hands of the insurgents, for which service he was to receive a large sum of money and a commission in the “Confederate” Army.
He had seduced a few companions into a
promised participation in his scheme.
The act was to be performed, as we have observed, on the night of the 11th of April, when a thousand insurgents were to engage in the matter.
They were to cross over in a steamboat (the same that conveyed Lieutenant Worden
) and escalade the fort at an hour when the sergeant and his confederates would be on guard.
of the fact, and his testimony was confirmed by a Pensacola newspaper15
that found its way into the fort.
In that paper was a letter from a correspondent at Warrington
, in which the intended attack on Fort Pickens
prepared to frustrate the designs of the insurgents, but friends instead of enemies visited him the following night.16
The re-enforcement of Fort Pickens
was performed as follows:--Early
in the evening the marines of the Scbine
and St. Louis
, under Lieutenant Cash
, were sent on board the Brooklyn
, Captain Walker
, when she weighed anchor and ran in as near to Fort Pickens
Launches were lowered, and marines, with Captain Vogdes
's artillerymen, immediately embarked, The landing was effected not far from the flag-staff bastion, at about midnight, under the direction of Lieutenant Albert N. Smith
, of Massachusetts
They had passed into the harbor, and under the guns of Forts McRee
The whole expedition was in charge of Commander Charles H. Poor
, assisted by Lieutenants Smith
, of the Brooklyn
, of the Sabine
, and Belknap
, of the St. Louis
. The insurgents, in endeavoring to conceal their own movements, had assisted in obscuring those of the squadron, by extinguishing the lamp of the light-house.
In the thick darkness, the expedition struck the designated landing-place with great accuracy.17
When the important work was accomplished, heavy guns were fired on the vessels, the fort was lighted up, and the insurgents, who were on the point of making an attack on Fort Pickens
, observing the (ominous appearance of affairs there prudently remained on shore.18
, in the mean time, had returned to Pensacola
, and departed for home.
He left the Sabine
about three o'clock in the afternoon,
landed at Pensacola
, and at nine in the evening left there in a railway car for Montgomery
, hoping to report at Washington
on Monday night. He was disappointed.
had committed a great blunder, and knew it early on the morning
The Union Generals.
1. Robert C. Schenck, M. G.
2. John W. Geary, B. G.
3. August Willich B. G.
4. Absalom Baird, B. G.
5. A. J. S. Emmer, B. G.
6. James B. Ricketts, B. G.
7. Abner Doubleday, M. G.
8. William B. Hazen B. G.
9. Charles Griffin, B. G.
10. William F. Barry, B. G.
11. P. J. Osterhaus, B. G.
12. Robt H. Milroy, M. G.
Source. Publisher 628 & 630 Chestnut St.|
of the 13th, when a spy informed him of the re-enforcement of Fort Pickens
That movement exasperated him, and he was deeply mortified by a sense of his own utter stupidity in allowing Lieutenant Worden
to visit the squadron.
To shield himself from the charge of such stupidity by his associates and superiors, he laid aside all honor as a man and a soldier, and accused the lieutenant with having practiced falsehood and deception in gaining permission to visit the Sabine
. He telegraphed this charge to the conspirators at Montgomery
, with a recommendation for his arrest.
Five officers were detailed for the service, one of whom had served with Worden
in the Navy.
They arrested him a short distance below Montgomery
, and, on their arrival at that city, placed him in the custody of Cooper
, the “Adjutant-General
of the Confederacy
took from him unimportant dispatches for his Government, and on Monday, the 15th, Worden
was cast into the common jail.
's false charge made him an object of scorn to Davis
and his fellow-conspirators, and the citizens generally; and there, in that common jail, this gallant officer, whose conduct had been governed by the nicest sense of honor, suffered indignity until the 11th of November following, when he was paroled and ordered to report at Richmond
, where Davis
and his associates were then holding court.
sent him to Norfolk
, whence he was forwarded to the flag-ship of Admiral Goldsborough
, in Hampton Roads
when Lieutenant Sharpe
, of the insurgent navy, was exchanged for him.19 Worden
was the first prisoner of war held by the insurgents.20
A few days after the re-enforcement of Fort Pickens
, the Atlantic
arrived with several hundred troops, under the command of Colonel Harvey Brown
, with an ample quantity of supplies and munitions of war. These Were taken into Fort Pickens
, and within ten days after the arrival of Worden
, there were about nine hundred troops in that fort.
assumed the command, and Lieutenant Slemmer
and his little band of brave men, worn down with fatigue, want of sleep, and insufficient food, were sent to Fort Hamilton
, at the entrance to New York harbor, to rest.
They shared the plaudits of a grateful people with those equally gallant defenders of Fort Sumter
. Lieutenant Slemmer
was commissioned major of the Sixteenth Regiment of Infantry; and because of brave conduct subsequently
, he was raised to the rank of brigadier-general.
The Chamber of Commerce of New York included in their resolution to honor the defenders of Fort Sumter
with a series of bronze medals,21
those of Fort Pickens
, and these were presented to Slemmer
, his officers and men, at the same time.
The medals were executed by the same sculptor (Charles Miller
), and of the same sizes.
The engraving represents the one presented to Lieutenant Slemmer
, on a smaller scale than the original.22
By the 1st of May there was a formidable force of insurgents menacing Fort Pickens
, who were lying on the arc of a circle, from the water-battery beyond Fort McRee
on the right, to the Navy Yard
on the left.
They numbered nearly seven thousand, and were arranged in three divisions.
The first, on the right, was composed of Mississippians, under Colonel J. R. Chalmers
; the second was composed of Alabamians and a Georgia regiment,
under Colonel Clayton
; and the third was made up of Louisianians, Georgians, and a Florida regiment, the whole commanded by Colonel Gladdin
Beside these there were about five hundred troops at Pensacola
, all Louisianians, under Colonel Bradford
. General Bragg
“These compose the very best class of our Southern people,” wrote Judge Walker
, the editor of the New Orleans Delta
, on the 27th of April; “ardent, earnest, and resolute young men. They can never be conquered or even defeated.
They may be destroyed, but not annihilated.
When the Lincolnites subdue the country or the people which they have undertaken to subjugate, as long as we have such men to fight our battles, the spoils of their victory will be a blasted and desolated country, and an extinct people.”
Re-enforcements continued to be sent to Fort Pickens
from the North
, and a considerable squadron lay outside in the Gulf
In June, Santa Rosa Island
, on which Fort Pickens
stands, was made lively by the encampment there of the Sixth New York Regiment of Volunteers, known as Wilson
They left New York on the 13th of June, on which day they were presented with a beautiful silk banner by the Ladies
' Soldiers' Relief Association.
The insurgents were also re-enforced; but nothing of great importance occurred in the vicinity of Fort Pickens
during the ensuing summer.
The attack on Fort Sumter
, the re-enforcement of Fort Pickens
, and the President
's call for troops, aroused the entire nation to preparations for war. Although Davis
and his associates at Montgomery
had received the President
's Proclamation with “derisive laughter,” they did not long enjoy the sense of absolute security which that folly manifested.
They were sagacious enough to estimate their heavy misfortune in the loss of the control of the Florida
forts, and to interpret correctly the great uprising of the people in the Free-labor States, intelligence of which came flashing significantly every moment over the telegraph, with all the appalling aspect of the lightning before a summer storm.
Two days after the President
's Proclamation was promulgated, Davis
issued, from Montgomery
an intended countervailing one.23
In the preamble he declared that the President
had “announced the intention of invading the Confederacy
with an armed force for the purpose of capturing its fortresses, and thereby subverting its independence, and subjecting the free people thereof to the dominion of a foreign power.”
He said it had become the duty of the “government” to “repel the threatened invasion, and defend the rights and liberties of the people by all
the means which the laws of nations and usages of civilized warfare placed at its disposal.”
He therefore invited all persons who desired to engage in the business of legalized piracy known as privateering
, by depredating upon the commerce of the United States
, to apply to him for authority to do so, when it would be given, under certain restrictions which were set forth in the proclamation.
He also enjoined all persons holding offices, civil or military, under his authority, to be vigilant and zealous in their duties; and exhorted the people of the “Confederate States
,” as they loved their country, as they prized the blessings of free government, as they felt the wrongs of the past, and others then threatened in an aggravated form, by those whose enmity was “more implacable, because unprovoked, to exert themselves in preserving order, in promoting concord, in maintaining the authority and efficacy of the laws, and in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may have been adopted for a common defense, and by which, under the blessing of Divine Providence,” they might “hope for a speedy, just, and honorable peace.”
The President at once met the proclamation of Davis
, by declaring that he should immediately employ a competent force to blockade all the ports of States claimed as belonging to the Southern Confederacy; and also, that if any person, under the pretended authority of such States, or under any other pretense, should molest a vessel of the United States
, or the persons or cargo on board of her, such persons should be held amenable to the laws of the United States
for the prevention and punishment of piracy.24
had already summoned
the so-called Congress of the Confederate States to meet at Montgomery
on the 29th of April.
That body, on the 6th of May, passed an Act with fifteen sections, “recognizing the existence of war between the United States
and the Confederate States
; and concerning letters of marque, prizes, and prize goods.”
The preamble declared that the “Confederate States
” had made earnest efforts to establish friendly relations between themselves and the United States
; but that the Government
of the latter had not only refused to hold any intercourse with the former, as a government in fact, but had prepared to make war upon them, and had avowed an intention of blockading their ports.
Such being the case, they declared that war existed between the “two governments,” and in accordance with a cherished design of Davis
, which he hinted at in his “inaugural address” at Montgomery
and had openly announced in his proclamation on the 17th, they authorized the “President
of the Confederate States
” to use their whole land and naval force “to meet the war thus commenced, and to issue to private armed vessels commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, under the seal of the Confederate States
, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the Government
of the United States
, and of the citizens or inhabitants of the States and Territories thereof.”
section of the Act offered a bounty of twenty dollars for each person who might be on board any armed ship or vessel belonging to the United States
, at the commencement of an engagement, which should be burned, sunk, or destroyed by any vessel commissioned as a privateer, of equal or inferior force — in other words, a reward for the murder, by fire, water, or otherwise, of men, women, and children found on board of a public vessel of the United States
Happily for the credit of humanity, this Act has no parallel on the statute-books of civilized nations.
They also offered a bounty of twenty-five dollars for every prisoner captured by a privateer and delivered to an agent of the “Confederation” in any of its ports.
did not wait for the legal sanction of his so-called “Congress,” but issued letters of marque immediately after putting forth his proclamation on the 17th of April.28
The country controlled by the conspirators lacked the mechanical skill and many materials for the construction of a navy; therefore, while the offer of Davis
to issue letters of marque created uneasiness among shipping merchants, they did not feel serious alarm, especially when it was known that the Government
would institute a rigid blockade.
But it was not long before privateers were on the seas.
The Confederates had not the means for building vessels, but they had for purchasing them.
They had already stolen six National revenue cutters,29
which they fitted up as privateers; and
in the course of a few weeks after the “recognition of a state of war,” Mr. Mallory
, the so-called “Secretary of the Navy
” of the conspirators, had purchased and fitted out about a dozen vessels.
The owners of as many more private vessels took out letters of marque immediately after Davis
's proclamation was made; and before the middle of June, the commerce of the United States
was threatened with serious mischief.
The first of the purchased vessels commissioned by Mallory
was a small
steamer which Governor Pickens
had bought in Richmond
, for use in the defense of Charleston harbor
She was commissioned in March; and named Lady Davis
, in honor of the wife of Jefferson Davis
She was armed with two 24-pounders, and. placed under the command of Lieutenant T. B. Huger
, formerly of the United States Navy.
This was the beginning of the “Confederate States
Navy,” which never assumed formidable proportions excepting when ships, foreign built, armed, and manned, were permitted to enter the service.
The number, character, and performances of the privateers commissioned by Davis
during the spring and early summer of 1861, will be considered hereafter.
With the hostile proclamations of the President
and the Chief
of the conspirators, the great conflict fairly began.
There was no longer any tenable neutral ground for men to stand upon, and they at once, as we have observed in the case of prominent members of the Opposition in the Free-labor States, took positive positions.
Two of the late candidates for the Presidency (Breckinridge
) openly avowed their sympathy with the secessionists.
, who afterward became a military leader in the rebellion, was cautious and treacherous.
For a time he assumed the virtue of loyalty to the Constitution
and the Union
, and took his seat in the Senate of the United States, at the called session of Congress, in July.
But his disguise was too thin to deceive anybody.
So early as the 17th of April, he wrote to a friend at Louisville
should call a convention without delay, and Lincoln
's extra session of Congress [in which he took a seat as a professedly loyal man] should be confronted by fifteen States.
This alone can prevent a general civil war.”
On the 20th, in a speech at Louisville
, he echoed the voice of the Journal
of that city in its denunciation of the President
's call for troops.31
He advised Kentuckians to remain neutral, but in the event of their being driven from that position, he declared it to be their duty to espouse the cause of the conspirators for the conservation of Slavery.
, bolder or more honest, openly linked his fortunes with those of the “Confederacy,” in a speech at Nashville
, on the 23d of April, in which he declared that Tennessee
was virtually “out of the Union
,” and urged the people of his State to prepare for vigorous war upon the Government
The Governor (Harris
) was at the same time working with all his might in the manipulation of machinery to array Tennessee
, as a State, against the National Government
In this he was aided by an address to the people by professed friends of the Union
, who counseled them to “decline joining either party; for in so doing they would at once terminate her [Tennessee
's] grand mission of peacemaker between the
States of the South
and the General Government
Nay, more,” they said; “the almost inevitable result would be the transfer of the war within her own borders, the defeat of all hopes of reconciliation, and the deluging of the State
with the blood of her own people.”
The Governor of Kentucky
was less courageous and more cautious than his neighbor of Tennessee
, but not less a practical enemy of the Union
To confirm him in disloyalty, and to commit the great State of Kentucky
to the cause of the conspirators, Walker
, their so-called “Secretary of War
,” wrote to Governor Magoffin
, from Montgomery
, on the 22d of April, complimenting him for his “patriotic response to the requisition of the President
of the United States
for troops to coerce the Confederate States
and saying that it justified the belief that his people were prepared to unite with the conspirators “in repelling the common enemy of the South
needs our aid,” he continued.
“I therefore request you to furnish one regiment of infantry without delay, to rendezvous at Harper's Ferry, Virginia
It must consist of ten companies, of not less than sixty-four men each. . . . They will be mustered into the service of the Confederate States
at Harper's Ferry
The object of this call to Harper's Ferry
will be apparent presently.
, at this time, was in a state of great agitation.
Its Convention had passed through a stormy session, extending from the middle of February to the middle of April.
It was held in the city of Richmond
, and was organized
by the appointment of John Janney
, of Loudon
, as its President
, and John L. Eubank
In his address on taking the chair, the President
favored conditional Union, saying, in a tone common to many of the public men of Virginia
, that his State would insist on its own construction of its rights as a condition of its remaining in the Union
It was evident, from the beginning, that a better National sentiment than the President
of the Convention
evinced was largely dominant in that body, and the conspirators within it were for a long time foiled in their attempts to array Virginia
on the side of the “Southern Confederacy.”
Even so late as the 4th of April, the Convention
refused, by a vote of eighty-nine against forty-five, to pass an ordinance of secession;35
and they resolved to send Commissioners to Washington City
to ask the President
to communicate to that body the policy which he intended to pursue in regard to the “Confederate States
Yet the conspirators worked on, conscious of increasing strength, for one weak Unionist after another was converted by their sophistry or their threats.
, as we have seen, went to Charleston
to urge an attack upon Fort
, believing that bloodshedding would inflame the passions of Southern men, and that, during the paroxysm of excitement that would ensue, Virginia
might be arrayed against the National Government
Suddenly, bribery or threats, or change of ownership, made the Richmond Whig
, the only newspaper in the Virginia
capital that opposed secession, become ominously silent, while the organs of the conspirators were loudly boastful of a majority in the Convention
favorable to secession.
The hearts of the genuine Unionists
of the old State were saddened by gloomy forebodings, for they knew that their friends in that Convention were continually browbeaten by the truculent secessionists, and that the people were hourly deceived by the most astounding falsehoods put forth by the conspirators.
The Commissioners sent to Washington
obtained a formal audience with the President
on the 13th,
almost at the very time when, in their State capital, the bells were ringing, “Confederate” flags were flying, and one hundred guns were thundering, in attestation of the joy of the secessionists because of the attack on Fort Sumter
A telegraphic correspondent at Charleston
had said the day before:--“That ball fired at Sumter
by Edmund Ruffin
will do more for the cause of secession in Virginia
than volumes of stump speeches.”
The assertion was correct.
While the Convention
was debating the question of the surrender of Fort Sumter
, Governor Letcher
sent in a communication from Governor Pickens
, announcing the attack on that fortress, and saying:--“We will take the fort, and can sink the ships if they attempt to pass the channel.
If they land elsewhere, we can whip them.
We have now seven thousand of the best troops in the world, and a reserve of ten thousand on the routes to the harbor.
The war has commenced, and we will triumph or perish.
Please let me know what your State intends to do?”
replied:--“The Convention will determine.”
It was this dispatch — this notice of “that ball fired on Sumter
” by Ruffin
— that set the bells ringing, the flags.
flying, the cannons thundering, and the people shouting in Richmond
; and a few days afterward the Convention
revealed its determination to the world.
The President replied to the Virginia Commissioners
that it was his intention to pursue the policy clearly marked out in his Inaugural Address.
He had discovered no reasons for changing his views.
He recommended them to give that document a careful perusal, especially that portion in which he declared it to be his intention “to hold, occupy, and possess property and places belonging to the Government
, and to collect the duties on imports; but beyond what is necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere.”
He informed them that if an attack had been made upon Fort Sumter
, as it was at that moment rumored, he should feel himself at liberty to repossess it, if he could; for he considered it and other military posts seized by the insurgents as much the property of the United States
“In any event,” he said, “I shall, to the best of my ability, repel force by force.”
He also told them that he might feel it his duty to cause the United States
mails to be withdrawn from all the States which
claimed to have seceded, “believing that this commencement of actual war against the Government
justifies, and, possibly, demands it.”
With this explicit declaration of the President
that he should defend the life of the Republic
to the best of his ability, the Virginia Commissioners
returned to their constituents.
Their report added fuel to the flames of passion then raging in the Virginia
Its reading produced a scene of wild excitement in the Convention
It was heard therein at almost the same hour when the President
's call for troops to crush the rising rebellion was read.
Doubt, anger, joy and sorrow, and sentiments of treachery and fidelity swayed that body with varied emotions, until reason and judgment fled affrighted from the hall, and untempered feeling bore rule.
The boldest and best of the Union
men bent like reeds before the storm.
In the excitement of the moment, men like Scott
, warmed by the glow of innate State pride, exclaimed: “If the President
means subjugation of the South
has but one course to pursue, and that is, resistance to tyranny.”
The only question entertained was: Shall Virginia
secede at once, or await the co-operation of the other Border Slave-labor States?
In the midst of the excitement pending that question, the Convention
adjourned until morning.
On the following day
assembled in secret session.
Its aspect had changed.
For three days, threats and persuasions, appeals to interest, State pride and sectional patriotism, and the shafts of ridicule and scornful denunciation were brought to bear upon the faithful Union men, who were chiefly from the mountain districts of the State
, or Western Virginia
; and yet, at the adjournment, on the evening of the 15th, there was a clear majority of the one hundred and fifty-three members of the Convention
The conspirators became desperate.
was in the hands of a mob ready to do their bidding, and they resolved to act with a high hand.
It was calculated that if ten Union members of the Convention
should be absent, there would be a majority for secession.
Accordingly, the leading conspirators waited upon ten of them during the evening, and informed them that they were allowed the choice of doing one of three things, namely: to vote for a secession ordinance, to absent themselves, or be hanged.38
Resistance would be useless, and the seats of the ten members were vacant on the morning of the 16th.
who remained in the Convention
were awed by these violent proceedings, and an Ordinance of Secession was passed on Wednesday, the 17th, by a vote of eighty-eight against fifty-five.
It was similar in form and substance to that of the South Carolina
politicians and those of other States, excepting that it was only to take effect when it should be ratified by “a majority of the votes of the people,” to be “cast at a poll to be taken thereon, on the fourth Tuesday in May next.”
The Virginia conspirators at once sent a private messenger to Montgomery
to apprise Davis
and his associates of their action, and to invite co-operation.
Already Governor Letcher
, who had been assured by the leaders in the Convention
that the Ordinance of Secession would be adopted,
his defiant response to the President
's call for troops;39
and now, under the direction of that Convention, which assumed supreme authority in the State
, he issued a proclamation, ordering “all armed volunteer regiments or companies within the State
forthwith to hold themselves in readiness for immediate orders.”
When, on the following day, the passage of the Ordinance (upon which fact a temporary injunction of secrecy had been laid) was announced, the joy of the secessionists in Richmond
The streets resounded with the acclamations of great crowds.
The sign, in gilt letters,--United States Court
,--over the north entrance to the Custom House
, was taken down and broken in pieces by the populace; and the National
officers suddenly found their occupation gone.
The flag of the “Southern Confederacy,” with an additional star for Virginia
(making eight in all), was unfurled over the Capitol
It was also displayed from the Custom House
and other public buildings, and from hotels and private dwellings.
The Custom House
was taken into the keeping of Virginia
troops; and the packets Yorktown
, belonging to the New York and Virginia Steamship Company, were seized and placed in charge of the same body of armed men.
As the news from Richmond
went over the land, it produced the most profound sensation.
In the cities of Slave-labor States, and especially of the more Southern ones, there were demonstrations of great delight.
the event caused the wildest excitement.
“The news of the secession of the mother of Presidents
and Patriots,” said a telegraphic dispatch to Philadelphia
“was received here with great joy. The old secession gun was fired in front of the Courier
office, by the venerable Edmund Ruffin
The old gentleman was surrounded by many Virginians
, who cheered lustily.”
The Virginians then in Montgomery
, headed by Pryor
, who had gone up from Charleston
fired a hundred guns on their own account; and from the far Southwest
went forth the greeting:--
In the new-born arch of glory,
she burns, the central star;
Never shame shall blight its grandeur,
Never cloud its radiance mar.
Listen, Southrons, to the strain;
Shout the rallying-cry again!41
In the Free-labor States the action of Virginia
was observed with alarm, for it threatened immediate danger to the National Capital
and the archives of the Republic
Only the hope that the people
would refuse to ratify the Ordinance, calmed the fears of the loyalists.
The expectation that they would do so, if an opportunity should be offered them, made the conspirators more active and bold.
They did not wait for the people to speak concerning the matter; but, within twenty-four hours after the passage of the Ordinance, and while the vote was still covered by an injunction of secrecy, they set on foot, doubtless under directions from Montgomery
expeditions for the capture of Harper's Ferry
and of the Navy Yard
, preparatory to an attempt to seize Washington City
A few days afterward, Alexander H. Stephens
arrived in Richmond
, to urge the Convention
to violate its own Ordinance, and to take measures for annexing Virginia
to the “Confederacy” without the consent of the people.
He was clothed with full power to make a treaty to that effect.
Troops were then pushing forward from the Gulf
States toward her borders.
The conspirators, having promised the people of the Cotton-growing States that no harm should come nigh their dwellings, and perceiving war to be inevitable, were hastening to make the Border States
the theater of its operations, and, if possible, secure the great advantage of the possession of the National Capital
At various points on his journey northward, Stephens
had harangued the people, and everywhere he raised the cry of “On to Washington
That cry was already resounding throughout the South
It was an echo or a paraphrase of the prophecy of the “Confederate Secretary of War
“Nothing is more probable,” said the Richmond Enquirer
on the 13th of April, “than that President Davis
will soon march an army through North Carolina
,” and it called upon Virginians
who wished to “join the Southern
army,” to organize at once.
“The first-fruits of Virginia
secession,” said the New Orleans Picayune
South Carolina Light Infantry.|
of the 18th, “will be the removal of Lincoln
and his Cabinet, and whatever he can carry away, to the safer neighborhood of Harrisburg
— perhaps to Buffalo
of the 20th said:--“Major Ben. McCulloch
has organized a force of five thousand men to seize the Federal Capital
the instant the first blood is spilled.”
On the evening of the same day, when news of bloodshed in Baltimore
was received in Montgomery
, bonfires were built in front of the Exchange Hotel
, and from its balcony Roger A. Pryor
said, in a speech to the multitude, that he was “in favor of an immediate march upon Washington
At the departure of the Second Regiment of South Carolina Infantry for Richmond
, at about the same time, the Colonel
), on taking the flag presented to the regiment, said, as he handed it to the Color-Sergeant
):--“To your particular charge is committed this noble gift.
Plant it wherever honor calls.
If opportunity offers, let it be the first to kiss the breezes of heaven from the dome of
The Richmond Examiner
of the 23d (the day on which Stephens
arrived in Richmond
), said:--“The capture of Washington City
is perfectly within the power of Virginia
, if Virginia
will only make the proper effort by her constituted authorities . . . . There never was half the unanimity among the people before, nor a tithe of the zeal upon any subject that is now manifested to take Washington
, and drive from it every Black Republican who is a dweller there.
From the mountain-tops and valleys to the shores of the sea there is one wild shout of fierce resolve to capture Washington City
, at all and every human hazard.”
On the same day Governor Ellis
, of North Carolina
, ordered a regiment of State troops to march for Washington
; and the Goldsborough Tribune
of the 24th said, speaking of the grand movement of Virginia
and a rumored one in Maryland
:--“It makes good the words of Secretary Walker
, in regard to the Federal
It transfers the lines of battle from the Potomac
to the Pennsylvania
The Raleigh Standard
of the same date said:--“Our streets are alive with soldiers” (although North Carolina
was a professedly loyal State of the Union
), and added, “Washington City
will be too hot to hold Abraham Lincoln
and his Government.
has said it, and she will do all she can to make good her declaration.”
said:--“When North Carolina regiments go to Washington
, and they will go, they will stand side by side with their brethren of the South
said, on the 25th:
--“Our policy at this time should be to seize the old Federal Capital, and take old Lincoln
arid his Cabinet prisoners of war.”
The Milledgeville (Georgia) Southern Recorder
of the 30th, inspired by men like Toombs
, and other leaders, said:--“The Government of the Confederate States
must possess the city of Washington
It is folly to think it can be used any longer as the Headquarters of the Lincoln Government
, as no access can be had to it except by passing through Virginia
The District of Columbia cannot remain under the jurisdiction of the United States Congress without humiliating Southern pride and defeating Southern rights.
Both are essential to greatness of character, and both must co-operate in the destiny to be achieved.”
A correspondent of the Charleston Courier
, writing from Montgomery
at about the same time, said:--“The desire for taking Washington
, I believe, increases every hour, and all things, to my thinking, seem tending to this consummation.
We are in lively hope that, before three months roll by, the Government
, Congress, departments and all, will have removed to the present Federal Capital.”
We might cite utterances of this kind from the leading newspapers of the more Southern Slave-labor States, and the declarations of eminent politicians, sufficient to fill a chapter, which show that everywhere it was well understood that the seizure of Washington
, the destruction of the Republic
, and the erection of a confederation composed wholly of Slave-labor States, according to the plan foreshadowed in the banner of the South Carolina
was the cherished design of Jefferson Davis
Yet in the face of this testimony — in the presence of the prophecy of his so-called Secretary of War
, and the action of Stephens
, his lieutenant, while on his way to Richmond
, and while there in assisting the Virginia
conspirators in carrying out their scheme for seizing the Capital
, the arch-traitor, with hypocrisy the most supremely impudent, declared in a speech at the opening of his so-called Congress, on the 29th of April, that his policy was peaceful and defensive, not belligerent and aggressive.
Speaking more to Europe
than to the “Confederacy,” he said:--“We protest solemnly, in the face of mankind, that we desire peace at any sacrifice, save that of honor. . . . In independence we seek no conquest, no aggrandizement, no cession of any kind from the States with which we have lately confederated.
All we ask is to be let alone
--those who never held power over us should not now attempt our subjugation by arms.
This we will, we must resist to the direst extremity.”
On the very next day Stephens
, the so-called Vice-President
, said in a speech at Atlanta, in Georgia
:--“A general opinion prevails that Washington City
is. soon to be attacked.
On this subject I can only say, our object is peace.
We wish no aggressions on any one's rights, and will make none.
But if Maryland
secedes, the District of Columbia will fall to her by reversionary right — the same as Sumter
to South Carolina
, and Pickens
When we have the right, we will demand the surrender of Washington
, just as we did in the other cases, and will enforce our demands at every hazard and at whatever cost.”
The burglar, using the same convenient logic, might, say to the householder about to be plundered by him, after having made the intended victim's near neighbor an accomplice, and with his aid had forced his way into the dwelling: “Your plate, and your money, and your jewelry fall to my accomplice as a reversionary right, and we demand the surrender of your keys.
All we ask is to be let alone