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Chapter 4: the call for troops.

  • Gov. Andrew sees need of military preparation
  • -- legislature appropriates ,000 for an emergency fund -- overcoats for the militia -- military correspondence suppressed -- facts regarding appointment as Brigadier-General -- the start for Washington -- found advisable to go around Baltimore -- a useful pamphlet and George Washington's opinion of it -- preparing to capture the ferry-boat Maryland -- a soldier who was anxious to fight and another who Wasn't -- arrival at Annapolis and the naval Academy -- “Oh, won't you save the Constitution?” -- Militiamen should know how to cook -- arrival of the New York Seventh -- the Colonel's West Point dry nurse -- private Homans and the locomotive -- some remarks on the New York Seventh -- episode of Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes, also of West Point

Filled with apprehension, I returned to Boston about the 28th of December, being delayed one day in a snowstorm. I felt it my duty immediately to call upon Governor Andrew, and state to him that I believed there was to be an attempt, on the 4th of March, to prevent, by armed force, the inauguration of Lincoln, in Washington; and that it seemed to me that Massachusetts should be prepared to meet such a crisis, by having her militia ready to march to the aid of the government.

I explained to him that while we were quite well equipped with arms for service, yet there was not to my knowledge a military overcoat in the possession of any volunteer soldier, except some fancy overcoats owned by two or three of the city companies; that the 4th of March was a very inclement season in Washington, and that it would be utterly impossible for the troops to go without overcoats. Besides, there was not, to my knowledge, a haversack among the equipments of our soldiers in which rations could be carried, and their uniforms were holiday affairs, which might, however, stand the rough usage of a short campaign.

I then called to his mind the fact that our volunteer soldiers were largely young men, and pretty largely young Democrats, and suggested that if they were called upon to march by the order of a Republican governor to fight their party associates, they might hesitate. Said he:--

“How can this be obviated?”

“Let each company,” I replied, “be quietly called to its armory, and the question put to every soldier, ‘Are you ready to march, when called upon to defend the national capital?’ I think the [162] adjutant-general should be instructed to have this proceeding taken at once, but with great secrecy. In my brigade, I will see that the order is fully executed, and I will report to you when the brigade is ready to march. I hope that you will ask the legislature in secret session,--because we don't want to show any alarm,--to provide you with an emergency fund out of which these necessary articles can be procured.”

He was somewhat incredulous, and thought I was unnecessarily moved. I told him it would do no harm to equip our soldiers properly, and also to ascertain their readiness and willingness to march, as it might do great harm not to have them in full readiness, since it was the firm belief of many in the South that a portion of our soldiers would not fight.

I had several interviews with Governor Andrew upon these topics at his suggestion, and on the 16th of January General Order No. 4 was issued in the words following:--

headquarters, Boston, January 16, 1861.
General Order No. 4.
Events which have recently occurred, and are now in progress, require that Massachusetts should be at all times ready to furnish her quota of troops upon any requisition of the President of the United States to aid in the maintenance of the laws and the peace of the Union. His excellency the commander-in-chief therefore orders:

That the commanding officer of each company of volunteer militia examine with care the roll of his company, and cause the name of each member, together with his rank and place of residence, to be properly recorded and a copy of the same to be forwarded to the office of the adjutant-general. Previous to which commanders of companies shall make strict inquiry whether there are men in their commands who, from age, physical defect, business or family causes, may be unable or indisposed to respond at once to the orders of the commander-in-chief made in response to the call of the President of the United States; that they be forthwith discharged, so that their places may-be filled by men ready for any public exigency which may arise, whenever called upon.

That order was distributed to the commanders of the militia. It came to Lowell, and our enlisted men and their arms and equipments were examined, and the questions embraced in the order were put to every man. Col. Edward F. Jones, in command of the Sixth [163] Regiment, and myself a part of the time, were present at the examination; and to the honor of the Lowell militia, no able-bodied man of suitable years said he would not go if called upon, and we so reported.

On the 19th of January, 1861, the following resolution, passed by the field officers and commanders of companies of the Sixth Regiment, was sent to the governor:--

Resolved, That Colonel Jones be authorized and requested forthwith to tender the services of the Sixth Regiment to the commander-in-chief and legislature, when such services may become desirable, for the purposes contemplated in General Order No. 4.

That resolution went to the governor on the 22d of January. and on the same day Governor Andrew sent the following message to the House of Representatives:--

I transmit herewith, for the information of the General Court, a communication offering to the commander-in-chief and the legislature the services of the Sixth Regiment, Third Brigade, Second Division of the Volunteer Militia of the Commonwealth, which was this day received by me from the hands of Brigadier-General Butler.

This was the only regiment that tendered its services. Not that all would not have done so if they had had an opportunity or full instruction; but in Lowell about that time there happened to be a couple of live men,--Colonel Jones, who is now the lieutenant-governor of the great State of New York, and myself,--who believed beyond peradventure that we should soon be called upon.

In accordance with this message of the governor, the legislature on the 23d day of January, passed a resolve, a portion of which is as follows:--

Whereas, Several States of the Union have through the action of their people and authorities assumed the attitude of rebellion against the national government; and whereas, treason is still more extensively diffused; and whereas, the State of South Carolina, having first seized the Post-Office, Custom House, moneys, arms, munitions of war, and fortifications of the Federal Government, has, by firing upon a vessel in the service of the United States, committed an act .of war; and whereas, the forts and property of the United States, in Georgia, Alabama, [164] Louisiana, and Florida have been seized with hostile and treasonable intention; and whereas, senators and representatives in Congress avow and sanction these acts of treason and rebellion; therefore,

Resolved, That the legislature of Massachusetts now, as always, convinced of the inestimable value of the Union, as the necessity of preserving its blessing to ourselves and our posterity, regard with unmingled satisfaction the determination evinced in the recent firm and patriotic special message of the President of the United States to apply and faithfully discharge his constitutional duty of enforcing the laws and preserving the integrity of the Union, and we proffer to him, through the Governor of the Commonwealth, such aid in men and money as he may require, to maintain the authority of the national government.

Resolved, That the Union-loving and patriotic authorities, representatives, and citizens of those States whose loyalty is endangered or assailed by internal or external treason, who labor in behalf of the Federal Union with unflinching courage and patriotic devotion, will receive the enduring gratitude of the American people.

Resolved, That the governor be requested to forward, forthwith, copies of the foregoing resolutions to the President of the United States and the governors of the several States.

These resolutions followed the message to Congress of President Buchanan. So the matter stood until the 5th of February, when Mr. Tyler, of Boston, for the Committee on Finance, reported that an emergency bill ought to pass, and said that the committee had received information of an alarming character, which rendered it necessary that the Executive should at once be provided with means of defence. Mr. Slack said lie supposed he violated no confidence in saying that within the last twenty-four hours the Finance Committee had received the most alarming information. It might be that an attack would be made upon Washington, within the next fifteen days. Mr. Davis, of Greenfield, said he was in favor of the bill, but thought the information could not properly be communicated to the public, and he therefore moved that the House go into secret session. The motion was agreed to, and sitting with closed doors, the House passed the bill, as follows:--

There is hereby appropriated the sum of one hundred thousand dollars, to be designated as the Emergency Fund, which shall be paid out of the treasury of this Commonwealth, from ordinary revenue, on any [165] warrants of the governor, which may be drawn from time to time, for such amounts, not exceeding in the aggregate one hundred thousand dollars, as in the judgment of the governor, by and with the consent of the council, may be necessary for the public service: Provided, that no part of this sum shall be expended for services or objects for which there are or may be subsisting appropriations contained in any act or resolve which has been or may be passed at the present session of the General Court; and an account shall be rendered to the next General Court, on or before the 15th day of January next, of the manner in which said fund, or any part thereof, has been disbursed.

This act shall take effect upon its passage.

Although not a member of the legislature, I was present in that secret session, and gave such testimony as I had. That emergency bill was passed on the 5th of February, appropriating a hundred thousand dollars as an emergency fund to put the militia in proper readiness for war.

Colonel Jones went with me to tell the governor that his regiment and my brigade, while in as good condition as any other part of the militia, were in such plight that they could not march out of the State, that the men had only holiday uniforms, and must be furnished with overcoats, knapsacks, haversacks, blankets, and other needed equipments for camping. The governor said: “Put that information in writing.” Whereupon Colonel Jones wrote this able and opportune letter:--

Boston, Feb. 5, 1861.
to his excellency the commander-in-chief:
At our interview this morning, you requested me to put the matter which I wished to communicate in writing. In accordance therewith, I make the following statement as to the condition of my command, and take the liberty to forward the same directly to you, passing over the usual channel of communication for want of time.

The Sixth Regiment consists of eight companies, located as follows, viz.: Four in Lowell, two in Lawrence, one in Acton, and one in Boston, made up mostly of men of families, “who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow,” men who are willing to leave their homes, families, and all that man holds dear, and sacrifice their present and future as a matter of duty.

Four companies of the regiment are insufficiently armed (as to quantity) with a serviceable rifle musket; the other four with the old musket, [166] which is not a safe or serviceable arm, and requiring a different cartridge from the first, which would make confusion in the distribution of ammunition.

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