I. The tocsin of war.
A score of millions hear the cry
And herald it abroad,
To arms they fly to do or die
For liberty and God.
And yet they keep gathering and marching away!
There's the father and son!
Has the nation turned soldier-and all in a day?
While the miller takes gun
With the dust of the wheat still whitening his hair;
Pray where are they going with this martial air?
On the 6th of November, 1860, Abraham Lincoln
, the candidate of the Republican party, was elected President
of the United States
, over three opponents.
The autumn of that year witnessed the most exciting political canvass this country had ever seen.
The Democratic party, which had been in power for several years in succession, split into factions and nominated two candidates.
The northern Democrats nominated Stephen A. Douglas
, of Illinois
, who was an advocate of the doctrine of Squatter Sovereignty
, that is, the right of the people living in a Territory which wanted admission into the Union
as a State to
decide for themselves whether they would or would not have slavery.
The southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckenridge
, of Kentucky
, at that time Vice-President
of the United States
The doctrine which he and his party advocated was the right to carry their slaves into every State and Territory in the Union
without any hindrance whatever.
Then there was still another party, called by some the Peace Party
, which pointed to the Constitution
of the country as its guide, but had nothing to say on the great question of slavery, which was so prominent with the other parties.
It took for its standardbearer John Bell
, of Tennessee
; and Edward Everett
, of Massachusetts
, was nominated as Vice-President
This party drew its membership from both of the others, but largely from the Democrats.
Owing to these divisions the Republican party, which had not been in existence many years, was enabled to elect its candidate.
The Republicans did not intend to meddle with slavery
A Bell and Everett Campaigner.|
where it then was, but opposed its extension into any new
States and Territories.
This latter fact was very well known to the slave-holders, and so they voted almost solidly for John C. Breckenridge
But it was very evident to them, after the Democratic party divided, that the Republicans would succeed, and so, long before the election actually took place, they began to make threats of seceding from the Union
Freedom of speech was not tolerated
in these States, and northern people who were down South
for business or pleasure, if they expressed opinions in opposition to the popular political sentiments of that section, were at once warned to leave.
Hundreds came North immediately to seek personal safety, often leaving possessions of great value behind them.
Even native southerners who
A Group of Southerners Discussing the situation.|
believed thoroughly in the Union
--and there were hundreds of such — were not allowed to say so. This class of people suffered great indignities during the war, on account of their loyalty to the old flag.
Many of them were driven by insult and abuse to take up arms for a cause with which they did not sympathize, deserting it at the
earliest opportunity, while others held out to the bitter end, or sought a refuge from such persecution in the Union
As early as the 25th of October, several southerners who were or had been prominent in politics met in South Carolina
, and decided by a unanimous vote that the State
should withdraw from the Union
in the event of Lincoln
's election, which then seemed almost certain.
Some other States held similar meetings about the same date.
Thus early did the traitor leaders prepare the South
These men were better known at that time as “Fire-eaters.”
As soon as Lincoln
's election was announced, without waiting to see what his policy towards the slave States was going to be, the impetuous leaders at the South
addressed themselves at once to the carrying out of their threats; and South Carolina
, followed, at intervals more or less brief, by Georgia
, and Texas
, seceded from the Union
, and organized what was known as the Southern Confederacy.
, North Carolina
, and Tennessee
The people at the North
stood amazed at the rapidity with which treason against the government was spreading, and the loyal Unionloving men began to inquire where President Buchanan
was at this time, whose duty it was to see that all such uprisings were crushed out; and “Oh for one hour of Andrew Jackson
in the President
was the common exclamation, because that decided and unyielding soldierPresi-dent had so promptly stamped out threatened rebellion in South Carolina
, when she had refused to allow the duties to be collected at Charleston
But that outbreak in its proportions was to this one as an infant to a giant, and it is quite doubtful if Old Hickory himself, with his promptness to act in an emergency, could have stayed the angry billows of rebellion which seemed just ready to break over the nation.
But at any rate he would have attempted it,
even if he had gone down in the fight,--at least so thought the people.
The very opposite of such a President was James Buchanan
, who seemed anxious only for his term of office to expire, making little effort to save the country, nor even willing, at first, that others should do so. With a traitor for his Secretary of War
, the South
had been well supplied with arms under the very nose of the old man. With a traitor for his Secretary of the Navy
, our vessels — not many in number, it is true — had been sent into foreign waters, where they could not be immediately recalled.
With a traitor as Secretary of the Treasury
, the public treasury had been emptied.
Then, too, there began the seizure of arsenals, mints, custom-houses, post-offices, and fortifications within the limits of the seceding States, and still the President
did nothing, or worse than nothing, claiming that the South
was wrong in its acts, but that he had no right to prevent treason and secession, or, in the phraseology of that day, “no right to coerce a sovereign State.”
And so at last he left the office a disgraced old man, for whom few had or have a kind word to offer.
Such, briefly, was the condition of affairs when Abraham Lincoln
, fearful of his life, which had been threatened, entered Washington
under cover of darkness, and quietly assumed the duties of his office.
Never before were the people of this country in such a state of excitement.
At the North
there were a large number who boldly denounced the “Long-heeled Abolitionists” and “Black Republicans” for having stirred up this trouble.
I was not a voter at the time of Lincoln
's election, but I had taken an active part in the torchlight parades of the “Wide-awakes” and “Railsplitters,” as the political clubs of the Republicans were called, and so came in for a share of the abuse showered upon the followers of the new President
As fresh deeds of violence or new aggressions against the government were reported from the daily papers in the shop where I was
then employed, some one who was not a “Lincolnite” would exclaim, in an angry tone; “I hope you fellows are satisfied now. I don't blame the South
They have been driven to desperation by such lunatics as Garrison
, and these men ought to be hung for it.” ... “If there is a war, I hope you and every other Black Republican will be made to go and fight for the niggers all you want to.” . . . “You like the niggers so well you'll marry one of them yet.” .. .And, “I want to see those hot-headed Abolitionists put into the front rank, and shot first.”
These are mild quotations from the daily conversations, had not only where I was employed, but in every other shop and factory in the North
Such wordy contests were by no means one-sided affairs; for the assailed, while not anxious for war, were not afraid of it, and were amply supplied with arguments with which they answered and enraged their antagonists; and if they did not always silence them, they
A Lincoln wide awake.|
drove them into making just such ridiculous remarks as the foregoing.
If I were asked who these men were, I should not call them by name.
They were my neighbors and my friends, but they are changed men to-day.
There is not one of them who, in the light of later experiences, is not heartily ashamed of his attitude at that time.
Many of them afterwards went to the field, and, sad to say, are there yet. But this was the period of the most intemperate and abusive language.
Those who sympathized with the South
were, some months later, called Copperheads.
and his party were reviled by these men without any restraint except such as personal shame and self-respect
might impose; and these qualities were conspicuously absent.
Nothing was too harsh to utter against Republicans.
No fate was too evil for their political opponents to wish them.
Of course all of these revilers were not sincere in their ill-wishes, but the effect of their utterances on the community was just as evil; and the situation of the new President
, at its best a perplexing and critical one, was thus made all the harder, by leading him to believe that a multitude of the citizens at the North
would obstruct instead of supporting him. It also gave the slavehold-ers the impression that a very considerable number of northern men were ready to aid them in prosecuting their treasonable schemes But now the rapid march of events wrought a change in the opinions of the people in both sections.
The leading Abolitionists had argued that the South
was too cowardly to fight
Nayther Av us.|
for slavery; and the South
had been told by the “Fire-eaters” and its northern friends that the North
could not be kicked into fighting; that in case war should arise she would have her hands full to keep her enemies at home
Alas! how little did either party understand the temper of the other!
How much like that story of the two Irishmen.--Meeting one day in the army, one says, “How are you, Mike?”
“How are you, Pat
says the other.
“But my name is not Pat
,” said the first speaker.
“Nather is mine Mike,” said the
second. “Faix, thin,” said the first, “it musht be nayther of us.”
Nothing could better illustrate the attitude of the North and South towards each other than this anecdote.
Nothing could have been more perfect than this mutual misunderstanding each displayed of the temper of the other, as the stride of events soon showed.
The story of how Major Anderson
removed his little band of United States troops from Fort Moultrie
to Fort Sumter
, in Charleston Harbor
, for reasons of greater safety, is a familiar one; likewise how the rebels fired upon a vessel sent by the President
with supplies intended for it; and, finally, after a severe bombardment of several days, how they compelled the fort to surrender.
It was these events which opened the eyes of the “Northern Doughfaces,” as those who sympathized with the South
were often called, to the real intent of the Seceders.
A change came over the spirit.
of their dreams.
Patriotism, love of the Union
, at last came uppermost.
They had heard it proposed to divide the old flag, giving a part to each section.
They had seen a picture of the emblem thus rent, and it was not a pleasing one.
Soon the greater portion of them ceased their sneers and ill-wishes, and joined in the general demand that something be done at once to assert the majesty and power of the national government.
Even President Lincoln
, who, in his inaugural address, had counselled his “countrymen, one and all, to take time and think calmly and well upon this whole subject,” had come to feel that further forbearance was no virtue, and that a decent respect for this great nation and for his office as President
demanded that something should be done speedily.
So on the 15th of April he issued a proclamation calling out 75,000 militia, for three months, to suppress the Rebellion
, and to cause the laws to be executed.
Having been a Massachusetts soldier, it is but natural that I should refer occasionally to her part in the opening
of this momentous crisis in the country's history, as being more familiar to me than the record of any other State.
Yet, proud as I am of her conspicuous services in the early war period, I have no desire to extol them at the expense of Pennsylvania
, New York, and Rhode Island
, who so promptly pressed forward and touched elbows with her in this emergency; nor of those other great Western States, whose sturdy patriots so promptly crossed Mason
's and Dixon
's line in such serried ranks at the summons of Father Abraham.
It has often been asked how Massachusetts
, so much farther from the National Capital
than any of the other States, should have been so prompt in coming to its assistance.
Let me give some idea of how it happened.
In December, 1860, Adjutant-General Schouler
of that State, in his annual report, suggested to Governor (afterwards General) N. P. Banks
, that as events were then occurring which might require that the militia of Massachusetts
should be increased in number, it would be well for
The minute man of ‘61.|
commanders of companies to forward to Headquarters a complete roll of each company, with their names and residence, and that companies not full should be recruited to the limit fixed by law, which was then one hundred and one for infantry.
Shortly afterwards John A. Andrew
, now known in history as the Great War Governor
, assumed the duties of his office.
He was not only a leading Republican before the war, but an Abolitionist as well.
He seemed to clearly foresee that the time for threats and arguments had gone
by, and that the time for action was at hand.
So on the 16th of January he issued an order (No. 4) which had for its object to ascertain exactly how many of the officers and men in the militia would hold themselves ready to respond immediately to any call which might be made upon their services by the President
All who were not ready to do so were discharged at once, and their places filled by others.
Thus it was that Massachusetts
for the second time in her history prepared her “Minute men” to take the field at a minute's notice.
This general order
of the Governor
's, although a very wise one as it proved, carried dismay into the ranks of the militia, for there were in Massachusetts
, as in other States, very many men who had made valiant and well disciplined peace
soldiers, who, now that one of the real needs of a well organized militia was upon us, were not at all thirsty for further military glory.
But pride stood in the way of their frankness.
They were ashamed in this hour of their country's peril to withdraw from the militia, for they feared to face public opinion.
Yet there were men who had good and sufficient reasons for declining to pledge themselves for instant military service, at least until there was a more general demand for troops.
They were loyal and worthy citizens, and could not in a moment cast aside or turn their back on their business or domestic responsibilities, and in a season of calmer reflection it would not have been expected of them.
But the public pulse was then at feverheat, and reason was having a vacation.
General Order No. 4
was, I believe, the first important step taken by the State
in preparing for the crisis.
The next was the passage of a bill by the Legislature, which was approved by the Governor
April 3, appropriating $25,000 for “overcoats, blankets, knapsacks, 200,000 ball cartridges, etc., for two thousand troops.”
These supplies were soon ready.
The militiamen then owned their uniforms, and, as no particular kind was prescribed, no two companies of the
same regiment were of necessity uniformed alike.
It is only a few years since uniformity of dress has been required of the militia in Massachusetts
But to return to that memorable 15th of April.
War, that much talked-of, much dreaded calamity was at last upon us. Could it really be so?
We would not believe it; and yet daily happenings forced the unwelcome conclusion upon us. It seemed so strange.
We had nothing in our experience to compare it with.
True, some of us had dim remembrances of a Mexican war in our early childhood, but as Massachusetts
sent only one regiment to that war, and that saw no fighting, and, besides, did not receive the sympathy and support of the people in the State
generally, we only remembered that there was a Scott, and a Taylor, and a Santa Ana, from the colored prints we had seen displayed of these worthies; so that we could only run back in memory to the stories and traditions of the wars of the Revolution and 1812, in which our ancestry had served, for anything like a vivid picture of what was about to occur, and this, of course, was utterly inadequate to do the subject justice.
I have already stated that General Order No. 4
carried dismay into many hearts, causing the more timid to withdraw from military service at once.
A great many more would have withdrawn at the same time had they not been restrained by pride and the lingering hope that there would be no war after all; but this very day (the 15th) came Special Order No. 14
, from Governor Andrew
, ordering the Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Eighth Regiments to assemble on Boston Common forthwith.
This was the final test of the militiamen's actual courage and thirst for glory, and a severe one it proved to many of them, for at this eleventh hour there was another falling-out along the line.
But the moment a man's declination for further service was made known, unless his reasons were of the very best, straightway he was hooted at for his cowardice, and for a time his
existence was made quite unpleasant in his own immediate neighborhood.
If he had been a commissioned officer, his face was likely to appear in an illustrated paper, accompanied by the statement that he had “shown the white feather,” --another term for cowardice.
A reference to any file of illustrated papers of those days will show a large number of such persons.
Such gratuitous advertising by a generally loyal, though not always discreet press did some men gross injustice; for, as already intimated, many of the men thus publicly sketched and denounced were among the most worthy and loyal of citizens.
A little later than the period of which I am treating, Oliver Wendell Holmes
wrote the following poem, hitting off a certain limited class in the community:--
The 16th of April was a memorable day in the history of the Old Bay
State,--a day made more uncomfortable by the rain and sleet which were falling with disagreeable constancy.
Well do I remember the day. Possessing an average amount of the fire and enthusiasm of youth, I had asked my father's consent to go out with Company A of the old Fourth Regiment, which belonged to my native town.
But he would not give ear to any such “nonsense,” and, having been brought up to obey his orders, although of military age (18), I did not enter the service in the first rally.
This company did not go with full ranks.
There were few that did. Several of my shopmates were in its membership.
those of us who remained gathered at the windows that stormy forenoon to see the company go by, the sight filled us with the most gloomy forebodings.
So the troops went forth from the towns in the shore counties of Massachusetts
Most of the companies in the regiments that were called reported for duty at Boston
very 16th--two companies from Marblehead
being the first to arrive.
One of these companies was commanded by Captain Knott V. Martin
, who was engaged in slaughtering hogs when Adjutant (now Major-General
) E. W. Hinks
rode up and instructed him to report on Boston Common in the morning.
Drawing the knife from the throat of a hog, the Captain
uttered an exclamation which has passed into history, threw the knife with a light toss to the floor, went immediately
and notified his Orderly Sergeant
, and then returned to his butchering.
In the morning he and his company were ready for business.
But their relatives who remained at home could not look calmly on the departure of these dear ones, who were going no one knew just where, and would return — perhaps never; so there were many touching scenes witnessed at the various railway stations, as the men boarded the trains for Boston
When these Marblehead
companies arrived at that city the enthusiasm was something unprecedented, and as a new detachment appeared in the streets it was cheered to the echo all along its line of march.
The early months of the war were stirring ones for Boston
; for not only did the most of the Massachusetts
regiments march through her streets en route
for the seat of war, but also the troops from Maine
and New Hampshire
as well, so that a regiment halted for rest on the Common, or marching to the strain of martial music to some railway station, was at times a daily occurrence.
It has always seemed to me that the “Three months men” have never received half the credit which the worth of their services to the country deserved.
The fact of their having been called out for so short a time as compared with the troops that came after them, and of their having seen little or no fighting, places them at a disadvantage.
But to have so suddenly left all, and gone to the defence of the Capital City
, with no knowledge of what was in store for them, and impelled by no other than the most patriotic of motives, seems to me fully as praiseworthy as to have gone later under the pressure of urgent need, when the full stress of war was upon us, and when its realities were better known, and the inducements to enlist greater in some other respects.
There is no doubt whatever but what the prompt appearance of these short-term men not only saved the Capital
, but that it served also to show the Rebels
that the North
at short call could send a large and comparatively
well equipped force into the field, and was ready to back its words by deeds.
Furthermore, these soldiers gave the government time to catch its breath, as it were, and, looking the issue squarely in the face, to decide upon some settled plan of action.