previous next

Chapter 7:

  • In what sense Virginia seceded from the Union.
  • -- a new interpretation of the war of the Confederates. -- influence of Virginia on the other Border States. -- replies of these States to Lincoln's requisition for troops. -- Secession of Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina. -- seizure of Federal forts in North Carolina. -- movements in Virginia to secure the Gosport navy-yard and Harper's Ferry. -- their success. -- burning of Federal ships. -- attitude of Maryland. -- the Baltimore riot. -- Chase of Massachusetts soldiers. -- excitement in Baltimore. -- timid action of the Maryland Legislature. -- military despotism in Maryland. -- arrests in Baltimore. -- a reign of terrour. -- light estimation of the war in the North. -- why the Federal Government sought to belittle the contest. -- Lincoln's view of the war as a riot. -- Seward's letter to the European Governments. -- Early action of England and France with respect to the war. -- Mr. Gregory's letter to the London times. -- Northern conceit about the war. -- prophecies of Northern journals. -- a “three months war.” -- Ellsworth and Billy Wilson. -- martial rage in the North. -- imperfect appreciation of the crisis in the South. -- Early ideas of the war at Montgomery. -- secret history of the Confederate Constitution. -- Southern opinion of Yankee soldiers. -- what was thought of “King cotton.” -- absurd theories about European recognition. -- lost opportunities of the Confederate Government. -- blindness and littleness of mind North and South. -- reflection on public men in America. -- comparison of the resources of the Northern and Southern States. -- the census of 1860. -- material advantages of the North in the war. -- the question of subsistence. -- poverty of the South in the material and means of war. -- how the Confederacy was supplied with small arms. -- peculiar advantages of the South in the war. -- the military value of space. -- lessons of history. -- the success of the Southern Confederacy, a question only of resolution and endurance. -- only two possible causes of failure

It is to be remarked that Virginia did not secede in either the circumstances or sense in which the Cotton States had separated themselves from the Union. She had no delusive prospects of peace to comfort or sustain her in the decisive step she took. She did not secede in the sense in which separation from the Union was was the primary object of secession. On the contrary, her attachment to the Union had been proved by the most [121] untiring and noble efforts to save it; her Legislature originated the Peace Conference, which assembled at Washington in February, 1861; her representatives in Congress sought in that body every mode of honourable pacification; her Convention sent delegates to Washington to persuade Mr. Lincoln to a pacific policy; and in every form of public. assembly, every expedient of negotiation was essayed by Virginia to save tile Union. When these efforts at pacification failed, and the Government at Washington drew the sword against the sovereignty of States and insisted on the right of coercion, it was then that Virginia appreciated the change of issue, and, to contest it, found it necessary to withdraw from the Union. Her act of secession was subordinate; it was a painful formality which could not be dispensed with to contest a principle higher than the Union, and far above the promptings of passion and the considerations of mere expediency.

It takes time for popular commotions to acquire their meaning and proper significance. A just and philosophical observation of events must find that in the second secessionary movement of the Southern States, the war was put on a basis infinitely higher and firmer in all its moral and constitutional aspects; that at this period it developed itself, acquired its proper significance, and was broadly translated into a contest for liberty.

It was in this changed view of the contest and on an issue in which force was directly put against the sentiment of liberty, that the Border States followed the lead of Virginia out of the Union. The particular occasion of the movement was not so much the fire at Sumter as the proclamation of Mr. Lincoln to raise forces, the only purpose of which could be the subjugation of the South. In this proclamation the issue was distinctly put before the Border States; for Mr. Lincoln called upon each of them to furnish their quotas of troops for a war upon their sister States. The unnatural demand was refused in terms of scorn and defiance. Gov. Magoffin of Kentucky replied that that State “would furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.” Gov. Harris of Tennessee notified Mr. Lincoln that that State “would not furnish a single man for coercion, but fifty thousand if necessary for the defence of her rights.” Gov. Ellis of North Carolina telegraphed to Washington: “I can be no party to this wicked violation of the laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people.” Gov. Rector of Arkansas replied in terms of equal defiance, and declared “the demand is only adding insult to injury;” and Gov. Jackson slowed an indignation surpassing all the others, for he wrote directly to Mr. Lincoln: “Your requisition in my judgment is illegal, unconstitutional, and revolutionary, and, in its objects, inhuman and diabolical.” The only Southern State that did not publicly share in this resentment, and that made it an occasion of official ambiloquy, was Maryland. Her Governor, Thomas [122] Holladay Hicks, had advised that the State should occupy for the present a position of “neutrality;” and while he amused the country with this absurd piece of demagogueism, and very plainly suggested that in the approaching election of congressmen, the people of Maryland might determine their position, it is equally certain that he gave verbal assurances to Mr. Lincoln that the State would supply her quota of troops, and give him military support.

The indications of sentiment in the Border States soon ripened into open avowals. Tennessee seceded from the Union on the 6th of May; on the 18th day of May the State of Arkansas was formally admitted into the Southern Confederacy; and on the 21st of the same month, the sovereign Convention of North Carolina, by a unanimous vote, passed an ordinance of secession. This latter State, although slow to secede and accomplish formally her separation from the Union, had acted with singular spirit in giving early and valuable evidence of sympathy with the Southern cause. Under the orders of her Governor, Fort Macon, near Beaufort, was seized on the 15th of April, and promptly garrisoned by volunteers from Greensborough and other places. Fort Caswell was also taken, and on the 19th the Arsenal of Fayetteville was captured without bloodshed, thus securing to the State and the South sixty-five thousand stand of arms, of which twenty-eight thousand were of tile most approved modern construction.

Virginia had taken the decisive step, and passed her ordinance of secession on the 17th day of April. It became an immediate concern to secure for the State all the arms, munitions, ships, war stores, and military posts within her borders, which there was power to seize. Two points were of special importance: one was the Navy Yard, at Gosport, with its magnificent dry-dock-its huge ship-houses, shops, forges, ware-rooms, rope-walks, seasoned timber for ships, masts, cordage, boats, ammunition, small arms, and cannon. Besides all these treasures, it had lying in its waters several vessels of war. The other point was Harper's Ferry on the Potomac River, with its armory and arsenal, containing about ten thousand muskets and five thousand rifles, with machinery for the purpose of manufacturing arms, capable with a sufficient force of workmen, of turning out twenty-five thousand muskets a year.

Movements to secure these places and their advantages were only partially successful. In two days a large force of volunteers had collected at Harper's Ferry. The small Federal force there requested a parley; this was granted; but in a short time flames were seen to burst from the armory and arsenal; the garrison had set fire to the arms and buildings, and escaped across the railroad bridge into Maryland. The Virginia troops instantly rushed into the buildings. A large number of the arms were consumed, but about five thousand improved muskets in complete order, and three thousand unfinished small arms, were saved. The retreating [123] garrison had laid trains to blow up the workshops, but the courage and rapid movement of the Virginians, extinguished them, and thus saved to their State the invaluable machinery for making muskets and rifles.

On the succeeding day preparations were made by the Federals for the destruction of the Navy Yard at Gosport, while reinforcements were thrown into Fortress Monroe. The work of destruction was not as fully completed as the enemy had designed; the dry-dock, which alone cost several millions of dollars, was but little damaged; but the destruction of property was immense. All the ships in the harbour, excepting an old dismantled frigate, the United States, were set fire to and scuttled. But the Merrimac, a powerful steam frigate of twenty-six hundred tons, new, fully equipped, and nearly ready for sea, was only partially destroyed, and became, as we shall hereafter see, a famous prize of the Confederacy.

At this time it was expected that Maryland would emulate the heroic example of Virginia, and cast her fortunes with that of the Confederacy. But two days after the secession of Virginia occurred a memorable collision in the streets of Baltimore; and tile first blood of Southerners was shed on the soil of Maryland. When it became certain that Northern troops were to be assembled for the purpose of invading the seceded States, the indignation of the people of Maryland, and especially of Baltimore, could not be restrained. It being known that a body of volunteers from Massachusetts were coining through the city, on the 19th of April, a fierce and determined purpose to resist their passage was aroused. As several hundred of these volunteers, sixty of whom only were armed and uniformed, were passing through the city in horse-cars, they found the track barricaded near one of the docks by stones, sand, and old anchors thrown upon it, and were compelled to attempt the passage to the depot, at the other end of the city, on foot. A body of citizens got in front of the troops, checked their advance, shouting, threatening, taunting them as mercenaries, and uttering loud cheers for the Southern Confederacy. A Confederate flag was displayed by some of the crowd. Stones were thrown by some of the citizens; two soldiers were struck down, and many others severely hurt. At this time the troops presented arms and fired. Several citizens fell dead, others were wounded, and falling, were borne off by those near them. Fury took possession of the crowd; up to this time they had used no weapons more deadly than stones, but now revolvers were drawn and fired into the column of troops, and men were rushing in search of fire-arms. The firing on both sides continued in quick succession of shots from Frederick to South streets. Several of the citizens fell, but, undismayed, they pressed the soldiers with an incessant and heavy volley of stones. The troops were unable to withstand the gathering crowd; they were bewildered by their mode of attack; they pressed along the streets confused and staggering, breaking into a run whenever there [124] was an opportunity to do so, and turning at intervals to fire upon the citizens who pursued them.

Harassed and almost exhausted, the troops at length reached Camden station. But here the fight continued without intermission; stones were hurled into the cars with such violence that the windows and panelling were shattered ; the soldiers' faces and bodies were streaming with blood, and they could only protect themselves by lying down or stooping below the windows. Taunts clothed in the most fearful language, were hurled at them; men pressed up to the windows of the car, presenting knives and revolvers, and cursing up in the faces of the soldiers; and for half a mile along the track there was a struggling and shouting mass of human beings --citizens piling the track with obstructions, and policemen removing them as fast as possible. In the midst of the excitement, amid hootings, shouts, and curses, the train moved off; and as it passed from the depot a dozen muskets were fired into the crowd, the volley killing a well-known merchant, who was taking no part in the fight, and was standing as a spectator at some distance from the track.

In this irregular combat two soldiers were killed and several severely wounded; while, on the other side, the casualties were more serious-nine citizens killed and three wounded. A terrible excitement ensued in Baltimore, and continued for weeks. The bridges on the railroad leading to the Susquehanna were destroyed; the regular route of travel was broken up; and large bodies of Northern troops were thus diverted from the railroad lines, and placed in the necessity of being carried in transports to Annapolis. Mass meetings were held in Baltimore, and speeches of defiance made to the Government at Washington. The city council appropriated five hundred thousand dollars for the avowed purpose of putting the city in a state of defence, but with the farther intent on the part of many, that instant measures should be taken to relieve the State from Federal rule.

But this rule was steadily encroaching upon Maryland, and strengthening itself beyond the hope of successful resistance. Each day Southern sentiment became more timid and equivocal, as the Federal power commenced to display itself. The Legislature of Maryland at last put the State in an attitude of indefinite submission. It passed resolutions protesting against the military occupation of the State by the Federal Government, and indicating sympathy with the South, but concluding with the declaration: “Under existing circumstances, it is inexpedient to call a sovereign Convention of the State at this time, or take any measures for the immediate organization or arming of the militia.”

Baltimore was rapidly brought under the yoke. By a concerted movement of the Federal authorities, Col. Kane, the marshal of police, was arrested; the Police Board suspended; a provost-marshal appointed, and [125] Baltimore brought under the law of the drum-head. The municipal police were disbanded, and a reign of terror threatened to establish itself in what was already a condition of anarchy. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended; the houses of suspected persons were searched; blank warrants were issued for domiciliary visits; and the mayor and members of the police board were arrested, and, without a trial, imprisoned in a military fortress. In other parts of the State, the inauguration of “the strong government” steadily progressed. And so thoroughly effective was it that in less than a month after the Baltimore riot, Maryland was raising her quota of troops under Mr. Lincoln's proclamation, and Governor Hicks had openly called for four regiments of volunteers to assist the Northern Government in its now fully declared policy of a war of invasion and fell destruction upon the South. But the history of such a change has to be read in the light of many circumstances. Disarmed; not even allowed to retain its militia organization; planted with troops; subjected to an infamous and degraded sway; cozened and betrayed by its Governor; divided within itself; its citizens separated by long-exasperated lines of prejudice; its press exhausting itself to envenom the differences of men; s “suspicion poisoning his brother's cup;” corruption chaffering in public market-places for the souls of men; and crime and outrage recognizable only before the tribunal of Despotism, it is not wonderful that Maryland became the easy prey of a Government that scrupled at no means of success and spared no opportunity for the perversion of the principles of men.

Whether the easy subjugation of Maryland persuaded the people of the North that the war was to be a slight task, or whether that opinion is to be ascribed to their own insolent vanity, it is very certain that they entered upon the war with a light estimation of its consequences and with an exhibition of passion, rant and bombast, such, perhaps, as the world has never seen in similar circumstances. The Government at Washington shared, or encouraged for its own purposes, the vulgar opinion that the war was soon to be despatched. It either believed, or affected to believe, that the Southern States would be reduced in a few months. But it is to be remarked that the Federal Government had a particular purpose in reducing, in popular opinion, the importance of the contest. It desired to attract volunteers by the prospects of short service and cheap glory; and it was especially anxious to guard against any probability of recognition, by England or France of the new Confederacy, and to anticipate opinion in Europe by misrepresenting the movements of the Southern States as nothing more than a local and disorganized insurrection, incidental to the history of all governments, and unworthy of any serious foreign attention. It was in this view Mr. Lincoln had framed his proclamation, calling for an army of seventy-five thousand men. He took [126] especial pains to model this paper after a Riot Act: to style sovereign States “unlawful combinations;” and to “command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid, to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days.”

But something more remarkable than this grotesque anticipation of a four years war, was to emanate from the statesmanship at Washington. On the 4th of May, Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, wrote a letter of instructions to Mr. Dayton, the recently appointed minister to France, designed as a circular notice to the European courts, which, as a tissue of misrepresentation and absurdity, and an exhibition of littleness in a politician's cast of the future, is one of the most remarkable productions of the political history of the war. In this document the Federal Secretary of State urged that Mr. Dayton could not be “too decided or too explicit” in assuring the French Government that there was no idea of the dissolution of the Union; and that the existing commotion was only to be ranked among the dozen passing changes in the history of that Union. He concluded: “Tell M. Thouvenel, then, with the highest consideration and good feeling, that the thought of a dissolution of this Union, peaceably or by force, has never entered into the mind of any candid statesman here, and it is high time that it be dismissed by statesmen in Europe.” Yet at the time this was penned eight millions of Mr. Seward's countrymen had decided on a dissolution of the Union, and the gathering armies of the South were within a few miles of the Federal capital.

Meanwhile the action of the European Governments with reference to the war was thought to be indecisive, and was still the subject of a certain anxiety. The British Government and the French Emperor, although they regarded and ranked the Confederate States as belligerents, proclaimed a strict neutrality in the war, and closed their ports to the armed vessels and privateers of either of the belligerents. The British House of Commons had deemed it necessary to adjourn the discussion of American affairs by the indefinite postponement of Mr. Gregory's notice of a motion on the subject. That gentleman had sought to defend his motion for the recognition of the Southern Confederacy in a letter in the London Times, of a power and ingenuity calculated to affect public opinion, and putting the question to the people of England and of France in every possible aspect. He pointed out the reasons of his advocacy of the recognition of the new Confederate republic in several particulars: as an effectual blow at the slave trade, “mainly carried on by ships sailing from Northern ports and floated by Northern capital;” as an amelioration of the condition of slavery; as a means of peace and unrestricted commerce; as a just retaliation upon the “Morrill” tariff, the successful issue of Northern policy, against which the South had protested; and as the vindication of the right of a people to assert their independence. Mr. [127] Gregory concluded with the strong conviction that the interests of France and England were identical in the American question, and that “the recognition by these two great Powers of the Southern Confederacy would cause the war party in the North to pause before plunging their countrymen deeper into the sad struggle.”

The idea promulgated at Washington of a ninety days commotion was readily taken up by the Northern press, and was made the occasion of a volume of conceit, that was amusing enough in the light of subsequent events. Not a paper of influence in the North appeared to comprehend the importance of the impending contest; and the commentary of rant, passion, and bombast upon it exceeded all known exhibitions of the insane vanity of the Northern people.

“The rebellion” was derided in a style which taxed language for expressions of contempt. The New York Tribune declared that it was nothing “more or less than the natural recourse of all mean-spirited and defeated tyrannies to rule or ruin, making, of course, a wide distinction between the will and power, for the hanging of traitours is sure to begin before one month is over.” “The nations of Europe,” it continued, “may rest assured that Jeff. Davis & Co. will be swinging from the battlements at Washington, at least, by the 4th of July. We spit upon a later and longer deferred justice.”

The New York Times gave its opinion in the following vigorous and confident spirit: “Let us make quick work. The ‘ rebellion,’ as some people designate it, is an unborn tadpole. Let us not fall into the delusion, noted by Hallam, of mistaking a ‘ local commotion ’ for a revolution. A strong active ‘ pull together’ will do our work effectually in thirty days. We have only to send a column of twenty-five thousand men across the Potomac to Richmond, and burn out the rats there; another column of twenty-five thousand to Cairo, seizing the cotton ports of the Mississippi; and retaining the remaining twenty-five thousand, included in Mr. Lincoln's call for seventy-five thousand men, at Washington, not because there is need for them there, but because we do not require their services elsewhere.”

The Philadelphia Press declared that “no man of sense could, for a moment, doubt that this much ado-about-nothing would end in a month.” The Northern people were “simply invincible.” “The rebels,” it prophesied, “a mere band of ragamuffins, will fly, like chaff before the wind, on our approach.”

The West was as violent as the North or East, quite as confident, and valorous to excess. The Chicago Tribune insisted on its demand that the West be allowed to fight the battle through, since she was probably the most interested in the suppression of the rebellion and the free navigation of the Mississippi. “Let the East,” demanded this valorous sheet, “get [128] out of the way; this is a war of the West. We can fight the battle, and successfully, within two or three months at the furthest. Illinois can whip the South by herself. We insist on the matter being turned over to us.”

It is no wonder that, with the prospect of a short war extended from Washington and enlivened by pictures of cheap glory in the newspapers, the rage for volunteering in the North should have been immense. Going to the war “for three months” (the term of the enlistment of volunteers) was looked upon as a sort of holiday excursion, and had peculiar attractions for the firemen, the rowdies, and “roughs” of the Northern cities, from which brutal material it was boasted that the North would gather the most terrible and invincible army that ever enacted deeds of war. Many of these men adopted the Zouave costume to add to the terrours of their appearance; and a company of them actually went through the ceremony of being sworn in a public hotel in New York to “cut off the heads of every d-d Secessionist in the war.” Such exhibitions of brutal ferocity were told with glee and devoured with unnatural satisfaction by the Northern people. If the rowdies were in constant scenes of disorder and violence before they were marched away — if Ellsworth's and Billy Wilson's men did knock down quiet citizens and plunder stores in New York and Washington, the story was merrily told even in the communities where these outrages were committed; for these displays were taken as proofs of desperate courage, and the men so troublesome and belligerent towards quiet citizens were indicated as the terrible and ruthless crusaders who were to strike terrour to the simple armies of the South, and win the brightest and bloodiest laurels on the field of battle.

But it was not only the vagrant and unruly classes of the great and vicious cities of the North that flocked to the standards of the war. The most quiet citizens could not resist the temptation of entering a race for cheap glory. The North was full of martial rage. The war spirit pervaded not only the holiday volunteer soldiers of the cities, but the country people, the shoemakers and cobblers of New England and the coal-heavers of Pennsylvania. Governor Dennison, of Ohio, telegraphed to Washington, offering thirty thousand troops. Governor Weston, of Indiana, received offers showing that the same numbers were ready to come forward in his State. Governor Curtin, of Pennsylvania, was equally liberal in his assurances to Washington. Massachusetts and New York were pressing with offers of men and money for “the three months war.”

But while the North was making such insolent and giddy exhibitions on the threshold of the war, it must be confessed that, on the part of the South, there was also very imperfect appreciation of the impending crisis, and of the extent and solemnity of the adventure in which the Confederate States were to embark.

In the first stages of the dispute the Southern leaders had declared that [129] there would be no war; that the mere act of secession would exact from the North all that was claimed, and prove in the end a peaceful experiment. Heated orators in Charleston exclaimed that there would be no conflict of arms, and that they would be willing to drink all the blood shed in the contest.

Again, when the Confederate Government was established at Montgomery the idea still prevailed that secession had the countenance of a large party in the North, and that the Black Republicans would find it impossible to get up a war in front of hostile States and in face of a partisan opposition at home. This idea had especial hold of the mind of President Davis. It has been thought a little strange that in the frame of the new government there should be such little originality; that it should have exhibited so few ideas of political administration higher than the Washington routine; and that the Montgomery statesmen and legislators should have fallen into an almost servile copy of the old Federal Constitution. This has been accounted for by the circumstance that the new administration of the affairs of the South naturally fell into the hands of old Washington politicians, who were barren of political novelty. But there is a more direct and especial explanation. It was expected that the assimilation of the Montgomery Constitution to that of the United States with some especial additions developing the democratic view and construction of that latter instrument would have the effect of conciliating, or, at least, of neutralizing the Democratic party in the North. In the address on the occasion of his inauguration, President Davis took especial pains t declare that the seceded States meditated a change only of the constituent parts, not the system of the government; and he distinctly referred to the expectation that, with a Constitution differing only from that of their fathers, in so far as it was explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from sectional conflicts, the States from which they had recently parted might seek to unite their fortunes with those of the new Confederacy, indeed, so far did this conceit go, that it was proposed in some of the Newspapers of the day-among them the New York Herald, then the affected friend of the South--that the Union should be “reconstructed” by the accession of the Northern States to the Montgomery Constitution, excluding perhaps the New England States, as odious to both parties in the reconstruction.

But no sooner did these silly prospects of amicable association with Northern Democrats end and war blaze out at Sumter, than a new delusion took possession of the Confederate leaders. This was that the war would be decided speedily, and its history be compassed in a few battlefields. It had been a theme of silly declamation that “the Yankees” would not fight; and so-called statesmen in the South expounded the doctrine that a commercial community, devoted to the pursuit of gain, could [130] never aspire to martial prowess, and were unequal to great deeds of arms. But if these orators had considered the lessons of history they would have found that commercial communities were among the most pugnacious and ambitious and obstinate of belligerents, and might have traced the discovery through the annals of Carthage, Venice, Genoa, Holland, and England.

Another idea was that the victory of the South was to be insured and expedited by the recognition of the new Government by the European Powers. “Cotton,” said the Charleston Mercury, “would bring England to her knees.” The idea was ludicrous enough that England and France would instinctively or readily fling themselves into a convulsion, which their great politicians saw was the most tremendous one of modern times. But the puerile argument, which even President Davis did not hesitate to adopt, about the power of “King cotton,” amounted to this absurdity: that the great and illustrious power of England would submit to the ineffable humiliation of acknowledging its dependency on the infant Confederacy of the South, and the subserviency of its empire, its political interests and its pride, to a single article of trade that was grown in America!

These silly notions of an early accomplishment of their independence were, more than anything else, to blind and embarrass the Confederate States in the great work before them. Their ports were to remain open for months before the blockade, declared by Mr. Lincoln, could be made effective; and yet nothing was to be imported through them but a few thousand stand of small arms, when, in that time, and through those avenues, there might have been brought from Europe all the needed munitions of war. Immense contracts were to be offered the Government, only to be rejected and laughed at. Golden opportunities were to be thrown away, while the Confederate authorities still persuaded themselves that the war was to be despatched by mere make-shifts of money, and a sudden rush of volunteers to arms.

It is a curious speculation how to explain that two belligerents, like the North and South, could have shown such blindness and littleness of mind in entering upon the mighty and tremendous contest which was to ensue, and which had, in fact, become obvious and inevitable. But it is said that the Governments and leaders of each party only shared the general popular opinion on each side, as to the rapid decision of the war. This excuse is imperfect. Those who are put in authority and in the high places of government are supposed to have peculiar gifts, and an education and training suited to the art of governing and advising men; they should be able to discern what the populace does not often see. Prescience is the specialty of the statesman; and because a populace is blind, that is no excuse for his defect of vision. For the false view obtaining at Washington and at Montgomery in the opening of the war, there is a very curt and [131] quite sufficient explanation. It is that there was really but little statesmanship in America, and that much which passed current under that name was nothing more than the educated and ingenious demagogueism, which reflects vividly the opinions of the masses, and acts out the fancies of the hour. It does seem indeed almost incredible that public men at Washington and at Montgomery could have observed the crisis, without considering the resources and the temper of each section; for each of these elements in the contest showed plainly enough that it was to be one of immense extent and indefinite duration.

It will be interesting here to make a brief statement of the resources of the United States about the time of the war, and to show how they were divided between the two belligerents.

The census of the United States, of 1860, showed a population of more than thirty-one millions. A web of railroads, the wonder of the world, stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Missouri River; and the most important of these had been constructed within the last thirty years, for in 1830 there was but one railway connecting the great Lakes with tide-water. The total extent of these railroads was more than thirty thousand miles. Their tonnage per annum was estimated at thirty-six million tons, valued at about four thousand millions of dollars. Such was the huge internal commerce of the United States. Their manufactures formed an enormous fund of wealth; they represented an annual product of two thousand millions of dollars. In the census of 1860, we have, as the total assessed value of real estate and personal property in the thirty-four States and Territories the monstrous sum of sixteen thousand millions of dollars.

But of population, of internal improvements, of manufactures, and of all artificial wealth the North held much the larger share. She had a population of twenty-three millions against eight millions in the South. The North had manufacturing establishments for all the requirements of peace and war. She had the advantages of an unrestrained commerce with foreign nations. She had all the ports of the world open to her ships; she had furnaces, foundries, and workshops; her manufacturing resources compared with those of the South were as five hundred to one; the great marts of Europe were open to her for supplies of arms and stores; there was nothing of material resource, nothing of the apparatus of conquest that was not within her reach; and she had the whole world wherein to find mercenary soldiers and a market for recruits.

Yet one fact is to be admitted here, which may strike many readers with surprise, and which furnishes a subject of curious reflection, with reference to what we shall hereafter see of the management of their resources by the Confederates. This remarkable fact is that about the beginning of the war the South was richer than the North in all the necessaries of life. It is sufficient to compile certain results from the [132] census of 1860 to show this: Of live stock (milch cows, working oxen, other cattle, sheep and swine) in the Northern States there were two to each person; in the Southern States, five to each person. Of wheat each person in the Northern States reckoned six bushels; each white person in the Southern States about as much. Of Indian corn, each person in the Northern States reckoned twenty-eight bushels; while in the Southern States each white person reckoned fifty-one bushels, and white and black together stood for thirty-five bushels per head.

But the South entered the war with only a few insignificant manufactories of arms and materials of war and textile fabrics. She was soon to be cut off by an encircling blockade from all those supplies upon which she had depended from the North and from Europe in the way of munitions of war, clothing, medicines, etc. She was without the vestige of a navy; while, on the water, the North was to call into existence a power equivalent to a land force of many hundred thousand men.

It had been feared that in the haste of preparation for the mighty contest that was to ensue, the South would find herself poorly provided with arms to contend with an enemy rich in the means and munitions of war. But in respect of small arms, at least, she found herself amply furnished. Mir. Floyd, the Secretary of War under Mr. Buchanan's administration, had taken occasion to transfer to the different arsenals at the South more than one hundred thousand muskets. This proceeding was long a favorite theme of reproach and censure in the North, and was most unjustly taken as a proof of incipient treason in Mr. Buchanan's Cabinet. It was certainly an important assistance to the South (although this contribution of arms was really less than was due her); for without it she would have been hurried into the war with the few and very imperfect arms purchased by the States, or owned by the citizens.1 [133]

But it may be said here generally that against the vast superiority of the North in material resources and in the apparatus of war, the South had a set-off in certain advantages, not appreciable perhaps by superficial observers, but which constitute a most important element in a true historical estimate of the match between the two belligerents. The coarse popular opinion in the North was that the superiority of numbers would give it an overwhelming preponderance of strength. But something more than numbers makes armies; and war is not a duel, a single contest despatched according to an established routine. The South had a superiour animation in the war. She stood on the defensive; and should thus have been able to put against the invading force two enemies: the opposing army and the people. She had, also, on her side one single advantage which should have been decisive of the contest — an advantage which no numbers could really surmount, or skill effectively circumvent. That advantage was space. It had been the victor in many former wars When Napoleon invaded Russia, he won battles, he obtained the very object of his march; but space defeated him — the length of the march front Warsaw to Moscow ruined him. When Great Britain attempted to subdue only that part of America that borders the Atlantic, space defeated her; her armies took the principal cities, New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, Savannah, Richmond; but victories were barren of result, the Continental troops, dispersed in the country, were easily re-assembled, the lines of military occupation existed only on paper, and the process of conquest became one of hopeless repetition, and was at last abandoned in despair.

In an intelligent view of the precedents of history it might safely be predicted that the South, fighting on its own soil, and for it, and occupying a territory of more than 728,000 square miles in extent, and in which the natural features of the country, in mountain, river, and swamp, were equivalent to successive lines of fortification, would be victor in the contest, however unequally matched in men and the material of war, unless the management of her affairs should become insane, or her people lose the virtue of endurance.

1 For years the accusation clung to Secretary Floyd that he improperly and fraudulently supplied the South with these muskets, and “the story of the stolen arms” was perpetuated in every variety of Yankee publication. It is strange indeed, as ex-President Buchanan remarks in a recent printed defence of his Administration, “to what extent public prejudice may credit a falsehood, not only without foundation, but against the clearest official evidence.” Let us see how the facts reduce this story of fraud and “treason:” In December, 1859, Secretary Floyd had ordered the removal of one-fifth of the old percussion and flint-lock muskets from the Springfield Armory, where they had accumulated in inconvenient numbers, to five Southern arsenals. The United States had, on hand, say 500,000 of these muskets; 115,000 includes all transferred to the Southern arsenals. And this order of distribution was made, almost a year before Mr. Lincoln's election, and several months before his nomination at Chicago. Again, in 1860, the aggregate of rifles and muskets distributed was 10,151, of which the Southern and Southwestern States received only 2,849, or between one-third and one-fourth of the whole number. It thus appears that the Southern and Southwestern States received much less in the aggregate, instead of more than the quota of arms to which they were justly entitled under the law for arming the militia. Could the force of misrepresentation further go than to torture from these facts the charge that Mr. Buchanan's Secretary of War had fraudulently sent public arms to the South for the use of the insurgents! Yet this is but one example of that audacity and hardy persistence in falsehood displayed in all Northern publications concerning the war.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Maryland (Maryland, United States) (12)
United States (United States) (9)
Baltimore, Md. (Maryland, United States) (8)
Europe (7)
France (France) (6)
North Carolina (North Carolina, United States) (4)
Montgomery (Alabama, United States) (4)
Tennessee (Tennessee, United States) (3)
Massachusetts (Massachusetts, United States) (3)
Harper's Ferry (West Virginia, United States) (3)
Arkansas (Arkansas, United States) (3)
America (Alabama, United States) (3)
Pennsylvania (Pennsylvania, United States) (2)
New England (United States) (2)
Gosport (Indiana, United States) (2)
Venice (Italy) (1)
Two Points (Minnesota, United States) (1)
Swan Point (Maryland, United States) (1)
Savannah (Georgia, United States) (1)
Russia (Russia) (1)
Roseboro (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Moscow, Tenn. (Tennessee, United States) (1)
Indiana (Indiana, United States) (1)
Illinois (Illinois, United States) (1)
Greensboro (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Genoa (Italy) (1)
Fortress Monroe (Virginia, United States) (1)
Fort Macon (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Fort Caswell (North Carolina, United States) (1)
England (United Kingdom) (1)
Chicago (Illinois, United States) (1)
Camden Station (Ohio, United States) (1)
Cairo, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (1)
Beaufort, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Atlantic Ocean (1)
Annapolis (Maryland, United States) (1)
America (Indiana, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Abraham Lincoln (13)
Jefferson Davis (4)
Franklin Buchanan (4)
George Washington (3)
William H. Seward (3)
Gregory (3)
John Floyd (3)
Billy Wilson (2)
King (2)
Holladay Hicks (2)
Ellsworth (2)
Dayton (2)
Weston (1)
Tell M. Thouvenel (1)
Thomas (1)
Rector (1)
Napoleon (1)
Morrill (1)
Magoffin (1)
Kane (1)
Stonewall Jackson (1)
Holland (1)
Harris (1)
Hallam (1)
Ellis (1)
Dennison (1)
Curtin (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
1860 AD (5)
February, 1861 AD (1)
December, 1859 AD (1)
1830 AD (1)
July 4th (1)
May 18th (1)
May 6th (1)
May 4th (1)
April 19th (1)
April 17th (1)
April 15th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: