The National Intelligencer
publishes the subjoined rejoinder of Lieut.- General Scott
to the recent communication of ex-President Buchanan
, and remarks:
The interest naturally attaching to this discussion between citizens so distinguished, and who were called to act such a conspicuous part at a most important epoch in our history, will procure for this response of General Scott
that attentive perusal which it no less deserves from the dignity of the subject to which it relates.
It is gratifying to observe that neither of our venerable and eminent correspondents, in controverting the statements of the other, transcends the limits of candid criticism while dealing with topics at once so delicate and partly of a personal nature.
To the Editors of the National Intelligencer:
I regret to find myself in a controversy with the venerable ex-President Buchanan
Recently (October 21) you published my official report to President Lincoln
dated March 30, 1861, giving a summary of my then recent connection with our principal Southern forts, which I am sorry to perceive has given offence to the ex-President
That result, purely incidental, did not enter into my purpose in drawing up the paper; but, on reflection, I suppose that, under the circumstances, offence was unavoidable.
Let it be remembered, that the new President
had a right to demand of me — the immediate commander of the army — how it had happened that the incipient rebels had been allowed to seize several of those forts, and from the bad condition of others were likely to gain possession of them also.
Primarily the blame rested exclusively on me. Hence, to vindicate my sworn allegiance to the Union
and professional conduct, the report was submitted to President Lincoln
at an early day, (in his administration,) and recently to the world.
To that short paper ex-President Buchanan
publishes a reply of double the length in the Intelligencer,
of the 1st inst. My rejoinder, from necessity, if not taste, will be short, for I hold the pen in a rheumatic hand, and am without aide-de-camp or amanuensis, and without a printed document and my own official papers.
Unable, in my present condition, to make an analysis of the ex-President
's long reply, I avail myself of a substitute furnished by an accidental visitor, who has kindly marked the few points which he thinks may require some slight notice at my hands.
1. To account for not having garrisoned sufficiently the Southern
forts named against anticipated treason and rebellion, according to my many recommendations, beginning October 29, 1860, repeated the next day, and again more earnestly December 13, 15, 28, and 30, the ex-President
says: ‘"There were no available troops within reach."’
Now, I have nowhere said that either of those forts, even with the reinforcements indicated, would have had a war
Certainly not — My proposition was to put each in a condition, as I expressly said, to guard against a surprise or coup de main
(an off-hand attack--one without full preparation.)
That these movements of small detachments might easily have been made in November and December, 1860, and some of them as late as the following month, cannot be doubted.
But the ex-President sneers at my ‘"weak device"’ for saving the forts.
He forgets what the gallant Anderson
did, with a handful of men, in Fort Sumter
, and leaves out of the account what he might have done with a like handful in Fort Moultrie
, even without further augmentation of men to divide between the garrisons.
Twin forts on the opposite sides of a channel not only give a cross fire on the head of an attack, but the strength of each is more than doubled by the flanking fire of the other.
The same remarks apply to the gallant Lieutenant Slemmer
, with his handful of brave men in Fort Pickens
With what contempt might he not have looked upon Chase
, in front of him, with varying masses of from two to six thousand men, if Fort Pickens
and its twin, Fort McRae
, had had between them only two hundred men!
Now, although it is true that, with or without the ex-President
's approbation, the Secretary of War
had nearly denuded our whole Eastern seaboard of troops in order to augment our forces in Texas
, I nevertheless pointed out, at several of the above dates, the six hundred recruits (about) which we had in the harbor of New York
and at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, nearly all organized into temporary companies, and tolerably drilled and disciplined — quite equal to the purpose in question — besides the five companies of regulars near at hand, making about one thousand men.--These disposable troops would have given (say) two hundred men to the twin forts, Jackson
and St. Philip
, below New Orleans; an equal number to Fort Morgan
, below Mobile
; a reinforcement of one hundred men to Fort Pickens
, Pensacola harbor, and a garrison of the like number to the twin fort, McRae
; a garrison of one hundred men to Fort Jefferson
, Tortugas Island, and the same to Fort Pulaski
, below Savannah
, which, like Forts Jackson
, St. Philip
, had not at the time a soldier — leaving about two hundred men for the twin Forts Moultrie
, Charleston harbor
, where there were two weak companies, making less than ninety men. Fortress Monroe
had already a garrison of some eight companies, one or two of which might, in the earlier period of danger, have been spared till volunteers could have been obtained, notwithstanding printed handbills were everywhere posted in Eastern Virginia
, by an eccentric character, inviting recruits to take that most important work.
I have thus shown that small garrisons would at first have sufficed for the other twins, Forts Jackson
and St. Philip
My object was to save to the Union
, by any means at hand, all those works until Congress could have time to authorize a call for volunteers — a call which the President
, for such purpose, might no doubt have made without any special legislation, with the full approbation of every loyal man in the Union
2. The ex-President almost loses his amiability in having his neglect of forts ‘ "attributed,"’ as he says, ‘"without the least cause, to the influence of Governor Floyd
;"’ and, he adds, ‘"all my Cabinet must bear me witness that I was the President
myself, responsible for all the acts of the Administration."’
Now, notwithstanding this broad assumption of responsibility, I should be sorry to believe that Mr. Buchanan
specially consented to the removal, by Secretary Floyd
, of 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, from Northern repositories to Southern arsenals, so that on the breaking out of the maturing rebellion they might be found without cost, except to the United States
, in the most convenient positions for distribution among the insurgents.
So, too, with the one hundred and twenty or one hundred and forty pieces of heavy artillery, which the same Secretary
ordered from Pittsburg
to Ship Island
, in Lake Borgne
, and Galveston, Texas
, for forts not yet erected!
Accidently learning, early in March, that, under this posthumous
order, the shipment of these guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary Holt
(acting for Secretary Cameron
) just in time to defeat the robbery.
But on this point we may hear ex-Secretary Floyd
he expressly claimed the honor of defeating all my plans and solicitations respecting the forts, and received his reward; it being there universally admitted that but for that victory over me there could have been no rebellion!
3. Mr. Buchanan
complains that I published, without permission, January 13, 1861, my views, ad- dressed to him and the Secretary of War
, October 29 and 30. 1860.
But that act was caused, as I explained to him at the time, by the misrepresentations of the views
in one of the earlier speeches of the same ex-Secretary after his return to Virginia
4. One of my statements, complaining of the joint countermand, sent through the Secretaries of War
and Navy, to prevent the landing at Fort Pickens
of Capt. Vodges
's company, unless the fort should be attacked,
is cited by the ex-President
to proven, ‘"singular want of memory"’ on my part; and a note from Secretary Holt
is adduced to show that I had entirely approved of the joint countermand the day (January 29) that it was prepared.
Few persons are as little liable to make a misstatement by accident as Mr. Holt
, and no one more incapable of making one by design; yet I have not the slightest recollection of any interview with him on this subject.
I do remember, however, that Mr. Holt
, on some matter of business, approached my bedside about that time when I was suffering greatly from an access of pain.
, Mr. Holt
, and myself were all landsmen, and could know but little of the impossibility of landing troops on an open sea beach, with a high wind and surf.
, Secretary of the Navy
, with officers about him of intelligence and nautical experience, ought to have said plumply that if Vodges
was not to land except in the case of an attack upon Fort Pickens
, he might as well have remained at Fortress Monroe
, as the prohibition placed the fort, so far as he was concerned, at the mercy, (or as the event showed) in the want of enterprise on the part of the rebel commander at Pensacola
Possibly there are other parts of the reply which a superficial reader may think require comment or elucidation; and, indeed, here is another marked for me by my kind visitor:
5. The ex-President
has brought together a labyrinth of dates respecting the arrival and departure of rebel commissioners, armistices, &c., with which, as I had no official connection, I may have made an unimportant mistake or two; but as I have not by me the means of recovering the clue to these windings, I shall not attempt to follow them.