"The new Constitution is the Constitution of the United States with various modifications and some very important and most desirable improvements. We are free to say that the invaluable reforms enumerated should be adopted by the United States, with or without a reunion of the seceded States, and as soon as possible. But why not accept them with the propositions of the Confederate States on slavery as a basis of reunion?"
[Footnote 133: See Appendix K.]
[Footnote 134: "War between the States," vol. ii, col. xix, p. 389.]
[Footnote 135: See Article II, section 1.]
[Footnote 136: Ibid., section 2, 3.]
[Footnote 137: Article I, section 6, 2.]
[Footnote 138: Article I, section 8, 1.]
[Footnote 139: Ibid.]
[Footnote 140: Ibid., section 9, 10.]
[Footnote 141: Ibid., 9.]
[Footnote 142: Ibid., section 7, 2.]
[Footnote 143: Ibid., section 2, 5.]
[Footnote 144: Ibid., section 10, 3.]
[Footnote 145: Article IV, section 3, 1.]
[Footnote 146: Article V.]
[Footnote 147: Article I, section 8, 1 and 4, section 9, 6; Article III, section 2, 1; Article IV, section 3, 3.]
[Footnote 148: As late as the 22d of April, 1861, Mr. Seward, United States Secretary of State, in a dispatch to Mr. Dayton, Minister to France, since made public, expressed the views and purposes of the United States Government in the premises as follows. It may be proper to explain that, by what he is pleased to term "the revolution," Mr. Seward means the withdrawal of the Southern States; and that the words italicized are, perhaps, not so distinguished in the original. He says: "The Territories will remain in all respects the same, whether the revolution shall succeed or shall fail. The condition of slavery in the several States will remain just the same, whether it succeed or fail. There is not even a pretext for the complaint that the disaffected States are to be conquered by the United States if the revolution fails; for the rights of the States and the condition of every being in them will remain subject to exactly the same laws and forms of administration, whether the revolution shall succeed or whether it shall fail. In the one case, the States would be federally connected with the new Confederacy; in the other, they would, as now, be members of the United States; but their Constitutions and laws, customs, habits, and institutions, in either ease, will remain the same."]
[Footnote 149: "New York Herald," March 19, 1861.]
The Commission to Washington City.—Arrival of Mr. Crawford.—Mr. Buchanan's Alarm.—Note of the Commissioners to the New Administration.—Mediation of Justices Nelson and Campbell.—The Difficulty about Forts Sumter and Pickens.—Mr. Secretary Seward's Assurances.—Duplicity of the Government at Washington.—Mr. Fox's Visit to Charleston.—Secret Preparations for Coercive Measures.—Visit of Mr. Lamon.—Renewed Assurances of Good Faith.—Notification to Governor Pickens.—Developments of Secret History.—Systematic and Complicated Perfidy exposed.
The appointment of Commissioners to proceed to Washington, for the purpose of establishing friendly relations with the United States and effecting an equitable settlement of all questions relating to the common property of the States and the public debt, has already been mentioned. No time was lost in carrying this purpose into execution. Mr. Crawford—first of the Commissioners—left Montgomery on or about the 27th of February, and arrived in Washington two or three days before the expiration of Mr. Buchanan's term of office as President of the United States. Besides his official credentials, he bore the following letter to the President, of a personal or semi-official character, intended to facilitate, if possible, the speedy accomplishment of the objects of his mission:
"To the President of the United States.
"Sir: Being animated by an earnest desire to unite and bind together our respective countries by friendly ties, I have appointed Martin J. Crawford, one of our most esteemed and trustworthy citizens, as special Commissioner of the Confederate States to the Government of the United States; and I have now the honor to introduce him to you, and to ask for him a reception and treatment corresponding to his station, and to the purposes for which he is sent.
"Those purposes he will more particularly explain to you. Hoping that through his agency these may be accomplished, I avail myself of this occasion to offer to you the assurance of my distinguished consideration."
(Signed) "Jefferson Davis."
"Montgomery, February 27, 1861."
It may here be mentioned, in explanation of my desire that the commission, or at least a part of it, should reach Washington before the close of Mr. Buchanan's term, that I had received an intimation from him, through a distinguished Senator of one of the border States, that he would be happy to receive a Commissioner or Commissioners from the Confederate States, and would refer to the Senate any communication that might be made through such a commission.
Mr. Crawford—now a Judge of the Supreme Court of Georgia, and the only surviving member of the commission—in a manuscript account, which he has kindly furnished, of his recollections of events connected with it, says that, on arriving in Washington at the early hour of half-past four o'clock in the morning, he was "surprised to see Pennsylvania Avenue, from the old National to Willard's Hotel, crowded with men hurrying, some toward the former, but most of the faces in the direction of the latter, where the new President [Mr. Lincoln, President-elect], the great political almoner, for the time being, had taken up his lodgings. At this point," continues Judge Crawford, "the crowd swelled to astonishing numbers of expectant and hopeful men, awaiting an opportunity, either to see Mr. Lincoln himself, or to communicate with him through some one who might be so fortunate as to have access to his presence."
Describing his reception in the Federal capital, Judge Crawford says:
"The feverish and emotional condition of affairs soon made the presence of the special Commissioner at Washington known throughout the city. Congress was still, of course, in session; Senators and members of the House of Representatives, excepting those of the Confederate States, who had withdrawn, were in their seats, and the manifestations of anxious care and gloomy forebodings were plainly to be seen on all sides. This was not confined to sections, but existed among the men of the North and West as well as those of the South....
"Mr. Buchanan, the President, was in a state of most thorough alarm, not only for his home at Wheatland, but for his personal safety. In the very few days which had elapsed between the time of his promise to receive a Commissioner from the Confederate States and the actual arrival of the Commissioner, he had become so fearfully panic-stricken, that he declined either to receive him or to send any message to the Senate touching the subject-matter of his mission.
"The Commissioner had been for several years in Congress before the Administration of Mr. Buchanan, as well as during his official term, and had always been in close political and social relations with him; yet he was afraid of a public visit from him. He said that he had only three days of official life left, and could incur no further dangers or reproaches than those he had already borne from the press and public speakers of the North.
"The intensity of the prevalent feeling increased as the vast crowds, arriving by every train, added fresh material; and hatred and hostility toward our new Government were manifested in almost every conceivable manner."
Another of the Commissioners (Mr. Forsyth) having arrived in Washington on the 12th of March—eight days after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln—the two Commissioners then present, Messrs. Forsyth and Crawford, addressed to Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, a note informing him of their presence, stating the friendly and peaceful purposes of their mission, and requesting the appointment of a day, as early as possible, for the presentation to the President of the United States of their credentials and the objects which they had in view. This letter will be found in the Appendix, with other correspondence which ensued, published soon after the events to which it relates. The attention of the reader is specially invited to these documents, but, as additional revelations have been made since they were first published, it will be proper, in order to a full understanding of the transactions to which they refer, to give here a brief statement of the facts.
No written answer to the note of the Commissioners was delivered to them for twenty-seven days after it was written. The paper of Mr. Seward, in reply, without signature or address, dated March 15th, was "filed," as he states, on that day, in the Department of State, but a copy of it was not handed to the Commissioners until the 8th of April. But an oral answer had been made to the note of the Commissioners at a much earlier date, for the significance of which it will be necessary to bear in mind the condition of affairs at Charleston and Pensacola.
Fort Sumter was still occupied by the garrison under command of Major Anderson, with no material change in the circumstances since the failure of the attempt made in January to reenforce it by means of the Star of the West. This standing menace at the gates of the chief harbor of South Carolina had been tolerated by the government and people of that State, and afterward by the Confederate authorities, in the abiding hope that it would be removed without compelling a collision of forces. Fort Pickens, on one side of the entrance to the harbor of Pensacola, was also occupied by a garrison of United States troops, while the two forts (Barrancas and McRee) on the other side were in possession of the Confederates. Communication by sea was not entirely precluded, however, in the case of Fort Pickens; the garrison had been strengthened, and a fleet of Federal men-of-war was lying outside of the harbor. The condition of affairs at these forts—especially at Fort Sumter—was a subject of anxiety with the friends of peace, and the hope of settling by negotiation the questions involved in their occupation had been one of the most urgent motives for the prompt dispatch of the Commissioners to Washington.
The letter of the Commissioners to Mr. Seward was written, as we have seen, on the 12th of March. The oral message, above mentioned, was obtained and communicated to the Commissioners through the agency of two Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States—Justices Nelson, of New York, and Campbell, of Alabama. On the 15th of March, according to the statement of Judge Campbell, Mr. Justice Nelson visited the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury and the Attorney-General (Messrs. Seward, Chase, and Bates), to dissuade them from undertaking to put in execution any policy of coercion. "During the term of the Supreme Court he had very carefully examined the laws of the United States to enable him to attain his conclusions, and from time to time he had consulted the Chief Justice [Taney] upon the questions which his examination had suggested. His conclusion was that, without very serious violations of Constitution and statutes, coercion could not be successfully effected by the executive department. I had made [continues Judge Campbell] a similar examination, and I concurred in his conclusions and opinions. As he was returning from his visit to the State Department, we casually met, and he informed me of what he had done. He said he had spoken to these officers at large; that he was received with respect and listened to with attention by all, with approbation by the Attorney-General, and with great cordiality by the Secretary of State; that the Secretary had expressed gratification to find so many impediments to the disturbance of peace, and only wished there had been more. He stated that the Secretary told him there was a present cause of embarrassment: that the Southern Commissioners had demanded recognition, and a refusal would lead to irritation and excitement in the Southern States, and would cause a counter-irritation and excitement in the Northern States, prejudicial to a peaceful adjustment. Justice Nelson suggested that I might be of service."
The result of the interview between these two distinguished gentlemen, we are informed, was another visit, by both of them, to the State Department, for the purpose of urging Mr. Seward to reply to the Commissioners, and assure them of the desire of the United States Government for a friendly adjustment. Mr. Seward seems to have objected to an immediate recognition of the Commissioners, on the ground that the state of public sentiment in the North would not sustain it, in connection with the withdrawal of the troops from Fort Sumter, which had been determined on. "The evacuation of Sumter," he said, "is as much as the Administration can bear."
Judge Campbell adds: "I concurred in the conclusion that the evacuation of Sumter involved responsibility, and stated that there could not be too much caution in the adoption of measures so as not to shock or to irritate the public sentiment, and that the evacuation of Sumter was sufficient for the present in that direction. I stated that I would see the Commissioners, and I would write to Mr. Davis to that effect. I asked him what I should say as to Sumter and as to Pickens. He authorized me to say that, before that letter could reach him [Mr. Davis], he would learn by telegraph that the order for the evacuation of Sumter had been made. He said the condition of Pickens was satisfactory, and there would be no change made there." The italics in this extract are my own.
The letter in which this promise was communicated to me has been lost, but it was given in substantially the terms above stated as authorized by Mr. Seward—that the order for the evacuation of the fort would be issued before the letter could reach me. The same assurance was given, on the same day, to the Commissioners. Judge Campbell tells us that Mr. Crawford was slow to consent to refrain from pressing the demand for recognition. "It was only after some discussion and the expression of some objections that he consented" to do so. This consent was clearly one part of a stipulation, of which the other part was the pledge that the fort would be evacuated in the course of a few days. Mr. Crawford required the pledge of Mr. Seward to be reduced to writing, with Judge Campbell's personal assurance of its genuineness and accuracy. This written statement was exhibited to Judge Nelson, before its delivery, and approved by him. The fact that the pledge had been given in his name and behalf was communicated to Mr. Seward the same evening by letter. He was cognizant of, consenting to, and in great part the author of, the whole transaction.
It will be observed that not only the Commissioners in Washington, but the Confederate Government at Montgomery also, were thus assured on the highest authority—that of the Secretary of State of the United States, the official organ of communication of the views and purposes of his Government—of the intention of that Government to order the evacuation of Fort Sumter within a few days from the 15th of March, and not to disturb the existing status at Fort Pickens. Moreover, this was not the mere statement of a fact, but a pledge, given as the consideration of an appeal to the Confederate Government and its Commissioners to refrain from embarrassing the Federal Administration by prosecuting any further claims at the same time. As such a pledge, it was accepted, and, while its fulfillment was quietly awaited, the Commissioners forbore to make any further demand for reply to their note of the 12th of March.
Five days having elapsed in this condition of affairs, the Commissioners in Washington telegraphed Brigadier-General Beauregard, commander of the Confederate forces at Charleston, inquiring whether the fort had been evacuated, or any action taken by Major Anderson indicating the probability of an evacuation. Answer was made to this dispatch, that the fort had not been evacuated, that there were no indications of such a purpose, but that Major Anderson was still working on its defenses. This dispatch was taken to Mr. Seward by Judge Campbell. Two interviews occurred in relation to it, at both of which Judge Nelson was also present. Of the result of these interviews, Judge Campbell states: "The last was full and satisfactory. The Secretary was buoyant and sanguine; he spoke of his ability to carry through his policy with confidence. He accounted for the delay as accidental, and not involving the integrity of his assurance that the evacuation would take place, and that I should know whenever any change was made in the resolution in reference to Sumter or to Pickens. I repeated this assurance in writing to Judge Crawford, and informed Governor Seward in writing what I had said."
It would be incredible, but for the ample proofs which have since been brought to light, that, during all this period of reiterated assurances of a purpose to withdraw the garrison from Fort Sumter, and of excuses for delay on account of the difficulties which embarrassed it, the Government of the United States was assiduously engaged in devising means for furnishing supplies and reenforcements to the garrison, with the view of retaining possession of the fort!
Mr. G. V. Fox, afterward Assistant Secretary of the United States Navy, had proposed a plan for reenforcing and furnishing supplies to the garrison of Fort Sumter in February, during the Administration of Mr. Buchanan. In a letter published in the newspapers since the war, he gives an account of the manner in which the proposition was renewed to the new Administration and its reception by them, as follows:
"On the 12th of March I received a telegram from Postmaster-General Blair to come to Washington. I arrived there on the 13th. Mr. Blair having been acquainted with the proposition I presented to General Scott, under Mr. Buchanan's Administration, sent for me to tender the same to Mr. Lincoln, informing me that Lieutenant-General Scott had advised the President that the fort could not be relieved, and must be given up. Mr. Blair took me at once to the White House, and I explained the plan to the President. Thence we adjourned to Lieutenant-General Scott's office, where a renewed discussion of the subject took place. The General informed the President that my plan was practicable in February, but that the increased number of batteries erected at the mouth of the harbor since that time rendered it impossible in March.
"Finding that there was great opposition to any attempt at relieving Fort Sumter, and that Mr. Blair alone sustained the President in his policy of refusing to yield, I judged that my arguments in favor of the practicability of sending in supplies would be strengthened by a visit to Charleston and the fort. The President readily agreed to my visit, if the Secretary of War and General Scott raised no objection.
"Both these gentlemen consenting, I left Washington on the 19th of March, and, passing through Richmond and Wilmington, reached Charleston on the 21st."
Thus we see that, at the very moment when Mr. Secretary Seward was renewing to the Confederate Government, through Judge Campbell, his positive assurance that "the evacuation would take place," this emissary was on his way to Charleston to obtain information and devise measures by means of which this promise might be broken.
On his arrival in Charleston, Mr. Fox tells us that he sought an interview with Captain Hartstein, of the Confederate Navy, and through this officer obtained from Governor Pickens permission to visit Fort Sumter. He fails, in his narrative, to state what we learn from Governor Pickens himself, that this permission was obtained "expressly upon the pledge of 'pacific purposes.'" Notwithstanding this pledge, he employed the opportunity afforded by his visit to mature the details of his plan for furnishing supplies and reenforcements to the garrison. He did not, he says, communicate his plan or purposes to Major Anderson, the commanding officer of the garrison, having discernment enough, perhaps, to divine that the instincts of that brave and honest soldier would have revolted at and rebuked the duplicity and perfidy of the whole transaction. The result of his visit was, however, reported at Washington, his plan was approved by President Lincoln, and he was sent to New York to make arrangements for putting it in execution.
"In a very few days after" (says Governor Pickens, in the message already quoted above), "another confidential agent, Colonel Lamon, was sent by the President [Mr. Lincoln], who informed me that he had come to try and arrange for the removal of the garrison, and, when he returned from the fort, asked if a war-vessel could not be allowed to remove them. I replied that no war-vessel could be allowed to enter the harbor on any terms. He said he believed Major Anderson preferred an ordinary steamer, and I agreed that the garrison might be thus removed. He said he hoped to return in a very few days for that purpose."
This, it will be remembered, occurred while Mr. Fox was making active, though secret, preparations for his relief expedition.
Colonel, or Major, Lamon, as he is variously styled in the correspondence, did not return to Charleston, as promised. About the 30th of March (which was Saturday) a telegram from Governor Pickens was received by the Commissioners in Washington, making inquiry with regard to Colonel Lamon, and the meaning of the protracted delay to fulfill the promise of evacuation. This was fifteen days after the original assurance of Mr. Seward that the garrison would be withdrawn immediately, and ten days after his explanation that the delay was "accidental." The dispatch of Governor Pickens was taken by Judge Campbell to Mr. Seward, who appointed the ensuing Monday (1st of April) for an interview and answer. At that interview Mr. Seward informed Judge Campbell that "the President was concerned about the contents of the telegram—there was a point of honor involved; that Lamon had no agency from him, nor title to speak." (This late suggestion of the point of honor would seem, under the circumstances, to have been made in a spirit of sarcastic pleasantry, like Sir John Falstaff's celebrated discourse on the same subject.) The only substantial result of the conversation, however, was the written assurance of Mr. Seward, to be communicated to the Commissioners, that "the Government will not undertake to supply Fort Sumter without giving notice to Governor Pickens."
This, it will be observed, was a very material variation from the positive pledge previously given, and reiterated, to the Commissioners, to Governor Pickens, and to myself directly, that the fort was to be forthwith evacuated. Judge Campbell, in his account of the interview, says: "I asked him [Mr. Seward] whether I was to understand that there had been a change in his former communications. His answer was, 'None.'"
About the close of the same week (the first in April), the patience of the Commissioners having now been wellnigh exhausted, and the hostile preparations of the Government of the United States, notwithstanding the secrecy with which they were conducted, having become matter of general rumor, a letter was addressed to Mr. Seward, upon the subject, by Judge Campbell, in behalf of the Commissioners, again asking whether the assurances so often given were well or ill founded. To this the Secretary returned answer in writing: "Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see."
This was on the 7th of April. The very next day (the 8th) the following official notification (without date or signature) was read to Governor Pickens, of South Carolina, and General Beauregard, in Charleston, by Mr. Chew, an official of the State Department (Mr. Seward's) in Washington, who said—as did a Captain or Lieutenant Talbot, who accompanied him—that it was from the President of the United States, and delivered by him to Mr. Chew on the 6th—the day before Mr. Seward's assurance of "faith fully kept."
"I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort."
Thus disappeared the last vestige of the plighted faith and pacific pledges of the Federal Government.
In order fully to appreciate the significance of this communication, and of the time and circumstances of its delivery, it must be borne in mind that the naval expedition which had been secretly in preparation for some time at New York, under direction of Captain Fox, was now ready to sail, and might reasonably be expected to be at Charleston almost immediately after the notification was delivered to Governor Pickens, and before preparation could be made to receive it. Owing to cross-purposes or misunderstandings in the Washington Cabinet, however, and then to the delay caused by a severe storm at sea, this expectation was disappointed, and the Confederate commander at Charleston had opportunity to communicate with Montgomery and receive instructions for his guidance, before the arrival of the fleet, which had been intended to be a surprise.
In publications made since the war by members of Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet, it has been represented that, during the period of the disgraceful transactions above detailed, there were dissensions and divisions in the Cabinet—certain members of it urging measures of prompt and decided coercion; the Secretary of State favoring a pacific or at least a dilatory policy; and the President vacillating for a time between the two, but eventually adopting the views of the coercionists. In these statements it is represented that the assurances and pledges, given by Mr. Seward to the Confederate Government and its Commissioners, were given on his own authority, and without the consent or approval of the President of the United States. The absurdity of any such attempt to disassociate the action of the President from that of his Secretary, and to relieve the former of responsibility for the conduct of the latter, is too evident to require argument or comment. It is impossible to believe that, during this whole period of nearly a month, Mr. Lincoln was ignorant of the communications that were passing between the Confederate Commissioners and Mr. Seward, through the distinguished member of the Supreme Court—still holding his seat as such—who was acting as intermediary. On one occasion, Judge Campbell informs us that the Secretary, in the midst of an important interview, excused himself for the purpose of conferring with the President before giving a final answer, and left his visitor for some time, awaiting his return from that conference, when the answer was given, avowedly and directly proceeding from the President.
If, however, it were possible to suppose that Mr. Seward was acting on his own responsibility, and practicing a deception upon his own chief, as well as upon the Confederate authorities, in the pledges which he made to the latter, it is nevertheless certain that the principal facts were brought to light within a few days after the close of the efforts at negotiation. Yet the Secretary of State was not impeached and brought to trial for the grave offense of undertaking to conduct the most momentous and vital transactions that had been or could be brought before the Government of the United States, without the knowledge and in opposition to the will of the President, and for having involved the Government in dishonor, if not in disaster. He was not even dismissed from office, but continued to be the chief officer of the Cabinet and confidential adviser of the President, as he was afterward of the ensuing Administration, occupying that station during two consecutive terms. No disavowal of his action, no apology nor explanation, was ever made. Politically and legally, the President is unquestionably responsible in all cases for the action of any member of his Cabinet, and in this case it is as preposterous to attempt to dissever from him the moral, as it would be impossible to relieve him of the legal, responsibility that rests upon the Government of the United States for the systematic series of frauds perpetrated by its authority.
On the other hand, Mr. Seward, throughout the whole negotiation, was fully informed of the views of his colleagues in the Cabinet and of the President. Whatever his real hopes or purposes may have been in the beginning, it is positively certain that long before the end, and while still reiterating his assurances that the garrison would be withdrawn, he knew that it had been determined, and that active preparations were in progress, to strengthen it.
Mr. Gideon Welles, who was Secretary of the Navy in Mr. Lincoln's Cabinet, gives the following account of one of the transactions of the period:
"One evening in the latter part of the month of March, there was a small gathering at the Executive Mansion, while the Sumter question was still pending. The members of the Cabinet were soon individually and quietly invited to the council-chamber, where, as soon as assembled, the President informed them he had just been advised by General Scott that it was expedient to evacuate Fort Pickens, as well as Fort Sumter, which last was assumed at military headquarters to be a determined fact, in conformity with the views of Secretary Seward and the General-in-Chief....
"A brief silence followed the announcement of the amazing recommendation of General Scott, when Mr. Blair, who had been much annoyed by the vacillating course of the General-in-Chief in regard to Sumter, remarked, looking earnestly at Mr. Seward, that it was evident the old General was playing politician in regard to both Sumter and Pickens; for it was not possible, if there was a defense, for the rebels to take Pickens; and the Administration would not be justified if it listened to his advice and evacuated either. Very soon thereafter, I think at the next Cabinet meeting, the President announced his decision that supplies should be sent to Sumter, and issued confidential orders to that effect. All were gratified with this decision, except Mr. Seward, who still remonstrated, but preparations were immediately commenced to fit out an expedition to forward supplies."
This account is confirmed by a letter of Mr. Montgomery Blair. The date of the announcement of the President's final purpose is fixed by Mr. Welles, in the neat paragraph to that above quoted, as the 28th of March. This was four days before Mr. Seward's assurance given Judge Campbell—after conference with the President—that there would be no departure from the pledges previously given (which were that the fort would be evacuated), and ten days before his written renewal of the assurance—"Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see!" This assurance, too, was given at the very moment when a messenger from his own department was on the way to Charleston to notify the Governor of South Carolina that faith would not be kept in the matter.
It is scarcely necessary to say that the Commissioners had, with good reason, ceased to place any confidence in the promises of the United States Government, before they ceased to be made. On the 8th of April they sent the following dispatch to General Beauregard:
"Washington, April 8, 1861.
"General G. T. Beauregard: Accounts uncertain, because of the constant vacillation of this Government. We were reassured yesterday that the status of Sumter would not be changed without previous notice to Governor Pickens, but we have no faith in them. The war policy prevails in the Cabinet at this time.
"M. J. Crawford."
On the same day the announcement made to Governor Pickens through Mr. Chew was made known. The Commissioners immediately applied for a definitive answer to their note of March 12th, which had been permitted to remain in abeyance. The paper of the Secretary of State, dated March 15th, was thereupon delivered to them. This paper, with the final rejoinder of the Commissioners and Judge Campbell's letters to the Secretary of April 13th and April 20th, respectively, will be found in the Appendix.
Negotiation was now at an end, and the Commissioners withdrew from Washington and returned to their homes. Their last dispatch, before leaving, shows that they were still dependent upon public rumor and the newspapers for information as to the real purposes and preparations of the Federal Administration. It was in these words:
"Washington, April 10, 1861.
"General G. T. Beauregard: The 'Tribune' of to-day declares the main object of the expedition to be the relief of Sumter, and that a force will be landed which will overcome all opposition.
"Roman, Crawford, and Forsyth."
The annexed extracts from my message to the Confederate Congress at the opening of its special session, on the 29th of April, will serve as a recapitulation of the events above narrated, with all of comment that it was then, or is now, considered necessary to add:
[Extracts from President's Message to the Confederate Congress, of April 29, 1861.]
"... Scarce had you assembled in February last, when, prior even to the inauguration of the Chief Magistrate you had elected, you expressed your desire for the appointment of Commissioners, and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement between the two Governments upon principles of right, justice, equity, and good faith.
"It was my pleasure, as well as my duty, to cooeperate with you in this work of peace. Indeed, in my address to you, on taking the oath of office, and before receiving from you the communication of this resolution, I had said that, as a necessity, not as a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separating, and henceforth our energies must be directed to the conduct of our own affairs, and the perpetuity of the Confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us to peaceably pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will then have been fulfilled.
"It was in furtherance of these accordant views of the Congress and the Executive, that I made choice of three discreet, able, and distinguished citizens, who repaired to Washington. Aided by their cordial cooeperation and that of the Secretary of State, every effort compatible with self-respect and the dignity of the Confederacy was exhausted, before I allowed myself to yield to the conviction that the Government of the United States was determined to attempt the conquest of this people, and that our cherished hopes of peace were unobtainable.
"On the arrival of our Commissioners in Washington on the 5th of March, they postponed, at the suggestion of a friendly intermediator, doing more than giving informal notice of their arrival. This was done with a view to afford time to the President of the United States, who had just been inaugurated, for the discharge of other pressing official duties in the organization of his Administration, before engaging his attention to the object of their mission.
"It was not until the 12th of the month that they officially addressed the Secretary of State, informing him of the purpose of their arrival, and stating in the language of their instructions their wish to make to the Government of the United States overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring the Government of the United States that the President, Congress, and people of the Confederate States desired a peaceful solution of these great questions; that it was neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand which was not founded on the strictest principles of justice, nor to do any act to injure their late confederates.
"To this communication, no formal reply was received until the 8th of April. During the interval, the Commissioners had consented to waive all questions of form, with the firm resolve to avoid war, if possible. They went so far even as to hold, during that long period, unofficial intercourse through an intermediary, whose high position and character inspired the hope of success, and through whom constant assurances were received from the Government of the United States of its peaceful intentions—of its determination to evacuate Fort Sumter; and, further, that no measure would be introduced changing the existing status prejudicial to the Confederate States; that, in the event of any change in regard to Fort Pickens, notice would be given to the Commissioners.
"The crooked path of diplomacy can scarcely furnish an example so wanting in courtesy, in candor, and directness, as was the course of the United States Government toward our Commissioners in Washington. For proof of this, I refer to the annexed documents marked, (?) taken in connection with further facts, which I now proceed to relate.
"Early in April the attention of the whole country was attracted to extraordinary preparations, in New York and other Northern ports, for an extensive military and naval expedition. These preparations were commenced in secrecy for an expedition whose destination was concealed, and only became known when nearly completed; and on the 5th, 6th, and 7th of April, transports and vessels of war, with troops, munitions, and military supplies, sailed from Northern ports, bound southward.
"Alarmed by so extraordinary a demonstration, the Commissioners requested the delivery of an answer to their official communication of the 12th of March, and the reply, dated on the 15th of the previous month, was obtained, from which it appears that, during the whole interval, while the Commissioners were receiving assurances calculated to inspire hope of the success of their mission, the Secretary of State and the President of the United States had already determined to hold no intercourse with them whatever, to refuse even to listen to any proposals they had to make; and had profited by the delay created by their own assurances, in order to prepare secretly the means for effective hostile operations.
"That these assurances were given, has been virtually confessed by the Government of the United States, by its act of sending a messenger to Charleston to give notice of its purpose to use force, if opposed in its intention of supplying Fort Sumter.
"No more striking proof of the absence of good faith in the conduct of the Government of the United States toward the Confederacy can be required, than is contained in the circumstances which accompanied this notice.
"According to the usual course of navigation, the vessels composing the expedition, and designed for the relief of Fort Sumter, might be looked for in Charleston Harbor on the 9th of April. Yet our Commissioners in Washington were detained under assurances that notice should be given of any military movement. The notice was not addressed to them, but a messenger was sent to Charleston to give notice to the Governor of South Carolina, and the notice was so given at a late hour on the 8th of April, the eve of the very day on which the fleet might be expected to arrive.
"That this manoeuvre failed in its purpose was not the fault of those who controlled it. A heavy tempest delayed the arrival of the expedition, and gave time to the commander of our forces at Charleston to ask and receive instructions of the Government." ...
[Footnote 150: Mr. Hunter, of Virginia.]
[Footnote 151: This statement is in accord with a remark which Mr. Buchanan made to the author at an earlier period of the same session, with regard to the violence of Northern sentiment then lately indicated, that he thought it not impossible that his homeward route would be lighted by burning effigies of himself, and that on reaching his home he would find it a heap of ashes.]
[Footnote 152: See Appendix L.]
[Footnote 153: Ibid.]
[Footnote 154: See letter of Judge Campbell to Colonel George W. Munford in "Papers of the Southern Historical Society," appended to "Southern Magazine" for February, 1874.]
[Footnote 155: "In the course of this conversation I told Judge Crawford that it was fair to tell him that the opinion at Washington was, the secession movements were short-lived; that his Government would wither under sunshine, and that the effect of these measures might be as supposed; that they might have a contrary effect, but that I did not consider the effect. I wanted, above all other things, peace. I was willing to accept whatever peace might bring, whether union or disunion. I did not look beyond peace. He said he was willing to take all the risks of sunshine."—(Letter of Judge Campbell to Colonel Munford, as above.)]
[Footnote 156: Letter to Colonel Munford, above quoted. The italics are not in the original.]
[Footnote 157: Message to the Legislature of South Carolina, November, 1861.]
[Footnote 158: Letter to Colonel Munford, above cited.]
[Footnote 159: Letter to Munford.]
[Footnote 160: Judge Campbell, in his letter to Mr. Seward of April 13, 1861 (see Appendix L), written a few days after the transaction, gives this date. In his letter to Colonel Munford, written more than twelve years afterward, he says "Sunday, April 8th."]
[Footnote 161: For this and other documents quoted relative to the transactions of the period, see "The Record of Fort Sumter," compiled by W. A. Harris, Columbia, South Carolina, 1862.]
[Footnote 162: "Lincoln and Seward," New York, 1874, pp. 57, 58. The italics are not in the original.]
[Footnote 163: Ibid., pp. 64-69.]
[Footnote 164: Mr. Crawford, as we have seen, had arrived some days earlier. The statement in the message refers to the arrival of the full commission, or a majority of it.]
Protests against the Conduct of the Government of the United States.—Senator Douglas's Proposition to evacuate the Forts, and Extracts from his Speech in Support of it.—General Scott's Advice.—Manly Letter of Major Anderson, protesting against the Action of the Federal Government.—Misstatements of the Count of Paris.—Correspondence relative to Proposed Evacuation of the Fort.—A Crisis.
The course pursued by the Government of the United States with regard to the forts had not passed without earnest remonstrance from the most intelligent and patriotic of its own friends during the period of the events which constitute the subject of the preceding chapter. In the Senate of the United States, which continued in executive session for several weeks after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, it was the subject of discussion. Mr. Douglas, of Illinois—who was certainly not suspected of sympathy with secession, or lack of devotion to the Union—on the 15th of March offered a resolution recommending the withdrawal of the garrisons from all forts within the limits of the States which had seceded, except those at Key West and the Dry Tortugas. In support of this resolution he said:
"We certainly can not justify the holding of forts there, much less the recapturing of those which have been taken, unless we intend to reduce those States themselves into subjection. I take it for granted, no man will deny the proposition, that whoever permanently holds Charleston and South Carolina is entitled to the possession of Fort Sumter. Whoever permanently holds Pensacola and Florida is entitled to the possession of Fort Pickens. Whoever holds the States in whose limits those forts are placed is entitled to the forts themselves, unless there is something peculiar in the location of some particular fort that makes it important for us to hold it for the general defense of the whole country, its commerce and interests, instead of being useful only for the defense of a particular city or locality. It is true that Forts Taylor and Jefferson, at Key West and Tortugas, are so situated as to be essentially national, and therefore important to us without reference to our relations with the seceded States. Not so with Moultrie, Johnson, Castle Pinckney, and Sumter, in Charleston Harbor; not so with Pulaski, on the Savannah River; not so with Morgan and other forts in Alabama; not so with those other forts that were intended to guard the entrance of a particular harbor for local defense....
"We can not deny that there is a Southern Confederacy, de facto, in existence, with its capital at Montgomery. We may regret it. I regret it most profoundly; but I can not deny the truth of the fact, painful and mortifying as it is.... I proclaim boldly the policy of those with whom I act. We are for peace."
Mr. Douglas, in urging the maintenance of peace as a motive for the evacuation of the forts, was no doubt aware of the full force of his words. He knew that their continued occupation was virtually a declaration of war.
The General-in-Chief of the United States Army, also, it is well known, urgently advised the evacuation of the forts. But the most striking protest against the coercive measures finally adopted was that of Major Anderson himself. The letter in which his views were expressed has been carefully suppressed in the partisan narratives of that period and wellnigh lost sight of, although it does the highest honor to his patriotism and integrity. It was written on the same day on which the announcement was made to Governor Pickens of the purpose of the United States Government to send supplies to the fort, and is worthy of reproduction here:
[Letter of Major Anderson, United States Army, protesting against Fox's Plan for relieving Fort Sumter.]
"Fort Sumter, S. C., April 8, 1861.
"To Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General United States Army.
"Colonel: I have the honor to report that the resumption of work yesterday (Sunday) at various points on Morris Island, and the vigorous prosecution of it this morning, apparently strengthening all the batteries which are under the fire of our guns, shows that they either have just received some news from Washington which has put them on the qui vive, or that they have received orders from Montgomery to commence operations here. I am preparing, by the side of my barbette guns, protection for our men from the shells which will be almost continually bursting over or in our work.
"I had the honor to receive, by yesterday's mail, the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he there states surprises me very greatly—following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was 'authorized' to make. I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. It is, of course, now too late for me to give any advice in reference to the proposed scheme of Captain Fox. I fear that its result can not fail to be disastrous to all concerned. Even with his boat at our walls, the loss of life (as I think I mentioned to Mr. Fox) in unloading her will more than pay for the good to be accomplished by the expedition, which keeps us, if I can maintain possession of this work, out of position, surrounded by strong works which must be carried to make this fort of the least value to the United States Government.
"We have not oil enough to keep a light in the lantern for one night. The boats will have to, therefore, rely at night entirely upon other marks. I ought to have been informed that this expedition was to come. Colonel Lamon's remark convinced me that the idea, merely hinted at to me by Captain Fox, would not be carried out.
"We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which I see is to be thus commenced. That God will still avert it, and cause us to resort to pacific means to maintain our rights, is my ardent prayer!
"I am, Colonel, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,
"Major 1st Artillery, commanding."
This frank and manly letter, although written with the reserve necessarily belonging to a communication from an officer to his military superiors, expressing dissatisfaction with orders, fully vindicates Major Anderson from all suspicion of complicity or sympathy with the bad faith of the Government which he was serving. It accords entirely with the sentiments expressed in his private letter to me, already mentioned as lost or stolen, and exhibits him in the attitude of faithful performance of a duty inconsistent with his domestic ties and repugnant to his patriotism.
The "relief squadron," as with unconscious irony it was termed, was already under way for Charleston, consisting, according to their own statement, of eight vessels, carrying twenty-six guns and about fourteen hundred men, including the troops sent for reenforcement of the garrison.
These facts became known to the Confederate Government, and it was obvious that no time was to be lost in preparing for, and if possible anticipating the impending assault. The character of the instructions given General Beauregard in this emergency may be inferred from the ensuing correspondence, which is here reproduced from contemporary publications:
"Charleston, April 8th.
"L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.
"An authorized messenger from President Lincoln just informed Governor Pickens and myself that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably, or otherwise by force.
(Signed) "G. T. Beauregard."
"General G. T. Beauregard, Charleston.
"If you have no doubt of the authorized character of the agent who communicated to you the intention of the Washington Government to supply Fort Sumter by force, you will at once demand its evacuation, and, if this is refused, proceed, in such a manner as you may determine, to reduce it. Answer.
(Signed) "L. P. Walker, Secretary of War."
"Charleston, April 10th.
"L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.
"The demand will be made to-morrow at twelve o'clock.
(Signed) "G. T. Beauregard."
"Montgomery, April 10th.
"General Beauregard, Charleston.
"Unless there are especial reasons connected with your own condition, it is considered proper that you should make the demand at an early hour.
(Signed) "L. P. Walker, Secretary of War."
"Charleston, April 10th.
"L. P. Walker, Secretary of War, Montgomery.
"The reasons are special for twelve o'clock.
(Signed) "G. T. Beauregard."
"Headquarters Provisional Army, C. S. A.,
"Charleston, S.C., April 11, 1861, 2 P. M.
"Sir: The Government of the Confederate States has hitherto forborne from any hostile demonstration against Fort Sumter, in the hope that the Government of the United States, with a view to the amicable adjustment of all questions between the two Governments, and to avert the calamities of war, would voluntarily evacuate it. There was reason at one time to believe that such would be the course pursued by the Government of the United States; and, under that impression, my Government has refrained from making any demand for the surrender of the fort.
"But the Confederate States can no longer delay assuming actual possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors, and necessary to its defense and security.
"I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter. My aides, Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee, are authorized to make such demand of you. All proper facilities will be afforded for the removal of yourself and command, together with company arms and property, and all private property, to any post in the United States which you may elect. The flag which you have upheld so long and with so much fortitude, under the most trying circumstances, may be saluted by you on taking it down.
"Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee will, for a reasonable time, await your answer.
"I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) "G. T. Beauregard,
"Major Robert Anderson,
"Commanding at Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, S. C."
"Headquarters Fort Sumter, S. C., April 11, 1861.
"General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the evacuation of this fort; and to say in reply thereto that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor and of my obligations to my Government prevents my compliance.
"Thanking you for the fair, manly, and courteous terms proposed, and for the high compliment paid me,
"I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
(Signed) "Robert Anderson,
"Major U. S. Army, commanding.
"To Brigadier-General G. T. Beauregard,
"Commanding Provisional Army, C. S. A."
"Montgomery, April 11th.
"General Beauregard, Charleston.
"We do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter, if Major Anderson will state the time at which, as indicated by him, he will evacuate, and agree that, in the mean time, he will not use his guns against us, unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter. You are thus to avoid the effusion of blood. If this or its equivalent be refused, reduce the fort as your judgment decides to be most practicable.
(Signed) "L. P. Walker, Secretary of War."
"Headquarters Provisional Army, C. S. A.,
"Charleston, April 11, 1861, 11 P. M.
"Major: In consequence of the verbal observations made by you to my aides, Messrs. Chesnut and Lee, in relation to the condition of your supplies, and that you would in a few days be starved out if our guns did not batter you to pieces—or words to that effect—and desiring no useless effusion of blood, I communicated both the verbal observation and your written answer to my Government.
"If you will state the time at which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree that in the mean time you will not use your guns against us, unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you. Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee are authorized by me to enter into such an agreement with you. You are therefore requested to communicate to them an open answer.
"I remain, Major, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,
(Signed) "G. T. Beauregard,
"Major Robert Anderson,
"Commanding at Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, S. C."
"Headquarters Fort Sumter, S. C., 2.30 A. M., April 12, 1861.
"General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your second communication of the 11th instant, by Colonel Chesnut, and to state, in reply, that, cordially uniting with you in the desire to avoid the useless effusion of blood, I will, if provided with the proper and necessary means of transportation, evacuate Fort Sumter by noon on the 15th instant, should I not receive, prior to that time, controlling instructions from my Government, or additional supplies; and that I will not, in the mean time, open my fire upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort, or the flag of my Government, by the forces under your command, or by some portion of them, or by the perpetration of some act showing a hostile intention on your part against this fort or the flag it bears.
"I have the honor to be, General,
"Your obedient servant,
(Signed) "Robert Anderson,
"Major U. S. Army, commanding.
"To Brigadier-General G. T. Beauregard,
"Commanding Provisional Army, C. S. A."
"Fort Sumter, S. C., _April 12, 1861, _3.20_ A. M.
"Sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.
"We have the honor to be, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servants,
(Signed) "James Chesnut, Jr,
(Signed) "Stephen D. Lee,
"Captain S. C. Army, and Aide-de-camp.
"Major Robert Anderson,
"United States Army, commanding Fort Sumter."
It is essential to a right understanding of the last two letters to give more than a superficial attention to that of Major Anderson, bearing in mind certain important facts not referred to in the correspondence. Major Anderson had been requested to state the time at which he would evacuate the fort, if unmolested, agreeing in the mean time not to use his guns against the city and the troops defending it unless Fort Sumter should be first attacked by them. On these conditions General Beauregard offered to refrain from opening fire upon him. In his reply Major Anderson promises to evacuate the fort on the 15th of April, provided he should not, before that time, receive "controlling instructions" or "additional supplies" from his Government. He furthermore offers to pledge himself not to open fire upon the Confederates, unless in the mean time compelled to do so by some hostile act against the fort or the flag of his Government.
Inasmuch as it was known to the Confederate commander that the "controlling instructions" were already issued, and that the "additional supplies" were momentarily expected; inasmuch, also, as any attempt to introduce the supplies would compel the opening of fire upon the vessels bearing them under the flag of the United States—thereby releasing Major Anderson from his pledge—it is evident that his conditions could not be accepted. It would have been merely, after the avowal of a hostile determination by the Government of the United States, to await an inevitable conflict with the guns of Fort Sumter and the naval forces of the United States in combination; with no possible hope of averting it, unless in the improbable event of a delay of the expected fleet for nearly four days longer. (In point of fact, it arrived off the harbor on the same day, but was hindered by a gale of wind from entering it.) There was obviously no other course to be pursued than that announced in the answer given by General Beauregard.
It should not be forgotten that, during the early occupation of Fort Sumter by a garrison the attitude of which was at least offensive, no restriction had been put upon their privilege of purchasing in Charleston fresh provisions, or any delicacies or comforts not directly tending to the supply of the means needful to hold the fort for an indefinite time.
[Footnote 165: See "The Record of Fort Sumter," p. 37.]
[Footnote 166: The Count of Paris libels the memory of Major Anderson, and perverts the truth of history in this, as he has done in other particulars, by saying, with reference to the visit of Captain Fox to the fort, that, "having visited Anderson at Fort Sumter, a plan had been agreed upon between them for revictualing the garrison."—("Civil War in America," authorized translation, vol. i, chap. iv, p. 137.) Fox himself says, in his published letter, "I made no arrangements with Major Anderson in for supplying the fort, nor did I inform him of my plan"; and Major Anderson, in the letter above, says the idea had been "merely hinted at" by Captain Fox, and that Colonel Lamon had led him to believe that it had been abandoned.]
A Pause and a Review.—Attitude of the Two Parties.—Sophistry exposed and Shams torn away.—Forbearance of the Confederate Government.—Who was the Aggressor?—Major Anderson's View, and that of a Naval Officer.—Mr. Horace Greeley on the Fort Sumter Case.—The Bombardment and Surrender.—Gallant Action of ex-Senator Wigfall.—Mr. Lincoln's Statement of the Case.
Here, in the brief hour immediately before the outburst of the long-gathering storm, although it can hardly be necessary for the reader who has carefully considered what has already been written, we may pause for a moment to contemplate the attitude of the parties to the contest and the grounds on which they respectively stand. I do not now refer to the original causes of controversy—to the comparative claims of Statehood and Union, or to the question of the right or the wrong of secession—but to the proximate and immediate causes of conflict.
The fact that South Carolina was a State—whatever her relations may have been to the other States—is not and can not be denied. It is equally undeniable that the ground on which Fort Sumter was built was ceded by South Carolina to the United States in trust for the defense of her own soil and her own chief harbor. This has been shown, by ample evidence, to have been the principle governing all cessions by the States of sites for military purposes, but it applies with special force to the case of Charleston. The streams flowing into that harbor, from source to mouth, lie entirely within the limits of the State of South Carolina. No other State or combination of States could have any distinct interest or concern in the maintenance of a fortress at that point, unless as a means of aggression against South Carolina herself. The practical view of the case was correctly stated by Mr. Douglas, when he said: "I take it for granted that whoever permanently holds Charleston and South Carolina is entitled to the possession of Fort Sumter. Whoever permanently holds Pensacola and Florida is entitled to the possession of Fort Pickens. Whoever holds the States in whose limits those forts are placed is entitled to the forts themselves, unless there is something peculiar in the location of some particular fort that makes it important for us to hold it for the general defense of the whole country, its commerce and interests, instead of being useful only for the defense of a particular city or locality."
No such necessity could be alleged with regard to Fort Sumter. The claim to hold it as "public property" of the United States was utterly untenable and unmeaning, apart from a claim of coercive control over the State. If South Carolina was a mere province, in a state of open rebellion, the Government of the United States had a right to retain its hold of any fortified place within her limits which happened to be in its possession, and it would have had an equal right to acquire possession of any other. It would have had the same right to send an army to Columbia to batter down the walls of the State Capitol. The subject may at once be stripped of the sophistry which would make a distinction between the two cases. The one was as really an act of war as the other would have been. The right or the wrong of either depended entirely upon the question of the rightful power of the Federal Government to coerce a State into submission—a power which, as we have seen, was unanimously rejected in the formation of the Federal Constitution, and which was still unrecognized by many, perhaps by a majority, even of those who denied the right of a State to secede.
If there existed any hope or desire for a peaceful settlement of the questions at issue between the States, either party had a right to demand that, pending such settlement, there should be no hostile grasp upon its throat. This grip had been held on the throat of South Carolina for almost four months from the period of her secession, and no forcible resistance to it had yet been made. Remonstrances and patient, persistent, and reiterated attempts at negotiation for its removal had been made with two successive Administrations of the Government of the United States—at first by the State of South Carolina, and by the Government of the Confederate States after its formation. These efforts had been met, not by an open avowal of coercive purposes, but by evasion, prevarication, and perfidy. The agreement of one Administration to maintain the status quo at the time when the question arose, was violated in December by the removal of the garrison from its original position to the occupancy of a stronger. Another attempt was made to violate it, in January, by the introduction of troops concealed below the deck of the steamer Star of the West, but this was thwarted by the vigilance of the State service. The protracted course of fraud and prevarication practiced by Mr. Lincoln's Administration in the months of March and April has been fully exhibited. It was evident that no confidence whatever could be reposed in any pledge or promise of the Federal Government as then administered. Yet, notwithstanding all this, no resistance, other than that of pacific protest and appeals for an equitable settlement, was made, until after the avowal of a purpose of coercion, and when it was known that a hostile fleet was on the way to support and enforce it. At the very moment when the Confederate commander gave the final notice to Major Anderson of his purpose to open fire upon the fort, that fleet was lying off the mouth of the harbor, and hindered from entering only by a gale of wind.
The forbearance of the Confederate Government, under the circumstances, is perhaps unexampled in history. It was carried to the extreme verge, short of a disregard of the safety of the people who had intrusted to that government the duty of their defense against their enemies. The attempt to represent us as the aggressors in the conflict which ensued is as unfounded as the complaint made by the wolf against the lamb in the familiar fable. He who makes the assault is not necessarily he that strikes the first blow or fires the first gun. To have awaited further strengthening of their position by land and naval forces, with hostile purpose now declared, for the sake of having them "fire the first gun," would have been as unwise as it would be to hesitate to strike down the arm of the assailant, who levels a deadly weapon at one's breast, until he has actually fired. The disingenuous rant of demagogues about "firing on the flag" might serve to rouse the passions of insensate mobs in times of general excitement, but will be impotent in impartial history to relieve the Federal Government from the responsibility of the assault made by sending a hostile fleet against the harbor of Charleston, to cooeperate with the menacing garrison of Fort Sumter. After the assault was made by the hostile descent of the fleet, the reduction of Fort Sumter was a measure of defense rendered absolutely and immediately necessary.
Such clearly was the idea of the commander of the Pawnee, when he declined, as Captain Fox informs us, without orders from a superior, to make any effort to enter the harbor, "there to inaugurate civil war." The straightforward simplicity of the sailor had not been perverted by the shams of political sophistry. Even Mr. Horace Greeley, with all his extreme partisan feeling, is obliged to admit that, "whether the bombardment and reduction of Fort Sumter shall or shall not be justified by posterity, it is clear that the Confederacy had no alternative but its own dissolution."
According to the notice given by General Beauregard, fire was opened upon Fort Sumter, from the various batteries which had been erected around the harbor, at half-past four o'clock on the morning of Friday, the 12th of April, 1861. The fort soon responded. It is not the purpose of this work to give minute details of the military operation, as the events of the bombardment have been often related, and are generally well known, with no material discrepancy in matters of fact among the statements of the various participants. It is enough, therefore, to add that the bombardment continued for about thirty-three or thirty-four hours. The fort was eventually set on fire by shells, after having been partly destroyed by shot, and Major Anderson, after a resolute defense, finally surrendered on the 13th—the same terms being accorded to him which had been offered two days before. It is a remarkable fact—probably without precedent in the annals of war—that, notwithstanding the extent and magnitude of the engagement, the number and caliber of the guns, and the amount of damage done to inanimate material on both sides, especially to Fort Sumter, nobody was injured on either side by the bombardment. The only casualty attendant upon the affair was the death of one man and the wounding of several others by the explosion of a gun in the firing of a salute to their flag by the garrison on evacuating the fort the day after the surrender.
A striking incident marked the close of the bombardment. Ex-Senator Louis T. Wigfall, of Texas—a man as generous as he was recklessly brave—when he saw the fort on fire, supposing the garrison to be hopelessly struggling for the honor of its flag, voluntarily and without authority, went under fire in an open boat to the fort, and climbing through one of its embrasures asked for Major Anderson, and insisted that he should surrender a fort which it was palpably impossible that he could hold. Major Anderson agreed to surrender on the same terms and conditions that had been offered him before his works were battered in breach, and the agreement between them to that effect was promptly ratified by the Confederate commander. Thus unofficially was inaugurated the surrender and evacuation of the fort.
The President of the United States, in his message of July 4, 1861, to the Federal Congress convened in extra session, said:
"It is thus seen that the assault upon and reduction of Fort Sumter was in no sense a matter of self-defense on the part of the assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the fort could by no possibility commit aggression upon them. They knew—they were expressly notified—that the giving of bread to the few brave and hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occasion be attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should provoke more."
Mr. Lincoln well knew that, if the brave men of the garrison were hungry, they had only him and his trusted advisers to thank for it. They had been kept for months in a place where they ought not to have been, contrary to the judgment of the General-in-Chief of his army, contrary to the counsels of the wisest statesmen in his confidence, and the protests of the commander of the garrison. A word from him would have relieved them at any moment in the manner most acceptable to them and most promotive of peaceful results.
But, suppose the Confederate authorities had been disposed to yield, and to consent to the introduction of supplies for the maintenance of the garrison, what assurance would they have had that nothing further would be attempted? What reliance could be placed in any assurances of the Government of the United States after the experience of the attempted ruse of the Star of the West and the deceptions practiced upon the Confederate Commissioners in Washington? He says we were "expressly notified" that nothing more "would on that occasion be attempted"—the words in italics themselves constituting a very significant though unobtrusive and innocent-looking limitation. But we had been just as expressly notified, long before, that the garrison would be withdrawn. It would be as easy to violate the one pledge as it had been to break the other.
Moreover, the so-called notification was a mere memorandum, without date, signature, or authentication of any kind, sent to Governor Pickens, not by an accredited agent, but by a subordinate employee of the State Department. Like the oral and written pledges of Mr. Seward, given through Judge Campbell, it seemed to be carefully and purposely divested of every attribute that could make it binding and valid, in case its authors should see fit to repudiate it. It was as empty and worthless as the complaint against the Confederate Government based upon it, is disingenuous.
[Footnote 167: See the report of her commander, Captain McGowan, who says he took on board, in the harbor of New York, four officers and two hundred soldiers. Arriving off Charleston, he says, "The soldiers were now all put below, and no one allowed on deck except our own crew."]
[Footnote 168: "American Conflict," vol. i, chap, xxix, p. 449.]
Failure of the Peace Congress.—Treatment of the Commissioners.—Their Withdrawal.—Notice of an Armed Expedition.—Action of the Confederate Government.—Bombardment and Surrender of Fort Sumter.—Its Reduction required by the Exigency of the Case.—Disguise thrown off.—President Lincoln's Call for Seventy-five Thousand Men.—His Fiction of "Combinations."—Palpable Violation of the Constitution.—Action of Virginia.—Of Citizens of Baltimore.—The Charge of Precipitation against South Carolina.—Action of the Confederate Government.—The Universal Feeling.
The Congress, initiated by Virginia for the laudable purpose of endeavoring, by constitutional means, to adjust all the issues which threatened the peace of the country, failed to achieve anything that would cause or justify a reconsideration by the seceded States of their action to reclaim the grants they had made to the General Government, and to maintain for themselves a separate and independent existence.
The Commissioners sent by the Confederate Government, after having been shamefully deceived, as has been heretofore fully set forth, left the United States capital to report the result of their mission to the Confederate Government.
The notice received, that an armed expedition had sailed for operations against the State of South Carolina in the harbor of Charleston, induced the Confederate Government to meet, as best it might, this assault, in the discharge of its obligation to defend each State of the Confederacy. To this end the bombardment of the formidable work, Fort Sumter, was commenced, in anticipation of the reenforcement which was then moving to unite with its garrison for hostilities against South Carolina.
The bloodless bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter occurred on April 13, 1861. The garrison was generously permitted to retire with the honors of war. The evacuation of that fort, commanding the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, which, if in hostile hands, was destructive of its commerce, had been claimed as the right of South Carolina. The voluntary withdrawal of the garrison by the United States Government had been considered, and those best qualified to judge believed it had been promised. Yet, when instead of the fulfillment of just expectations, instead of the withdrawal of the garrison, a hostile expedition was organized and sent forward, the urgency of the case required its reduction before it should be reenforced. Had there been delay, the more serious conflict between larger forces, land and naval, would scarcely have been bloodless, as the bombardment fortunately was. The event, however, was seized upon to inflame the mind of the Northern people, and the disguise which had been worn in the communications with the Confederate Commissioners was now thrown off, and it was cunningly attempted to show that the South, which had been pleading for peace and still stood on the defensive, had by this bombardment inaugurated a war against the United States. But it should be stated that the threats implied in the declarations that the Union could not exist part slave and part free, and that the Union should be preserved, and the denial of the right of a State peaceably to withdraw, were virtually a declaration of war, and the sending of an army and navy to attack was the result to have been anticipated as the consequence of such declaration of war.
On the 15th day of the same month, President Lincoln, introducing his farce "of combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings," called forth the military of the several States to the number of seventy-five thousand, and commanded "the persons composing the combinations" to disperse, etc. It can but surprise any one in the least degree conversant with the history of the Union, to find States referred to as "persons composing combinations," and that the sovereign creators of the Federal Government, the States of the Union, should be commanded by their agent to disperse. The levy of so large an army could only mean war; but the power to declare war did not reside in the President—it was delegated to the Congress only. If, however, it had been a riotous combination or an insurrection, it must have been, according to the Constitution, against the State; and the power of the President to call forth the militia to suppress it, was dependent upon an application from the State for that purpose; it could not precede such application, and still less could it be rightfully exercised against the will of a State. The authorities on this subject have been heretofore cited, and need not be referred to again.
Suffice it to say that, by section 4, Article IV, of the Constitution, the United States are bound to protect each State against invasion and against domestic violence, whenever application shall have been made by the Legislature, or by the Executive when the Legislature can not be convened; and that to fail to give protection against any invasion whatsoever would be a dereliction of duty. To add that there could be no justification for the invasion of a State by an army of the United States, is but to repeat what has been said, on the absence of any authority in the General Government to coerce a State. In any possible view of the case, therefore, the conclusion must be, that the calling on some of the States for seventy-five thousand militia to invade other States which were asserted to be still in the Union, was a palpable violation of the Constitution, and the usurpation of undelegated power, or, in other words, of power reserved to the States or to the people.
It might, therefore, have been anticipated that Virginia—one of whose sons wrote the Declaration of Independence, another of whose sons led the armies of the United States in the Revolution which achieved their independence, and another of whose sons mainly contributed to the adoption of the Constitution of the Union—would not have been slow, in the face of such events, to reclaim the grants she had made to the General Government, and to withdraw from the Union, to the establishment of which she had so largely contributed.
Two days had elapsed between the surrender of Fort Sumter and the proclamation of President Lincoln calling for seventy-five thousand militia as before stated. Two other days elapsed, and Virginia passed her ordinance of secession, and two days thereafter the citizens of Baltimore resisted the passage of troops through that city on their way to make war upon the Southern States. Thus rapidly did the current of events bear us onward from peace to the desolating war which was soon to ensue.
The manly effort of the unorganized, unarmed citizens of Baltimore to resist the progress of armies for the invasion of her Southern sisters, was worthy of the fair fame of Maryland; becoming the descendants of the men who so gallantly fought for the freedom, independence, and sovereignty of the States.
The bold stand, then and thereafter taken, extorted a promise from the Executive authorities that no more troops should be sent through the city of Baltimore, which promise, however, was only observed until, by artifice, power had been gained to disregard it.
Virginia, as has been heretofore stated, passed her ordinance of secession on the 17th of April. It was, however, subject to ratification by the people at an election to be held on the fourth Thursday of May. She was in the mean time, like her Southern sisters, the object of Northern hostilities, and, having a common cause with them, properly anticipated the election of May by forming an alliance with the Confederate States, which was ratified by the Convention on the 25th of April.
The Convention for that alliance set forth that Virginia, looking to a speedy union with the Confederate States, and for the purpose of meeting pressing exigencies, agreed that "the whole military force and military operations, offensive and defensive, of said Commonwealth, in the impending conflict with the United States, shall be under the chief control and direction of the President of the said Confederate States." The whole was made subject to the approval and ratification of the proper authorities of both governments respectively.
To those who criticise South Carolina as having acted precipitately in withdrawing from the Union, it may be answered that intervening occurrences show that her delay could not have changed the result; and, further, that her prompt action had enabled her better to prepare for the contingency which it was found impossible to avert. Thus she was prepared in the first necessities of Virginia to send to her troops organized and equipped.
Before the convention for cooeperation with the Confederate States had been adopted by Virginia, that knightly soldier, General Bonham, of South Carolina, went with his brigade to Richmond; and, throughout the Southern States, there was a prevailing desire to rush to Virginia, where it was foreseen that the first great battles of the war were to be fought; so that, as early as the 22d of April, I telegraphed to Governor Letcher that, in addition to the forces heretofore ordered, requisitions had been made for thirteen regiments, eight to rendezvous at Lynchburg, four at Richmond, and one at Harper's Ferry. Referring to an application that had been made to him from Baltimore, I wrote: "Sustain Baltimore if practicable. We will reenforce you." The universal feeling was that of a common cause and common destiny. There was no selfish desire to linger around home, no narrow purpose to separate local interests from the common welfare. The object was to sustain a principle—the broad principle of constitutional liberty, the right of self-government.
The early demonstrations of the enemy showed that Virginia was liable to invasion from the north, from the east, and from the west. Though the larger preparation indicated that the most serious danger to be apprehended was from the line of the Potomac, the first conflicts occurred in the east.
The narrow peninsula between the James and York Rivers had topographical features well adapted to defense. It was held by General John B. Magruder, who skillfully improved its natural strength by artificial means, and there, on the ground memorable as the field of the last battle of the Revolution, in which General Washington compelled Lord Cornwallis to surrender, Magruder, with a small force, held for a long time the superior forces of the enemy in check.
The Supply of Arms; of Men.—Love of the Union.—Secessionists few.—Efforts to prevent the Final Step.—Views of the People.—Effect on their Agriculture.—Aid from African Servitude.—Answer to the Clamors on the Horrors of Slavery.—Appointment of a Commissary-General.—His Character and Capacity.—Organization, Instruction, and Equipment of the Army.—Action of Congress.—The Law.—Its Signification.—The Hope of a Peaceful Solution early entertained; rapidly diminished.—Further Action of Congress.—Policy of the Government for Peace.—Position of Officers of United States Army.—The Army of the States, not of the Government.—The Confederate Law observed by the Government.—Officers retiring from United States Army.—Organization of Bureaus.
The question of supplying arms and munitions of war was the first considered, because it was the want for which it was the most difficult to provide. Of men willing to engage in the defense of their country, there were many more than we could arm.
Though the prevailing sentiment of the Southern people was a cordial attachment to the Union as it was formed by their fathers, their love was for the spirit of the compact, for the liberties it was designed to secure, for the self-government and State sovereignty which had been won by separation from the mother-country, and transmitted to them by their Revolutionary sires as a legacy for their posterity for ever. The number of those who desired to dissolve the Union, even though the Constitution should be faithfully observed—those who, in the language of the day, were called "secessionists per se"—was so small as not to be felt in any popular decision; but the number of those who held that the States had surrendered their sovereignty, and had no right to secede from the Union, was so inappreciably small, if indeed any such existed, that I can not recall the fact of a single Southern advocate of that opinion. The assertion of the right is not to be confounded with a readiness to exercise it. Many who had no doubt as to the right, looked upon its exercise with reluctance amounting to sorrow, and claimed that it should be the last resort, only to be adopted as the alternative to a surrender of the equality in the Union of States, free, sovereign, and independent. Of that class, forming a large majority of the people of Mississippi, I may speak with the confidence of one who belonged to it. Thus, after the Legislature of Mississippi had enacted a law for a convention which, representing the sovereignty of the State, should consider the propriety of passing an ordinance to reassume the grants made to the General Government, and withdraw from the Union, I, as a United States Senator of Mississippi, retained my position in the Senate, and sought by every practicable mode to obtain such measures as would allay the excitement and afford to the South such security as would prevent the final step, the ordinance of secession from the Union.
When the last hope of preserving the Union of the Constitution was extinguished, and the ordinance of secession was enacted by the Convention of Mississippi, which was the highest authority known under our form of government, the question of the expediency of adopting that remedy was no longer open to inquiry by one who acknowledged his allegiance as due to the State of which he was a citizen. To evade the responsibilities resulting from the decree of his sovereign, the people, would be craven; to resist it would be treason. The instincts and affections of the citizens of Mississippi led them with great unanimity to the duty of maintaining and defending their State, without pausing to ask what would be the consequences of refusing obedience to its mandate. A like feeling pervaded all of the seceding States, and it was not only for the military service, but for every service which would strengthen and sustain the Confederacy, that an enthusiasm pervading all classes, sexes, and ages was manifested.
Though our agricultural products had been mainly for export, insomuch that in the planting States the necessary food-supplies were to a considerable extent imported from the West, and it would require that the habits of the planters should be changed from the cultivation of staples for export to the production of supplies adequate for home consumption and the support of armies in the field, yet, even under the embarrassments of war, this was expected, and for a long time the result justified the expectation, extraordinary as it must appear when viewed by comparison with other people who have been subjected to a like ordeal. Much of our success was due to the much-abused institution of African servitude, for it enabled the white men to go into the army, and leave the cultivation of their fields and the care of their flocks, as well as of their wives and children, to those who, in the language of the Constitution, were "held to service or labor." A passing remark may here be appropriate as to the answer thus afforded to the clamor about the "horrors of slavery."
Had these Africans been a cruelly oppressed people, restlessly struggling to be freed from their bonds, would their masters have dared to leave them, as was done, and would they have remained as they did, continuing their usual duties, or could the proclamation of emancipation have been put on the plea of a military necessity, if the fact had been that the negroes were forced to serve, and desired only an opportunity to rise against their masters? It will be remembered that, when the proclamation was issued, it was confessed by President Lincoln to be a nullity beyond the limit within which it could be enforced by the Federal troops.