Showing posts with label Ft Pickens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ft Pickens. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Major-General Braxton Bragg to Elisa Ellis Bragg, March 11, 1861

[Pensacola, Florida, March 11, 1861.]

My dear Wife: We left New Orleans on Friday. Saturday night at 12 o'clock we reached here, after a stage ride of 48 miles from this side of Mobile Bay over a very bad road.

According to my notions things here are in a most deplorable condition, and that was the reason for sending me; you know it has been my fate all through life to build up for somebody else. Our troops are raw volunteers, without officers, and without discipline, each man with an idea that he can whip the world, and believing that nothing is necessary but to go it and take Fort Pickens and all the navy. All this will give way, I hope, to good counsel, and good sense, but it will require great firmness and management. Some of the privates are men of large means and high position; two of them are just from Washington—Members of Congress. Unless the United States troops attack us, no fighting can occur here for a long time, as we are totally unprepared for anything of the sort, and if they are sensible they will keep us so. Fort Pickens cannot be taken without a regular siege, and we have no means to carry that on, and cannot get any without their Navy will allow it to pass it.

You will be surprised to hear of the very cordial messages I hare received from our old friend President Davis. He says with such men as Beauregard and Bragg at Charleston and Pensacola he feels easy. I hope he may have no cause to change his mind. 


SOURCE:  Don Carlos Seitz, Braxton Bragg, General of the Confederacy, p. 31-2

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Jonathan Worth to Johnson and Farnsworth, May 22, 1861

ASHEBORO, May 22nd, 1861.

This State is now a perfect unit as the North seems to be. No man desired or worked harder than myself to preserve the Union, but the Abolitionists North and the fire-eaters South have gradually forced everybody into the ranks of the one or the other. In N. C. the Union sentiment was largely in the ascendant and gaining strength until Lincoln prostrated us. Congress having refused to pass the force bill, we felt that the President could abandon Sumter and Pickens without any sacrifice of his principles, but in conformity with the Legislative will. He induced the whole South so to believe. The assurance of Seward to Judge Campbell seems to have been made with deliberate duplicity, and we can not doubt that Mr. Lincoln knew his policy would disarm all Union men in the Southern States. He did more than all the secessionists to break up the Union, but whether he did this, not being statesman enough to comprehend the effect of his measures; or whether his purpose was to drive all the slave States into rebellion, thinking he could bring against us men enough, with the aid of a servile insurrection, to overthrow us and abolish Slavery, we are in doubt. If the Union be restored, the War must at once cease.  Our white population and our slaves will resist to the death. I infer from all I can see that Lincoln's measures have united the North. The have certainly united North Carolina. The North must stop her warlike measures and consent to a severance of the government—or the God of Battles must long gloat over the carnage of alienated brethren. Reason has left. Rage controls both sections.

God save the Country.-

Gov. Graham, as I presume you know, is universally respected for every quality which should commend the regard of good and wise men. He was as strong for the Union as Edward Everett till Lincoln's proclamation. I enclose a late speech of his. Have it published in some of your leading papers. Let good men North and South understand each other.


SOURCE: J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton, Editor, The Correspondence of Jonathan Worth, Volume 1, p. 50-1

Monday, July 8, 2019

Diary of William Howard Russell: July 17, 1861

I went up to General Scott's quarters, and saw some of his staff — young men, some of whom knew nothing of soldiers, not even the enforcing of drill — and found them reflecting, doubtless, the shades which cross the mind of the old chief, who was now seeking repose. McDowell is to advance to-morrow from Fairfax Court House, and will march some eight or ten miles to Centreyille, directly in front of which, at a place called Manassas, stands the army of the Southern enemy. I look around me for a staff, and look in vain. There are a few plodding old pedants, with map and rules and compasses, who sit in small rooms and write memoranda; and there are some ignorant and not very active young men, who loiter about the head-quarters' halls, and strut up the street with brass spurs on their heels and kepis raked over their eyes as though they were soldiers, but I see no system, no order, no knowledge, no dash!

The worst-served English General has always a young fellow or two about him who can fly across country, draw a rough sketch map, ride like a fox-hunter, and find something out about the enemy and their position, understand and convey orders, and obey them. I look about for the types of these in vain. McDowell can find out nothing about the enemy; he has not a trustworthy map of the country; no knowledge of their position, force, or numbers. All the people, he says, are against the Government. Fairfax Court House was abandoned as he approached, the enemy in their retreat being followed by the inhabitants. “Where were the Confederate entrenchments?” “Only in the imagination of those New York newspapers; when they want to fill up a column they write a full account of the enemy's fortifications. No one can contradict them at the time, and it's a good joke when it's found out to be a lie.” Colonel Cullum went over the maps with me at General Scott's, and spoke with some greater confidence of McDowell's prospects of success. There is a considerable force of Confederates at a place called Winchester, which is connected with Manassas by rail, and this force could be thrown on the right of the Federals as they advanced, but that another corps, under Patterson, is in observation, with orders to engage them if they attempt to move eastwards.

The batteries for which General McDowell was looking last night have arrived, and were sent on this morning. One is under Barry, of the United States regular artillery, whom I met at Fort Pickens. The other is a volunteer battery. The onward movement of the army has been productive of a great improvement in the streets of Washington, which are no longer crowded with turbulent and disorderly volunteers, or by soldiers disgracing the name, who accost you in the by-ways for money. There are comparatively few to-day; small shoals, which have escaped the meshes of the net, are endeavoring to make the most of their time before they cross the river to face the enemy.

Still horse-hunting, but in vain — Gregson, Wroe — et hoc genus omne. Nothing to sell except at unheard-of rates; tripeds, and the like, much the worse for wear, and yet possessed of some occult virtues, in right of which the owners demanded egregious sums. Everywhere I am offered a gig or a vehicle of some kind or another, as if the example of General Scott had rendered such a mode of campaigning the correct thing. I saw many officers driving over the Long Bridge with large stores of provisions, either unable to procure horses or satisfied that a wagon was the chariot of Mars. It is not fair to ridicule either officers or men of this army, and if they were not so inflated by a pestilent vanity, no one would dream of doing so; but the excessive bragging and boasting in which the volunteers and the press indulge really provoke criticism and tax patience and forbearance overmuch. Even the regular officers, who have some idea of military efficiency, rather derived from education and foreign travels than from actual experience, bristle up and talk proudly of the patriotism of the army, and challenge the world to show such another, although in their hearts, and more, with their lips, they own they do not depend on them. The white heat of patriotism has cooled down to a dull black; and I am told that the gallant volunteers, who are to conquer the world when they “have got through with their present little job,” are counting up the days to the end of their service, and openly declare they will not stay a day longer. This is pleasant, inasmuch as the end of the term of many of McDowell's, and most of Patterson's, three months' men, is near at hand. They have been faring luxuriously at the expense of the Government — they have had nothing to do — they have had enormous pay — they knew nothing, and were worthless as to soldiering when they were enrolled. Now, having gained all these advantages, and being likely to be of use for the first time, they very quietly declare they are going to sit under their fig-trees, crowned with civic laurels and myrtles, and all that sort of thing. But who dare say they are not splendid fellows — full-blooded heroes, patriots, and warriors — men before whose majestic presence all Europe pales and faints away?

In the evening I received a message to say that the advance of the army would take place to-morrow as soon as General McDowell had satisfied himself by a reconnoissance that he could carry out his plan of turning the right of the enemy by passing Occaguna Creek. Along Pennsylvania Avenue, along the various shops, hotels, and drinking-bars, groups of people were collected, listening to the most exaggerated accounts of desperate fighting, and of the utter demoralization of the rebels. I was rather amused by hearing the florid accounts which were given in the hall of Willard's by various inebriated officers, who were drawing upon their imagination for their facts, knowing, as I did, that the entrenchments at Fairfax had been abandoned without a shot on the advance of the Federal troops. The New York papers came in with glowing descriptions of the magnificent march of the grand army of the Potomac, which was stated to consist of upwards of 70,000 men; whereas I knew not half that number were actually on the field. Multitudes of people believe General Winfield Scott, who was now fast asleep in his modest bed in Pennsylvania Avenue, is about to take the field in person. The horse-dealers are still utterly impracticable. A citizen who owned a dark bay, spavined and ring-boned, asked me one thousand dollars for the right of possession; I ventured to suggest that it was not worth the money. “Well,” said he, “take it or leave it. If you want to see this fight, a thousand dollars is cheap. I guess there were chaps paid more than that to see Jenny Lind on her first night; and this battle is not going to be repeated, I can tell you. The price of horses will rise when the chaps out there have had themselves pretty well used up with bowie-knives and six-shooters."

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 425-7

Friday, April 26, 2019

Captain Quincy A. Gillmore to Brigadier-General Thomas W. Sherman, December 30, 1861

Office of Chief Engineer Ex Corps
Hilton Head S.C. Dec. 30" 1861
Brig, Genl" T. W. Sherman
Commanding Ex Corps
Hilton Head S.C.

I have the honor to communicate some information obtained from the colored man Brutus who accompanied me from Tybee this morning. He is the most intelligent slave I have met here, and is quite familiar with the rivers and creeks between Savannah City and Tybee Island. He made his escape from Wilmington Island last week in a canoe.

He says the enemy's pickets are thrown forward every day to the eastern extremity of Wilmington Island; that the Skiddaway battery is about three miles above the position abandoned at Wassaw and mounts 6 guns; that the Thunderbolt battery is six miles higher up still and mounts 6 guns — (possibly 8 by this time) and that the road from the Skiddaway battery to Savannah, passes within half a mile of the Thunderbolt battery and is commanded.

He also communicates the very important piece of information, that boats of not over 10 ft dft", can pass from Wassaw Sound to Savannah River at high tide, through Wilmington Narrows and St. Augustine Creek, leaving Wilmington Island on the left and thus turning the Skiddaway and Thunderbolt batteries. There were no guns on Wilmington Narrows when Brutus came from there. By this route St. Augustine Creek is entered about three miles to the Northward of the Thunderbolt battery.

The Steamer St Mary one of those observed to be in attendance on Fort Walker before its capture — has been plying on this route for the last two or three summers.

In entering Savannah River from St. Augustine Creek, it is necessary to pass within about two or two and a quarter miles of Fort Jackson. Elba Island, in Savannah River just below Fort Jackson, and opposite the entrance to St. Augustine Creek, is several miles in length and contains some fine ground. There is a ship channel on both sides of it. Savannah River has no tributary on the South side, between St. Augustine Creek, and Fort Pulaski. Oyster Creek makes in so near the Savannah River, about 3 miles above Fort Pulaski, that a vessel in it, would appear to an observer on Tybee Light House, to be directly beyond the Fort. Oyster Creek, some miles above the point where the passage leads from it to Wilmington Narrows, loses itself in the marsh, or as the negro says, “runs out to nothing.”

I must say that I place great reliance on Brutus' statement, for everything he said of Big Tybee Inlet, was verified with remarkable accuracy by my examination. What he says is moreover confirmed by other slaves at Tybee Island. I recommend a gun boat reconnaisance up Wilmington Narrows, and solicit the privilege of accompanying it.

If we can get into Savannah River, by a line of communication that we can retain and control, it seems to me a far better policy to reduce Pulaski by cutting off its supplies, than by the very doubtful and very expensive operation of bombardment from Tybee Island.

I estimate, that after the armament applied for arrives, it will require at least one month of hazardous labor to get the pieces in position ready for opening on the Fort. A preliminary work of three or four weeks, will certainly be necessary to prepare the platforms, embrasures, bomb-proofs and service and store magazines. The landing of the ordnance stores will be an immense operation of itself. If we suppose all the mortars to be 13 in, and all the solid shot to be thrown from 8in Columbiads, we will require storage room and land transportation for about,

Tons of
"      "
"      "

The powder will require an immense magazine. I disclaim any wish to shrink from this labor, but as there seems to be at least two ways of accomplishing the reduction of Pulaski, we ought to select the one offering the greatest advantages as regards rapidity and economy.

The reduction by bombardment and cannonade I deem practicable, on the supposition of exhaustless means. Whether it is expedient to make the attempt, and incur the risk of failure is another matter. Fort Pulaski is fully as strong a work as Fort Pickens, and we are informed that the interior arrangements to protect the garrisons are extensive.

We cannot reach the casemate blindage except by fragments of shells, which would do them very little injury. My chief reliance would be, as I have already intimated to you, in heavy rifled guns, to be used in breaching the walls and dismounting the guns. I respectfully ask the Commanding Generals cordial attention to this subject, in all its bearings.

Appended to this is a tracing which gives a general idea of Big Tybee inlet, as developed by my examination of it, and also of the Islands and waters between Tybee Island and Wilmington River, as I understand them from the statements of Brutus and other negroes, claiming to be familiar with that neighborhood.

Very Respectfully
Your most Obdt Servt
Capt" & Chf" Eng Ex Corps  

SOURCE: Robert Means Thompson & Richard Wainwright, Editors, Publications of the Naval Historical Society, Volume 9: Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1861-1865, Volume 1, p. 90-3

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Diary of William Howard Russell: July 2, 1861

At early dawn this morning, looking out of the sleeping car, I saw through the mist a broad, placid river on the right, and on the left high wooded banks running sharply into the stream, against the base of which the rails were laid. West Point, which is celebrated for its picturesque scenery, as much as for its military school, could not be seen through the fog, and I regretted time did not allow me to stop and pay a visit to the academy. I was obliged to content myself with the handiwork of some of the ex-pupils. The only camaraderie I have witnessed in America exists among the West Point men. It is to Americans what our great public schools are to young Englishmen. To take a high place at West Point is to be a first-class man, or wrangler. The academy turns out a kind of military aristocracy, and I have heard complaints that the Irish and Germans are almost completely excluded, because the nominations to West Point are obtained by political influence; and the foreign element, though powerful at the ballot-box, has no enduring strength. The Murphies and Schmidts seldom succeed in shoving their sons into the American institution. North and South, I have observed, the old pupils refer everything military to West Point. “I was with Beauregard at West Point. He was three above me.” Or, “McDowell and I were in the same class.” An officer is measured by what he did there, and if professional jealousies date from the state of common pupilage, so do lasting friendships. I heard Beauregard, Lawton, Hardee, Bragg, and others, speak of McDowell, Lyon, McClellan, and other men of the academy, as their names turned up in the Northern papers, evidently judging of them by the old school standard. The number of men who have been educated there greatly exceeds the modest requirements of the army. But there is likelihood of their being all in full work very soon.

At about nine, A. M., the train reached New York, and in driving to the house of Mr. Duncan, who accompanied me from Niagara, the first thing which struck me was the changed aspect of the streets. Instead of peaceful citizens, men in military uniforms thronged the pathways, and such multitudes of United States flags floated from the windows and roofs of the houses as to convey the impression that it was a great holiday festival. The appearance of New York when I first saw it was very different. For one day, indeed, after my arrival, there were men in uniform to be seen in the streets, but they disappeared after St. Patrick had been duly honored, and it was very rarely I ever saw a man in soldier's clothes during the rest of my stay. Now, fully a third of the people carried arms, and were dressed in some kind of martial garb.

The walls are covered with placards from military companies offering inducements to recruits. An outburst of military tailors has taken place in the streets; shops are devoted to militia equipments; rifles, pistols, swords, plumes, long boots, saddle, bridle, camp belts, canteens, tents, knapsacks, have usurped the place of the ordinary articles of traffic. Pictures and engravings — bad, and very bad — of the “battles” of Big Bethel and Vienna, full of furious charges, smoke and dismembered bodies, have driven the French prints out of the windows. Innumerable "General Scott's" glower at you from every turn, making the General look wiser than he or any man ever was. Ellsworths in almost equal proportion, Grebles and Winthrops — the Union martyrs — and Tompkins, the temporary hero of Fairfax court-house.

The “flag of our country” is represented in a colored engraving, the original of which was not destitute of poetical feeling, as an angry blue sky through which meteors fly streaked by the winds, whilst between the red stripes the stars just shine out from the heavens, the flag-staff being typified by a forest tree bending to the force of the blast. The Americans like this idea — to my mind it is significant of bloodshed and disaster. And why not! What would become of all these pseudo-Zouaves who have come out like an eruption over the States, and are in no respect, not even in their baggy breeches, like their great originals, if this war were not to go on? I thought I had had enough of Zouaves in New Orleans, but dȋs aliter visum.

They are overrunning society, and the streets here, and the dress which becomes the broad-chested, stumpy, short-legged Celt, who seems specially intended for it, is singularly unbecoming to the tall and slightly-built American. Songs “On to glory,” “Our country,” new versions of “Hail Columbia,” which certainly cannot be considered by even American complacency a “happy land” when its inhabitants are preparing to cut each other's throats; of the “star-spangled banner,” are displayed in booksellers’ and music-shop windows, and patriotic sentences emblazoned on flags float from many houses. The ridiculous habit of dressing up children and young people up to ten and twelve years of age as Zouaves and vivandières has been caught up by the old people, and Mars would die with laughter if he saw some of the abdominous, be-spectacled light infantry men who are hobbling along the pavement.

There has been indeed a change in New York; externally it is most remarkable, but I cannot at all admit that the abuse with which I was assailed for describing the indifference which prevailed on my arrival was in the least degree justified. I was desirous of learning how far the tone of conversation “in the city” had altered, and soon after breakfast I went down Broadway to Pine Street and Wall Street. The street in all its length was almost draped with flags — the warlike character of the shops was intensified. In front of one shop window there was a large crowd gazing with interest at some object which I at last succeeded in feasting my eyes upon. A gray cap with a tinsel badge in front, and the cloth stained with blood was displayed, with the words, “Cap of Secession officer killed in action.” On my way I observed another crowd of women, some with children in their arms standing in front of a large house and gazing up earnestly and angrily at the windows. I found they were wives, mothers, and sisters, and daughters of volunteers who had gone off and left them destitute.

The misery thus caused has been so great that the citizens of New York have raised a fund to provide food, clothes, and a little money — a poor relief, in fact, for them, and it was plain they were much needed, though some of the applicants did not seem to belong to a class accustomed to seek aid from the public. This already! But Wall Street and Pine Street are bent on battle. And so this day, hot from the South and impressed with the firm resolve of the people, and finding that the North has been lashing itself into fury, I sit down and write to England, on my return from the city. “At present dismiss entirely the idea, no matter how it may originate, that there will be, or can be, peace, compromise, union, or secession, till war has determined the issue.”
As long as there was a chance that the struggle might not take place, the merchants of New York were silent, fearful of offending their Southern friends and connections, but inflicting infinite damage on their own government and misleading both sides. Their sentiments, sympathies, and business bound them with the South; and, indeed, till “the glorious uprising” the South believed New York was with them, as might be credited from the tone of some organs in the press, and I remember hearing it said by Southerners in Washington, that it was very likely New York would go out of the Union! When the merchants, however, saw the South was determined to quit the Union, they resolved to avert the permanent loss of the great profits derived from their connection with the South by some present sacrifices. They rushed to the platforms — the battle-cry was sounded from almost every pulpit — flag-raisings took place in every square, like the planting of the tree of liberty in France in 1848, and the oath was taken to trample Secession under foot, and to quench the fire of the Southern heart forever.

The change in manner, in tone, in argument, is most remarkable. I met men to-day who last March argued coolly and philosophically about the right of Secession. They are now furious at the idea of such wickedness — furious with England, because she does not deny their own famous doctrine of the sacred right of insurrection. “We must maintain our glorious Union, sir.” “We must have a country.” “We cannot allow two nations to grow up on this Continent, sir.” “We must possess the entire control of the Mississippi.” These “musts,” and can’ts,” and “won'ts,” are the angry utterances of a spirited people who have had their will so long that they at last believe it is omnipotent. Assuredly, they will not have it over the South without a tremendous and long-sustained contest, in which they must put forth every exertion, and use all the resources and superior means they so abundantly possess.

It is absurd to assert, as do the New York people, to give some semblance of reason to their sudden outburst, that it was caused by the insult to the flag at Sumter. Why, the flag had been fired on long before Sumter was attacked by the Charleston batteries! It had been torn down from United States arsenals and forts all over the South; and but for the accident which placed Major Anderson in a position from which he could not retire, there would have been no bombardment of the fort, and it would, when evacuated, have shared the fate of all the other Federal works on the Southern coast. Some of the gentlemen who are now so patriotic and Unionistic, were last March prepared to maintain that if the President attempted to reenforce Sumter or Pickens, he would be responsible for the destruction of the Union. Many journals in New York and out of it held the same doctrine.

One word to these gentlemen. I am pretty well satisfied that if they had always spoken, written, and acted as they do now, the people of Charleston would not have attacked Sumter so readily. The abrupt outburst of the North and the demonstration at New York filled the South, first with astonishment, and then with something like fear, which was rapidly fanned into anger by the press and the politicians, as well as by the pride inherent in slaveholders.

I wonder what Mr. Seward will say when I get back to Washington. Before I left, he was of opinion — at all events, he stated — that all the States would come back, at the rate of one a month. The nature of the process was not stated; but we are told there are 250,000 Federal troops now under arms, prepared to try a new one.

Combined with the feeling of animosity to the rebels, there is, I perceive, a good deal of ill-feeling towards Great Britain. The Southern papers are so angry with us for the Order in Council closing British ports against privateers and their prizes, that they advise Mr. Rust and Mr. Yancey to leave Europe. We are in evil case between North and South. I met a reverend doctor, who is most bitter in his expressions towards us; and I dare say, Bishop and General Leonidas Polk, down South, would not be much better disposed. The clergy are active on both sides; and their flocks approve of their holy violence. One journal tells, with much gusto, of a blasphemous chaplain, a remarkably good rifle shot, who went into one of the skirmishes lately, and killed a number of rebels — the joke being, in fact, that each time he' fired and brought down his man, he exclaimed, piously, “May Heaven have mercy on your soul!” One Father Mooney, who performed the novel act, for a clergyman, of “christening” a big gun at Washington the other day, wound up the speech he made on the occasion, by declaring “the echo of its voice would be sweet music, inviting the children of Columbia to share the comforts of his father's home.” Can impiety and folly and bad taste go further?

SOURCE: William Howard Russell, My Diary North and South, Vol. 1, p. 367-72

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Gustavus V. Fox to Dr. Lowery, April 3, 1861

Washington D.C.
Ap. 3d 61
Dr Lowery—

My expedition is ordered to be got ready, but I doubt if we shall get off. Delay, indecision, obstacles.

War will commence at Pensacola. There the Govt is making a stand and if they fire upon reinforcements, already ordered to land, Fort Pickens and the ships will open upon the whole party.

Shall leave here tomorrow afternoon. Love to all.

G. V. Fox

SOURCES: Robert Means Thompson & Richard Wainwright, Editors, Publications of the Naval Historical Society, Volume 9: Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1861-1865, Volume 1, p. 19

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Brevet Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott to Brevet Colonel Harvey Brown, April 1, 1861

Washington, April 1, 1861.
U. S Army, Washington, D. C.:

SIR: You have been designated to take command of an expedition to re-enforce and hold Fort Pickens, in the harbor of Pensacola. You will proceed with the least possible delay to that place, and you will assume command of all the land forces of the United States within the limits of the State of Florida. You will proceed to New York, where steam transportation for four companies will be engaged, and, putting on board such supplies as you can ship, without delay proceed at once to your destination. The engineer company of Suppers and Miners; Brevet Major Hunt's Company M, Second Artillery; Captain Johns' Company C, Third Infantry, Captain Clitz's Company E, Third Infantry, will embark with you in the first steamer. Other troops and full supplies will be sent after you as soon as possible.

Captain Meigs will accompany you as engineer, and will remain with you until you are established in Fort Pickens, when he will return to resume his duties in this city. The other members of your staff will be Asst. Surg. John Campbell, medical staff; Capt. Rufus Ingalls, assistant quartermaster; Capt. Henry F. Clarke, assistant commissary of subsistence; Bvt. Capt. George L. Hartsuff, assistant adjutant-general; and First Lieut. George T. Balch, ordnance officer.

The object and destination of this expedition will be communicated to no one to whom it is not already known. The naval officers in the Gulf will be instructed to co-operate with you, and to afford every facility in their power for the accomplishment of the object of the expedition, which is the security of Fort Pickens against all attacks, foreign and domestic. Should a shot be fired at you, you will defend yourself and your expedition at whatever hazard, and, if needful for such defense, inflict upon the assailants all the damage in your power within the range of your guns.

Lieutenant-Colonel Keyes, military secretary, will be authorized to give all necessary orders, and to call upon the staff department for every requisite material and transportation, and other steamers will follow that on which you embark, to carry re-enforcements, supplies, and provisions for the garrison of Fort Pickens for six months. Captain Barry's battery will follow as soon as a vessel can be fitted for its transportation. Two or three foot companies will embark at the same time with the battery. All the companies will be filled up to the maximum standard, those to embark first from the recruits in the harbor of New York. The other companies will be filled, if practicable, with instructed soldiers.

You will make Fort Jefferson your main depot and base of operations. You will be careful not reduce too much the means of the fortresses in the Florida Reef, as they are deemed of greater importance than even Fort Pickens. The naval officers in the Gulf will be instructed to cooperate with you in every way, in order to insure the safety of Fort Pickens, Fort Jefferson, and Fort Taylor. You will freely communicate with them for this end, and will exhibit to them the authority of the President herewith.

The President directs that you be assigned to duty from this date according to your brevet rank in the Army.

With great confidence in your judgment, zeal, and intelligence, I remain, respectfully,


APRIL 2, 1861.

SOURCES: Robert Means Thompson & Richard Wainwright, Editors, Publications of the Naval Historical Society, Volume 9: Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 1861-1865, Volume 1, p. 15; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 1 (Serial No. 1), p. 365-6;

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Diary of Gideon Welles: Saturday, June 27, 1863

A telegram last night informed me of the death of Admiral Foote. The information of the last few days made it a not unexpected event, yet there was a shock when it came. Foote and myself were schoolboys together at Cheshire Academy under good old Dr. Bronson, and, though three or four years younger than myself, we were pursuing some of the same studies, and there then sprang up an attachment between us that never was broken. His profession interrupted our intimacy, but at long intervals we occasionally met, and the recollection of youthful friendship made these meetings pleasant.

When I was called to take the administration of the Navy Department, he was Executive Officer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and wrote me of the pleasure my appointment gave him. He soon visited Washington, when I consulted with him and procured in friendly confidence his estimate of various officers. This was before the affair of Sumter, and, like many others, he shortly after expressed a sad disappointment in regard to some he had commended. In fitting out in those early days the expeditions to Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens he exhibited that energy and activity which more fully displayed itself the following autumn and winter in creating and fighting the Mississippi Flotilla. His health became there impaired and his constitution was probably undermined before he took charge of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting. Our intercourse here was pleasant. His judgment in the main good, his intentions pure, and his conduct correct, manly, and firm. Towards me he exhibited a deference that was to me, who wished a revival and continuance of the friendly and social intimacy of earlier years, often painful. But the discipline of the sailor would not permit him to do differently, and when I once or twice spoke of it, he insisted it was proper, and said it was a sentiment which he felt even in our schoolday intercourse and friendship.

Shortly after the demonstration of Du Pont at Charleston, when I think Foote's disappointment was greater than my own, he tendered his services for any duty afloat. Some premonition of the disease which ended his life was then upon him, and made him believe more active employment than the Bureau afforded would conduce to his physical benefit. His wife, after he had once or twice alluded to the subject, which she did not favor, gave her consent that he should go wherever ordered, except to the Mississippi. Foote expressed regret that she should have made any exception.

He did not wish to supplant Du Pont, whom he admired, or take any part against that officer. He was not unaware, however, that the Department and the public would turn to him as the successor of the hero of Port Royal, should there be a change of commanders. I was desirous that both he and Dahlgren should go to that squadron, and it was finally so arranged, but Providence has ordered differently. I have been disappointed. Foote had a name and prestige which would have carried him into the place assigned him on the tide of popular favor, whatever might have been the intrigues and assaults on one or both of us from any quarter.

General Wool, Governor Morgan, and Mayor Opdyke make a combined effort to retain the Roanoke at New York, and write me most earnestly on the subject. The idea that New York is in danger is an absurdity, and, with a naval force always at the navy yard and in the harbor, and with forts and military force, is such a remote contingency that the most timid lady need not be, and is not, alarmed. Morgan and Opdyke, Governor and Mayor, have responsibilities that are perhaps excusable, but not General Wool, who feeds on panic and fosters excitement. It is made the duty of the military at all times to defend New York. The Army is sensitive of Navy interference in this specialty, but the Navy will render incidental aid, do all that is necessary; but the Army assumes the guardianship of the ports as the exclusive province of the military, independent of the Navy.

SOURCE: Gideon Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy Under Lincoln and Johnson, Vol. 1: 1861 – March 30, 1864, p. 345-7

Saturday, May 13, 2017

3rd Sergeant Charles Wright Wills: December 1, 1861

Bird's Point, Mo., December 1, 1861.

This, the beginning of winter, is the warmest and altogether the most pleasant day we have had for several weeks. During our whole trip to Bloomfield and back we had splendid weather, but ever since our return it has been at least very unsplendid. The climax was reached day before yesterday and capped with several inches of snow. I was up the river 15 miles at the time with a party loading a flatboat with logs for our huts. We had a sweet time of it and lots of fun. The mud was from six inches to a foot deep, and by the time we got the logs to the boat they were coated with mud two inches thick, and before we got a dozen logs on the boat we had a second coat on us, from top to toe of mud. It snowed and rained all the time we worked but I heard no complaint from the men, and in fact I have never seen so much fun anywhere as we had that day. There is any amount of game where we were, the boys said that were out, and they brought to camp several skinned “deer.” I tried some of the “venison” but it tasted strangely like hog.

Of course drill is discontinued for the present, and as working on the quarters is almost impossible we sit and lie in the tent and gas and joke and eat and plan devilment. We have a barrel of apples now, lots of pecans and tobacco and not a thing to trouble us. The enemy have quit coming around here and we can stroll six or seven miles without danger if we get past our pickets safely. There was a great deal of firing down at Columbus yesterday and I heard some more this morning. I don't know whether the gunboats are down or not. It may be the Rebels are practicing with their big guns; or maybe they are firing a salute over the fall of Fort Pickens. It will be a great joke if they take that, won't it? I believe myself that they will take it. Two of our new gunboats came down day before yesterday. We will have in all 12 gunboats, 40 flatboats carrying one mortar each and 15 propellers for towing purposes, besides the steamboats for transporting troops. Makes quite a fleet and will fill the river between here and Columbus nearly full. There are not very many troops here now. Only five regiments of cavalry and four or five batteries of artillery. Not over 12,000 in all. We have nearly 1,000 sailors and marines here now and they are such cusses that they have to keep them on a steamboat anchored out in the river. We see by the papers this morning that the fleet has captured another sand bar. A good one on the bar. We are greatly puzzled to know if we really are going down the river this winter. We are preparing winter quarters here for only 12,000 men. Now all these troops they are running into St. Louis cannot be intended for up the Missouri river, for the troops are also returning from there. I don't believe either that they intend to keep them in St. Louis this winter for they have only quarters provided there for a garrison force, so I guess it must mean down the river, but am sure they won't be ready before six weeks or two months. We have a report here that Governor Yates is raising 60 day men to garrison these points while we “regulars” will be pushed forward. Jem Smith is down here trying to get information of his brother Frank who is a prisoner. There are a good many Rebels deserting now. Our pickets bring them into camp. They are mostly Northern men who pretend they were pressed in and are glad to escape. Frank Smith is in Company A, Captain Smith's company, at Paducah. It was Company B, Captain Taylor's, that was in the Belmont fight. You could see just as well as not why I can't come home if you'll take the trouble to read General Halleck's General Order No. 5 or 6, that says, “Hereafter no furloughs will be granted to enlisted men,” etc.

We had a first rate lot of good things from Peoria yesterday. They were sent us for Thanksgiving but were a day late. Chickens, cranberries, cake, etc. The boys say that a Rebel gunboat has just showed his nose around the point and Fort Holt is firing away pretty heavily, but I guess the boat is all in some chap's eye. Hollins is down at Columbus with about a dozen vessels of war. I have just been out to see what the boys said was the pickets coming in on the run, but some say its only a gunboat coming up through woods, so I guess I'll not report a prospect of a fight.

SOURCE: Charles Wright Wills, Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, p. 45-7

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Abraham Lincoln’s Message to the United States Congress, July 4, 1861


Having been convened on an extraordinary occasion, as authorized by the Constitution, your attention is not called to any ordinary subject of legislation.

At the beginning of the present Presidential term, four months ago, the functions of the Federal Government were found to be generally suspended within the several States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida, excepting only those of the Post-Office Department.

Within these States all the forts, arsenals, dock-yards, custom-houses, and the like, including the movable and stationary property in and about them, had been seized, and were held in open hostility to this Government, excepting only Forts Pickens, Taylor, and Jefferson, on and near the Florida coast, and Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, S. C. The forts thus seized had been put in improved condition; new ones had been built, and armed forces had been organized, and were organizing, all avowedly with the same hostile purpose.

The forts remaining in the possession of the Federal Government in and near these States were either besieged or menaced by warlike preparations, and especially Fort Sumter was nearly surrounded by well-protected hostile batteries, with guns equal in quality to the best of its own and outnumbering the latter as perhaps ten to one. A disproportionate share of the Federal muskets and rifles had somehow found their way into these States and had been seized to be used against the Government. Accumulations of the public revenue lying within them had been seized for the same object. The Navy was scattered in distant seas, leaving but a very small part of it within the immediate reach of the Government. Officers of the Federal Army and Navy had resigned in great numbers, and of those resigning a large proportion had taken up arms against the Government. Simultaneously, and in connection with all this, the purpose to sever the Federal Union was openly avowed. In accordance with this purpose an ordinance had been adopted in each of these States declaring the States, respectively, to be separated from the National Union. A formula for instituting a combined government of these States had been promulgated, and this illegal organization, in the character of Confederate States, was already invoking recognition, aid, and intervention from foreign powers.

Finding this condition of things and believing it to be an imperative duty upon the incoming Executive to prevent, if possible, the consummation of such attempt to destroy the Federal Union, a choice of means to that end became indispensable. This choice was made and was declared in the inaugural address. The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceful measures before a resort to any stronger ones. It sought only to hold the public places and property not already wrested from the Government and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails, at Government expense, to the very people who were resisting the Government, and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people or any of their rights. Of all that which a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, everything was forborne without which it was believed possible to keep the Government on foot.

On the 5th of March (the present incumbent's first full day in office), a letter of Major Anderson, commanding at Fort Sumter, written on the 28th of February, and received at the War Department on the 4th of March, was, by that Department, placed in his hands. This letter expressed the professional opinion of the writer that re-enforcements could not be thrown into that fort, within the time for his relief rendered necessary by the limited supply of provisions and with a view of holding possession of the same, with a force of less than 20,000 good and well-disciplined men. This opinion was concurred in by all the officers of his command, and their memoranda on the subject were made inclosures of Major Anderson's letter. The whole was immediately laid before Lieutenant-General Scott, who at once concurred with Major Anderson in opinion. On reflection, however, he took full time, consulting with other officers, both of the Army and the Navy, and at the end of four days came reluctantly, but decidedly, to the same conclusion as before. He also stated at the same time that no such sufficient force was then at the control of the Government or could be raised and brought to the ground within the time when the provisions in the fort would be exhausted. In a purely military point of view this reduced the duty of the Administration in the case to the mere matter of getting the garrison safely out of the fort.
It was believed, however, that to so abandon that position, under the circumstances, would be utterly ruinous; that the necessity under which it was to be done would not be fully understood; that by many it would be construed as a part of a voluntary policy; that at home it would discourage the friends of the Union, embolden its adversaries, and go far to insure to the latter a recognition abroad; that, in fact, it would be our national destruction consummated. This could not be allowed. Starvation was not yet upon the garrison, and ere it would be reached Fort Pickens might be reinforced. This last would be a clear indication of policy and would better enable the country to accept the evacuation of Fort Sumter as a military necessity. An order was at once directed to be sent for the landing of the troops from the steamship Brooklyn into Fort Pickens. This order could not go by land but must take the longer and slower route by sea. The first return news from the order was received just one week before the fall of Fort Sumter. The news itself was that the officer commanding the Sabine, to which vessel the troops had been transferred from the Brooklyn, acting upon some quasi armistice of the late Administration (and of the existence of which the present Administration, up to the time the order was dispatched, had only too vague and uncertain rumors to fix attention), had refused to land the troops. To now reinforce Fort Pickens before a crisis would be reached at Fort Sumter was impossible – rendered so by the near exhaustion of provisions in the latter-named fort. In precaution against such a conjuncture, the Government had a few days before commenced preparing an expedition, as well adapted as might be, to relieve Fort Sumter, which expedition was intended to be ultimately used or not, according to circumstances. The strongest anticipated case for using it was now presented, and it was resolved to send it forward. As had been intended, in this contingency, it was also resolved to notify the Governor of South Carolina that he might expect an attempt would be made to provision the fort, and that if the attempt should not be resisted there would be no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort. This notice was accordingly given, whereupon the fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall without even awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.

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. They knew that this Government desired to keep the garrison in the fort, not to assail them, but merely to maintain visible possession, and thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate dissolution, trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to time, discussion, and the ballot-box for final adjustment; and they assailed and reduced the fort for precisely the reverse object – to drive out the visible authority of the Federal Union and thus force it to immediate dissolution. That this was their object the Executive well understood, and having said to them in the inaugural address, “You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,” he took pains not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from the power of ingenious sophistry as that the world should not be able to misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants of the Government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort sent to that harbor years before for their own protection and still ready to give that protection in whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all else, they have forced upon the country the distinct issue, “Immediate dissolution or blood.”

And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy – a Government of the people, by the same people – can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented individuals, too few in numbers to control administration, according to organic law, in any case, can always, upon the pretenses made in this case, or on any other pretenses, or arbitrarily without any pretense, break up their Government and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: “Is there, in all republics, this inherent and fatal weakness?” “Must a government, of necessity, be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak to maintain its own existence?”

So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the war power of the Government; and so to resist force employed for its destruction by force for its preservation.

The call was made, and the response of the country was most gratifying, surpassing in unanimity and spirit the most sanguine expectation. Yet none of the States commonly called slave States, except Delaware, gave a regiment through regular State organization. A few regiments have been organized within some others of those States by individual enterprise and received into the Government service. Of course the seceded States, so called (and to which Texas had been joined about the time of the inauguration), gave no troops to the cause of the Union. The border States, so called, were not uniform in their action, some of them being almost for the Union, while in others – as Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas – the Union sentiment was nearly repressed and silenced. The course taken in Virginia was the most remarkable, perhaps the most important. A convention elected by the people of that State to consider this very question of disrupting the Federal Union was in session at the capital of Virginia when Fort Sumter fell. To this body the people had chosen a large majority of professed Union men. Almost immediately after the fall of Sumter many members of that majority went over to the original disunion minority and with them adopted an ordinance for withdrawing the State from the Union. Whether this change was wrought by their great approval of the assault upon Sumter or their great resentment at the Government's resistance to that assault is not definitely known. Although they submitted the ordinance for ratification to a vote of the people to be taken on a day then somewhat more than a month distant, the convention and the Legislature (which was also in session at the same time and place), with leading men of the State not members of either, immediately commenced acting as if the State were already out of the Union. They pushed military preparations vigorously forward all over the State. They seized the U.S. Armory at Harper's Ferry and the navy-yard at Gosport, near Norfolk. They received – perhaps invited – into their State large bodies of troops with their warlike appointments from the so-called seceded States. They formally entered into a treaty of temporary alliance and co-operation with the so-called “Confederate States,” and sent members to their Congress at Montgomery. And finally, they permitted the insurrectionary Government to be transferred to their capital at Richmond.

The people of Virginia have thus allowed this giant insurrection to make its nest within her borders, and this Government has no choice left but to deal with it where it finds it. And it has the less regret, as the loyal citizens have in due form claimed its protection. Those loyal citizens this Government is bound to recognize and protect as being Virginia.

In the border States, so called – in fact, the middle States – there are those who favor a policy which they call “armed neutrality;” that is, an arming of those States to prevent the Union forces passing one way or the disunion the other over their soil. This would be disunion completed. Figuratively speaking, it would be the building of an impassable wall along the line of separation – and yet, not quite an impassable one, for under the guise of neutrality it would tie the hands of the Union men, and freely pass supplies from among them to the insurrectionists, which it could not do as an open enemy. At a stroke it would take all the trouble off the hands of secession, except only what proceeds from the external blockade. It would do for the disunionists that which of all things they most desire – feed them well and give them disunion without a struggle of their own. It recognizes no fidelity to the Constitution, no obligation to maintain the Union, and while very many who have favored it are doubtless loyal citizens it is nevertheless very injurious in effect.

Recurring to the action of the Government, it may be stated that at first a call was made for 75,000 militia, and rapidly following this a proclamation was issued for closing the ports of the insurrectionary districts by proceedings in the nature of blockade. So far all was believed to be strictly legal. At this point the insurrectionists announced their purpose to enter upon the practice of privateering.

Other calls were made for volunteers to serve for three years, unless sooner discharged, and also for large additions to the Regular Army and Navy. These measures, whether strictly legal or not, were ventured upon under what appeared to be a popular demand and a public necessity, trusting then, as now, that Congress would readily ratify them. It is believed that nothing has been done beyond the constitutional competency of Congress.

Soon after the first call for militia it was considered a duty to authorize the commanding general in proper cases, according to his discretion, to suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, or in other words to arrest and detain, without resort to the ordinary processes and forms of law, such individuals as he might deem dangerous to the public safety. This authority has purposely been exercised but very sparingly. Nevertheless the legality and propriety of what has been done under it are questioned and the attention of the country has been called to the proposition that one who is sworn to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” should not himself violate them. Of course some consideration was given to the questions of power and propriety before this matter was acted upon. The whole of the laws which were required to be faithfully executed were being resisted and failing of execution in nearly one-third of the States. Must they be allowed to finally fail of execution, even had it been perfectly clear that by the use of the means necessary to their execution some single law, made in such extreme tenderness of the citizen's liberty that practically it relieves more of the guilty than of the innocent, should to a very limited extent be violated? To state the question more directly, are all the laws but one to go unexecuted and the Government itself go to pieces lest that one be violated? Even in such a case would not the official oath be broken if the Government should be overthrown, when it was believed that disregarding the single law would tend to preserve it? But it was not believed that this question was presented. It was not believed that any law was violated. The provision of the Constitution that “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it,” is equivalent to a provision – is a provision – that such privilege may be suspended when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety does require it. It was decided that we have a case of rebellion, and that the public safety does require the qualified suspension of the privilege of the writ which was authorized to be made. Now, it is insisted that Congress and not the Executive is vested with this power. But the Constitution itself is silent as to which, or who, is to exercise the power; and as the provision was plainly made for a dangerous emergency, it cannot be believed the framers of the instrument intended that in every case the danger should run its course until Congress could be called together, the very assembling of which might be prevented, as was intended in this case, by the rebellion.

No more extended argument is now offered, as an opinion at some length will probably be presented by the Attorney-General. Whether there shall be any legislation upon the subject, and if any, what, is submitted entirely to the better judgment of Congress.

The forbearance of this Government had been so extraordinary and so long continued as to lead some foreign nations to shape their action as if they supposed the early destruction of our national Union was probable. While this, on discovery, gave the Executive some concern, he is now happy to say that the sovereignty and rights of the United States are now everywhere practically respected by foreign powers, and a general sympathy with the country is manifested throughout the world.

The reports of the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, and the Navy will give the information in detail deemed necessary and convenient for your deliberation and action, while the Executive and all the Departments will stand ready to supply omissions or to communicate new facts considered important for you to know.

It is now recommended that you give the legal means for making this contest a short and a decisive one; that you place at the control of the Government for the work at least 400,000 men and $400,000,000. That number of men is about one-tenth of those of proper ages within the regions where apparently all are willing to engage, and the sum is less than a twenty-third part of the money value owned by the men who seem ready to devote the whole. A debt of $600,000,000 now is a less sum per head than was the debt of our Revolution when we came out of that struggle, and the money value in the country now bears even a greater proportion to what it was then than does the population. Surely each man has as strong a motive now to preserve our liberties as each had then to establish them.

A right result at this time will be worth more to the world than ten times the men and ten times the money. The evidence reaching us from the country leaves no doubt that the material for the work is abundant, and that it needs only the hand of legislation to give it legal sanction and the hand of the Executive to give it practical shape and efficiency. One of the greatest perplexities of the Government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their Government if the Government itself will do its part only indifferently well.

It might seem at first thought to be of little difference whether the present movement at the South be called “secession” or “rebellion.” The movers, however, well understand the difference. At the beginning they knew they could never raise their treason to any respectable magnitude by any name which implies violation of law. They knew their people possessed as much of moral sense, as much of devotion to law and order, and as much pride in and reverence for the history and Government of their common country as any other civilized and patriotic people. They knew they could make no advancement directly in the teeth of these strong and noble sentiments. Accordingly they commenced by an insidious debauching of the public mind. They invented an ingenious sophism, which, if conceded, was followed by perfectly logical steps through all the incidents to the complete destruction of the Union. The sophism itself is, that any State of the Union may, consistently with the national Constitution, and therefore lawfully and peacefully, withdraw from the Union without the consent of the Union or of any other State. The little disguise that the supposed right is to be exercised only for just cause, themselves to be the sole judge of its justice, is too thin to merit any notice.

With rebellion thus sugar coated, they have been drugging the public mind of their section for more than thirty years, and until at length they have brought many good men to a willingness to take up arms against the Government the day after some assemblage of men have enacted the farcical pretense of taking their State out of the Union, who could have been brought to no such thing the day before.

This sophism derives much, perhaps the whole, of its currency from the assumption that there is some omnipotent and sacred supremacy pertaining to a State – to each State of our Federal Union. Our States have neither more nor less power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution – no one of them ever having been a State out of the Union. The original ones passed into the Union even before they cast off their British colonial dependence, and the new ones each came into the Union directly from a condition of dependence, excepting Texas; and even Texas in its temporary independence was never designated a State. The new ones only took the designation of States on coming into the Union, while that name was first adopted for the old ones in and by the Declaration of Independence. Therein the “United Colonies” were declared to be “free and independent States;” but even then the object plainly was not to declare their independence of one another or of the Union, but directly the contrary, as their mutual pledge and their mutual action before, at the time, and afterward, abundantly show. The express plighting of faith by each and all of the original thirteen in the Articles of Confederation, two years later, that the Union shall be perpetual is most conclusive. Having never been States, either in substance or in name, outside of the Union, whence this magical omnipotence of “State rights,” asserting a claim of power to lawfully destroy the Union itself? Much is said about the “sovereignty” of the States, but the word even is not in the national Constitution, nor, as is believed, in any of the State constitutions. What is a “sovereignty” in the political sense of the term? Would it be far wrong to define it “a political community without a political superior?” Tested by this, no one of our States, except Texas, ever was a sovereignty; and even Texas gave up the character on coming into the Union, by which act she acknowledged the Constitution of the United States and the laws and treaties of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution to be for her the supreme law of the land. The States have their status in the Union, and they have no other legal status. If they break from this they can only do so against law and by revolution. The Union, and not themselves separately, procured their independence and their liberty. By conquest or purchase the Union gave each of them whatever of independence and liberty it has. The Union is older than any of the States, and in fact it created them as States. Originally some dependent colonies made the Union, and in turn the Union threw off their old dependence for them and made them States, such as they are. Not one of them ever had a State constitution independent of the Union. Of course it is not forgotten that all the new States framed their constitutions before they entered the Union, nevertheless dependent upon and preparatory to coming into the Union.

Unquestionably the States have the powers and rights reserved to them in and by the national Constitution; but among these, surely, are not included all conceivable powers, however mischievous or destructive; but, at most, such only as were known in the world, at the time, as governmental powers; and certainly a power to destroy the Government itself had never been known as a governmental – as a merely administrative power. This relative matter of national power and State rights, as a principle, is no other than the principle of generality and locality. Whatever concerns the whole should be confided to the whole – to the General Government; while whatever concerns only the State should be left exclusively to the State. This is all there is of original principle about it. Whether the national Constitution, in defining boundaries between the two, has applied the principle with exact accuracy is not to be questioned. We are all bound by that defining, without question.

What is now combatted is the position that secession is consistent with the Constitution – is lawful and peaceful. It is not contended that there is any express law for it; and nothing should ever be implied as law which leads to unjust or absurd consequences. The nation purchased, with money, the countries out of which several of these States were formed. Is it just that they shall go off without leave and without refunding? The nation paid very large sums (in the aggregate, I believe, nearly a hundred millions) to relieve Florida of the aboriginal tribes. Is it just that she shall now be off without consent, or without making any return? The nation is now in debt for money applied to the benefit of these so-called seceding States, in common with the rest. Is it just either that creditors shall go unpaid, or the remaining States pay the whole? A part of the present national debt was contracted to pay the old debts of Texas. Is it just that she shall leave and pay no part of this herself? Again, if one State may secede, so may another; and when all shall have seceded none is left to pay the debts. Is this quite just to creditors? Did we notify them of this sage view of ours when we borrowed their money? If we now recognize this doctrine by allowing the seceders to go in peace, it is difficult to see what we can do if others choose to go, or to extort terms upon which they will promise to remain.

The seceders insist that our Constitution admits of secession. They have assumed to make a national constitution of their own, in which, of necessity, they have either discarded or retained the right of secession, as, they insist, it exists in ours. If they have discarded it, they thereby admit that on principle it ought not to be in ours. If they have retained it by their own construction of ours, they show that to be consistent they must secede from one another whenever they shall find it the easiest way of settling their debts or effecting any other selfish or unjust object. The principle itself is one of disintegration and upon which no Government can possibly endure.

If all the States save one should assert the power to drive that one out of the Union, it is presumed the whole class of seceder politicians would at once deny the power and denounce the act as the greatest outrage upon State rights. But suppose that precisely the same act, instead of being called “driving the one out,” should be called “the seceding of the others from that one,” it would be exactly what the seceders claim to do; unless, indeed, they make the point that the one, because it is a minority, may rightfully do what the others, because they are a majority, may not rightfully do. These politicians are subtle and profound on the rights of minorities. They are not partial to that power which made the Constitution, and speaks from the preamble, calling itself “We, the people.”

It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except, perhaps, South Carolina, in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called seceded States. The contrary has not been demonstrated in any one of them. It is ventured to affirm this, even of Virginia and Tennessee; for the result of an election, held in military camps, where the bayonets are all on one side of the question voted upon, can scarcely be considered as demonstrating popular sentiment. At such all election all that large class who are, at once, for the Union and against coercion would be coerced to vote against the Union.

It may be affirmed, without extravagance, that the free Institutions we enjoy have developed the powers and improved the condition of our whole people beyond any example in the world. Of this we now have a striking and an impressive illustration. So large an army as the Government has now on foot was never before known without a soldier in it but who had taken his place there of his own free choice. But more than this; there are many single regiments whose members, one and another, possess full practical knowledge of all the arts, sciences, professions, and whatever else, whether useful or elegant, is known in the world; and there is scarcely one from which there could not be selected a President, a Cabinet, a Congress, and perhaps a court abundantly competent to administer the Government itself. Nor do I say this is not true, also in the army of our late friends, now adversaries, in this contest; but if it is, so much better the reason why the Government which has conferred such benefits on them and us should not be broken up. Whoever, in any section, proposes to abandon such a Government would do well to consider in deference to what principle it is that he does it – what better he is likely to get in its stead – whether the substitute will give, or be intended to give, so much of good to the people. There are some foreshadowings on this subject. Our adversaries have adopted some declarations of independence, in which, unlike the good old one, penned by Jefferson, they omit the words “all men are created equal.” Why? They have adopted a temporary national constitution, in the preamble of which, unlike our good old one, signed by Washington, they omit “We, the people,” and substitute “We, the deputies of the sovereign and independent States.” Why? Why this deliberate pressing out of view the rights of men and the authority of the people?

This is essentially a people's contest. On the side of the Union it is a struggle for maintaining in the world that form and substance of government whose leading object is to elevate the condition of men – to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life. Yielding to partial and temporary departures, from necessity, this is the leading object of the Government for whose existence we contend.

I am most happy to believe that the plain people understand and appreciate this. It is worthy of note that while in this, the Government's hour of trial, large numbers of those in the Army and Navy who have been favored with the offices have resigned and proved false to the hand which had pampered them, not one common soldier or common sailor is known to have deserted his flag.

Great honor is due to those officers who remained true, despite the example of their treacherous associates; but the greatest honor, and most important fact of all, is the unanimous firmness of the common soldiers and common sailors. To the last man, so far as known, they have successfully resisted the traitorous efforts of those whose commands but an hour before they obeyed as absolute law. This is the patriotic instinct of plain people. They understand, without an argument, that the destroying the Government which was made by Washington means no good to them.

Our popular Government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it our people have already settled – the successful establishing and the successful administering of it. One still remains – its successful maintenance against a formidable internal attempt to overthrow it. It is now for them to demonstrate to the world that those who can fairly carry an election can also suppress a rebellion; that ballots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets; and that when ballots have fairly and constitutionally decided there can be no successful appeal back to bullets; that there can be no successful appeal except to ballots themselves, at succeeding elections. Such will be a great lesson of peace; teaching men that what they cannot take by an election, neither can they take it by a war; teaching all the folly of being the beginners of a war.
Lest there might be some uneasiness in the minds of candid men as to what is to be the course of the Government toward the Southern States after the rebellion shall have been suppressed, the Executive deems it proper to say, it will be his purpose then, as ever, to be guided by the Constitution and the laws; and that he probably will have no different understanding of the powers and duties of the Federal Government relatively to the rights of the States and the people, under the Constitution, than that expressed in the inaugural address.

He desires to preserve the Government, that it may be administered for all, as it was administered by the men who made it. Loyal citizens everywhere have the right to claim this of their Government; and the Government has no right to withhold or neglect it. It is not perceived that, in giving it, there is any coercion, any conquest, or any subjugation, in any just sense of those terms.

The Constitution provides, and all the States have accepted the provision, that “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government.” But if a State may lawfully go out of the Union, having done so, it may also discard the republican form of government; so that to prevent its going out is an indispensable means to the end of maintaining the guaranty mentioned; and when an end is lawful and obligatory the indispensable means to it are also lawful and obligatory.

It was with the deepest regret that the Executive found the duty of employing the war power, in defense of the Government, forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the Government. No compromise by public servants could, in this case, be a cure; not that compromises are not often proper, but that no popular Government can long survive a marked precedent, that those who carry an election can only save the Government from immediate destruction by giving up the main point upon which the people gave the election. The people themselves, and not their servants, can safely reverse their own deliberate decisions.

As a private citizen the Executive could not have consented that these institutions shall perish; much less could he in betrayal of so vast and so sacred a trust as these free people had confided to him. He felt that he had no moral right to shrink, nor even to count the chances of his own life, in what might follow. In full view of his great responsibility he has, so far, done what he has deemed his duty. You will now, according to your own judgment, perform yours. He sincerely hopes that your views and your action may so accord with his as to assure all faithful citizens who have been disturbed in their rights of a certain and speedy restoration to them, under the Constitution and the laws.

And having thus chosen our course, without guile and with pure purpose, let us renew our trust in God, and go forward without fear and with manly hearts.

JULY 4, 1861.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series III, Volume 1 (Serial No. 122), p. 311-21; Abstracted in Samuel Wylie Crawford’s The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861, p. 466-9.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Joseph Holt & Isaac Touchy to James Glynn et al, January 29, 1861

WASHINGTON, January 29, 1861.

To JAMES GLYNN, commanding the Macedonian; Capt. W. S. WALKER, commanding the Brooklyn, and other naval officers in command; and Lieut. ADAM J. SLEMMER, First Regiment Artillery, U. S. Army, commanding Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Fla.:

In consequence of the assurances received from Mr. Mallory in a telegram of yesterday to Messrs. Slidell, Hunter, and Bigler, with a request it should be laid before the President, that Fort Pickens would not be assaulted, and an offer of such an assurance to the same effect from Colonel Chase, for the purpose of avoiding a hostile collision, upon receiving satisfactory assurances from Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase that Fort Pickens will not be attacked, you are instructed not to land the company on board the Brooklyn unless said fort shall be attacked or preparations shall be made for its attack. The provisions necessary for the supply of the fort you will land. The Brooklyn and other vessels of war on the station will remain, and you will exercise the utmost vigilance and be prepared at a moment's warning to land the company at Fort Pickens, and you and they will instantly repel an attack on the fort. The President yesterday sent a special message to Congress commending the Virginia resolutions of compromise. The commissioners of different States are to meet here on Monday, the 4th February, and it is important that during their session a collision of arms should be avoided, unless an attack should be made or there should be preparation for such an attack. In either event the Brooklyn and the other vessels will act promptly.

Your right, and that of the other officers in command at Pensacola, freely to communicate with the Government by special messenger, and its right in the same manner to communicate with yourself and them, will remain intact as the basis on which the present instruction is given.

Secretary of War.

Secretary of the Navy.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 1 (Serial No. 1), p. 355-6; Samuel Wylie Crawford, The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861, p. 401-2