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extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested
by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. The Senators and
Representatives are, therefore, summoned to assemble at their respective
chambers at twelve o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the 4th day of July next,
then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their
wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.
"In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.
"Done at the city of Washington, this fifteenth day of April, in the
year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the
independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.
"By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
"WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State."
While in the North the official responses to this Call for troops were
prompt and patriotic, in the Border and Slave States, not yet in
Rebellion, they were anything but encouraging.
The reply of Governor Burton, of Delaware, was by the issue of a
proclamation "recommending the formation of volunteer companies for the
protection of the lives and property of the people of Delaware against
violence of any sort to which they may be exposed; the companies not
being subject to be ordered by the Executive into the United States
service--the law not vesting him with such authority--but having the
option of offering their services to the General Government for the
defense of its capital and the support of the Constitution and laws of
Governor Hicks, of Maryland, in like manner, issued a proclamation for
Maryland's quota of the troops, but stated that her four regiments would
be detailed to serve within the limits of Maryland--or, for the defense
of the National Capital.
Governor Letcher, of Virginia, replied: "The militia of Virginia will
not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose
as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States,
and a requisition made upon me for such an object--an object, in my
judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the Act of 1795
--will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate Civil War,
and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the
Administration has exhibited toward the South."
Governor Ellis, of North Carolina, replied to Secretary Cameron: "Your
dispatch is received, and, if genuine--which its extraordinary character
leads me to doubt--I have to say in reply that I regard the levy of
troops made by the Administration, for the purpose of subjugating the
States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution and a
usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the
laws of the country, and to this War upon the liberties of a free
people. You can get no troops from North Carolina. I will reply more
in detail when your Call is received by mail."
Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, replied: "Your dispatch is received. In
answer I say emphatically, Kentucky will furnish no troops for the
wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States."
Governor Harris, of Tennessee, replied: "Tennessee will not furnish a
single man for Coercion, but fifty thousand, if necessary, for the
Defense of our rights or those of our Southern brethren."
Governor Jackson, of Missouri, replied: "Your requisition is illegal,
unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical and cannot be
Governor Rector, of Arkansas, replied: "None will be furnished. The
demand is only adding insult to injury."
Discouraging and even insulting as were most of these replies, the
responses of the Governors of the Free States were, on the other hand,
full of the ring of true martial Patriotism evoked by the fall of Sumter
and the President's first call for troops. Twenty millions of Northern
hearts were stirred by that Call, as they had never before been stirred.
Party and faction became for the moment, a thing of the past.
The Governors of the Free States made instant proclamation for
volunteers, and the People responded not by thousands but by hundreds of
thousands. New York, the Empire State, by her Governor and her
Legislature placed all her tremendous resources at the service of the
Union; and the great State of Pennsylvania, through Governor Curtin, did
the same. Nor were the other States at all behind.
The Loyal North felt that Law, Order, Liberty, the existence of the
Nation itself was in peril, and must be both saved and vindicated. Over
half a million of men--from the prairies of the West and the hills and
cities of the East--from farms and counting houses, from factories and
mines and workshops--sprang to arms at the Call, and begged to be
enrolled. The merchants and capitalists throughout the North proffered
to the Government their wealth and influence and best services. The
press and the people responded as only the press and people of a Free
land can respond--with all their heart and soul. "Fort Sumter," said
one of the journals, "is lost, but Freedom is saved. Henceforth, the
Loyal States are a unit in uncompromising hostility to Treason, wherever
plotted, however justified. Fort Sumter is temporarily lost, but the
Country is saved. Live the Republic!"
This, in a nutshell, was the feeling everywhere expressed, whether by
the great crowds that marched through the streets of Northern cities
with drums beating and banners flying--cheering wildly for the Union,
singing Union songs, and compelling those of doubtful loyalty to throw
out to the breeze from their homes the glorified Stars and Stripes--by
the great majority of newspapers--by the pulpit, by the rostrum, by the
bench, by all of whatever profession or calling in Northern life. For
the moment, the voice of the Rebel-sympathizer was hushed in the land,
or so tremendously overborne that it seemed as if there was an absolute
unanimity of love for the Union.
Of course, in Border-States, bound to the South by ties of lineage and
intermarriage and politics and business association, the feeling could
not be the same as elsewhere. There, they were, so to speak, drawn both
ways at once, by the beckoning hands of kindred on the one side, and
Country on the other! Thus they long waited and hesitated, praying that
something might yet happen to save the Union of their fathers, and
prevent the shedding of brothers' blood, by brothers-hoping against
hope-waited, in the belief that a position of armed neutrality might be
permitted to them; and grieved, when they found this could not be.
Each side to the great Conflict-at-arms naturally enough believed itself
right, and that the other side was the first aggressor; but the judgment
of Mankind has placed the blame where it properly belonged--on the
shoulders of the Rebels. The calm, clear statement of President
Lincoln, in his July Message to Congress, touching the assault and its
preceding history--together with his conclusions--states the whole
matter in such authentic and convincing manner that it may be said to
have settled the point beyond further controversy. After stating that
it "was 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 on
the Fort," Mr. Lincoln continues: "This notice was accordingly given;
whereupon the Fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even
awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition."
The President then proceeds: "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
"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 pretences made in this
case, or on any other pretences, or arbitrarily without any pretence,
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 for Troops was made, as we have seen, on the 15th day of April.
On the evening of the following day several companies of a Pennsylvania
Regiment reported for duty in Washington. On the 18th, more
Pennsylvania Volunteers, including a company of Artillery, arrived
On the 19th of April, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment--whose progress
through New York city had been triumphal-was suddenly and unexpectedly
assailed, in its passage through Baltimore, to the defense of the
National Capital, by a howling mob of Maryland Secessionists--worked up
to a pitch of States-rights frenzy by Confederate emissaries and
influential Baltimore Secession-sympathizers, by news of the sudden
evacuation of the Federal Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and other exciting
tidings--and had to fight its way through, leaving three soldiers of
that regiment dead, and a number wounded, behind it.
[At a meeting of the "National Volunteer Association," at Monument
Square, Baltimore, the previous evening, says Greeley's History of
the American Conflict, page 462, "None of the speakers directly
advocated attacks on the Northern troops about to pass through the
city; but each was open in his hostility to 'Coercion,' and
ardently exhorted his hearers to organize, arm and drill, for the
Conflict now inevitable. Carr (Wilson C. N. Carr) said: 'I do not
care how many Federal troops are sent to Washington; they will soon
find themselves surrounded by such an army from Virginia and
Maryland, that escape to their homes will be impossible; and when
the 75,000 who are intended to invade the South shall have polluted
that soil with their touch, the South will exterminate and sweep
them from the Earth.' (Frantic cheering and yelling). The meeting
broke up with stentorian cheers for 'the South' and for 'President
Ten companies of Philadelphia troops, reaching Baltimore at the same
time, unarmed, were also violently assailed by the crazy mob, and, after
a two hours' fight, reached the cars and returned to Philadelphia.
Washington City--already, by the Secession of Virginia, cut off from the
South--was thus practically cut off from the North as well; and to
isolate it more completely, the telegraph wires were cut down and the
railroad bridges burned. A mere handful of regulars, the few volunteers
that had got through before the outbreak in Baltimore, and a small
number of Union residents and Government department clerks--these, under
General Winfield Scott, constituted the paltry force that, for ten days
after the Call for troops, held the National Capital.
Informed, as the Rebels must have been, by their swarming spies, of the
weakness of the Federal metropolis, it seems absolutely marvelous that
instant advantage was not taken of it.
The Richmond Examiner, of April 23d, said: "The capture of Washington
City is perfectly within the power of Virginia and Maryland, if Virginia
will only make the effort with her constituted authorities; nor is there
a single moment to lose. * * * The fanatical yell for the immediate
subjugation of the whole South is going up hourly from the united voices
of all the North; and, for the purpose of making their work sure, they
have determined to hold Washington City as the point whence to carry on
their brutal warfare. Our people can take it--they will take it--and
Scott, the arch-traitor, and Lincoln, the Beast, combined, cannot
prevent it. The just indignation of an outraged and deeply injured
people will teach the Illinois Ape to repeat his race and retrace his
journey across the borders of the Free Negro States still more rapidly
than he came. * * * Great cleansing and purification are needed and
will be given to that festering sink of iniquity, that wallow of Lincoln
and Scott--the desecrated city of Washington; and many indeed will be
the carcasses of dogs and caitiff that will blacken the air upon the
gallows before the great work is accomplished. So let it be!"
But despite all this fanfaronade of brutal bluster, and various
movements that looked somewhat threatening, and this complete isolation
for more than a week from the rest of the World, the city of Washington
was not seized by the Rebels, after all.
This nervous condition of affairs, however, existed until the 25th--and
to General Benjamin F. Butler is due the chief credit of putting an end
to it. It seems he had reached the Susquehanna river at Perryville,
with his Eighth Massachusetts Regiment on the 20th--the day after the
Sixth Massachusetts had been mobbed at Baltimore--and, finding his
further progress to Washington via Baltimore, barred by the destruction
of the bridge across the Susquehanna, etc., he at once seized a large
ferry steamer, embarked his men on her, steamed down the river and
Chesapeake Bay to Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, took possession of
the frigate Constitution, the Naval Academy, and the city itself,
gathered supplies, and being reinforced by the arrival by water of the
famous New York Seventh, and other regiments, repaired the branch
railroad to Annapolis Junction (on the main line of railroad between
Baltimore and Washington), and transferred his column from thence, by
cars, on the 25th, to the National Capital--soon thereafter also taking
military possession of Baltimore, which gave no further trouble to the
Union Cause. In the meantime, however, other untoward events to that
Cause had happened.
Two days after the Call for troops, the Virginia Convention (April 17th)
secretly voted to Secede from the Union. An expedition of Virginia
troops was almost at once started to capture the Federal Arsenal at
Harper's Ferry, which, as has already been intimated, was evacuated
hastily on the night of the 18th, by the handful of Union regulars
garrisoning it, after a futile effort to destroy the public property and
stores it held. Another expedition was started to seize the Federal
Navy Yard at Norfolk--a rich prize, containing as it did, between 2,000
and 3,000 pieces of heavy ordnance (300 of them Dahlgrens), three old
line-of-battle ships and a number of frigates, including the Cumberland
and the fine forty-gun steam frigate Merrimac, together with thousands
of kegs of powder and immense stores of other munitions of war, and
supplies--that had cost in all some $10,000,000. Without an enemy in
sight, however, this fine Navy Yard was shamefully evacuated, after
partly scuttling and setting fire to the vessels--the Cumberland alone
being towed away--and spiking the guns, and doing other not very
So also, in North Carolina, Rebel influence was equally active. On the
20th of April Governor Ellis seized the Federal Branch Mint at,
Charlotte, and on the 22d the Federal Arsenal at Fayetteville. A few
days thereafter his Legislature authorized him to tender to Virginia
--which had already joined the Confederacy--or to the Government of the
Confederate States itself, the volunteer forces of North Carolina. And,
although at the end of January the people of that State had decided at
the polls that no Secession Convention be held, yet the subservient
Legislature did not hesitate, on demand, to call one together which met
in May and ordained such Secession.
Thus, by the end of May, 1861, the Confederacy had grown to comprise
nine instead of seven States, and the Confederate troops were
concentrating on Richmond--whither the Rebel Government was soon to
remove, from Montgomery.
By this time also not only had the ranks of the regular Union Army been
filled and largely added to, but 42,000 additional volunteers had been
called out by President Lincoln; and the blockade of the Southern ports
(including those of Virginia and North Carolina) that had been
proclaimed by him, was, despite all obstacles, now becoming effectual
Washington City and its suburbs, by the influx of Union volunteers, had
during this month become a vast armed camp; the Potomac river had been
crossed and the Virginia hills (including Arlington heights) which
overlooked the Federal Capital, had been occupied and fortified by Union
troops; the young and gallant Colonel Ellsworth had been killed by a
Virginia Rebel while pulling down a Rebel flag in Alexandria; and
General Benjamin F. Butler, in command at Fortress Monroe, had by an
inspiration, solved one of the knottiest points confronting our armies,
by declaring of three Negroes who had fled from their master so as to
escape working on Rebel fortifications, that they should not be returned
to that master--under the Fugitive Slave Law, as demanded by a Rebel
officer with a flag of truce--but were confiscated "property," and would
be retained, as "contraband of war."
It was about this time, too, that the New Orleans Picayune fell into
line with other unscrupulous Rebel sheets, by gravely declaring that:
"All the Massachusetts troops now in Washington are Negroes, with the
exception of two or three drummer boys. General Butler, in command, is
a native of Liberia. Our readers may recollect old Ben, the barber, who
kept a shop in Poydras street, and emigrated to Liberia with a small
competence. General Butler is his son." Little did the writer of that
paragraph dream how soon New Orleans would crouch at the very feet of
that same General!
And now, while the armed hosts on either side are assembling in hostile
array, or resting on their arms, preliminary to the approaching fray of
battle, let us glance at the alleged causes underlying this great
Rebellion against the Union.