Tag Archives: Secession

North Carolina and Tennessee Lean South

April 26, 1861 – North Carolina Governor John Ellis joined Tennessee in rejecting President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers to destroy the Confederacy.

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

The 1st Confederate National Flag | Image Credit: RussellHarrison.com

Soon after Lincoln issued his proclamation, North Carolina militia seized Forts Macon, Caswell, and Johnston, as well as the Federal arsenal at Fayetteville. William Howard Russell, a correspondent for the London Times touring the South, was in Greensborough when news arrived that the Confederates captured Fort Sumter. Although North Carolina had not yet seceded, Russell wrote that celebrations exploded with “flush faces, wild eyes, screaming mouths hurrahing for ‘Jeff Davis’ and ‘the Southern Confederacy,’ so that the yells overpowered the discordant bands which were busy with ‘Dixie’s Land’… Here was the true revolutionary furor in full sway.”

Governor Ellis called for a special legislative session to assemble and consider secession after responding to Lincoln:

“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.”

Ellis joined fellow Governor Isham Harris of Tennessee, who responded to Lincoln’s call in similar fashion: “Tennessee will not furnish a single man for the purpose of coercion, but 50,000 if necessary for the defense of our rights and those of our Southern brothers.”

Harris also protested to Republican Governor Richard Yates of Illinois for posting Illinois militia at Cairo, where the Ohio and Mississippi rivers met, and imposing “a rather tight blockade of the rivers.” Harris asserted that Tennessee still belonged to the Union, and the “obstruction of the navigation of the Mississippi River and the seizure of public and private property by an armed force are violations of the comity of States and a palpable infringement of the Constitution.” This helped move Tennessee closer to secession.

The Nashville Patriot reported that the “community of interest existing in all the slaveholding States” must serve to unite them to defend “justice and liberty.”

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Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 41-42, 43
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 7238-49
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 10, 59-60
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 52
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 25
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 60-61, 64, 66
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 284
  • Robbins, Peggy, Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 535-36
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

The Baltimore Riot

April 19, 1861 – Troops of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment traveling through Baltimore fired on a jeering mob of citizens, sparking mass unrest.

Federal troops heeding President Abraham Lincoln’s call for volunteers needed to pass through Baltimore, a major railroad hub, to get to Washington, D.C. Some Pennsylvania units had made the trip on April 18 and informed capital officials of the poor reception they received from secessionists and city gangs such as the “plug uglies” in predominately pro-Confederate Baltimore. The Massachusetts men came through the next day.

The train carrying the soldiers arrived at the President Street Station at 10:30 a.m. Baltimore Mayor George W. Brown asserted that neither he nor city police had been notified that Federal troops would be arriving that day. To complete their journey to the capital, the Massachusetts men had to have their 10 rail cars drawn by horses along a connecting line to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, a mile across town at the Camden Street Station.

Resentful crowds gathered in the streets to curse and jeer the troops as they passed. The first eight cars went through with no incident, but the mob pelted the ninth car with paving stones and bricks, shattering windows and injuring some troops. Debris on the tracks prevented the 10th car from passing. The men had to detrain and march the remaining distance to Camden Street. Officers instructed their men to load their rifles but not to fire unless ordered to do so.

As the mob cursed and pelted the scared, inexperienced soldiers with brickbats and paving stones, shots rang out. When the smoke cleared, Colonel Edward Jones reported that the 6th had lost three killed (later amended to four) and 39 wounded. Mayor Brown reported that 12 civilians had been killed and dozens of others wounded, though the total figure was unknown.

Massachusetts Soldiers Firing into a Baltimore Crowd | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Massachusetts Soldiers Firing into a Baltimore Crowd | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

These marked the first combat casualties of the war. Prominent journalist George Templeton Strong wrote, “It’s a notable coincidence that the first blood in this great struggle is drawn by Massachusetts men on the anniversary” of the Battles of Lexington and Concord that sparked the War for Independence 86 years before.

Mayor Brown and Police Marshal George Kane tried protecting the soldiers by getting them to the station and hustling them onto rail cars as soon as possible. The train left the Camden Street Station around 12:45 p.m. The soldiers left their dead, some of their wounded, and their regimental band. City police returned baggage and equipment that had been seized by the mob. Some 17 wounded soldiers were carried into the capital on stretchers. Those killed were packed with ice and returned to Massachusetts for honorable interment.

The 6th Massachusetts took up quarters in the Senate chamber of the U.S. Capitol. Baltimore authorities restored order by evening, after rioters had caused thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage.

When a rumor spread that more Federal troops were approaching the city via the northern railroads, Governor Thomas H. Hicks reluctantly approved the recommendation of Mayor Brown and Police Marshal Kane to destroy four railroad bridges leading from Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Secessionists also cut telegraph lines.

Cutting rail and telegraph lines prevented Washington from receiving reinforcements or communications, thus isolating the capital from the North for nearly a week. Many capital visitors quickly fled town, while residents closed their businesses and barricaded their homes. Mayor Brown dispatched three representatives to deliver a letter to President Lincoln warning about Baltimore’s volatility:

“The people are exasperated to the highest degree by the passage of troops, and the citizens are universally decided in the opinion that no more should be ordered to come… It is my solemn duty to inform you that it is not possible for more soldiers to pass through Baltimore unless they fight their way at every step.”

A demonstration took place on the night of the 19th at Baltimore’s Monument Square, where speakers denounced the Lincoln administration and called for Maryland to secede. Governor Hicks, who had straddled both sides of the secession question, now joined the secessionists in declaring to the crowd: “I will suffer my right arm to be torn from my body before I will raise it to strike a sister State.” The next day, Hicks further emboldened the secessionists by informing the Lincoln administration that order could only be maintained by prohibiting the entry of Federal troops.

President Lincoln conferred with General-in-Chief Winfield Scott and then responded by temporarily closing the Baltimore line of transport: “For the future, troops must be brought here (Washington), but I make no point of bringing them through Baltimore.”

The Federals created an alternate route through Maryland via water to Annapolis. Brigadier General Benjamin F. Butler’s 8th Massachusetts paraded his men through that town before they rebuilt damaged railroad tracks on their march to the capital on foot. The Annapolis route, though slower, bypassed the Baltimore problem for now.

Meanwhile, Washington remained in chaos since Federals took more time coming to the city’s defense. Many feared that secessionists would invade at any time. Cut off from reinforcements or communications, wild rumors spreading throughout the capital were taken as fact. 

Northerners were outraged by Maryland’s defiance of Federal authority. Massachusetts soon provided double its quota of troops for the war effort. New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley declared that Baltimore should “be burned with fire and leveled to the earth and made an abode for owls and satyrs and a place for fishermen to dry their nets.”

Marylanders responded differently. School teacher James Randall, a native Marylander reading about the Baltimore riot from New Orleans, composed the poem “My Maryland.” This denounced the Federal invasion of Maryland, and its circulation increased when Baltimore socialite sisters Jennie and Hettie Cary began singing it to audiences to the tune of the Yale song “Lauriger Horatius.” A publisher later changed the song accompaniment to “O Tannenbaum,” a 1799 German song also known as “Oh Christmas Tree.”

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Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 42-43
  • Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 63, 85
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5818-29
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 24-26
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 36
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 24
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 352
  • Hall, James O., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 37
  • Kelly, Dennis P., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 478
  • Klein, Frederic S., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 479
  • Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 29
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 61-63
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 285
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 70
  • Time-Life Editors, Spies, Scouts and Raiders: Irregular Operations (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 12-13
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 62
  • Wert, Jeffry D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 359-60
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

Robert E. Lee Goes South

April 18, 1861 – U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee met with influential statesman Francis P. Blair and received an offer to command the Federal army.

Blair, former editor of The Congressional Globe, traveled from his plantation at Silver Spring, Maryland to Washington on the 16th to meet with President Abraham Lincoln. According to Lincoln’s secretary, the men discussed potential commanders for the Federal forces.

U.S. General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican War, was too old for active field command, and his strategy for defeating the Confederacy lacked aggression. Lincoln agreed with Blair’s idea to promote Colonel Lee, whom Scott called “the very best soldier I ever saw in the field.”

Through Secretary of War Simon Cameron, Lincoln directed Blair to “ascertain Lee’s intentions and feelings,” and make him an offer. Scott sent Lee a letter requesting an interview on the 18th. The letter included a message from Lee’s cousin, John Lee, stating that Blair also requested a meeting with Lee on the same day.

U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

On the afternoon of the 18th, Lee left his home at Arlington to meet with Blair at the statesman’s townhouse across the street from the White House. Blair explained that the Lincoln administration would field an army of 75 to 100,000 troops, and he had been authorized by Lincoln to offer Lee overall command. This was the highest rank a president could bestow upon a military officer.

Lee told Blair, “I look upon secession as anarchy,” and if he had power over every slave, he would “sacrifice them all to the Union.” However, Lee later recalled telling Blair “as candidly and courteously as I could that though opposed to secession and deprecating war, I could take no part in an invasion of the Southern states.” Moreover, considering that the Virginia Convention had just voted to secede (pending a popular vote), Lee asked, “How can I draw my sword upon Virginia, my native state?”

After the meeting, Lee went to Scott’s office to visit with the general-in-chief. Lee described his meeting with Blair and Lee’s decision. Scott said, “Lee, you have made the greatest mistake of your life; but I feared it would be so.” Lee hoped to stay in the army until the referendum on Virginia’s secession took place on May 23, but Scott advised, “If you propose to resign, it is proper that you should do so at once; your present attitude is equivocal.”

With that, Lee returned to Arlington House, where he would “share the miseries of my people and save in defense will draw my sword on none.”

The next day, delegates to the Virginia Convention approved authorizing appointment of a “commander of the military and naval forces of Virginia.” The commander would have the rank of major-general and authority to lead military operations and troop organization under the governor’s overall authority. The convention committee in charge of the decision recommended Colonel Robert E. Lee for the position.

Meanwhile Lee learned of Virginia’s secession, and while friends and family gathered at the Arlington House to discuss the matter, Lee retired alone to the garden to consider what he would do. He later returned home and paced in his room for several hours. Early next morning, Lee wrote his letter of resignation to General-in-Chief Scott, after 32 years of service in the U.S. army: “Sir–I have the honour to tender the resignation of my Commission as Colonel of the 1st Regt of Cavalry.” Lee explained:

“Since my interview with you on the 18th instant I have felt that I ought not longer retain my commission in the Army. I therefore tender my resignation, which I request you will recommend for acceptance. It would have been presented at once, but for the struggle it has cost me to separate myself from a service to which I have devoted all the best years of my life & all the ability I possessed…”

The decision had to be made quickly before Lee received orders from his superiors in the Federal government to act against the Confederacy. Lee’s decision was made not because he supported either slavery or secession, but because he believed his first duty was to his home state of Virginia, which had opted for secession.

Virginia Governor John Letcher dispatched Judge John Robertson to formally offer a major-general commission to Robert E. Lee in accordance with the ordinance passed on the 19th. Lee accepted and left Arlington on the morning of April 22. He took a train from Alexandria to Gordonsville and then completed his journey to the state capital on the Virginia Central Railroad.

After checking into the Spotswood Hotel, Lee met with Letcher and officially accepted the governor’s appointment. That evening, delegates to the Virginia Convention unanimously approved Letcher’s choice of Lee as “Commander-in-Chief of the military and naval forces of the Commonwealth” of Virginia.

Major General Lee opened a temporary office in Richmond on the 23rd. Before he could assemble a staff, he issued General Order No. 1 announcing that he now commanded all Virginia forces. A committee from the Virginia Convention escorted Lee to the convention hall, where Marmaduke Johnson introduced him: “Mr. President, I have the honor to present to you, and to the Convention, Major General Lee.”

Lee was welcomed into the hall, “in which we may almost yet hear the echo of the voices of the statesmen, the soldiers and sages of by-gone days, who have borne your name, and whose blood now flows in your veins.” Convention President John Janney delivered a speech:

“Sir, we have, by this unanimous vote, expressed our conviction that you are at this day, among the living citizens of Virginia, ‘first in war.’ We pray God most fervently that you may so conduct the operations committed to your charge, that it will soon be said of you, that you are ‘first in peace,’ and when that time comes you will have earned the still prouder distinction of being ‘first in the hearts of your countrymen…'”

Lee rose and addressed the delegation: “Profoundly impressed with the solemnity of the occasion, for which I must say I was not prepared, I accept the position assigned me by your partiality… Trusting in Almighty God, an approving conscience, and the aid of my fellow-citizens, I devote myself to the service of my native State, in whose behalf alone will I ever again draw my sword.”

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Sources

  • Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 224-25, 231-32
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5759
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 27-28
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 36-37
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 2214-38, 2282, 2367-78, 2390
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 349-50
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 61, 63-65
  • Time-Life Editors, Lee Takes Command: From Seven Days to Second Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 20
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 50-52, 283
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q261

The Virginia Secession

April 17, 1861 – Delegates to the Virginia Convention at Richmond approved an ordinance of secession in a secret ballot, 88 to 55.

Virginia State Flag | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Virginia State Flag | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

President Abraham Lincoln had been quietly working to keep Virginia in the Union since early April. On the 3rd, Lincoln dispatched agent Allan B. Magruder to Richmond to explore the potential for negotiations between the Lincoln administration and Virginia Unionists.

The next day Secretary of State William H. Seward, hoping to salvage his credibility after breaking his pledge to the Confederate envoys to evacuate Fort Sumter, persuaded Lincoln to meet with John B. Baldwin, a Unionist delegate to the Virginia Convention debating secession. Knowing the convention would approve secession if a clash occurred over Fort Sumter, Lincoln and Seward hoped to negotiate a deal through Baldwin.

In a long, secret conference, Lincoln reportedly discussed possibly evacuating Sumter in exchange for Virginia’s guarantee not to secede by adjourning the convention sine die. Lincoln said, “If you will guarantee to me the State of Virginia I shall remove the troops. A state for a fort is no bad business.”

Baldwin replied that he had no authority to tell the other convention delegates how to vote. Nevertheless, on that same day the delegates rejected a secession ordinance by a vote of 89 to 45. But the delegates also resolved to stay in session in case the Lincoln administration showed aggression toward the Confederacy or infringed on states’ rights. Lincoln also met with former U.S. congressman and Virginia Unionist John M. Botts to discuss keeping in Virginia in the Union, but apparently nothing came of this meeting. Lincoln soon grew more pessimistic about keeping Virginia in the Union.

That pessimism proved well founded because news that Fort Sumter had been fired upon produced a wave of secessionism that swept Virginia. Citizens formed a separate “Spontaneous Southern Rights Convention” in a different Richmond hall and resolved to demand that the Virginia Convention approve secession. The firing on Fort Sumter, combined with Lincoln’s call for Virginia forces to oppose the Confederacy, prompted many Unionist delegates to change their sentiment.

In fact, Virginia took the lead among the states still considering secession when Governor John Letcher refused to comply with the Lincoln administration’s request for volunteers in an official message to Secretary of War Simon Cameron:

“Executive Department, Richmond, Va., April 15, 1861. Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War: Sir: I have received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time I have received your communications mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia ‘the quota assigned in a table,’ which you append, ‘to serve as infantry or rifleman for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.’ In reply to this communication, I have only to say that 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.”

Former Governor Henry Wise delivered an impassioned speech to the state convention delegates on the 17th. He announced that state militia had begun moving to secure the military bases at Harpers Ferry and the Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk. Wise had planned the effort to defend Harpers Ferry without consulting with current Governor Letcher.

Calling on Virginians not to hesitate to defend themselves, Wise’s speech electrified the hall and helped the delegates to vote for secession. They also approved holding a popular vote to ratify the ordinance on the fourth Thursday in May (the 23rd), even though secession was essentially a foregone conclusion.

Former U.S. President John Tyler supported the ordinance, stating, “Generations yet unborn would bless those who had the high privilege of participation in the present struggle.” Thomas Gilmer, who had worked for Stephen A. Douglas in Virginia, now condemned the pro-Union senator: “The period for words is past. The time for war is at hand… God forbid that I may ever live to see the day, when Stephen Douglas can stoop so low as to take by the hand, such… as Abe Lincoln and his Cabinet.”

Of the 88 delegates who approved secession, only five came from Virginia’s northwestern counties. Few slaveholders lived in that mountainous region, and the people there had strong economic ties to the Ohio River Valley and the northern states. Thus residents there remained largely Unionist.

The delegation resolved to call upon Governor Letcher to raise a militia to defend the state. Declaring that “the people of this Commonwealth are free men, not slaves,” Letcher quickly began mobilizing forces. Meanwhile, celebrations took place throughout the Confederacy upon learning that the largest and most prosperous slaveholding state in the Union would soon be joining them.

Mass celebrations also took place in Richmond, including the largest torchlight procession in city history. Former President Tyler and former Governor Wise delivered inspiring speeches, and many compared this event to the rebellion against Great Britain led by Virginia’s first “rebel,” George Washington. Thousands of people paraded down Main, Franklin, and Marshall streets as bands played “Dixie” and “The Bonnie Blue Flag.”

Various orators gave speeches as lighted candles forming the Southern Cross appeared in surrounding windows. One speaker declared, “I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, yet I will predict that in less than 60 days the flag of the Confederacy will be waving over the White House.” A spectator replied, “In less than 30 days!” Meanwhile, militia carried out Letcher’s order to seize the U.S. custom-house and post office in Richmond, and President Jefferson Davis pledged Confederate aid to Virginia.

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Sources

  • Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 230-31
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 5270-82, 7226-38
  • Davis, William C., First Blood: Fort Sumter to Bull Run (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 15-17
  • Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 32-33, 35-36
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 6109
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 46, 51-52
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 349
  • Klein, Frederic S., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 479
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 53-54, 59-61
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 270, 278-79, 298
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 66
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 50-52, 283
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Virginia in the American Civil War

The Texas Secession: Sam Houston Ousted

March 18, 1861 – Delegates to the Texas State Convention removed Governor Sam Houston from office for refusing to take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy.

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Texas Governor Sam Houston | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

On March 2, the Confederate Congress approved a measure admitting Texas into the Confederacy. However Texas Governor Sam Houston defied the state legislature by refusing to recognize the Confederacy’s legitimacy. As secessionists worked to remove Houston from office, the governor asserted: “I love Texas too well to bring civil strife and bloodshed upon her. To avert this calamity, I shall make no endeavor to maintain my authority as Chief Executive of this State, except by the peaceful exercise of my functions…”

Meanwhile, Texas officials continued seizing Federal property in the state throughout the month, including:

  • The Federal revenue cutter Henry Dodge at Galveston
  • Ringgold Barracks
  • Camps Verde, Wood, and Hudson
  • Forts McIntosh, Clark, Inge, Lancaster, Brown, Duncan, Chadbourne, Mason, and Bliss

Command changes also took place for both Federals and Confederates. Colonel Edwin V. Sumner of the 1st Cavalry was promoted to brigadier general to replace General David Twiggs in command of Federal forces in Texas. Twiggs had been dismissed from the U.S. army on 1 March for surrendering Federal forts to Texans. Colonel Earl Van Dorn arrived in Texas on the 26th to lead Confederate forces.

In mid-March, Governor Houston staged a dramatic protest at the state capitol in Austin. When called upon to swear loyalty to Confederacy as required by all Texas public officials, Houston ignored it. His name was called twice more and he ignored it twice more, instead whittling throughout the proceedings. Houston issued a statement:

“Fellow-Citizens, in the name of your rights and liberties, which I believe have been trampled upon, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the nationality of Texas, which has been betrayed by the Convention, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of the Constitution of Texas, I refuse to take this oath. In the name of my own conscience and manhood, which this Convention would degrade by dragging me before it, to pander to the malice of my enemies, I refuse to take this oath. I deny the power of this Convention to speak for Texas… I protest… against all the acts and doings of this convention and I declare them null and void.”

The Texas Convention delegates accepted Houston’s resignation on the 18th, and he was replaced by Lieutenant Governor Edward Clark. Houston retired to his home at Huntsville, explaining that he did not believe secession necessarily meant mandatory loyalty to a new nation. Houston said, “You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions of treasures and hundreds of thousands of precious lives, as a bare possibility, win Southern independence… but I doubt it.”

The Lincoln administration offered to provide Houston with 50,000 troops to help him regain his governorship and keep Texas in the Union by military force. Houston responded to this offer on March 29: “Allow me to most respectfully decline any such assistance of the United States Government.” Thus ended the career of one of the most prominent statesmen in Texas history.

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Sources

  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 18-19
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 2202
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 44, 48-52
  • Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 372
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 27
  • Wikipedia: Sam Houston; Timeline of Events Leading to the American Civil War

The Inauguration of Abraham Lincoln

March 4, 1861 – Abraham Lincoln became the 16th U.S. president in Washington.

President James Buchanan arrived at Willard’s Hotel at noon on a breezy, partly cloudy day. Lincoln emerged from the hotel and accompanied Buchanan in an open barouche pulled by four white horses. The Marine Band played “Hail to the Chief” as the carriage moved past thousands of cheering spectators lining cobblestoned Pennsylvania Avenue. Flags and bunting decorated buildings along the way. Military bands and units marched by, along with a float pulled by white horses bearing 34 girls representing the 34 states.

The procession resembled a military exercise more than a parade, partly because General-in-Chief Winfield Scott, fearing an assassination attempt by one of the many southern sympathizers in Washington, employed sharpshooters on rooftops and in windows along the route. Scott also stationed cavalry on side streets and artillery on the Capitol grounds. He threatened to “manure the slopes of Arlington” with the blood of anyone trying to harm the incoming president.

Some 30,000 people gathered at the Capitol for the ceremony. The presidential carriage entered through a boarded passageway to avoid detection. The participants first entered the Senate chamber, where outgoing Vice President John C. Breckinridge administered the oath of office to his successor, Hannibal Hamlin. Buchanan and Lincoln witnessed the ceremony before the party then moved to a special outdoor platform on the east portico of the Capitol.

Edward D. Baker, a close friend of the Lincolns, introduced the president-elect. Lincoln stepped forward to deliver his inaugural address and looked for a place to set down his stovepipe hat. Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who had been Lincoln’s opponent in the presidential election and a longtime political rival from Illinois, stepped forward to hold it. Douglas said, “If I can’t be the president, at least I can hold his hat.”

Lincoln's inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln’s inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Lincoln’s half-hour speech featured a balance between offering conciliation to the Confederate states and gratifying his party. He provided no policy details. Regarding slavery he said, “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” He voiced support for the recently passed Corwin amendment:

“I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service… holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.”

Lincoln did not acknowledge the new Confederate government, implying that the southern states had been taken over by people rebelling against the U.S. He asserted his right to enforce Federal laws in the states and declared, “No state, on its own mere action, can get out of the Union.” The new president pledged to “hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government,” including Federal forts and garrisons in Confederate territory.

In addition, Lincoln pledged to use force “to collect the duties and imposts,” or tariffs, in the South. This angered southerners because they had regularly opposed tariffs, especially the recently enacted Morrill Tariff Act which had more than doubled the average rate. Southerners resented Lincoln’s promise to enforce the tax increases considering that they had left the Union and had not voted on them.

Lincoln said to southerners: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies… The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the oath of office, officially replacing Buchanan with Lincoln. Cannon boomed and the Marine Band played in celebration of the new administration.

Lincoln’s inaugural address aimed to ease southern fears of a Republican administration. It had initially been less conciliatory, but moderate Republicans such as his new Secretary of State William H. Seward had persuaded him to modify the text. They feared that any expression of hostility toward the Confederacy might compel Virginia and Maryland to secede, leaving Washington isolated from the U.S.

Despite its attempt at moderation, the speech did little to induce southern states to return to the Union. Moreover, many spectators who were moved by Lincoln’s eloquence also expressed disappointment that the address contained few specifics on how he would handle the southern secession.

Following the inauguration, the festivities moved to the White House, where attendees included military officers, judges, congressmen, governors, civilians, and military veterans dating as far back as the War for Independence. It did not take long for Lincoln to become deluged by thousands of job seekers hoping to benefit from the first Republican administration in history. That evening, the Lincolns attended the traditional inaugural ball, finally returning to the White House at 1 a.m.

Newspapers reacted to Lincoln’s inaugural address the next day, and the reactions varied based on political and geographical affiliation. Most Confederate newspapers asserted that Lincoln had revealed his true intention to force them back into the Union. The Montgomery (Alabama) Weekly Advertiser declared: “War, and nothing less than war, will satisfy the Abolition chief.”

Fire-eater Robert Rhett, editor of the Charleston Mercury, stated, “It is our wisest policy to accept the Inaugural as a declaration of war.” Another Mercury editorial opined, “A more lamentable display of feeble inability to grasp the circumstances of this momentous emergency, could scarcely have been exhibited.” A correspondent considered the address from “the Ourang-Outang at the White House” to be “the tocsin of battle” and “the signal of our freedom.”

Editorials from states still considering secession proved even more troubling. The Arkansas True Democrat stated, “If declaring the Union perpetual means coercion, then LINCOLN’S INAUGURAL MEANS WAR!” The Baltimore Sun asserted that the address “assumes despotic authority, and intimates the design to exercise that authority to any extent of war and bloodshed. If it means what it says, it is the knell and requiem of the Union and the death of hope.”

In crucial Virginia, the Richmond Enquirer labeled the address “the cool, unimpassioned, deliberate language of the fanatic… The question ‘Where shall Virginia go?’ is answered by Mr. Lincoln. She must go to war.” And the Richmond Dispatch stated the address “inaugurates civil war.”

Reaction was mixed among pro-U.S. Democrats. North Carolinian John Gilmer had declined Lincoln’s offer to join his cabinet, but he said of the president’s address, “What more does any reasonable Southern man expect or desire?” Stephen A. Douglas also supported Lincoln: “I am with him.” But the pro-Douglas Albany Atlas and Argus called the address a “rambling, discursive, questioning, loose-jointed stump speech.”

Supreme Court Justice John A. Campbell, preparing to join the Confederacy, called it a “stump speech not an inaugural message,” and “incendiary.” The Columbus Daily Capital City envisioned that under Lincoln “blood will stain the soil and color the waters of the entire continent—brother will be arrayed in hostile front against brother.” The New York Herald dismissed the speech as making the country “no wiser than it was Before.”

The Democratic Providence Daily Post opined: “If the President selected his words with the view of making clear his views, he was, partially at least, unsuccessful. There is some plain talk in the address; but… it is immediately followed by obscurely stated qualifications.”

Most Republicans naturally commended Lincoln’s “firmness” and moderation,” and Republicans newspapers generally praised the address. The New York Tribune stated, “Every word of it has the ring of true metal.” The Indianapolis Daily Journal called it “strong, straightforward and manly.” And the Detroit Daily Tribune found it “able, firm, conciliatory, true to principle and of transparent honesty.”

While the press and public weighed in on his inaugural address, Lincoln made his cabinet appointments:

  • William H. Seward of New York as secretary of state
  • Salmon P. Chase of Ohio as treasury secretary
  • Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania as secretary of war
  • Montgomery Blair of Maryland as postmaster general
  • Gideon Welles of Connecticut as navy secretary
  • Edward Bates of Missouri as attorney general
  • Caleb B. Smith of Indiana as interior secretary

Lincoln made various political deals to form this body. He chose nobody from the South, partly because the Republican Party did not exist in that region and partly because those states had joined the Confederacy. But Lincoln did choose two men—Blair and Bates—from border slave states that had not yet seceded.

Seward, Cameron, Chase, and Bates had sought the presidential nomination that Lincoln won. Most cabinet members had more executive experience than Lincoln, and several privately believed that they could do a better job than Lincoln. Thus, Lincoln entered office under heavy scrutiny from the press, the public, and even his own cabinet.

—–

Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 32-34
  • Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 56
  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2008), p. 6-7, 28-29, 31-32
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 5918, 5928-39, 5951, 5963-75
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 40
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 327
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 45-47
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 260-61, 263
  • Nevins, Alan, “He Did Hold Lincoln’s Hat: Senator Douglas’ act is verified, at last, by first-hand testimony,” American Heritage Magazine, Vol 10, Issue 2 (February 1959)
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 50-51
  • Ward, Geoffrey C.; Burns, Ric; Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 34, 36
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Corwin Amendment

The Inauguration of Jefferson Davis

February 18, 1861 – Jefferson Davis of Mississippi became the provisional president of the new Confederate States of America.

The Davis Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The Davis Inauguration | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

The day was mild and sunny as a carriage conveyed Davis up the hill to the steps of the Alabama state capitol at Montgomery. Davis took the oath of office on the capitol steps, and the large crowd cheered when he became the Confederacy’s first president. Davis then delivered his inaugural address. He proclaimed:

“Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established… Obstacles may retard, but they can not long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people…”

The new president asserted that forming this nation was not a “revolution,” but rather a movement of states that “formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained, and the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent, through whom they communicated with foreign nations, is changed; but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.”

Davis stressed that the new nation only wanted to live in peace, and any other states that “may seek to unite their fortunes to ours” were welcome to do so. Davis also noted that the U.S. may someday ally with the new Confederacy since the new nation’s Constitution was like that of the U.S. besides being more explicit about the original founders’ intent.

When Davis’s address concluded, 100 cannon fired in salute as fireworks cracked and banners blazed. Herman Arnold’s band played “Dixie’s Land.” Celebrations raged throughout Montgomery as participants cheered, wept, and sang songs like “Farewell to the Star-Spangled Banner.” Meanwhile, Davis took up residence at a Montgomery hotel where a note on the door marked his office.

President Davis wrote to his wife Varina, who had stayed behind at their home, about the inauguration:

“The audience was large and brilliant. Upon my weary heart were showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers; but beyond them, I saw troubles and thorns innumerable… We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by a powerful opposition; but I do not despond, and will not shrink from the task imposed upon me… As soon as I can call an hour my own, I will look for a house and write you more fully.”

On the 19th, Davis began appointing officials for the six cabinet posts (the Confederacy had no Interior Department):

  • Robert Toombs of Georgia was named secretary of state.
  • Christopher G. Memminger of South Carolina was named treasury secretary. His financial knowledge prompted his state’s delegation to recommend him for the position.
  • Leroy P. Walker of Alabama was named secretary of war. Walker was a distinguished attorney recommended by his state’s officials.
  • Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana was named attorney general. Benjamin’s reputation as a lawyer had impressed Davis when they both served in the U.S. Senate; Benjamin became known as “the brains of the Confederacy.”
  • John Reagan of Texas was named postmaster general. Reagan’s extensive knowledge of Confederate territory suited him for this post.
  • Stephen R. Mallory of Florida was named navy secretary when the Provisional Congress created the Navy Department two days later. Mallory had been chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs in the U.S. Senate who had extensive knowledge of Federal naval intelligence.

Davis balanced his cabinet by selecting one man from each Confederate state except Mississippi (his home state). Three members were foreign-born, and most had initially opposed secession. After the Montgomery Convention confirmed all of Davis’s appointments, the first cabinet meeting took place in a Montgomery hotel room. Memminger had to buy his own desk and chair.

The Confederate government quickly began addressing national defense, as the Provisional Congress authorized Davis to approve contracts to buy and manufacture war supplies. Expecting that the U.S. would not allow the Confederate states to secede without a fight, Davis made three appointments on the 21st:

  • General Josias Gorgas was named the Confederate chief of ordnance.
  • Major Caleb Huse was dispatched to Europe to negotiate contracts for weapons purchases.
  • Captain Raphael Semmes was sent to the U.S. with instructions: “As agent of the Confederate States, you are authorized to proceed, as hereinafter set forth, to make purchases, and contracts for machinery and munitions, or for the manufacture of arms and munitions of war…”

Four days later, Davis appointed three commissioners to travel to Washington and negotiate peaceful relations with the U.S.:

  • Former Louisiana Governor A.B. Roman, who had been a Whig and Constitutional Unionist;
  • Former U.S. Congressman Martin J. Crawford of Georgia, a States’ Rights Democrat;
  • John Forsyth of Alabama, an influential journalist and former minister to Mexico who supported the northern Democrats.

The commissioners received authorization “in the name of the Confederate States, to meet and confer with any person or persons duly authorized by the Government of the United States, being furnished with like power and authority, and with him or them to agree, treat, consult, and negotiate treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation” in the best interests of both nations.

These instructions, written by Secretary of State Robert Toombs, included a dissertation on the right of states to secede and an objective to effect “the speedy adjustment of all questions growing out of separation, as the respective interests, geographical contiguity, and future welfare of the two nations may render necessary.”

Davis also appointed three commissioners to establish diplomatic relations with Europe:

  • Dudley Mann of Virginia
  • William L. Yancey of Alabama
  • Pierre Rost of Louisiana

Davis tasked these men with seeking foreign recognition for the Confederacy, particularly from the world powers of Great Britain and France.

—–

Sources

  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 5-6
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 4259-70, 4328-39, 5473-83
  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 134
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 41, 45
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 14
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 38-41
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 259
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 45
  • Stanchak, John E., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 222-23
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 27, 28-30
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Trent Affair

Lincoln Leaves Springfield

February 11, 1861 – President-elect Abraham Lincoln and Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln left their hometown of Springfield, Illinois on their long journey to Washington, D.C.

As the month began, Lincoln continued preparing for his inauguration on March 4. In so doing, he reiterated that while he did not object to compromise efforts, some issues would not be open for negotiation. Lincoln sent advisors to Republican congressmen in Washington to deliver Lincoln’s views. Lincoln also wrote to his Secretary of State-designate William H. Seward, serving out his term as a U.S. senator from New York:

“I say now, however, as I have all the while said, that on the territorial question—that is, the question of extending slavery under the national auspices,—I am inflexible. I am for no compromise which assists or permits the extension of the institution on soil owned by the nation. And any trick by which the nation is to acquire territory, and then allow some local authority to spread slavery over it, is as obnoxious as any other.”

Around the same time Horace Greeley, editor of the influential New York Tribune, published an editorial excoriating Lincoln for asserting that the southern states should not be allowed to secede:

“Lincoln’s latest speech contained ‘the arguments of the tyrant—force, compulsion, and power.’ ‘Nine out of ten people of the (North)’ are opposed to forcing South Carolina to remain in the Union. ‘The great principle embodied by Jefferson in the Declaration is… that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed.’ Therefore, if the southern States want to secede, ‘they have clear right to do so.’”

On the 6th, the Lincolns held a farewell reception in their Springfield home for friends, politicians, and people flocking from throughout the country. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln stood together in their first-floor parlor and welcomed some 700 guests from 7 p.m. until midnight. According to the Baltimore Sun, the guests comprised “the political elite of Illinois and the beauty and fashion of the area.” A reporter noted, “Mrs. Lincoln’s splendid toilette gave satisfactory evidence of extensive purchases during her late visit (last month) to New York.” The New York press called the reception “the most brilliant affair of the kind witnessed here in many years.”

Lincoln spent the next few days finalizing plans to stop at various cities on his train ride to Washington, as the family moved from their home to a hotel. On the 11th, over 1,000 people gathered in an early morning rain to bid farewell to the Lincolns at Springfield’s Great Western Station. Lincoln shook hands and spoke with friends and neighbors in the station waiting room before boarding the train at 7:55 a.m.

Springfield's Great Western Railroad | Image Credit: jfk50.blogspot.com

Springfield’s Great Western Railroad | Image Credit: jfk50.blogspot.com

Surrounded by family, friends, secretaries, politicians, and military officers, Lincoln addressed the crowd from the platform of his private car:

“Here I have lived a quarter of a century, and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born, and one is buried. I now leave, not knowing when, or whether ever, I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of the Divine Being, who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”

The train made several stops on its eastward trek into Indiana, where Lincoln spoke to cheering crowds. The train stopped for the day at Indianapolis, where 34 cannon representing the 34 states roared upon its arrival. Governor Oliver P. Morton met Lincoln, and a throng of 20,000 people escorted the party to the Bates House. Lincoln delivered his first speech since the election from the balcony. He declared, “It is your business to rise up and preserve the Union and liberty, for yourselves, and not for me.”

Lincoln voiced opposition to “coercion,” an example of which would be if an army marched into South Carolina without prior consent of its people. But he asked if it would be coercion “if the Government, for instance, but simply insists upon holding its own forts, or retaking those forts which belong to it?” If that was coercion, then “the Union, as a family relation, would not be anything like a regular marriage at all, but only as a sort of free-love arrangement.” Most spectators supported Lincoln’s speech.

Lincoln resumed his journey on his 52nd birthday by traveling from Indianapolis to Cincinnati, Ohio, with various stops along the way. Among his brief statements to welcoming crowds, he urged the people to stay true to themselves and the Constitution.

At Cincinnati, Lincoln delivered a rambling speech before a large reception for him at the Burnet House. He told the crowd that their greeting “could not have occurred in any other country on the face of the globe, without the influence of the free institutions which we have increasingly enjoyed for three-quarters of a century… I hope that while these free institutions shall continue to be in the enjoyment of millions of free people of the United States, we will see repeated every four years what we now witness… I hope that our national difficulties will also pass away.” Lincoln also assured a delegation of German-Americans that he would not wait until the last moment to divulge his course of action regarding the national crisis.

The Lincoln train reached the Ohio capital at Columbus on the 13th, where Lincoln received a telegram informing him that Congress had confirmed his victory in the presidential election by officially approving the electoral college vote count. Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott had mobilized troops in Washington in case secessionists tried preventing the votes from being counted, but there was no interference.

In Columbus, Lincoln seemed to ignore reality in a speech to the Ohio legislature, saying:

“I have not maintained silence from any want of real anxiety. It is a good thing that there is no more than anxiety, for there is nothing going wrong. It is a consoling circumstance that when we look out there is nothing that really hurts anybody. We entertain different views upon political questions, but nobody is suffering anything.”

The large celebration for Lincoln in Columbus included a reception at the home of Governor William Dennison, and an elaborate military ball.

The next day, the Lincolns left Columbus for Pittsburgh, with the president-elect delivering brief speeches at the stops in between. At Pittsburgh, Lincoln addressed a crowd in the rain on the 15th. Ignoring the state of affairs, Lincoln declared that “there really is no crisis except an artificial one!… If the great American people will only keep their temper, on both sides of the line, the troubles will come to an end…”

Lincoln then traveled to Cleveland through a snowstorm, where a large crowd and cannon fire greeted him. He said, “I think that there is no occasion for any excitement. The crisis, as it is called, is altogether an artificial crisis…” The train left Cleveland on the 16th and moved into New York State, where Lincoln spoke before the largest crowd on the trip so far. He told them that “you, as a portion of the great American people, need only to maintain your composure.”

The Lincoln train moved on to Buffalo on the 17th, then to the state capital at Albany the next day. Lincoln addressed several crowds, and various politicians boarded the train at the different stops. At Albany, Lincoln addressed a joint session of the New York legislature: “It is true that while I hold myself without mock modesty, the humblest of all individuals that have ever been elevated to the presidency, I have a more difficult task to perform than any one of them.”

Several dignitaries escorted Lincoln as the train left Albany on the 19th. After more short stops, the party arrived in New York City. An estimated 250,000 people greeted Lincoln as he rode to the Astor House. He admitted to a crowd that he had avoided offering specifics on his upcoming policies, preferring to wait until he could speak officially. In a short speech at the Astor House, Lincoln vowed he would never “consent to the destruction of the Union… unless it were to be that thing for which the Union itself was made.”

The next day, Lincoln met with people and groups in New York City, including Mayor Fernando Wood. Lincoln told the mayor, “There is nothing that can ever bring me willingly to consent to the destruction of the Union… So long, then, as it is possible that the prosperity and the liberties of the people can be preserved in the Union it shall be my purpose at all times to preserve it.” The Lincolns dined with Vice President-elect Hannibal Hamlin, and Lincoln later attended Giuseppe Verdi’s 1859 opera, Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball).

The journey continued the following day.

—–

Sources

  • Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 30-32
  • Donald, David Herbert, Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 5677-88, 5710, 5742
  • Goodwin, Doris Kearns, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), p. 306-10
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 31-33, 35-40
  • Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 27, 28-30
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161

The Confederate States of America

February 8, 1861 – Delegates to the Montgomery Convention approved the Provisional Constitution of the Confederate States.

Assembling at Montgomery | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

Assembling at Montgomery | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The convention of the seceded states began on February 4 with 37 delegates from six states; Texas was not represented yet. The official record declared:

“Be it remembered that on the fourth day of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and in the Capitol of the State of Alabama, in the city of Montgomery, at the hour of noon, there assembled certain deputies and delegates from the several independent Southern States of North America, to wit: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina…”

The delegates named Howell Cobb of Georgia as convention president. Cobb stated, “The separation is perfect, complete, and perpetual. The great duty is now imposed upon us of providing for these States a government for their future security and protection.” The delegates worked to create a new government with little debate or dissension, ignoring the compromise efforts under consideration in Washington.

The next day, delegates adopted the convention rules presented by Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia. Christopher G. Memminger of South Carolina presented a resolution to form “a Confederacy of the States which have seceded from the Federal Union.” Delegates appointed Memminger to head a 12-man committee to begin working on a national constitution, and a committee was named to report a plan for a provisional government.

Memminger’s Committee of Twelve issued its report to the Convention on February 7, and delegates began secretly reviewing and debating the findings. The convention adopted the Provisional Constitution near midnight on the 8th. The document closely resembled the U.S. Constitution; Stephens explained that this new constitution’s purpose was “not to tear down so much as to build up (a government) with greater security and permanency.”

The preamble of the Confederate Constitution changed the U.S. version of “We, the people of the United States” to “We, the people of the Confederate States.” To counter the northern argument that the people of the nation superseded the states, it explicitly declared that “each State acting in its sovereign and independent character.” This implied that a state could secede from the Confederacy if desired.

The document upheld the recent Dred Scott v. Sanford (1857) U.S. Supreme Court ruling by forbidding national interference with slavery in the states and allowing slaveholders to bring their slaves into any Confederate territory. The verbiage “persons held to service or labor” in the U.S. Constitution was changed to “slave” in this document, and the fugitive slave provision in the original document was strengthened.

The foreign slave trade and slave importation were permanently banned. This was partly intended to curry favor from Great Britain and other foreign powers that could become potential allies and were moving away from slavery. It also sought to please the upper South, which reaped economic benefits from exporting their slaves to lower southern states.

Import tariffs could only be levied as “necessary for revenue.” Also, “Nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreign nations be laid to promote to foster any branch of industry; and all duties, imposts, and excises, shall be uniform throughout the Confederate States.” This aimed to counter northern support for high tariffs to protect northern industry from foreign competition at the South’s expense. However, the document did not define the distinction between protective and revenue-only tariffs.

The national government could not finance internal improvement projects except basic necessities such as harbor development, navigation, and commerce. Only states could enter into agreements to finance other types of interstate projects such as railroads. This sought to counter the northern tendency to trade political favors for financing internal improvement projects, many of which were in northern states with no benefit to the South.

The president and vice president could only serve one six-year term; this conformed to the first draft of the U.S. Constitution. The president could veto specific sections of appropriations bills (i.e., a line-item veto) to prevent excessive spending on pet projects. The president could also remove members of his cabinet or diplomatic corps for any reason, but the removal of all other appointees required him to report a specific reason for dismissal to the Senate.

Cabinet officials could take seats on the floors of the Senate and House of Representatives and participate in legislative debates (but with no voting power); this was similar to British Parliamentary government. However, the Confederate Congress never enacted legislation to put this into effect.

Laws involving taxation and admitting new states to the Confederacy required a two-thirds majority approval in both chambers of Congress to pass. State legislatures could impeach national officials if those officials’ duties lay wholly within that state, and their trials could be held in the Confederate Senate; this further enhanced states’ rights. Members of Congress could not hold any other office until their congressional terms expired; this sought to keep them focused on their legislative duties.

The first 12 amendments of the U.S. Constitution were incorporated into this document. If at least three states requested a convention to amend the Constitution, Congress was required to assemble one. Amendments became law when approved by two-thirds of the state legislatures, not three-fourths as mandated in the U.S. Constitution.

The official name of the new nation became the Confederate States of America, after the first name (The Southern United States of America) was rejected. The Provisional Constitution would operate for one year, unless replaced before then by a permanent document. After delegates approved this document, they appointed a new committee to draft a permanent constitution.

—–

Sources

  • Anderson, Nancy Scott; Anderson, Dwight, The Generals: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee (New York: Vintage Books, 1987), p. 216
  • Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 12-13
  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 4031, 4547-612
  • Davis, William C., Brother Against Brother: The War Begins (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 130
  • Faust, Patricia L., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 161
  • Foote, Shelby, The Civil War, A Narrative: Fort Sumter to Perryville (New York: Vintage Books, 1958), p. 42
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 13
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 33-34
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 257-58
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161

The National Peace Convention

February 4, 1861 – The Peace Convention called by the Virginia legislature in January assembled at Washington.

The convention included 131 delegates from 21 of the 34 states. Arkansas joined the seven seceded states in not participating. California and Oregon did not join due to distance; Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota declined because their Republican leaders distrusted the conference’s intentions.

Delegates from other northern states participated, but they had been appointed by Republican leaders who expected them to oppose any proposal that would expand slavery beyond where it already existed. Border states also participated, which threatened to divide the lower and upper South. Senator William H. Seward of New York, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state-designate, persuaded many fellow Republicans to take part as a conciliatory gesture.

10th U.S. President John Tyler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

10th U.S. President John Tyler | Image Credit: Wikimedia.org

Former President John Tyler presided over the convention. He called for the delegates to put patriotism above party and resolve the sectional dispute diplomatically and constitutionally. He said that “the eyes of the whole country are turned to this assembly, in expectation and hope.”

The delegation began with the Crittenden compromise plan as the starting point of discussions, even though it had already been rejected by Congress, and Republicans would not agree to any compromise that could potentially expand slavery. Nevertheless, the convention’s goal was to agree upon compromise proposals, then submit them to Congress for approval, and then to the states for ratification. Critics who believed this conference was futile called it the “Old Gentlemen’s Convention.”

On February 15, debate began on the various ideas drafted by a committee. Eleven days later, the delegates began voting on these proposals. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois joined with convention delegates Senator John Bell of Tennessee and former Treasury Secretary James Guthrie of Kentucky to urge President-elect Lincoln to support peace.

The Peace Convention delegates submitted their conclusions to Congress on February 27. These included six proposed constitutional amendments:

  1. Slavery would be banned north of the 36-30 geographical line; territories south of that line could permit slavery without congressional interference, and those territories could become states that either allowed or banned slavery depending on what their state constitutions permitted
  2. No further territory would be acquired except through a treaty and consent from four-fifths of the Senate
  3. Congress could not interfere with slavery in states or territories where it was permitted
  4. Congress could not interfere with enforcement of the Constitution’s fugitive slave provisions
  5. The foreign slave trade would be permanently abolished
  6. Federal compensation should be given to slaveholders who lost runaways in some cases

The delegates had defeated these measures by one vote due to Republican opposition, but they submitted them to Congress nonetheless. On the Senate floor, the two Michigan senators released a statement opposing their state’s participation in the Peace Conference, calling it “a step toward obtaining that concession which the imperious slave power so insolently demands.”

Congressional deliberation over the Peace Conference’s findings continued into March, but most people were not optimistic that they would resolve the sectional crisis. Charleston (Missouri) Courier editor George Whitcomb described the situation:

“Men at Washington think there is no chance for peace, and indeed we can see but little, everything looks gloomy. The Crittenden resolutions have been voted down again and again. Is there any other proposition which will win, that the South can accept? If not—there comes war—and woe to the wives and daughters of our land; beauty will be but an incentive to crime, and plunder but pay for John Brown raids. Let our citizens be prepared for the worst, it may come.”

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Sources

  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 4362-73
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 13
  • Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 2167
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 31-32, 37, 41-42
  • McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States Book 6, Oxford University Press, Kindle Edition, 1988), p. 256
  • Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 44
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
  • Wikipedia: Crittenden Compromise