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thing to hear him severely censured because of his failure to order reinforcements sent and of the unfounded charge that he entered into an agreement” or “understanding" with the South Carolinian authorities to withhold reinforcements so long as no attacks should be made on the forts.
One among the latest arraignments of President Buchanan, mainly on this subject, comes from Samuel Wylie Crawford, “brevet major-general, U. S. A., A.M., M.D., LL.D.,” in his work, entitled “The Genesis of the Civil War.” Although the above titles appear after the name of the author on the title-page, we learn from him, in the last chapter of his book, that he was assistant surgeon on the medical staff of Major Anderson, and that it was not until the return of the command from Fort Sumter to New York that he was appointed major in the Thirteenth United States Infantry, from which position, by gallant and meritorious services in various battles, he rose to his present rank. His book of 469 octavo pages relates almost exclusively to the action of the South Carolina authorities, of the Government at Washington, and of Major Anderson, touching Fort Sumter and the other forts and United States arsenal at Charleston. Whoever shall read this book will, I think, be surprised at two things at least: the first is, that he has given such prominence to the acts and sayings of leading secessionists, notably theo“ narrative of William H. Trescot," who was assistant Secretary of State under Buchanan, serving, according to his own statement, until the 17th of December, three days only before the passage of the secession ordinance of South Carolina. For weeks before severing his official connection with the Department of State he had, according to his own admission and from letters now published, been acting as confidential agent of “the leaders of the (secession) movement in his own State,” and immediately thereafter “he became the agent of his State at Washington until his return to South Carolina in February, 1861," when “he made a record of his impressions of the events which have been the subject of so much controversy, and the truth about which is of essential importance to the future history of the country. A record thus made [General Crawford continues] may well be considered a valuable contribution to the materials of that future history. It is from this manuscript the writer has drawn largely, and oftentimes the clear and vigorous narrative has been inserted in the terse and graphic words of the author himself.”
Surely General Crawford is to be congratulated on being able to bring to his aid so astute and valuable an assistant, whose name, from the amount of matter furnished by him, might not have been out of place on the title-page of this remarkable “Genesis of the Civil War.” In a matter relating to secession and the rebellion, such a witness in the case of a gallant Union officer and historian striving to convict the President of the United States of a dereliction of duty appears, in his estimation, to have been considered more credible and of much greater weight than any testimony of the President himself, or that of any member of his Cabinet. The latter is not less explicit and abundant than the former, and was ready at hand.
By way of parenthesis, I may remark that the private secretaries to President Lincoln, in their one-sided, partisan “history," have resorted to this same“ narrative" of Mr. Trescot, as well as to the testimony of other distinguished secessionists, with a view to present President Buchanan in an unfavorable light, if not actually as a traitor, before the country. It would be interesting to know whether or not this sort of aid on the part of Mr. Trescot to the Republican cause was the inspiring motive which led Mr. Blaine, when Secretary of State, to select him for one or more important diplomatic appointments.
One other thing that must strike the reader of General Crawford's work is the conflicting estimates which he, unwittingly perhaps, places on the character, if not the motives, of President Buchanan.
After narrating what he holds the President had done or left undone in regard to South Carolina, he goes on to say:
“The failure on the part of the President to reinforce the Southern forts, or any of them, ... had produced its legitimate result. ... Had such relief been promptly sent ... the situation might have been far different. . . . It is true that the organized force legitimately under his command, as reported by Lieutenant-General Scott, was small; but it was at the time at least sufficient to show the purpose of the Government and to hold Fort Sumter until Congress could come to the rescue of the country. But the President did nothing. His fear that by his own act he might inaugurate hostilities and so bring on civil war, sustained by his political convictions that the Union could not be preserved by a war between the States, his overwhelming desire for peace, and his hope to keep the border States, amounted to a timidity which 'wholly incapacitated him for action.' ... When history shall come to pen the record of the close of his career it will judge him not from what he did, but what, from his great opportunities and grave responsibilities, he utterly failed to do."
Now, before turning back to his previous record, let it be observed that General Crawford gives the sentiment he quotes against President Buchanan—“Wholly incapacitated him for action”-as his own; but he does not tell us from whom the language came. We might infer from his introduction that it was from his principal witness, although Martin J. Crawford, one of the Confederate commissioners from Montgomery, is credited by the author with having employed similar language in speaking of the President. Mr. Crawford had resigned his seat as a member of Congress from Georgia, and, coming on the 3d of March fresh from the new-fledged Confederate Government, he probably flattered himself that he might induce the President to take some action by which they could avail themselves to their advantage in their proceedings with the incoming administration. Finding, as he wrote home, that he had become “fully satisfied that it would not be wise to approach Mr. Buchanan with any hope of his doing anything which would result advantageously to our [Confederate] Government,” in his chagrin, he added that he found him “wholly disqualified for his present position." Therefore," he would not attempt to open negotiation with the outgoing administration.”
Our author is entitled to as much of the testimony of his peculiarly qualified witnesses from the Confederate side as I can possibly find room for.
But to return. Mr. Lincoln was elected on the 6th of November, prior to which time it was generally supposed, certainly by all Union men, that his election would be acquiesced in, North and South. It was not until the threatening attitude of South Carolina and rumblings of disunion on the part of secessionists in other Southern States and in Washington that much, if anything, was said on the importance of strengthening either our military or naval defences. “ Meantime [says General Crawford] the Government at Washington was not indifferent to the movements in South Carolina,” where,“ as soon as the result of the election was known, the Governor called for the services of the Washington Light Infantry, and stationed them as a guard over the United States arsenal, in the city of Charleston, on the 12th of November.” An inventory, afterward taken, placed the value of this property at $400,000, all of which was seized and appropriated to the use of the State.
At this period Secretary Floyd, while holding to the right of secession, professed opposition to its exercise, but believed it injudicious to attempt to reinforce the Southern forts, while General Cass and Judge Black (Trescot states) were in favor of it, and the President also “ then informed him that he had determined to reinforce the garrison in Charleston harbor, upon which a very animated discussion arose.” Floyd said “that he would cut off his right hand before he would sign an order to send reinforcements to the Carolina forts. Thompson, Secretary of the Interior, agreed with him perfectly ;” and “the President consented to suspend his decision until General Scott could reach Washington." It was now proposed that Mr. Trescot call on the President and announce his determination to resign, and proceed at once to Columbia “ to lay the facts before the executive of South Carolina" should the determination to reinforce be insisted on. “I would be in Columbia, he said, in thirtysix hours, and upon such information there could be no earthly doubt that the forts would be occupied in the following twenty-four,” before reinforcements could reach them. Merely the sending of ordinary supplies to Fort Moultrie, he “ believed, would lead to the occupation of Fort Sumter in forty-eight hours."
Under date of November 15, 1860, "a special order was issued by command of Lieutenant-General Scott, directing Major Robert Anderson, First Artillery, to proceed to Fort Moultrie and immediately relieve Brevet-Colonel John L. Gardiner, lieutenant-colonel First Artillery, in command thereof.” Colonel Gardiner, it appears, had, on the 7th of November, sent to the arsenal at Charleston—“a matter of ordinary routine”—for a quantity of military stores, and “to avoid observation, it was thought advisable to put the soldiers detailed for the duty in citizens' dress.” Nevertheless, “the movements of the men were watched-information was sent at once to Charleston,” whose authorities prevented the execution of the order. That effort of Colonel Gardiner, General Crawford says, “ cost him his position,” but there is nothing to show that even General Scott, through whom the order for his removal was made, was advised of its impelling motive; and it is not at all probable that the President was consulted or knew anything about it. Mr. Trescot was in the secret. The adjutant-general, S. Cooper, was in the interest of the secessionists, and afterwards filled the same position under Jefferson Davis, while Floyd, although still claiming to be a Union man, “ on his arrival at Richmond [our author states] announced that he had, while Secretary of War, supplied the South with arms in anticipation of the approaching rebellion'—a confession that he had proved treacherous to his former high official trust. IIe succeeded.