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degree, the feeling of insecurity which for some time had existed to an alarming extent, not only in Washington, but throughout the country, before the arrival of these troops.
WASHINGTON, D.C., June, 1885.
Note.-As confirmatory of the correctness of the foregoing, it is deemed proper to insert the following statement:
“Washington, June 26, 1885. “MY DEAR SIR, I am greatly indebted to you for the number of the Magazine of History containing your article on Mr. Buchanan, which was received this morning. I read the article carefully, and regard it as simply perfect. “Most sincerely yours,
BEAUREGARD'S REMOVAL FROM WEST POINT.
Senator Slidell's Letter of January 27, 1861, to the President, asking if
this was done with his approbation—The President's Polite but Crushing Reply.
“WHEATLAND, September 18, 1861. “MY DEAR SIR, I am collecting materials for history, and I cannot find a note from Mr. Slidell to myself and my answer relative to the very proper removal of Beauregard from West Point. I think I must have given them to Mr. Holt. He was much pleased with my answer at the time. If they are in his possession I should be glad if you would procure me copies. They are very brief. The ladies of S.'s family never after looked near the White House. . . . From your friend,
“JAMES BUCHANAN. “ Hon. HORATIO KING."
On the receipt of this letter I immediately applied to Mr. Holt, in the hope of being able to obtain from him the desired copies, but he could not find them among his papers. Some time afterward it occurred to me that I might possibly find them in the War Department, and I remember I inquired after them there on two separate occasions. I remember this because I was refused, I thought very unnecessarily, the first time, by Secretary W. W. Belknap, who not only declined to search for, but said he would not furnish them if on file. This not very pleasant recollection was strengthened by a very polite note now before me, under date of May 6, 1878, from Secretary George W. McCrary, informing me “ that a careful search of the records of the department fails to show such correspondence.” Further comment is unnecessary.
I wish now to express my gratification that the letters of which the venerable ex-President desired copies, to be used in his history of his administration, have at length made their appearance. General Crawford gives them in his
Genesis of the Civil War,” together with a statement of Major Beauregard's appointment on November 8, 1860, by Secretary of War Floyd, and his subsequent removal by Mr. Secretary Holt, Floyd's successor. Major Beauregard was from Louisiana, and, as General Crawford no doubt correctly states, owed the appointment to Senator Slidell, his brother-in-law. As regards secession, he had, General Crawford says, declared that the course of Louisiana was to decide his course. Mr. Slidell knew his man. IIe himself was among the most determined conspirators in seeking to destroy the Union ; and I remember how I was startled, I think in 1859, when I met him on the occasion of a dinner at the White House, and he expressed the opinion that the Union would soon be dissolved. Seeing my surprise, “Oh, well,” said he, with apparent unconcern, “it may last five or six years longer!” Of course when he heard that his secession protégé had been summarily dismissed from his snug office of Superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point, where he had put him to teach the cadets “how to shoot” Union soldiers, he was very wroth, and immediately addressed to President Buchanan the following letter:
“WASHINGTON, January 27, 1861. “MY DEAR SIR,-I have seen in the Star, and heard from other parties, that Major Beauregard, who had been ordered to West Point as Superintendent of the Military Academy, and had entered on the discharge of his duties there, had been relieved from his command. May I take the liberty of asking you if this has been done with your approbation? “Very respectfully yours,
“John SLIDELL." General Crawford is at fault, as he is in many other things in his “Genesis of the Civil War," when he says that Senator Slidell's “influence with the President was at this time potential.” Ile apparently thought he might overawe Mr. Buchanan, but he was not long in finding out his mistake.
I have more than once heard General Holt relate what took place between him and the President at this point, and, as appeared by a foot-note, he communicated the same in a letter to General Crawford, from which I may be allowed to quote. Soon after receiving Mr. Slidell’s letter the President sent for the Secretary of War and handed him the letter, saying to him, “ Read this.” Upon reading it General Holt, indignant at its tone, said, “Mr. President, we have heard this crack of the overseer's whip over our heads long enough. This note is an outrage; it is one that Senator Slidell had no right to address to you.” “I think so myself,” replied the President, “ and will write him to that
“No,"continued the Secretary,“ I feel that I have a right, Mr. President, to ask that you do more than this; that you will say to Senator Slidell, without qualification and without explanation, that this is your act; for you know that, as Secretary of War, I am simply your representative, and if my acts, as such, are not your acts, then they are nothing." The President assented to this view, and without delay sent to Mr. Slidell the following answer:
“WASHINGTON, January 29, 1861. “MY DEAR SIR,—With every sentiment of personal friendship and regard, I am obliged to say, in answer to your note of Sunday, that I
have full confidence in the Secretary of War, and his acts, in the line of his duty, are my own acts, for which I am responsible.
“Yours very respectfully,
Speaking of this subject only a few days ago, General Holt expressed great satisfaction at the noble conduct of the President on that occasion.
WASHINGTON, February 11, 1888.
THE GOVERNOR'S GRIEVANCE.
An Anecdote of Secretary Holt and Governor (“Extra Billy'') Smith
The Governor wishes to know why the Guns of Fortress Monroe have been Pointed Landward—Secretary Holt's Amusing Answer. I HAVE heard an amusing anecdote, altogether too good to be lost, in which General Holt, Secretary of War in the latter part of Mr. Buchanan’s Administration, and the late Governor William Smith, of Warrenton, Virginia, fondly known as “Extra Billy,” were the principal actors. Without professing to speak “by authority,” from my long acquaintance with those gentlemen I should not hesitate to declare the story to be true.
For more than fifty years up to the time of his death, in his eighty-ninth year, on the 18th of May, 1887, no man from the Old Dominion was better known or more respected in Washington than the kind-hearted and genial “ Extra Billy” Smith. Above all, he was a great favorite with the ladies. I have seen him hold them delighted for an hour, while he told them, in his rich, flowing expression, of his love-affairs and other touching incidents of his early life.
It was in the month of January or February, or possibly in the beginning of March, 1861. Secretary Holt was sitting alone in his room at the War Department, meditating, no doubt, on what to do in the then agitated state of the country, when Governor Smith was announced and was at once shown in. He had hardly taken his seat when he said, with some excitement,—any one acquainted with him can recall his manner of address under the circumstances, —“Mr. Secretary, I learn that cannon have been mounted on the land side of Fortress Monroe, which I consider an outrage on the sovereign State of Virginia, and I have come to see what explanation can be made of this extraordinary proceeding.”
General Holt, though sometimes exhibiting what might be regarded as rather a stern exterior, is far from cold when the ice is once broken; and he has a keen relish for genuine wit and fun. He could not help smiling, perhaps a little too broadly, when he replied : “ Well, Governor, I am not a military man, and do not claim to have knowledge of the tactics or strategy of war, but I have always heard that it was the duty of the commander of a fortification to keep the muzzles of his guns turned in the direction from which he was expecting the enemy. It is possible” (he added) “ that this traditional view of military duty has led, under the circumstances, to the result of which you speak.”
This explanation did not seem to impress the Governor favorably, and after a few hurried words he left.