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The Tennessee and Kentucky legislatures, being strongly Unionist, refused to call conventions.
Gov. Thomas H. Hicks, of Maryland, refused to convene the legislature of his State on the subject.
The legislature of Delaware, when urged by a commissioner from Mississippi to pass an Ordinance of Secession, gave the proposition an "unqualified disapproval."
While State after State was thus departing from the Union, President Buchanan made but the feeblest efforts to restrain them.
Shortly before the election of Lincoln, Winfield Scott, commanding general of the army, wrote to the Secretary of War, John B. Floyd, expressing the fear that the slave States would, before seceding, attempt to get possession of the nine Federal forts within their borders, and therefore declaring it necessary to have these forts "immediately so garrisoned as to make any attempt to take any one of them by surprise or coup de main ridiculous." No action was taken on his rec
ommendation, and, later, when events had shown the wisdom of his warning, he published the letter to exonerate himself from responsibility in the matter, thereby calling down upon his head the wrath of President Buchanan, and irreconcilably alienating the heads of the Administration and the army at the crucial time when their coöperation was supremely needed by the country.
The indecisive course of the President also had a disintegrating effect on his Cabinet, pleasing neither the Southerners nor Northerners who composed it. On December 10, 1860, Howell Cobb [Ga.] Secretary of the Treasury, resigned his office, alleging, as his excuse, the hopeless condition of the public funds. The President appointed in his place Philip F. Thomas [Md.] who resigned within a few days, John A. Dix [N. Y.] being appointed. On December 14, Lewis Cass [Mich.], Secretary of State, resigned because of the President's refusal to reënforce and provision the Federal garrison in Charleston harbor. He was replaced by AttorneyGeneral Jeremiah S. Black [Pa.], who had long been Buchanan's closest friend and adviser, and Edwin M. Stanton [O.] was put in Black's vacated position of Attorney-General.
About the middle of December the President had sent Caleb Cushing [Mass.], a Buchanan-Breckinridge Democrat, and so likely to be persona grata to the secessionists, to Charleston to arrange that affairs should remain in statu quo during the remaining ten weeks of the Administration. Mr. Cushing returned almost at once, with the report that the secession leaders would make no promises, except upon the unconditional recognition of the independence of South Carolina.
On December 26, R. W. Barnwell, James L. Orr, and ex-Governor J. H. Adams, commissioners from South Carolina, arrived at Washington to negotiate a cession to the State of the Federal property within its limits. The President informed them that he could meet them only as citizens of the United States. After vainly attempting for nine days to secure recognition in their
official capacity, they returned South, sending farewell letters to the President, "which," says Horace Greeley in his "American Conflict," "are scarcely average samples of diplomatic suavity."
The most important Federal property in South Carolina consisted of forts, on islands and sites ceded to it from the State. These forts were garrisoned by a small force of Federal troops under Major Robert Anderson, a Kentuckian who had been recently sent there to replace a Northern man, thus removing a possible cause of irritation in a high-strung community which as yet was only contemplating secession.
Fort Moultrie, being most convenient to the city, was mainly occupied by the troops. However, being the oldest of the fortifications, it was the weakest-indeed, it could not have resisted for a day bombardment from the shore. Accordingly, as affairs began to assume a threatening aspect, during the night of December 26, 1860, Major Anderson removed his entire command, with provisions, munitions, etc., to the stronger and more securely situated Fort Sumter. This removal the secessionists, relying on the assurances of John B. Floyd, Secretary of War, that no changes would be made in the garrison in Charleston harbor, charged to be a breach of faith on the part of the Federal Government. Said the Charleston Courier, on December 29:
"Major Robert Anderson, United States Army, has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war between American citizens by an act of gross breach of faith.'
Shortly after this the Federal arsenal at Charleston was seized by volunteers who were flocking to the city at the call of the State government. The custom house, post office, and lighthouse service were also appropriated without resistance, those in charge being ardent secessionists. The lights in the lighthouses were extinguished, and the buoys marking the intricate channels in the harbor were removed, in order to obstruct provisioning or reënforcing Fort Sumter by ships from the North.
INDICTMENT OF SECRETARY FLOYD
Secretary Floyd asked the President to order Major Anderson back to Fort Moultrie, and, indeed, advised the removal of the entire garrison from Charleston harbor. The order being denied him, on December 29, he resigned his office, and the President appointed Joseph Holt [Ky.] in his stead. Secretary Floyd had, however, already rendered the secessionists all the help that it was in his power, his transfer of arms, especially heavy ordnance, from Northern to Southern and Far Western arsenals, which had been going on for some time, having been stopped by the President on a protest from citizens of Pittsburgh, near which city was situated the Alleghany Arsenal which Floyd was about to deplete. Secretary Floyd's resignation was probably hastened by an investigation into a defalcation in the Interior Department in which his own department was involved. This defalcation came to light on December 24, during the absence of the Secretary of the Interior, Jacob Thompson [Miss.], who, with the permission of the President had left his post to visit North Carolina in the capacity of a secession commissioner from his State. It was found that a clerk in the Interior Department had hypothecated $870,000 in bonds held in trust for the Indian Bureau, in order to take up Secretary Floyd's acceptances of drafts on the empty treasury by a contracting firm engaged in the transportation of army supplies, which firm had requested payment in advance of service.
On December 30 the Grand Jury at Washington indicted ex-Secretary Floyd for malfeasance and for conspiracy to defraud the Government. He was, however, safely beyond the power of the Federal authorities, being engaged in the agitation to take his native State of Virginia out of the Union.
On January 8, 1861, Secretary Thompson resigned his office.
FIRING ON THE FLAG
On January 9, 1861, the steamer Star of the West, which had slipped out of New York harbor unannounced
with reinforcements and supplies for Fort Sumter on board, arrived at the bar of Charleston harbor. Floating the national flag, but with the troops under deck, she attempted to steam up the harbor to Fort Sumter. The secessionists, however, had received information of her purpose from one of their agents in the North, and fired on her from Fort Moultrie and a battery on Morris Island. Being struck by a shot, she put about and returned to New York.
On January 14, the South Carolina legislature resolved that "any attempt by the Federal Government to reinforce Fort Sumter will be regarded as an act of open hostility, and a declaration of war."
Col. Isaac W. Hayne [S. C.], as agent of Gov. Francis W. Pickens [S. C.] had come to Washington, on January 12; on the 16th he demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter as a pledge of non-intervention in the affairs of his State. It was, of course, refused.
Federal forts and arsenals were seized by State authority in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and even North Carolina, before ordinances of secession had been passed by these States.
In Florida, soon after the ordinance was passed, Fort Barrancas and the Navy Yard at Pensacola were seized without resistance from the Federal commander, James Armstrong, who also ordered Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer, in charge of Forts Pickens and McRae, to give up these places. The subordinate, however, refused to obey, and, retiring to Fort Pickens, the stronger of the two forts, held out against the enemy. Mr. Dix, Secretary of the Treasury, sent an agent to secure revenue cutters stationed at Mobile and New Orleans, but before his arrival they had been turned over (about the end of January) by their commanders to the State authorities. Secretary Dix, before he had been informed of the surrender, sent a telegram to his agent which became a rallying cry in the North: "If any person attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."
Toward the end of February, Brigadier-General David E. Twiggs [Ga.], commanding the Department