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At this time, also, Capt. Nathaniel Lyon (subsequently General) was taking prompt measures to protect the United States arms in the Arsenal at St. Louis from seizure by Secessionists, who were scheming to get possession of this prize-of incalculable value to the Union troops then volunteering. The Government now, as for months afterward, though untiring in its efforts, found it no easy task to provide muskets in numbers at all adequate to the emergency. Adroit management secured the very considerable supply at St. Louis to the Department of the Ohio. Like timely action, soon after, broke up a Secession camp forming in the same city, and defeated the plots of a traitorous Governor for betraying the State of Missouri into the hands of the insurgents. Camp Jackson, with a large supply of arms and munitions of war, and several hundred prisoners, were surrendered on the 10th of May-a memorable day for Missouri.
On the 11th of the same month, Gen. W. S. Harney, of the regular army, returning from Richmond, whither he had been taken as a prisoner, captured in Western Virginia, while on his way to Washington, assumed command of the Military Department of the West. His career was a brief one, practically culminating in a compact entered into, on the 21st, with Gen. Sterling Price, acting on behalf of the disloyal Governor of Missouri, to the effect that the whole responsibility and labor of maintaining peace and order in that State should be intrusted to the State authorities; while Gen. Harney, on his part, should make no military movements, and carefully avoid any acts tending to produce jealousy and excitement. It is needless to say that such an engagement never had the sanction of the President. It was definitely set aside by an order of the Adjutant General addressed to Harney, under date of May 27th, and a force was promptly put in the field, under command of Gen. Lyon.
Meanwhile, at Washington, since the free arrival of troops had commenced, the whole country south of the Potomac, except as explored by scouts, was little better than an unknown land. At Alexandria, a secession flag floated in sight of the Capital, while at Manassas Junction a threatening force was
gathering. It was not until the morning of the 24th of May that an advance into Virginia, by the forces under Gen. Mansfield, was deemed expedient. This movement, awakening great interest among the people, who had anticipated early and decisive results, and began already to weary of indispensable delay, had no further immediate purpose than the occupancy of Arlington Heights and Alexandria, for the greater security of Washington; for any more extended undertaking, this improvised army, as all now see after three years of war, was entirely inadequate, either in itself or in its appliances. An advance on Manassas Junction, at this time, was indeed discussed in official circles, but military opinions were decidedly against the undertaking, and the Department of Washington was not now enlarged.
This advance into Virginia, early in the morning of the day after the farce of a popular vote for Secession had been enacted, was executed without resistance. Col. Ellsworth, who commanded a regiment ordered to Alexandria, lost his life by the hands of an assassin, in hauling down, with his own hand, the Rebel flag that had, for many days, flaunted defiance toward Washington; otherwise, no serious casualty occurred. To the people of Alexandria this movement was a surprise, and some prisoners fell into the hands of our troops. The number of men who crossed the Potomac, at this time, was about 13,000. They immediately commenced constructing earthworks, where Fort Ellsworth, Fort Corcoran, the defenses of the Long Bridge, and other memorials of like purpose, still attest the labors then entered upon.
Two days later, the Postmaster General issued his order suspending all postal service in the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, to take effect on the 31st of May. Tennessee, although in league with the Confederate insurgents, through the State officers, was intentionally omitted in this order. Obvious advantages had resulted from a continuance of the United States mails in all the States hitherto, and it was only when, more active hostilities being imminent, these advantages would be more than counterbalanced, that this order
was issued. To the leaders and people of the insurgent districts it was no light matter, as at once practically felt, to be deprived of this beneficent intervention of the Federal Government, maintained, as it always had been, in part, by a tax upon the correspondence of the Free States. This order marks the date of the first decisive step toward the enforcement of nonintercourse with the Rebel population, except as their territory might successively fall within the lines of our armies, now rapidly preparing for the field.
A great portion of the army which had been forming under the eye of Gen. McClellan, was to have its first employment, by direction of the President, in sustaining the loyal people of Western Virginia. The force sent into that region was to drive back the Rebel troops which had gone out to destroy the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and to subjugate that part of the State, in which a purpose to repudiate secession was already manifested. The order was issued by the General from his headquarters at Cincinnati on the 26th of May, and the First Virginia Regiment of volunteers, under Col. B. F. Kelly, was sent out from Bellaire on the Wheeling branch of the railroad, while the Fourteenth Ohio Regiment of volunteers, under Col. J. B. Steadman, advanced on the Parkersburg branch of the road, toward Grafton.
For several days after this movement commenced, Gen. McClellan remained at Cincinnati. Under the auspices of Gov. Magoffin and his Inspector-General, Simon B. Buckner, a force was organizing in Kentucky, believed to be covertly intended for the Rebel service, and watched with apprehension by loyal people north of the Ohio. During the progress of Buckner's preparations he visited Cincinnati and had a protracted interview with Gen. McClellan, on the 8th of June. In an official report to Gov. Magoffin, made public on the 22d of that month, Buckner set forth in detail what he alleged as a formal agreement between McClellan and himself, the substance of which, after an engagement on the part of Kentucky to maintain " neutrality" between the "United States" and the "Southern States," is contained in the following extract from that document:
Gen. McClellan stipulates that the territory of Kentucky shall be respected on the part of the United States, even though the Southern States should occupy it; but in the latter case he will call upon the authorities of Kentucky to remove the Southern forces from our territory. Should Kentucky fail to accomplish this object in a reasonable time, Gen. McClellan claims the same right of occupancy given to the Southern forces. I have stipulated, in that case, to advise him of the inability of Kentucky to comply with her obligations, and to invite him to dislodge the Southern forces. He stipulates that if he is successful in doing so, he will withdraw his forces from the territory of the State as soon as the Southern forces shall have been removed. This, he assures me, is the policy which he will adopt toward Kentucky.
That this interview took place, is an undisputed fact. That any compact of this nature was entered into, would seem incredible, without other evidence than Buckner's word of honor. But that Gen. McClellan, while commanding the Department of the Ohio, did nothing inconsistent with the alleged terms of agreement, must be conceded. Thus was one controlling purpose in his first appointment by the Governor of Ohio completely defeated. The occupation and defense of the southern bank of the river, near Cincinnati, was voluntarily abandoned-either by reason of this stipulation or without it-by the man specially chosen for that work. Near the same date, Gen. McClellan addressed a letter to the late Mr. Crittenden, expressing regret that some of Gen. Prentiss' men, in making an excursion down the Mississippi, on the 12th of June, had landed on the Kentucky shore and cut down and brought away a Secession flag which they saw flying at Columbus. He disclaimed all responsibility for this intrusion.
Thus cautious was the Commanding General to be no aggressor on the soil of any Slave State, and to wound the sensibilities of neither incipient Rebels nor "neutrals," who were supporters of slave institutions. Even while sending a force to the aid of loyal Western Virginia, at the request of her people, he was careful to assure them:
Notwithstanding all that has been said by the traitors to induce you to believe that our advent among you will be signal
ized by interference with your slaves, understand one thing clearly-not only will we abstain from all such interference, but we will, on the contrary, with an iron hand, crush any attempt at insurrection on their part.
The first engagement in Western Virginia was fought at Philippa, on the 2d of June, Gen. Thomas A. Morris, of Indiana, being the officer in actual command of the forces now concentrated at and near Grafton, with headquarters at that place. The arduous. and successful expedition thence to Philippa, surprising and breaking up an important camp of Rebels, was under the immediate direction of Col. Dumont, of Indiana.
On the 3d of June, Gen. Patterson issued an address from his headquarters, now at Chambersburg, Pa., to the troops of his Department, promising that they should "soon meet the insurgents." He added: "You must bear in mind you are going for the good of the whole country, and that, while it is your duty to punish sedition, you must protect the loyal, and, should the occasion offer, at once suppress servile insurrection."
It is worthy of note here that Mr. Lincoln, with that magnanimity which would see only an endangered country, had put at the head of three important Military Departments three of the most decided of his political opponents-Patterson, Butler and McClellan. These appointments were made under the earnest conviction-how well justified by the result will presently appear that these officers possessed the military capacity and skill suited to the wants of the occasion, and that they would heartily sustain the Government in its work of self-preservation. Patterson and McClellan had each been selected by the Republican Executives of their own States. Both had served in Mexico, under the eye of Gen. Scott, and their selection had his approval.
To the voluntary promises made by Patterson and McClellan, that slavery should be upheld by force of arms, if need be, it must be added that a like assurance was given by Butler to the people of Maryland, soon after his occupation of Annapolis.
A few days after the victory at Philippa, Gen. Thomas A. Morris, the General in actual command, on whom, with Gen. W. S. Rosecrans, the direction of the campaign now inaugu