Page images
PDF
EPUB

federate army was on its feet and actively gathering numbers, was the pretended cause of the convening of the rebel Congress. In this very message, indeed, he announces that there were already nineteen thousand men in different forts, and that sixteen thousand were on their way to Virginia.

In the doctrine of state rights was the only justification of the rebellion; and it was necessary that Mr. Davis should labor to establish it. With him, a state was greater than the United States. The state was sovereign, and the Union was essentially subject. Whenever, therefore, any state should have a plausible pretext for dissolving its union with other states, it had a right to do so.

Mr. Davis did not stop to consider that he could not establish a government on any such basis as this, and that the doctrine of state rights would, in the end, be just as fatal to his confederacy as he was endeavoring to make it to the United States. On the other hand, Mr. Lincoln held the Union sovereign and the state subject. A state had no right to coerce a nation into dissolution, any more than a county had a right to force a state into dissolution. He maintained that the United States were a nation, one and indivisible, and that any attempt to dissolve it on the part of a state, or a combination of states, was treason. Here was where the Union and the new confederacy separated. The confederacy was a logical result of the doctrine of state rights, and its destruction, by all the power of the federal government, was the logical necessity of its contravention. Mr. Lincoln believed that a nation had a fundamental right to live, and that the United States were a nation. Mr. Davis believed that the United States were not a nation—or, if one—that it held its only right to live at the will of any state that might choose to exercise it.

On the third of May, Mr. Lincoln found it necessary to call for forty-two thousand additional volunteers, to serve for three years, unless sooner discharged, and for an aggregate of twentytwo thousand seven hundred and fourteen men for different classes of service in the regular army. An additional call for eighteen thousand men to serve in the navy was also made in

а

a

the same proclamation. The country gave quick response to this call, and the demand for army volunteers was soon answered to excess.

The area of operations was rapidly spreading. Secessionists in and around St. Louis, Missouri, were plotting for the seizure of the arsenal in that city, but Captain (afterward General) Lyon promptly thwarted the scheme, and secured the arms for the government forces. A secession camp, forming in the same city, was captured, and many within it taken prisoners.

The Governor of Missouri was disloyal, and did what he could • to throw that state into the hands of the rebels; and General

Harney, for a short time in command of the military department of the West, so far aided his schemes as to agree with Sterling Price that the whole duty of maintaining order in the state should be intrusted to the state authorities. Harney was removed, and General Lyon put in his place, with a force for which he found abundant employment, and at the head of which he afterwards fell one of the first and costliest sacrifices of the war.

During all the first part of May, a secession flag floated over a building in Alexandria, in sight of the capitol at Washington; the rebel forces were gathering at Manassas Junction, and rebel troops held Harper's Ferry. On the twenty-second of May, General Butler took command of the new department of the South, with head-quarters at Fortress Monroe. Five days afterward, he issued his famous order declaring slaves “contraband of war.” The phrase imbodied

' a new idea, which was the germ of a new policy, as well as the basis of a new name for the freed negro. General Butler had uncler command here about twelve thousand men. Confederate troops were already gathering and fortifying in the vicinity, and on the tenth of June occurred the first considerable battle of the war at Big Bethel. It was a badly managed affair on the part of the Union forces; and, in the excited and expectant state of the public mind, produced a degree of discouragement in the country quite disproportioned to the importance of its results. Here fell Major Winthrop, a young man of great bravery and rare literary ability. The troops fought well, but were badly handled. Enough was learned, however, of the bravery of the Yankee, to give prophecy of fine results when the art of war should be better learned.

These comparatively small and widely separated movements were but ripples shot out into the coves and reaches of treason from the tidal sweep of the loyal armies, crowding southward to dash against the grand front of the rebellion. The government had no lack of men; but it suffered sadly for the want of arms to put into their hands. But they were armed in one way and another-some of them very poorly. The impatient people could not know how poorly, because it would expose the weakness of the government to the enemy; so they clamored for a movement, and it was made. On the twenty-fourth of May, General Mansfield began his passage into Virginia. The gallant and lamented Colonel Ellsworth was sent with his regiment of Zouaves to Alexandria; and troops to the number of thirteen thousand were moved across the river, and set to work in the erection of forts for the defense of Washington. Colonel Ellsworth, on landing at Alexandria, without resistance, went personally to the Marshall House,

kept by James Jackson, and mounting to the top, pulled down · the secession flag with which Jackson had for weeks been in

sulting the authorities at Washington. On descending, the owner shot him dead, and was in turn immediately shot dead by a private named Brownell, who accompanied his Colonel.

It is interesting to remember the profound impression which the death of this young and enthusiastic officer produced upon the country. He was among the first the nation gave to the war, and his name, with those of Greble and Winthrop, who fell at Big Bethel, and Lyon who afterward fell in Missouri, were embalmed in the fresh sensibilities of the people, and remain there, fixed and fragrant, while thousands of those since fallen have found only weary and sickened hearts to rest in, or memories too sadly crowded with precious names to give them room.

Ellsworth's death affected Mr. Lincoln with peculiar sorrow. He had known the young man well.

At one

a

time, Ellsworth was a student in Lincoln & Herndon's office; and he accompanied Mr. Lincoln on his journey to Washington. The body of the young martyr was borne sadly back to Washington, and was received into the White House itself, where the funeral took place, Mr. Lincoln himself assuming the position of chief mourner.

After the accumulation of a large army on the Virginia side of the Potomac, it was determined to push forward the forces then under the command of Major General McDowell, for a battle with the rebel army which had been gathered at Manassas. For this battle each side had been preparing with great industry. The enemy had withdrawn his forces from the occupation of Harper's Ferry, and that important point had passed into federal control. From every quarter he gathered in his troops, or held them within easy call, and waited for the attack. It began on the nineteenth, and ended on the twenty-first of July, in a most terrible rout of the Union forces. The whole army upon which the President and the people had rested such strong hope and expectation was broken in pieces, and came flying back toward Washington, panicstricken, worn out, disorganized and utterly demoralized. They had fought bravely and well; but they were not above influences that have affected armies since time began, and they yielded to fears which made them uncontrollable.

The loss of this battle, fought under the pressure of popular impatience, cost the country a fearful amount of sacrifice. It greatly encouraged the rebels, their sympathizers abroad sent up a shout of triumph, and the loyal masses were put to such a test of their patriotism and determined bravery as they had never been subjected to. The work had all to be done again, under the most discouraging circumstances : but when the case was reviewed, reason was found for gratitude that it had been no worse.

Washington, at the close of the battle at Bull Run, was at the mercy of the rebels. It was well that they did not know this, or that, if they knew it, they were not in a condition to push on, and occupy what must have fallen into their hands.

Among all the millions to whom this event brought sorrow, there was not one who suffered so keenly as the tender-hearted and patient man who, walking back and forth between the White House and the War Department, felt the great burden of it all upon his own shoulders. He had need of the full exercise of his abounding faith in Providence to sustain him in that dark and perilous hour. He could not but feel that peace had been put far away by the result of the battle; but he learned afterwards that Providence had wise and beneficent designs in that result. Peace conquered then, would have been peace with the cause of the war retained. Peace then would have left four million slaves in bondage. Peace then would have left the "house divided against itself” still, with the possibility of an indefinite extension of slavery. It was not so to be. A thousand plagues were yet to come before the public mind would be ready to let the bondman go.

Soon after the original movement into Virginia, the Postmaster-general suspended all postal service in the seceded states; and at this time active movements commenced in General McClellan's department. Under the auspices of Governor Magoffin of Kentucky-one of the governors who had sent back an insulting response to the President's original call for troops—his Inspector-general Buckner organized a force in Kentucky, which was watched with much anxiety by the loyal people on the other side of the Ohio, because it was believed to be intended for the rebel service. Buckner visited

. General McClellan at Cincinnati on the eighth of June, and on the twenty-second of that month he reported to Governor Magoffin the terms of a convention into which he had entered with the federal general. Briefly he reported that General McClellan stipulated that Kentucky should be regarded by the United States as neutral territory, even though southern troops should occupy it. In such a case, the United States should call upon Kentucky to remove such troops, and if she should fail to do so within a reasonable time, then the General claimed the same right of occupation accorded to the southern troops, and promised to withdraw so soon as those troops

a

« PreviousContinue »