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SECRET HISTORY OF BUCHANAN'S
from booming cannon.' It could not be less than offensive to the heart and to the intelligence of the American people to comment gravely on this humiliating transaction. Its true character has already been determined by the public voice, and that voice will doubtless find its echo in the judgment of history.
"The reference in the concluding sentence of the paragraph is not to the reenforcement which had been contemplated by the Brooklyn, but to that which was attempted by the Star of the West. This is denounced as a concealed trick, first conceived by General Scott, and adopted'-of course with a knowledge of its character-' by Secretary Holt,' and the impression left upon the mind of the reader is, that as soon as the President became aware of the trick' it was countermanded by him, but too late. If it was not designed to make this impression, then the animadversion of the Honorable Seeretary would lose most if not all its point, as it was his evident purpose to sharpen his censure of General Scott and myself, by leaving it to be inferred that our action had been without the sanction of the
President. As the effort to reenforce Fort Sumter was the most responsible act of the War Department during my brief connection with its Administration, it is due alike to the public and to my own reputation that the calumnious imputation cast upon it by the paragraph quoted should be promptly met and refuted. That refutation will be furnished by the following correspondence:
"WASHINGTON, January 8, 1861. "SIR-It is with extreme regret I have just learned that additional troops have been ordered to Charleston. This subject has been frequently discussed in Cabinet Council; and when, on Monday night, 31st of December ultimo, the order for reenforcements to Fort Sumter were countermanded, I distinctly understood from you that no order of the kind would be made without being previously considered and decided in Cabinet. It is true that on Wednesday, January 2d, this subject was again discussed in Cabinet, but cer
tainly no conclusion was reached, and the War Department was not justified in ordering reenforcements without something more than was then said. I learn, however, this morning, for the first time, that the steamer Star of the West sailed from New York, last Saturday night, with 250 men, under Lieutenant Bartlett, bound for Fort Sumter. Under these circumstances I feel myself bound to resign my com. mission, as one of your constitutional advisers, into your hands.
"With high respect, your obedieut servant, "J. THOMPSON, "His Excellency JAMES BUCHANAN,
'President of the United States.'
"WASHINGTON, January 9, 1851. "SIR-I have received and accepted your resignation, on yesterday, of the office of Secretary of the Interior.
"On Monday evening, 31st December, 1860, I suspended
stated to you my eason for this suspension, which you knew, from its nature, would be speedily removed. In con. sequence of your request, however, I promised that these orders should not be renewed" without being previously considered and decided in Cabinet." This promise was faithfully observed on my part. In order to carry it into effect I called a special Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, 2d January, 1861, in which the question of sending reenforcements to Fort Sumter was amply iscussed both by yourself and others. The decided majority of opinion was against you. At this moment the answer of the South Carolina "Commissioners" to my communication to them of 31st December was received and read. It produced much indignation among the members of the Cabinet After a further brief conversation I employed the following language: "It is now all over, and reenforcements must be sent." Judge Black said, at the moment of my decision, that, after this letter, the Cabinet would be unanimous, and I heard no dissenting voice. Indeed, the spirit and tone of the letter left no doubt on my mind that Fort Sumter would be imme
diately attacked, and hence the necessity of sending reen
forcements there without delay.
"While you admit "That en Wednesday, January 20, this subject was again discussed in Cabinet," you say, " but certainly no conclusion was reached, and the War Department was not justified in ordering reenforcements without something more than was then said." You are certainly mistaken in alleging that no conclusion was reached." In this your recollection is entirely different from that of your four oldest colleagues in the Cabinet. Indeed, my language was so unmistakable that the Secretaries of War, and the Navy proceeded to act upon it without any further intercourse with myself than what you heard, or might have heard me say. You had been so emphatic in opposing these reenforcements, that I thought you would resign in consequence of my decision. I deeply regret that you have been mistaken in point of fact, though I believe honestly mistaken. Still it is certain you have not the less been mistaken. Yours, very respectfully,
"Hon JACOB THOMPSON.'
"Nothing can be added to the force and distinctness of the testimony thus borne by the President and the four oldest members of his Cabinet. So far from the movement for the reenforcement of Fort Sumter having been a concealed trick,' it was repeatedly and frankly discussed in the Cabinet, and, when a conclusion was finally reached, the resolution of the President was announced in terms as emphatic as he probably ever addressed to one of his Secretaries. It is now all over, and reenforcements must be sent,' was his language; and these words were spoken in open council, the Honorable Secretary of the Interior himself being present. It was in strict accordance with the command thus given that the Star of the West was chartered and the reenforcements sent forward. In all these circumstances the public will look in vain for any traces of trick' on the part of General Scott or of the Secretary of war. It is true that, in the hope of
the orders which had been issued by the War and Navy De-avoiding a waste of human life, an endeavor was partments to send the Brooklyn with reenforcements to Fort made to conceal' the expedition from the hostile Sumter. Of this I informed you on the same evening. I troops in charge of the forts and batteries in
Charleston harbor; but this endeavor the vigilance | honor certainly needs no defense at my hands and zeal of the Secretary defeated. against the aspersions of the present or of any other assailant.
"The countermand' spoken of was not more cordially sanctioned by the President than it was by General Scott and myself. It was given, not be cause of any dissent from the order on the part of the President, but because of a letter received that day from Major Anderson, stating, in effect, that he regarded himself as secure in his position, and yet more because of intelligence which, late on Saturday evening reached the Department, that a heavy battery had been erected among the sand-hills at the entrance to Charleston harbor, which would probably destroy any unarmed vessel (and such was the Star of the West) which might attempt to make its way up to Fort Sumter. This important information satisfied the Government that there was no present necessity for sending reenforcements, and that, when sent, they should go, not in a vessel of commerce, but of war. Hence the countermand was dispatched by telegraph to New York, but the vessel had sailed a short time before it reached the officer to whom it was addressed.
"This plain statement is submitted in the belief that, before an intelligent and candid public, it will afford a complete vindication of my conduct, as well as of the conduct of that illustrious patriot and soldier, Lieutenant-General Scott, whose stainless
"It is well known that a persistent falsification of the policy and conduct of the late Administration in its relations to the South, has proved a potent instrumentality for inflaming the popular mind of that distracted portion of our country, thus giving an ever-increasing impetus to the revolution; and the fact that the telegraph and the press have been under the absolute direction of those controlling this movement, has rendered resistence to this instrumentality impracticable. Whatever purposes, therefore, were expected to be accomplished by the circulation of the paragraph which has been expos ed, will probably be attained, since the antidote now offered cannot possibly pursue the poison into all its ramifications. If, however, this explanation shall seem to win the confidence of those true-hearted patriots who still love our Union better than all the spoils and power which revolution can promise, then I shall little regard the condemnation of men who, for the last two months, have incessantly denounced me throughout the South, simply and solely because I have refused to blacken my soul with perjury, by betraying the Government of my country, while in its service.
END OF VOL. I.