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FROM THE 4TH OF MARCH TO THE 4TH OF JULY, 1861— FROM THE
INAUGURATION OF LINCOLN TO THE MEETING OF CONGRESS.
THE REBELS SEND COMMISSIONERS TO WASHINGTON - POSITION OF
THE BORDER STATES - THE REBELS BEGIN THE WAR — ATTACK ON SUMTER - DANGER OF WASHINGTON
PRESIDENT'S CALL FOR 75,000 MEN— DOUGLAS SUPPORTS LINCOLN — UPRISING OF THE PEOPLE— MURDER OF MASSACHUSETTS SOLDIERS — RESPONSE OF BORDER STATES TO CALL For TROOPS—THE NORTH-WEST — VIRGINIA, TENNESSEE, MARYLAND-HENRY WINTER Davis— THE CLAY GUARDS — MISSOURI, BLOCKADE OF SECEDING STATES CALLS FOR ADDITIONAL TROOPS — REBELS SEIZE HARPER'S FERRY AND GOSPORT Navy-YARD-DEATH OF ELLSWORTH — GREAT BRITAIN AND FRANCE RECOGNIZE THE REBELS AS BELLIGERENTS - LEE AND BENEDICT ARNOLD-DEATH OF DOUGLAS.
ON the 12th of March the Confederate authorities commis
sioned John Forsyth, M. J. Crawford and A. B. Roman, Commissioners to the United States, with a view, as they said, to a speedy adjustment of all questions growing out of the political separation.
Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, declined to receive them; denied that the Confederate States had, in law, or in fact, withdrawn from the Union ; denied that they could do so, except through a National Convention, assembled under the provisions of the Constitution. On the 9th of April the Commissioners withdrew from Washington, after addressing a letter to the Secretary of State, saying that they, on behalf of the rebel Government, accepted the gage of battle, etc. And yet, after the receipt of this letter, such was the unparalleled forbearance of the Government,that these Commissioners were not arrested, but permitted quietly to withdraw, with the open avowal of going home to wage war!
On the 18th of March, General Braxton Bragg, commanding insurgent forces in Florida, issued an order, forbidding the citizens of the Confederate States from furnishing supplies to the Navy of the United States.
At this period, in March, even Mr. Douglas had not fully made up his mind, in favor of coercing the seceding States, into submission. Prominent Democrats in the free States, openly advocated the joining of Northern States to the Confederacy.” Such was the undecided condition of public sentiment, in the free States in March ; and as yet the Government of Mr. Lincoln had taken no bold, decided action, clearly indicating its policy. Meanwhile the Confederate authorities had siezed, as has been stated, with few exceptions, all the arsenals, forts, custom-houses, post-offices, ships, ordinance and material of war, belonging to the United States, and within the seceding States; and this, notwithstanding that General Dix, Secretary of the Treasury, had issued an order,directing that “If any man attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.”
No position of greater difficulty can be conceived, than that of President Lincoln, in the spring of 1861. Congress had adjourned, without making any provision for the approaching crisis. The office of Secretary of War, for eight years previous to Mr. Lincoln's administration, had been conducted by Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd, by whom a collision with the Federal Government had been anticipated. As we have already seen, they had strengthened the South at the expense of the North. They had armed the South by robbing the Northern national armories, and scattered beyond immediate recall, our little army and navy. Besides this, they, and especially Davis, had driven out of the service of the Army as far as possible, every man who was not a States’-rights, pro-slavery man.
The North was politically divided; a powerful political party, from long association, was in sympathy with the seceding States. This party had just come out of a violent contest against the party which had elected Lincoln. The
border slave states were nearly equally divided in numbers, and while the quiet, better educated and more conservative were for the Union, the young, reckless, and hot-headed were for secession.
While South Carolina and some of the other cotton States were substantially a unit for secession, in other slave States there was a strong majority opposed to it. To arouse sectional feeling and prejudice, and secure co-operation and unanimity, it was deemed necessary to precipitate measures and bring on a conflict of arms. It was generally said, that the first blood shed would bring all the slave States to the aid of the belligerent State. As before stated, there was a strong party in the North opposed to coercion. Had the President assumed the initiative, and commenced the war, while it would have united the slave States against him, it is not at all clear but it would have alienated a large portion of the Democrats of the North. Mr. Lincoln fully appreciated these difficulties, and these facts explain much that he did, and omitted to do, for which many of his friends censured him in the earlier stages of the rebellion. He sought to hold Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. The rebel leaders made the most strenuous efforts to induce the above named States to join the Slave Confederacy, but the discreet and judicious forbearance of the President, to some extent foiled their efforts, and he succeeded in holding Maryland, Kentucky and Missouri from joining the rebels.
As has been stated, the people of the border States were divided in sentiment, and it was very doubtful, for a time, which way they would go. The House of Representatives of Kentucky, on the 22d of January, resolved by a vote of 87 to 6, to resist the invasion of the South at all hazards. The Legislature adopted a resolution directing Governor Magoffin, of that State, by proclamation, to order Confederate troops off Kentucky soil. Magoffin vetoed this, but it W?8 passed over his veto.
In the beginning of Mr. Lincoln's administration he acted on the defensive, while the rebels, from the first, assumed a bold, defiant tone. The Confederate Government immediately after it was established, raised troops, borrowed eight millions of money, and offered letters of marque to all who might choose to prey upon the rich commerce of the United States. The rebel Secretary of War, Walker, in a grandiloquent speech, prophecied that, before the 1st of May, the Confederate flag should float over the dome of the old Capitol, and it might, eventually, float over Faneuil Hall, itself!
It was determined to bring on a collision, by an attack on Fort Sumter. This was designed more especially and directly to carry the ordinance of secession through the convention of Virginia. To fire the Southern inflammable heart and raise a whirlwind of fury, which would sweep every thing before it, was the reason Davis and his co-conspirators opened the war.
On the 11th of April, General Beauregard demanded of Major Anderson the surrender of Fort Sumter. The Major refused. On the night of the same day, Beauregard wrote to Anderson, under instructions from the authorities at Montgomery, that if he “would state the time at which he would evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree, that in the meantime he would not use his guns against the Confederates, unless theirs should be employed against Sumter, the Confederates would abstain from opening fire upon him.”
At half past two, on the morning of the 12th, Anderson replied, he would evacuate the fort by noon of the 15th. half past three he was notified, in reply, that the rebels would open their batteries, in an hour from that time. Their batteries were opened, accordingly, and after a bombardment of thirty-three hours, which the little garrison endured and replied to with heroic courage, (their provisions and ammunition having been exhausted) Anderson agreed to evacuate the Fort. He retired from it on Sunday morning.
It is clear the rebels sought a collision, in pursuance of their avowed policy of rousing and inciting the South. The attack on Sumter immediately precipitated the political elements, and the people ranged themselves for, or against the Union.
The Capital was in a most critical condition. Full of Secessionists, the roads leading to the North obstructed, and the city in a condition of siege. The mails, in every direction, were stopped, and the telegraph wires cut by the insurgents. The National forces, which were approaching Washington were obstructed; the war and navy departments were filled with spies, and probably, the White House itself. In this condition of things, it was not deemed safe to issue orders through the ordinary channels, because every thing sent in that way, reached the enemy. Special and private messengers were sent North, who pursued a circuitous route to the northern cities and governors of loyal States, calling on them to hasten troops to the rescue of the Capital. A company of personal friends was organized, who guarded the White House, the Long Bridge crossing the Potomac, and the Arsenals, and probably saved the life of the President, and the Government from overthrow.
On the 15th of April, President Lincoln issued his proclamation, calling for 75,000 men.
This proclamation was prepared on Sunday. Before its issue, and while the President was considering the subject, he was visited by Senator Douglas, who expressed his full approval of this call, only regretting that it was not for 200,000 men instead of the number called for.
The following dispatch was written by Senator Douglas, and given to the agent of the Associated Press, and sent to every portion of the North :
“ April 18, 1861, Senator Douglas, called on the President, and had an interesting conversation, on the present condition of the country. The substance of it was, on the part of Mr. Douglas, that while he was unalterably opposed to the administration in all its political issues, he was prepared to fully sustain the President, in the exercise of all his Constitutional functions, to preserve the Union, maintain the Government, and defend the Federal Capital. A firm policy and prompt action was necessary. The Capital was in danger, and must be defended at all hazards, and at any expense of men and money. He spoke of the present and future, without any reference to the past.” *
* The original of this dispatch in Douglas' hand writing is now in possession of Hon. George Ashmun, of Massachusetts, who kindly furnished a copy.