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that his report be conclusive; and that Seward was, as yet, the only member who was aware that Scott had ceased to be a coercionist.' On the night of the 5th of March, Scott wrote for the President an opinion in entire harmony with Seward's ideas as to evacuating Sumter, and about the truce regarding Fort Pickens, entered into between the previous administration and some of the Confederates." On March 6th Seward carried it away from the White House, before the President had examined it, and lent it to Stanton to be shown to Dix." On the 7th Lincoln requested Seward to return the paper so that he could study it. On March 5th, also, the President had requested General Scott to use "all possible vigilance for the maintenance of all the places." On the 9th he learned that nothing had been done toward reinforcing Fort Pickens; so, on the 11th, he put the order in writing. Welles has recorded that on that day Scott was very eager to have a naval vessel-because overland communications were unreliable-take an army officer who should be bearer of a despatch instructing Captain Vogdes, of the Brooklyn, lying off the harbor of Pensacola, to disembark his men so as to strengthen Fort Pickens; but that by the evening of the 12th Scott had lost his "earnest zeal" and had concluded that it would suffice to send merely a written order to Vogdes. So this was done on March 12th. It is hardly conceivable that Seward did not know of this order.
It has been noticed that on March 11th Seward encouraged Hunter to believe that he would receive the commissioners, and how, when he had to withdraw this encouragement, he soon gave Campbell assurances that there was no intention to change the status. This, with
1 Welles, 59.
3 Nicolay and Hay, 378. MS. kindly shown by Colonel Nicolay. 32 Lincoln's Works, 8. 4 2 Curtis's Buchanan, 529. Welles, 59, 60.
5 3 Nicolay and Hay, 393.
reassurances at different times, kept the Confederates unaggressive for two weeks. The Tribune's disclosure of March 28th about the order to reinforce Fort Pickens was undoubtedly known to Seward and Scott before the hour when Scott made his startling recommendation to evacuate that fort. Whether this recommendation was the result of fear lest the report of Scott's order might precipitate a war cannot be affirmed; it is only certain that the report did not precipitate hostilities because it was immediately discredited. It is certain that by the evening of March 28th Seward knew that his repeated assertions that there was no intention to change the status were incorrect. Therefore, he was bound either to tell Campbell the truth or so to counteract the possible effects of the order to reinforce Fort Pickens as to make the change of status not "prejudicial" to the Confederacy. This could be done by inducing the Federal government to evacuate Fort Pickens.
But there is still another mysterious thread. It should be remembered that Lincoln was calm in the belief that Vogdes had landed the troops according to Scott's order of the 12th and that Fort Pickens was absolutely safe. If Seward and Scott had no more information than others about affairs at Fort Pickens, they must have held the same opinion. As a matter of fact, the commandant had disobeyed Scott's instructions on the ground that they did not come from an official of sufficient rank to countermand the orders of Buchanan's Secretaries of War and of the Navy. But the administration did not hear of this until early in April. If Seward expected such an outcome, that would explain both why he had dared to give Campbell the assurances at different times since March 15th, and why he did not hasten to undeceive him and the commissioners after March 28th. But if Seward, without informing the President, knew what would happen, he was party to a
plot. If there was such a plot, it was operated through Scott; and that would be ample reason for Scott and Seward to favor withdrawing the troops, and thereby closing the whole Pickens question as speedily as possible.
The Cabinet met again at noon, March 29th, and the President called once more for written opinions as to what should be done.' Chase, Blair, and Welles agreed that Fort Sumter should be relieved. Bates was noncommittal; and Smith alone still stood with Seward for its evacuation. As to Fort Pickens, Welles and Bates were very urgent for reinforcement. Chase and Blair were so peremptory about relieving Sumter that they evidently considered it superfluous to be explicit about Pickens. Smith's advice plainly rested upon the presumption that the evacuation of Sumter would be compensated for by rigorous measures elsewhere. The logic of Seward's former attitude meant that Pickens should not be held at the cost of peace. It was well known. that the Confederates had several days before begun to apply in Pensacola harbor the choking-off policy that had been so successful in the neighborhood of Charleston. The reception some members of the Cabinet gave Scott's recommendation of the previous day was sufficient to warn any one that it would be suicidal to come out positively in favor of it now. With these thoughts in mind it is interesting to notice the exact wording of Seward's response of March 29th:
"First. The despatch of an expedition to supply or reinforce Sumter would provoke an attack, and so involve a war at that point.
"The fact of preparation for such an expedition would inevitably transpire, and would therefore precipitate the war—and probably defeat the object. I do not think it
13 Nicolay and Hay, 429 ff. Cameron seems to have been absent. 21 Moore's Rebellion Record, Doc., p. 42; 3 Nicolay and Hay, 431.
wise to provoke a civil war beginning at Charleston and in rescue of an untenable position.
"Therefore, I advise against the expedition in every
"Second. I would call in Captain M. C. Meigs forthwith. Aided by his counsel, I would at once, and at every cost, prepare for a war at Pensacola and Texas, to be taken, however, only as a consequence of maintaining the possessions and authority of the United States.'
"Third. I would instruct Major Anderson to retire from Sumter forthwith."2
Because war would as certainly be brought on by the reinforcement of Pickens as by the resupplying of Sumter, it seems just to infer that Seward did not at this time intend to do either, but merely to continue to hold Pickens and to be ready for war "as a consequence of maintaining the possessions and authority of the United States." However, he must have realized that his original plans were almost sure to be rejected for those of the opposite faction in the Cabinet, and that the only way to maintain his supremacy was by means of some new and vigorous move. Undoubtedly he still hoped to continue through negotiation his policy of peace and procrastination, but he saw the importance of being ready to take the lead in any case. That afternoon he took Captain Meigs to the White House and urged Lincoln to put him in command of the three great Florida fortresses on the Gulf-Pickens, Taylor, and Jefferson. About the same time the President ordered the preparation of an expedition that should be ready to leave for Sumter by April 6th, but the use of which should depend upon circumstances.*
On Saturday, March 30th, Campbell had another interview with Seward and left with him a telegram from Governor Pickens inquiring the cause of the delay in
1 Italics not in original.
* 3 Nicolay and Hay, 434–36.
23 Nicolay and Hay, 430.
4 3 Nicolay and Hay, 433.
evacuating Sumter. Lamon had led the Governor to expect that it would take place before that date.' This involved Lincoln, and Seward said that he could not give a definite reply until Monday, April 1st. Seward gave Campbell no ground to suspect that there had been any change of plans; for Crawford wrote to Toombs: "The result of that interview was to satisfy him [Campbell] entirely upon the good faith of the government in everything except the time as to when Sumter was to have been evacuated, and the truth in reference to that is the promise was made after the Cabinet and President had agreed to the order for evacuation, and the persons thus pledging its fulfilment had no reason to suspect that any influences whatever would delay its prompt execution." By telegraph they expressed their confidence that "no attempt to reinforce Pickens has been or will be made without notice." Somebody had persuaded the commissioners that the Tribune report about the order to reinforce Fort Pickens was designed to help the Republicans in some local elections.*
On Sunday, the 31st, Seward requested Meigs and Colonel Keyes, Scott's military secretary, to go to Scott and prepare a project for the relief of Fort Pickens, and bring it to the President before four o'clock. They made their report without having had time to see Scott, and Lincoln, through Seward, gave positive orders for Scott to carry it out. The next day, April 1st, on Seward's recommendation, Lincoln directed Lieutenant David D. Porter to "proceed to New York, and, with the least possible delay, assume command of any naval steamer available. Proceed to Pensacola Harbor, and at any cost or risk prevent any expedition from the main-land reaching Fort Pickens or Santa Rosa." A telegram
1 Crawford, 337, 373, 374. 3 March 30th.
53 Nicolay and Hay, 436.
Despatch of April 1st.
4 Roman's despatch, March 29th. 64 Naval Records, 108. 129