« PreviousContinue »
ships and various other positions in the government of fices; they remained partly for the sake of making themselves useful for the purposes of the conspiracy, but chiefly on account of their salaries. Though ostensibly the capital of the nation, Washington was essentially a Southern town; the predominance of Southern influence in the government had filled it with Southern placemen and their dependents. These persons, foreseeing the loss of their emoluments through the incoming of a Repub lican administration, constituted a most embittered class. They acted as spies upon the government, and transmitted whatever information they could gather to Montgomery. That city soon replaced Washington as the focus of revolutionary action, and to it these persons, as they were removed by the incoming administration from the offices they had enjoyed, instinctively repaired. The tone of Washington society remained, however, for a long time unchanged; it was essentially that of a slaveholding
TREASON IN WASHINGTON.
The new administration sometimes barely escaped insidious attempts to establish an espionage in its offices. Thus, at the time of the seizure of the Southern forts, it was of the ut most importance to the conspirators to know the movements of the national ships. In the evening of the 1st of April, a package was brought from the President by his private secretary, and handed to the Secretary of the Navy. It ordered the removal of Commodore Stringham, a loyal officer, to a distant station, and the appointment of Captain Samuel Barron in his stead. It was directed that the latter should be put in possession of full information concerning the navy, its officers, its movements. Unwilling to have a person whom he had reason. to distrust placed in his department in such a confidential position, the secretary forthwith sought an interview
Attempt to introduce spies into the Departments at Washington.
with the President, and explained to him that the sympathies of Captain Barron were altogether with the conspirators. The order was, of course, revoked. "This dangerous paper must have passed through high places somewhere before it could have reached the President. Captain Barron soon after deserted his flag, openly espoused the rebel cause, and was one of the very first of ficers captured after the war began."
Attempts to bring
In Montgomery every influence was used, and every exertion was made, to secure the secession over Maryland and of Maryland and Virginia. It was supposed that if those states could accomplish that movement successfully, they would necessarily carry the District of Columbia with them. Notwithstanding this, as we shall presently see, Maryland was not only thwart ed in her intention of attaching herself to the Confederacy, but also in her attempt to prevent the passage of Northern troops through her territory for the defense of Washington; and as to Virginia, she did acted by Virginia. not secede until she had exacted a thorough protection for her domestic slave-trade, and the transfer of the Confederate government to Richmond.
The conditions ex
Events have shown that the views taken by Davis of the impolicy of this latter measure, the removal to Richmond, were correct. He strenuously resisted it at first, and gave a reluctant consent only when overborne by extraneous considerations.
SUCCESS OF THE CONSPIRACY.
Few conspiracies recorded in history have been more successful than this of Secession. It had completely effected the establishment of an insurrectionary government, organized in all its branches, and able to resist the legitimate government. It had accomplished nearly all the objects it had proposed, the seizure of forts, public works, munitions of war, the exclusion of the national authority from its domain, the
Success of the conspiracy.
unification of its own communities. The enthronement of the Confederate authority in Richmond, as manifested by the opening of its Congress, may be regarded as the culmination and close of its labors.
SUCCESS OF THE CONSPIRACY.
But there was not reserved for the Confederate government that success which had been vouchsafed to its precursor, the Conspiracy. As will be seen on the following pages, from occupying at first the pinnacle of power, it exhibited a continuous decline, and fell in utter exhaustion at last.
THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT SUMTER.
The administration was constrained by public sentiment to defend Fort Sumter,
and fitted out a relieving expedition, which failed.
The fort was bombarded by orders from Montgomery, and, after a feeble defense, surrendered.
ON the day after his inauguration, President Lincoln Difficulty of reliev- received a communication from Major Anderson to the effect that Fort Sumter could not now be relieved by less than a force of 20,000 men. In this opinion General Scott, who had earnestly and repeatedly drawn the attention of the preceding administration to the subject at a time when re-enforcements could have been sent without difficulty, coincided. Animated by a desire to avoid hostilities, the new administration had actually entertained an intention of surrenderinclines to surren- ing the fort, and of vindicating the national honor by making a stand at Fort Pickens.
But it was found that the people would not be satisfied with that substitute. In Charleston the government had Public opinion in- been scorned and defied, and there the battle sists on its defense. of the nation must be fought. This external pressure eventually decided Lincoln, and at a cabinet meeting (March 21st) it was determined that an attempt should be made to re-enforce and provision the garrison.
in New York.
It so happened that the only feasible plan of accomA fleet is fitted out plishing this involved the employment of the frigate Powhatan, then at New York. Orders were therefore given to have that ship fitted for
CHAP. XXXVI.] ATTEMPT TO RELIEVE FORT SUMTER.
sea at the earliest moment, and on March 30th Captain Fox was sent to New York to superintend the preparation of the expedition. This consisted of three war ships, three transports, and two steam-tugs. Three hundred sailors, and a full supply of armed launches were required, and they were carried by the Powhatan.
The frigate Pow
The ships duly sailed from New York, but when the Powhatan was passing Staten Island, an orhatan detached, der was brought on board, directing her captain to transfer her to Lieutenant Porter, who took her to Fort Pickens instead of Fort Sumter. The Sumter relief expedition therefore necessarily failed. "This order was extracted, on the recommendation of Secretary Seward, from President Lincoln himself." The Secretary of the Navy was not consulted, and, indeed, knew nothing about it. He supposed the ship had gone to Charleston. "It was charged at the time, or as soon as the facts were and the expedition known, that the Secretary of State, having committed himself unofficially to the rebel commissioners, determined to thwart the purpose of the President, and prevent the relief of the fort." President Lincoln, however, assumed the responsibility of the affair, and stated that the sending away of the Powhatan was 'an accident." In accordance with an understanding which had been entered into with the South Carolina authorities, notice was given to the governor of that state (April 8th) of the attempt about to be made.
At this period Mr. Seward exercised a predominating influence in the government, the necessary consequence of the eminent position he had held among the poli ticians of the triumphant Republican party. Even the President was for a time under his control. It was Mr. Seward's sincere belief that there would be no war; possibly there might be a disturbance, but it would be over in a few days. He had been accustomed all his life to