« PreviousContinue »
VIRGINIA RELUCTANT TO SECEDE.
be the present protestation, it was perfectly clear that the logical issue of the Confederacy, if successful, was the reopening of the African slave-trade. But Virginia was at this epoch the chief slave-producing, slave-selling state. The resumption of that trade would have destroyed this, her great source of profit. Influenced thus by her tradi tions and her interests, she was reluctant to join the Slave Confederacy.
She sends commis
Ten days after the passing of the ordinance of secession by South Carolina, a commissioner from Virsioners to South ginia arrived in Charleston. The Legisla ture of his state had declared its desire to procure amendments to, or guarantees in the Constitution of the United States. The Carolina General Assembly, however, declined co-operation for such purposes. They answered that they took no farther interest in that Constitution, and considered that "the only appropriate negotiation they could have with the federal government was as with a foreign state."
But, though at this time Virginia unquestionably looked with disapproval on what the Cotton States
and yields a quali
fled consent to se- were doing, she suffered herself to become entangled in their movements by consenting that if the government should resort to coercion of the seceding states, she would make common cause with them. It therefore only remained for them to provoke the use of force not only to secure her alliance, but, as they hoped, that of all the other Border States, which it was thought would follow her movement. This was one of the motives that induced them to make an attack on Fort Sumter.
On the day of the surrender of that fort, delegates from Virginia had an interview with the Presi dent, their ostensible object being to inform him that the industrial and commercial interests of the
She sends a commission to Lincoln.
CHAP. XXXVIII.] SHE JOINS THE CONFEDERACY.
country were suffering; that a disturbance of the public peace was threatened. They desired to know from him what policy he intended to pursue. But events were marching more rapidly than negotiations. Lincoln was compelled (April 15th), by what was taking place in Charleston, to issue the proclamation calling forth the militia, and summoning Congress to meet. To the delegates that was, of course, an answer. Nevertheless, he courteously replied to them, referring them to what he had said in his inaugural address, and explaining some portions of it.
The proclamation was imperatively required by the imminent danger in which it was apparent that the capital was placed. But it gave to the dissatisfied Virginians their opportunity. On the 17th of April their ordinance of secession was passed. This was done by their Convention in secret session, and the injunction of secrecy has not been removed. The votes were, however, subsequently discovered and published. It then appeared that there were 88 yeas and 55 nays. One delegate was excused, and eight did not vote.
Difficulty in per
So strong was the disapproval of the Carolinian movement in Virginia, that all those arts which suading her peo- politicians use for the accomplishment of ple to secede. their ends had to be resorted to. The legal Convention was overawed by an irresponsible gathering of unauthorized persons from various parts of the state, who called themselves a people's spontaneous Convention. Prominence was given to this assemblage by the recognition the leading secessionists extended to it. Thus Mr. Wise and ex-President Tyler entered it arm in arm to announce the result of the deliberations of the legal Convention, and the former of these personages, in a speech he made before it, lamented "the blunders which
Effect of the proclamation on her.
The secession ordinance passed.
GIVES HER RESOURCES TO THE CONFEDERACY. [SECT. VII. had prevented Virginia from seizing Washington before the Republican hordes got possession of it." The latter declared that if the Slave States only presented a united When front, no war of any consequence would ensue. the President's proclamation reached Richmond, every exertion was made by the malcontents to misrepresent it. They succeeded in causing such an excitement that under cover of it the secession ordinance was passed.
To that ordinance another was added, adopting the Constitution of the provisional government at Montgomery, and also an agreement giv ing to that government the whole military resources of the state, and turning over to it whatever public property Virginia might seize from the United States. These were passed, however, upon condition that the vote of the people upon the ordinance of secession should sustain it, and that vote was directed to be taken one month subsequently (May 23d). With a view of enabling the people to come to a suitable conclusion, some minor points were enacted, as that any Virginian holding office under the United States after the 31st of July should be banished from the state and declared an alien enemy, and any Virginian undertaking to represent the state in the Congress of the United States should, in addition to the above penalties, be considered guilty of treason, and his property be liable to confiscation.
But this submission to the people was insincere. The allotted month had scarcely begun, before the affair had passed out of their control. Without a moment's delay, the leaders of the movement made war on the Union; they attempted to seize the United States Arsenal at Harper's Ferry, and took possession of the navy yard at Norfolk. Indeed, they actually commenced obstructing the channel to the latter place on April 16th, the night
Means used to se
cure the popular
before the ordinance was passed. And when the рори. lar vote for secession was taken, a large part of it came from soldiers of the Confederate army who had just ar rived from other states.
CAPTURES HARPER'S FERRY.
Through all the subsequent years of the war it was a Her failure to seize source of profound regret in the Confeder Fortress Monroe. acy that Virginia had acted so tardily, and that she had not at this time secured the great national work-Fortress Monroe. It would have been of incalculable advantage to her, and have changed the whole current of events. Her governor had contemplated the possibility of seizing it even before the state had seceded, but had been less resolute than the South Carolinians. In his annual message to the Legislature of the state (December 31st, 1861), he regretted that it was not in his possession. He stated that he had "consulted with a person of experience whose position enabled him to know all about the fortress," and that he had been discouraged, by reason of the strength of the place, from attempting its capture; that at no time previously to secession had Virginia a military organization powerful enough for that
She capture the
The attack on Harper's Ferry was made on the 18th of April. The officer in charge of that es tablishment had, however, become aware of what was intended. He blew up or set on fire the various workshops and the arsenal, and effected a safe retreat into Pennsylvania. Though many arms were in this manner destroyed, much of the machinery was saved by the assailants, and subsequently carried to Richmond.
Simultaneously with the attack on Harper's Ferry, VirValue of the naval ginia accomplished the seizure of the great station at Norfolk. naval station, the Gosport navy yard, near Norfolk. It contained founderies, ship-yards, docks, ma
THE NORFOLK NAVY YARD.
chine shops. There were in it at least two thousand cannon, three hundred of them being Dahlgren guns. In connection with it, too, were magazines containing more than a quarter of a million pounds of gunpowder, and
great quantities of shot and shell. There were twelve war ships, of various rates. Among them may particularly be mentioned the Merrimack, a very fine steam frigate of 40 guns. The value of the entire establishment was estimated at more than ten millions of dollars.
No measures had been taken for the protection of this Its inefficient de- great dépôt beyond general instructions to Captain M'Cauley, the officer in command, to "put the shipping and public property in condition to be moved and placed beyond danger, but in doing so to take no steps that could give needless alarm." In Norfolk the militia was defiantly paraded, and threats made that if any action were taken by the government for the protection of the yard, it should be attacked. On the night of April 16th, the entrance to the harbor was ob