The Great Conspiracy

At Montgomery, the Chiefs of the Confederate Government were serenaded.
“Salvos of artillery were fired, and the whole population seemed to be
in an ecstasy of triumph.”–[McPherson’s History of the Rebellion, p.
114]

The Confederate Secretary of War, flushed with the success, predicted
that the Confederate flag “will, before the first of May, float over the
dome of the old Capitol at Washington” and “will eventually float over
Faneuil Hall, in Boston.”

From Maryland to Mexico, the protests of Union men of the South were
unheard in the fierce clamor of “On to Washington!”

The Richmond Examiner said: “There never was half the unanimity among
the people before, nor a tithe of the zeal upon any subject, that is now
manifested to take Washington. From the mountain tops and valleys to
the shores of the sea, there is one wild shout of fierce resolve to
capture Washington City at all and every human hazard.”

So also, the Mobile Advertiser enthusiastically exclaimed:

“We are prepared to fight, and the enemy is not. Now is the time for
action, while he is yet unprepared. Let the fife sound ‘Gray Jackets
over the Border,’ and let a hundred thousand men, with such arms as they
can snatch, get over the border as quickly as they can. Let a division
enter every Northern border State, destroy railroad connection to
prevent concentration of the enemy, and the desperate strait of these
States, the body of Lincoln’s country, will compel him to a peace–or
compel his successor, should Virginia not suffer him to escape from his
doomed capital.”

It was on Friday morning, the 12th of April, as we have seen, that the
first Rebel shot was fired at Fort Sumter. It was on Saturday afternoon
and evening that the terms of surrender were agreed to, and on Sunday
afternoon that the Federal flag was saluted and hauled down, and the
surrender completed. On Monday morning, being the 15th of April, in all
the great Northern Journals of the day appeared the following:

“PROCLAMATION.

“WHEREAS, the laws of the United States have been for some time past,
and now are, opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the
States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi,
Louisiana, and Texas, by Combinations too powerful to be suppressed by
the ordinary course of Judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in
the Marshals by law; now, therefore I, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the
United States, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution
and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth,
the Militia of the several States of the Union to the aggregate number
of 75,000, in order to suppress said Combinations, and to cause the laws
to be duly executed.

“The details for this object will be immediately communicated to the
State authorities through the War Department. I appeal to all loyal
citizens to favor, facilitate, and aid this effort to maintain the
honor, the integrity, and existence of our National Union, and the
perpetuity of popular government, and to redress wrongs already long
enough endured. I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned
to the forces hereby called forth, will probably be to repossess the
forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and
in every event the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the
objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or
interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens of
any part of the Country; and I hereby command the persons composing the
Combinations aforesaid, to disperse and retire peaceably to their
respective abodes, within twenty days from this date.

“Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an
extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested
by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. The Senators and
Representatives are, therefore, summoned to assemble at their respective
chambers at twelve o’clock, noon, on Thursday, the 4th day of July next,
then and there to consider and determine such measures as, in their
wisdom, the public safety and interest may seem to demand.

“In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.

“Done at the city of Washington, this fifteenth day of April, in the
year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the
independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.

“By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

“WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.”
While in the North the official responses to this Call for troops were
prompt and patriotic, in the Border and Slave States, not yet in
Rebellion, they were anything but encouraging.

The reply of Governor Burton, of Delaware, was by the issue of a
proclamation “recommending the formation of volunteer companies for the
protection of the lives and property of the people of Delaware against
violence of any sort to which they may be exposed; the companies not
being subject to be ordered by the Executive into the United States
service–the law not vesting him with such authority–but having the
option of offering their services to the General Government for the
defense of its capital and the support of the Constitution and laws of
the Country.”

Governor Hicks, of Maryland, in like manner, issued a proclamation for
Maryland’s quota of the troops, but stated that her four regiments would
be detailed to serve within the limits of Maryland–or, for the defense
of the National Capital.

Governor Letcher, of Virginia, replied: “The militia of Virginia will
not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose
as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States,
and a requisition made upon me for such an object–an object, in my
judgment, not within the purview of the Constitution or the Act of 1795
–will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate Civil War,
and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the
Administration has exhibited toward the South.”

Governor Ellis, of North Carolina, replied to Secretary Cameron: “Your
dispatch is received, and, if genuine–which its extraordinary character
leads me to doubt–I have to say in reply that I regard the levy of
troops made by the Administration, for the purpose of subjugating the
States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution and a
usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the
laws of the country, and to this War upon the liberties of a free
people. You can get no troops from North Carolina. I will reply more
in detail when your Call is received by mail.”

Governor Magoffin, of Kentucky, replied: “Your dispatch is received. In
answer I say emphatically, Kentucky will furnish no troops for the
wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.”

Governor Harris, of Tennessee, replied: “Tennessee will not furnish a
single man for Coercion, but fifty thousand, if necessary, for the
Defense of our rights or those of our Southern brethren.”

Governor Jackson, of Missouri, replied: “Your requisition is illegal,
unconstitutional, revolutionary, inhuman, diabolical and cannot be
complied with.”

Governor Rector, of Arkansas, replied: “None will be furnished. The
demand is only adding insult to injury.”

Discouraging and even insulting as were most of these replies, the
responses of the Governors of the Free States were, on the other hand,
full of the ring of true martial Patriotism evoked by the fall of Sumter
and the President’s first call for troops. Twenty millions of Northern
hearts were stirred by that Call, as they had never before been stirred.
Party and faction became for the moment, a thing of the past.

The Governors of the Free States made instant proclamation for
volunteers, and the People responded not by thousands but by hundreds of
thousands. New York, the Empire State, by her Governor and her
Legislature placed all her tremendous resources at the service of the
Union; and the great State of Pennsylvania, through Governor Curtin, did
the same. Nor were the other States at all behind.

The Loyal North felt that Law, Order, Liberty, the existence of the
Nation itself was in peril, and must be both saved and vindicated. Over
half a million of men–from the prairies of the West and the hills and
cities of the East–from farms and counting houses, from factories and
mines and workshops–sprang to arms at the Call, and begged to be
enrolled. The merchants and capitalists throughout the North proffered
to the Government their wealth and influence and best services. The
press and the people responded as only the press and people of a Free
land can respond–with all their heart and soul. “Fort Sumter,” said
one of the journals, “is lost, but Freedom is saved. Henceforth, the
Loyal States are a unit in uncompromising hostility to Treason, wherever
plotted, however justified. Fort Sumter is temporarily lost, but the
Country is saved. Live the Republic!”

This, in a nutshell, was the feeling everywhere expressed, whether by
the great crowds that marched through the streets of Northern cities
with drums beating and banners flying–cheering wildly for the Union,
singing Union songs, and compelling those of doubtful loyalty to throw
out to the breeze from their homes the glorified Stars and Stripes–by
the great majority of newspapers–by the pulpit, by the rostrum, by the
bench, by all of whatever profession or calling in Northern life. For
the moment, the voice of the Rebel-sympathizer was hushed in the land,
or so tremendously overborne that it seemed as if there was an absolute
unanimity of love for the Union.

Of course, in Border-States, bound to the South by ties of lineage and
intermarriage and politics and business association, the feeling could
not be the same as elsewhere. There, they were, so to speak, drawn both
ways at once, by the beckoning hands of kindred on the one side, and
Country on the other! Thus they long waited and hesitated, praying that
something might yet happen to save the Union of their fathers, and
prevent the shedding of brothers’ blood, by brothers-hoping against
hope-waited, in the belief that a position of armed neutrality might be
permitted to them; and grieved, when they found this could not be.

Each side to the great Conflict-at-arms naturally enough believed itself
right, and that the other side was the first aggressor; but the judgment
of Mankind has placed the blame where it properly belonged–on the
shoulders of the Rebels. The calm, clear statement of President
Lincoln, in his July Message to Congress, touching the assault and its
preceding history–together with his conclusions–states the whole
matter in such authentic and convincing manner that it may be said to
have settled the point beyond further controversy. After stating that
it “was resolved to notify the Governor of South Carolina that he might
expect an attempt would be made to provision the Fort; and that if the
attempt should not be resisted there would be no effort to throw in men,
arms, or ammunition, without further notice, or in case of an attack on
the Fort,” Mr. Lincoln continues: “This notice was accordingly given;
whereupon the Fort was attacked and bombarded to its fall, without even
awaiting the arrival of the provisioning expedition.”

The President then proceeds: “It is thus seen that the assault upon and
reduction of Fort Sumter was, in no sense, a matter of self-defense on
the part of the assailants. They well knew that the garrison in the
Fort could, by no possibility, commit aggression upon them. They knew–
they were expressly notified–that the giving of bread to the few brave
and hungry men of the garrison was all which would on that occasion be
attempted, unless themselves, by resisting so much, should provoke more.
They knew that this Government desired to keep the garrison in the Fort
–not to assail them–but merely to maintain visible possession, and
thus to preserve the Union from actual and immediate dissolution–
trusting, as hereinbefore stated, to time, discussion, and the ballot-
box for final adjustment; and they assailed and reduced the Fort for
precisely the reverse object–to drive out the visible authority of the
Federal Union, and thus force it to immediate dissolution.

“That this was their object, the Executive well understood; and, having
said to them, in the Inaugural Address, ‘you can have no conflict
without being yourselves the aggressors,’ he took pains not only to keep
this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from the power
of ingenious sophistry as that the World should not be able to
misunderstand it.

“By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that
point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants of the Government
began the Conflict of arms, without a gun in sight or in expectancy to
return their fire, save only the few in the Fort sent to that harbor
years before for their own protection, and still ready to give that
protection in whatever was lawful. In this act, discarding all else,
they have forced upon the Country, the distinct issue: ‘Immediate
dissolution or blood.’

“And this issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It
presents to the whole family of Man the question whether a
Constitutional Republic or Democracy–a government of the People by the
same People–can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against
its own domestic foes. It presents the question whether discontented
individuals, too few in numbers to control administration according to
organic law in any case, can always, upon the pretences made in this
case, or on any other pretences, or arbitrarily without any pretence,
break up their Government, and thus practically put an end to free
government upon the earth. It forces us to ask: ‘Is there in all
republics, this inherent and fatal weakness?’ ‘Must a Government of
necessity be too strong for the liberties of its own people, or too weak
to maintain its own existence?’

“So viewing the issue, no choice was left but to call out the War power
of the Government; and so to resist force, employed for its destruction,
by force, for its preservation.”

The Call for Troops was made, as we have seen, on the 15th day of April.
On the evening of the following day several companies of a Pennsylvania
Regiment reported for duty in Washington. On the 18th, more
Pennsylvania Volunteers, including a company of Artillery, arrived
there.

On the 19th of April, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment–whose progress
through New York city had been triumphal-was suddenly and unexpectedly
assailed, in its passage through Baltimore, to the defense of the
National Capital, by a howling mob of Maryland Secessionists–worked up
to a pitch of States-rights frenzy by Confederate emissaries and
influential Baltimore Secession-sympathizers, by news of the sudden
evacuation of the Federal Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, and other exciting
tidings–and had to fight its way through, leaving three soldiers of
that regiment dead, and a number wounded, behind it.

[At a meeting of the “National Volunteer Association,” at Monument
Square, Baltimore, the previous evening, says Greeley’s History of
the American Conflict, page 462, “None of the speakers directly
advocated attacks on the Northern troops about to pass through the
city; but each was open in his hostility to ‘Coercion,’ and
ardently exhorted his hearers to organize, arm and drill, for the
Conflict now inevitable. Carr (Wilson C. N. Carr) said: ‘I do not
care how many Federal troops are sent to Washington; they will soon
find themselves surrounded by such an army from Virginia and
Maryland, that escape to their homes will be impossible; and when
the 75,000 who are intended to invade the South shall have polluted
that soil with their touch, the South will extermninate and sweep
them from the Earth.’ (Frantic cheering and yelling). The meeting
broke up with stentorian cheers for ‘the South’ and for ‘President
Davis.”‘]

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