The Great Conspiracy

From these extracts it is plain enough that even at this very early day
the writer fully understood the “frightful proportions” of the impending
struggle, and would “go as far as”–not only Mr. Douglas, but–“any man,
to put down Rebellion”–which necessarily involved War, and
“preparations for War.” But none the less, but rather the more, because
of the horrors which he foresaw must be inseparable from so terrible a
War, was he anxious by timely mutual Concessions–“by any sacrifice,” as
he termed it–if possible, to avert it.

He was ready to sink Party, self, and to accept any of the Propositions
to that end–Mr. Douglas’s among them.

[See his speech of February 5, 1861, Congressional Globe]

In this attitude also he was in accord with Mr. Douglas, who, as well as
the writer, was ready to make any sacrifice, of Party or self; to
“exhaust every effort at peaceful adjustment,” before resorting to War.
The fact is they were much of the time in consultation, and always in
substantial accord.

In a speech made in the Senate, March 15, 1861, Mr. Douglas had reduced
the situation to the following three alternative points:

the Constitution as will insure the domestic tranquillity, safety, and
equality of all the States, and thus restore peace, unity, and
fraternity, to the whole Country.

“2. A PEACEFUL DISSOLUTION OF THE UNION by recognizing the Independence
of such States as refuse to remain in the Union without such
Constitutional Amendments, and the establishment of a liberal system of
commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties of commerce and

“3. WAR, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those
States which have Seceded or may Secede from the Union.”

As a thorough Union man, he could never have agreed to a “Peaceful
Dissolution of the Union.” On the other hand he was equally averse to
War, because he held that “War is Disunion. War is final, eternal
Separation.” Hence, all his energies and talents were given to carrying
out his first-stated line of policy, and to persuading the Seceders to
accept what in that line was offered to them by the dominant party.

His speech in the Senate, March 25, 1861, was a remarkable effort in
that respect. Mr. Breckinridge had previously spoken, and had declared
that: “Whatever settlement may be made of other questions, this must be
settled upon terms that will give them [the Southern States] either a
right, in common with others, to emigrate into all the territory, or
will secure to them their rights on a principle of equitable division.”

Mr. Douglas replied: “Now, under the laws as they stand, in every
Territory of the United States, without any exception, a Southern man
can go with his Slave-property on equal terms with all other property.
* * * Every man, either from the North or South, may go into the
Territories with his property on terms of exact equality, subject to the
local law; and Slave-property stands on an equal footing with all other
kinds of property in the Territories of the United States. It now
stands on an equal footing in all the Territories for the first time.

“I have shown you that, up to 1859, little more than a year ago, it was
prohibited in part of the Territories. It is not prohibited anywhere
now. For the first time, under Republican rule, the Southern States
have secured that equality of rights in the Territories for their Slave-
property which they have been demanding so long.”

He held that the doctrine of Congressional prohibition in all the
Territories, as incorporated in the Wilmot proviso, had now been
repudiated by the Republicans of both Houses of Congress, who had “all
come over to Non-intervention and Popular Sovereignty;” that the “Wilmot
proviso is given up; that Congressional prohibition is given up; that
the aggressive policy is repudiated; and hereafter the Southern man and
the Northern man may move into the Territories with their Property on
terms of entire equality, without excepting Slaves or any other kind of

Continuing, he said: “What more do the Southern States want? What more
can any man demand? Non-intervention is all you asked. Will it be said
the South required in addition to this, laws of Congress to protect
Slavery in the Territories? That cannot be said; for only last May, the
Senate, by a nearly unanimous vote–a unanimous vote of the Southern
men, with one or two exceptions–declared that affirmative legislation
was not needed at this time. * * * What cause is there for further
alarm in the Southern States, so far as the Territories are concerned?
* * *

“I repeat, the South has got all they ever claimed in all the
Territories. * * * Then, sir, according to law, the Slaveholding
States have got equality in the Territories. How is it in fact. * * *
Now, I propose to show that they have got the actual equitable
partition, giving them more than they were disposed to demand.

“The Senator from Kentucky, * * * Mr. Crittenden, introduced a
proposition for an equitable partition. That proposition was, that
north of 36 30′ Slavery should be prohibited, and South of it should be
protected, by Territorial law. * * * What is now the case? It is true
the Crittenden proposition has not yet become part of the Constitution;
but it is also true that an equitable partition has been made by the
vote of the people themselves, establishing, maintaining, and protecting
Slavery in every inch of territory South of the thirty-seventh parallel,
giving the South half a degree more than the Crittenden Proposition.

“There stands your Slave-code in New Mexico protecting Slavery up to the
thirty-seventh degree as effectually as laws can be made to protect it.
There it stands the Law of the Land. Therefore the South has all below
the thirty-seventh parallel, while Congress has not prohibited Slavery
even North of it.

* * * * * *

“What more, then, is demanded? Simply that a Constitutional Amendment
shall be adopted, affirming–what? Precisely what every Republican in
both Houses of Congress has voted for within a month. Just do, by
Constitutional Amendment, what you have voted in the Senate and House of
Representatives, that is all. You are not even required to do that, but
merely to vote for a proposition submitting the question to the People
of the States whether they will make a Constitutional Amendment
affirming the equitable partition of the Territories which the People
have already made. * * *

“You may ask, why does the South want us to do it by Constitutional
Amendment, when we have just done it voluntarily by Law? The President
of the United States, in his Inaugural, has told you the reason. He has
informed you that all of these troubles grow out of the absence of a
Constitutional provision defining the power of Congress over the subject
of Slavery. * * * He thinks that the trouble has arisen from the
absence of such a Constitutional Provision, and suggests a National
Convention to enable the People to supply the defect, leaving the People
to say what it is, instead of dictating to them what it shall be.”

It may here be remarked that while Mr. Douglas held that “So far as the
doctrine of Popular Sovereignty and Nonintervention is concerned, the
Colorado Bill, the Nevada Bill, and the Dakota Bill, are identically the
same with the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and in its precise language”–these
former Bills having been passed at the last Session of the 36th
Congress–the Republicans, on the contrary, held that neither in these
nor other measures had they abandoned any distinctive Republican
principle; while Breckinridge declared that they had passed those
Territorial Bills, without the Wilmot proviso, because they felt
perfectly secure in those Territories, with all the Federal patronage in
Republican hands.

However that may be, we have here, brought out in strong contrast, the
conciliatory feeling which inspired such Union men as Douglas, and the
strong and persistent efforts they made in behalf of Concession and
Peace up to a period only a few weeks before the bombardment of Sumter;
and the almost total revulsion in their sentiments after that event, as
to the only proper means to preserve the Union. For it was only then
that the truth, as it fell from Douglas’s lips at Springfield, was fully
recognized, to wit: that there was no half-way ground betwixt Patriotism
and Treason; that War was an existing fact; and that Patriots must arm
to defend and preserve the Union against the armed Traitors assailing

At last, July 4, 1861, the Congress met, and proceeded at once with
commendable alacrity and patriotism, to the consideration and enactment
of measures sufficient to meet the extraordinary exigency, whether as
regards the raising and equipment of the vast bodies of Union volunteers
needed to put down Rebellion, or in the raising of those enormous
amounts of money which the Government was now, or might thereafter be,
called upon to spend like water in preserving the Union.

It was at this memorable Session, of little over one month, that the
chief of the great “War Measures” as they were termed, were enacted.


We have seen how Fort Sumter fell; how the patriotic North responded to
President Lincoln’s Call, for 75,000 three-months volunteers, with such
enthusiasm that, had there been a sufficiency of arms and accoutrements,
he might have had, within three months of that Call, an Army of 500,000
men in the field; how he had called for 42,000 three-years volunteers
early in May, besides swelling what little there was of a regular Army
by ten full regiments; and how a strict blockade of the entire Southern
Coast-line had not only been declared, but was now enforced and

General Butler, promoted Major-General for his Military successes at
Annapolis and Baltimore, was now in command of Fortress Monroe and
vicinity, with some 12,000 volunteers under him, confronted, on the
Peninsula, by a nearly equal number of Rebel troops, under Generals
Huger and Magruder–General Banks, with less than 10,000 Union troops,
occupying Baltimore, and its vicinage.

General Patterson, with some 20,000 Union troops–mostly Pennsylvania
militia–was at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, with about an equal number
of the Enemy, under General Joseph E. Johnston, at Harper’s Ferry, on
the Potomac, watching him.

Some 50,000 Union troops were in camp, in and about Washington, on the
Virginia side, under the immediate command of Generals McDowell and
Mansfield–Lieutenant General Scott, at Washington, being in Chief-
command of the Union Armies–and, confronting these Union forces, in
Virginia, near the National Capital, were some 30,000 Rebel troops under
the command of General Beauregard, whose success in securing the
evacuation of Fort Sumter by its little garrison of half-starved Union
soldiers, had magnified him, in the eyes of the rebellious South, into
the proportions of a Military genius of the first order.

There had been no fighting, nor movements, worthy of special note, until
June 7th, when General Patterson advanced from Chambersburg,
Pennsylvania, to Hagerstown, Maryland. General Johnston at once
evacuated Harper’s Ferry, and retreated upon Winchester, Virginia.

General McClellan, in command of the Department of the Ohio, had,
however, crossed the Ohio river, and by the 4th of July, being at
Grafton, West Virginia, with his small Army of Union troops, to which a
greatly inferior Rebel force was opposed, commenced that successful
advance against it, which led, after Bull Run, to his being placed at
the head of all the Armies of the United States.

Subsequently Patterson crossed the Potomac, and after trifling away over
one month’s time, at last, on the 15th of July, got within nine miles of
Winchester and Johnston’s Army. Barring a spiritless reconnaissance,
Patterson–who was a fervent Breckinridge-Democrat in politics, and
whose Military judgment, as we shall see, was greatly influenced, if not
entirely controlled, by his Chief of staff, Fitz John Porter–never got
any nearer to the Enemy!

Instead of attacking the Rebel force, under Johnston, or at least
keeping it “employed,” as he was ordered to do by General Scott; instead
of getting nearer, and attempting to get between Winchester and the
Shenandoah River, as was suggested to him by his second in command,
General Sanford; and instead of permitting Sanford to go ahead, as that
General desired to, with his own 8,000 men, and do it himself; General
Patterson ordered him off to Charlestown–twelve miles to the Union left
and rear,–and then took the balance of his Army, with himself, to the
same place!

In other words, while he had the most positive and definite orders, from
General Scott, if not to attack and whip Johnston, to at least keep him
busy and prevent that Rebel General from forming a junction, via the
Manassas Gap railroad or otherwise, with Beauregard, Patterson
deliberately moved his Army further away from Winchester and gave to the
Enemy the very chance of escaping and forming that junction which was
essential to Rebel success in the vicinity of Manassas.

But for this disobedience of orders, Bull Run would doubtless have been
a great victory to the Union Arms, instead of a reverse, and the War,
which afterward lasted four years, might have been over in as many

It is foreign to the design of this work, to present in it detailed
descriptions of the battles waged during the great War of the Rebellion
–it being the present intention of the writer, at some later day, to
prepare and publish another work devoted to such stirring Military
scenes. Yet, as it might seem strange and unaccountable for him to pass
by, at this time, without any description or comment, the first pitched
battle of the Rebellion, he is constrained to pause and view that
memorable contest. And first, it may be well to say a word of the
general topography of the country about the battle-field.

The Alleghany Mountains, or that part of them with which we have now to
do, stretch in three almost equidistant parallel ridges, from North-East
to South-West, through the heart of Old Virginia. An occasional pass,
or “Gap,” through these ridges, affords communication, by good roads,
between the enclosed parallel valleys and the Eastern part of that

The Western of these Alleghany ridges bears the name of “Alleghany
Mountains” proper; the Eastern is called the “Blue Ridge;” while the
Middle Ridge, at its Northern end–which rests upon the Potomac, where
that river sweeps through three parallel ridges almost at right angles
to their own line of direction–is called the “Great North Mountain.”

The valley, between the Middle Ridge and the Blue Ridge, is known as the
Shenandoah Valley, taking its name from the Shenandoah River, which, for
more than one hundred miles, flows along the Western foot of the Blue
Ridge, toward the North-East, until it empties into the Potomac, at
Harper’s Ferry.

The Orange and Alexandria railroad runs from Alexandria,–on the
opposite bank of the Potomac from Washington, and a few miles below the
Capital,–in a general Southeasterly direction, to Culpepper Court-
House; thence Southerly to Gordonsville, where it joins the Virginia
Central–the Western branch of which runs thence through Charlotteville,
Staunton, and Covington, across the ridges and valleys of the
Alleghanies, while its Eastern branch, taking a general South-easterly
direction, crosses the Richmond and Fredricksburg railroad at Hanover
Junction, some twenty miles North of Richmond, and thence sweeps
Southerly to the Rebel capital.

It is along this Easterly branch of the Virginia Central that Rebel re-
enforcements will be hurried to Beauregard, from Richmond to
Gordonsville, and thence, by the Orange and Alexandria railroad, to
Manassas Junction.

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