James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865. 1917.
THE GREAT factor in the destruction of slavery was the election of Abraham Lincoln as President in 18601 by the Republican party, who had declared against the extension of slavery into the territories. The territories were those divisions of the national domain2 which lacked as yet the necessary qualifications for statehood through insufficient population or certain other impediments; they were under the control of Congress and the President. The Republicans were opposed to any interference with slavery in the States where it already existed, but they demanded freedom for the vast unorganized territory west of the Missouri river. How the election of Lincoln was brought about I have already related at length in my History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the Final Restoration of Home Rule at the South in 18773 and more briefly in the first of my Oxford Lectures.4 It was a sectional triumph, inasmuch as Lincoln did not receive a single vote in ten out of the eleven States that afterwards seceded and made up the Confederate States. Charleston, South Carolina, an ultra pro-slavery city and eager for secession, rejoiced equally with the Northern cities over the election of Lincoln, but the Charleston crowds were cheering for a Southern confederacy.5 Herein were they supported by the people of South Carolina generally, who saw in the election of Lincoln an attack on their cherished institution of slavery and cared no longer for political union with a people who held them to be living in the daily practice of evil. They regarded their slaves as property and believed that they had the same constitutional right to carry that property into the common territory as the Northern settlers had to take with them their property in horses and mules. Lincoln as President would deny them that privilege; in other words he would refuse them equality. In his speeches he had fastened a stigma upon slavery; believing it wrong, he must oppose it wherever he had the power, and he certainly would limit its extension. Could a free people, they asked, have a more undoubted grievance? Were they not fired by the spirit of 1776 and ought they not to strike before any distinct act of aggression? Revolution was a word on every tongue. The crisis was like one described by Thucydides when the meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man.6 The people of South Carolina amid great enthusiasm demanded almost with one voice that their State secede from the Federal Union. The authorities promptly responded. A Convention duly called and chosen passed an Ordinance of secession which was termed a Declaration of Independence of the State of South Carolina.7 This act, in view of the South Carolinians and of the people of the other cotton States, was based on the States reserved right under the compact entitled the Constitution. Martial music, bonfires, pistol firing, fireworks, illuminations, cries of joy and exultation greeted the passage of the Ordinance, which seemed to the people of Charleston to mark the commencement of a revolution as glorious as that of 1776.8
Meanwhile the United States Senate, through an able and representative committee of thirteen, was at work on a compromise in the spirit of earlier days. In 1820, according to Jefferson, the knell of the Union had been rung; the slavery question, said he, like a fire-bell in the night awakened and filled me with terror. But then the Missouri Compromise had saved the Union.9 Again, in 1850 when the South and the North were in bitter opposition on the same issue of slavery and threats of dissolution of the Union were freely made by Southern men, the controversy was ended by Clays Compromise.10 And now in 1860 the people of the Northern and of the border slave States, ardent for the preservation of the Union, believed that Congress could somehow compose the dispute as it had done twice before. The Senate committee of thirteen at once took up the only expedient that could be expected to retain the six remaining cotton States in the Union.11 This was the Crittenden Compromise, called after its author, a senator from Kentucky; and the portion of it on which union or disunion turned was the article regarding territorial slavery. Crittenden proposed as a constitutional amendment that the old Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30´ should serve as the boundary between slavery and freedom in the Territories; north of it slavery should be prohibited, south of it protected. As phrased, the article was satisfactory to the Northern Democratic and border slave State senators, who together made up six of the committee. The two senators from the cotton States would have accepted it, had the understanding been clear that protection to slavery was to apply to all territory acquired in the future south of the Compromise line. The five Republican senators opposed the territorial article, and, as it had been agreed that any report to be binding must have the assent of a majority of these five, they defeated in committee this necessary provision of the Compromise. William H. Seward,12 one of the thirteen, the leader of the Republicans in Congress, and the prospective head of Lincolns Cabinet, would undoubtedly have assented to this article, could he have secured Lincolns support. But Lincoln, though ready to compromise every other matter in dispute, was inflexible on the territorial question: that is to say as regarded territory which might be acquired in the future. He could not fail to see that the Territories which were a part of the United States in 1860 were, in Websters words, dedicated to freedom by an ordinance of nature and the will of God; and he was willing to give the slaveholders an opportunity to make a political slave State out of New Mexico, which was south of the Missouri Compromise line.13 But he feared that, if a parallel of latitude should be recognized by solemn exactment as the boundary between slavery and freedom, filibustering for all south of us and making slave States of it would follow in spite of us. A year will not pass, he wrote further, till we shall have to take Cuba as a condition upon which they [the cotton States] will stay in the Union. Lincoln, therefore, using the powerful indirect influence of the President-elect, caused the Republican senators to defeat the Crittenden Compromise in the committee, who were thus forced to report that they could not agree upon a plan of adjustment. Then Crittenden proposed to submit his plan to a vote of the people. So strong was the desire to preserve the Union that, had this been done, the majority would probably have been overwhelming in favor of the Compromise; and, although only an informal vote, it would have been an instruction impossible for Congress to resist. Crittendens resolution looking to such an expression of public sentiment was prevented from coming to a vote in the Senate by the quiet opposition of Republican senators: the last chance of retaining the six cotton States in the Union was gone.14
Between January 9 and February 1, 1861, the conventions of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas passed ordinances of secession. Early in February the Confederate States was formed. Delegates from six cotton States15 assembled in Montgomery and, proceeding in an orderly manner, formed a government, the cornerstone of which rested upon the great truth that slavery is the negros natural and normal condition. They elected Jefferson Davis16 President and adopted a Constitution modelled on that of the United States, but departing from that instrument in its express recognition of slavery and the right of secession.17
When Lincoln was inaugurated President on March 4, he confronted a difficult situation. Elected by a Union of thirty-three States, he had lost, before performing an official act, the allegiance of seven. Believing that no State can in any way lawfully get out of the Union without the consent of the others and that it is the duty of the President to run the machine as it is,18 he had to determine on a line of policy toward the States that had constituted themselves the Southern Confederacy. But any such policy was certain to be complicated by the desirability of retaining in the Union the border slave States of Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Missouri, as well as North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, whose affiliations were close with the four border States. All seven were drawn towards the North by their affection for the Union and towards the South by the community of interest in the social system of slavery. One of Lincolns problems then was to make the love for the Union outweigh the sympathy with the slaveholding States that had seceded.
It is difficult to see how he could have bettered the policy to which he gave the keynote in his inaugural address. I hold, he said, that the union of these States is perpetual. Physically speaking we cannot separate. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the Government. This last declaration, though inevitable for a President in his position, outweighed all his words of conciliation and rendered of no avail his closing pathetic appeal to his dissatisfied fellow countrymen not to bring civil war on the country.19
During the progress of the secession, the forts, arsenals, custom-houses and other property of the Federal government within the limits of the cotton States were taken possession of by these States and, in due time, all this property was turned over to the Southern Confederacy, so that on March 4, all that Lincoln controlled was four military posts, of which Fort Sumter, commanding Charleston, was much the most important.20 Since the very beginning of the secession movement, the eyes of the North had been upon South Carolina. For many years she had been restive under the bonds of the Union; her chief city, Charleston, had witnessed the disruption of the Democratic national convention,21 and the consequent split in the party which made certain the Republican success of 1860, that in turn had led to the secession of the State and the formation of the Southern Confederacy. Fort Sumter had fixed the attention of the Northern mind by an occurrence in December, 1860. Major Anderson with a small garrison of United States troops had occupied Fort Moultrie; but, convinced that he could not defend that fort against any attack from Charleston, he had, secretly on the night after Christmas, withdrawn his force to Fort Sumter, a much stronger post. Next morning, when the movement was discovered, Charleston fumed with rage whilst the North, on hearing the news, was jubilant and made a hero of Anderson.22 Lincoln recognized the importance of holding Fort Sumter but he also purposed to use all means short of the compromise of his deepest convictions to retain the border slave States and North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas in the Union. The action of these three turned upon Virginia, whose convention was in session, ready to take any action which the posture of affairs seemed to demand. The fundamental difficulty now asserted itself. To hold Fort Sumter was to Lincoln a bounden duty but to the Virginians it savored of coercion; and coercion in this case meant forcing a State which had seceded, back into the Union. If an attempt was made to coerce a State, Virginia would join the Southern Confederacy. The Confederate States now regarded the old Union as a foreign power whose possession of a fort within their limits, flying the American flag, was a daily insult. They attempted to secure Sumter by an indirect negotiation with the Washington government and were encouraged by the assurances of Seward, Lincolns Secretary of State and most trusted counsellor. Had the President known of Sewards intimation, which was almost a promise, that Sumter would be evacuated, he would have been greatly perturbed and would have called a halt in the negotiations to the end that the Southern commissioners be undeceived. On April 1 he was further troubled by a paper, Some Thoughts for the Presidents Consideration, which Seward had privately submitted to him as an outline of the fit policy to be pursued. This was briefly: the evacuation of Fort Sumter; the reënforcement of the other posts in the South; a demand at once for explanations from Spain and France and, if they were not satisfactory, a call of a special session of Congress to declare was against those two nations; also explanations to be sought from Great Britain and Russia. With that same rash disregard of his chief and blind reliance on his own notions of statecraft which he had shown in his negotiations with Justice Campbell, the intermediary between himself and the Southern commissioners, who had been sent to Washington by Davis, he gave the President a strong hint that the execution of this policy should be devolved upon some member of the Cabinet and that member, himself. The proposed foreign policy was reckless and wholly unwarranted. Our relations with these four powers were entirely peaceful; to use Sewards own words less than three months before, there is not a nation on earth that is not an interested, admiring friend.23 Seward had got it into his head that, if our nation should provoke a foreign war, the cotton States would unite in amity with the North and like brothers fight the common foe under the old flag. Lincoln of course saw that the foreign policy proposed was wild and foolish but ignored it in his considerate reply to Some Thoughts for the Presidents Consideration; he kept the existence of the paper rigidly a secret;24 he did not demand the Secretarys resignation; he had for him no word of sarcasm or reproach.
The President submitted to another drain on his time and strength in the persistent scramble for office. The grounds, halls, stairways, closets of the White House, wrote Seward, are filled with office seekers; and Lincoln said, I seem like one sitting in a palace assigning apartments to importunate applicants, while the structure is on fire and likely soon to perish in ashes.25 When he ought to have been able to concentrate his mind on the proper attitude to the seceding States, he was hampered by the ceaseless demands for a lucrative recognition from his supporters and by the irrational proposals of the chief of his Cabinet.
The great problem now was Sumter. What should be done about it? On the day after his inauguration, the President was informed that Anderson believed a reënforcement of 20,000 men necessary for the defence of the post;26 after being transported to the neighborhood by sea, they must fight their way through to the fort. For the South Carolinians had been steadily at work on the islands in Charleston harbor erecting batteries and strengthening the forts which bore on Sumter. Moreover, Andersons provisions would not last beyond the middle of April. General Scott, the head of the army, advised the evacuation of Sumter, a logical step in the course of action toward the South, which he and other men of influence had advocated and which he expressed in the pertinent words, Wayward sisters depart in peace.27 At the Cabinet meeting of March 15 the President asked his advisers, If it be possible to provision Fort Sumter, is it wise to attempt it? Four agreed with Seward, saying, No; only two gave an affirmative answer. Lincoln undoubtedly had moments of thinking that the Fort must be evacuated.28 With his eye upon Virginia, whose convention he hoped might adjourn without action, he may have promised one of her representatives that he would withdraw Anderson, provided the Virginia convention, always a menace of secession while it continued to sit, would adjourn sine die. The evidence is too conflicting to justify a positive assertion; but if such a proposal were made, it was never transmitted to and acted upon by the convention.29
In the final decision, the sentiment of the North had to be taken into account. To abandon Sumter would seem to indicate that a peaceful separation would follow; that the principle of the sovereignty of the States and secession had triumphed. Finally, with increasing support in his Cabinet, Lincoln came to a wise decision. Reënforcement from a military point of view was impracticable; to reach the fort the North might have to fire the first shot. But, as a political measure, he decided to send bread to Anderson,30 so that Sumter would not have to be evacuated from lack of food. In accordance with his previous promise,31 he sent word to the Governor of South Carolina of his intention. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate troops at Charleston, who in company with the Governor heard the formal notification, telegraphed it to the Confederate Secretary of War at Montgomery, receiving two days later [April 10] the order to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter and, if this was refused, to proceed to reduce it.
The demand was made; and when Anderson had written his refusal to comply with it he observed to the Confederate aides, the bearers of Beauregards note, If you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days.32 Beauregard, acting with caution, transmitted this remark to Montgomery where equal caution not to precipitate hostilities was shown in the reply: Do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter. If Major Anderson will state the time at which he will evacuate Sumter you are authorized thus to avoid the effusion of blood. Evacuation was redemanded by Beauregards aides at three quarters of an hour after midnight of April 11. This was again refused, but Anderson wrote, I will evacuate Fort Sumter by noon on the 15th instant should I not receive prior to that time controlling instructions from my government or additional supplies.33 The aides considered these terms manifestly futile34 and, acting in accordance with the letter of their instructions, they gave the order to Fort Johnson to open fire; the first shell was fired at half past four on the morning of April 12. This shot, the signal for the bombardment to begin, caused a profound thrill throughout the United States and in point of fact it inaugurated four years of civil war.35
The bombardment was unnecessary. Sumter might have been had without it. Beauregard was needlessly alarmed over the relief expedition that was bringing bread to Anderson. He feared a descent upon the South Carolina coast by the United States fleet then lying at the entrance of the harbor for the supposed purpose of reënforcing Fort Sumter. One of his aides reported that four large steamers are plainly in view standing off the bar. The people in Charleston thought that there were six men-of-war in the offing.36 In connection with the general alarm on shore, it is interesting to note the actual mishaps of the relief expedition. This was intended to consist of four war-ships, three steam-tugs and the merchant steamer Baltic. The Baltic, with G. V. Fox, who had command of the expedition, on board, arrived off Charleston one hour and a half before the bombardment began, but found there only one warship.37 Another38 arrived at seven in the morning; but without the Powhatan,39 the most important of the war-ships and the one carrying the equipment necessary for the undertaking, nothing could be accomplished, and no attempt was made to provision the fort. Administrative inefficiency, Sewards meddlesomeness and a heavy storm at sea conjoined to cause the failure of the expedition. Fox and his companions watched the bombardment, chafing at their powerlessness to render their brothers-in-arms any assistance.
Before leaving Sumter Beauregards aides notified Anderson in writing that in an hour their batteries would open on the fort. Anderson and his officers went through the casemates where the men were sleeping, waked them, told them of the impending attack and of his decision not to return the fire until after daylight. The first shell was from Fort Johnson; at half past four, it rose high in air and curving in its course burst almost directly over the fort.40 The next shot came from Cummings Point, fired, it is said, by a venerable secessionist from Virginia who had long awaited the glory of this day. The official account does not confirm the popular impression, but the Lieutenant-Colonel in command wrote that his men were greatly incited by the enthusiasm and example of this old Virginian who was at one of the Cummings Point batteries during the greater part of the bombardment.41 After Cummings Point all the batteries opened in quick succession; Sumter was surrounded by a circle of fire.42 Meanwhile the men in the fort, alive to the novelty of the scene, watched the shot and shell directed at them, until, realizing the danger of exposure, they retired to the bomb-proofs to await the usual roll-call and order for breakfast. Having no more bread, they ate pork and damaged rice. At seven oclock, Anderson gave the order and Sumter discharged its first gun at Cummings Point, following up this shot with a vigorous fire. An hour and a half later Sumter opened upon Moultrie and from that time a steady and continuous fire between the two was kept up throughout the day.43 For the people of Charleston who gathered on the house-tops and thronged to the wharves and to their favorite promenade, the Battery, this artillery duel was a mighty spectacle. They had lost all love for the Union; they hated the American flag somewhat as the Venetians hated the Austrian and, though apprehensive of danger to their husbands, sons and brothers, they rejoiced that the time was drawing near when the enemy should no longer hold a fort commanding their harbor and city.
In the early afternoon the fire of Sumter slackened; cartridges were lacking, although the six needles in the fort were kept steadily employed until all the extra clothing of the companies, all coarse paper and extra hospital sheets had been used.44 After dark Sumter stopped firing; the Confederate batteries continued to throw shells, though at longer intervals. As, during the dark and stormy night, it was almost confidently expected that the United States fleet would attempt to land troops upon the islands or to throw men into Fort Sumter by means of boats, there was ceaseless vigilance on Morris and Sullivans islands.45 Early on Saturday morning [April 13] the bombardment was renewed. The men in the fort ate the last of the damaged rice with pork, but they sprang briskly to their work. Fort Sumter opened early and spitefully and paid especial attention to Fort Moultrie, wrote Moultries commander.46 Soon hot shot from Moultrie and other batteries set the officers quarters on fire. The powder magazine was in danger. Anderson ordered fifty barrels removed and distributed around in the casemates, the magazine doors to be closed and packed with earth. As in the meantime the wooden barracks had taken fire, endangering the powder in the casemates, he commanded that all but five barrels should be thrown into the sea. At one oclock the flag-staff was struck and fell; and the fallen flag, though soon hoisted again, together with the smoke and the flames gave the Confederates reason to believe that Anderson was in distress. An aide under a white flag was despatched to him from Cummings Point; three more from the city by Beauregard. Negotiations followed resulting in honorable terms. I marched out of the fort Sunday afternoon the 14th instant, reported Anderson, with colors flying and drums beating, bringing away company and private property, and saluting my flag with fifty guns.47
In this momentous battle, no man on either side was killed. As compared with the military writing of two years later, the crudity of the contemporary correspondence and reports is grimly significant. They told of the work of boys learning the rudiments of warboys who would soon be seasoned veterans wise in the methods of destruction. A strenuous schooling this; and the beginning of it was the artillery duel in Charleston harbor.
Beauregards aides assumed too great a responsibility in giving the order to fire the first shot; they should have referred Andersons reply to their chief. There can be no doubt that the Confederate States would have obtained peacefully on Monday what they got by force on Sunday. If Beauregard had had Andersons last response, he would unquestionably have waited to ask Montgomery for further instructions. The presence of the United States fleet was of course disquieting; yet the danger from this source, even as exaggerated in Beauregards mind, could be averted quite as well by acting on the defensive, as by the bombardment of Fort Sumter.48 But South Carolina was hot for possession of the fort and the aides who gave the order that precipitated hostilities were swayed by the passion of the moment.
In April, 1861, war was undoubtedly inevitable. The House divided against itself could not stand. The irrepressible conflict had come to a head; words were a salve no longer. Under the circumstances it was fortunate for Lincoln that the South became the aggressor. Daviss elaborate apology49 and the writing inspired by it could never answer the questions put by Northern to Southern soldiers, when they met under a flag of truce or in the banter between Confederates and Federals when opportunities offered, Who began the war? Who struck the first blow? Who battered the walls of Fort Sumter?50
At one stamp of his foot, the President called the whole nation to arms, wrote Henry Adams in 1861 while in Washington.51 He referred to the Proclamation asking for 75,000 volunteers whose first service would probably be to repossess the forts, places and property which have been seized from the Union. Lincoln wrote this on the Sunday when Anderson marched out of Sumter (April 14) and, following closely the act of February 28, 1795, his authority, he called forth that number of militia, apportioned among twenty-seven States, to suppress, in the seven cotton States, combinations beyond the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, and he summoned Congress to meet on July 4 in special session. In the particulars communicated by the War department to the several governors, the time of service was fixed at three months, but this represented in no way the Presidents opinion as to the probable duration of the war; he was simply following the act of 1795 which provided that the militia could be held to service for only thirty days after the next meeting of Congress.
After two days full of indignant outbursts at the insult to the flag, the people of the North read the Presidents call for troops. That first gun at Sumter, wrote Lowell, brought all the free States to their feet as one man. The heather is on fire, said George Ticknor. I never before knew what a popular excitement can be. At the North there never was anything like it.52 Governors, legislatures, wherever these were in session, and private citizens acted in generous coöperation. Men forgot that they had been Republicans or Democrats; the partisan was sunk in the patriot. Washington was supposed to be in danger of capture by the Southern troops flushed with their victory at Sumter; armed and equipped soldiers were needed for its defence. The Sixth Massachusetts was the first regiment to respond, leaving Boston on April 17 and arriving in Baltimore two days later. The only approach by rail to Washington was through Baltimore where the strong feeling for secession was vented in threats that Northern troops, bent on the invasion of the South, would not be permitted to pass through its streets. The Colonel of the Sixth, being informed in Philadelphia of the situation, timed his arrival in Baltimore for the morning (April 19). Here a transfer was usually made by means of horses, drawing the passenger cars through the streets from the Philadelphia to the Washington station, a mile distant, where a change was made to the cars of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, which owned the forty miles of single track to the nations capital. Seven companies were thus driven rapidly through the city. Meanwhile an angry mob had collected, torn up the railroad and erected a barricade to dispute the passage of the rest of the regiment. Informed of this the captains of the four remaining companies decided that they must march to the station; but before they had started, up came the mob, carrying a secession flag and threatening that, if an attempt were made to march through the streets, every white nigger of them would be killed. The Captain, on whom the command devolved, gave the order to march, a policeman leading the way. As the soldiers stepped forward, they received a volley of brick-bats and paving-stones from the mob; a hundred yards farther on they came to a bridge which had been partially demolished. We had to play scotch-hop to get over it, said the Captain. The order double-quick was then given, which led the mob to believe that the soldiers either had no ammunition or dared not use it. In their growing rage, they fired pistol-shots into the ranks, and one soldier fell dead. The Captain gave the order fire; a number of the mob fell. The mayor of Baltimore arrived and placed himself at the head of the column. The mob grew bolder, he wrote, and the attack became more violent. Various persons were killed and wounded on both sides. As his presence failed to allay the tumult, the mayor left the head of the column, but the four companies marched on, fighting their way through to their comrades, aided by the city marshal with fifty policemen who covered their rear. In the Baltimore and Ohio cars with the blinds closed, the regiment received a volley of stones which so infuriated one of the soldiers that he fired and killed a prominent citizen, a mere looker-on. Finally the train got away and reached Washington late in the afternoon. Of the regiment four had been killed and thirty-six wounded. The casualties in the mob were larger.
In Baltimore the excitement was intense. The streets are red with Maryland blood are the marshals words. Secessionists and Southern sympathizers were rampant; stifling the Union sentiment of the city, they carried everything with a high hand and dictated the action of the constituted authorities. The excitement is fearful. Send no more troops here, is the joint despatch of the governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore to the President. So great was the commotion that a part of the State and city military was called out; citizens volunteered, and, after being more or less adequately furnished with arms, were enrolled for the purpose of defence under the direction of the board of police. In Monument Square a mass-meeting assembled, whose sentiment was decidedly opposed to any attempt at coercion of the Confederate States. Apprehending a severe fight and bloodshed if more Northern troops attempted to pass through Baltimore, the mayor and city marshal ordered the burning of certain bridges on the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore railroad, the line to Philadelphia, and on the Northern Central, the line to Harrisburg; three bridges on each railroad were burned, thus completely severing the rail communication with the North.53
The seven days since the evacuation of Sumter had been crowded with events of a deeply ominous character. On April 17, the Virginia convention, sitting in secret, had passed an ordinance of secession, an act which became known to the authorities in Washington on the following day. As a rejoinder to Lincolns call for 75,000 troops, Jefferson Davis by proclamation invited applications for letters of marque and reprisal against the merchant marine of the United States. The President retorted (April 19) by proclaiming a blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas inclusive, and declaring that privateers acting under the pretended authority of the Confederate States would be treated as pirates. On the 18th, the United States commander at Harpers Ferry in Virginia, deeming his position untenable, abandoned it after demolishing the arsenal and burning the armory building. On the 20th the Gosport navy-yard was partially destroyed by the Union forces and left to the possession of the Virginians. On the same day Robert E. Lee, who was esteemed by Scott the ablest officer next to himself in the service, and who had been unofficially offered the active command of the Union army, resigned his commission, thus indicating that he had decided to cast his lot with the South. The gravity of the situation was heightened by the severance of communications between the national capital and the North, as a result of the trouble in Baltimore.54 On Sunday night (April 21) the telegraph ceased to be available. The only connection the government now had with its loyal territory and people was by means of private couriers; these made their way with difficulty through Maryland, where for the moment an unfriendly element prevailed. Correct information was difficult to get, and rumors of all sorts filled the air. The government and citizens alike were apprehensive of an attack on the capital. They feared that Beauregards South Carolina army would be transported North as fast as the railroads could carry it and, reënforced in Richmond by Virginia troops, would easily take Washington. Preparations were made to withstand a siege. Panic seized the crowds of office-seekers, driving them northwards. Many secessionist citizens, fearing that the whole male population of the city would be impressed for its defence, left for the South. Washington, wrote General Scott, on April 22, is now partially besieged, threatened and in danger of being attacked on all sides in a day or two or three. The arrival of the Eighth Massachusetts and Seventh New York at Annapolis, who had finished their journey to that point by water, prompted the governor to telegraph to the President advising that no more troops be ordered or allowed to pass through Maryland; and he suggested that Lord Lyons [the English minister] be requested to act as mediator between the contending parties of our country.55
John Hay, then one of the Presidents private secretaries, has given in his diary a graphic account of these days. Of the novel scene of the Sixth Massachusetts quartered in the Capitol, he wrote, The contrast was very painful between the grey-haired dignity that filled the Senate chamber when I saw it last, and the present throng of bright-looking Yankee boys, the most of them bearing the signs of New England rusticity in voice and manner, scattered over the desks, chairs and galleries, some loafing, many writing letters slowly and with plough-hardened hands or with rapid-glancing clerkly fingers while Grow [representative from Pennsylvania, later speaker of the House] stood patient by the desk and franked for everybody. The town is full to-night (April 20) of feverish rumors about a meditated assault upon the city. This morning (April 21) we mounted the battlements of the Executive Mansion and the Ancient (Lincoln) took a long look down the bay [troops were expected to arrive via Fort Monroe, Chesapeake bay, and the Potomac river]. It was a water-haul. A telegram intercepted on its way to Baltimore states that our Yankees (Eighth Massachusetts) and New Yorkers (Seventh New York) have landed at Annapolis (April 22). Weary and foot-sore but very welcome, they will probably greet us to-morrow. Housekeepers here are beginning to dread famine. Flour has made a sudden spring to $18 a barrel.56
The President was keenly alive to the importance of holding the capital and feared greatly for its safety. As Tuesday the 23d passed and no soldiers came, he paced the floor of the executive office in restless anxiety looking out of the window down the Potomac for the long expected boats; thinking himself alone he exclaimed in tones of anguish, Why dont they come! Why dont they come! That same day had brought a mail from New York three days old, containing newspapers which told that the uprising of the North continued with growing strength and unbounded enthusiasm, that the Seventh New York regiment had already departed and that troops from Rhode Island were on the way. Next day (April 24), wrote Hay, was one of gloom and doubt. Everybody seems filled with a vague distrust and recklessness. The idea seemed to be reached by Lincoln when, chatting with the volunteers (Sixth Massachusetts) this morning, he said: I dont believe there is any North! The Seventh regiment is a myth! Rhode Island is not known in our geography any longer. You are the only Northern realities.57
Meanwhile the Seventh New York and Eighth Massachusetts were marching to Annapolis junction where they found a train which took them quickly to Washington. The Seventh regiment arrived first (April 25). Forming as soon as they left the cars, they marched up Pennsylvania avenue to the White House. To the people who noted their military bearing and to the President who reviewed them, they were a goodly sight. Their arrival indicated that a route from the loyal North to its capital was open, that other regiments were on the way soon to arrive and that Washington was safe.58 It was not until May 9, however, that Northern troops attempted to pass through Baltimore; coming from Perryville in transports and landing under the guns of a revenue steamer, they were then carried in cars under ample police protection through South Baltimore; they were not molested. Four days later, and twenty-four after the severance of communication, the first train from Philadelphia arrived at the capital, and shortly afterwards regular railroad communication with the Northern cities, for passengers as well as for the military, was reëstablished.59
The people of the Confederate States looked upon Lincolns call for 75,000 troops as a declaration of war, implying a policy of invasion of their territory, an attack upon themselves and their property. The uprising in the South was precisely similar to that in the North. The people declared that they would resist the Lincoln government as long as they could command a man or a dollar. The coöperation of governors and individuals with Davis matches the cooperation of Northerners with Lincoln. If a European, ignorant of the names of our States or of our public men in 1861, were to read the Official Records, the only way he could tell which side he was reading about would be by reference to the editors titles of Union or Confederate correspondence.
The first stakes for Lincoln and Davis to play for were Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. Despite the unfortunate demonstrations in her chief city, Baltimore, Maryland contained a powerful element whose love of the Union was shared by her governor; under his guidance with the tactful help of the President she cast her lot with the North.
Two days before the bombardment of Sumter, Roger A. Pryor, a Virginia secessionist, in an impassioned speech in Charleston, said, I will tell you, gentlemen, what will put Virginia in the Southern Confederacy in less than an hour by Shrewsbury clockstrike a blow. He knew his countrymen. The excitement in Virginia was equal to that in the cotton States. To the requisition for her quota of troops under the Presidents call for 75,000, her governor expressed the public opinion in a defiant refusal. Montgomery had already heard that Virginia was in a blaze of excited indignation against Lincolns proclamation.60 On April 17, her convention, by a vote of 103 : 46, adopted an ordinance of secession, which was to be valid if ratified by a vote of the people on the fourth Thursday of May.61 As the authorities assumed the result of the popular vote, they proceeded to join the fortunes of Virginia with the Confederate States. Having telegraphed to Montgomery the common desire, the governor received at once this despatch from Davis: Resolution for alliance received. Proposition cordially accepted. Commissioner will be sent by next train.62 In fulfilment of this promise Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice-President of the Confederate States, went to Richmond. Although he wrote of the embarrassments and difficulties in getting the arrangement effected, the common aim and sympathy were so certain that he negotiated a military alliance between the Confederate States and Virginia, giving the control and direction of her military force to Davis.63 On May 7, the Confederate Congress admitted her into the Confederacy and, accepting the offer of her convention (April 27), made Richmond their capital (May 21).64
The governor of North Carolina replied to the Secretary of War: 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 gross usurpation of power. I can be no party to this war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.65 Before Lincolns call for troops two-thirds of the people of North Carolina were opposed to secession;66 now, however, as speedily as a convention could be assembled, an ordinance of secession was adopted by a unanimous vote, and North Carolina became one of the Confederate States.67
In answer to Lincolns requisition for troops, Tennessees governor said, Tennessee will not furnish a single man for purpose of coërcion.68 She did not adopt an ordinance of secession, but during the month of May her legislature made a military league with the Confederate States, and she became one of them, subject to the vote of the people which was taken on June 8; by a majority of nearly 58,000, they declared in favor of separation from the Union and of joining the Southern Confederacy.69
Kentucky, so telegraphed her governor, will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern States.70 But he could not draw her into the secession movement. A drift of conflicting opinions held her in the balance, but Lincoln knew his native State well and, by tact and forbearance, he guided the Union men so that their influence continually spread until the month of August, when, in the newly elected legislature, they had a majority of nearly three-fourths in each branch.71
Missouris governor was likewise favorable to secession, replying to the call for troops: Your requisition, in my judgment, is illegal, unconstitutional and revolutionary in its object, inhuman and diabolical. Not one man will the State of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade.72 He had, however, a resolute antagonist in Francis P. Blair, Jr., a man of extraordinary physical and moral courage, of high social position in St. Louis and personally very popular. Between him and the governor, there ensued four months of political and martial manuvring, but Blair won in the end and Missouri remained in the Union.73
The array was now complete. Twenty-three States were pitted against eleven; twenty-two million people against nine, and of the nine, three and one-half million were slaves. Each side had peculiar advantages.74 But neither section understood the other. If the South had known that secession must result in war and that the foe would be a united North, it is doubtful if she would have proceeded to the last extremity. It is still more doubtful if the North would have fought, had she known that she must contend against a united Southern people. The remark of Chatham, Conquer a free population of three million souls? the thing is impossible, had become an axiom of the English race. But now the North confronted five and a half million earnest and brave people, supported by three and a half million servants, who grew the food and took care of the women and children at home while the men fought in the field. The North was contending for the Union on the theory that a strong and unscrupulous minority had overridden the majority of Southerners who had no desire for secession, loathed the idea of civil war and, if protected and encouraged, would make themselves felt in a movement looking towards allegiance to the national government. Lincoln comprehended the sentiment of the North and he never gave public expression to any opinion that he did not sincerely hold. In his fourth of July message to the special session of Congress he said: It may well be questioned whether there is to-day a majority of the legally qualified voters of any State, except perhaps South Carolina, in favor of disunion. There is much reason to believe that the Union men are the majority in many, if not in every other one, of the so-called seceded States.
I have discussed this matter so thoroughly in my History that it is unnecessary for me to recur to it at length. Nevertheless, I may observe that on returning to the subject twenty years after my first discussion of it, and on going through the original materials again, I have been more firmly convinced than before of the unanimity of the Confederate States after the Presidents call for troops. The citations from William H. Russells letters to the London Times and from his Diary, which I gave in my third volume, furnish an authoritative corroboration of the other evidence. This intelligent and fair-minded man, who sympathized with the North because he hated slavery and was convinced that the invocation of State-rights was for protection to slavery, extension of slave territory and free-trade in slave produce with the outer world, made a journey through the Southern States between April 14 and June 19, 1861, and became convinced that the people of the Confederacy were united. Summing up the results of his tour, he wrote: I met everywhere with but one feeling, with exceptions which proved its unanimity and force. To a man the people went with their States, and had but one battle-cry, States-rights and death to those who make war against them!
In spite of his supercilious criticism, Russell wished the North to win because he foresaw in her victory the destruction of slavery. But he did not believe that she could triumph. In April, while in Charleston, he wrote, I am more satisfied than ever that the Union can never be restored as it was, and that it has gone to pieces, never to be put together again in the old shape, at all events, by any power on earth. In New Orleans, on May 31, he set down in his Diary, Now that the separation has come, there is not, in the Constitution, or out of it, power to cement the broken fragments together. On the steamer on the Mississippi which brought him from a Confederate camp to Cairo, he met an Englishman who was steward of the boat and not averse to giving his opinion, which Russell quotes with apparent approval of the concluding statement. This war, the steward said, is all about niggers; Ive been sixteen years in the country, and I never met one of them yet was fit to be anything but a slave; I know the two sections well and I tell you, sir, the North cant whip the South let them do their best.75
Mixed with the stern determination on both sides to fight out the conflict was a sincere regret that the Union should be broken. When an old gentleman, whom Russell met in Charleston, spoke of the prospect of civil war tears rolled down his cheeks, but regarding it as the natural consequence of the insults, injustice and aggression of the North against Southern rights he had no apprehension for the result. Mrs. Chesnut wrote of the separation, The wrench has been awful. When the Virginia convention was considering the ordinance of secession, one delegate, who spoke against it, became incoherent in his emotion and finally broke down sobbing. Another, who voted for it, wept like a child at the thought of rending ancient ties.76 It is Henry Adamss opinion based on his recollections of Washington in the winter of 1861 that, Not one man in America wanted the civil war or expected or intended it. Similar was Nicolays impression at the same period in Springfield while assisting Lincoln. Nobody wanted war is the word.77 And when it came, J. D. Cox and James A. Garfield, then members of the Ohio legislature, groaned at the shame, the folly, the outrage of civil war in our land.78
John T. Morse, in his biography of Lincoln, which possesses somehow the authority of a contemporary document as well as the interest of an artistic study of a great man, wrote, Historians say rhetorically that the North sprang to arms; and it really would have done so if there had been any arms to spring to; but muskets were scarce.79 The correspondence in Volume I, Series III of the Official Records amply confirms this statement. The governors of the several States, in their communications to the United States War Department, began by asking for muskets and cannon; soon they were begging for them. Ohio was undoubtedly a fair example of the States west of the Alleghanies. McClellan, who had been appointed major-general of her volunteers, made an inspection of the State arsenal and found, a few boxes of smooth-bore muskets, rusted and damaged; two or three smooth-bore 6-pounders which had been honey-combed by firing salutes; a confused pile of mildewed harness which had been once used for artillery horses. As he went out of the door he said half humorously, half sadly, A fine stock of munitions on which to begin a great war.80 The governor of Iowas demand of the Secretary of War, for Gods sake send us some arms, exemplified the feeling of all. All the States wanted rifled-muskets, of which the government had only a small supply; and when they received old flint-lock muskets or the same percussioned, they felt that due attention was not being paid to their necessities. Morton, the governor of Indiana, reported that the arms received by his State were of an inferior character, being old muskets rifled out; in very many instances, he added, the bayonets have to be driven on with a hammer and many others are so loose that they can be shaken off. Our boys, wrote the governor of Iowa, dont feel willing to carry old-fashioned muskets to the field to meet men armed with better weapons. Appreciating the impotence of the Federal government, Massachusetts sent an agent to Europe with money for the purchase of improved arms and New York bought Enfield rifles in England. The governors of the several States begged for accoutrements, uniforms and clothing. There was urgent need of forage caps, infantry trousers, flannel sack coats, flannel shirts, bootees, stockings, great coats and blankets. The government, wrote the Secretary of War to Morton, finds itself unable to furnish at once the uniforms and clothing demanded by the large force suddenly brought into service.81
McClellan wrote of his Ohio troops: I have never seen so fine a body of men collected together. The material is superb but has no organization or discipline.82 A captain of the regular army who came to muster a number of these regiments into the United States service, looking down the line of stalwart men, clad in the Garibaldi red flannel shirt (for lack of uniforms) exclaimed, My God! that such men should be food for powder!83 Good-looking and energetic young fellows, too good to be food for gunpowder, wrote John Hay of the Sixth Massachusetts!84 And the same remark might have been made of nearly all the three-months men from every State.
Before the end of April, Lincoln had made up his mind that he had embarked on a long war. The quotas of three-months volunteers were rapidly filled and, as more men came forward, he determined to turn the prolonged outburst of patriotism to account by prevailing upon the late-comers to enlist for three years. On May 3, he increased the army by proclamation.85 The response to his different calls for troops was thus described in his Fourth-of-July message: One of the greatest perplexities of the government is to avoid receiving troops faster than it can provide for them. In a word, the people will save their government if the government itself will do its part only indifferently well. Our Secretary of War (Cameron), to judge from the official correspondence during the first months of the war, appears to have been good-natured, inefficient, short-sighted,a man of narrow views. Lincoln, on the other hand, keenly alive to the situation, was repeatedly urging the War Department to accept the men who offered themselves for three years and take the chance of providing them with arms, uniforms and monthly pay; thus, in the beginning, even as in the later years of his presidency, his first thought was for the chief requirement of his side; he would have the men; the provision to be made for them could be left to the future.
The unpreparedness of the Southern people was similar to that of the Northern, but their difficulty in procuring arms and ammunition was greater. Accustomed as they had been to buy their powder from Northern factories, they were now obliged to develop this industry within their own borders. With less money and inferior credit they found it more difficult to make purchases abroad; moreover the blockade soon became a serious impediment to their commerce. On May 3, General Scott wrote, We rely greatly on the sure operation of a complete blockade of the Atlantic and Gulf ports soon to commence.86 Mrs. Chesnut, who had dined with Jefferson Davis in Richmond on July 16, set down in her diary, We begin to cry out for more ammunition and already the blockade is beginning to shut it all out. The Confederate Secretary of War [Walker] seemed to lack geniality and showed in his correspondence with the governors more acerbity than was desirable in an officer of a new government organizing for a protracted conflict. On the other hand, Davis was at first superior in administrative capacity to Lincoln. His West Point training, army service in Mexico and efficient conduct of the War Department for four years had made him familiar with military details which Lincoln had now to master with painful effort. Lee, as commander of the Virginia forces, was an efficient aid to the governor in Richmond, which city was destined to be the most important military point in the Confederacy; but, affected by the disposition that prevailed on each side to overrate the other, he, like the governor of Iowa, thought that the enemy had much superior arms.87
In perusing the confidential Union and Confederate correspondence between the bombardment of Sumter and the battle of Bull Run, one is struck with the unreadiness of both South and North for war and with the contrast generally between military conditions in this country and in Europe. In 1870, the French minister of war told his colleagues and the Emperor that France was ready, more than ready, and to a commission of the Corps Legislatif, declared, So ready are we that, if the war were to last two years, not a gaiter button would be found wanting. Within ten days he had transported by railroad to the frontier nearly 200,000 men with cannon, horses and munitions. Meanwhile Bismarck was asking Moltke, What are our prospects of victory? I believe, replied Moltke, that we are more than a match for them always with the reservation that no one can foresee the issue of a great battle. And a rapid outbreak is, on the whole, more favorable to us than delay. In a little over a fortnights time, Moltke had a Prussian army more than twice as large as the French on the French frontier.88
Had either South or North had the comparatively imperfect preparation of France, with no similar development on the part of the other, that side would have swept everything before it. Had both South and North had the perfect organization of Prussia, the war might have been shorter. But the Prussian military system was impossible in the United States and even if possible, it would not have been considered worth while. The Americans, like the Athenians of the time of Pericles, then preferred to meet danger with a light heart but without laborious training.89
Davis, in his message of April 29 to his Congress, maintained that Lincolns call for 75,000 troops was a declaration of war against the Confederacy and he asked them to devise measures for their defence. Arguing that each State was sovereign and in the last resort the sole judge as well of its wrongs as of the mode and measure of redress, he justified secession and the formation of the Confederate States. We feel that our cause is just and holy, he declared. All we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms. This we will, this we must, resist to the direst extremity. Davis as President was obliged to make the best out of a situation which he regarded with considerable misgiving. He had been averse to war and had wished his Southern brethren less precipitate. Toward the end of June in Richmond, Mrs. Chesnut had with him a talk of nearly an hour, through which there ran, on his part, a sad refrain. His tone was not sanguine. He anticipated a long war. He laughed at the common brag that every Southerner was equal to three Yankees. Only fools, he continued, doubted the courage of the Yankees or their willingness to fight when they saw fit.90
The Confederates, said the President in his Fourth-of-July message, forced upon the country the distinct issue, immediate dissolution or blood. It was with the deepest regret that the executive found the duty of employing the war power in defense of the government forced upon him. He could but perform this duty or surrender the existence of the government. Using an expression of which he grew fond, the plain people, he addressed to them an argument in support of his position.
Lincoln of all men in 1861 was most thoroughly convinced that the Southerners would never have carried the doctrine of State-rights to the point of secession had it not been for the purpose of repelling what was considered an aggression on slavery; yet in his message there is not a word on this subject and the reason is not far to seek. Restricting the object of the war to the restoration of the Union, he had with him Democrats and Bell and Everett men as well as Republicans; a mention of slavery would at once have given rise to partisan contentions. At this early day, however, Lincoln understood the scope of the conflict and thus unbosomed himself to the private secretary who was in sympathy with him: For my own part, I consider the central idea pervading this struggle is the necessity that is upon us of proving that popular government is not an absurdity. We must settle this question now, whether, in a free government, the minority have the right to break up the government whenever they choose. If we fail, it will go far to prove the incapability of the people to govern themselves. There may be one consideration used in stay of such final judgment but that is not for us to use in advance: that is, that there exists in our case an instance of a vast and far-reaching disturbing element, which the history of no other free nation will probably ever present. That, however, is not for us to say at present. Taking the government as we found it, we will see if the majority can preserve it.91
An official report of July 1 gives the strength of the Union army as 186,000.92 The newspapers, especially the New York Tribune, had already been clamoring for an advance on Richmond. General Scott was urged not to lose the services of the three-months men whose time would soon expire.93 Politicians, fearing the effect of delay on public sentiment, supported this demand; and men of experience and good judgment joined in the popular cry. As early as May Governor Andrew complained of the want of vigor, in the Northern operations and Senator Fessenden wrote, I am hoping every day to hear of some decided blow.94 William H. Russell, basing his opinion on the European standard, with which his experience in the Crimea had made him familiar, gave an account of the wretched condition of the Union soldiers in camps near Washington, whose number, available for a campaign, he estimated at 30,000. I am opposed to national boasting, he wrote, but I do firmly believe that 10,000 British regulars (then apparently thinking he must say something for Englands ally) or 12,000 French with a proper establishment of artillery and cavalry, under competent commanders, would not only entirely repulse this army with the greatest ease but that they could attack them and march into Washington, over them or with them, whenever they pleased.95
The popular cry On to Richmond was dinned in the Presidents ears until he yielded to the opinion, that the Union army force a battle in eastern Virginia. A victory would maintain the unanimity of feeling that had prevailed since the firing on Sumter; it would be the earnest of a short war. With a short war in prospect patriotism would continue at its present high beat and such dissensions as might issue in an opposition party would not arise. Moreover, the good will of Europe would be preserved. Europe was now in sympathy with the Presidents assertion of the national authority, but it would be well to let her perceive that the United States government, to which she sent her envoys, had the stronger battalions. Furthermore, if the excellent men, who had volunteered for three months, were to be used at all in active service, they must soon take the field, as their term of enlistment was fast drawing to a close. Having taken all these considerations into account, the President called a number of generals in council with his Cabinet. McDowell, a graduate of West Point, a staff-officer during the Mexican war, and the present commander of the troops on the Virginia side of the Potomac, said that he would move against Beauregard, who had a force of 21,900 behind the stream called Bull Run, provided that Joseph E. Johnston, who was in the Shenandoah valley with 9000, could be prevented from joining Beauregard. General Scott, who felt that the army was in no condition to fight a battle in Virginia but who had deferred to the Presidents wish, said, If Johnston joins Beauregard he shall have Patterson on his heels. Patterson with 18,000 to 22,000 was depended upon to keep a sharp watch on Johnston and had been instructed to beat him or detain him in the valley.
On the afternoon of July 16 McDowells Grand Army, about 30,000 strong and composed, for the most part of three months volunteers supported by 1600 regulars, marched to the front and on the 18th occupied Centreville. No living American general had ever commanded so large a body of men, and McDowells experience as staff-officer in Mexico had been with a much smaller number. Excepting the regulars, the troops were raw as were likewise most of their officers; and this march of twenty-seven miles, which a year later would have been considered a bagatelle, was now a mighty undertaking. There was lack of discipline, wrote William T. Sherman, who commanded a brigade; with all my personal efforts, I could not prevent the men from straggling for water, blackberries or anything on the way they fancied. The troops did not know how to take care of their rations, to make them last the time they should, reported McDowell; moreover their excitement found vent in burning and pillaging. These excesses, however, were checked by McDowell.
Johnston, having received a telegram from Richmond to join Beauregard if practicable, managed to elude Patterson and started for Bull Run at noon of July 18. The discouragements of that days march to one accustomed, like myself, he wrote, to the steady gait of regular soldiers is indescribable. Because of frequent and unreasonable delays and lack of discipline he despaired of reaching Beauregard in time. He accordingly made arrangements for covering the final stage by rail. After a march of twenty-three miles, he and his infantry completed the remaining thirty-four by train; the cavalry and artillery continued on the wagon-road; on Saturday the 20th he had 6000 in union with Beauregard.
McDowell had heard rumors that Johnston had joined Beauregard but he did not credit them; so he went forward with his original plan which was to turn the Confederate left. On Sunday morning, July 21, he attacked. Owing to the inexperience of both officers and men, the delays in marching and manuvring made the attack three hours late, yet at ten oclock the Union troops engaged the enemy and, being in superior force, drove him before them. The Confederates were in full retreat, but as they ran up the slope of the plateau about the Henry House, Thomas J. Jacksons brigade stood there calmly awaiting the onset. General Bee cried out in encouragement to his retreating troops, There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. As Stonewall Jackson he was known till the day of his death and ever afterwards.
Patterson had greatly overestimated Johnstons force and feared to make an attack; indeed in his alarm he marched north, directly away from the Confederates instead of following them. Unaware of his actual movement the Confederate generals thought that he would make haste to join McDowell. Beauregard therefore deemed it advisable to attack the Union forces with his right wing and centre before the expected reënforcement came; Johnston, the ranking officer, approved the plan. A miscarriage of orders prevented the movement; at the same time McDowells attack came as a surprise and it was the sound of cannon that first told them he was trying to turn their left. It was four miles to the scene of action but Johnston and Beauregard rode thither as fast as their horses would carry them. We came not a moment too soon, said Johnston. The Confederates were demoralized; a disorderly retreat had begun; and it needed all the firmness and courage of the commanding generals to stem the tide. Beauregard remained in the thick of the fight, in command of the troops there engaged, while Johnston rode regretfully to the rear to hurry forward reënforcements.
It was high noon when the two Confederate generals appeared on the field. The battle lasted until three. The hottest fighting was for the possession of the Henry plateau which the Union troops had seized. At two oclock Beauregard gave the order to advance to recover the plateau. The charge was made with spirit. Jacksons brigade pierced the Union centre at the bayonets point; the other troops moved forward with equal vigor, broke the Union lines and swept them back from the open ground of the plateau. The Union troops rallied, recovered their ground and drove the Confederates from the plateau into the woods beyond. McDowell, who had this part of the field immediately under his own eye, thought this last repulse final and that the day was his.
Jefferson Davis, too anxious to remain in Richmond, went by rail to the scene of action. As he approached Manassas railroad junction he saw a cloud of dust raised by wagons that had been sent to the rear and heard distinctly the sound of firing. At the junction were a large number of men who had left the field in panic and who now gave Davis graphic accounts of the defeat of the army. He asked a gray-bearded man whose calm face and composed demeanor inspired confidence, how the battle had gone? Our line was broken, came the reply; all was confusion, the army routed and the battle lost. The conductor of the train refused to go farther but, on Daviss stern insistence, detached the locomotive and ran it to the headquarters, where Davis found horses for himself and his aide; two officers guided him thence toward the battle-field. On the way, he met a large number of stragglers and received frequent warnings that there was danger ahead; but the sound of firing was now fainter, which seemed to indicate both an advance of the Confederates and a waning of the battle. Meeting Johnston on a hill overlooking the field, he might in his question have used the words of Henry V at Agincourt, I know not if the day be ours or no? when Johnston at once assured him, that we had won the battle.
It was three oclock when McDowell saw the Confederates retire to the woods, when he hoped that the fight was over and that his army had gained possession of the field. This hope was rudely dispelled. His men had made their last desperate effort. They had been up since two in the morning; one division had had a long fatiguing march. The day was intensely hot and the fight had lasted four and a half hours. Many of the men had thrown away their haversacks and canteens. They were choked with dust, thirsty, hungry and spent. Beauregard ordered forward all of his force within reach, including the reserve, for the purpose of making a last supreme effort to regain the plateau; he intended to lead the charge in person. Then loud cheers were heard proceeding from fresh troops. They were the remainder of the army of the Shenandoah who had followed Johnston as quickly as the railroad could bring them and who were now personally ordered by him to assail McDowells right flank. From mouth to mouth went the word, Johnstons army has come. At the same time Beauregard moved forward his whole line. The Union troops were instantly seized with one of those unaccountable panics to which great armies are liable.96 They broke and ran down the hillside in disorder. McDowell and his officers tried to rally them but the regular infantry alone obeyed commands, covering the volunteers retreat. They crossed the fords of Bull Run and crowded the Warrenton turnpike, a confused mass of disorganized frightened men. The Confederates pursued them only a short distance;97 and McDowell intended to make a stand at Centreville. That was found to be impossible nor could the disorderly flight be arrested at Fairfax Court-House. The larger part of the men, telegraphed McDowell from there, are a confused mob, entirely demoralized. They are pouring through this place in a state of utter disorganization. The flight of the troops was not stopped until they reached the fortifications on the southern side of the Potomac, and many of the soldiers crossed the Long bridge into Washington. All were soon to learn that they had been fleeing before an imaginary foe, as the Confederates made no effective pursuit.
Lincoln in Washington was a prey to the same anxiety as Davis in Richmond. After his return from church, he scanned eagerly the telegrams sent to him from the War Department and from the army headquarters. These despatches were from the telegraphic station nearest the battle-field and toward three oclock became more frequent and reported the apparent course and progress of the cannonade. Impatient as he was to talk over the news, he repaired to Scotts office, where he found the aged and infirm general taking his afternoon sleep. On being waked Scott told him that such reports as had already been received possessed no value but, expressing his confidence in a successful result, he composed himself for another nap. Despatches continued to come with cheering news. It was reported that the Confederates had been forced back two or three miles. One of Scotts aides brought to the President a despatch from a lieutenant of engineers at Centreville saying that McDowell had driven the enemy before him, ordered the reserve forward and desired reënforcements without delay. As Scott deemed the report credible, the President, thinking all doubt at an end, ordered his carriage for his usual evening drive. At six oclock Secretary Seward appeared at the White House pale and haggard. Where is the President? he asked hoarsely of Lincolns private secretaries. Gone to drive, they answered. Have you any late news? he continued. They read him the telegrams announcing victory. Tell no one, said he. That is not true. The battle is lost. McDowell is in full retreat and calls on General Scott to save the capital.98 Returning from his drive a half hour later, the President heard Sewards message, walked over to army headquarters and there read the despatch from a captain of engineers: General McDowells army in full retreat through Centreville. The day is lost. Save Washington and the remnants of this army. The routed troops will not reform. The President did not go to his bed that night; morning found him still on his lounge in the executive office,99 listening to the recitals of newspaper correspondents and other civilians, who had followed McDowell to Centreville and, after the repulse, fearing for their own safety, had rushed back to Washington, beginning to arrive at midnight. Monday broke dismally in the capital, a drizzling rain adding to the gloom. But by noon it was known that the Confederates had not pursued the retreating troops in the aim of taking Washington.
The disaster caused some prominent men to lose their nerve; not so, the President. Bitterly disappointed as he was at the result, he from the first showed no discouragement or loss of control. During the week he paid visits to the camps surrounding Washington and in one of these had William T. Sherman for his guide. Sherman, standing by the roadside, was recognized by Lincoln and Seward, who rode side by side in an open hack and, on his inquiring if they were going to his camps, he received from Lincoln the reply, Yes, we heard that you had got over the big scare, and we thought we would come over and see the boys. The President asked Sherman to get into their carriage and direct their course. Sherman perceived his emotion and his desire to speak to the men, so he ventured to utter a word of caution. Please discourage, he said, all cheering, noise or any sort of confusion; we had enough of it before Bull Run to ruin any set of men; what we need is cool, thoughtful, hard-fighting soldiersno more hurrahing, no more humbug. The Commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States took the advice of his Colonel in good part and, on reaching the first camp, stood up in his carriage and made, as Sherman characterized it, one of the neatest, best and most feeling addresses I ever listened to, referring to our late disaster at Bull Run, the high duties that still devolved on us and the brighter days yet to come. At one or two points the soldiers began to cheer, but he checked them with: Dont cheer, boys. I confess I rather like it myself but Colonel Sherman here says it is not military; and I guess we had better defer to his opinion.100 As he went the rounds, he made the same speech to other soldiers. The effect of his visit was good and proved an earnest of the hold he was soon to acquire on the army.
Sherman thought Bull Run a well-planned battle but badly fought, and Johnston agreed with him. If the tactics of the Federals had been equal to their strategy, wrote Johnston, we should have been beaten. Ropes, on the other hand, believed McDowells tactics better than his strategy. The difference of opinion does not concern the layman, to whom the battle of Bull Run appears as the encounter of two armed mobs in an open field, fighting with the utmost courage to solve a question that had baffled the wisdom of their statesmen.
A spectator, watching Henry House hill, would have seen many of the Union companies and regiments clad in the brilliant militia uniforms which they were accustomed to wear in Fourth-of-July processions. The showy Zouave dress with fez or turban and red or yellow baggy trousers was affected by many. These uniforms as contrasted with the sober United States blue of after battles are strikingly emblematic of the difference between a holiday parade responding to the call On to Richmond and the stern purpose of subduing a united South.
At Bull Run the rank and file of both armies heard for the first time in their lives the sound of cannon and muskets in hostile combat, saw cannon balls crashing through trees and saplings above and around them striking down their friends and brothers, saw a blood-stained field strewed with dead men and horses. And fighting blood was there even though fighting craft were yet to be acquired. The numbers of the dead and wounded show hard fighting.101
Apart from the newspapers there seems to have been little boasting in the South. The men in authority did not for a moment believe that the North would give up the contest. On the contrary they felt that a long and hard struggle was before them.
For a while bitter discouragement prevailed at the North; and the blow was the harder to bear, inasmuch as England, from whom sympathy was ardently desired, now regarded the dissolution of the Union as an accomplished fact. Friends of the South saw in this victory a promise of her eventual triumph and to help forward her cause, endeavored to cloud the issue. It is surprising, wrote Charles Francis Adams, our minister to Great Britain, in a private letter from London, to see the efforts made here to create the belief that our struggle has nothing to do with slavery, but that it is all about a tariff. I cannot conceal from myself the fact that as a whole the English are pleased with our misfortunes.102
Fifty-two years after the struggle, this feeling may be accounted for by the remark of Rochefoucauld, The misfortunes of our best friends are not entirely displeasing to us; but such an attitude during the war on the part of the kin across the sea was felt bitterly by men who were risking life and fortune in what they deemed a sacred cause.103
Note 13. A real slave State was impossible. Twenty-two slaves in the territory was the result of seven years work. III, 176, 268 n., 313. In New Mexico there was a belt 30 miles wide with additional width at the eastern end which was north of 36° 30. [back]
Note 14. III, 150179, 253265; Lect., 68 et seq. For a Senate vote Jan. 16, 1861, III, 266. For vote of the House Feb. 27, 1861, and of the Senate March 2 on the Crittenden Compromise, III, 313. [back]
Note 15. Texas was not at first represented. III, 291, n. 4. [back]
Note 36. Chesnut 33, 39. The steamer Nashville from New York [merchant steamer] and a number of merchant vessels reached the bar and awaited the result of the bombardment, giving indications to those inside of a large naval fleet off the harbor. G. V. Fox, O. R. N., IV, 249; Chadwick, 333. [back]
Note 57. III, 368; J. Hay, I, 23. He added, Sewards messengers sent out by the dozen do not return. An Asst. Adj. Gen. telegraphed from Washington, Washington will fall from starvation alone within ten days. O. R., LI, Pt. I, 367. [back]
Note 58. III, 372 et seq. The alarm in regard to Washington was natural but not well founded, I bid., 374 et seq. [back]
Note 103. Authorities on Bull Run, III, 437, 443457; O. R., II; N. & H., IV; W. Sherman, I; Johnston; J. Davis, I; Ropes, I; R. M. Johnston; C. W., Pt. 2; Swinton; Chesnut; B. & L., I; Globe; Hosmers Appeal; Seward, II; Early; characterizations of Johnston and Jackson, III, 458, 462. [back]