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PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
In the White House-Assembling of the Rebel Congress-Rebel Emis
saries Sent to Washington-A Vigorous Policy Clamored forThe First Gun at Sumter-Great Excitement throughout the Republic—A Nation in Arms-Attack on the Sixth Massachusetts-Notable Deaths.
HEN he installed himself in the White House,
the official residence of Presidents of the United States, Lincoln found that two lamentable features of affairs were really not wholly unobjectionable, from one point of view. He was surrounded by hordes of office-seekers; the country was on the brink of war. Nevertheless, with his ready way of finding something encouraging, even in calamities, he said that if the people of the loyal States did not have implicit confidence in the stability of the Union and the Government they would not flock in such numbers to Washington to hunt for places under that Government. And, although Buchanan's administration had gone out of power leaving everything in the wildest confusion, it had left no policy for Lincoln to revoke or modify. As he expressed it, there was nothing to be undone. Buchanan had merely let things drift. The Rebels, meanwhile, had been busily engaged in beginning their so-called Confederacy. But they made very little progress.
No troops had been sent against them. They had no “armed invader” to repel, as they had expected. Although the bulk of the United States army was practically in their hands, they had no excuse for fighting, none for that invasion of the North which their leaders had promised and some of their allies in the free States had expected.
The Rebel Congress assembled at Montgomery, and, on the ninth of March, 1861, passed a bill for the organization of an army. This was an insurrectionary measure, and was intended to draw the fire, so to speak, of the Government. But no steps were taken by Lincoln. Next, two commissioners, or emissaries, Mr. Forsyth of Alabama, and Mr. Crawford of Georgia, were sent to Washington to negotiate a treaty with the United States Government, just as if they represented a foreign government. They presented themselves at the State Department, but no official reception was accorded them, and when they applied to Lincoln, the President refused to see them, but sent them, with a certain grim humor, a copy of his inaugural address as an intimation of the views which, as President of the United States, he had just enunciated. They were in a quandary. Doubtless they expected to be arrested, as they might have been, being openly in rebellion against the Government and liable to be tried for treason. Still, the President did nothing. The commissioners dallied in the national capital for a time, in communication with their friends in the South, and gleaning what information they could. In order to delay their departure, they had asked
that the reply of the Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, should be given to them as late as the eighth of April, and this request was acceded to. taken altogether, a most extraordinary situation. Several States of the Union were formally in revolt against the Government of the Republic, with a socalled Congress in session, a full-fledged Government in running order, an army and navy in process of formation, and diplomatic agents at the capital of the nation. Lincoln made no sign.
While the commissioners, Forsyth and Crawford, were hanging about Washington, Mr. Talbot, a lieutenant in the United States army, had been sent to Charleston, South Carolina, by the President, to notify the authorities of that State and Gen. Beauregard, commander of the Rebel forces, that Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, would be provisioned at all hazards. This determination of the Government was also communicated to Forsyth and Crawford in Washington. On the eighth of April, Secretary Seward's formal reply was given to the commissioners, although it was dated March fifteenth. In the document, which was a memorandum merely, Mr. Seward formally told the commissioners that they could have no recognition from the Government of the United States.
In their reply, the commissioners said that they had expected the document earlier, although they acknowledged that they had, as they expressed it, “consented” to a delay; and they intimated that this delay had been availed of by the United States Government to prepare for war. Referring to
President Lincoln's expressed intention to send relief to Fort Sumter, they said that this was, in effect, “a declaration of war against the Confederate States," and that, as representatives of their people, they accepted “the gage of battle there thrown down to them.” They accordingly departed to their own country, hopeful that the Government had forced upon them an attitude of defence. Still, no overt act of warfare was permitted by Lincoln, who patiently waited for the Rebels to fire the first gun. He had not long to wait.
The city of Charleston was seething with a mob of secessionists, impatient for the war to open. The newspapers and the more prominent leaders clamored for hostilities to be begun by the Southern States. In a public speech, delivered in Charleston, April 10, 1861, Mr. Roger A. Pryor, of Virginia, declared that no terms of agreement could be acceptable to the South short of recognition of the Confederacy. Other Southerners expressed similar opinions. The sentiment in the South was overwhelmingly in favor of beginning active hostilities against “the old Union," as the phrase went. The leaders were determined, if possible, to trick the President into giving them a pretext for war. On his part he was equally determined that the overt act, for which everybody was waiting and about which everybody was talking, should come from the Rebels.
The delay was exasperating to many of the people of the loyal States. Men clamored for “a vigorous policy,” although just such a policy had been distinctly laid down in the inaugural of the President.
They wanted something done, and they could not see why Lincoln should wait. The newspapers and public speakers of the North generally demanded that the traitors should be arrested and punished. Especially was the attention of the whole people, North and South, fixed upon Fort Sumter, where Major Robert Anderson was in command of a very small force of United States troops. The Rebels regarded the occupation of that fort as a standing menace to the city of Charleston, and they had, moreover, all along insisted that all forts, arsenals, and other public property of the United States within the limits of the so-called Confederacy were now the property of the seceded States, being their “share” of the joint property of the now divided Union. The garrison of Fort Sumter had been on the mainland previously, but when the troubles began, Major Anderson moved his command to Fort Sumter one night, to the great wrath of the Rebels, who construed this as “an overt act” of hostility from the Government of the United States. The Major Anderson to whom reference is here made is the same who, as Lieutenant Anderson, swore Abraham Lincoln into the military service of the United States during the Black Hawk war, in 1832. Since that time many changes had occurred. One of the three regular officers who were at Dixon's Ferry, preparing for the war with Black Hawk's men, was now in command of beleaguered Sumter. Another, Zachary Taylor, had been President of the United States, and was dead. Another, Jefferson Davis, was President of the Rebel Confederacy. And