WAR REMINISCENCESBy Captain Saxton of the 157th Regiment, N. Y., Vols.
THE BEGINNING OF HOSTILITIES
Presidential Vote of 1860 Analyzed –South Carolina Eager for War- PresidentBuchanan's Easy Course- Several States Secede- Efforts to Treat With Seceders [sic]-
Star of the West Fired Upon-Confederates Begin to Arm—President Lincoln
Inaugurated-Bombardment of Fort Sumpter [sic].
[CHAPTER NO. ii.]
To the Editor of The Standard:
Sir: Let us analyze the presidential vote of 1860 a little. Mr. Douglas received 3 electoral votes from New Jersey and 9 from Missouri, only 12 in all, although his popular vote was 1,291,574. Mr. Breckinridge, with a popular vote of only 850,082, received 72 electoral votes. Mr. Lincoln was elected by a united North against a divided South. The slave states gave Lincoln 26,430 votes, Douglas 163,525, Breckinridge.570,871 and Bell 519,973. Please note those figures. The "fire eaters'' of the South were as bitterly opposed to the "squatter sovereignty" of Douglas as they were to the black Republicanism of Lincoln. The Bell-Everett party, the late American party, had declared its platform to be "the constitution of our country, the union of our states and the enforcement of the laws," and on that platform note its vote in the slave states. South Carolina at that time chose her electors by the legislature, so that in the above figures of the slave state vote for Breckinridge, her vote is not counted, but probably wou'd have increased it to about 621,000. The total presidential vote in the United States was a little less than 4,700,000. Of those 621,000 votes for Breckinridge in the slave states not nearly all of them were for secession.South Carolina Rebellious.
There had been a meeting of the prominent politicians of South Carolina as early as Oct. 25 before the election and they had decided that in case Lincoln was elected, and they expected he would be, that South Carolina would withdraw from the Union.
Hon. William Boyce, a leading representative in congress from South Carolina, said in a speech at Columbia Nov. 5, the day before election, "I think the only policy for us is to arm as soon as we receive authoritative intelligence of the election of Lincoln." James Chestnut, Jr., a United States senator from South Carolina, said in a speech at the same time and place, "before the setting of tomorrow's sun, in all human probability, the destiny of this republic will be decided."
Secession was brought about by a very small number of the citizens of the slave states. The fire eaters of the South really hoped that Lincoln would be elected as that would give them the excuse they wanted.
There was great rejoicing in Charleston, S. C. on the morning of the 7th of November, 1860, when it was known that Lincoln was elected. Men rushed to shake hands and congratulate each other on the news, and according to program South Carolina publicly seceded Dec. 20, 1860 and was quickly followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. I was teaching a country school that winter and boarding around in the school district as was the custom then. The political situation was thoroughly discussed round the firesides of the homes in the evenings.
Congress had convened Dec. 3 and President Buchanan had said in his last message, "how easy it would be for the American people to forever settle the slavery question. All that the slave states ever wanted was to be let alone." Now what the South really wanted was partnership and cooperation.
Buchanan is Easy.
When secession came, Buchanan said "he believed congress had no power to coerce a state into submission." This argument was taken up at the fireside discussions, a few would argue glibly that we had no right to "coerce" a state, and coercion became a great word that winter.
Then came the futile efforts of congress to conciliate the South. On the night of Dec. 26, Major Anderson, on his own responsibility, transferred the few United States troops and stores he had from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumpter in Charleston harbor. He did this because volunteers were flocking into Charleston, and he was afraid he would be attacked, and Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island was not near as strong as Fort Sumpter, situated in the harbor.
To Treat With Seceders.
Buchanan had sent a private representative to Charleston to negotiate with the seceders. On the government’s part, the army to remain as it was unless due notice was given; on the seceders part, no hostile act to be done while Buchanan was in office. He failed in his mission, but it was tacitly understood that this was an agreement and the secretary of war, Mr. Floyd, promised South Carolina that no change should be made in the disposition of the forces in Charleston harbor. So when the seceders found Major Anderson had indeed transferred his eighty men to Fort Sumpter, they shouted it was an act of intended "coercion," but the Charleston Courier claimed it to be the opening of civil war. When the news reached us we feared we were actually drifting that way. One man in particular wanted to get my honest opinion, did I really think those slave-holders would fight, and I told him I thought it was a great bluff put up by them to scare the North into doing what the South wanted it to do, and this was the general belief in the North, so far as I knew.
The First Shot Fired.
On Jan. 9, 1861, the steamer Star of the West, loaded with re-enforcements and supplies for Fort Sumpter was fired on from Fort Moultrie and Morris Island by the secessionists, and she returned to New York without accomplishing her mission.
A constitution for the provisional government of the Confederate states of America was adopted Feb. 9 at Montgomery, Ala.
Jefferson Davis was inaugurated president, Feb. 18, a confederate army was organized and principally officered by men who were formerly officers in the United States army.
On March 3, Gen. Beauregard, a former major in the United States army, was sent to Charleston and took command of the confederate forces. About the same time commissioners were sent to England, France, Russia, and Belgium, asking recognition of the confederate states and a like commission was sent to Washington but was not received.
We still hoped the whole trouble would be settled when Mr. Lincoln was inaugurated president. In the meantime the secessionists seized most of the government forts, arms and property within their borders.
The 4th of March 1861 came. Mr. Lincoln took the oath of office and how it did thrill our hearts to read the noble words contained in his inaugural address when be said, "he considered the Union unbroken, and he should execute the laws in every state to the extent of his ability." And again, "the power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government. In doing this, there need be no bloodshed or violence, and there should be none unless it was forced upon the national authority."
On April 8 the government at Washington notified Gen. Beauregard of its intention to reinforce Fort Sumpter, and he, Beauregard, was instructed by the confederate state authorities to attempt its reductions. Accordingly fire was opened on Fort Sumpter April 12 and after a bombardment of thirty-four hours Major Anderson surrendered with all the honors of war.