In mid-April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln himself raised an army – which only Congress may accomplish – for the purpose of waging war against South Carolina. The United States Constitution, Article III, Section 3 states that “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving the Aid and Comfort.” Lincoln had sworn to defend and uphold the Constitution, a document better understood by the North Carolina governor.
No Troops from North Carolina
“Mr. Lincoln took his seat as President on March 4, 1861. He did not receive an electoral vote in any Southern State and out of a popular vote of 2,804,560 only 1,857,610 were cast for those electors favorable to him. He carried but 16 of the 33 States then in the Union. He was inaugurated as president without having received a majority of the popular vote either of the States or the people.
An attempt by President Lincoln to reinforce the US garrison at Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, was resisted by the Confederate forces under General Beauregard, and on April 14, 1861, after a bombardment lasting thirty-six hours, the fort surrendered.
On the next day, April 15, President Lincoln issued his proclamation calling on the several States to finish their quota of 75,000 troops “to suppress combinations too powerful for the law to contend with.” The same day, Secretary of War Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania, telegraphed North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis: “Call made on you tonight for two regiments of militia for immediate service.”
Reclining on his couch in the executive office, a mortal disease robbing him of his life’s blood, Governor Ellis received the dispatch and at one replied:
“Sir: I regard the levy of troops made by the Administration for the purpose of subjecting the States of the South, as in violation of the Constitution and a gross usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked war upon the liberties of a free people. You can get no troops from North Carolina.”
Governor Ellis at once issued his proclamation calling the Legislature to meet in special session. On its assembling, the Legislature issued a call for a convention of the people and authorize the enrollment of 20,000 volunteers.”
(An Address on the Services of General Matt W. Ransom, William H.S. Burgwyn, delivered in the North Carolina Senate Chamber before the Ladies Memorial Association and citizens, May 10, 1906)