Browsing "Withdrawing from the Union"

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

The presidential messages of Jefferson Davis were filled with assertions of the South’s legal right to secede and form a more perfect union, and determine its own form of government to the letter of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Not losing sight of this, even in early 1865, one Confederate congressman stated that “This is a war for the Constitution, it is a constitutional war.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Betrayed by Yankees Perverting the Constitution

“Contributors to Confederate periodicals explored parallels between the Confederacy and other fledgling nations or independence movements – the Dutch republic, the “young kingdom of Italy,” and the Polish and Greek rebellions.

But the authors were careful to dissociate the South from genuinely radical movements; it was the conservative European nationalism of the post-1848 period with which the Confederacy could identify most enthusiastically. The Dutch struggle, an essayist in the July, 1862, issue of the Southern Presbyterian Review explained approvingly, was like the Confederate, for in both situations, “not we, but our foes, are the revolutionists.”

The Daily Richmond Enquirer was even more explicit about the Poles:

“There is nothing whatever in this movement of a revolutionary, radical or Red Republican character. It is the natural, necessary protest and revolt of, not a class or order, but an ancient and glorious nation, against that crushing, killing union with another nationality and form of society. It is . . . the aristocratic and high-bred national pride of Poland revolting against the coarse brute power of Russian imperialism . . . At bottom, the cause of Poland is the same cause for which the Confederates are now fighting.”

The Southern government welcomed a Spanish analogy between Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and northern advances across the Potomac. British recognition of the new Italian state encouraged [Robert] Toombs to see parallels there, as well. “Reasons no less grave and valid than those which actuated the people of Sicily and Naples,” he explained, had prompted the Confederacy to seek its independence.

But the nationalist movement with which the Confederates most frequently identified was . . . the American War of Independence. A central contention of Confederate nationalism, as it emerged in 1861, was that the South’s effort represented a continuation of the struggle of 1776. The South, Confederates insisted, was the legitimate heir of American revolutionary tradition. Betrayed by Yankees who had perverted the true meaning of the Constitution, the revolutionary heritage could be preserved only by secession. Southerners portrayed their independence as the fulfillment of American nationalism.

Secession represented continuity, not discontinuity; the Confederacy was the consummation, not the dissolution, of the American dream. A sermon preached in South Carolina explained that “The doctrines of the original Puritans were, and are, the doctrines of the Bible . . . but the descendants of the Puritans have gone far astray from the creed of their forefathers.”

[Southerners strived] to avoid the dangerous “isms” – feminism, socialism, abolitionism – that had emerged from Northern efforts at social betterment. But the logic of Confederate nationalism . . . was to prescribe significant shifts in the Southern definition of Christian duty. Secession thus became an act of purification, a separation from the pollutions of decaying Northern society, that “monstrous mass of moral disease,” as the Mobile Evening News so vividly described it.”

(The Creation of Confederate Nationalism, Drew Gilpin Faust, LSU Press, 1988, pp. 13-14, 27, 29-30)

The War of Conquest

The War of Conquest

“The only proper title of our war is “the war of conquest.” I always speak of it so. To call it a civil war is to acknowledge that the States, which are now merely counties of a government at Washington, were not the sovereignties they were until 1865.

Then we had a “Union” based on “the consent of the governed”; now we have a “nation,” founded on force like the monarchies of Europe. “Civil war,” therefore, does not express the truth. If England and France go to war . . . would it be called a “civil war?” Nor the war between the sovereign States of the North against the Confederate States.

Neither let us speak of the “Union troops” and the “ex-Confederates.” Are we not now just as much Confederate as ever? I don’t like the “ex.” “X” is an unknown quantity; and the world knows our quality and found out how small was our quantity when it was discovered that with only six hundred thousand men, all told, we kept out of Richmond for four years twenty-five hundred thousand men of the other nation. Let our war be known as what it was in reality, the “war of conquest.”

(Rev. P.G. Robert, Chaplain, Thirty-fourth Virginia Infantry, Confederate Veteran, November, 1898, page 520)

“The Argument is Exhausted . . .”

Those in South Carolina with Unionist views in late 1860 realized that the revolutionary Republicans of the North would agree to no compromise, and a secession convention received wide support among them. This encouragement for South Carolina’s independent action was exemplified by Charlestonian Richard Yeadon stating on November 15 that he had been “amongst those rather noted for their devotion to the Union,” but that “he worshipped at that shrine no longer.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

“The Argument is Exhausted . . .”

“In the December 6 election of delegates to the secession convention voting in most places was light, a fact that has sometimes been interpreted as indicating a strong reaction from the secession enthusiasm so manifest at the time of the passage of the convention bill. Actually the light vote must be explained by the absence, in most places, of a contest.

When the secession convention met December 17, South Carolina was confident that her action would soon be followed by other States. Governor Gist, in his message to the legislature at the end of November, had stated that there was not the least doubt that Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Arkansas would immediately follow, and eventually all the South. Several days before the convention assembled, John A. Elmore and Charles E. Hooker, commissioners from Alabama and Mississippi respectively, arrived in Columbia. They interviewed practically every member of the legislature and the assembling convention, and positively guaranteed secession in their States.

Early in December a caucus of twenty-six Southern congressmen from eight States met and unanimously decided that immediate action by South Carolina was desirable. Soon thereafter the very encouraging address of the Southern congressmen to their constituents appeared:

“The argument is exhausted. All hope of relief in the Union through the agency of committees, Congressional legislation, or constitutional amendment, is extinguished, and we trust the South will not be deceived by appearances or the pretense of new guarantees. In our judgment the Republicans are resolute in the purpose to grant nothing that will or ought to satisfy the South. We are satisfied the honor, safety, and independence of the Southern People require the organization of a Southern Confederacy – a result to be obtained only by separate State secession.”

Assembling at the Baptist church in Columbia December 17, the convention called D.F. Jamison, delegate from Barnwell. If elections meant anything, he said, the State should secede as quickly as possible. The greatest honor of his life, he said, would be to sign as chairman of the convention an ordinance of secession.”

(South Carolina Goes to War, 1860-1865, Charles Edward Cauthen, UNC Press, 1950, pp. 63-68)

Lee’s Loyalty and Interest

The New England philosopher Josiah Royce wrote in his “Philosophy of Loyalty” that it “seems clear that the correctness of one’s judgment is not the test of loyalty,” and that “one who makes a decision, after due care and investigation, and remains steadfast, therefore constitutes loyalty. Thus did he select Robert E. “Lee as an example of the loyal man.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lee’s Loyalty and Interest

“[Royce] maintains that Lee fairly considered and honestly decided the question at issue between Virginia and the United States and was steadfast therein. Charles Francis Adams came to the same conclusion. “As to Robert E. Lee individually,” says Adams, “I can only repeat . . . [that] I hope I should have been filial and unselfish enough to have done as Lee did.”

Now it must be conceded that every man in the seceding States, whether he would or no, had to decide whether he would adhere to his State or to the Nation, and if he decided honestly and put self-interest behind him, he decided right.

With Lee it was not a question of the constitutional right of Virginia to withdraw from the Union; a more trying ordeal confronted him: What should be his action after Virginia actually withdrew? In this situation Lee had no misgivings; his allegiance was to Virginia.

But, in arriving at this decision, he was not dogmatic, for he realized that there might be two sides to the question. In a letter of April 20 to his cousin, Roger Jones, of the United States Army, he stated that he entirely agreed with him in his notions of allegiance, but he could not advise him. “I merely tell you what I have done that you may do better.”

This sentence has been subjected to criticism, yet it is characteristic of the style of Lee and of Southern conservatives generally. Though it is not self-deprecating it is not an admission of error. It does not affirm that there is something better, but that if there is the young man should do it. The sentence is susceptible of another construction: Lee was quietly boasting and implied that there was nothing better! But the context leads to the opposite conclusion. Such under-statements mark the cultured Southerner of the period.

Lee did not complain of Southern officers who felt it their duty to remain in the Union – other might choose this course but he could not. No more could have laid violent hands on Virginia than on his own father. If to fight against the Union caused him to shed tears of blood, to have fought against Virginia would have caused him to lose self-respect.

[George H.] Thomas, a Virginian, remained true to the Union; so did [Montgomery] Meigs of Georgia, and [Winfield Scott . . . That these men were loyal Lee did not doubt. When Thomas was asked how he could fight against Virginia, he replied, “I have educated myself not to feel.”

As to Scott, he was an old man and had no local ties; he was as much at home in London as in Richmond. [Lee’s cousin] Admiral Samuel P.] Lee was once asked the question propounded to Thomas and answered, “When I find the word Virginia in my commission I will join the Confederacy.” This reply seems technical.

If Washington had so concluded, when he read the King’s Commission, he would not have led the Continentals against the Crown. And what Washington did, Lee did. “For,” as Lee declared, “Washington found no inconsistency in fighting, at one time, with the English against the French and, at another, with the French against the English.”

Lee, indeed, saw an analogy between the Revolution of 1776 and the Revolution of 1861. Colonists threw off the yoke of Great Britain, in ’61 eleven Southern States threw off the yoke of the North. In each the act was one of revolution. Lee maintained that a government held together by coercion – such as Lincoln’s call for troops would create – was but the semblance of a government. He remembered that Washington himself had declared, “There is nothing that binds one country or one State to another but interest.”

(Robert E. Lee, a Biography, Robert W. Winston, William Morrow & Company, 1934, pp 94-96)

Lincoln’s Cry of Military Necessity

The population and vast resources of the Northern States in 1861 made the claim of “military necessity” by Lincoln fall on many deaf ears. By late 1862 the military situation was critical and Lincoln withheld Northern casualty numbers at Fredericksburg from the public. Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation — patterned after that of Lord Dunmore in 1775 and Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane in 1814 – was to encourage insurrection and race war behind Southern lines, and put black men in blue uniforms as white Northern soldiers resisted enlistment.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Cry of Military Necessity

“On January 1, 1863, another proclamation was issued by the President of the United States declaring the emancipation [of slaves] to be absolute within the Confederate States, with the exception of a few districts. The closing words of the proclamation were these:

“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Constitution upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind and the gracious favor of Almighty God.”

Let us test the existence of the military necessity here spoken of by a few facts.

The white male population of the Northern States was then 13,690,364. The white male population of the Confederate States was 5,449,463. The number of troops which the United States had called to the field exceeded one million men. The number of troops which the Confederate government had then in the field was less than four hundred thousand men.

The United States government had a navy which was only third in rank in the world. The Confederate government had a navy which at the time consisted of a single small ship on the ocean. The people of the United States had a commerce afloat all over the world. The people of the Confederate States had not a single port open to commerce.

The people of the United States were the rivals of the greatest nations of the world in all kinds of manufactures. The people of the Confederate States had few manufactures, and those were of articles of inferior importance.

The government of the United States possessed the treasury of a union of eighty years with its vast resources. The Confederate States had to create a treasury by the development of financial resources. The ambassadors and representatives of the former were welcomed at every court in the world. The representatives of the latter were not recognized anywhere.

Thus the consummation of the original antislavery purposes was verbally reached; even that achievement was attended with disunion, bloodshed, and war.

It is thus seen what the United States government did, and our view of this subject would not be complete if we should omit to present their solemn declarations of that which they intended to do. In his proclamation of April 15, 1861, calling for seventy-five thousand men, the President of the United States government said:

“In any event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, and destruction or interference with property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.”

On July 22, 1861, Congress passed a resolution relative to the war, from which the following is an extract:

“That this war is not waged on our part in any spirit of oppression, or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation, or purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or established institutions of those [Confederate] States; but to defend and maintain the supremacy of the Constitution, and to preserve the Union with all the dignity, equality, and rights of the several States unimpaired; and that, as soon as these objects are accomplished, the war ought to cease.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Jefferson Davis, Volume II, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, pp. 187-189)

 

 

Lincoln’s Goal a Futile Dream

The British were wary of the American expansionist William Seward who became a dominant leader of the new Republican party in the mid-1850s. He spoke indiscreetly of annexing Canada and usually sided with anti-monarchical revolutionaries in Europe. The British, experiencing American secession 80-some years before and discovering the positive effects of independence movements, advised accepting secession as an accomplished fact.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Goal a Futile Dream

“The great majority of British observers remained convinced until very near the end of the war that the North could not win and that the Union could not be restored. There is abundant evidence of this belief in British publications and in the correspondence of British leaders.

“I do not see how the United States can be cobbled together again by any compromise,” the [British] Foreign Secretary wrote the British minister in Washington in January 1861. “The best thing would be that the right to secede should be acknowledged, that there should be a separation . . . “

During the first month of the Civil War the British minister reported from Washington that all chance of reconstructing the Union was “gone forever.” The Economist thought Lincoln’s goal of restoring the Union was “a futile dream. Everyone knows and admits that the secession is an accomplished and irrevocable fact.”

In a memorandum to Queen Victoria at the end of 1861, the British prime minister listed the “virtually accomplished dissolution in America of the great Northern Confederation” as one of the noteworthy events of the previous year.

The belief that the North could not win the war was based on British experience during the American Revolution, on inadequate information reaching Britain on conditions and capabilities in both North and South, and most of all on wishful thinking by Britain’s ruling classes, which welcomed the division of the American superpower and feared the consequences in Britain of the triumph of popular democracy in the North.

The British remembered that during the American Revolution Lord Cornwallis had found it impossible to control very much of the American South. The Times of London, Britain’s most influential newspaper, doubted that it would be possible “to reduce and hold in permanent subjection a tract of country nearly as large as Russia in Europe and inhabited by Anglo-Saxons.” It advised the North to “accept the situation as we did 80 years ago upon their soil.”

(One War at a Time, The International Dimensions of the American Civil War, Dean B. Mahin, Brassey’s, 1999, pp. 24-25)

Major Anderson’s Reluctance at Fort Sumter

In his “Rise and Fall”, Jefferson Davis wrote that it is “undeniably that the ground on which Fort Sumter was built was ceded by South Carolina to the United State IN TRUST for the defense of her own soil and her own chief harbor. No other State or combination of States could have any distinct interest or concern in the maintenance of a fortress at that point, unless as a means of aggression against South Carolina herself.” He added that the North’s claim that it was public property was untenable unless stated from an imperial view of total control over the people of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Major Anderson’s Reluctance at Fort Sumter

“The course pursued by the government of the United States with regard to the forts had not passed without earnest remonstrance from the most intelligent and patriotic of its own friends . . . [Senator Stephen] Douglas of Illinois – who was certainly not suspected of sympathy with secession, or lack of devotion to the Union – on March 15th offered a resolution recommending the withdrawal of the garrisons from all forts within the limits of the States that had seceded, except those at Key West and the Dry Tortugas. In support of the resolution he said:

“We certainly cannot justify the holding of forts there, much less the recapturing of those which have been taken, unless we intend to reduce those States themselves into subjection. I take it for granted, no man may deny the proposition, that whoever permanently holds Charleston and South Carolina is entitled to possession of Fort Sumter.

Whoever permanently holds Pensacola and Florida is entitled to the possession of Fort Pickens. Whoever holds the States in whose limits those forts are placed is entitled to the forts themselves. Unless there is something peculiar in the location of some particular fort that makes it important for us to hold it for the general defense of the whole country, its commerce and interests, instead of being useful only for the defense of a particular city or locality.

It is true that Forts Taylor and Jefferson, at Key West and Tortugas, are so situated as to be essentially national, and therefore important to us without reference to the seceded States. Not so with Moultrie, Johnson, Castle Pinckney, and Sumter, in Charleston Harbor; not so with Pulaski, on the Savannah River . . .

We cannot deny that there is a Southern Confederacy, de facto, in existence, with its capital in Montgomery. We may regret it. I regret it most profoundly; but I cannot deny the truth of the fact, painful and mortifying as it is . . . I proclaim boldly the policy of those of with whom I act. We are for peace.”

Mr. Douglas, in urging the maintenance of peace as a motive for the evacuation of the forts, was no doubt aware of the full force of his words. He knew that their continued occupation [by Lincoln] was virtually a declaration of war [on the South].

The general-in-chief of the United States Army, also, it is well-known, urgently advised the evacuation of the forts. But the most striking protest against the coercive measure finally adopted was that of [Fort Sumter commander] Major Anderson himself. The letter in which his views were expressed has been carefully suppressed in the partisan narratives of that period and well-nigh lost sight of, although it does the highest honor to his patriotism and integrity.

It was written on the same day on which the announcement was made to Governor Pickens of the purpose of the United States government to send supplies to the fort, and it is worthy of reproduction here:

“Letter of Major Anderson . . . Protesting Against [Secretary of War] Fox’s Plan for Relieving Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter, April 8, 1861

To Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General, United States Army.

Colonel: . . . I had the honor to receive, by yesterday’s mail, the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he states surprises me very greatly – following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was “authorized” to make.

I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. It is, of course, now too late for me to give any advice in reference to the proposed scheme of Captain Fox.

We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which I see is about to be thus commenced. That God will still avert it, and cause us to revert to pacific means to maintain our rights, is my ardent prayer.

Your obedient servant, Robert Anderson, Major, 1st Artillery, commanding.”

This frank and manly letter . . . fully vindicates Major Anderson from all suspicion of complicity or sympathy with the bad faith of the government he was serving. The “relief squadron,” as with unconscious irony it was termed, was already underway for Charleston, consisting, according to their own statement, of eight vessels, carrying twenty-six guns and about fourteen hundred men, including the troops sent for reinforcement of the garrison.

These facts became known to the Confederate government, and it was obvious that no time was to be lost in preparing for, and if possible anticipating the impending assault.”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, pp. 281-284)

New England Rebels and Tyrants

Admiral Raphael Semmes wrote in the immediate postwar that “Constitutions are made for the protection of minorities,” that “they naturally cling to the guarantees and defences provided for them in the fundamental law; it is only when they become strong” and become majorities “that their principles and their virtues are really tested.” He was referring to New England which when in the minority was firmly for States’ rights, but in 1860 when it became the majority, became strongly nationalist and embarked on a path to subjugate the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New England Rebels and Tyrants

“The American Constitution died of a disease that was inherent in it. It was framed on false principles inasmuch as the attempt was made, through its means of binding together, in a republican form of government, two dissimilar peoples, with widely dissimilar interests.

Monarchical governments may accomplish this since they are founded by force, but republican governments never. The secession of the Southern States was a mere corollary of the American proposition of government; and the Northern States stultified themselves, the moment they started to resist it. The consent of the Southern States being wanted, there should have been an end of the question.

If the Northern States were not satisfied to let them go, but entertained, on the contrary, a desire to restrain them by force, this was a proof that those States had become tired of the republican form and desired to change it.

So loth was the South to abandon the Union that she made strenuous efforts to remain in it, even after Mr. Lincoln had been made president in 1860. In this election that dreaded sectional line against which President Washington had warned his countrymen in his Farewell Address, had at last been drawn . . . There had at last arisen a united North, against a untied South.

[Lincoln’s election] was purely geographical; it was tantamount to a denial of the co-equality of the Southern States with the Northern States, since it drove the former out of the common Territories. In both houses of Congress the Northern faction which had so recently triumphed in the election of their president, was arrayed in hostility to the South, and could not be moved [to compromise] an inch. Rebels, when in a minority, [New Englanders] had become tyrants now that they were in a majority.

Nothing remained to the South, but to raise the gauntlet which had been thrown at her feet. The federal government which had been established by our ancestors had failed of its object. Instead of binding the States together, in peace, and amity, it had, in the hands of one portion of the States, become an engine of oppression of the other portion. It so happened, that the slavery question was the issue which finally tore them asunder, but . . . this question was a mere means, to an end.

[That] end was empire . . . in this hemisphere, the drama which had so often been enacted in the other, of the more powerful nation crushing out the weaker.

The war between the American sections was but the prototype of many other wars, which have occurred among the human race. It had its origin in the unregenerated nature of man, who is only an intellectual wild beast, whose rapacity has never yet been restrained, by a sense of justice. The American people thought, when they framed the Constitution that they were to be an exception to mankind, in general.

History had instructed them that all other peoples, who had gone before them had torn up paper governments, when the paper was the only bulwark that protected such governments, but then they were the American people, and no such fate could await them.”

(Memoirs of Service Afloat During the War Between the States, Raphael Semmes, 1868, LSU Press, 1996, excerpts, pp. 53-70)

 

South Regards Itself as Unbeatable

Southerners in early 1861 exhibited the same intense desire for political independence and fighting spirit as their revolutionary fathers. Though Russell did not fully know at the time why his country would not come to the aid of the Confederacy, after September 1863 it had more to do with hostile Russian fleets in Northern ports and threats against British shipping.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

South Regards Itself as Unbeatable

“[William H. Russell’s] Diary is as rich in historical value as in interest, which is saying much. His energy and reputation at first carried him everywhere, and his courage made him signally outspoken. In New York, where Mayor Fernando Wood and half the press were opposed to the war, he was shocked by the apathy and want of patriotism . . . The pages of the Herald and several other journals were filled with the coarsest abuse of the Great Rail Splitter, but contained not a word to encourage the government in any decided policy. In Washington the correspondent found much bustle and nervousness, but complete uncertainty.

When he saw the District of Columbia militia and volunteers drilling before the War Department Building, he set them down as a sorry crowd. “Starved, washed-out creatures most of them, interpolated with Irish and flat-footed, stumpy Germans.”

Crossing to the South, the correspondent found a far more belligerent spirit than among the Northerners. At Norfolk a crowd was yelling “Down with the Yankees! Hurrah for the Southern Confederacy!” and threatening the frigate Cumberland. On the Wilmington [North Carolina] quay there were piles of shot and shell, which a resident identified as “anti-abolitionist pills.” All along the way in the Carolinas he found Confederate flags whipping in the breeze, troops waiting for the train, and an excited buzz about Fort Sumter, which had just been captured.

At Charleston the fury, the animosity, and the eagerness for war astounded him. He went out to Morris Island, where there was a camp, full of life and excitement. Tents were pitched everywhere, the place was full of tall, well-grown young men in gray, and the opening of hostilities had plainly put everyone in high spirits:

“But secession is the fashion here. Young ladies sing for it; old ladies pray for it; young men are dying to fight for it; old men are ready to demonstrate it. The founder of the school was St. Calhoun. Here his pupils carry out their teaching in thunder and fire. States’ Rights are displayed after its legitimate teaching, and the Palmetto flag and the red bars of the Confederacy are its exposition.

The utter contempt and loathing for the venerated Stars and Stripes, the abhorrence of the very words United States, the immense hatred of the Yankees on the part of these people cannot be conceived by anyone who has not seen them. 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 its old shape, at all events, by any power on earth.”

At Pensacola, Mobile, and New Orleans he was struck by the same intense fighting spirit, reporting that “as one looks at the resolute, quick, angry faces around him, and hears but the single theme, he must feel that the South will never yield to the North, unless as a nation beaten beneath the feet of a victorious enemy.”

The South regarded itself as unbeatable. But from one other belief, the belief that England would intervene, Russell strongly dissented. “Why, I expect, sir,” one Charleston merchant told him, “that if those miserable Yankees try to blockade us, and keep you from our cotton, you’ll just send their ships to the bottom and acknowledge us.” Russell said no.”

(America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, Oxford University Press, 1948, pp. 217-218)

Witnessing the Bombardment of Fort Sumter

Like many North Carolinians, Alfred Moore Waddell, editor of the Wilmington Daily Herald, was pro-Union before open hostilities commenced in 1861. He supported John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for the presidential ticket in 1860, but patriotically supported North Carolina’s defense and self-determination after secession on May 20th. The following is drawn from www.cfhi.net, “Alfred Moore Waddell, Enlightened Wilmingtonian.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Witnessing the Bombardment of Fort Sumter

“On the evening of April 10, 1861, the telegraph operator at the Wilmington office confidentially communicated to me at the [Wilmington Daily] Herald office a telegram that had just passed through from General Beauregard to Jefferson Davis at Richmond, saying that he would open fire on Fort Sumter at 4 a.m., if Major Anderson refused to surrender.

Thereupon I hurried to the old “Manchester Depot” opposite to the Market Street dock on the other side of the [Cape Fear] river, and caught the train for Charleston as it was passing out. I described the trip to a New York audience in 1878 in the following brief sentences:

“I shall never forget that, after a night of great anxiety, and when about twenty miles from the city, just as the first grey streaks began to lighten the eastern sky, and when the silent swamps were wakened only by the rumble of the train, there was distinctly heard a single dull, heavy report like a clap of distant thunder, and immediately following it at intervals of a minute or two, that peculiar measured throb of artillery which was then so new, but afterwards became so familiar to our ears.

The excitement on the train at once became intense, and the engineer, sympathizing with it, opened his valves, and giving free rein to the iron horse, rushed us with tremendous speed into the historic city.

Springing from the train and dashing through the silent streets we entered our hotel, ascended to the roof, and here I experienced sensations which never before or since have been mine. As I stepped into the cupola and looked out upon that splendid harbor, there in the center of its gateway to the sea, half wrapped in the morning mist, lay Sumter, and high above its parapets, fluttering in the morning breeze floated proudly and defiantly the stars and stripes.

In a moment afterwards just above it there was a sudden red flash, and a column of smoke, followed by an explosion, and opposite on James Island, a corresponding puff floated away on the breeze, and I realized with emotion indescribable that I was looking upon a civil war among my countrymen.”

(Some Memories of My Life, Alfred Moore Waddell, Edwards & Broughton Printing, 1908, pp. 53-54)