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Union, and “as when I had the privilege of addressing the Legislature a year ago, so now do I urge you to the needful preparation to meet whatever contingency may befall us" by the establishment of an arsenal for the manufacture and repair of arms. And by January 5, 1861, we find him doing that which "his oath, Mississippi's honor and his own," demanded he should not do.
There was at least one beneficial result of the mission of the Star of the West, in the resignation of the secretary of the interior, Thompson, January 7, and that of Thomas, of the treasury, January 11. The former was guilty of traitorous action in sending information to Charleston of the mission of the Star of the West. He offered the excuse that honor compelled him to keep promise with a friend,1 as if such promise could take precedence of his oath of office and his duty to the government of which he was a minister! The resignation of Thomas was forced by information from Wall Street to the president, that not a dollar would be forthcoming until he should place men in the cabinet upon whom the Union could depend." John A. Dix, then postmaster at New York, was named by a meeting of leading men as one whose appointment would be required. The president offered him the war department, of which until now Holt was only acting secretary; but Dix, knowing that the under
1 Thompson's letter, National Intelligencer, January 11, 1861. 2 Dix, Dix, I., 362.
standing of the meeting mentioned was that he
From the time of his appointment to the end of the administration, Dix was a resident of the White House. How different an atmosphere was brought into it is shown in his action regarding the revenuecutters at the Gulf ports. On January 18 he sent a treasury official to New Orleans with orders to provision the cutters and send them to New York. January 29 he received a despatch advising him that the captain of the McClelland refused to obey the order. Dix at once sent a telegram ordering his arrest and the command to be turned over to a lieutenant. The despatch ended with a phrase which was to become a Unionist watchword: "If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot." Notwithstanding, however, the two cutters at New Orleans remained in secessionist hands, and were burned a year later to prevent their falling into the hands of Farragut.
2 Ibid., 371.
1 Dix. Dix, I., 362, 363.
FORT PICKENS AND THE CONFEDERACY
HE long show of diplomatic etiquette caused by the visit of Hayne had one break, in the occupancy, by Lieutenant Slemmer and his company of forty-eight men, of Fort Pickens, a large and important work at the western end of Santa Rosa Island, which forms the south side of the extensive bay of Pensacola. Slemmer acted under orders of the war department, of January 3, 1861, to do his utmost to prevent the seizure of either of the forts in Pensacola harbor by surprise or assault, issued when the president found himself in a more courageous spirit through the resistance to the South Carolina commissioners. With the assistance of the gun-boat Wyandotte and store-ship Supply, after spiking the guns at forts Barrancas and McRee, and destroying ten tons of powder by pouring it into the sea, he transferred the rest of the powder and stores during January 9, 10, and 11.1 But the Pensacola navy-yard, seven miles west of the town, with its great store of guns and other material, was 1 War Records, Serial No. 1, pp. 334-336.
sacrificed under circumstances to deserve the deepest condemnation, no attempt at resistance being made to the three or four hundred Florida militià who appeared January 12, two days after the secession of the state, at the yard gates, although there was at the yard a guard of forty marines and some sixty other men who could have been armed, besides the steamer Wyandotte, with a crew of sixty men and an armament of four 32-pounders, and the ship Supply, with a crew of thirty-five, a force ample, supported as it was by the Wyandotte's guns, to repel any number of militia brought against it.1
Equal culpability and folly was shown by the secretary of the navy, who did at last act, but too late. For many weeks a strong squadron had been lying at Vera Cruz, for the protection of American interests, including the steamer Powhatan, flag-ship, the steam-gunboat Pocahontas, the sailing frigates Sabine and Cumberland, and the sloop-of-war St. Louis. It was not until December 24 that orders were issued for the St. Louis, and January 5 for the Sabine, to proceed to Pensacola. With the slow mail service of the day, it was not until January 21 that the orders were received by Commodore Pendergrast, who at once despatched the two ships, but, under instructions, retained the most useful and necessary of all, the Powhatan, whose mere presence would have held the place beyond the possibility of attack. Had orders been sent to Vera Cruz by 1 Naval War Records, IV., 16–56.
the Wyandotte even so late as January 3, the Powhatan could have been in Pensacola by January 10, the sailing distance being but eight hundred miles. The president's spasm of energy lasted, however, sufficiently to enable orders to be given, January 21, 1861, for the Brooklyn to carry from Fort Monroe to Fort Pickens Captain Vogdes's company of artillery, with orders for Vogdes to take over the command at Pickens, "as well as that of other forts and barracks which it may be in your power to occupy and defend, with the co-operation of any naval commander or commanders at hand, though it is understood that Fort Barrancas and probably Fort McRee are already in the hands of the seceders." But a postscript nullified the whole spirit of the order: "You are to understand that you are not to attempt any reoccupation or recapture involving hostile collision, but that you are to confine yourself strictly to the defensive." 1
Ex-President Tyler, who had but just arrived in Washington as one of the commissioners from Virginia to the "Peace Conference," heard, January 25, of the despatch of the Brooklyn, and at once sent a note to the president questioning him in the matter. He received reply that the Brooklyn was "on an errand of mercy and relief," and that her movement was in no way connected with South Carolina. But this was not enough for the selfconstituted secession committee of senators.
1 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 352.