« PreviousContinue »
ing his time and gaining strength; he was silently getting ready for the struggle that he feared must come; and the North, holding its breath in the waiting and watching the President, saw that he was doing his very best to keep peace with the South and to give it an opportunity to take that sober second thought and return to the Union. So, he waited, and made ready. If a very great matter may be likened to a small one, his attitude was what it had been in the old days at New Salem when he told Jack Armstrong and his wild boys of Clary's Grove that he did not want to fight, and stood off and tried to pacify them until they attacked him. Then he roused and showed his giant strength.
The South waited also. But while it waited, it grew all the time weaker and weaker. The truth was that it had really no grievances to fight for; nothing was the matter except that its leaders wanted the power all the time, and the election had shown that the other party was to have its turn at that; that slavery was to stay within its present limitations and be protected there by the government, not molested in any way, but not permitted to stride over the whole land. The Southern leaders knew that there were many persons in the South who would be only too glad to remain in the Union, if they could,
but who were being held down so that they could not speak but at peril of their lives.
These leaders perceived that every day that nothing happened, every day that the Federal government held off and let them alone, these secret Unionists thought better of the government; that after a time they would gather strength to say so; and that something must be done speedily to unite the whole South as one man against the North.
They saw that while they waited, they lost time. If they did not use the army they had collected, it would melt away; if they did not strike a blow to show that the Southern Confederacy was something more than a convention, it would go to pieces of itself. They had hoped that, after all, they could force Abraham Lincoln to strike first in the name of the government. They had not become very well acquainted with him then.
It has been said that some of the forts at the South had fallen into the hands of the Confederacy-those on the Texan frontier, and those in Pensacola Bay, and others. But in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, the forts, Pinckney, Moultrie and Sumter had still stood garrisoned by the United States troops when South Carolina seceded. And when Lincoln was inaugurated, more than two months
later, although the other two forts had been abandoned because Buchanan could not protect and properly garrison and supply them with food and ammunition, the stars and stripes still floated over Fort Sumter guarded by that loyal officer, Major Robert Anderson.
But the confederates blockaded it so thoroughly that no help could get to it. When Major Anderson sent word to the President that the troops had food for only a few days longer, Mr. Lincoln sent a message to the Governor of South Carolina that an attempt would be made "to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only," and that if the attempt was not resisted, no provisions, or arms, or or ammunition would be thrown in without giving notice, or unless the fort were attacked.
The relief expedition started. But it never got in. And the confederate authorities decided that this attempt to carry food to a starving garrison was "a declaration of war."
April 12th, 1861, the first gun was fired against Fort Sumter; and then the batteries all about the fort opened a vigorous cannonade.
Major Anderson endured this as long as he could; and then he and his seventy men sadly hauled down the stars and stripes and surrendered to General Beauregard and his seven thousand armed confederates.
HOW THE NORTH RESPONDED.
The people of the North were not familiar with military tactics. They had not understood that the blockade of Fort Sumter was in itself war. They were still dreaming of compromise and peace, although the political sky was black with storm.
But in every city and town and village and little hamlet and far-away house, and in every room of every house, and in every heart throughout the length and breadth of the North was heard the boom of that cannon at Sumter firing upon our flag.
And at the sound of that cannon the North rose up, flung away all thought of question or compromise, and stood forth in its wrath—a giant.
Much, much had it endured, and would have endured for peace and brotherhood. But to fire on the flag! That was WAR!
Then men forgot whether they were Repub
licans, or Democrats. They remembered only that they were Americans; that they had a country to save and must save it; and that death would be better than to have their flag trailed in the dust. Some Englishman who had been visiting this country a few years previously had said that we were a nation of soldiers. The guns of Sumter proved the truth of his prophecy. In a day, as it were, an army of patriots had sprung up to the defence of their country.
For directly after Fort Sumter was taken, the States of North Carolina, Arkansas, and Virginia went out of the Union and joined the Southern Confederacy. Until this time Virginia had been between the confederates and Washington. But now that it had itself become disunionist, it was a threat instead of a protection to the national capital, while if Maryland had not actually joined the South, so many of her people wanted to do it that she also was a menace rather than a safeguard to the government; and the government meant the country.
There was only one thing to do in this great emergency, and Mr. Lincoln did it promptly. Sumter fell on the fourteenth of April, 1861. That was Sunday. That very day by mail and telegraph there started over the country the President's first first proclamation calling for