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Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education :: Forums :: General :: Articles and Article Archive
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Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Pages 162- 230 (current)
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Tue Sep 27 2011, 02:59PM

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The President, accordingly, in his message of the 28th Jan-
uary, submitting the Virginia resolutions to Congress, observed
in regard to this one, that "however strong may be my desire
to enter into such an agreement, I am convinced that I do not
progresess the power. Congress, and Congress alone, under the
war-making power, can exercise the discretion of agreeing to
abstain 'from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision
of arms' between this and any other Government. It would,
therefore, be a usurpation for the Executive to attempt to re-
strain their hands by an agreement in regard to matters over
which he has no constitutional control. If he were thus to act,
they might pass laws which he should be bound to obey, though
in conflict with his agreement. Under existing circumstances,
my present actual power is confined within narrow limits. It
is my duty at all times to defend and protect the public prop-
erty within the seceding States, so far as this may be practica-
ble, and especially to employ all constitutional means to protect
the property of the United States, and to preserve the public
peace at this the seat of the Federal Government. If the se-
ceding States abstain 'from any and all acts calculated to pro-
duce a collision of arms,' then the danger so much to be depre-
cated will no longer exist. Defence, and not aggression, has
been the policy of the administration from the beginning. But
whilst I can enter into no engagement such as that proposed, I
cordially commend to Congress, with much confidence that it
will meet their approbation, to abstain from passing any law
calculated to produce a collision of arms pending the proceed-
ings contemplated by the action of the General Assembly of
Virginia. I am one of those who will never despair of the Re-
public. I yet cherish the belief that the American people will
perpetuate the union of the States on some terms just and hon-
orable for all sections of the country. I trust that the media-
tion of Virginia may be the destined means, under Providence,
of accomplishing this inestimable benefit. Glorious as are the
memories of her past history, such an achievement, both in re-
lation to her own fame and the welfare of the whole coutry
would surpass them all."

This noble and patriotic effort of Virginia met no favor from


Congress. Neither House referred these resolutions of her Gen-
eral Assembly to a committee, or even treated them with the
common courtesy of ordering them to be printed. In the Sen-
ate no motion was made to refer them, and the question to print
them with the accompanying message was debated from time
to time until the 21st February, ★ when the Peace Convention
had nearly completed its labors, and after this no further notice
seems to have been taken of the subject. In the House the
motion to refer and print the Virginia resolutions, made by Mr.
Stanton, of Ohio, on the day they were received, was never
afterwards noticed. � This mortifying neglect on the part of the
Representatives of the States and of the people, made a deep
and unfortunate impression on the citizens of Virginia.

� H. J., p. 236. Con. Globe, p. 601.
★ Con. Globe, pp. 590, 636.
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Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:01PM

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Chapter XI

IT is now necessary to return to Fort Sumter. This was the
point on which the anxious attention of the American people
was then fixed. It was not known until some days after the
termination of the truce, on the 6th February, that Governor
Pickens had determined to respect the appeal from the General
Assembly of Virginia, and refrain from attacking the fort dur-
ing the session of the Peace Convention. It, therefore, became
the duty of the administration in the mean time to be prepared,
to the extent of the means at command, promptly to send suc-
cor to Major Anderson should he so request, or in the absence
of such request, should they ascertain from any other quarter
that the fort was in danger. From the tenor of the Major's
despatches to the War Department, no doubt was entertained
that he could hold out, in case of need, until the arrival of re-
enforcements. In this state of affairs, on the very day (30th
January) on which the President received the demand for the
surrender of the fort, he requested the Secretaries of War and the
Navy, accompanied by General Scott, to meet him for the pur-
pose of devising the best practicable means of instantly reën-


forcing Major Anderson, should this be required. After several
consultations an expedition for this purpose was quietly prepared
at New York, under the direction of Secretary Toucey, for the
relief of Fort Sumter, the command of which was intrusted to
his intimate friend, the late lamented Commander Ward of the
navy. This gallant officer had been authorized, to select his
own officers and men, who were to rendezvous on board of the
receiving-ship, of which he was then in command. The expedi-
tion consisted of a few small steamers, and it was arranged that
on receiving a telegraphic despatch from the Secretary, when-
ever the emergency might require, he should in the course of the
following night set sail for Charleston, entering the harbor in
the night, and anchoring if possible under the guns. of Fort

It is due to the memory of this brave officer to state that he
had sought the enterprise with the greatest enthusiasm, and was
willing to sacrifice his life in the accomplishment of the object,
should such be his fate, saying to Secretary Toucey this would
be the best inheritance he could leave to his wife and children.

According to General Scott's version of this affair in his
report to President Lincoln: "At this time, when this [the truce
on the 6th February] had passed away, Secretaries Holt and
Toucey, Captain Ward of the navy, and myself, with the knowl-
edge of the President [ Buchanan], settled upon the employment
under the captain (who was eager for the expedition) of three
or four small steamers belonging to the coast survey." But this
expedition was kept back, according to the General; and for
what reason? Not because the Peace Convention remained
still in session, and the President would not break it up by
sending reënforcements to Fort Sumter whilst the authorities
of South Carolina continued to respect the appeal of the Gen-
eral Assembly of Virginia to avoid collision, and whilst Major
Anderson at the point of danger had asked no reínforcements.
The General, passing over these the true causes for the delay
in issuing the order to Commander Ward to set sail, declares this
was kept back "by something like a truce or armistice made here
[in Washington] between President Buchanan and the principal
seceders of South Carolina," etc., etc., the existence of which has

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Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:03PM

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never been pretended by any person except himself. It soon
appeared that General Scott, as well as the President and Secre-
taries of War and the Navy, had been laboring under a great
misapprehension in supposing, from the information, received
from Major Anderson, that this small expedition, under Com-
mander Ward, might be able to relieve Fort Sumter. How in-
adequate this would have proved to accomplish the object, was
soon afterwards demonstrated by a letter, with enclosures, from
Major Anderson to the Secretary of War. This was read by
Mr. Holt, greatly to his own surprise and that of every other
member of the Cabinet, on the morning of the 4th March, at
the moment when the Thirty-sixth Congress and Mr. Bachanan's
administration were about to expire. In this the Major declares
that he would not be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt
to throw reínforcements into Charleston harbor with a force
of less than twenty thousand good and well disciplined men.
Commander Ward's expedition, consisting of only a few small
vessels, borrowed from the Treasury Department and the Coast
Survey, with but two or three hundred men on board, was ne-
cessarily abandoned. On the next day (5th March) the Secre-
tary of War transmitted Major Anderson's letter, with its enclos-
ures, to President Lincoln. This he accompanied by a letter
from himself reviewing the correspondence between the War
Department and Major Anderson from the date of his removal
to Fort Sumter. The following is a copy, which we submit
without comment:

"WAR DEPARTMENT, March 5th, 1861.

"SIR: I have the honor to submit for your consideration
several letters with enclosures received on yesterday from Major
Anderson and Captain Foster, of the Corps of Engineers, which
are of a most important and unexpected character. Why they
were unexpected will appear from the following brief statement:

"After transferring his forces to Fort Sumter, he ( Major
Anderson) addressed a letter to this Department, under date of
the 31st December, 1860, in which he says: 'Thank God, we
are now where the Government may send us additional troops.
at its leisure. To be sure the uncivil and uncourteous action of


the Governor [of South Carolina], in preventing us from pur-
chasing any thing in the city, will annoy and. inconvenience us
somewhat; still we are safe.' And after referring to some defi-
ciency in his stores, in the articles of soap and candles, he adds:
'Still we can cheerfully put up with the inconvenience of doing
without them for the satisfaction we feel in the knowledge that
we can command this harbor as long as our Government wishes
to keep it.' And again, on the 6th January, he wrote: 'My
position will, should there be no treachery among the workmen
whom we are compelled to retain for the present, enable me to
hold this fort against any force which can be brought against
me; and it would enable me, in the event of war, to annoy the
South Carolinians by preventing them from throwing in supplies
into their new posts, except by the aid of the Wash Channel
through Stone River.'

"Before the receipt of this communication, the Government,
being without information as to his condition, had despatched
the Star of the West with troops and supplies for Fort Sumter;
but the vessel having been fired on from a battery at the en-
trance to the harbor, returned without having reached her des-

"On the 16th January, 1861, in replying to Major Anderson's
letters of the 31st December and of 6th January, I said: 'Your
late despatches, as well as the very intelligent statements of
Lieutenant Talbot, have relieved the Government of the appre-
hensions previously entertained for your safety. In consequence
it is not its purpose at present to reënforce you. The attempt
to do so would no doubt be attended by a collision of arms and
the effusion of blood--a national calamity, which the President
is most anxious to avoid. You will, therefore, report frequently
your condition, and the character and activity of the preparations,
if any, which may be being made for an attack upon the fort, or
for obstructing the Government in any endeavors it may make
to strengthen your command. Should your despatches be of a
nature too important to be intrusted to the mails, you will con-
vey them by special messenger. Whenever, in your judgment,
additional supplies or reënforcements are necessary for your
safety or for a successful defence of the fort, you will at once

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Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:04PM

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communicate the fact to this Department, and a prompt and
vigorous effort will be made to forward them.'

"Since the date of this letter Major Anderson has regularly
and frequently reported the progress of the batteries being con-
structed around him, and which looked either to the defence of the
harbor, or to an attack on his own position; but he has not sug-
gested that these works compromised his safety, nor has he made
any request that additional supplies or reënforcements should be
sent to him. On the contrary, on the 30th January, 1861, in a
letter to this Department, he uses this emphatic language: 'I do
hope that no attempt will be made by our friends to throw sup-
plies in; their doing so would do more harm than good.'

"On the 5th February, when referring to the batteries, etc.,
constructed in his vicinity, he said: 'Even in their present con-
dition, they will make it impossible for any hostile force, other
than a large and well-appointed one, to enter this harbor, and
the chances are that it will then be at a great sacrifice of life;'
and in a postscript he adds: 'Of course in speaking of forcing an
entrance, I do not refer to the little stratagem of a small party
slipping in.' This suggestion of a stratagem was well considered
in connection with all the information that could be obtained
bearing upon it; and in consequence of the vigilance and num-
ber of the guard-boats in and outside of the harbor, it was re-
jected as impracticable.

"In view of these very distinct declarations, and of the earnest
desire to avoid a collision as long as possible, it was deemed en-
tirely safe to adhere to the line of policy indicated in my letter
of the 16th January, which has been already quoted. In that
Major Anderson had been requested to report 'at once,' 'when-
ever, in his judgment, additional supplies or reënforcements
were necessary for his safety or for a successful defence of the
fort.' So long, therefore, as he remained silent upon this point,
the Government felt that there was no ground for apprehension.
Still, as the necessity for action might arise at any moment, an
expedition has been quietly prepared and is ready to sail from
New York on a few hours' notice for transporting troops and
supplies to Fort Sumter. This stop was taken under the super-
vision of General Scott, who arranged its details, and who re-


garded the reënforcements thus provided for as sufficient for the
occasion. The expedition, however, is not upon a scale ap-
proaching the seemingly extravagant estimates of Major Ander-
on and Captain Foster, now offered for the first time, and for
the disclosures of which the Government was wholly unprepared.

"The declaration now made by the Major that he would not
be willing to risk his reputation on an attempt to throw reën-
forcements into Charleston harbor, and with a view of holding
possession of the same, with a force of less than twenty thousand
good and well-disciplined men, takes the Department by surprise,
as his previous correspondence contained no such intimation.

"I have the honor to be,
"Very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,


Having pointed out the course pursued by President Bu-
chanan in regard to Fort Sumter, we must now return to Fort
Pickens, in Florida. This feeble State was the last from which
a revolutionary outbreak could have reasonably been expected.
Its numbers had not entitled it to admission into the Union, and
a large amount of blood and treasure had been expended by the
Government of the United States for the protection and defence
of its inhabitants against the Seminole Indians. Nevertheless,
weak as the State was, its troops, under the command of Colo-
nel William H. Chase, formerly of the corps of engineers of the
United States army, suddenly rose in rebellion, attacked the
troops of the United States, and expelled them from Pensacola
and the adjacent navy yard. Lieutenant Slemmer, of the artil-
lery, and his brave little command, consisting of between sev-
enty and eighty men, were thus forced to take refuge in Fort
Pickens, where they were in imminent danger of being cap-
tured every moment by a greatly superior force.

From the interruption of regular communications with
Washington, Secretary Holt did not receive information of these
events until some days after their occurrence, and then only
through a private channel. Reënforcements were despatched

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Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:06PM

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to Fort Pickens without a moment's unnecessary delay. The
Brooklyn, after being superseded by the Star of West, had
fortunately remained at her old station, ready for any exigency.
She immediately took on board a company of United States
troops from Fortress Monroe, under the command of Captain
Vogdes, of the artillery, and with provisions and military stores
left Hampton Roads on the 24th January for Fort Pickens.
The Secretary of the Navy had, with prudent precaution, with-
drawn from foreign stations all the vessels of war which could
possibly be spared with any regard to the protection of our for-
eign commerce, and had thus rendered the home squadron unu-
sually large. Several of the vessels of which it was composed
were at the time, in the vicinity of Fort Pickens. These, united
with the Brooklyn, were deemed sufficient for its defence. "The
fleet," says the Secretary, "could have thrown six hundred men
into the fort (seamen and marines), without including the com-
pany from Fortress Monroe." ★

Four days after the Brooklyn had left Fortress Monroe, Sen-
ators Slidell, Hunter, and Bigler received a telegraphic despatch
from Senator Mallory, of Florida, dated at Pensacola on the
28th January, with an urgent request that they would lay it
before the President. This despatch expressed an ardent desire
to preserve the peace, as well as the most positive assurance
from himself and Colonel Chase, that no attack would be
made on the fort if its present status should be suffered to re-
main. The President carefully considered this proposal. The
Brooklyn might not arrive in time for the preservation of this
important fort, and for the relief of Lieutenant Slemmer. Be-
sides a collision at that point between the opposing forces would
prove fatal to the Peace Convention so earnestly urged by Vir-
ginia, and then about to assemble. But, on the other hand, the
fort was greatly in need of provisions, and these must at every
hazard be supplied. Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase must be
distinctly informed that our fleet in the vicinity would be al-
ways on the alert and ready to act at a moment's warning, not
only in case the fort should be attacked, but whenever the offi-

★ His testimony before the Hale Committee and the Court-Martial on Captain
Armstrong. Report No. 37, pp. 58, 234.


cers in command should observe preparations for such an attack.
No precaution must be omitted on their part necessary to hold
the fort.

The conclusion at which the President arrived, with the
approbation of every member of his Cabinet, will be seen in the
joint order dated on the 29th January, immediately transmitted
by telegraph from Secretaries Toucey and Holt to the com-
manders of the Macedonian and Rrooklyn, and "other naval
officers in command," and "to Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer, 1st
artillery, commanding Fort Pickens, Pensacola, Florida." The
following is a copy: "In consequence of the assurances received
from Mr. Mallory in a telegram of yesterday to Messrs. Slidell,
Hunter, and Bigler, with a request it should be laid before the
President, that Fort Pickens would not be assaulted, and an
offer of such assurance to the same effect from Colonel Chase,
for the purpose of avoiding a hostile collision, upon receiving
satisfactory assurances from Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase that
Fort Pickens will not be attacked, you are instructed not to
land the company on board the Brooklyn unless said fort shall
be attacked, or preparations shall be made for its attack. The
provisions necessary for the supply of the fort you will land.
The Brooklyn and the other vessels of war on the station will
remain, and you will exercise the utmost vigilance and be pre-
pared at a moment's warning to land the company at Fort Pick-
ens, and you and they will instantly repel any attack on the
fort. The President yesterday sent a special message to Con-
gress communicating the Virginia resolutions of compromise.
The commissioners of different States are to meet here on Mon-
day, the 4th February, and it is important that during their
session a collision of arms should be avoided, unless an attack
should be made, or there should be preparations for such an at-
tack. In either event the Brooklyn and the other vessels will
act promptly. Your right, and that of the other officers in com-
mand at Pensacola, freely to communicate by special messenger
[with the Government], and its right in the same manner to
communicate with yourself and them, will remain intact, as the
basis on which the present instruction is given."

On the arrival of this order at Pensacola the satisfactory

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Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:07PM

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assurances which it required were given by Mr. Mallory and
Colonel Chase to our naval and military commanders, and the
result proved most fortunate. The Brooklyn had a long pas-
sage. Although she left Fortress Monroe on the 24th January,
she did not arrive at Pensacola until the 6th February. In the
mean time Fort Pickens, with Lieutenant Slemmer (whose con-
duct deserves high commendation) and his command, were, by
virtue of this order, supplied with provisions and placed in per-
fect security, until an adequate force had arrived to defend it
against any attack. The fort has ever since been in our pos-

General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, speaks of
this arrangement in the hostile spirit toward President Buchanan
which pervades the whole document. He condemns it without
qualification. He alleges, "that the Brooklyn, with Captain
Vogdes' company alone, left the Chesapeake for Fort Pickens
about January the 22d, and on the 29th President Buchanan,
having entered into a quasi armistice with certain leading se-
ceders at Pensacola and elsewhere, caused Secretaries Holt and
Toucey to instruct, in a joint note, the commanders of the warves-
sels off Pensacola, and Lieutenant Slemmer, commanding Fort
Pickens, to commit no act of hostility, and not to land Captain
Vogdes' company unless the fort should be attacked." He washes,
his hands of all knowledge of the transaction by declaring, "That
joint note I never saw, but suppose the armistice was consequent
upon the meeting of the Peace Convention at Washington, and,
was understood to terminate with it."

Will it be believed that General Scott himself had expressly
approved this joint order before it was issued, which he presents
to President Lincoln in such odious colors? President Buchanan
had a distinct recollection that either the Secretary of War or
of the Navy, or both, had at the time informed him of this fact.
Still he would have hesitated to place himself before the public
on an important question of veracity in direct opposition to a
report to his successor by the Commanding General of the army.
He was relieved from this embarrassment by finding among his
papers a note from Secretary Holt to himself, dated on the 29th
January, the day on which the joint order was issued. From


this the following is an extract: "I have the satisfaction of say-
ing that on submitting the paper to General Scott he expressed
himself entirely satisfied with it, saying that there could be no
objection to the arrangement in a military point of view or
otherwise." How does General Scott, in November, 1862, at-
tempt to escape from this dilemma? Whilst acknowledging
that few persons are as little liable as Mr. Holt to make a mis-
statement, either by accident or design, he yet states that he has
not the slightest recollection of any interview with him on the
subject. ★ He proceeds, to say that he does indeed remember
that Mr. Holt, about this time, approached his bedside when he
was suffering from an access of pain; leaving it to be inferred,
though he does not directly say so, that this might account for
his want of attention; and then he slides off, as is his wont, to
another subject. But his subterfuge will not avail him. The
testimony of Mr. Holt is conclusive that he not only expressed
his satisfaction with tile order, but expressly declared that
there could be no objection to it in a military or any other point
of view. It is impossible that Mr. Holt, on the very day of the
interview, and without any conceivable motive, should have
made a false report to the President of what had just occurred
between himself and the General. Strange forgetfulness!

General Scott, also, in his report to President Lincoln, com-
ments severely on the delay of the order for reënforcements to
Fort Taylor, Key West, and Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island,
notwithstanding this had been issued so early as the 4th Jan-
uary, and though these reënforcements had arrived in sufficient
time to render both forts perfectly secure. This the General
admits; and there the matter ought to have ended. But not
so. It was necessary to elicit from this simple transaction
reasons for magnifying his own services and censuring President
Buchanan. According to the report, he had experienced great
difficulty in obtaining permission from the President to send
these reënforcements; "and this," says he, "was only effected
by the aid of Secretary Holt, a strong and loyal man." He
then launches forth into the fearful consequences which might

★ General Scott's rejoinder to ex-President Buchanan, "National Intelligencer",
Nov. 12, 1862.

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have, followed but for his own vigilance and foresight. He even
goes so far as to say that with the possession of these forts, "the
rebels might have purchased an early recognition."

In opposition to these fanciful speculations, what is the sim-
ple statement of the fact? The administration were well aware
of the importance of these forts to the commerce of the Gulf
of Mexico. General Scott asked the attention of Secretary
Floyd, then about to leave office, to the reënforcement of them
by a note of the 28th December. Not receiving any response,
he addressed a note on the 30th to the President on the same
subject. The rupture with the first South Carolina commission-
ers occurred on the 2d January, and the time had then arrived
when the President, acting on his established policy, deemed it
necessary to send reeënforcements, not only to Fort Sumter, but
also to Forts Taylor and Jefferson, and these were accordingly
despatched to the two latter on the 4th January. The same
course precisely would have been pursued had General Scott
remained at his headquarters in New York.

But the most remarkable instance of General Scott's want
of memory remains to be exposed. This is not contained in
his report to President Lincoln, but is to be found in his let-
ter of the 8th November, 1862, to the "National Intelligen-
cer," in reply to that of ex-President Buchanan. Unable to
controvert any of the material facts stated in this letter, the
General deemed it wise to escape from his awkward position
by repeating and indorsing the accusation against Secretary
Floyd, in regard to what has been called "the stolen arms,"
although this had been condemned as unfounded more than
eighteen months before, by the report of the Committee on
Military Affairs of the House of Representatives. This was that
the Secretary, in order to furnish aid to the approaching re-
bellion, had fraudulently sent public arms to the South for the
use of the insurgents. This charge chimed in admirably with
public prejudice at the moment. Although the committee, after
full investigation, had so long before as January, 1861, proved
it to be unfounded, yet it has continued, notwithstanding, to be
repeated and extensively credited up till the present moment.
Numerous respectable citizens still believe that the Confederate


States have been fighting us with cannon, rifles, and muskets
thus treacherously placed in their possession. This delusion
presents a striking illustration of the extent to which public
prejudice may credit a falsehood not only without foundation,
but against the clearest official evidence. Although the late
President has not been implicated as an accessory to the alleged
fraud, yet he has been charged with a want of vigilance in not
detecting and defeating it.

The pretext on which General Scott seized to introduce this
new subject of controversy at so late a period, is far-fetched and
awkward. Mr. Buchanan, whilst repelling the charge in the
General's report to President Lincoln, that he had acted under
the influence of Secretary Floyd in refusing to garrison the
Southern fortifications, declares that "all my Cabinet must
bear me witness that I was the President myself, responsible for
all the acts of the administration; and certain it is that during
the last six months previous to the 29th December, 1860, the
day on which he resigned his office, after my request, he exer-
cised less influence in the administration than any other mem-
ber of the Cabinet." ★ Whereupon the General, in order to
weaken the force and impair the credibility of this declaration,
makes the following insidious and sarcastic remarks: "Now,
notwithstanding this broad assumption of responsibility, I should
be sorry to believe that Mr. Buchanan specially consented to
the removal, by Secretary Floyd, of 115,000 extra muskets and
rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, from North-
ern repositories to Southern arsenals, so that on the breaking
out of the maturing rebellion, they might be found without cost,
except to the United States, in the most convenient, positions
for distribution among the insurgents. So, too, of the one hun-
dred and twenty or one hundred and forty pieces of heavy
artillery, which the same Secretary ordered from Pittsburg to
Ship Island, in Lake Borgne, and Galveston, Texas, for forts
not yet erected. Accidentally learning, early in March, that
under this posthumous order the shipment of these guns had
commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary Holt (acting
for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the robbery."

★ Letter to "National Intelligencer," 28th Oct., 1862.

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Whilst writing this paragraph it would seem impossible that
the General had ever read the report of the Committee on
Military Affairs, and equally impossible that he, as Command-
ing General of the army, should have been ignorant of this
important document, so essentially connected with his official

But to proceed to the report of the committee, which effect-
ually disproves the General's assertions. At the commence-
ment of the session of 1860-'61, public rumor gave birth to this
charge. It very justly and properly attracted the attention of
the House of Representatives, and from its nature demanded a
rigorous investigation. Accordingly, on the motion of Mr.
Stanton, of Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on Military
Affairs, the House adopted a resolution instructing the commit-
tee "to inquire and report to the House to whom and at what
price the public arms, distributed since the 1st January, 1860,
had been disposed of," etc., etc. The investigation was deemed
of such paramount importance that the House authorized the
committee not only to send for persons and papers, but also to
report at any time in preference to all other business. From
the nature of the charge it could not be difficult for the commit-
tee to establish either its truth or its falsehood. Arms could
not be removed from one armory or arsenal to another by Sec-
retary Floyd, without the knowledge and active participation
of the officers and attachés of the Ordnance Bureau. At its
head was Colonel Craig, an officer as loyal and faithful as any
who belonged to the army. It was through his agency alone
that the arms could have been removed, and it is certain that
had he known or suspected treachery on the part of the Secre-
tary, he would instantly have communicated this to the Presi-
dent, in order that it might be defeated.

The' committee made their first report to the House on the
9th January, 1861. ★ With this they presented two tables (Nos.
2 and 3), communicated to them by Mr. Holt, then the Secre-
tary of War, from the Ordnance Bureau, exhibiting "the num-
ber and description of arms distributed since 1st January, 1860,
to the States and Territories, and at what price." Whoever

★ "Congressional Globe", p. 294. House Journal, p. 156.


shall examine table No. 2 will discover that the Southern and
Southwestern States received much less in the aggregate instead
of more than the quota of arms to which they were justly enti-
tled under the law for arming the militia. Indeed, it is a re-
markable fact that neither Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Loui-
siana, North Carolina, nor Texas received any portion of these
arms, though they were army muskets of the very best quality.
This arose simply from their own neglect, because the quota to
which they were entitled would have been delivered to each of
them on a simple application to the Ordnance Bureau. The
whole number of muskets distributed among all the States, North
and South, was just 8,423. Of these the Southern and South-
western States received only 2,091, or less than one-fourth.
Again, the whole number of long range rifles of the army calibre
distributed among all the States in the year 1860, was 1,798. Of
these, six of the Southern and Southwestern States, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia
received in the aggregate 758, and the remainder of these States
did not receive any.

Thus it appears that the aggregate of rifles and muskets
distributed in 1860 was 10,151, of which the Southern and
Southwestern States received 2,849, or between one-third and
one-fourth of the whole number. Such being the state of the
facts, well might Mr. Stanton have observed in making this
report, much to his credit for candor and fairness, that "there
are a good deal of rumors, and speculations, and misappre-
hension as to the true state of facts in regard to this mat-
ter." ★ The report of the committee and the opinion expressed
by its chairman before the House, it might have been sup-
posed, would satisfy General Scott that none of these muskets
or rifles had been purloined by Secretary Floyd. But not so.
The ex-President had stated in his letter to the "National In-
telligencer," of November 7th, 1862, that "the Southern States
received in 1860 less instead of more than the quota of arms to
which they were entitled by law." This statement was founded
on the report of the committee, which had now been brought
fully to his notice. He, notwithstanding, still persisted in his

★ Congressional Globe, 1860-'61, p. 294.

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error, and in his letter to the. "National Intelligencer" of the
2d December, 1862, he says: This is most strange contrasted
with information given to me last year, and a telegram just re-
ceived from Washington and a high officer, not of the Ordnance
Department, in these words and figures: 'Rhode Island, Dela-
ware, and Texas had not drawn at the end of eighteen sixty
( 1860) their annual quotas of arms for that year, and Massachu-
setts, Tennessee, and Kentucky only in part. Virginia, South
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and
Kansas were by the order of the Secretary of War supplied
with their quotas for eighteen sixty-one ( 1861) in advance, and
Pennsylvania and Maryland in part.'" It is in vain that the
General attempts to set up an anonymous telegram against the
report of the committee. From what source did he derive the
information given to him last year? And who was the author
of the telegram? He does not say in either case. Surely be-
fore he gave this telegram to the world, under the sanction of
his own name, he, ought to have ascertained from the Ordnance
Bureau whether it was true or false. This he might easily and
speedily have done, had he been careful. to present an authentic
statement. There is a mysterious vagruenoss about this telegram,
calculated if not intended to deceive the casual reader into the
belief that a great number of these arms had been distributed
among the enumerated States, embracing their quotas not only
for 1860 but for 1861. From it no person could imagine that
these eight States in the aggregate had received fewer muskets
and rifles than would be required to arm two full regiments.

The next subject investigated by the committee was, had
Secretary Floyd sent any cannon to the Southern States? This
was a most important inquiry. Our columbiads and 32-pound-
ers were at the time considered equal, if not superior, to any
cannon in the world. It was easy to ascertain whether lie had
treacherously, or otherwise, sent any of these formidable weap-
ons to the South. Had he done this, it would have been impos-
sible to conceal the fact and escape detection. The size and
ponderous weight of these cannon rendered it impracticable to
remove them from the North to the South without the knowl-
edge of many outside persons, in addition to those connected


with the Ordnance Bureau. The committee reported on this
subject on the 18th February, 1861. There was no evidence
before them that any of these cannon had actually been trans-
mitted to the South. Indeed, this was not even pretended.
From their report, however, it does appear that Secretary Floyd
had attempted to do this on one occasion a very short time be-
fore he left the department, but that he had failed in this at-
tempt in consequence of a countermand of his order issued by
Mr. Holt, his successor in the War Department.

It requires but a few words to explain the whole transaction.
Secretary Floyd, on the 20th December, 1860, without the knowl-
edge of the President, ordered Captain (now Colonel) Maynadier,
of the Ordnance Bureau, to cause the guns necessary for the
armament of the forts on Ship Island and at Galveston to be
sent to those places. Thig order was given verbally and not in
the usual form. It was not recorded, and the forts were far
from being prepared to receive their armaments. The whole
number of guns required for both forts, according to the state-
ment of the Engineer Department to Captain Maynadier, was
one hundred and thirteen columbiads and eleven 32-pounders.
When, late in December, 1860, these were about to be shipped
at Pittsburg for their destination on the steamer Silver Wave,
a committee of gentlemen from that city first brought the facts
to the notice of President Buchanan. The consequence was,
that, in the language of the report of the committee: "Before
the order of the late Secretary of War [ Floyd] had been fully
executed by the actual shipment of said guns from Pittsburg, it
was countermanded by the present Secretary." This prompt
proceeding elicited a vote of thanks, on the 4th January, 1861,
from the Select and Common Councils of that city, "to the
President, the Attorney-General [ Black], and the acting Secre-
tary of War [ Holt]."

It is of this transaction, so clearly explained by the commit-
tee in February, 1861, that General Scott, so long after as the
8th November, 1862, speaks in the language which we again
quote: "Accidentally learning, early in March, that under this
posthumous order [of Secretary Floyd] the shipment of these
guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary

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Holt (acting for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the
robbery." This statement is plain and explicit. The period
of the General's alleged communication to Secretary Holt is
precisely fixed. It was in March, after the close of Mr. Bu-
chanan's administration, and whilst Mr. Holt was acting for
Secretary Cameron, who had not yet taken possession of the
department. This was just in time to prevent the "posthu-
mous" order of Secretary Floyd from being carried into execu-
tion. Why does the General italicize the word "posthumous"?
Perhaps he did not understand its signification. If this word
has any meaning as applicable to the subject, it is that Mr. Floyd
had issued the order to Captain Maynadier after his office had
expired. Be this as it may, the object is palpable. It was to
show that Mr. Buchanan had suffered his administration to ter-
minate leaving the "posthunions" order of Governor Floyd in
full force until after Mr. Lincoln's accession, and that it would
even then have been carried into execution but for the General's
lucky interposition.

The General, in his letter to the "National Intelligencer"
of 2d December, 1862, attempts to excuse this deplorable want
of memory to the prejudice of Mr. Buchanan. Whilst acknowl-
edging his error in having said that the countermand of Mr.
Floyd's order was in March, instead of early in the previous
January, he insists that this was an immaterial mistake, and
still actually claims the credit of having prevented the shipment
of the cannon. "An immaterial mistake!" Why, time was
of the very essence of the charge asminst Mr. Buchanan. It
was the alleged delay from January till March in countermand-
ing the order, which afforded any pretext for an assault on his
administration. After his glaring mistake had been exposed,
simple justice, not to speak of magnanimity, would have re-
quired that he should retract his error in a very different spirit
and manner from that which he has employed.

It is due to Colonel Maynadier to give his own explanation
for having obeyed the order of Secretary Floyd. In his letter
to the Potter Committee of the House of Representatives, dated
3d February, 1862, he says: In truth it never entered my
mind at this time ( 20th December, 1860), that there could be


any improper motive or object in the order, for on the question
of union and secession Mr. Floyd was then regarded through-
out the country as a strong advocate of the Union and opponent
of secession. He had recently published, over his own signa-
ture, in a Richmond paper, a letter on this subject, which gained
him high credit at the North for his boldness in rebuking the
pernicious views of many in his own State."

The committee, then, in the third place, extended back their
inquiry into the circumstances under which Secretary Floyd
had a year before, in December, 1859, ordered the removal of
one-fifth of the old percussion and flint-lock muskets from the
Springfield armory, where they had accumulated in inconven.
ient numbers, to five Southern arsenals. The committee, after
examining Colonel Craig, Captain Maynadier, and other wit-
nesses, merely reported to the House the testimony they had
taken, without in the slightest degree implicating the conduct
of Secretary Floyd. Indeed, this testimony is wholly inconsist-
ent with the existence of any improper motive on his part. He
issued the order to Colonel Craig ( December 29tb, 1859) almost
a year before Mr. Lincoln's election, several months before his
nomination at Chicago, and before the Democratic party had
destroyed its prospects of success by breaking up the Charleston
Convention. Besides, Secretary Floyd was at the time, as he
had always been, an open and avowed opponent of secession.
Indeed, long afterwards, when the question had assumed a more
serious aspect, we are informed, as already stated by Captain
Maynadier, that he had in a Richmond paper boldly rebuked
the advocates of this pernicious doctrine. The order and all the
proceedings under it were duly recorded. The arms were not
to be removed in haste, but "from time to time as may be most
suitable for economy and transportation," and they were to be
distributed among the arsenals, "in proportion to their respec-
tive means of proper storage." All was openly transacted, and
the order was carried into execution by the Ordnance Bureau
according to the usual course of administration, without any
reference to the President.

The United States had on hand 499,554, say 500,000 of these
muskets. They were in every respect inferior to the new rifle

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muskets, with which the army had for some years been sup-

plied. They were of the old calibre of --- of an inch, which
had been changed in 1855 to that of ---- in the new rifled mus-

kets. It was 105,000 of these arms that Secretary Floyd ordered to be sent to the five Southern arsenals; "65,000 of them

were percussion muskets of the calibre of ----, and 40,000 of this

calibre altered to percussion." By the same order 10,000 of the

old percussion rifies of the calibre of ---- were removed to these

arsenals. These constitute the 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, which, according to General Scott's allegation nearly three years thereafter, had
been sent to the South to furnish arms to the future insurgents. We might suppose from this description, embracing "ammunition," powder and ball, though nowhere to be found except in
his own imagination, that the secessionists were just ready to commence the' civil war. His sagacity, long after the fact, puts to shame the dulness of the Military Committee. Whilst obliged
to admit that the whole proceeding was officially recorded, he covers it with an air of suspicion by asserting that the transaction was "very quietly conducted." And yet it was openly conducted according to the prescribed forms, and must have been known at the time to a large number of persons, including the General himself, outside either of the War Department, the Springfield armory, or the Southern arsenals. In truth, there was not then the least motive for concealment, even had this been possible.

The General pronounces these muskets and rifles to have been of an "extra" quality. It may, therefore, be proper to state from the testimony what was their true character.

In 1857 proceedings had been instituted by the War Department, under the act of 3 March, 1825, "to authorize the sale of unserviceable ordnance, arms, and military stores." ★ The
inspecting officers under the act condemned 190,000 of the old muskets, as unsuitable for the public service," and recommended that they be sold. In the spring of 1859, 50,000 of
them were offered at public sale. "The bids received," says Colonel Craig, "were very unsatisfactory, ranging from 10½

★ Stat. at Large, 127.


cents to $2.00, except one bid for a small lot for $3.50. In submitting them to the Secretary I recommended that none of them be accepted at less than $2.00." An effort was then made to
dispose of them at private sale for the fixed price of $2.50. So low was the estimate in which they were held, that this price could not be ' obtained, except for 31,610 of them in parcels. It
is a curious fact, that although the State of Louisiana had purchased 5,000 of them at $2.50, she refused to take more than 2,500. On the 5th July, 1859, Mr. H. G. Fant purchased a large lot of them at $2.50 each, payable in ninety days; but in the mean time he thought better of it, and like the State of Louisiana failed to comply with his contract. And Mr. Belnap, whose bid at $2.15 flor 100,000 of them intended for the Sardinian Government had been accepted by the Secretary, under the impression it was $2.50, refused to take them at this price after the mistake had been corrected. Colonel Craig, in speaking of these muskets generally, both those which had and had not been condemned, testified that "It is certainly advisable to get rid of that kind of arms whenever we have a sufficient number of others to supply their places, and to have all our small arms of one calibre. The new gun is rifled. A great many of those guns [flint-locks], altered to percussion, are not strong enough to rifle, and therefore they are an inferior gun. They are of a different calibre from those now manufactured by the Government."

Had the cotton States at the time determined upon rebellion, what an opportunity they lost of supplying themselves with these condemned "extra muskets and rifles " of General Scott!

In opposition to the strictures of General, Scott upon Mr. Buchanan's administration, it may be pardonable to state the estimate in which it was held by Mr. Holt, the Secretary of War. No man living had better opportunities than himself of forming a just judgment of its conduct, especially in regard to military matters. Besides, in respect to these, he had been in constant official communication with General Scott from the first of January, 1861, until the inauguration of President Lincoln. He had previously been Postmaster-General from the
decease of his predecessor, Governor Brown, in March, 1859,


[ Edited Mon Feb 13 2012, 03:00PM ]
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until the last day of December, 1860, when he was appointed Secretary of War, at this period the most important and responsible position in the Cabinet. In this he continued until the end of the administration. In his customary letter of resignation addressed to Mr. Buchanan, immediately before tile advent of the new administration, and now on file in the State Department did not confine, himself to the usual routine in such cases, but has voluntarily added an expression of his opinion of the administration of which he had been so long a member.
He says that --

"In thus terminating our official relations, I avail myself of the occasion to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the confidence with which, in this and other high positions, you have honored me, and for the firm. and generous support which you have constantly extended to me, amid the arduous and perplexing duties which I have been called to perform. In the full conviction that your labors will yet be crowned by the glory that belongs to an enlightened statesmanship and to an unsullied patriotism, and with sincerest wishes for your personal hap-
piness, I remain most truly

"Your friend, " J. HOLT."

It is fair to observe that the policy of President Lincoln toward the seven cotton States which had seceded before his inauguration, was, in the main, as conservative and forbearing as that of Mr. Buchanan. No fault can be justly found with his inaugural address, except that portion of it derogating from the authority of decisions of the Supreme Court. This was doubtless intended to shield the resolution of the Chicago platform, prohibiting slavery in Territories, from the Dred Scott decision. It cannot be denied that this had at the time an un-happy influence upon the border States, because it impaired the hope of any future compromise of this vital question.

President Lincoln specifies and illustrates the character of his inaugural in his subsequent message to Congress of the 4th July, 1861. He says: "The policy chosen looked to the exhaustion of all peaceable measures, before a resort to any stronger


ones. It sought to hold the public places and property, not already wrested from the Government, and to collect the revenue, relying for the rest on time, discussion, and the ballot-box. It promised a continuance of the mails at Government expense to the very people who were resisting the Government, and it gave repeated pledges against any disturbance to any of the people or any of their rights. Of all that a President might constitutionally and justifiably do in such a case, every thing was forborne without which it was possible to keep the Government on foot."

The policy thus announced, whilst like that of Mr. Buchanan, was of a still more forbearing character. Nay, more; the administration of Mr. Lincoln deliberated, and at one time, it is believed, had resolved, on the advice of General Scott, to withdraw the troops under Major Anderson from the harbor of Charleston, although this had been repeatedly and peremptorily
refused by the preceding administration. If sound policy had not enjoined this forbearing course, it would have been dictated by necessity, because Congress had adjourned after having deliberately refused to provide either men or means for a defensive, much less an aggressive movement.

The policy thus announced by Mr. Lincoln, under the circumstances, was the true policy. It was the only policy which could present a reasonable hope of preserving and confirming the border States in their allegiance to the Government. It was the only policy which could by possibility enable these States to bring back the seceded cotton States into the Union. It was the only policy which could cordially unite the Northern people in the suppression of rebellion, should they be compelled to resist force by force for the preservation of the Constitution and the Union. It was, however, rendered impossible to pursue, this conservative policy any longer after the Government of the Confederate cotton States, on the 13th April, 1861, had commenced the civil war by the bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter. Its wisdom has been vindicated by the unanimous and enthusiastic uprising of the Northern people, without distinction of party, to suppress the rebellion which had thus been inaugurated.

Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Contributors: James Buchanan - author. Publisher: D. Appleton. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1866.


We now have the Buchanan version of the events leading up to the war. Slavery being a cause of secession was soon overlooked and forgotten as the issue at Fort Sumter took front and center. The simple act of ordering Major Anderson back to Fort Moultrie may have saved the lives of 500,000 Americans. To bad neither Buchanan nor Lincoln had the moral integrity or would compromise and make such and order.


[ Edited Tue Sep 27 2011, 03:51PM ]
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