The Tragic Conflict: The Civil War and Reconstruction

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

8
The Opening Scenes

Isaac N. Arnold

On the 12th of March the Confederate authorities commissioned John Forsyth, M. J. Crawford and A. B. Roman, Commissioner to the United States, with a view, as they said, to a speedy adjustment of all (questions growing out of the political separation.

Mr. Seward, Secretary of State, declined to receive them; denied that the Confederate States had, in law, or in fact, withdrawn from the Union; denied that they could do so, except through a National Convention assembled under the provisions of the Constitution. On the 9th of April the Commissioners withdrew from Washington, after addressing a letter to the Secretary of State, saying that they, on behalf of the rebel Government, accepted the gage, of battle, etc. Anti yet, after the receipt: of this letter, such was the unparalleled forbearance of the Government, that these Commissioners were not arrested, but permitted quietly, to withdraw, with the open avowal of going home to wage war!

On the 18th of March, General Braxton Bragg, commanding insurgent forces in Florida, issued an order, forbidding the citizens of the Confederate States from furnshing supplies to the Navy of the United States.

At this period, in March, even Mr. Douglas had not fully made up his mind in favor of coercing the seceding States into submission. Prominent Democrats in the Free States openly advocated the, joining of Northern States to the Confederacy. Such was the undecided condition of public sentiment in the Free Slates in March; and as yet the Government of Mr. Lincoln had taken no bold, decided action, clearly indicating his policy. Meanwhile the Confederate authorities had seized, as has been stated, with few exceptions, all the arsenals, forts, custom-houses, post-offices, ships, ordnance and material of war, belonging to the United States, and within the seceding States; and this, notwithstanding that General Dix, Secretary of the Treasury, had issued an order, directing that "If any man attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot."

ISAAC N. ARNOLD, History of Abraham Lincoln and the Overthrow of Slavery ( Chicago, 1866), Ch. 9.

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