Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 11, 1861: New York surrenders impounded weapons to Georgia

The waterfront at Savannah, Georgia (circa 1862)

Back in January 1861, the New York City police had seized a large shipment of weapons meant for Georgia or Alabama and had impounded the weapons, waiting for someone in the federal government to decide what ought to be done with the rifles or muskets. After demanding the release of the weapons and being rebuffed, Georgia's Governor Brown ordered Georgia militia to seize several New York trading vessels then in Georgia ports. The Georgians grabbed five sailing vessels and used them as collateral to force the release of the impounded weapons. On February 11, 1861 the news broke that New York City had relented and had released the weapons in exchange for the release of the five trading vessels.

The Governor of Georgia has initiated the policy of reprisal, laid down in his recent message, by the seizure of five vessels owned in New-York. The following dispatch, received here on Saturday, tells the story:

SAVANNAH, Friday, Feb. 8.

Col. LAUTON to-day, under orders of the Governor, seized five vessels, owned in New-York, namely:

Brig W.R. Kibby.

Brig Golden Lead.

Bark Adjuster.

Bark C. Colden Murray.

Schooner Julia A. Hallock.

The measure is an immediate application of the lex talionis to the action of the New-York authorities in the seizure of arms shipped for Southern ports. Gov. BROWN, in his message to the Legislature of Georgia, on the 7th ult., recommended the enactment of a law authorizing him, in case any citizen of that State should be deprived of his slaves or other property by the "aggressive legislation" of any other State, or by neglect of any other State to fulfill its constitutional obligations to Georgia in the return of fugitives, or otherwise, to call out a military force and seize sufficient of the property of such State within the limits of Georgia to indemnify the citizens who have sustained loss by such action, and if, after thirty days' notice to the Governor of the offending State, the latter does not cause the property belonging to citizens of Georgia or its value to be returned, to deliver to those citizens enough of the property taken in reprisal as should make good their loss. This message was sent to the Legislature before the secession Convention met and a portion of the document is an argument for the establishment of the proposition that the provision in the Constitution of the United States declaring that no State shall grant letters of marque and reprisal does not forbid a State to make reprisals in her sovereign integrity.

On the 22d ult., under the direction of General-Superintendent KENNEDY, the Police of this City, our readers are aware, seized twenty-eight cases, containing 950 muskets, found on board the steamer Monticello, about to start for Savannah, Ga. The articles contraband were consigned to a citizen of that State. Other muskets were seized under the belief that they were destined to be placed in the hands of the troops of the seceding States, but were given up on the receipt of reliable assurances that they were bound to a foreign port; and an unsuccessful effort was made to detain another consignment of similar goods, which was carried off by a Charleston steamer. Two days after the event first mentioned, Mayor WOOD received the following telegram:

MILLEDGEVILLE, Friday, Jan. 24, 1861.

To His Honor Mayor Wood:

Is it true that any arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia have been seized by public authorities in New-York? Your answer is important to us and to New-York. Answer at once. R. TOOMBS.

The Mayor lost no time in sending the following message in reply:

Hon. Robert Toombs, Milledgeville, Ga.:

In reply to your dispatch, I regret to say that arms intended for and consigned to the State of Georgia have been seized by the Police of this State, but that the City of New-York should in no way be made responsible for the outrage. As Mayor, I have no authority over the Police. If I had the power I should summarily punish the authors of this illegal and unjustifiable seizure of private property.


CROMWELL & Co., the agents of the Monticello, received the following dispatch on the same day that Mr. TOOMBS sent his:

SAVANNAH, Jan. 24, 1861.

The seizure of arms from the Monticello causes excitement here. Can you get them back? We fear retaliation.

Gov. BROWN next made a formal demand upon the Governor of this State for the surrender of the muskets, and Gov. MORGAN is said to have replied that as the arms were designed to be used to subvert the United States Government, which he had sworn to sustain, he could not, so far as he had any control, permit arms to leave this State which might be turned against the Government and our own citizens. Another story is that Gov. MORGAN refused to take any action upon Gov. BROWN's demand until he should receive it officially in writing.

Shortly after the seizure by the Police a resolution, introduced in the popular branch of the New-York Legislature, calling upon the Police Commissioners to report by what authority the seizure was made, was rejected.

On the 1st inst. the attorneys of W.H.D. CALLENDER, Cashier of the State Bank, of Hartford, demanded the surrender of the muskets by the General Superintendent. The latter declined to give them up, and last Thursday a writ of replevin was served upon him. His counsel entered into negotiations with the representatives of the claimant, and the result was the delivery of the muskets to the Sheriff.

Mr. G.B. LAMAR, President of the Bank of the Republic, in an interview with Mr. KENNEDY, on the 30th ult., represented that he had been authorized by the Adjutant-General of Georgia, who had purchased the muskets from the Directors of the Bank at Hartford, to receive and forward them to Savannah.

Mr. LAMAR, early on Saturday, received a dispatch from Savannah, stating that unless the muskets were speedily given up there would be reprisals upon New-York vessels at Savannah. He had not dispatched an answer when another telegram brought the news that the vessels were seized. The following private dispatches were also received:

SAVANNAH, Feb. 8, 1861.

Messrs. J.N. SMITH & Co, New-York City: Your brig (the Wm. R. Kibby,) has been seized by order of the Government. SAVANNAH, Feb. 8, 1861.

Messrs. FUNCH & MEINCKE: My vessel is seized by order of the Governor of Georgia, on account of arms detained in New-York. CHARLES A. ENELL.

Capt. ENELL is master of the Adjuster. Her owners, Messrs. FUNCH & MEINCKE, returned the following reply:

NEW-YORK, Feb. 9, 1861.

Capt. C.A. ENELL, ESQ.: Protest and send us full particulars and facts, including any papers they may send you. FUNCH & MEINCKE,

The Adjuster is a bark of 496 tons burthen, rated A 2. She was built at Freeport, Me., in 1853. She cleared at New-York on the 14th ult., and arrived at Savannah on the 27th.

The D. Colden Murray is a bark of 443 tons burthen, A 1. She was built in Brooklyn, in 1860. D.C. MURRAY is her owner and namesake and Capt. LEE commands her. She cleared at New-York on the 10th ult., and arrived at Savannah on the 19th.

The W.R. Kibby is a brig of 190 tons burden, A 2, built at Baltimore in 1853. She belongs to J.N. SMITH & Co., of New-York, who purchased her last October, and Capt. BARSTOW commands her. She reached Savannah from New-York last Thursday with a cargo of coal, and was to have sailed thence shortly with rice to New-Orleans.

The Golden Lead is a brig of 299 tons burden, A 2, built at Thomaston, Me., in 1855. Messrs. METCALF & DUNCAN, of this City own, and Capt. JOHNSON commands her. She was chartered by Mr. HENRY RAIMERS, of New-York, to take a cargo of timber to Aspinwall. She was ready for sea, and cleared at Savannah on the 27th ult.

The Julia A. Hallock is a schooner of 239 tons burden, A 1 1/2, built at Stonybrook, L.I., in 1853. Capt. PEDRICK commands her, and C.D. HALLECK is her owner. She sailed from New-London for Savannah, where she arrived on the 25th ult.

It is stated -- but the authority for the statement does not clearly appear -- that the seized muskets were on Saturday surrendered unconditionally to Mr. G.B. LAMAR, of this City, and that JOHN BOSTON, Esq., Collector of Savannah, and Col. LANTON, in command of the Georgia forces at that port, have been informed of the facts by telegraph.

CHARLESTON, Sunday, Feb. 10.

A dispatch received here to-day, to Gov. PICKENS, from Savannah, states that the New-York vessels, seized there on Friday by the authorities of Georgia, have been released.

WASHINGTON, Saturday, Feb. 9.

By reason of the receipt of news to-day of the seizure of New-York ships at Savannah, together with the recent action of the New-Orleans Custom-house in obstructing the interior commerce, in effect of levying tribute, and the declaration of the Montgomery Congress in opening the Southern ports free to foreign commerce, JOHN COCHRANE, of New-York, will call up Monday, and press to a passage, the bill heretofore introduced by him, providing for the thorough execution of the Federal Revenue laws, for the protection of the commercial interests of the nation against flagitious attacks upon them by the seceded States.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 10, 1861: Texas moves against the U.S. Army

On February 10, 1861 three commissioners of the Texas Committee of Public Safety who had been sent ahead to San Antonio to investigate what the U.S. Army troops stationed there were doing sent the following report back to the chairman of the committee:
SAN ANTONIO, February 10, 1861.

JOHN C. ROBERTSON, Chairman Committee of Public Safety.

DEAR SIR: We have nothing to communicate since our letter of the 8th, unless it be the receipt of a communication from Colonel McCulloch informing the undersigned of his having received our communication and that he expected to be at or near Seguin on the 13th or 14th with whatever force he could raise.

After dispatching our communication to you we determined, if possible, to prevent the necessity of resorting to a display of force around this city, and with that object in view we again communicated with General Twiggs in writing, requesting from him a written statement of what he was willing to do. The answer to this was an order to Major Vinton, Major Maclin, and Captain Whiteley to confer with the undersigned to transact such business as relates to the disposition of public property. On the receipt of this communication, on the morning of the 9th, we replied that we would meet the military commission at 12 o'clock that day, at such place as they might designate, and, if that hour did not suit their convenience, then at such time and place as they might designate that afternoon. The answer expressed a desire to meet the committee at General Twiggs', at 10 a.m. on the 11th. We will to-morrow present our request in writing, and the answer will enable the committee to judge with a reasonable certainty whether the whole proceeding is not intended for delay, until General Twiggs can call in several companies from the outposts and the additional re-enforcements of several soldiers en route with a provision train from the coast for Arizona. Upon one point General Twiggs is fixed and apparently unalterable--that is, that the troops in Texas under his command shall retain all their arms, with the means to carry them out of the State.

What do you think of that? Please give the views of the committee on this and every other subject connected with our mission as fully and speedily as possible. We again repeat that it is not desirable that a single company of U.S. troops shall move to New Mexico or Arizona. If the troops of the Northern Government concentrates in either of those Territories, we believe, from their peculiar position, that it will fix their status as "free soil" Territories, and leave us a nest of hornets to deal with in the future.

We will require means for the subsistence of the troops that may be called out by General MeCulloch or from this city and vicinity. We desire some information on this point, as your committee must be aware that the readiness with which the necessary expenses are met in the commencement may have a salutary influence inmanyrespects upon our cause in the future.

If there is any action had or information obtained respecting the Northern posts it might be desirable that we should be put in possession of such information, as it may influence our action materially.

Very respectfully,

There are several things of note in this report. Ben McCulloch is now a Colonel of Cavalry and he is raising a force of Texans to move against the U.S. troops at San Antonio. Will there be another Alamo? Not if the Texans can help it. They are looking for a way to peacefully move Twiggs and his men out of Texas, without their weapons if possible. They aren't merely concerned with moving the U.S. troops out of Texas though, they are also concerned lest the federal soldiers are allowed to withdraw into the New Mexico and Arizona territories, thereby strengthening the defenses of these territories and making them into "free soil." Even on the tactical level, Texas' leaders are concerned with preserving slavery.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

February 9, 1861: A fateful choice is made--Davis to be President

On this day 150 years ago, the Montgomery Convention selected Jefferson Davis to serve as the President of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America. In less than a week, the new Southern nation had acquired a name, a constitution, and a leader. A telegram and a special messenger were dispatched, summoning Davis to Montgomery.
MONTGOMERY, ALA., February 9, 1861.




We are directed to inform you that you were this day unanimously elected President of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America, and to request you to come to Montgomery immediately. We send also a special messenger. Do not wait for him.

Davis was a complicated man with many strengths and many flaws. In many respects he was the best the South had to offer--certainly he represented the ideal of the planter aristocracy that had engineered the secession crisis in order to protect slavery from the rising tide of abolitionism in the North. On the downside, Davis was combative and thought of himself as a soldier as much as a statesman. Davis was a hammer, and to him, every problem tended to look like a nail.

The convention's choice for vice president was more complicated. Three Georgians were considered for the position, indeed, they had been considered for the presidency but the inability of the Georgia delegation to settle on just one of them made Davis' selection inevitable. Robert Toombs had departed from the U.S. Senate with the following words on his lips: “We want no negro equality, no negro citizenship; we want no negro race to degrade our own; and as one man [we] would meet you upon the border with the sword in one hand and the torch in the other.” Toombs wrecked his chances for the vice presidency by turning up drunk every night at the convention. Toombs then threw his support behind Alexander Stephens, crowding Howell Cobb out of the vice presidency.Like Davis, a message was dispatched summoning Stephens:
MONTGOMERY, ALA., February 9, 1861.


SIR: The Congress for the Provisional Government for the Confederate States of America have this day unanimously elected you to the office of Vice-President of the Confederate States, and we have been appointed to communicate the fact, and to respectfully invite your acceptance. In performing this pleasing duty, allow us to express the hope that you will accept, and we beg to suggest that it would be most agreeable to the body we represent, as you are a member of the Congress, that you should signify to it in person your consent to serve the country in the high position to which you have been called.

We have the honor to be, very respectfully, yours,

Stephens was an odd choice. He had been sickly all his life and his weight frequently dipped below one hundred pounds, but his frail body housed a powerful intellect. Stephens was highly regarded in the South, and he represented, almost personified, the Southern ideological case for secession. Things that Davis chose to conceal with genteel innuendo, Stephens willingly addressed in plain language.

While Davis and Stephens were each exceptional in their own way, it remained to be seen how they would work together. Although Davis had his own health issues, he nevertheless considered himself a soldier and a planter: someone who lived a vigorous outdoor life. Stephens was an intellectual with strongly held views on what was right and what was wrong, and very little capacity for compromise of those beliefs under difficult circumstances. For better or worse, Jefferson Davis was now president of the Confederacy and he would have to rely on Stephens for the support of his policies.

Monday, February 8, 2016

February 8, 1861: "Officers of the Southern Army"

Brevet Lieutenant General Winfield Scott, U.S. Army, c.1860

On February 8, 1861 Richmond's Daily Dispatch speculated about the leadership of the new Southern Army. The Dispatch thought that the obvious choice to command the armies of the South was General Jefferson Davis, and there were many who agreed with that judgement. Davis was a graduate of West Point, had served in combat in the Mexican War, had served as Secretary of War under Franklin Pierce, and four days after his resignation from the U.S. Senate, he had accepted a commission as a major general in command of Mississippi's troops. The paper also mentioned Robert E. Lee, who was at the time a Lieutenant Colonel of Cavalry serving in the U.S. Army in Texas. Lee was viewed by many as a rising star.
Officers of the Southern Army.

It is gratifying to observe that the Seceding States, in organizing their military forces, have placed the chief command, whenever practicable, in the hands of regular officers who have resigned their posts in the U. S. Army and offered their services to their native States. We could have expected nothing less from the intelligence and conservatism which characterizes Southern communities, and which enable them to appreciate at its true value the preposterous idea that the intricate science of war can be easily mastered by any civilian, and does not require, like other sciences, profound study and life-long devotion. Such a notion in time of peace may be as harmless as it is absurd, but when war has imperiled the lives and interests of a community, it will no more place uneducated officers at the head of its armies than the head of a family would call in a horse doctor to prescribe for his sick children. The Black Republicans understand the value of military science when they entrust to Gen. Scott the organization of the Army of Occupation in Washington, and it would be suicidal in the South, which has infinitely more at stake than the North, to manifest less intelligence and vigilance in the defence of its most sacred rights. General Davis, who is spoken of as the Commander-in-Chief of the Southern forces, is a regularly educated officer, and one of the best military men of the day. Virginia has sons in the U. S. Army who, in the event of her invasion, would, beyond all doubt, assist in her defence, and to them the command of her armies ought to be given. Such men as Col.Robert Lee, who has no superior as a soldier in the United States, ought to be placed at the head of her forces. It cannot be expected that the rank and file of any service can discharge their duty efficiently unless they have the most perfect confidence in the Generalship of their Chief, and such confidence is only complete when, in addition to a thorough military education, the life of their commander has been spent in the practical duties of his profession.
The Dispatch also paid a left-handed compliment to General Winfield Scott, noting that this eminent soldier--a Virginia native--had decided to remain loyal to the Union and serve the "Black Republicans" by organizing the "Army of Occupation." These sneering political references aside, the Dispatch was right: Winfield Scott was an extremely able and loyal officer. He had a record of heroic and skillful service to his country that would eventually stretch to nearly fifty years. In 1861, Scott was too old and unhealthy to actively take the field, but Winfield Scott would help Abraham Lincoln formulate several key strategies early in the war that contributed greatly to eventual Union victory.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

February 7, 1861: What to call the new Southern nation?

With the benefit of hindsight we take the name "The Confederate States of America for granted, but many other names were considered for the Southern nation, as the Daily Dispatch noted on February 7, 1861:
The name of the Southern Confederacy.

--The Charleston Courier has an article on the name to be given to the Southern League, or Confederacy. Among those suggested our contemporary mentions the following; ‘" Apalachian League,"’ ‘"Apalachia,"’ ‘"Alleghania,"’ ‘"Columbia,"’ ‘"Chicora,"’ ‘"Fredonia,"’ ‘"Washington League,"’ ‘"Washington States,"’ ‘"Atlanta, "’ ‘"Augusta,"’ ‘"Carolana,"’ ‘"Florida,"’ ‘"Georgia,"’ ‘"Alabama,"’ ‘"Louisiana,"’ ‘"Carolina,"’ ‘"Georgia League,"’ ‘"Georgia Confederacy, "’ &c. That is certainly a pretty good list to choose from; but then a rose by any name will smell as sweet. Therefore any short name will be as satisfactory.

February 7, 1861: Little Rock Arsenal taken

Little Rock Arsenal

On February 7, 1861 Congressman Alfred Rust sent a frantic telegram to Governor Henry Massey Rector warning him not to attack the federal arsenal in Little Rock, Arkansas.
WASHINGTON, February 7, 1861.

Governor RECTOR,
Little Rock, Ark.:

For God's sake allow no attack to be made on Fort Totten.

Rust was too late. Thousands of pro-secession militia men had massed in Little Rock earlier that week and had strong-armed Governor Rector into demanding the surrender of the Little Rock arsenal. The federal commander of the arsenal was Captain James Totten and he had fewer than ninety men at his disposal to defend the post. Totten was a tough soldier, but he knew that the odds were impossible--he took steps to ensure that he and his men would live to fight another day.
Little Rock, Ark., February 7, 1861.

His Excellency H. M. RECTOR,
Governor of Arkansas:

SIR: Being entirely without instructions to meet the grave responsibilities so suddenly thrust upon me, and the solemn circumstances by which my command is now surrounded, and believing that the Administration of the Federal Union would deprecate and condemn any act of mine which might bring on collision and bloodshed between the U. S. troops under my command and the citizens of the State of Arkansas, and futhermore, believing that civil war would immediately and inevitably result throughout the country from the effusion of blood at this point, or elsewhere in the United States, connected with the political topics of the day, I regret the necessity which forces me to retire from this arsenal with my command. It is, however, without the sanction of the United States Government that I do this, and entirely results from my judgment and discretion, under existing circumstances, and for the reason above stated. I have to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellencys communication of this date, and the lateness of the hour makes it necessary that this response be brief. It is, however, understood that in consideration of Your Excellency's guarantee that the conditions demanded in my communication of yesterday shall be complied with, certain amendments referred to in your letter of this date excepted, I shall retire from the arsenal on or before 12 oclock to-morrow, m. Your Excellency will please cause to be prepared, or permit me to do so, the final papers embodying the conditions upon which I retire from this arsenal, as already understood between us, which is necessary for my protection with the Federal Government.

I am, very respectfully,

Captain, Second Artillery, Commanding Post.
Governor Rector gratefully accepted the opportunity offered by Totten to get control of the arsenal, avoid a bloody clash, and allow the federal troops to withdraw with honor.
Little Rock, Ark., February 7, 1861.

Commander U. S. Arsenal, Little Rock:

SIR: I am in receipt of your communication of this instant and announce that on to-morrow, at 11 a.m., the Executive, by conference with yourself, will prepare the stipulations agreed to touching the U. S. arsenal under your command, and at 12 o'clock he will receive from you that post, with the privilege on your part to remove any articles belonging to your command, at such time as you may find convenient.


Governor of Arkansas.
A collision had been narrowly avoided, but civil war seemed just a matter of time. Total haul of weapons at the arsenal included about 9,000 muskets or rifles and 40 cannon.