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Among those who became Confederate generals were:
S. Cooper, R. E. Lee, J. E. B. Stuart, John B. Floyd
and Henry A. Wise ; and among colonels, C. J. Faulk-
ner and A. R. Boteler. In the committee of the United
States Senate, appointed by resolution of December 14,
1859, to inquire into the facts attending this invasion,
were Hons. Jefferson Davis and J. M. Mason, and this
committee had before it as witnesses, Hons. W. H. Sew-
ard, J. R. Giddings, Henry Wilson and Andrew Hunter.
John A. Andrews, of Massachusetts, secured funds to pay
Brown's counsel.



THE United States Congress met on December 5,
1859, three days after the execution of John Brown.
The most intense excitement prevailed throughout
the Union, inflamed by Brown's execution and the
events that preceded it. The House of Representatives
did not succeed in electing a speaker until February i,
i860, having spent two months in wrangling over the
questions of slavery, State rights and secession. A Re-
publican, Pennington of New Jersey, was elected speaker.
On December ist, the general assembly of Virginia met
in regular session, and at the suggestion of Governor
Wise proceeded to reorganize the militia of the State, to
provide for volunteer military companies, the collection
of munitions of war, and in general for putting the State
in a condition of defense. The people, although almost
unanimously in favor of the Union, seconded the action
of the legislature by encouraging home manufactures of
every kind and advocating non-intercourse with the North
because of its attitude on the vital questions of the day.
On the 1 6th of December, others of Brown's conspira-
tors were hanged at Charlestown, which was still guarded
by a number of volunteer military companies assembled
by Governor Wise. This again attracted attention to
Virginia, and added to the political excitement which had
been somewhat quieted after the execution of Brown.

On January i, i860, John Letcher, who had been
elected, as a decidedly Union man, on May 26, 1859, was
inaugurated governor of Virginia. He sent a strong mes-
sage to the general assembly, recommending the adoption
of resolutions for calling a convention of the States of the



Union to consider the condition of the country and pro-
vide some remedy for the existing state of political affairs,
since, in his opinion, there must be a speedy settlement
of the slavery controversy if the Union was to be pre-
served, to which end everything should be done "con-
sistent with honor, patriotism and duty. ' ' At the same
time he urged the promotion of the efficiency of the mili-
tary organizations of the State, the enlargement of the
Virginia military institute, and the purchase of munitions
of war. The general assembly invited Col. R. E. Lee,
of the United States army, who was at Arlington on fur-
lough, to come to Richmond and give advice concerning
the organizing of the Virginia militia.

By official reports submitted to this general assembly,
it appears that in 1859 the real estate in the common-
wealth was valued at $374,989,889; the slaves at $313, -
148,275 ; and all the property of the people, including the
preceding, at $1,143,676,088, which, if equally divided
among the whites of the State, would give to each $1,051.
The debt of Virginia, incurred for public improvements,
in most of which the State owned a three-fifths interest,
was $29,106,559.

The beginning of i860, the year for the election of a
President and Vice-President of the United States to suc-
ceed Buchanan and Breckinridge, found the House of
Representatives still unorganized, after a month of effort,
and Congress and the general assembly of Virginia, as
well as the legislatures of the other States that were in ses-
sion, engaged in the excited discussion of the questions of
slavery. State rights and secession, to the exclusion of
nearly all other topics. Upon these issues the people
divided and subdivided, until four parties, instead of the
usual two, prepared to nominate candidates for President
and Vice-President. The Democratic party in Virginia
met in convention at Richmond, February i6th, and after
a discordant session appointed delegates, with a diver-
sity of opinions upon the vital questions of the day, to a
national convention. The Constitutional Union party in
Virginia, the one embracing most of the Whigs and all
those opposed to disunion and secession, met in Rich-
mond, February 28th, and elected delegates to a national

The Democratic party met in national convention, at
Charleston, S. C, April 23d, and, after many ballots and

Va S


much rancorous debate, instead of nominating candidates,
split into two wings, one of which met in Baltimore, on the
23d of June, nominated Stephen A. Douglas, of Illinois,
for President, and Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia, for
Vice-President, and declared in favor of leaving the
question of slavery in the Territories to the voters of each
Territory, or to the supreme court. The Southern
wing of the Democratic party met June 28th, nominated
John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, for President, and
Joseph Lane, of Oregon, for Vice-President, and declared
that neither Congress nor a Territorial legislature had the
right to prohibit slavery in a Territory, and that it was
the duty of the Federal government to protect slavery in
the Territories when necessary. The convention of the
Constitutional Union party met in Baltimore, May 9th,
and nominated John Bell, of Tennessee, for President,
and Edward Everett, of Massachusetts, for Vice-Presi-
dent, announcing for its broad platform, "the Union, the
Constitution and the enforcement of the laws." The
Republican party held its convention in Chicago, May
1 8th, and nominated Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois (a son
of Kentucky and a grandson of Virginia), for President,
and Hannibal Hamlin, of Maine, for Vice-President, and
declared itself in favor of the prohibition of slavery in
the Territories by congressional action.

The candidates nominated and the platform of each
party defined, a fierce political contest was waged through-
out the extent of the Union, during the months of July,
August, September and October. The election was held
on November 6th, with these results : Lincoln and Ham-
lin received 180 electoral votes, from eighteen States all
lying north of Mason and Dixon's line; Breckinridge
and Lane received 72 votes, all from Southern States,
including Delaware and Maryland; Bell and Everett
received the votes, 39 in number, of Virginia, Kentucky
and Tennessee ; while Douglas and Johnson received 1 2
votes, those of the single State of Missouri. Lincoln
was declared elected, as he had a majority of the votes
in the electoral college, but only 1,857,610 votes of the
people, against 2,804,560 which were divided among the
three other candidates.

This election of sectional candidates by purely sectional
votes produced the most intense excitement throughout
the Southern States and among all the people without


respect to their previous party associations. A number
of these States promptly called conventions to take ac-
tion as to their future policy. Congress met on Decem-
ber 3, i860, and heard a message from President Bu-
chanan, in which he argued against the right of secession
but expressed doubt as to the right of Congress to coerce
the States to obedience to its mandates by military force.
On the 6th the House of Representatives appointed a
select committee of thirty -three, to take measures for the
perpetuity of the Union; on the loth, Howell Cobb, of
Georgia, resigned as secretary of the treasury; on the
12th, Lieut. -Gen. Winfield Scott, of Virginia, com-
manding the army of the United States, arrived in Wash-
ington, by order of the President, to advise in reference
to military affairs; on the 14th, Lewis Cass, of Michi-
gan, resigned as secretary of state; on the 20th, South
Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession; on the 2sth,
Maj. Robert Anderson transferred the Federal garrison
from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, in Charleston har-
bor; on the 27 th, South Carolina occupied Castle Pinckney
and Fort Moultrie, captured the United States revenue
cutter William Aiken, and her three commissioners
arrived in Washington to treat, as representatives of an
independent State, with the Federal executive. On the
29th, John B. Floyd, of Virginia, resigned as secretary of
war, because President Buchanan would not order Major
Anderson to return to Fort Moultrie. On the 30th, South
Carolina took possession of the United States arsenal at
Charleston. This rapid succession of disintegrating
events marked the close of i860. Between the 2d and
7th of January, 1861, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama
and Florida took possession of a number of United States
forts and arsenals within their borders, although none of
these except South Carolina had as yet seceded. On the
8th, Jacob Thompson, of Mississippi, secretary of the
interior, resigned from Buchanan's cabinet. Mississippi
adopted an ordinance of secession on the 9th, Florida on
the loth, Alabama on the nth, Georgia on the 19th and
Louisiana on the 26th, followed by Texas, February ist.
On the 9th of February, the Star of the West, bringing
relief to Fort Sumter, was fired on and driven back from
Charleston. The States which seceded quickly seized
other United States forts and property, and the United
States sent reinforcements to forts within these States


still in its possession, the surrender of which had been
demanded by authorities of the States in which they
were situated.

In the midst of this stirring and rapid sequence of
events, Gov. John Letcher, by proclamation, convened
the general assembly of Virginia in extra session, on the
7th of January, 1861, to consider the critical political con-
dition of the country. On the 14th that body ordered an
election, on the following ^th of February, of delegates
to a convention of the Stale, the people at the same time
to vote on the question as to whether any ordinance
changing the relations of Virginia to the other States of
the Union should be submitted to a popular vote for ap-
proval or rejection. On the 19th the general assembly
invited the other States of the Union to meet it in a
peace conference, at Washington, that should endeavor to
heal the dissensions then prevailing, and appointed ex-
President John Tyler, Hons. William C. Rives, John W.
Brockenbrough, George W. Summers, and James A. Sed-
don, some of its most distinguished citizens, as delegates
to that conference. It also appointed ex- President Tyler
a commissioner to the President of the United States,
and Judge John Robertson a commissioner to the States
that had seceded, to request each of these to abstain from
acts likely to bring on a collision of arms pending Vir-
ginia's efforts to secure peace. On February 4th this
peace conference met in Washington, D. C, with rep-
resentatives present from thirteen of the free States and
seven of the border slave States. On the same day the
Southern slave States, with the exception of the seven
border States that had not seceded, met in convention at
Montgomery Ala. Subsequently, during the conference
at Washington, delegates appeared from other States until
twenty-one were represented. That conference sub-
mitted a plan of reconciliation to Congress which was
rejected, and soon thereafter Congress adjourned.

On February 13th the delegates that had been elected
to the Virginia convention met at Richmond. On
March 4th Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated Presi-
dent of the United States. On the 6th the Virginia com-
missioners to the peace convention at Washington sub-
mitted a report, through Governor Letcher, to the Vir-
ginia convention, setting forth the unsatisfactory results
.of the conference. On the 8th of April the Virginia


convention, still anxiously seeking to secure peace,
selected three of its most distinguished members, Alex-
ander H. H. Stuart, William Ballard Preston and George
W. Randolph, to visit Washington and confer with Presi-
dent Lincoln in reference to the course he intended to
pursue in dealing with the Confederate States. This dele-
gation met Mr. Lincoln on the 12th, and on the next
day, by appointment, had a conference with him, during
which he read and handed them a paper setting forth
his views and declaring his intention to coerce the seced-
ing States into obedience to Federal authority. That
same day Fort Sumter surrendered to the Confederate

On the 15 th of April, President Lincoln issued a call
for 75,000 militia, apportioned among the States, to serve
for three months, to suppress combinations against the
laws of the United States in the States of South Carolina,
Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and
Texas. He also summoned the Congress to meet on the
4th of July, 1 86 1. That there might be no misunder-
standing of the object of his call for troops, Lincoln stated
in his proclamation: "I deem it proper to say that the
first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will
probably be to repossess the forts, places and property
which have been seized from the Union, " In pursuance
of Lincoln's call, the following letter was sent to Gov-
ernor Letcher :

War Department, Washington, April 15, 1861.
To His Excellency the Governor of Virginia:

Sir: Under the act of Congress for calling forth "militia to exe-
cute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, repel invasions, .
etc.," approved February 28, 1795, I have the honor to request youi:
Excellency to cause to be immediately detached from the militia
of your State the quota designated in the table below, to serve as
infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner

Your Excellency will please communicate to me the time, at.or
about, which your quota will be expected at its rendezvous, as it
will be met as soon as practicable by an officer to muster it into the
service and pay of the tlnited States.

Simon Cameron, Secretary of War.

The quota of Virginia called for in the table attached
to this letter was three regiments, embracing 2,340 men,
to rendezvous at Staunton, Wheeling and Gordonsville.
To this communication Governor Letcher made prompt
reply, as follows :


Executive Department, Richmond, Va., April 15, 1861.
Hon. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War:

Sir: I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which
I doubted. Since that time I have received your communication,
mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the
militia of the State of Virginia "the quota designated in a table,"
which you append, "to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period
of three months, unless sooner discharged. "

In reply to this' communication, I have only to say that the militia
of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for
any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to
subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for
such an object — an object, in my judgment, not within the purview
of the Constitution or the act of 1795 — will not be complied with.

You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and, having done so, we
will meet it in a spirit as determined as the administration has ex-
hibited toward the South.

Respectfully, John Letcher.

Lincoln's call for troops to invade and coerce the new-
bom Confederacy, and Letcher's reply to that call,
wrought an immediate change in the current of public
opinion in Virginia, from the mountains to the sea. At
the election of delegates to the State convention, held on
the 4th of February, the best and ablest men of the com-
monwealth had been chosen, largely without regard to
party affiliation, but because they were for the mainte-
nance of the Union. The citizens of the State further
safeguarded their views upon this subject by deciding,
by a large majority, at the time of that election, that any
action of the convention looking to a change of the rela-
tions of the States to the Union must be submitted to a
popular vote for approval or rejection.

Up to this time the convention had been mainly en-
gaged in efforts to conciliate the discordant sections,
urging the general government, which was now entirely
Northern in character, to abstain from hostile action
toward the seceded States, and at the same time endeav-
oring to restrain the latter, in the hope that time and
reflection would lead to a reconsideration of their, in its
opinion, hasty and premature action. The Confederacy
had sent its ablest men to urge Virginia to join it, satisfied
that unless she did so the effort to organize a new and in-
dependent nation would be a failure. To these eminent
men the convention had given a respectful hearing, but
had declined the proffered alliance, satisfied that if she
joined the Southern Confederacy, almost "her entire terri-
tory would become the scene of a fierce and long-continued


civil war, the brunt and burden of which would fall upon
her more heavily than upon any other State. But as the
views of the people were changed by Lincoln's call, so were
those of a majority of the members of the convention.
As soon as the President's call for troops was known, the
convention met, with closed doors, and within two days
thereafter, on Wednesday, April 17, 1861, adopted an
ordinance of secession, in these words :

An ordinance to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the
United States of America by the State of Virginia, and to resume
all the rights and powers granted under said Constitution:

The people of Virginia, in their ratification of the • Constitution of
the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on
the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of oiar Lord one thousand,
seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers
granted under the said Constitution were derived from the people of
the United States, and might be resumed whenever the same should
be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal gov-
ernment having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the
people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the South or slavehold-
ing States,

Now, therefore, we, the people of Virginia, do declare and ordain,
That the ordinance adopted by the people of this State in conven-
tion, on the twenty-fifth of June, in the year of our Lord, one
thousand, seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitu-
tion of the United States of America was ratified, and all acts of the
general assembly of this State ratifying or adopting amendments to
said Constitution are hereby repealed and abrogated ; that the union
between the State of Virginia and the other States under the Consti-
tution aforesaid is hereby dissolved, and that the State of Virginia
is in the full possession and exercise of all the rights of sovereignity
which belong and appertain to a free and independent State.

And they do further declare, That said Constitution of the United
States of America is no longer binding on any of the citizens of this

This ordinance shall take effect and be an act of this day when
ratified by a majority of the votes of the people of this State, cast at
a poll to be taken thereon, on the fourth Thursday in May next, m
pursuance of a schedule hereafter to be enacted.

Done in convention in the city of Richmond, on the seventeenth
day of April, in the year of our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred
and sixty-one, and in the eighty-fifth year of the commonwealth of

This ordinance was adopted by a vote of 81 for and 51
against. Subsequently, after the will of the people was
made known by a vote taken on May 23d, which by an
overwhelming majority ratified the act of the convention,
others signed the ordinance, until the signatures of 146
members of the convention were attached to it, leaving
but few, mainly from Trans-Appalachian Virginia, who
refused to sign.


Gen. J. E. Johnston, in tlie opening of his Narrative,

The composition of the convention assembled in Richmond in the
spring of 1861, to consider the question of secession, proved that the
people of Virginia did not regard Mr. Lincoln's election as a suflS-
cient cause for that measure, for at least two-thirds of its members
were elected as "Union men." And they and their constituents
continued to be so', until the determination to "coerce" the seceded
States was proclaimed by the President of the United States, and
Virginia required to furnish her quota of the troops to be organized
for that purpose. War being then inevitable, and the convention
compelled to decide whether the State should aid in the subjugation
of the other Southern States, or join them in the defease of the prin-
ciples which they had professed since 1789— belong to the invading
party, or to that standing on the defensive — it chose the latter, and
passed its ordinance of secession. The people confirmed that
choice by an overwhelming vote.

The action of the Virginia convention was kept secret
for nearly two days in order to give time to take posses-
sion of the United States armory and arsenal at Harper's
Ferry, and volunteer companies were secretly hurried
from the valley for this purpose. These troops reached
Halltown, about five miles from Harper's Ferry, late in
the afternoon of the rSth of April. Learning of their
advance, the small Federal garrison there, at 10 p. m.,
fired the armory, and crossing into Maryland retreated
all night toward the United States barracks at Carlisle.
The Virginia troops occupied the town shortly after its
evacuation, and proceeded to extinguish the fires. On the
nomination of the governor. Gen. William B. Taliaferro
was, on the i8th, assigned to the command of Virginia
troops ordered to assemble at Norfolk for the purpose of
capturing the Gosport navy yard. The same day, at the
instance of General Scott, President Lincoln offered to
Col. R. E. Lee the command of the United States army
intended for the invasion of Virginia. On the 20th Colo-
nel Lee resigned his commission in the United States
army, and on the 2 2d he was elected by the Virginia con-
vention, major-general to command the forces of the State,
for which provision had been made to mobilize for its
defense. General Lee accepted this appointment, and on
the 23d was assigned to the command of the military and
naval forces.

On April 20th a Federal expedition from Fort Monroe
attempted to destroy the dry dock at the Gosport navy
yard, near Norfolk, but only with partial success, as the
Virginia troops arrived and took possession.


The same day Governor Letcher made public the fol-^
lowing call for volunteers :

Executive Department, Richmond, April 20, 1861.

In obedience to a resolution of the convention, the injunction of
secrecy having been removed, the following section of an ordi-
nance passed by the convention is published for the information of
the public:

"Be it ordained, That the governor of this commonwealth be and
is hereby authorized and required to call into the service of the
State as many volunteers as may be necessary to repel invasion and
protect the citizens of the State in the present emergency, which
volunteers we will receive in companies and organize into regiments,,
brigades and divisions, according to the force required ; the gov-
ernor shall appoint and commission the general, field and staff offi-
cers of said volunteers, and proceed to have them organized and
instructed. And that he shall immediately invite all efficient and
worthy Virginians and residents of Virginia in the army and navy
of the United States to retire therefrom, and to enter the service
of Virginia, assigning to them such rank as will not reverse the
relative rank held by them in the United States service, and will at
least be equivalent thereto."
By order of the Governor.

George W. Munford, Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Immediately after the passage of the ordinance of
secession, most of the members of the convention and of

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 4 of 153)