« ÎnapoiContinuă »
WHEN his inaugural address was delivered, Mr. Lincoln was escorted by his predecessor in office back to the White House, where they parted, Buchanan to retire into a kindly oblivion, Lincoln to begin that great work which had devolved upon him. During all that month of March, and on to the middle of April, the world heard very little of the new President. He was seldom seen in Washington. It was rumored that intense meditation upon the great problem had made him ill. It was asserted that he endured
the pains of indecision. In the Senate attempts were made to draw forth from him a confession of his purposes, if, indeed, he had any purposes. But the grim silence was unbroken. The South persuaded herself that he was afraid, that the peace-loving, money-making North had no heart for fight. She was even able to believe that some of the Northern States would ultimately adopt her doctrines and join themselves to her government. Even in the North there was a general indisposition to believe in war. The South had so often threatened, and been so often soothed by fresh concessions, it was difficult to believe now that she meant any thing more than to establish a position for advantageous negotiation. All over the world men waited in anxious suspense for the revelation of President Lincoln's policy. Mercantile enterprise languished. Till the occupant of the White House chose to
open his lips, and say whether it was peace or war, the business of the world must be content to stand still.
Mr. Lincoln's silence was not the result of irresolution. He had doubt as to what the South would do. He had no doubt as to what he himself would do. He would maintain the Union, — by friendly arrangement and concession, if that were possible, if not, by war fought out to the bitter end.
He nominated the members of his Cabinet, most prominent among whom was William H. Seward, his Secretary of State. Mr. Seward had been during all his public life a determined enemy to slavery. He was in full sympathy with the President as to the course which had to be pursued. His acute and vigorous intellect, and great experience in public affairs, fitted him for the high duties which he was called to discharge.
So soon as Mr. Lincoln entered upon his office, the Southern government sent ambassadors to him as to a foreign power. These gentlemen formally intimated that the six States had withdrawn from the Union, and now formed an independent nation. They desired to solve peaceably all the questions growing out of this separation, and they desired an interview with the President, that they might enter upon the business to which they had been appointed.
Mr. Seward replied to the communication of the Southern envoys. His letter was framed with much care, as its high importance demanded. It was calm and gentle in its tone, but most clear and decisive. He could not recognize the events which had recently occurred as a rightful and accomplished revolution, but rather as a series of unjustifiable aggressions. He could not recognize the new government as a government at all. He could not recognize or hold official intercourse with its agents. The President
Attack on Fort Sumter.
could not receive them or admit them to any communication. Within the unimpassioned words of Mr. Seward there breathed the fixed, unalterable purpose of the Northern people, against which, as many persons even then felt, the impetuous South might indeed dash herself to pieces, but could by no possibility prevail. The baffled ambassadors went home, and the angry South quickened her preparations for war.
Within the bay of Charleston, and intended for the defence of that important city, stood Fort Sumter, a work of considerable strength, and capable, if adequately garrisoned, of a prolonged defence. It was not so garrisoned, however, when the troubles began. It was held by Major Anderson with a force of seventy men, imperfectly provisioned. The Confederates wished to possess themselves of Fort Sumter, and hoped at one time to effect their object peaceably. When that hope failed them, they cut off Major Anderson's supply of provisions, and quietly began to encircle him with batteries. For some time they waited till hunger should compel the surrender of the fort. But word was brought to them that President Lincoln was sending ships with provisions. Fort Sumter was promptly summoned to surrender. Major Anderson offered to go in three days if not relieved. In reply he received intimation. that in one hour the bombardment would open.
About daybreak on the 12th the stillness of Charleston bay was disturbed by the firing of a large mortar, and the shriek of a shell as it rushed through the air. The shell burst over Fort Sumter, and the war of the Great Rebellion was begun. The other batteries by which the doomed fortress was surrounded quickly followed, and in a few minutes fifty guns of the largest size flung shot and shell into the works. The guns were admirably served, and every shot told. The garrison had neither provisions