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News of 150 Years Ago—January/February 1861

NEWS OF 150 YEARS AGO

January/February 1861

The declared secession of South Carolina in December 1860 included that state’s claim on federal properties within its borders. These included U.S. military forts guarding the harbor of Charleston. The federal government did not recognize these claims, placing the small number of U.S. troops occupying the forts in a difficult situation. Unable to properly defend all of the forts with the forces at hand, Major Robert Anderson, commanding the U.S. Army forces in Charleston, S.C., removed his troops and much of his stores from Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island to Fort Sumter on an island in the middle of the harbor on December 26, 1860. The question of whether South Carolina could or would attempt to take the fort by force and what would be the response of the federal government became the primary issue of the day. The DEMOCRAT printed frequent updates.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 4, 1861.

EVACUATION OF FORT MOULTRIE.

EXCITEMENT IN THE CITY.

OCCUPATION OF FORT SUMPTER.

Occupation of Fort Moultrie by South Carolina Troops.

Throughout the city yesterday the greatest excitement prevailed in relation to the news from Forts Moultrie and Sumpter.  As early as eight o’clock in the forenoon the rumors of the destruction of the former of these military posts, and the occupation of the latter by the forces of the United States, were circulated.  It was at first currently reported and believed that Fort Moultrie had been laid in ruins, that the guns were spiked, and the carriages, &c., together with the barracks, burned, and that the post had been entirely abandoned.  The reports spread like wild fire, and soon gained currency in every part of the city.  Crowds of citizens anxiously inquired of each other the latest intelligence in relation to the affair—squads collected on every corner of the streets, and in front of the public resorts, to canvass the subject.

The newspaper offices were besieged, the hotel halls were thronged, and even the grave and serious gentlemen composing the State Convention shared in the general excitement.  On all hands anger and indignation was expressed at the supposed perfidious conduct of the Federal authorities, at whose instance it was at first thought the movement was made….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 4, 1861.

BY TELEGRAPH.

HIGHLY IMPORTANT—IF TRUE.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3—Intelligence was received last night that Fort Sumpter is now besieged; that all Major Anderson’s communications are cut off; that Fort Moultrie has been completely repaired, and the guns remounted, and that everything is in readiness to open fire on Major Anderson. New batteries are being erected around him by the people, and every day the danger and difficulty of reinforcing him are increased. His frequent applications for reinforcements, and even the tears and prayers of his wife having failed to move the President, he has determined again to renew his request, but will perish if he must, in the fort….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, January 8, 1861.

Is Fort Sumpter Impregnable?—Fortifications and Gunnery.

A correspondent of the Boston Courier argues that Fort Sumpter is not impregnable, “because an impregnable fortification was never yet constructed, and probably never will be.” This proposition the writer proposes to demonstrate. As the seceders may soon attempt to take possession of Fort Sumpter, an intelligent discussion of its competency to resist an attack, becomes interesting….

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At this point in time, between the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and his inauguration in March 1861, President Buchanan sent an unarmed supply ship to Charleston to reinforce and provision the isolated fort.

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 11, 1861.

BY TELEGRAPH.

IMPORTANT FROM CHARLESTON

The Star of the West Fired Upon and Driven Back to Sea.

FORT SUMPTER SILENT.

CHARLESTON, Jan. 9—The steamer Star of the West in endeavoring to enter our harbor about daylight this morning was opened upon by the garrison on Morris Island, and also by Fort Moultrie. The steamer put about and went to sea. I have not been able to learn whether the steamer or any person on board was injured. The belief is that no injury was sustained. Fort Sumpter did not respond.

Lieut. Hall, of Fort Sumpter, came over to the city, about 11 o’clock with a flag of truce. He repaired to the quarters of the Governor, followed by a crowd of citizens. He was in a secret conference with the Governor and council for two hours. At 2 o’clock he was sent in a carriage with the Governor’s aid to the wharf, and returned to Fort Sumpter. The object of his mission is not known. It is not supposed that it relates to the firing on the Star of the West. The people are greatly excited….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 11, 1861.

An Incident at Fort Sumpter.

One of the Baltimoreans who recently returned from Fort Sumpter details an impressive incident that took place there on Major Anderson taking possession. It is known that the American flag, brought away from Fort Moultrie, was raised at Sumpter precisely at noon on the 27th ult., but the incidents of that “flag raising” have not been related. It was a scene that will be a memorable reminiscence in the lives of those who witnessed it….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 12, 1861.

BY TELEGRAPH.

INTERESTING FROM WASHINGTON.

The Star of the West “Hulled” Four Times.

SOUTHERN SENATORS URGED TO REMAIN IN WASHINGTON.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 11—A dispatch from Keitt, to secessionists, gives details of the firing into the Star of the West, and says that four balls struck the steamer’s hull. A portion of the dispatch was confidential to Southern Senators, but it is understood that it urges them to remain in their seats, to defeat objectionable legislation and the confirmation of McIntyre as Collector of the port of Charleston.

Senator Wigfall publicly declares the Palmetto flag will be able to defend Charleston until every gun of Fort Moultrie is dismounted.

Reliable authority says that the Star of the West will be sent to Charleston, unless the President changes his mind, with ample naval force to engage the several naval batteries while she runs in and lands her men and cargo….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 16, 1861.

THE ARRIVAL AND DEPARTURE

OF THE

STAR OF THE WEST.

FULL PARTICULARS.

[From the Charleston Courier, 10th.]

After a night of expectancy and anxiety, yesterday morning was ushered upon us pregnant with events that may in all probability result in either a total cessation of all our troubles, or lead to the disastrous effects of a long, bloody and determined contest. That the spirit of our troops, or our leaders, and indeed our whole population, is thoroughly aroused, all have seen. The promptness and celerity of action on the part of the patriotic military with which we are surrounded, gives a feeling of universal confidence and security, that will result most beneficially in any event. If we are to have war, we are assured of the preservation of honor at least by the valiant hearts and strong arms that fight our battles; and if victory crowns our efforts, we know it will be properly and justly used. The spirit of our troops gives every evidence of this. The seal and alacrity they have shown manifest it. The hardships they have endured, exhibit the interest they have in the State, and the loyalty with which they stand up for the cause of South Carolina….

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As tensions rose in Charleston, the fires of secession ignited in other areas of the South as well.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 21, 1861.

BY TELEGRAPH.

SUNDAY NIGHT DISPATCHES.

IMPORTANT FROM THE SOUTH.

THE NAVY YARD AT PENSACOLA IN POSSESSION OF FLORIDA TROOPS.

United States Gunboat Not Permitted to Enter the Harbor.

FORT PICKENS THREATENED WITH ASSAULT.

NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 19.—The steamer Atlantic, from Pensacola yesterday afternoon, reports the navy yard in possession of 2,000 men, and that troops were arriving from all directions.

The United States steam gunboat Wyandotte was lying at the entrance of the harbor communicating with Fort Pickens, having the families of the officers of the fort on board. She was out of coal and supplies, but was not permitted to enter the harbor. Opinion seemed to be divided as to resisting an attack on the fort by the Florida troops….

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The secession crisis deepened, as all across the South calls arose to join South Carolina in leaving the Union. Attempts were made to reach a compromise, but all failed.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, February 4, 1861.

BY TELEGRAPH.

SUNDAY NIGHT DISPATCHES.

IMPORTANT FROM WASHINGTON.

$350,000 of Coin and Bullion Seized by the Traitors at New Orleans.

COMMISSIONERS AT WASHINGTON.

CONTINUED ARRIVAL OF TROOPS AT WASHINGTON.
The Louisiana Delegation to Withdraw.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2.—Lieut. Hall’s departure for South Carolina with official dispatches, has been postponed for the present. He expected to have gone to-night.

The President to-day sent to the Senate the name of George McHenry, of Pennsylvania, as Consul to Liverpool.

The Assistant Treasurer at New Orleans refuses to give up the coin and bullion in the branch mint, to the amount of $350,000, to the order of Secretary Dix, on the ground that the branch mint has been taken possession of by the State of Louisiana. On the receipt of this news this morning, the President called an extraordinary session of the Cabinet, and the whole subject was considered….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, February 5, 1861.

IMPORTANT NAVAL INTELLIGENCE.

The Powhattan Ordered to Florida.

DISAFFECTION AMONG THE OFFICERS.

Fort Sumter said to be Reinforced.

RUMORED ATTACK ON THE FORT.

NEW YORK, Feb. 4.—We have late and important news from the home squadron. On the 19th of January the Commander-in-Chief of the fleet received orders, through Col. Pickens, at Washington, to send immediately to Florida the U. S. steam frigate Powhattan, the Sabine, and the sailing corvette St. Louis. A sham boat battle was soon after improvised off Sacrificios, when the usual routing of action was gone through with.

A critical examination of the condition of the squadron demonstrated the fact that every ship was short of provisions, and that it would be madness to send them, probably on a hostile mission, in such a state….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, February 5, 1861.

Has Fort Sumter been Reinforced?

The telegraphic item in this morning’s paper, in reference to the secret reinforcement of Fort Sumter, has doubtless struck many of our readers as a very improbable piece of news. A little reflection, however, assisted by the following collation of facts from the Cincinnati Commercial, will impart a very truthful coloring to the important telegram:

THE REINFORFCEMENT OF MAJOR ANDERSON.—A fortnight since we expressed apprehensions of an act of treachery on the part of the administration—an act of treachery and ingratitude to South Carolina and the newspapers—in reinforcing Major Anderson without informing Gov. Pickens, or the Washington writers of the telegraphic correspondence of enterprising journals. We expect the act has been accomplished….

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The legalities of secession, both national and international, were a heated topic of debate.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 28, 1861.

Does not Victoria own South Carolina.

The Toronto Daily Globe raises a new issue in the discussion of the locus standi of the seceding State of South Carolina:

Suppose that this (a dissolution of the Union) is consummated, some curious question will arise with regard to the national standing of the seceding States. Great Britain has recognized the national independence of the United States. But does that necessarily involve the recognition of the nationality of South Carolina, for example, when she ceased to form a part of the Union? Her colonial relations to Great Britain only ceased by virtue of her being merged in the United States, whose independent nationality was recognized by the mother country. When she ceased, then, to form part of that nationality, does she not, by the law of nations, revert to her former position of colonial dependence on Great Britain?…

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In Missouri, the secession of South Carolina provoked a great deal of discussion on the question of whether Missouri should or would follow South Carolina out of the Union, and what that would mean for the state.

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, January 8, 1861.

How Would Secession Affect St. Louis and Missouri?

ST. LOUIS, January 5, 1861.

Editors of the Missouri Democrat:

DEAR SIRS: As I am a laboring man, “as all my fathers were,” and have earn my daily bread by my daily toil, I have not the time to investigate, even if I had the requisite means for information at my command, and, therefore, hope that you will at your earliest convenience, and through the columns of your excellent paper, for the benefit of the Union-loving and laboring portion of the citizens of this city, give me an answer to the following interrogatories:

1st. Has either of the States that already have seceded or intend to secede from the Federal Union, through their representatives in their Legislatures assembled, or in any other official manner, “declared the cause which impelled them to the separation?”

2d. Does the Constitution of the United States guarantee to the citizens of each State the right of petition to the general government for the redress of their grievances, and if so, have either of the seceding States been denied this right or petitioned the government in vain for the redress of any actual or imaginary grievance?…

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The discussions ranged not just about the legalities, but the practicalities surrounding Missouri’s potential secession. This contributor opined that the South would not and could not defend Missouri as part of a Southern Confederacy.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 12, 1861.

Position of Missouri.

The question is continually asked where will Missouri go in case of a dissolution of the Union? The questioner seems generally to suppose that Missouri may do just as she pleases, and unite herself to the North or South as a matter of choice. The best reflection I can give to the subject, is, that she will have scarcely any choice at all. I do not mean to diminish the position of the State. She is a noble commonwealth, great in her area of surface, great in her rich lands, great in agricultural, mineral, and commercial resources, great in her already developed and accumulated wealth, great in her people, numerically, intellectually and morally. Honor to our proud and powerful young commonwealth, say I—and no man shall or can say more in her favor than I will. But is one omnipotent? No, she is not. She is only one of a number of great and growing States like herself. Any two or three of them united against her would overpower and control her. Any policy she might adopt would have to meet with approbation and support outside of herself, or she would never maintain it….

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While tensions rose in Charleston, South Carolina, Missouri inaugurated Claiborne Fox Jackson as Governor on January 3, 1861. Although he ran as an anti-secession Douglas Democrat, Gov. Jackson’s inaugural speech called on the legislature to authorize a state convention to consider Missouri’s future in the Union, as well as a number of other measures seeming to prepare for secession. The DEMOCRAT was indignant in its denunciation of the new Governor’s apparent treachery.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 7, 1861.

The Disunion Conspiracy in Missouri.

The drama which was introduced at the capital by Gov. Jackson’s treasonable, incendiary message as a prologue, is unfolding itself with startling rapidity. The General Assembly is hardly organized when it is called upon to enact revolutionary measures. War projects are already the order of the day. Bills for metamorphosing the Governor into a Military Dictator; for arming the State; calling a Secession Convention, have been flung down like gauntlets on the table of the Senate. The Disunionists seem to have adopted Danton’s motto—“Audacity, Audacity, Audacity!” The first step, it appears, is to rob all the local authorities of the powers which they have ever exercised, and centralize these powers in the Governor. Mayors, Sheriffs, Judges, &c., are to be deprived of all power to preserve the peace. An Autocrat, sojourning occasionally in Jefferson City, and residing amid the classic shades of Saline county, is to be substituted for the various municipal magistrates and local conservators of the peace. The solitary throne of the despot is to be erected on the ruins of self government….

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The following contributor also called out the Governor for his deceitful campaign in light of his apparent change of position.

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 9, 1861.

TO GOVERNOR C. F. JACKSON.

DEAR GOVERNOR: I had heard a bad account of your inaugural; that you had turned traitor and come out against your country. I have made it a point for a long time now to judge for myself, as far as possible, and I waited to read the document. This I have done. And, dear Governor, the first thought that came into my mind, on laying it down, was, why did you not proclaim, when you were a candidate, that it was your purpose to betray and deceive me and all the honest men in the State who voted for you? For you know, dear Governor, that thousands and thousands of the loyal people of Missouri, who voted for you, would have seen you at the devil long before they would have made you Governor, with
the knowledge of your motives….

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From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 9, 1861.

TO C. F. JACKSON, ESQ., GOVERNOR OF MISSOURI.

MY DEAR GOVERNOR: I did not, in one letter, finish up the inaugural. Most patriotic Governor! why are you opposed to the slave trade? Do you dislike slavery? Do you wish to check its progress? If you do not, noble Governor, then you are right in opposing the slave trade! But oh, thou rational, and not insane functionary, if you would promote the spread and prosperity of slavery, thou should’st not, and would’st not, oppose the slave trade. Most intelligent Governor! you tell us, in the inaugural which you delivered immediately after taking the oath to support the Constitution—alluding to the fire eaters—that “with them the alternative is the maintenance of that institution which the crown of Great Britain forced upon their ancestors, or the conversion of their homes into desert wastes.” Dearly beloved, do you mean to say that these ancestors were opposed to divine institutions; that they thought slavery an injury to them? Yes, Claiborne Fox, that is what you mean!…

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Even as the Missouri legislature began to consider the Governor’s proposals, steps began to be taken to protect federal property in the state.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 12, 1861.

EXCITEMENT AT THE CUSTOM HOUSE.—A wholly unnecessary excitement was yesterday morning occasioned by the appearance of some forty U. S. soldiers at the Custom House. On Thursday we published that a detachment had arrived from Newport Barracks, Kentucky, and had proceeded to quarters at Jefferson Barracks. It since appears that Lieutenant-General Scott had issued orders to insure the security of the United States property in various States, but without special reference to St. Louis. The troops who appeared at the Custom House arrived from the Barracks at 8 A. M., having marched the entire distance….

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In his inaugural address, Missouri Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson called for the legislature to authorize a state convention to consider Missouri’s future in the Union. On January 18, the Missouri House passed the convention bill.

From The Missouri Democrat, Saturday, January 19, 1861.

OUR JEFFERSON CITY LETTER.

JEFFERSON CITY, Jan, 18, 1861.

The House having passed the State Convention bill yesterday afternoon, the long agony may be said to be over, as the Senate will doubtless pass it this morning, and it will immediately become a law. The time allowed for the day of election is so short that the Governor’s proclamation will scarcely have more than time to reach all portions of the State before the appointed time. The opponents of the bill have, by deferring its passage by the prolonging of debate, forced its friends to submit the reference of any acts passed by the convention, affecting the relations of the State with the Federal Government, to the vote of the people. A great point has been gained, as now the convention cannot force the people into association without their consent. Some doubts exist as to the legality of Mr. Lacey’s amendment, whether it will bind the convention, but the best legal authorities decide that it will….

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The DEMOCRAT quickly weighed in on the convention issue, calling for the election of pro-Union, anti-secession candidates in the February 18 election for convention delegates.

From The Missouri Democrat, Monday, January 21, 1861.

The State Convention—The Basis on which Union Tickets should be Formed.

The election on the 18th of February, will be the most important that has ever taken place in Missouri. On that day the people will either declare for plunging the State into anarchy and civil war, or for holding fast to the Constitution and the Union. An unknown and fearfully perilous future is to be braved, or the cause of a noble conservatism placed on a securer basis. There is but one thing to be decided by the election, and that is the Federal relations of the State. The question is Union or Disunion; Union first, last and all the time, or Disunion in the guise of Union with conditions annexed. It will be for the citizens of Missouri to choose between the two….

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