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Russell to Lyons,
CHAP. II. acknowledged that the action of the American
Government constituted “the reparation which
her Majesty and the British nation had a right to Jan. 10, 1862. expect.” It is not too much to say that not merely
the rulers and Cabinets of both nations, but also those of all the great European powers, were relieved from an oppressive apprehension by this termination of the affair.
If from one point of view the United States suffered a certain diplomatic defeat and humiliation, it became, in another light, a real international victory. The turn of affairs placed not only England, but France and other nations, distinctly on their good behavior. In the face of this American example of moderation they could no longer so openly brave the liberal sentiment of their own people by the countenance they had hitherto given the rebellion. So far from improving or enhancing the hostile mission of Mason and Slidell, the adventure they had undergone served to diminish their importance and circumscribe their influence. The very act of their liberation compelled the British authorities sharply to define the hollow pretense under which they were sent. In his instructions to the British Government vessel which received them at Provincetown and conveyed them to England, Lord Lyons wrote: “It is hardly necessary dispatches from the enemy, put a move Messrs. Mason and Slidell, prize crew on board and carry and carry them off as prisoners, her to a port of the United States leaving the ship to pursue her for adjudication. In that case the voyage. A few days before the
law officers thought she might, law officers gave this opinion the Spencer and in their opinion she ought San Jacinto, an American war Walpole,
to, disembark the passengers on steamer, intercepted the Trent Lord John the mail steamer at some con- and did the very thing which the
venient port. But they added, law officers had advised she had • she would have no right to re no right to do.”
Russell.” Vol. II., pp.
“ Blue Book."
that I should remind you that these gentlemen CHAP. II. have no official character. It will be right for you to receive them with all courtesy and respect, as comowed private gentlemen of distinction; but it would be Dec, 30;1861. very improper to pay to them any of those honors which are paid to official persons.”
The same result in a larger degree awaited their advent in Europe. Under the intense publicity of which they had been the subject, officials of all degrees were in a measure compelled to avoid them as political “suspects." Mason was received in England with cold and studied neglect; while Slidell, in France, though privately encouraged by the Emperor Napoleon III., finally found himself a victim, instead of a beneficiary, of his selfish schemes.
THE TENNESSEE LINE
N the State of Kentucky the long game of po
litical intrigue came to an end as the autumn of 1861 approached. By a change almost as sudden as a stage transformation-scene, the beginning of September brought a general military activity and a state of qualified civil war. This change grew naturally out of the military condition, which was no longer compatible with the uncertain and expectant attitude the State had hitherto maintained. The notes of preparation for Frémont's campaign down the Mississippi could not be ignored. Cairo had become a great military post, giving the Federal forces who held it a strategical advantage both for defense and offense, against which the Confederates had no corresponding foothold on the great river. The first defensive work of the latter was Fort Pillow, 215 miles below, armed with only twelve 32-pounders. To oppose a more formidable resistance to Frémont's descent was of vital importance, which General Polk's West Point education enabled him to realize. But the Mississippi, with its generally level banks, afforded relatively few points capable of effective defense. The one most favorable to the Confederate needs was at
Columbus, in the State of Kentucky, eighteen miles Chap. IIL. below Cairo, on a high bluff commanding the river for about five miles. Both the Union and Confederate commanders coveted this position, for its natural advantages were such that when fully fortified it became familiarly known as the “Gibraltar of the West.” So far, through the neutrality policy of Kentucky, it had remained unappropriated by either side. On the first day of September, General Polk, the rebel commander at Memphis, sent a messenger to Governor Magoffin to obtain confidential information about the “future plans and policy of the Southern party in Kentucky,” explaining his desire to“ be ahead of the enemy in Sept. 1, 1861. occupying Columbus and Paducah.” Buckner was IV., p. 179. in Richmond, proposing to the Confederate authorities certain military movements in Kentucky, “in advance of the action of her Governor.” On Sep- Sept.8, 1891. tember 3d they promised him, as definitely as they Yv., p. 400. could, countenance and assistance in his scheme; and soon after he accepted a brigadier-general's commission from Jefferson Davis. Before his return to the West, General Polk had initiated the rebel invasion of Kentucky. Whether upon information from Governor Magoffin or elsewhere, Polk ordered General Gideon J. Pillow with his detachment of six thousand men, which the abandoned Missouri campaign left idle, to cross the sept. 4,1861. river from New Madrid, and occupy the town of Iv., p. 180. Columbus.
The Confederate movement created a flurry in neutrality circles. Numerous protests went both to Polk and the Richmond authorities, and Governor Harris hastened to assure Governor Magoffin
Harris, Polk, and
IV., pp. 188,
IV., p. 180.
Davis to Polk, Sept.
4, 1861. W. R. Vol.
Cuap. III. that he was in entire ignorance of it, and had ap
Harris to pealed to Jefferson Davis to order the troops withW.Pk. Vol: drawn. Even the rebel Secretary of War was
mystified by the report, and directed Polk to order Polk, sept. the troops withdrawn from Kentucky. Jefferson w.RR. Vol. Davis, however, either with prior knowledge, or
with a truer instinct, telegraphed to Polk: “The
necessity justifies the action." In his letter to IV., p. 181. Davis, General Polk strongly argued the propriety
of his course. “I believe, if we could have found a respectable pretext, it would have been better to have seized this place some months ago, as I am convinced we had more friends then in Kentucky
than we have had since, and every hour's delay 1861. w.k. made against us. Kentucky was fast melting away Vol. , P. under the influence of the Lincoln Government."
He had little need to urge this view. Jefferson Davis wrote him: “We cannot permit the indeterminate
quantities, the political elements, to control our IV., p. 188. action in cases of military necessity”; and to
Governor Harris, “ Security to Tennessee and other 1861. W.'R. parts of the Confederacy is the primary object.
To this all else must give way.” Further to strengthen and consolidate the important military enterprises thus begun, Jefferson Davis now adopted a recommendation of Polk, that “they should be combined from West to East across the Mississippi Valley, and placed under the direction of one head, and that head should have large discretionary powers. Such a position is one of very great responsibility, involving and requiring large
experience and extensive military knowledge, and Aug.29,1861. I know of no one so well ual to that task as our III., p. 688. friend General Albert S. Johnston.” Johnston, with
Davis to Polk, Sept.
15, 1861. W. R. Vol.
Davie to Harris, Sept. 13, Vol. IV.,
W. R. Vol.