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nor disposed to abdicate the control of affairs in favor of his administration on the plea of military necessity. For many days those about his person trembled for his safety whenever he appeared in public; and the Confederate secretary of war, who had made himself ridiculous at Montgomery by a speech delivered on the day of the surrender of Fort Sumter, in which he prophesied the invasion and subjugation of the North, found the “ Virginia forces” no more disposed to accept orders from his department, or from officers commissioned by the Southern president, than were the New England troops of 1775 to acquiesce in the appointment of Washington to the supreme command of the colonial armies. The greatest efforts were accordingly made to bring forward into Virginia, in the shortest possible time, the largest possible force of troops from other States of the Confederacy.
The carrying capacity of the Southern railways was taxed to the utmost, and from the end of May to the end of June, soldiers, from all parts of the South, arrived in Richmond at the rate of from fifteen hundred to two thousand men daily.
These were the flower of the Southern populations; stalwart mountaineers from Tennessee, the descendants of those bold borderers who had fought for the independence of the State of Franklin; staunch Presbyterians from the highlands of North Carolina, the heirs of those whose Mecklenburg protest against Parliamentary usurpation antedates the Declaration of Independence itself; gigantic up-countrymen from Georgia and South Carolina; high-spirited planters from the seaboard and the lower Mississippi ; fire-breathing citizens from Charleston and Savannah, Mobile and New Orleans.
Of arms and equipments these new levies had no lack, and of the war spirit more than a sufficiency. But their discipline was in most cases deplorable, and although many of their officers were men of respectable military training and experience, the army as a whole was in truth little better than a brave and clamorous mob. Their confidence in their own invincibility
was only equalled by their contempt for the soldiery of the North. The conviction which possessed the minds of the leading men of the Confederate government that the war could not outlast a few months at furthest was universal among them, and contributed, with the novel excitements of the crisis, and with the military pomp, parade, and circumstance of the hour, to maintain them in a kind of rapture of reckless expectation.
Meanwhile the war fever was raging with an equal heat at the North. The troops called out by President Lincoln had been summoned into the field for three months, and it was generally believed that sixty days would see them returning in an almost bloodless triumph from the overthrow of the pretended government at Richmond. The great West and the New England States vied with each other in the vehemence of their zeal for this “short, sharp, and decisive” war, which was summarily to chastise the treason in which Southern insolence had finally culminated. In this tempest of passion all hope, and even all desire, of a tolerant and reasonable settlement of the national difficulties soon disappeared. Each section felt itself to be absolutely in the right, and neither consequently cared or would for a moment essay to comprehend the objects or do justice to the position of the other.
The great majority of thinking men at the South believed, with Madison in his reply to Patrick Henry, that the national government was intended “to be binding on the people of a State only by their own separate consent," and they necessarily, therefore, looked upon the coercive invasion of a State by the Federal forces as a wicked assault upon the very life of the Constitution. The masses of the Southern people sharing this belief, and imbued also with an intense conviction of the abolitionist tendencies of the North, rose as one man to repel what they regarded as a deliberate attempt to extirpate the institutions and annihilate the prosperity of the South.
On the other hand that great majority of the people of the North which cherished no animosity against the South on the
question of slavery, was inflamed by a passionate love of the Union, and filled with a very genuine amazement and horror by the idea that its disruption should be seriously attempted.
No time or opportunity was to be afforded for bringing about a truce of intelligence between these great populations, thus fiercely and suddenly thrown the one against the other by the wave of events.
Everything was done, on the contrary, which could be done, to excite the passions of either section, and to widen the breach between them. A reign of terror began both at the North and at the South.
At the South, “ Vigilance Committees” and “Committees of Public Safety" set themselves to the task of driving out of the country all whose fidelity to Southern principles, and whose loyalty to Southern institutions, could be possibly called in question. In some of the States, the State governments attempted to curb this irresponsible violence; but without much
In Virginia, an act was passed by the convention, which substantially conferred upon the governor of that commonwealth the power of abrogating all the guaranties of personal liberty in the case of Northern citizens whom he might think proper to suspect of designs against the State. The Confederate government was poweriess either to inflict injustice or to prevent its infliction; and for many months life and liberty, in many parts of the South, were held at the caprice of private malignity and of popular passion.
In the more densely populated and more highly civilized North, the excitement of the people vented itself more rarely in the form of popular outrages upon individuals. It poured itself through the body corporate of the government, and rapidly infused into the administration of the Republio all the unscrupulous and untrammelled vigor of a military despotism. Since the day when the dispatches of the American commissioners in Paris stung the nation to its feet with the news that the Directory of France had dared pretend to levy tribute in
America, no such abdication of all other considerations in behalf of strengthening the government had been witnessed in the United States. As in 1798, so again in 1861, the people and their rulers underwent a common effervescence of mingled fear and rage, in which, however, the element of rage now enormously predominated over the element of fear. “Every thing was thought possible, and every thing justifiable.” To speak of compromise was disloyalty, to deprecate the policy of war was to embrace the hopes of treason. Men were arrested without a warrant, imprisoned without a hearing, discharged without a trial. The mails were violated ; domiciliary visits were made in the dead of night; a vast machinery of espionage and of denunciation shook the confidence of private life, and silenced in public the wholesome voices of political debate.
As the tide of passion rose on either side, all the influences most hostile to the public interest and to general peace rose with it to the surface of affairs. The armies which either government had been authorized to raise were large beyond all precedent in America ; and as few persons in either section had yet at all divined the proportions of the evil that was coming upon them, all that was adventurous and ardent, all that was scheming and ambitious, in either section, pressed forward for a place in the front of war.
The prowess of the South was ridiculed at the North, the prowess of the North was ridiculed at the South. The great wars which mark our time, the war of the Crimea and the war of Italy, have aroused the military spirit again throughout the world, and nowhere has its recrudescence been more signal than in America. Thousands of young men in both sections responded to the blare of the trumpet and the roll of the drum in a sort of martial infatuation, while thousands more rushed to the field, impatient to vindicate, in a single conclusive ordeal by battle, the impugned valor of the section to which they belonged.
The president of the Confederates was himself a soldier, and, so far as circumstances would permit, he secured to his own armies the important advantage of a body of officers, selected with some regard to their military knowledge and experience.
The North was less fortunate in this particular. Many partisans of the new Federal administration, who had necessarily been disappointed of political preferment in the distribution of a patronage of which the offices disposable were in proportion to those seeking them as one to thirty, eagerly pressed upon President Lincoln their claims to military appointments; and the president thankfully seized upon so happy an opportunity of liquidating past obligations and securing future support. That it was impossible to make a man a judge or a collector of customs, was accepted as an excellent reason for appointing him a brigadier-general.
On either side the most respectable, the most odious, and the most ridiculous traits of human nature, were thus impartially enlisted to precipitate the dread collision of war between the now widely sundered sections of the American nationality.