April 1, 1861; The New York Herald

Our despatches received on Saturday night announced that Mississippi and Texas had ratified and adopted the constitution framed in the Convention representing the seceded States, at Montgomery, Alabama. Five of the seven States have now ratified that instrument, and in the following order:
Alabama……………. March 13, 186l 87 Yeas 5 Nays
Georgia……………. March 16, 1861 96 Yeas 5 Nays
Louisiana………….. March 21, 1861 101 Yeas 7 Nays
Mississippi………… March 30, 1861 78 Yeas 7 Nays
Texas……………… March 25, 1861 68 Yeas 2 Nays.
Two States, South Carolina and Florida, are yet to adopt the new constitution. There is little need of conjecture as to the part they will take in ratifying and endorsing the action of their brethren. The Convention of South Carolina is now in session, and that of Florida meets in a few days, and in a week or two, therefore, the final action of the confederacy will be perfected in regard to this important matter.


April 1, 1861; The Charleston Mercury

The New York Tribune learns that orders were sent last week to the naval commanders at Warrington, near Pensacola, to land the 400 troops on board the Brooklyn, and reinforce Fort Pickens. No intelligence, however, of the execution of this order has yet reached the government. The Washington correspondent of the same paper, in giving this news, adds:

It is not disguised that some apprehension is entertained here of a possible attack by the revolutionary army now encamped before Fort Pickens, under command of General Bragg, though wiser counsels are hoped.

The government does not regard this movement as a reinforcement, and if treated as such by the secession leaders, they must take the consequences. No hostile demonstration is designed, and no attempt will be made to re-take the other forts and navy yard.

In transferring these troops from a sloop of war, which has been stationed off Pensacola for two months, the Secretary of War intended to protect Fort Pickens against surprise or surrender, and if their landing is resisted, reinforcements will be immediately thrown there, be the consequences what they may.

It is not true that the government vessels at Pensacola are short of supplies, or they need not be, with Key West so near at hand. The transport containing all the necessary provisions for the home squadron was detained at New York, but must have reached Pensacola by this time.


Col. Lamon, who went to Charleston for the purpose of making personal investigation of the condition of affairs at Fort Sumter and in the city, returned this afternoon. He visited Major Anderson, and found him well, and determined on the [click to continue…]


April 1, 1861; Southern Confederacy (Atlanta, GA)

Yesterday morning, at ten o’clock, the spacious room in the City Hall was crowded to its utmost capacity, to hear a sermon from the Rev. Dr. J. S. Wilson–well known and universally beloved throughout this community–before the “Gate-City Guards,” previous to their departure for Pensicola, which took place today at half-past one o’clock. It was a bright and glorious Spring morning, and the glorious orb of day seemed prodigal of his cheering light, as if in mockery of the sadness within many hearts at the parting with those who were near them, and whose patriotism called them to the point of their country’s danger.–At half-past ten, the “Guards,” with solemn tread, entered the room under command of Capt. Ezzard, and quietly took the front seats, which had been reserved for them. After some excellent vocal music, the venerable Minister arose, and, with evident emotion, read the morning lesson, which consisted of 1st, 46th, and 99th Psalms. He then offered up to the Throne of Grace a fervent, heart-moving prayer for the safety and protection of our gallant soldiers, the salvation of all his hearers, and the peace, prosperity and glory of our beloved land.

He selected his text from the 13thverse, 6th chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”

The first portion of his sermon was addressed to the congregation at large, urging the necessity of all Christians wearing the armor of Godliness, with which successfully to fight the great battles of life and win the never-fading crowns of glory which are reserved for the faithful to the end. The learned Divine then took up the causes which have for forty years been agitating the public mind and exciting apprehensions for our safety on the part of the people of the South, and which have brought about our present difficulties. With a master hand he portrayed those causes, pointed out their remedies, and established the justice of our cause. He implored the blessings of Heaven on our threatened country and her gallant defenders. His features glowed with earnestness, and his eloquence and power as a pulpit orator are peculiarly his own. All who were present, listened spell-bound to his burning words, and were deeply impressed. Many mothers, wives and sisters of those who left to-day, earnestly lifted up their hearts in silent prayer for their safety. May their Christian spirits, like guardian angels, hover over and protect our gallant soldiers from every temptation and evil, and from all harm.


April 1, 1861; The Charleston Mercury

The undersigned, members of the Jamison Riflemen would respectfully appeal to the citizens of Charleston, for aid in equipping our Corps. In all new organized military bodies a great deal of expense attend their first efforts in furnishing a suitable uniform. We desire simply assistance sufficient to obtain what is absolutely necessary for active service, in the discharge of our duty as citizen soldiers of the Confederate States of America. We hope that our appeal will not be in vain, and that the usual liberality will be granted us in behalf of the Jamison Riflemen, as the citizens of Charleston hitherto have granted to other military bodies when appealed to for assistance in behalf of rendering aid to the State of South Carolina.

In establishing the above Corps, our aim is to bear a part of the danger which now threatens us with civil war, and to be ready to guard against any emergency that may occur to our beloved State. We therefore announce in this humble form our hope that the Jamison Riflemen will be sustained by a generous public, and that the Committee appointed to make collections from the citizens of Charleston will be fully appreciated in so laudable a purpose.

The following gentlemen, appointed by the company, constitute the Committee:







C. HAMETT, Secretary. March 27


April 1, 1861; The Charleston Mercury

Saturday last was an occasion that will long be remembered by our troops at the various posts in the harbor, as well as by the large number of distinguished gentlemen whose visit to the fortifications formed the chief incident of the day. Shortly after nine o’clock the members of the State Convention, and a few others who had been invited to accompany them, repaired to the Southern Wharf, where the commodious steamers Carolina, Capt. LOCKWOOD, and General Clinch, Capt. RELYEA, were in readiness to receive them. At ten o’clock the lines were cast off and the boats, with the State and Confederate colors streaming fore and aft, moved from the wharf to the inspiriting strains of ‘DixieLand,’ from the Palmetto Band, stationed on the forward deck of the Clinch. The weather, fortunately, was most propitious. The genial sun shone out gloriously over the harbor, and the mild spring atmosphere, with the fresh sea-breeze, could scarcely have been more agreeable.


The company who, by the invitation of Gen. BEAUREGARD, participated in the excursion, must have numbered several hundred. Among them we noticed Hon. D.F. JAMISON, and nearly all the members of the Convention, including quite a number of Ex-Governors, Judges, Chancellors and military men. It was more especially in honor of these gentlemen that the visit had been arranged. Among the other guests were Hon. EDMUND RUFFIN and Col. RUTHERFORD, both of Virginia; Major General SCHNIERLE, 2d Division, S.C.M.; Major WHITING, of the Engineer Corps, C.S.A.; Rev. Dr. BACHMAN, and several ladies, who had availed themselves of the chance to get a glimpse of the batteries, of which they had heard so much. Gen. BEAUREGARD, in undress uniform, was aboard the Carolina, chatting socially in the groups that filled the cabins, and pointing out to those to whom the scene was a new one, the principal points of interest. [click to continue…]


April 1, 1861, Southern Confederacy

Gen. J. H. Rice, on the part of the ladies, made the presentation speech as follows:


Why the assemblage here? Why peals forth the note of martial music? Why this Paraphernalia of War which I see before me? But a few short months ago, the citizens of what was then the United States of America, were living in peace and harmony with each other. But in the course of events a fanatical party usurped the reigns of Government, foisting themselves into power by the assertion of a principle that was destructive to our very existence, to-wit: the infamous dogma of an Equality of the White and Black Races. While I, for the sake of not being considered contentious, would admit that, in many respects, this doctrine would apply to many of the people of the Abolition States of the North; yet we of the South rightfully insist that the Black Race are, and should be, our Slaves, and we their Masters; and that such relative status was given by the decrees of GOD; and which law of our society was recognized by the Constitution of the United States, and which they were bound by such solemn compact to observe. Regardless of this compact—led on by their lust for power, and guided by their [click to continue…]


March 31st, Easter Sunday.—I dined with Lord Lyons and the members of the Legation; the only stranger present being Senator Sumner. Politics were of course eschewed, for Mr. Sumner is Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, and Lord Lyons is a very discreet Minister; but still there crept in a word of Pickens and Sumter, and that was all. Mr. Fox, formerly of the United States’ Navy, and since that a master of a steamer in the commercial marine, who is related to Mr. Blair, has been sent on some mission to Fort Sumter, and has been allowed to visit Major Anderson by the authorities at Charleston; hut it is not known what was the object of his mission. Everywhere there is Secession resignation, in a military sense of the word. The Southern Commissioners declare they will soon retire to Montgomery, and that any attempt to reinforce or supply the forts will be a casus belli. There is the utmost anxiety to know what Virginia will do. General Scott belongs to the State, and it is feared he may be shaken if the State goes out. Already the authorities of Richmond have intimated they will not allow the foundry to furnish guns to the seaboard forts, such as Munroe and Norfolk in Virginia. This concession of an autonomy is really a recognition of States’ Rights. For if a State can vote itself in or out of the Union, why can it not make war or peace, and accept or refuse the Federal Government? In fact, the Federal system is radically defective against internal convulsion, however excellent it is or may be for purposes of external polity. I walked home with Mr. Sumner to his rooms, and heard some of his views, which were not so sanguine as those of Mr. Seward, and I thought I detected a desire to let the Southern States go out with their slavery if they so desired it. Mr. Chase, by the way, expressed sentiments of the same kind more decidedly the other day.



Went out to church this morning. It was cold enough to wear my cloak. Family wer[e] all out but Julia who is unwell. She went with Miss Sallie to “St Mathews” in the afternoon. Chas and Sallie came up about dark from “Vespers” and spent the evening. Miss S. performed on the Piano and the passersby might have heard in some of the pieces anything but Sunday music. I took a walk down 12th St to the Ave & back, quick step. It took me twenty minutes.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.


FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 31, 1861.
(Received A. G. O., April 4.)

Col. L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army:

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that we do not see any work going on this morning. Yesterday, in consequence of the members of the Convention coming down, a great deal of firing of shot and shell took place at Fort Moultrie and from the batteries on Morris Island.

The three batteries outside of the Star of the West have certainly guns of very heavy caliber; this we know from the great extent of the ranges and from the reports.

As our provisions are very nearly exhausted, I have requested Captain Foster to discharge his laborers, retaining only enough for a boat’s crew. I hope to get them off to-morrow. The last barrel of flour was issued day before yesterday.

I am colonel very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, First Artillery, Commanding.


March 31, 1861; The New York Herald

The predominant power just now at Washington is Wall street. The question of money is one that this government as well as all others must look squarely in the face. Money has been aptly defined as the sinews of war, and it is very certain that the Lincoln administration is now bound hand and foot by this ugly spectre which has ruined so many splendid schemes and thwarted so many magnificent ideas of brilliant theoretical statesmen. It is all very well for the radical republicans to demand that the principles of Garrison, Phillips & Co. shall be carried into effect without regard to the cost; and it doubtless sounds well to Southern ears when Mr. Memminger offers to borrow fifteen millions for the purpose of putting the Confederate States upon a war footing. But the question for the people of the North and South to settle is, whether or not they will impoverish themselves in going to war upon an abstract question which cannot be settled by the sword. As it appears to us, both governments—that at Washington and that at Montgomery—are equally powerless.

Davis & Co. have, however, the advantage over Lincoln & Co. The government of the Southern confederacy is plucky and clever in its personnel. The Lincoln administration is cowardly, mean and vicious, without the power to carry out its designs. So far from being in a condition to make war—the most expensive luxury wherewith a government can indulge itself—the administration has not sufficient money for the ordinary expenses of the departments. Mr. Dix borrowed eight millions at twelve per cent. Mr. Chase wants eight millions more, and will probably get it from the brokers, who have done well with the Dix loan. In a very short time Mr. Chase will be obliged to call for nine millions and then our national debt will reach the disagreeable figure of one hundred millions of dollars.

In the event of war this debt would be very much increased. One item will indicate how much. The last Congress authorized the building of six steam sloops of war. To construct, equip and keep this fleet in commission during twelve [click to continue…]


March 31, 1861; The New York Herald

The steamship Daniel Webster, from the Rio Grande via Key West and the Tortugas forts, with United States troops, arrived at this port yesterday. She left Brazos on the 19th, Fort Jefferson on the 24th and Fort Taylor on the 25th of March. She landed two companies of troops at Fort Jefferson, and also two companies at Fort Taylor. The steamer Gen. Rusk also landed two companies at each of these forts on the 24th. Fort Taylor is now on a complete war footing, amply garrisoned and furnished with supplies of all sorts for one year.

When the Daniel Webster left Brazos there were one company of artillery and two of cavalry at Fort Brown, and two companies of infantry were daily expected to arrive. Since the secession of Texas from the Union the military posts in the upper part of the State have been abandoned by the United States troops. All along the frontier the savages had renewed their depredations, killing the settlers, running of stock and committing great havoc. In addition to the attacks of the Indians the Texas were menaced on the Rio Grande by the Mexican robber chief Cortinas. He is reported to have a large force in readiness for a foray upon the Texans as soon as the United States troops are withdrawn. From all the indications, it is likely that before many weeks the Southern republic will find ample employment for a portion of its army in repelling the Camanches and Mexican bandits from the frontier.

The steamships Star of the West and Coatzacoalcos, from New York for Brazos, passed Key West, the former on the 20th and the latter on the 21st inst.

The President and Cabinet were yesterday again engaged in discussing the question of abandoning Fort Sumter. The administration moves very slowly in this disagreeable business. Meantime the Charlestonians are growing dangerously restive. Our correspondent at Charleston telegraphs that if the evacuation does not speedily take place the fort will be attacked and captured.


March 30th.—Descended into the barber’s shop off the hall of the hotel; all the operators, men of color, mostly mulattoes, or yellow lads, good-looking, dressed in clean white jackets and aprons, were smart, quick, and attentive. Some seven or eight shaving chairs were occupied by gentlemen intent on early morning calls. Shaving is carried in all its accessories to a high degree of publicity, if not of perfection, in America; and as the poorest, or as I may call them without offence, the lowest orders in England have their easy shaving for a penny, so the highest, if there be any in America, submit themselves in public to the inexpensive operations of the negro barber. It must be admitted that the chairs are easy and well-arranged, the fingers nimble, sure, and light; but the affectation of French names, and the corruption of foreign languages, in which the hairdressers and barbers delight, are exceedingly amusing. On my way down a small street near the Capitol, I observed in a shop window, “Rowland’s make easier paste,” which I attribute to an imperfect view of the etymology of the great “Macassar;” on another occasion, I was asked to try Somebody’s “Curious Elison,” which I am afraid was an attempt to adapt to a shaving paste, an address not at all suited to profane uses. It appears that the trade of barber is almost the birthright of the free negro or colored man in the United States. There is a striking exemplification of natural equality in the use of brushes, and the senator flops down in the seat, and has his noble nose seized by the same fingers which the moment before were occupied by the person and chin of an unmistakable rowdy.

In the midst of the divine calm produced by hard hand rubbing of my head, I was aroused by a stout gentleman who sat in a chair directly opposite. Through the door which opened into the hall of the hotel, one could see the great crowd passing to and fro, thronging the passage as though it had been the entrance to the Forum, or the “Salle de pas perdus.” I had observed my friend’s eye gazing fixedly through the opening on the outer world. Suddenly, with his face half-covered with lather, and a bib tucked under his chin, he got up from his seat exclaiming, “Senator! Senator! hallo!” and made a dive into the passage—whether he received a stern rebuke, or became aware of his impropriety, I know not, but in an instant he came back again, and submitted quietly, till the work of the barber was completed.

The great employment of four-fifths of the people at Willard’s at present seems to be to hunt senators and congress men through the lobbies. Every man is heavy with documents—those which he cannot carry in his pockets and hat, occupy his hands, or are thrust under his arms. In the hall are advertisements announcing that certificates, and letters of testimonial, and such documents, are printed with expedition and neatness. From paper collars, and cards of address to carriages, and new suites of clothes, and long hotel bills, nothing is left untried or uninvigorated. The whole city is placarded with announcements of facilities for assaulting the powers that be, among which must not be forgotten the claims of the “excelsior card-writer,” at Willard’s, who prepares names, addresses, styles, and titles in superior penmanship. The men who have got places, having been elected by the people, must submit to the people, who think they have established a claim on them by their favors. The majority confer power, but they seem to forget that it is only the minority who can enjoy the first fruits of success. It is as if the whole constituency of Marylebone insisted on getting some office under the Crown the moment a member was returned to Parliament. There are men at Willard’s who have come literally thousands of miles to seek for places which can only be theirs for four years, and who with true American facility have abandoned the calling and pursuits of a lifetime for this doubtful canvas; and I was told of one gentleman, who having been informed that he could not get a judgeship, condescended to seek a place in the Post Office, and finally applied to Mr. Chase to be appointed keeper of a “lighthouse,” he was not particular where. In the forenoon I drove to the Washington Navy Yard, in company with Lieutenant Nelson and two friends. It is about two miles outside the city, situated on a fork of land projecting between a creek and the Potomac river, which is here three-quarters of a mile broad. If the French had a Navy Yard at Paris it could scarcely be contended that English, Russians, or Austrians would not have been justified in destroying it in case they got possession of the city by force of arms, after a pitched battle fought outside its gates. I confess I would not give much for Deptford and Woolwich if an American fleet succeeded in forcing its way up the Thames ; but our American cousins,—a little more than kin and less than kind, who speak with pride of Paul Jones and of their exploits on the Lakes,—affect to regard the burning of the Washington Navy Yard by us, in the last war, as an unpardonable outrage on the law of nations, and an atrocious exercise of power. For all the good it did, for my own part, I think it were as well had it never happened, but no jurisconsult will for a moment deny that it was a legitimate, even if extreme, exercise of a belligerent right in the case of an enemy who did not seek terms from the conqueror; and who, after battle lost, fled and abandoned the property of their state, which might be useful to them in war, to the power of the victor. Notwithstanding all the unreasonableness of the American people in reference to their relations with foreign powers, it is deplorable such scenes should ever have been enacted between members of the human family so closely allied by all that shall make them of the same household.

The Navy Yard is surrounded by high brick walls; in the gateway stood two sentries in dark blue tunics, yellow facings, with eagle buttons, brightly polished arms, and white Berlin gloves, wearing a cap something like a French kepi, all very clean and creditable. Inside are some few trophies of guns taken from us at York Town, and from the Mexicans in the land of Cortez. The interior inclosure is surrounded by red brick houses, and stores and magazines, picked out with white stone; and two or three green grass-plots, fenced in by pillars and chains and bordered by trees, give an air of agreeable freshness to the place. Close to the river are the workshops: of course there is smoke and noise of steam and machinery. In a modest office, surrounded by books, papers, drawings, and models, as well as by shell and shot and racks of arms of different descriptions, we found Capt. Dahlgren, the acting superintendent of the yard, and the inventor of the famous gun which bears his name, and is the favorite armament of the American navy. By our own sailors they are irreverently termed “soda-water bottles,” owing to their shape. Capt. Dahlgren contends that guns capable of throwing the heaviest shot may be constructed of cast-iron, carefully prepared and moulded so that the greatest thickness of metal may he placed at the points of resistance, at the base of the gun, the muzzle and forward portions being of very moderate thickness.

All inventors, or even adapters of systems, must be earnest self-reliant persons, full of confidence, and, above all, impressive, or they will make little way in the conservative, status-quo-loving world. Captain Dahlgren has certainly most of these characteristics, but he has to fight with his navy department, with the army, with boards and with commissioners,— in fact, with all sorts of obstructors. When I was going over the yard, he deplored the parsimony of the department, which refused to yield to his urgent entreaties for additional furnaces to cast guns.

No large guns are cast at Washington. The foundries are only capable of turning out brass fieldpieces and boat-guns. Capt. Dahlgren obligingly got one of the latter out to practice for us—a 12-pounder howitzer, which can be carried in a boat, run on land on its carriage, which is provided with wheels, and is so light that the gun can be drawn readily about by the crew. He made some good practice with shrapnel at a target 1200 yards distant, firing so rapidly as to keep three shells in the air at the same time. Compared with our establishments, this dockyard is a mere toy, and but few hands are employed in it. One steam sloop, the “Pawnee,” was under the shears, nearly ready for sea: the frame of another was under the building-shed. There are no facilities for making iron ships, or putting on plate-armour here. Everything was shown to us with the utmost frankness. The fuse of the Dahlgren shell is constructed on the vis inertia principle, and is not unlike that of the Armstrong.

On returning to the hotel, I found a magnificent bouquet of flowers, with a card attached to them, with Mrs. Lincoln’s compliments, and another card announcing that she had a “reception” at 3 o’clock. It was rather late before I could get to the White House, and there were only two or three ladies in the drawing-room when I arrived. I was informed afterwards that the attendance was very scanty. The Washington ladies have not yet made up their minds that Mrs. Lincoln is the fashion. They miss their Southern friends, and constantly draw comparisons between them and the vulgar Yankee women and men who are now in power. I do not know enough to say whether the affectation of superiority be justified; but assuredly if New York be Yankee, there is nothing in which it does not far surpass this preposterous capitol. The impression of homeliness produced by Mrs. Lincoln on first sight, is not diminished by closer acquaintance. Few women not to the manner born there are, whose heads would not be disordered, and circulation disturbed, by a rapid transition, almost instantaneous, from a condition of obscurity in a country town to be mistress of the White House. Her smiles and her frowns become a matter of consequence to the whole American world. As the wife of the country lawyer, or even of the congress man, her movements were of no consequence. The journals of Springfield would not have wasted a line upon them. Now, if she but drive down Pennsylvania Avenue, the electric wire thrills the news to every hamlet in the Union which has a newspaper; and fortunate is the correspondent who, in a special despatch, can give authentic particulars of her destination and of her dress. The lady is surrounded by flatterers and intriguers, seeking for influence or such places as she can give. As Selden says, “Those who wish to set a house on fire begin with the thatch.”


Wednesday.—I have been mobbed by my own house servants. Some of them are at the plantation, some hired out at the Camden hotel, some are at Mulberry. They agreed to come in a body and beg me to stay at home to keep my own house once more, “as I ought not to have them scattered and distributed every which way.” I had not been a month in Camden since 1858. So a house there would be for their benefit solely, not mine. I asked my cook if she lacked anything on the plantation at the Hermitage. “Lack anything?” she said, “I lack everything. What are corn-meal, bacon, milk, and molasses? Would that be all you wanted? Ain’t I been living and eating exactly as you does all these years? When I cook for you, didn’t I have some of all? Dere, now!” Then she doubled herself up laughing. They all shouted, “Missis, we is crazy for you to stay home.”

Armsted, my butler, said he hated the hotel. Besides, he heard a man there abusing Marster, but Mr. Clyburne took it up and made him stop short. Armsted said he wanted Marster to know Mr. Clyburne was his friend and would let nobody say a word behind his back against him, etc., etc. Stay in Camden? Not if I can help it. “Festers in provincial sloth”—that’s Tennyson’s way of putting it.

“We” came down here by rail, as the English say. Such a crowd of Convention men on board. John Manning¹ flew in to beg me to reserve a seat by me for a young lady under his charge. “Place aux dames,” said my husband politely, and went off to seek a seat somewhere else. As soon as we were fairly under way, Governor Manning came back and threw himself cheerily down into the vacant place. After arranging his umbrella and overcoat to his satisfaction, he coolly remarked: “I am the young lady.” He is always the handsomest man alive (now that poor William Taber has been killed in a duel), and he can be very agreeable; that is, when he pleases to be so. He does not always please. He seemed to have made his little maneuver principally to warn me of impending danger to my husband’s political career. “Every election now will be a surprise. New cliques are not formed yet. The old ones are principally bent upon displacing one another.” “But the Yankees—those dreadful Yankees!” “Oh, never mind, we are going to take care of home folks first! How will you like to rusticate?—go back and mind your own business?” “If I only knew what that was—what was my own business.”

Our round table consists of the Judge, Langdon Cheves,² Trescott,³ and ourselves. Here are four of the cleverest men that we have, but such very different people, as opposite in every characteristic as the four points of the compass. Langdon Cheves and my husband have feelings and ideas in common. Mr. Petigru† said of the brilliant Trescott: “He is a man without indignation.” Trescott and I laugh at everything.

The Judge, from his life as solicitor, and then on the bench, has learned to look for the darkest motives for every action. His judgment on men and things is always so harsh, it shocks and repels even his best friends. To-day he said: “Your conversation reminds me of a flashy second-rate novel.” “How?” “By the quantity of French you sprinkle over it. Do you wish to prevent us from understanding you?” “No,” said Trescott, “we are using French against Africa. We know the black waiters are all ears now, and we want to keep what we have to say dark. We can’t afford-to take them into our confidence, you know.”

This explanation Trescott gave with great rapidity and many gestures toward the men standing behind us. Still speaking the French language, his apology was exasperating, so the Judge glared at him, and, in unabated rage, turned to talk with Mr. Cheves, who found it hard to keep a calm countenance.

On the Battery with the Rutledges, Captain Hartstein was introduced to me. He has done some heroic things—brought home some ships and is a man of mark. Afterward he sent me a beautiful bouquet, not half so beautiful, however, as Mr. Robert Gourdin’s, which already occupied the place of honor on my center table. What a dear, delightful place is Charleston!

A lady (who shall be nameless because of her story) came to see me to-day. Her husband has been on the Island with the troops for months. She has just been down to see him. She meant only to call on him, but he persuaded her to stay two days. She carried him some clothes made from his old measure. Now they are a mile too wide. “So much for a hard life!” I said.

“No, no,” said she, “they are all jolly down there. He has trained down; says it is good for him, and he likes the life.” Then she became confidential, although it was her first visit to me, a perfect stranger. She had taken no clothes down there—pushed, as she was, in that manner under Achilles’s tent. But she managed things; she tied her petticoat around her neck for a nightgown.


¹ John Lawrence Manning was a son of Richard I. Manning, a former Governor of South Carolina. He was himself elected Governor of that State in 1852, was a delegate to the convention that nominated Buchanan, and during the War of Secession served on the staff of General Beauregard. In 1865 he was chosen United States Senator from South Carolina, but was not allowed to take his seat.

² Son of Langdon Cheves, an eminent lawyer of South Carolina, who served in Congress from 1810 to 1814; he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, and from 1819 to 1823 was President of the United States Bank; he favored Secession, but died before it was accomplished—in 1857.

³ William Henry Trescott, a native of Charleston, was Assistant Secretary of State of the United States in 1860, but resigned after South Carolina seceded. After the war he had a successful career as a lawyer and diplomatist.

† James Louis Petigru before the war had reached great distinction as a lawyer and stood almost alone in his State as an opponent of the Nullification movement of 1830-1832. In 1860 he strongly opposed disunion, although he was then an old man of 71. His reputation has survived among lawyers because of the fine work he did in codifying the laws of South Carolina.



This has been rather a busy day in the office for me as I had to make out the monthly account, or Report. Some removals among the subordinates today. Many are trembling expecting decapitation. I think that the removals so far have been generaly judicious and such as ou[gh]t to have been made. The day has been windy and dry, and consequently very dusty. Went down to the Ave and got the NY papers. Came home with Julia from Mr Woodwards, read the papers till it is now high time to bed 1/2 pst 11.


The three diary manuscript volumes, Washington during the Civil War: The Diary of Horatio Nelson Taft, 1861-1865, are available online at The Library of  Congress.


FORT PICKENS, FLA., March 30, 1861.

The ASSISTANT ADJUTANT-GENERAL, Headquarters of the Army:

SIR: I have the honor to report that matters have not assumed hostile attitude. Everything appears quiet. Troops are being quietly concentrated and preparations made for an immediate movement should the present amicable agreement be interrupted. From all I can learn, there are now nearly one thousand enlisted men occupying the various posts and batteries in the vicinity and five thousand expected. Since my last report the redoubt between Fort Barrancas and the bayou has been occupied and made an ordnance depot. Nearly all the powder has been transferred from the navy-yard to that post. The troops are organized and apparently under good discipline, a marked difference existing between them and the volunteers who first occupied these positions. Guns are being mounted at Fort McRee. The light-house battery has four 8-inch columbiads which bear directly on this work. Another battery of four 8-inch columbiads is situated to the east and front of the naval hospital. Report says that another battery has been constructed at the old light-house. I cannot distinguish any signs of however. If made, it is effectually masked.

Fort Barrancas is fully armed. Guns are mounted in the navy-yard for its protection. These works are being strengthened and completed each day, and soon the position will be one which will be very difficult to reoccupy, and one which will prove a serious annoyance to this post. Shot and shells can be thrown from each of these works into Fort Pickens. I have protested against the prosecution of these works, but with no effect. Colonel Chase did stop the work, but his successors have continued them on the plea of being for defensive purposes. With one or two batteries established on Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens would be in almost as bad a position as Fort Sumter. Fort McRee and these batteries would be able to drive off any shipping and prevent the introduction of re-enforcements and provisions. I have thus far succeeded in preventing any lodgment on the island, and will consider any such movement a breach of the agreement.

It is very necessary that we should be informed as to passing events, and would, therefore, most respectfully call the attention of the Commanding General to the fact that from the 23d February until the 29th March no important communication has been received. We receive nothing but from the sufferance of the opposing forces, which at any moment may be stopped should anything occur contrary to their desires. I am now left without an officer, but will request the transfer of Lieutenant Langdon to the fort during the absence of Lieutenant Gilman.

Fresh provisions are now denied us. If it is the intention of the Government to hold this fort, I would most respectfully suggest that the stores and supplies necessary for the effective defense of the work be forwarded immediately, with definite instructions as to their being landed.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

First Lieutenant, First Artillery, Commanding.


March 30, 1861, Harper’s Weekly

The Crescent City
The Crescent City

WE present characteristic sketches of the Crescent City. The traveler who approaches by the Pontchartrain Railway sees the domes, spires, and chimney-tops of the city peering over tufts of grass and shrubbery, looking as though a town had been sown there and was just coming up. Upon entering, one passes first through the French quarter, built up mainly of [click to continue…]


March 30, 1861; The New York Herald

From our Washington despatches, it appears that Col. Lamon, the President’s envoy to Charleston, declined to exercise the discretionary power with which he was clothed, and issue the order to Major Anderson for the evacuation of Fort Sumter. He returned to Washington and reported the facts respecting the straitened condition of the garrison to the President, who yesterday at an early hour summoned the Cabinet to hold a consultation on the subject. Their deliberations led to a confirmation of the determination of the government to abandon the fort. The order will be communicated to Major Anderson, and the garrison will evacuate Fort Sumter as soon as the vessel to convey them away arrives in Charleston harbor. At last accounts the garrison had supplies sufficient for a few days only.

Contradictory reports as to the designs of the government with reference to Fort Pickens have been circulated for some days past. The republican journals assert that the fort is to be reinforced—indeed it is announced that both troops and supplies have already be landed. Our correspondents from Washington, however, state that the Southern commissioners, and also conservative men of the border States, have been assured that no attempt would be made to relieve the fort—that the military status of that post would not be disturbed. It is further more stated that the reports in the republican journals are put in circulation solely for the purpose of influencing the coming election in New England.

Orders have been received at the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the Department at Washington to get the storeship Release ready for sea immediately. Accordingly yesterday provisions and stores of all descriptions were being put on board with all despatch, and her rigging was undergoing the necessary overhauling. It is not yet known who are to be her commander and officers. The same secresy is observed in regard to her destination; but it is believed she is being sent to convey supplies to the Gulf squadron.

The steamships Star of the West and Coatzacoalcos, from New York, were seen on the 23d inst., within a day’s sail of Indianola, Texas, for which port they were bound.


March 30, 1861; The New York Herald

The republican papers are continually representing that the slave owners of the South are all aristocrats, and comprise an odious oligarchy, while all the democracy of the country is to be found at the North. If the possession of wealth constitutes an aristocracy in the owners thereof we think that there is far more of it to be found in the Northern than in the Southern States. All the bankers and financiers, the rich merchants and ship owners, and more especially the mill owners and manufacturers, according to this rule, form a vastly more numerous body of aristocrats and oligarchs, and a more mischievous one, too, as far as the interest of the masses are concerned, than the Southern slaveholders. The truth is that there does exist a kind of pretentious aristocracy in the country, whose rank is based on wealth; but is scattered all over the country, in every quarter, and is peculiar to no particular section. It comprises, for the most part, persons who have come into the possession of large fortunes, but who have very little intellect—whose breeches pockets vastly outweigh their brains—but all this will be equitably settled in about the third generation. It is absurd to locate this class at the South, while the fact is notorious that there is hardly a more potent oligarchy existing anywhere than in the manufacturing districts of New England—a body which controls almost the souls and destinies of the operatives as completely as the cotton lords of Manchester.


March 30, 1861; Standard (Clarksville Texas)

Mr. Howard, of the firm of Howard & Buchardt, showed us this morning a neat silken model of the Flag of the Confederate States of America; originated by the Congressional Committee, and adopted unanimously. It is as follows:

Blue union, with seven white stars; three horizontal stripes, red, white and red. The first red and white extending from the union to the end of the flag, and the lower red stripe extending the whole length of the flag, occupying the whole space below the union. The stripes are all of equal width.

The new flag was hoisted on the Capitol at Montgomery, on the 4th inst.—Galveston News.


March 30, 1861; The Illustrated London News

No decided action had, according to the latest accounts from America, been taken by either the Northern or Southern States, but both seemed drifting towards a collision. President Lincoln has declined to hold any intercourse with the Southern commissioners. According to the New York Herald it has been decided by Mr. Lincoln’s Cabinet to evacuate Fort Sumter, as being untenable. The Missouri and Virginia State Conventions have come to no decision.

The permanent Constitution of the Confederate States had been published. The following are its principal features:–”No person who is a foreigner, and not a citizen of the Confederate States, is allowed to vote for any officer, civil or political, state or federal. Under the first census, South Carolina is entitled to five representatives in Congress; Georgia, ten; Alabama, nine; Florida, two; Mississippi, seven; Louisiana, six; Texas, six; and each State to two senators. The State Legislature may impeach judicial or federal officers, resident and active in said State, by a two-thirds vote. Representation on the basis of three fifths for slaves is continued. Congress is not allowed, through duties, to foster any branch of industry. The foreign slave trade is prohibited. The President and Vice-President are to hold to office for six years. The principal officers of departments and the diplomatic service are removable at the pleasure of the President. Other civil officers are removable when their services are unnecessary, or for other good causes or reasons. Other States are to be admitted by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses. The Confederacy may acquire territory, and slavery shall be acknowledged and protected by Congress and the territorial Government. When five States shall ratify the permanent Constitution, it shall be established for said States. Until ratified, the provisional Constitution shall continue in force not extending beyond one year.”


March 30, 1861, Harper’s WeeklyTHE accompanying portrait of General SAM HOUSTON, Governor of Texas, will be recognized by all who know the old hero. Even those who remember him as he was two years ago, when he wore a heavy mustache, will readily recall the noble brow and the fierce eye.

Probably no man in this country has led so adventurous a life as Sam Houston. Born, sixty–eight years ago, in Rockbridge County, Virginia, he lost his father when very young, and removed with his mother to the confines of the forest in Tennessee. Here he grew up as best he could, associating much with Indians and imbibing a fondness for their rude mode of life. As he reached manhood he tried to earn a living as a school-master, and then as a clerk in a country store. But neither pursuit pleased his fancy, and in 1813, when General Jackson called for volunteers to fight the Creeks, Sam Houston responded to the call. He won credit during the campaign ; when it ended, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant. But as there was no more fighting to be done then, he laid down the sword, studied law at Nashville, and soon rose to be a prominent lawyer and politician. In 1823, he went to Congress from his district in Tennessee; in 1827, he was elected Governor. In 1829, a fit of restlessness seized him. He resigned his post as Governor; tried life a while in Arkansas, where the frauds practiced by the Government Agents upon the Indians disgusted him; went to Washington, to endeavor to have his red friends righted, and found himself involved in no end of lawsuits with the rogues whom he sought to expose; became a good deal disgusted with every thing and every body, and finally migrated to Texas.

Texas was then about to be admitted as a State of the Mexican Union. It was in a miserable condition. Its people comprised among them the worst vagabonds and scoundrels in the world. When a man was so infamous and hopeless that he could not ship on board a whaler, he went to Texas. There was no money in the country, no trade, no industry, very little judicious agriculture. The whole State was overrun by wild bands of Indians, Comanches, Apaches, etc., who regarded the white man as an invader and robber, and shot him whenever they could. This was the condition of Texas when the people met, adopted a Constitution, and asked admission to the Mexican Confederacy—the American Sam Houston being elected as their first Governor. [click to continue…]

Note: This particular diary entry—a document written in 1861—includes a term that is very offensive to many today.  No attempt will be made to censor or edit 19th century material to today’s standards.

March 29th, Good Friday.—The religious observance of the day was not quite as strict as it would be in England. The Puritan aversion to ceremonials and formulary observances has apparently affected the American world, even as far south as this. The people of color were in the streets dressed in their best. The first impression produced by fine bonnets, gay shawls, brightly-colored dresses, and silk brodequins, on black faces, flat figures, and feet to match, is singular; but, in justice to the backs of many of the gaudily-dressed women, who, in little groups, were going to church or chapel, it must be admitted that this surprise only came upon one when he got a front view. The men generally affected black coats, silk or satin waistcoats, and parti-colored pantaloons. They carried Missal or Prayer-book, pocket-handkerchief, cane or parasol, with infinite affectation of correctness. As I was looking out of the window, a very fine, tall young negro, dressed irreproachably, save as to hat and boots, passed by. “I wonder what he is?” I exclaimed inquiringly to a gentleman who stood beside me.” Well,” he said, “that fellow is not a free nigger; he looks too respectable. I daresay you could get him for 1500 dollars, without his clothes. You know,” continued he, “what our Minister said when he saw a nigger at some Court in Europe, and was asked what he thought of him: ‘Well, I guess,’ said he, ‘if you take off his fixings, he may be worth 1000 dollars down.’ In the course of the day, Mr. Banks, a corpulent, energetic young Virginian, of strong Southern views, again called on me. As the friend of the Southern Commissioners he complained vehemently of the refusal of Mr. Seward to hold intercourse with him. “These fellows, mean treachery, but we will baulk them.” In answer to a remark of mine, that the English Minister would certainly refuse to receive Commissioners from any part of the Queen’s dominions which had seized upon the forts and arsenals of the empire and menaced war, he replied: “The case is quite different. The Crown claims a right to govern the whole of your empire; but the Austrian Government could not refuse to receive a deputation from Hungary for an adjustment of grievances; nor could any State belonging to the German Diet attempt to claim sovereignty over another, because they were members of the same Confederation.” I remarked “that his views of the obligations of each State of the Union were perfectly new to me, as a stranger ignorant of the controversies which distracted them. An Englishman had nothing to do with a Virginian and New Yorkist, or a South Carolinian—he scarcely knew anything of a Texan, or of an Arkansian; we only were conversant with the United States as an entity; and all our dealings were with citizens of the United States of North America.” This, however, only provoked logically diffuse dissertations on the Articles of the Constitution, and on the spirit of the Federal Compact.

Later in the day, I had the advantage of a conversation with Mr. Truman Smith, an old and respected representative in former days, who gave me a very different account of the matter; and who maintained that by the Federal Compact each State had delegated irrevocably the essence of its sovereignty to a Government to be established in perpetuity for the benefit of the whole body. The Slave States, seeing that the progress of free ideas, and the material power of the North, were obtaining an influence which must be subversive of the supremacy they had so long exercised in the Federal Government for their own advantage, had developed this doctrine of States’ Rights as a cloak to treason, preferring the material advantages to be gained by the extension of their system to the grand moral position which they would occupy as a portion of the United States in the face of all the world.

It is on such radical differences of ideas as these, that the whole of the quarrel, which is widening every day, is founded. The Federal Compact, at the very outset, was written on a torn sheet of paper, and time has worn away the artificial cement by which it was kept together. The corner stone of the Constitution had a crack in it, which the heat and fury of faction have widened into a fissure from top to bottom, never to be closed again.

In the evening I had the pleasure of dining with an American gentleman who has seen much of the world, travelled far and wide, who has read much and beheld more, a scholar, a politician, after his way, a poet, and an ologist — one of those modern Grœculi, who is unlike his prototype in Juvenal only in this, that he is not hungry, and that he will not go to heaven if you order him.

Such men never do or can succeed in the United States; they are far too refined, philosophical, and cosmopolitan. From what I see, success here may be obtained by refined men, if they are dishonest, never by philosophical men, unless they be corrupt—not by cosmopolitan men under any circumstances whatever; for to have sympathies with any people, or with any nation in the world, except his own, is to doom a statesman with the American public, unless it be in the form of an affectation of pity or good will, intended really as an offence to some allied people. At dinner there was the very largest naval officer I have ever seen in company, although I must own that our own service is not destitute of some good specimens, and I have seen an Austrian admiral at Pola, and the superintendent of the Arsenal at Tophaneh, who were not unfit to be marshals of France. This Lieutenant, named Nelson, was certainly greater in one sense than his British namesake, for he weighed 260 pounds.

It may be here remarked, passim and obiter, that the Americans are much more precise than ourselves in the enumeration of weights and matters of this kind. They speak of pieces of artillery, for example, as being of so many pounds weight, and of so many inches long, where we would use cwts. and feet. With a people addicted to vertical rather than lateral extension in everything but politics and morals, precision is a matter of importance. I was amused by a description of some popular personage I saw in one of the papers the other day, which after an enumeration of many high mental and physical attributes, ended thus, “In fact he is a remarkably fine high-toned gentleman, and weighs 210 pounds.”

The Lieutenant was a strong Union man, and he inveighed fiercely, and even coarsely, against the members of his profession who had thrown up their commissions. The superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard is supposed to be very little disposed in favor of this present Government; in fact, Capt. Buchanan may be called a Secessionist, nevertheless, I am invited to the wedding of his daughter, in order to see the President give away the bride. Mr. Nelson says, Sumter and Pickens are to be reinforced. Charleston is to be reduced to order, and all traitors hanged, or he will know the reason why; and, says he, “I have some weight in the country.” In the evening, as we were going home, notwithstanding the cold, we saw a number of ladies sitting out on the door steps, in white dresses. The streets were remarkably quiet and deserted; all the colored population had been sent to bed long ago. The fire bell, as usual, made an alarm or two about midnight.

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