Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

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On May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls, the pilot of the side-wheel steamer, Planter, led his crew and relatives to freedom in an act that would be soon acclaimed across the Union.  Smalls later became the first black captain of a United States ship on the USS Planter, now an Army transport vessel. 

May 18, 1862, The New York Herald

HILTON HEAD, S. C., May 14, 1862.

One of the most daring and heroic adventures since the war commenced was undertaken and successfully accomplished by a party of negroes in Charleston on Monday night last. Nine colored men, comprising the pilot, engineers and crew of the rebel gunboat Planter, took the vessel under their exclusive control, passed the batteries and forts in Charleston harbor, hoisted a white flag, ran out to the blockading squadron, and thence to Port Royal, via St. Helena Sound and Broad river, reaching the flagship Wabash shortly after ten o’clock last evening.

The following are the names of the black men who performed this gallant and perilous service: —

Robert Smalls, pilot; John Smalls and Alfred Gradine, engineers; Abraham Jackson, Gabriel Turno, William Morrison, Samuel Chisholm, Abraham Allston and David Jones. They brought with them the wife and three children of the pilot, and the wife, child and sister of the first engineer, John Smalls. The balance of the party were without families.

The Planter is a high-pressure, side-wheel steamer, one hundred and forty feet in length, and about fifty feet beam, and draws about five feet of water. She was built in Charleston, was formerly used as a cotton boat, and is capable of carrying about 1,400 bales. On the organization of the Confederate navy she was transformed into a gunboat, and was the most valuable war vessel the Confederates had a Charleston. Her armament consisted of one thirty-two pound rifle gun forward and a twenty-four pound howitzer aft. Besides, she had on board when she came into the harbor one seven-inch rifled gun, one eight-inch columbiad, one eight-inch howitzer, one long thirty-two pounder, and about two hundred rounds of ammunition, which had been consigned to Fort Ripley, and which would have been delivered at that fortification on Tuesday had not the designs of the rebel authorities been frustrated. She was commanded by Captain Relay, of the Confederate navy — all the other employes of the vessel, excepting the first and second mates, being persons of color.

Robert Smalls, with whom I had a brief interview at General Bonham’s headquarters this morning, is an intelligent negro, born in Charleston, and employed for many years as a pilot in and about that harbor. He entered upon his duties on board the Planter some six weeks since, and, as he told me, adopted the idea of running the vessel to sea from a joke which one of his companions perpetrated. He immediately cautioned the crew against alluding to the matter in any way on board the boat, but asked them, if they wanted to talk it up in sober earnestness, to meet at this house, where they would devise and determine upon a plan to place themselves under the protection of the Stars and Stripes instead of the stars and bars. Various plans were proposed; but finally the whole arrangement of the escape was left to the discretion and sagacity of Robert, his companions promising to obey him and be ready at a moment’s notice to accompany him. For three days he kept the provisions of the party secreted in the hold, awaiting an opportunity to slip away. At length on Monday evening, the white officers of the vessel went on shore to spend the night, intending to start on the following morning for Fort Ripley and to be absent from the city for some days. The families of the contrabands were notified and came stealthily on board. At about three o’clock the fires were lit under the boilers, and the vessel steamed quietly away down the harbor. The tide was against her, and Fort Sumter was not reached till broad daylight. However, the boat passed directly under its walls, giving the usual signal — two long pulls and a jerk at the whistle cord — as she passed the sentinel.

Once out of range of the rebel guns the white flag was raised, and the Planter steamed directly for the blockading steamer Augusta. Captain Parrott, of the latter vessel, as you may imagine, received them cordially heard their report, placed Acting Master Watson of his ship, in charge of the Planter and sent the confederate gunboat and crew forward to Commodore Dupont. The families of the crew have been sent to Beaufort, where General Stevens will make suitable provision for them. The crew will be taken care of by Commodore Dupont.

The Planter is just such a vessel as is needed to navigate the shallow waters between Hilton Head and the adjacent islands, and will prove almost invaluable to the government. It is proposed, I hear, by the Commodore to recommend an appropriation of $20,000 as a reward to the plucky Africans who have distinguished themselves by this gallant service — $5,000 to be given to the pilot and the remainder to be divided among his companions.

The contrabands who came by the Planter represent that the feeling in Charleston approaches nearer to a panic than at any time since the rebellion was inaugurated. The women and children have been ordered out of the place, and have taken whatever of value they could carry with them. The troops are in constant expectation of an attack, and the remaining citizens are nightly holding meetings to devise further means of defence. The steamers in the harbor are seven in number; but only one of them — the Marion — is armed, and she is not capable of doing any damage or offering any resistance to an attacking force. Provisions are terribly scarce and dear.

From the Boston Journal, Jan. 1.

We are informed that Messrs. MASON and SLIDELL were finally delivered up this forenoon, and left Fort Warren at about 11 o’clock. The arrangement for their return was very quietly made, and nothing was known in this city in regard to the affair until the hour arrived for their departure. The steam tugboat Starlight was employed by the Government to convey the prisoners to Provincetown, Cape Cod, where they are to be transfered to the British gunboat Rinaldo, which arrived at that port last night.

In accordance with the above plan of releasing the rebels, the tugboat Starlight left this city shortly before 10 o’clock this forenoon, and stopped at Fort Warren, where see took on board MASON an SLIDELL and their two Secretaries. After receiving their baggage, &c., the tug proceeded on her way to sea, leaving the fort about 11 o’clock. The whole affair was conducted without any display, in perfect quiet, and in the ordinary manner of conveying passengers.

The tugboat will probably reach Provincetown this afternoon, and the prisoners will be transferred without delay to the British gunboat.

(published in the NY Times on January 3)

Daily Advocate, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, October 22, 1860

We are glad to see the people of our State everywhere preparing for the crisis which is at hand. As an offset to the “Wide-Awakes” of the North, “Minute Men” are organizing in all the principal districts of South Carolina. Their object is to form an armed body of men, and to join in with our fellow citizens, now forming in this and our sister States as “Minute Men,” whose duty is to arm, equip and drill, and be ready for any emergency that may arise in the present perilous position of the Southern States. In Kershaw, Abbeville and Richland Districts the organization is already complete and powerful, embracing the flower of the youth, and led on by the most influential citizens. The badge adopted is a blue rosette, two and a half inches in diameter, with a military button in the centre, to be worn upon the side of the hat. Let the important work go bravely on, and let every son of Carolina prepare to mount the blue cockade.

Update note: This article was also published by Seven Score and Ten today. Seven Score and Ten is another blog taking a sesquicentennial journey through the civil war.  While there may be a few identical postings, as time progresses and the nation moves closer to and into actual conflict, this will become less common as more material from 150 years ago becomes available to publish.

There’s No Secession in That.

The New Orleans Picayune for the 8th says:

If Lincoln is successful in the electoral college—which can scarcely be possible*—will he not be elected President by the voice of the people constitutionally expressed—elected too according to the ordinary modes of party action and popular voting—peacefully  and regularly honored with the office which Washington, Jefferson and their long line of successors have honored. Is it for this reason that any man at the South proposes to resist? Are we prepared to disown allegiance to a Government whose administrations hitherto have been followed by a series of uninterrupted blessings, because at some future time an act may be committed hostile to the spirit of the constitution? Will such an issue be one that can secure for any movement t we may commence not the favorable moral influence of the world, but what is far more important, the union of the South itself?

There is  a public sentiment at the South that will forbid success to any movement of this character for this cause, no matter by whom it be originated and favored. The more violent such a movement may be, the less favor would it receive. It would have no foundation in law, it would appeal to no public sense of necessity. It would have no stimulus in the public feeling of positive wrong done, or in the sense by individuals, of actual distress inflicted.

It is time that the men of the South began to speak plainly on this subject. The Southern masses are not yet ready to imitate Mexico, nor will they, like that distracted people;  be put in hostility to the legal government by the pronouncements of any popular leader.

(*Pennsylvania; Indiana and Ohio have said that it is not only possible, not only probable, but absolutely certain.—Eds. HERALD.]

What Are The Southern States Going To Do?

Recent events at the elections in some of the Central States, and all the eventualities and chances which they foreshadow with regard to the Presidential contest, pointing is the direction of Mr. Lincoln’s election by the Northern States, people are beginning naturally to look towards the South and ask what the people there are going to do. The South has for a few years past been threatening disunion and secession, and all kinds of movements, in the event of the triumph of a Northern faction, and in the present aspect of affairs we think it is about time now that the Southern people should be making arrangements for their future course. If the politicians and orators of the South rightly represent the feelings of the people, there is a strong inclination towards secession in South Carolina, in parts of Virginia, in Alabama and other States. Mr. Yancey has just delivered avery eloquent speech in this city, in which he touched upon many points concerning the interests of his section of the country, but he did not solve the problem, what they are going to do down there.

The South has a great many important relations, social as well as commercial, with the North, and consequently its future proceedings in the event of Lincoln’s election are matters  of considerable inferest. We presume that the Legislatures of the different Southern States will come together at once and consult about the plan of action to be adopted. They have time enough to decide upon what they intend to do between this and the inauguration day, March the 4th, 1861.

A Trap for Douglas

W. W. Lamb, a Breckinridge elector at Norfolk, who put the question to Senator Douglas as to the course to be pursued in case of resistance  by the South to Lincoln’s  election, and who received the prompt and emphatic reply that the laws must be enforced, even to the hanging of rebels, promised that the same question should to put to Mr. Breckinridge. This has not been done, and the Secessionists boast that Douglas  has lot friends by his reply. They make a great clamor about the use of force, although Polk and Dallas both voted for Gen. Jackson’s “force bill,” and were afterward supported by the whole Democracy.

TheNorfolk Argos (edited by the Breckinridge elector) boasts that Douglas is losing friends in Virginia since he “be fell into the trap” set for him. It seems to be forgotten that it is a two-edged sword. A few men may fly off, and allege this as an excuse, but Breckinridge is losing friends by not answering. He loses character for frankness, and thereby leaves it to be inferred that he is afraid to speak out on that point.

Tho writer of this has recently had an opportunity to know the sentiments of the people of the ‘Tenth Legion’ on this subject, and the Douglas men are not only firm in his support, as a friend of the Union, but are more than ever determined to beat the Disunionists. Yancey’s speeches inflame the leaders of the Douglas party, and disgust the rank and file. They find that this “champion of Southern rights,” as he is called, has one speech for the South and another for the North. In the Valley of Virginia he talks much about a “Constitutional Union,” but is as gentle as a dove in regard to secession. He does not say a word about his project to “precipitate the Cotton Stares into a revolution.” He knows such talk does not suit this meridian, and therefore he does nothing more than appeal to the pride of Virginia, as ‘the Mother of States and of Statesmen,’ a very original idea —found in every school-boy’s vocabulary. He tells us most pathetically how much we are oppressed by our government.

Information Wanted.

It is announced that Mr. Wm. L. YANCEY is to address the public on the political issues of the day, this evening, at the Cooper Institute. We do not know that the announcement is authentic, but we have been assured that it is.

What Mr. YANCY’S special object may be in so doing, we have no means of knowing. Whether he intends to fortify the faith or speculators for a fall in stocks, and to encourage the hopes of political alarmists,—or to clear himself from the suspicion of being a Disunionist, we ave not aware. We cannot, however, forget the part he has played hitherto in political affairs. We cannot forget his organization of the Southern League, nor his advice to a colleague, that he should remain in the Democratic ranks for the purpose of so shaking its action that, “when the proper opportunity should arise, they might precipitate the Cotton States into revolution.” Nor can we forget the part he has recently taken in the disruption of the Democratic Party, and the advocacy of the Breckinridge ticket in the Southern States. And all these recollections lead us to watch his proceedings with a good deal of interest.

We are a little curious to know whether he will advocate fusion here. or urge his friends to vote the regular Breckinridge ticket. If he does the latter, we shall be warranted in inferring that he regards the election of LINCOLN by the people as affording a favorable opportunity for his “revolution.” If he urges fusion, for the purpose of defeating Lincoln, we shall infer that he considers a Presidential canvass in the House of Representatives as affording much the best chance.

There is one point on which his friends here will insist on having from him an explicit answer. Does he believe that the election of Lincoln, in advance of any act of injustice or aggression, would constitute a sufficient cause for secession? As a frank man he cannot well refuse to declare himself on this point,— nor can he fail to recognize its importance. He will speak here to a  large commercial community, which has everything at stake on the preservation of the Union. Many of them are seeking to save it by defeating Lincoln;— others aim at the same result by preventing the election from going to the House of Representatives. But all are far the Union. And all will insist, after the election is over, and whatever may be the result, upon upholding the Constitution and maintaining the Confederacy inviolate. And they will all want to  know whether Mr. Yancy is for or against them on this point of transcendent importance. We hope he will find it convenient to be perfectly explicit in regard to it.

The Execution of Walker.

Havana, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 1860.

I yesterday sent to Charleston, via Cedar Key, the “news” of the execution of William Walter at Truxillo on the 12th inst., and suppose you are, or will be before this reaches your hand, in possession of the intelligence by the aid of the telegraph. The “news” reached this city on the evening of the 24th inst., from Batubano, at which port the propeller Osceola had arrived that day.

Walker, it appears, was not permitted to have any communication with any of his followers previous to his execution. He marched from his cell to the place of execution with a steady step and unshaken mien. A chair had been placed for him with its back towards the Castle. Having taken his seat, he was blindfolded. Three soldiers stepped forward to within twenty feet of him and discharged their muskets, the balls entered his body, and he leaned a little forward; but, it being observed he was not dead, a fourth soldier mercifully advanced so close to the suffering man that the muzzle of the musket almost touched his forehead, and being there discharged scattered hie brains and skull to the winds. Thus ends the life of the “gray eyed man of destiny,” and though we may differ in our several estimates of the character of the man, and of the correctness of the cause he has of late years pursued, yet I believe none will be found who will assert that he was not a man of true courage.


See Wikipedia article on William Walker — “Before the end of the American Civil War, Walker’s memory enjoyed great popularity in the southern and western United States, where he was known as “General Walker” and as the “grey-eyed man of destiny.””

Won’t Submit to Lincoln.—The Atlanta (Ga.) Southern Confederacy says:—

The South will never permit Abraham Lincoln to be President of the United States.  This is the determination of all parties at the South! And let the consequences be what they may — whether the Potomac be crimsoned in human gore, and Pennsylvania avenue is paved ten fathoms in depth with mangled bodies, or whether the last vestige of liberty is swept from the face of the American continent — the South, the loyal South, the constitutional South, will never submit to such humiliation and degradation as the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.

This fellow is scared before he is hurt.  Lincoln is not yet elected; and if he should be elected, these very fire-eaters of the Georgia school, who are always blowing and threatening, and never doing anything but mischief to their own friends, will be responsible for the result.  Had they stood their ground, instead of running from the Charleston convention, there would have been no occasion for any alarm concerning Lincoln’s election.  Being assured, however, from the late Southern elections, that the Southern people will take care of their pro-slavery disunionists in November, the conservative people of the North have only to look after our no-slavery disunionists and all will be well.

Addressed to Hon. Josiah H. Drummond, of Portland, Maine, shortly after the nomination of Mr. Lincoln at Chicago, this letter “describes the whole historical scene in graphic expressions worthy of perusal and preservation:” – (Lincoln’s campaign: or, the political revolution of 1860 By Osborn Hamiline Oldroyd, c 1896)

“I made the acquaintance of Mr. Lincoln early in the year 1849. Since then we have twice a year traveled over five counties, spending together most of the time from September until January, and from March until June, inclusive. Originally most of the lawyers did this, but lately one by one they have abandoned the circuit; and for perhaps five years Lincoln and myself have been the only ones who have habitually passed over the whole circuit. It seems to me I have tried 10,000 lawsuits with or against him. I know him as intimately as I have ever known any man in my life, perhaps more intimately, if possible, than I knew you when I left Waterville.

“I was with him the week before the Convention. In speaking of the propriety of his going to it, he said he was most too much of a candidate to go, and not quite enough to stay at home.

“Our delegation was instructed for him, but of the twenty-two votes in it, by incautiously selecting the men, there were eight who would gladly have gone for Seward. * * * The first thing after getting our headquarters was to have the delegation proper invite the co-operation of outsiders as though they were delegates. Thus we began. The first State approached was Indiana. She was about equally divided between Bates and McLean. Saturday, Sunday and Monday were spent upon her, when finally she came to us unitedly with twenty-six votes, and from that time acted efficiently with us.

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