Part 12 — Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Pages 162- 230


assurances which it required were given by Mr. Mallory and
Colonel Chase to our naval and military commanders, and the
result proved most fortunate. The Brooklyn had a long pas-
sage. Although she left Fortress Monroe on the 24th January,
she did not arrive at Pensacola until the 6th February. In the
mean time Fort Pickens, with Lieutenant Slemmer (whose con-
duct deserves high commendation) and his command, were, by
virtue of this order, supplied with provisions and placed in per-
fect security, until an adequate force had arrived to defend it
against any attack. The fort has ever since been in our pos-

General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, speaks of
this arrangement in the hostile spirit toward President Buchanan
which pervades the whole document. He condemns it without
qualification. He alleges, “that the Brooklyn, with Captain
Vogdes’ company alone, left the Chesapeake for Fort Pickens
about January the 22d, and on the 29th President Buchanan,
having entered into a quasi armistice with certain leading se-
ceders at Pensacola and elsewhere, caused Secretaries Holt and
Toucey to instruct, in a joint note, the commanders of the warves-
sels off Pensacola, and Lieutenant Slemmer, commanding Fort
Pickens, to commit no act of hostility, and not to land Captain
Vogdes’ company unless the fort should be attacked.” He washes,
his hands of all knowledge of the transaction by declaring, “That
joint note I never saw, but suppose the armistice was consequent
upon the meeting of the Peace Convention at Washington, and,
was understood to terminate with it.”

Will it be believed that General Scott himself had expressly
approved this joint order before it was issued, which he presents
to President Lincoln in such odious colors? President Buchanan
had a distinct recollection that either the Secretary of War or
of the Navy, or both, had at the time informed him of this fact.
Still he would have hesitated to place himself before the public
on an important question of veracity in direct opposition to a
report to his successor by the Commanding General of the army.
He was relieved from this embarrassment by finding among his
papers a note from Secretary Holt to himself, dated on the 29th
January, the day on which the joint order was issued. From


this the following is an extract: “I have the satisfaction of say-
ing that on submitting the paper to General Scott he expressed
himself entirely satisfied with it, saying that there could be no
objection to the arrangement in a military point of view or
otherwise.” How does General Scott, in November, 1862, at-
tempt to escape from this dilemma? Whilst acknowledging
that few persons are as little liable as Mr. Holt to make a mis-
statement, either by accident or design, he yet states that he has
not the slightest recollection of any interview with him on the
subject. ★ He proceeds, to say that he does indeed remember
that Mr. Holt, about this time, approached his bedside when he
was suffering from an access of pain; leaving it to be inferred,
though he does not directly say so, that this might account for
his want of attention; and then he slides off, as is his wont, to
another subject. But his subterfuge will not avail him. The
testimony of Mr. Holt is conclusive that he not only expressed
his satisfaction with tile order, but expressly declared that
there could be no objection to it in a military or any other point
of view. It is impossible that Mr. Holt, on the very day of the
interview, and without any conceivable motive, should have
made a false report to the President of what had just occurred
between himself and the General. Strange forgetfulness!

General Scott, also, in his report to President Lincoln, com-
ments severely on the delay of the order for reënforcements to
Fort Taylor, Key West, and Fort Jefferson, Tortugas Island,
notwithstanding this had been issued so early as the 4th Jan-
uary, and though these reënforcements had arrived in sufficient
time to render both forts perfectly secure. This the General
admits; and there the matter ought to have ended. But not
so. It was necessary to elicit from this simple transaction
reasons for magnifying his own services and censuring President
Buchanan. According to the report, he had experienced great
difficulty in obtaining permission from the President to send
these reënforcements; “and this,” says he, “was only effected
by the aid of Secretary Holt, a strong and loyal man.” He
then launches forth into the fearful consequences which might

★ General Scott’s rejoinder to ex-President Buchanan, “National Intelligencer”,
Nov. 12, 1862.


have, followed but for his own vigilance and foresight. He even
goes so far as to say that with the possession of these forts, “the
rebels might have purchased an early recognition.”

In opposition to these fanciful speculations, what is the sim-
ple statement of the fact? The administration were well aware
of the importance of these forts to the commerce of the Gulf
of Mexico. General Scott asked the attention of Secretary
Floyd, then about to leave office, to the reënforcement of them
by a note of the 28th December. Not receiving any response,
he addressed a note on the 30th to the President on the same
subject. The rupture with the first South Carolina commission-
ers occurred on the 2d January, and the time had then arrived
when the President, acting on his established policy, deemed it
necessary to send reeënforcements, not only to Fort Sumter, but
also to Forts Taylor and Jefferson, and these were accordingly
despatched to the two latter on the 4th January. The same
course precisely would have been pursued had General Scott
remained at his headquarters in New York.

But the most remarkable instance of General Scott’s want
of memory remains to be exposed. This is not contained in
his report to President Lincoln, but is to be found in his let-
ter of the 8th November, 1862, to the “National Intelligen-
cer,” in reply to that of ex-President Buchanan. Unable to
controvert any of the material facts stated in this letter, the
General deemed it wise to escape from his awkward position
by repeating and indorsing the accusation against Secretary
Floyd, in regard to what has been called “the stolen arms,”
although this had been condemned as unfounded more than
eighteen months before, by the report of the Committee on
Military Affairs of the House of Representatives. This was that
the Secretary, in order to furnish aid to the approaching re-
bellion, had fraudulently sent public arms to the South for the
use of the insurgents. This charge chimed in admirably with
public prejudice at the moment. Although the committee, after
full investigation, had so long before as January, 1861, proved
it to be unfounded, yet it has continued, notwithstanding, to be
repeated and extensively credited up till the present moment.
Numerous respectable citizens still believe that the Confederate


States have been fighting us with cannon, rifles, and muskets
thus treacherously placed in their possession. This delusion
presents a striking illustration of the extent to which public
prejudice may credit a falsehood not only without foundation,
but against the clearest official evidence. Although the late
President has not been implicated as an accessory to the alleged
fraud, yet he has been charged with a want of vigilance in not
detecting and defeating it.

The pretext on which General Scott seized to introduce this
new subject of controversy at so late a period, is far-fetched and
awkward. Mr. Buchanan, whilst repelling the charge in the
General’s report to President Lincoln, that he had acted under
the influence of Secretary Floyd in refusing to garrison the
Southern fortifications, declares that “all my Cabinet must
bear me witness that I was the President myself, responsible for
all the acts of the administration; and certain it is that during
the last six months previous to the 29th December, 1860, the
day on which he resigned his office, after my request, he exer-
cised less influence in the administration than any other mem-
ber of the Cabinet.” ★ Whereupon the General, in order to
weaken the force and impair the credibility of this declaration,
makes the following insidious and sarcastic remarks: “Now,
notwithstanding this broad assumption of responsibility, I should
be sorry to believe that Mr. Buchanan specially consented to
the removal, by Secretary Floyd, of 115,000 extra muskets and
rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, from North-
ern repositories to Southern arsenals, so that on the breaking
out of the maturing rebellion, they might be found without cost,
except to the United States, in the most convenient, positions
for distribution among the insurgents. So, too, of the one hun-
dred and twenty or one hundred and forty pieces of heavy
artillery, which the same Secretary ordered from Pittsburg to
Ship Island, in Lake Borgne, and Galveston, Texas, for forts
not yet erected. Accidentally learning, early in March, that
under this posthumous order the shipment of these guns had
commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary Holt (acting
for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the robbery.”

★ Letter to “National Intelligencer,” 28th Oct., 1862.


Whilst writing this paragraph it would seem impossible that
the General had ever read the report of the Committee on
Military Affairs, and equally impossible that he, as Command-
ing General of the army, should have been ignorant of this
important document, so essentially connected with his official

But to proceed to the report of the committee, which effect-
ually disproves the General’s assertions. At the commence-
ment of the session of 1860-’61, public rumor gave birth to this
charge. It very justly and properly attracted the attention of
the House of Representatives, and from its nature demanded a
rigorous investigation. Accordingly, on the motion of Mr.
Stanton, of Ohio, the chairman of the Committee on Military
Affairs, the House adopted a resolution instructing the commit-
tee “to inquire and report to the House to whom and at what
price the public arms, distributed since the 1st January, 1860,
had been disposed of,” etc., etc. The investigation was deemed
of such paramount importance that the House authorized the
committee not only to send for persons and papers, but also to
report at any time in preference to all other business. From
the nature of the charge it could not be difficult for the commit-
tee to establish either its truth or its falsehood. Arms could
not be removed from one armory or arsenal to another by Sec-
retary Floyd, without the knowledge and active participation
of the officers and attachés of the Ordnance Bureau. At its
head was Colonel Craig, an officer as loyal and faithful as any
who belonged to the army. It was through his agency alone
that the arms could have been removed, and it is certain that
had he known or suspected treachery on the part of the Secre-
tary, he would instantly have communicated this to the Presi-
dent, in order that it might be defeated.

The’ committee made their first report to the House on the
9th January, 1861. ★ With this they presented two tables (Nos.
2 and 3), communicated to them by Mr. Holt, then the Secre-
tary of War, from the Ordnance Bureau, exhibiting “the num-
ber and description of arms distributed since 1st January, 1860,
to the States and Territories, and at what price.” Whoever

★ “Congressional Globe”, p. 294. House Journal, p. 156.


shall examine table No. 2 will discover that the Southern and
Southwestern States received much less in the aggregate instead
of more than the quota of arms to which they were justly enti-
tled under the law for arming the militia. Indeed, it is a re-
markable fact that neither Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, Loui-
siana, North Carolina, nor Texas received any portion of these
arms, though they were army muskets of the very best quality.
This arose simply from their own neglect, because the quota to
which they were entitled would have been delivered to each of
them on a simple application to the Ordnance Bureau. The
whole number of muskets distributed among all the States, North
and South, was just 8,423. Of these the Southern and South-
western States received only 2,091, or less than one-fourth.
Again, the whole number of long range rifles of the army calibre
distributed among all the States in the year 1860, was 1,798. Of
these, six of the Southern and Southwestern States, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia
received in the aggregate 758, and the remainder of these States
did not receive any.

Thus it appears that the aggregate of rifles and muskets
distributed in 1860 was 10,151, of which the Southern and
Southwestern States received 2,849, or between one-third and
one-fourth of the whole number. Such being the state of the
facts, well might Mr. Stanton have observed in making this
report, much to his credit for candor and fairness, that “there
are a good deal of rumors, and speculations, and misappre-
hension as to the true state of facts in regard to this mat-
ter.” ★ The report of the committee and the opinion expressed
by its chairman before the House, it might have been sup-
posed, would satisfy General Scott that none of these muskets
or rifles had been purloined by Secretary Floyd. But not so.
The ex-President had stated in his letter to the “National In-
telligencer,” of November 7th, 1862, that “the Southern States
received in 1860 less instead of more than the quota of arms to
which they were entitled by law.” This statement was founded
on the report of the committee, which had now been brought
fully to his notice. He, notwithstanding, still persisted in his

★ Congressional Globe, 1860-’61, p. 294.


error, and in his letter to the. “National Intelligencer” of the
2d December, 1862, he says: This is most strange contrasted
with information given to me last year, and a telegram just re-
ceived from Washington and a high officer, not of the Ordnance
Department, in these words and figures: ‘Rhode Island, Dela-
ware, and Texas had not drawn at the end of eighteen sixty
( 1860) their annual quotas of arms for that year, and Massachu-
setts, Tennessee, and Kentucky only in part. Virginia, South
Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and
Kansas were by the order of the Secretary of War supplied
with their quotas for eighteen sixty-one ( 1861) in advance, and
Pennsylvania and Maryland in part.'” It is in vain that the
General attempts to set up an anonymous telegram against the
report of the committee. From what source did he derive the
information given to him last year? And who was the author
of the telegram? He does not say in either case. Surely be-
fore he gave this telegram to the world, under the sanction of
his own name, he, ought to have ascertained from the Ordnance
Bureau whether it was true or false. This he might easily and
speedily have done, had he been careful. to present an authentic
statement. There is a mysterious vagruenoss about this telegram,
calculated if not intended to deceive the casual reader into the
belief that a great number of these arms had been distributed
among the enumerated States, embracing their quotas not only
for 1860 but for 1861. From it no person could imagine that
these eight States in the aggregate had received fewer muskets
and rifles than would be required to arm two full regiments.

The next subject investigated by the committee was, had
Secretary Floyd sent any cannon to the Southern States? This
was a most important inquiry. Our columbiads and 32-pound-
ers were at the time considered equal, if not superior, to any
cannon in the world. It was easy to ascertain whether lie had
treacherously, or otherwise, sent any of these formidable weap-
ons to the South. Had he done this, it would have been impos-
sible to conceal the fact and escape detection. The size and
ponderous weight of these cannon rendered it impracticable to
remove them from the North to the South without the knowl-
edge of many outside persons, in addition to those connected


with the Ordnance Bureau. The committee reported on this
subject on the 18th February, 1861. There was no evidence
before them that any of these cannon had actually been trans-
mitted to the South. Indeed, this was not even pretended.
From their report, however, it does appear that Secretary Floyd
had attempted to do this on one occasion a very short time be-
fore he left the department, but that he had failed in this at-
tempt in consequence of a countermand of his order issued by
Mr. Holt, his successor in the War Department.

It requires but a few words to explain the whole transaction.
Secretary Floyd, on the 20th December, 1860, without the knowl-
edge of the President, ordered Captain (now Colonel) Maynadier,
of the Ordnance Bureau, to cause the guns necessary for the
armament of the forts on Ship Island and at Galveston to be
sent to those places. Thig order was given verbally and not in
the usual form. It was not recorded, and the forts were far
from being prepared to receive their armaments. The whole
number of guns required for both forts, according to the state-
ment of the Engineer Department to Captain Maynadier, was
one hundred and thirteen columbiads and eleven 32-pounders.
When, late in December, 1860, these were about to be shipped
at Pittsburg for their destination on the steamer Silver Wave,
a committee of gentlemen from that city first brought the facts
to the notice of President Buchanan. The consequence was,
that, in the language of the report of the committee: “Before
the order of the late Secretary of War [ Floyd] had been fully
executed by the actual shipment of said guns from Pittsburg, it
was countermanded by the present Secretary.” This prompt
proceeding elicited a vote of thanks, on the 4th January, 1861,
from the Select and Common Councils of that city, “to the
President, the Attorney-General [ Black], and the acting Secre-
tary of War [ Holt].”

It is of this transaction, so clearly explained by the commit-
tee in February, 1861, that General Scott, so long after as the
8th November, 1862, speaks in the language which we again
quote: “Accidentally learning, early in March, that under this
posthumous order [of Secretary Floyd] the shipment of these
guns had commenced, I communicated the fact to Secretary



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