Part 13 — Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Pages 162- 230


Holt (acting for Secretary Cameron) just in time to defeat the
robbery.” This statement is plain and explicit. The period
of the General’s alleged communication to Secretary Holt is
precisely fixed. It was in March, after the close of Mr. Bu-
chanan’s administration, and whilst Mr. Holt was acting for
Secretary Cameron, who had not yet taken possession of the
department. This was just in time to prevent the “posthu-
mous” order of Secretary Floyd from being carried into execu-
tion. Why does the General italicize the word “posthumous”?
Perhaps he did not understand its signification. If this word
has any meaning as applicable to the subject, it is that Mr. Floyd
had issued the order to Captain Maynadier after his office had
expired. Be this as it may, the object is palpable. It was to
show that Mr. Buchanan had suffered his administration to ter-
minate leaving the “posthunions” order of Governor Floyd in
full force until after Mr. Lincoln’s accession, and that it would
even then have been carried into execution but for the General’s
lucky interposition.

The General, in his letter to the “National Intelligencer”
of 2d December, 1862, attempts to excuse this deplorable want
of memory to the prejudice of Mr. Buchanan. Whilst acknowl-
edging his error in having said that the countermand of Mr.
Floyd’s order was in March, instead of early in the previous
January, he insists that this was an immaterial mistake, and
still actually claims the credit of having prevented the shipment
of the cannon. “An immaterial mistake!” Why, time was
of the very essence of the charge asminst Mr. Buchanan. It
was the alleged delay from January till March in countermand-
ing the order, which afforded any pretext for an assault on his
administration. After his glaring mistake had been exposed,
simple justice, not to speak of magnanimity, would have re-
quired that he should retract his error in a very different spirit
and manner from that which he has employed.

It is due to Colonel Maynadier to give his own explanation
for having obeyed the order of Secretary Floyd. In his letter
to the Potter Committee of the House of Representatives, dated
3d February, 1862, he says: In truth it never entered my
mind at this time ( 20th December, 1860), that there could be


any improper motive or object in the order, for on the question
of union and secession Mr. Floyd was then regarded through-
out the country as a strong advocate of the Union and opponent
of secession. He had recently published, over his own signa-
ture, in a Richmond paper, a letter on this subject, which gained
him high credit at the North for his boldness in rebuking the
pernicious views of many in his own State.”

The committee, then, in the third place, extended back their
inquiry into the circumstances under which Secretary Floyd
had a year before, in December, 1859, ordered the removal of
one-fifth of the old percussion and flint-lock muskets from the
Springfield armory, where they had accumulated in inconven.
ient numbers, to five Southern arsenals. The committee, after
examining Colonel Craig, Captain Maynadier, and other wit-
nesses, merely reported to the House the testimony they had
taken, without in the slightest degree implicating the conduct
of Secretary Floyd. Indeed, this testimony is wholly inconsist-
ent with the existence of any improper motive on his part. He
issued the order to Colonel Craig ( December 29tb, 1859) almost
a year before Mr. Lincoln’s election, several months before his
nomination at Chicago, and before the Democratic party had
destroyed its prospects of success by breaking up the Charleston
Convention. Besides, Secretary Floyd was at the time, as he
had always been, an open and avowed opponent of secession.
Indeed, long afterwards, when the question had assumed a more
serious aspect, we are informed, as already stated by Captain
Maynadier, that he had in a Richmond paper boldly rebuked
the advocates of this pernicious doctrine. The order and all the
proceedings under it were duly recorded. The arms were not
to be removed in haste, but “from time to time as may be most
suitable for economy and transportation,” and they were to be
distributed among the arsenals, “in proportion to their respec-
tive means of proper storage.” All was openly transacted, and
the order was carried into execution by the Ordnance Bureau
according to the usual course of administration, without any
reference to the President.

The United States had on hand 499,554, say 500,000 of these
muskets. They were in every respect inferior to the new rifle


muskets, with which the army had for some years been sup-

plied. They were of the old calibre of — of an inch, which
had been changed in 1855 to that of —- in the new rifled mus-

kets. It was 105,000 of these arms that Secretary Floyd ordered to be sent to the five Southern arsenals; “65,000 of them

were percussion muskets of the calibre of —-, and 40,000 of this

calibre altered to percussion.” By the same order 10,000 of the

old percussion rifies of the calibre of —- were removed to these

arsenals. These constitute the 115,000 extra muskets and rifles, with all their implements and ammunition, which, according to General Scott’s allegation nearly three years thereafter, had
been sent to the South to furnish arms to the future insurgents. We might suppose from this description, embracing “ammunition,” powder and ball, though nowhere to be found except in
his own imagination, that the secessionists were just ready to commence the’ civil war. His sagacity, long after the fact, puts to shame the dulness of the Military Committee. Whilst obliged
to admit that the whole proceeding was officially recorded, he covers it with an air of suspicion by asserting that the transaction was “very quietly conducted.” And yet it was openly conducted according to the prescribed forms, and must have been known at the time to a large number of persons, including the General himself, outside either of the War Department, the Springfield armory, or the Southern arsenals. In truth, there was not then the least motive for concealment, even had this been possible.

The General pronounces these muskets and rifles to have been of an “extra” quality. It may, therefore, be proper to state from the testimony what was their true character.

In 1857 proceedings had been instituted by the War Department, under the act of 3 March, 1825, “to authorize the sale of unserviceable ordnance, arms, and military stores.” ★ The
inspecting officers under the act condemned 190,000 of the old muskets, as unsuitable for the public service,” and recommended that they be sold. In the spring of 1859, 50,000 of
them were offered at public sale. “The bids received,” says Colonel Craig, “were very unsatisfactory, ranging from 10½

★ Stat. at Large, 127.


cents to $2.00, except one bid for a small lot for $3.50. In submitting them to the Secretary I recommended that none of them be accepted at less than $2.00.” An effort was then made to
dispose of them at private sale for the fixed price of $2.50. So low was the estimate in which they were held, that this price could not be ‘ obtained, except for 31,610 of them in parcels. It
is a curious fact, that although the State of Louisiana had purchased 5,000 of them at $2.50, she refused to take more than 2,500. On the 5th July, 1859, Mr. H. G. Fant purchased a large lot of them at $2.50 each, payable in ninety days; but in the mean time he thought better of it, and like the State of Louisiana failed to comply with his contract. And Mr. Belnap, whose bid at $2.15 flor 100,000 of them intended for the Sardinian Government had been accepted by the Secretary, under the impression it was $2.50, refused to take them at this price after the mistake had been corrected. Colonel Craig, in speaking of these muskets generally, both those which had and had not been condemned, testified that “It is certainly advisable to get rid of that kind of arms whenever we have a sufficient number of others to supply their places, and to have all our small arms of one calibre. The new gun is rifled. A great many of those guns [flint-locks], altered to percussion, are not strong enough to rifle, and therefore they are an inferior gun. They are of a different calibre from those now manufactured by the Government.”

Had the cotton States at the time determined upon rebellion, what an opportunity they lost of supplying themselves with these condemned “extra muskets and rifles ” of General Scott!

In opposition to the strictures of General, Scott upon Mr. Buchanan’s administration, it may be pardonable to state the estimate in which it was held by Mr. Holt, the Secretary of War. No man living had better opportunities than himself of forming a just judgment of its conduct, especially in regard to military matters. Besides, in respect to these, he had been in constant official communication with General Scott from the first of January, 1861, until the inauguration of President Lincoln. He had previously been Postmaster-General from the
decease of his predecessor, Governor Brown, in March, 1859,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s