Under the plea or pretext that he did not possess authority
to coerce a State, Mr. Buchanan had failed to maintain the national integrity.
. . .had seen many forts, navy-yards, custom houses, and public property
wrested from his government’s control.
The seceding states justified their movement by a strict
construction of the constitution. As the constitution contained no clause
prohibiting a State from withdrawing from the Union, it was denied that the
government was endowed with the constitutional power to coerce a State
to remain in the Union. When Lincoln assumed control of the Executive Office,
he had to face the Democrats who embraced the strict construction.
Between Lincoln’s election and his assumption of the office,
a four month period of time, the Congress passed no laws in anticipation
war, no allocation of funds to the War Department, no draft, no increase in the
size of the Regular Army and the Navy. It was divided, fractious, partisan,
like today’s congress. Congress had just adjourned when Lincoln took office.
What is the date? Did the Senate stay in session?
Note: Buchanan did strenghten those forts he thought could
be held. He sent the Brooklyn to Fort Pickens, with troops.
Buchanan suggested that Congress call a constitutional
convention which would consider amendments. “This procedure ought to be tried,”
he wrote, “before any of these States shall separate themselves from the Union.” The Republicans rejected the idea, and the states themselves did not call for the
convention on their own.
Apparently the congress was in session as late as March 1 as
Buchanan sent it a message explaining why he had troops in the street. (Lincoln arrived the night of Feb 22)
The 36th Congress convened in December 1860 His
Address: “No political union, however [blessed], can long continue, if the
necessary consequence is to render half the people hopelessly insecure.”
By more than a two thirds vote the House passed an amendment
The Congress went out of session on the same day Lincoln took office. Strange.
Lincoln Take Office
On the morning of March 6, Joseph Holt, the interium
Secretary of War, came to Welles and requested Welles to go with him to the War
Department. By Lincoln’s order, there was a conference in the secretary’s
office attended by Scott, Totten, “and two or three members of the cabinet.”
Scott said Lincoln told him to present to the secretaries
the Sumter situation. A dispatch from Anderson, received by Buchanan on March
4, stated that the garrison had six weeks left of supplies.
Scott stated that “there was not in his entire command a
sufficient force to relieve Sumter.” “If any relief could be extended,” he
said, “it must be by the navy.”
Welles claims that he raised the issue with Rear-Admirals
Stewart, Greogory, and Stringham. Each thought it practicable to attempt
relief. Commanders Ward and Jenkins were consulted and they agreed.
“Stringham whom I had selected as an assistant in matters
of detail. . . had two or three conferences with Scott and Commander Ward
in my presence, and it was not difficult to perceive that the general had no
confidence whatever in any successful effort to reinforce Sumter either by land
“In successive cabinet meetings the subject was fully
discussed, generals Scott and Totten and Commodore Stringham being sometimes in
At one of these meetings Scott presented an elaborate
report, prepared at Lincoln’s insistence, which stated the impracticality of
relieving Fort Sumter.
“A discussion occurred between them as to the capability of
naval vessels to encounter or pass batteries which the military gentlemen
“Memorandum was submitted by Anderson, in which all the
officers under his command united, expressing his professional opinion that the
fort could not be reinforced.”
Blair was for war. Seward not.
“The President was greatly disturbed.”
“The members of the Cabinet, with the exception of Blair and
Seward, . . .were united in opinion. . .coercive measures” were not to be used.
“Commodore Stringham and Commander Ward united with Scott in
the expression of their opinion that it would unadvisable to attempt to relieve
Sumter.” (This was the state of things as of about March 12. At this point
Ward returned to his station at Brooklyn.
“On the very day that Ward returned to Brooklyn, Blair
telegraphed Fox , requesting he come to Washington. Fox arrived the night of
March 13. (Blair and Fox were married to sisters.)”
“Fox left Washington on March 19 to visit Charleston” to see
the situation as it then existed. Anderson told Fox that the Navy could not
successfully get to him, that only an army landed on Morris Island could relieve the fort, and no such army existed.
Fox stuck to his plan, which was the policy of Blair (and
“In several consultations with the President, the Cabinet,
Scott and Commodore Stringham, Fox developed his plan. . . Fox proposed that
Stringham command the naval expedition. . . but Stringham refused.
Hill Lamon went to Charleston after Fox had returned (Why?)
Lamon returned to Washington on March 28.
Hill Lamon’s Story:
“In the last days of March, 1861, I was sent to Charleston. Lincoln believed it possible to effect some accomodation and my embassy to Charleston was one of his experiments in that direction.” . . . “Go :Lamon” Lincoln said. Lamon does not offer any explanation for why Lincoln sent him.
Lamon: “I visited James L. Petigru, and had a conference
with him, having been enjoined by Lincoln to do so. Petigru was a Union man.”
Petigru said the whole people “were infuriated and crazed, and that no act of
headlong violence by them would surprise him.” “It was now too late,” he said;
“peaceable secession or war was inevitable.”
Next Lamon sent a card to Pickens. “I sent my card, stating
that I was from the President of the United States.”
“After saying to him what President Lincoln had directed me
to say, a general discussion took place. . . he told me plainly that he was
compelled to be both radical and violent; that he regretted the necessity of
violent measures, but that he could see no way out of existing difficulties,
but to fight it out.” (Lamon’s italics.)
Lamon quotes Pickens: “Nothing can prevent war except the acquiescene
of the President of the United States in seccession. . . Let your President
attempt to reinforce Sumter, and the tocsin of war will be sounded from every
hill top and valley in the South.”
Lamon then went to see Anderson. “I found Anderson in a
quandary, and deeply despondent.” (Lamon also found out Andersion had only 15
days of supplies left.)
On March 25, Pickens gave Lamon a pass to see Benjamin
Huger, the postmaster.
That night, Monday, March 25, Lamon boarded the train to
leave Charleston (When did he reach Washington?
Lamon says: “I had ascertained the real temper and
determination of (South Carolina’s) leaders.”
It must be now that Lincoln makes up his mind.
Note: It looks like now Lincoln is telling Cameron to get
the Pickens expedition going, and also telling Fox to go ahead.
Welles writes, “Lamon. . .
returned March 28.” That’s Thursday, March 28.
FIVE DAYS OF
Thursday Friday (29) Saturday (30) Easter Sunday
(31) Monday April 1.
Lamon’s report that Anderson would be out of supplies by
April 15 set the ceiling of time available to Lincoln to do anything.
Welles writes, “On receiving this information from Lamon,
the President declared he would send supplies to the garrsion, and if (the
Confederates) forcibly resisted, on them would be the responsibility of
initiating hostilities. This conclusion. . . he felt to be a political
Welles writes, “On the next day (29th) I received
the following communication.
“Sir: I desire that an expedition, to move by sea, be got
ready to sail as early as April 6. . . the whole according to memorandum
(Fox’s?) attached; . . .”
Navy Depart to provide, “Pocahontas, Pawnee, and Harriet Lane.
War Dept. to provide 200 men, supplies for 12 months. (Why
only 200 men? What is the compliment for the fort?)
Note: Here now is the situation. Lincoln has instructed both Cameron and Welles, using Fox’s memo, to issue orders to put
together an expedition to Sumter, using the three ships named, this on Friday.
At the same time Lincoln has
Seward, his secretary of state, working on putting together the Pickens
expedition, using Meigs, Keyes, and Porter. (There really is no need for the
Pickens expedition, is there? Vodges and the Brooklyn have already
reinforced that fort before Lincoln took office. It is not in immediate danger.
Lincoln is letting Welles and
Cameron do their thing, while he keeps the Pickins thing under his own control
This gives him the basis to issue orders as commander-in-chief to Foote, Porter
and Mercer without Welles or Cameron’s knowledge. He wants to get on with the
war, and wants to make it appear that the South initiated it.
So Cameron has orders issued
through Scott, giving Fox men and supplies, and Seward through Scott has
Colonel Brown appointed commander of the Pickens expedition and has money for
leasing transports; Scott assigns in writing Meigs and Keyes to the project? Lincoln signs Keyes order and off they go to New York.
At some point over the weekend, or
on Monday morning somebody decides to add the Powhatan to the squadron
of ships to go to Charleston. Who? Welles does this on his own, or Lincoln tells him to?
How Does the
Powhatan Get Added to the Mix?
Welles writes, “As the object was to relieve a military
garrison, the expedition was a military one, and was under the control and
direction of the War Department. The Secretary of War specially commissioned
Mr. Fox, then a private citizen of Massachusetts, and gave him his written
Note: Apparently, the list of what
Welles needs to produce is memoralized by Fox’s memo. After the memo was
received, Fox apparently raised the issue of needing another ship which induced
Welles to add the Powhatan? Because the Powhatan possessed the boats Fox
needed to carry his men over the bar? This seems to be the explanation why the Powhatan
got into the mix. But, according to Porter, the Powhatan had no such
boats. (This suggests that Blair and Fox were in on the trick?)
Welles writes, “The steamer Powhatan, which
arrived in New York while these matters were pending, and had been ordered out
of commission, was added to the vessels enumerated in the memoranda, as
her boats and crew were deemed indispensable for landing the supplies. This
vessel had just returned from a cruise and greatly needed repairs but she
could, it was believed, be made available for this brief service.”
Welles writes, “I therefore sent the following
telegram on the 1st of April to the commandant of the
Brooklyn Naval Yard revoking the order by which her officers were detached and
she was put out of commission.”
Note Welles writes to Breese as
commandant of the yard.
Washington, April 1—received at Brooklyn 4:10 p.m.
To Commodore S.L. Breese,
The Department revokes its order for
the detachment. . . Hold her in readiness of sea service.
Welles writes, “After consultation with Lincoln, who was deeply interested in the expedition, (but not interested in the Pickens
expedition; this is how he maintains denialbility.; but then the fact that he
wrote the Mercer order proves his dupilicity.). . . I sent the following
Note: It looks like the first
telegram went off at about 2:00 p.m. on the 1st, the second one at
about 4:00 p.m.
Washington April 1, received
To Commandant Navy yard.
Fit out Powhatan to go to
sea at earliest possible moment.
Note: What happened between 2:00 pm. And 4:00 p.m? Breese wired Welles to inform him of the sad condition of the
vessel, and Welles, informing Lincoln, is told to get it sea worthy.
Note: So far there is no metion of
Porter’s involvement in any of this. Porter had to have gotten involved no
earlier than some time on the 1st.
Note: At some point during the 1st Breese gets
replaced by comodore Foote. How did this happen? Was this done by Welles to
have his own man on the scene looking out? Or did the substitution occur in the
normal course of events? Welles changed the title of the addressee between the
What is Seward’s role in all this? It appears he
continued to dissuade Lincoln from forcing the issue at Charleston, while he
had no objection to Pickens. It may be Lincoln and Seward together came up with
the idea of using the Powhatan as a monkey wrench.
Welles writes, “Mr. Seward was not entirely
reconciled to the enterprise, and suggested. . . that [Lincoln] inform the
South Carolina authorities of the intention to send supplies. . . , and if not
resisted [the fort] would not be reinforced.”
“To inform the secessionists of the intended expedition. . .
would give them time to make preparations to defeat it.” (Hardly is this so.
They are fully prepared and ready to blast the fort at any moment, so this
concern is meaningless.) Lincoln appears to have wanted to be on record as
having warned them that his expedition was coming, fully prepared to force its
way in if the secessionists did not allow it entrance.)
Note: The message is proof to the world that this is not a
Welles writes, “There was no immediate call for additional
forces at Pickens, for a large part of the home squadron was already off Pensacola. The Brooklyn, Sabine, St. Louis and the Wyandotte were on
that station on March 4, and the Crusader and the Mohawk had
subsequently been sent to the Gulf by special request of Scott. There was in
addition to these naval vessels a military force under Captain Vodges [which
had landed in the middle of March].”
“Reinforced by Vodges’s command, and aided and supplied by
the squadron, Pickens was in no immediate danger.”
“Aid to Pickens was not therefore further discussed, though
the subject was not wholly relinquished.”
THE ISSUE OF THE
“On March 5, John Forsyth, Martin J. Crawford, and A.B..
Roman appeared in Washington as commissioners sent by the Confederate
government. On March 11, they asked for a meeting with Seward. Seward
declined. ON the 13th they sent a message to Seward, asking to present
their creditionals as ambassadors.
“An answer dated the 15th was, it is stated in a
postscript `by consent of parties, ‘not delivered until April 8.
Between March 15 and April 8, communications between the two
sides did occur through Judge John A. Campbell in the presence of Justice
Nelson. Campbell had told the commissioners that Sumter would be evacuated
within a very few days,. “On the first of April we (the commissioners) were
again informed that there might be an attempt to supply Sumter, but that Gov.
Pickens should have notice of the attempt. There was no suggestion of
Campbell wrote Seward a letter dated April 13:
“The 30th of March arrived, and at that time a
telegram came from Governor Pickens inquiring concerning Colonel Lamon, whose
visit to Charleston he supposed had a connnection with the proposed evacuation
of Fort Sumter. I left that with you, and was to have an answer the following
Monday (April 1). On April 1, I received from you the statement in writing: `I
am satisfied the government will not undertake to supply Fort Sumter without giving notice to Governor Pickens.’”
“On April 7, I addressed a letter to you on the subject of
the alarm that the preparations of the government had created, and asked you if
the assurances I had given were well or ill informed. You replied `Faith as to Sumter fully kept, wait and see.’”
In the morning paper I read, “an authorized messenger from Lincoln (Chew) informed Governor Pickens that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably or otherwise by force. This was the 8th of April at Charleston, the day following your last assertion. . .
Note: So between March 15 and April 1, two weeks, Lincoln is holding the commissioners off with Seward, is organizing one expedition that is
not necessary and another that he intends to scuttle, all this dancing to make
it look like the South started the war.
WELLES NOW TAKES
US TO WHAT HAPPENED ON APRIL 1
Welles writes, “Late in the afternoon of April 1,
while at my dinner at Willard’s, Mr. Nicolay brought me a package from the
President. Opening it I found several papers. . . of a singular character,
being in the nature of instructions or orders from the Executive relative to
naval matters of which I knew the President was not informed. . . .”
Welles identifies the one paper that he was most irritated
with. This is Lincoln’s message to Welles dated April 1 which tells him to
“issue instructions to Captain Pendergrast, commanding the Home Squardon, to
remain in observation at Vera Cruz. . . Captain Stringham will be directed to
proceed to Pensacola. . .and assume command of the Home squadron. He will
cooperate with the land forces. . . Captain Barron will relieve Captain
Stringham in charge of the Bureau of Detail.”
Note: Remember that Welles said earlier that he had
appointed Stringham as his assistant to handle details. Lincoln was
substituting Barron for Stringham. Welles did not like it and went to complain.
Nothing about this “package” has anything to do with Sumter. It is all about
Welles recognized that the handwriting was Meigs, and that
the postscript was in Porter’s hand. When did he recognize this? What difference
does it make? Welles is mad about being forced to take Barron instead of
Lincoln could have simply said: “Hey, these are my orders,
live with it. But instead, according to Welles, Lincoln disavowed the order to
switch Barron for Stringham, as Welles’s assistant in charge of details.
Welles writes, “The package of papers was prepared by
two or three young men (Meigs, Keyes, and Porter) that were working with
Seward, he [Lincoln] had signed the papers without reading them.” (All this
means is that the young men came up with the idea of switching Welles’s
assistant, not Lincoln; so what?) What is it about Barron?
Welles writes, “Without further inquiry I informed
the President that I had no confidence in the fidelity of Captain Barron, who
was by this singular order, issued in his [Lincoln’s] name, to be forced into
an official and personal intimacy with me, and virtually to take charge of the
Navy Department. Lincoln said he knew nothing of Barron.
Query: This Barron thing is a red herring. It adds or
substracts nothing to the story. Why did Porter and Meigs write this message
which Lincoln claimed to have signed with out reading? No sooner had he signed
it than he rescinded it, leaving Welles were he was before the order was
written. Its effect was merely to jolt Welles into an understandable fury and
gaurantee that Welles would come to the White House. Did Lincoln use the moment
to communicate something else to Welles that is relevant?
Why does Welles even raise the issue in the context of his
story about Sumter? The meeting with Lincoln (the excuse of which is the order)
gives Welles notice for the first time that Porter is involved in some way
directly with Lincoln. As far as Welles is concerned Porter is supposed to be
going to New York to catch the California steamer as that is his official
Has Welles yet written the orders to the ship captains
instructing them to meet ten miles east of the harbor and wait for Captain
Mercer? Or does he write these orders later?
The business about Barron, from Welles’s point of view is
“The bureaus of the Department were established by law and
not by executive order. This this proposition (shifting administrative duties
from the Secretary of Navy) to make a naval officer secretary de facto, to
transfer him from his professional to civil duties was illegal. (Later Lincoln makes Fox “Asst. Secretary of the Navy.)
Here comes the answer!
The Barron order is a ruse of Lincoln’s. He knows it will
drive Welles up the wall and that Welles will come running to complain. He will
claim that he signed the order without reading it (giving the story about
Seward and the “clerks at work”). . . .then he will use this as the hook to
establish his innocence when Welles finds out that Mercer has been relieved of
command of the Powhatan and Porter has taken it to sea. That explains
why Lincoln did not admit to Welles when Welles confronted him a second time
that he had signed the Porter/Mercer orders. . .just part of the same
package although it is obvious these latter orders were not in the package
Welles writes, “The President reiterated they were
not his instructions, and wished me distinctly to understand they were
not, though his name was appended to them. . . whatever [Barron’s]
qualifications, he [Lincoln] would never knowingly have assigned him or
any other man to the position named in the Navy Department without first
Note: This is Lincoln’s excuse, his defense, he has
manufactured evidence—his denial—to support his denial of what happens to
Note: Welles goes on at length to establish, convincingly,
the fact that Baron was in fact a rebel, Barron left the Navy after Sumter and ended up a few weeks later in command of Fort Hatteras. So Lincoln had picked
someone every one knew was a rebel sympathizer.
“Baron was cunning. . .and was deep in all the secession
intrigues in Washington in that period. . . the greater portion of this clique
of exclusives sent in their resignations,. . .Barron, foremost among them. . .
.” Barron took rank as a captain in the Confederate Navy effective March 25.
Welles states that the choice of ships and the instructions
to assign them to the Sumter expedition came from Lincoln. “March 29, the day
(Friday) that I had received his instructions to sent the Pocahontas on
Welles writes, “For a day or two after these
proceedings of the 1st of April there was a delay in issuing final
orders for the Sumter expedition. (Porter, Meigs, and Keyes, Porter with
Mercer’s order in hand leave on the same train the night of April 1 for New York,. They must leave after Welles confronts Lincoln)
What is Happening with Fox?
Welles writes, “Mr. Fox, who was to be in command,
had, under orders of the President, gone to New York on March 30 (Saturday), to
make necessary preparations; but not receiving expected instructions, he
returned to Washington on April 3 (Wendesday).”
Note: Porter appears at the Brooklyn Navy Yard after
Fox leaves it? Probably.
Lincoln now instructs Cameron and Welles to issue the “final
Note: By this time, several days have passed since Welles
and Lincoln wrangled over Barron. At the time these final orders are prepared
by Cameron and Welles, Porter has gone off to New York with his and Mercer’s
orders dated April 1, and Lincoln can claim these were part of the papers
prepared by Seward’s clerks which he signed without reading.
Note: So the last piece of Lincoln’s puzzle is being slipped
into place. On April 1, in the morning, he instructed Welles to send order to
get the Powhatan ready for sea, assigning the ship to the Sumer expedition. But no other ships have yet been selected and no orders have gone out to
ship captains. Lincoln sends Porter off with the Mercer order. Lincoln
establishes his denialibility by manufacturing a witness in Welles who can
testify, after Porter was gone, the package came to his rooms, and he went to
Lincoln and heard Lincoln state he had signed papers without reading them.
“. . .the following orders were prepared and issued by the
secretaries of War and Navy. My instructions to Captain Mercer, in command of
the Powhatan, were submitted by myself personally to the President and
by him were carefully scrutinized and approved.”
Note: Unlike the “papers” Seward’s “clerks” had prepared on
April 1 and which Lincoln had signed without reading. Among these papers we are
to assume was contained the Porter, Foote, and Mercer orders. But there are two
undisputed facts which point to a different scenario: First, these three orders
were not contained in the package delivered to Welles the evening of April 1;
second, the order to Foote, that Lincoln signed, expressly instructs Foote to
keep the Navy Department in the dark. The dancing Porter does, in his book,
about the back and forth with Foote, Foote wanting to contact Welles and Porter
pointing to this language in Lincoln’s order to Foote, suggests he is trying to
give the story credibility.
The whole thing does come down to a lying contest: Was Lincoln telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when he told Welles
he had not read the Barron order? Even if Lincoln told the truth about that
specific issue, we are still left to speculate that had he been directly asked
the same question about the Porter.Mercer orders his answer under oath would
have been the same. There is no evidence that Lincoln denied knowing he had
signed the Porter/Mercer orders. We are simply invited by Lincoln’s presentation
of the facts to ASSUME that, having not read the Barron order he had not read
the Porter/Mercer orders.
Cameron’s Order to
Department April 4 (Thursday)
Captain G.V. Fox:
. . .you will take charge of the
transports in New York, having the troops and supplies on board, to the
entrance of Charleston Harbor; and endeavor, in the first instance, to deliver
the susistence. If you are opposed in this, you are directed to report the fact
to the senior naval oficer of the harbor, who will be instructed by the
Secretary of the Navy to use his entire force to open a passage. . . .”
Cameron, Secretary of War.
Order to Mercer
Department April 5 (Friday)
Captain Samuel Mercer, commanding Powhatan
Sir: The United States steamers Powhatan,
Pocahontas, Pawnee, and Harriet Lane will compose a naval force
under your command, to be sent to the vicinity of Charleston Harbor, for the purpose of aiding in carrying out the objects of an expedition of which the War
Department has charge.
You will leave New York with the Powhatan
in time to be off Charleston bar, ten miles distant from and due east of the
lighthouse, on the morning of the 11th, there to await the arrival
of the transport with troops and stores.
Welles, Secretary of the Navy
order to the other Ship Captains
is the one that counts as Mercer will not be there)
Department April 5
Commander Rowan, commanding U.S. steamer Pawnee, Norfolk
Sir: . . .on the morning of the 11th
appear off Charleston bar, ten miles distant. . . where you will report to
Captain Mercer. . . Should he not be there you will await his arrival. .
Welles, Secretary of the Navy
Welles now comes back around to Lincoln’s manufactured defense of ignorance. He now quotes Lincoln’s order of the 1st
to the Navy Yard to get the Powhatan fit for sea, which Welles states
mirrored his own order of the same day. It is this order which directly
connects Lincoln’s defense to the Porter/Mercer orders.
Welles writes, “This, it will be observed, was on the
1st of April, when he was signing papers, many, as he said,
without reading, and some hours before my interview with him concerning the
papers brought me by Mr. Nicolay. The telegram was probably (conclusion
of the witness that is inadmissible in evidence in court) prepared for his
signature and signed by him under the arrangement of Mr. Seward and his
associates. . . “ (Of course it was signed by him “under the arrangement;” the
issue for decision by the jury is, however, did he read these specific
orders when he signed them?)
ABOUT SEWARD SHOWING UP AT WELLES’S DOOR
Welles writes, “Mr. Seward and his son Frederick
(brought along as a witness?) called at my rooms at Willard’s about eleven o’clock at night on the 6th of April with a telegram from Meigs and
Porter. . . “
Note: By this time the Powhatan
was already over the bar at Sandy Hook and steaming in the sea. Neither Keyes
nor Porter state that Porter send Seward a telegram. Both point the finger at
Meigs, although there is no intelligent reason, under the circumstances, why
Meigs would be sending the telegram. He was gone to sea aboard the transport
carrying the expedition’s commander, Colonel Brown. Porter claimed, in his
writing, that Comodore Foote, “immediately upon the Powhatan leaving
the dock,” sent Welles a telegram reporting the fact of the Powhatan’s
departure without Mercer.
Welles continues, “The purport [of the telegram] was
that there was difficulty in completing arrangements, in consequence of
conflicting orders from the Secretary of the Navy. I asked an explanation, for
I knew of no movement with which my orders conflicted.”
Welles reports what Seward said in reply: “Seward
said he supposed (The telegram, then, did not state what the nature of
the conflict was?) the telegram related to some difficulty about Lt. Porter’s taking
command of the Powhatan”
Note: TAKING COMMAND OF THE POWHATAN? WHAT? How can a
lieutenant have taken command of a twenty gun war ship of the line? This is a
lieutenant who, at the time, was under specific orders from the Navy Department
to present himself in New York to take the California steamer, to reach his new
Query: Why did Seward
carry this news ot Welles at 11:00 p.m. at night? He must know the
“confusion” had nothing to do with Welles, that Porter took command of the Powhatan,
because, under Seward’s watch, the President had signed an order Seward’s
“clerks” had written, without reading it. Why bring his problem to Welles? Because
Seward and Lincoln knew Welles would find out about what had happened in New York from Foote in any event and they wanted to maintain their story of plausibility.
THERE IS NO ISSUE AS
FAR AS WELLES IS CONCERNED THAT SEWARD
KNEW THAT THE
POWHATAN HAD BEEN ASSIGNED TO THE SUMTER EXPEDITION.
Welles writes, “I insisted. . . that Captain Mercer
was in command. . . that [the Powhatan] was as he (Seward) knew
the flagship of the Sumter expedition. . . that Lt. Porter had no orders to
join that expedition; that he. . . was under orders for the Pacific. . .and I
supposed had left for that duty. . . “
Welles continues, “Seward said. . . that Lt. Porter
had been sent to New York under special orders from the President, of which I
had probably not been informed.. . . “
Note: So, like the Barron order, Lincoln is supposed to have not read the order he signed which detached and sent away from
his assigned duty an officer without informing the Navy Department, to take
command of a ship, and interfering with the measures of the department and
embarassing Captain Mercer?
DENIES KNOWING ANYTHING
Welles and Seward, his son and Commodore Stringham, go to
the White House at midnight on the 6th. Welles again confronts Lincoln and reports what Lincoln said.
Welles writes, “The President. . . read and reread
the telegram (from Meigs and Porter? Where is this telegram?), and asked if
I (Welles) was not mistaken in regard to the flag ship” (Excuse me, The
Secretary of the Navy did not know which ship he had assigned as flag for the Sumter expedition?)
Note The relevant question is,
Didn’t Lincoln know the name of the ship Welles had assigned?
Didn’t Lincoln, himself, draft
the orders Welles sent to the ship captains?
Of course, even so, he wouldn’t
know there was a “conflict, “ if he had signed the Porter and Mercer orders
without reading them.
Welles continues, “I reminded him that I had read to
him my orders to Captain Mercer on the day they were written (April 5),
and they had met with his approval.”
Note: Oh, we see, don’t we? Lincoln drafts orders for
Cameron to write up, listens to and approves the orders Welles writes up, but
bithly, at the same time, signs orders Seward’s “clerks” write up without
reading them. These orders being concerned with expeditions involving naval and
army personnel at the most intense moment of crisis for his administration and
the country. Just ridiculous to believe, unless you are an historian with an
agenda. But as jurors in a courtroom, how would you find?
Welles continues, “Seward thought it too late to
correct the mistake. . . The President. . .was peremptory—he said there was not
the pressing necessity in [the Pickens] case, which I learned [now?] was an
enterprise for Pickens. As regarded Sumter, however, not a day was to be
lost—that the orders of the Secretary of the Navy must be carried out. . .
Note: Let’s see where Lincoln’s
story has taken him: He says that he didn’t know that Seward’s “clerks” had
presented orders for him to sign which stripped a captain of his warship and
turned it over to a lieutenant, who took it to sea and off to Pensacola, on an
expedition that didn’t really count. But now, at midnight on the 6th,
in the presence of Welles, Lincoln does know that such an order was
issued and executed on the basis it was signed by him, in his capacity
as the government’s commander-in-chief. Under such circumstances, what would
you expect a reasonable person in Lincoln’s shoes to do?
What did Lincoln do?
Welles writes, “Lincoln directed Seward to
telegraph to that effect to New York.”
Query: What would a
reasonable person expect to result from this? Holding in his hand an order
signed by the President, when Porter received a telegram—Give the Powhatan
to Mercer, signed Seward—he ignored it. And Lincoln made him an admiral!
Finally, Gideon Welles, in 1870, unlike historian Doris
Kearns Goodwin, a hundred and forty years later, faces head on the factual
issue of Lincoln’s reason for manufacturing a defense to the contention
he was lying. Lincoln wasn’t lying, Welles tells us: Seward was!
“It has been said that the detachment of the Powhatan.
. . was a deliberate contrivance to defeat it. . . .” Mr. Blair charges
Mr. Seward with giving a pledge to evacuate Fort Sumter.” This was Seward’s
motive, Welles offers.
And Welles quotes as his proof a public letter of Meigs,
written sometime after the event, “An order was extracted (from the President)
on the recommendation of Seward, detaching the Powhatan from the Sumter expedition. . . “ And Lincoln made Meigs the Quartermaster General of the Army!
Welles closes his story with this:
“There was, doubtless, an object in sending the Powhatan
to Pensacola, and there was, of course, an object in secreting the fact, and
withholding all knowledge of the enterprise from the Secretary of the Navy,
who, of all others, should have known it. If that object was, as has been
stated, not so much to relieve Pickens as to prevent the relief of Sumter, the object was attained. [Seward’s pledge to the Confederate commissioners]—Faith
in regard to Sumter, wait and see—will be understood. Faith (by Seward in
Welles scenario) may thereby have been kept with the rebel leaders, though
faith toward [me] may be less susceptible of explanation.”
Postscript: The issue of chain of command
At the time the plan was set in motion, the Brooklyn Naval
Yard was under the command of the Commandant, Breese. Mysteriously Breese
disappeared and was replaced by Commander Foote, holding a rank below captain.
On April 9, 1861, Foote sent the following to Welles.
“I did detain the Powhatan, as far as I had authority
to do it, on receiving your telegram to do so, and until Captain Mercer,
my superior officer, informed me that he should transfer his ship to Lt. Porter
(Mercer had in his hand a direct order from Lincoln). . . . I have pursued the
only course which could possibly have accomplished the work which has been
executed; and in case of Powhatan, after preparing her for sea, my
authority over her ceased, and she was controlled by my superior officer.”