Eventful month of April
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Special to the News
By John M. Taylor
April is filled with critical events relative to the South’s efforts to establish an independent republic. This includes the initiation of hostilities in 1861 and the ultimate demise of the Confederate States in 1865.
Although the list is not all-inclusive, some of the most significant April events are as follows:
April 4, 1861 – Colonel John Brown Baldwin of Virginia met with Abraham Lincoln in an attempt to avoid war and convey that his native state was eager to help put an end to the schism. Lincoln told Baldwin he was too late and the North could not let the South go because the subsequent loss of tariff revenue (based on the wide disparity in import duties) would financially cripple his government.
April 10, 1861 – William Seward wrote to Charles Francis Adams Sr. (minister to England), “Only a despotic and imperial government can coerce seceding states.” As a part of Lincoln’s inner circle, Seward surely had to know Union ships sailed a few days earlier to reinforce Fort Sumter.
April 12-13, 1861 – Virginians A.H.H. Stuart, George W. Randolph and William B. Preston met with Lincoln, having the same goal as Baldwin. They received a virtually identical message from Lincoln. Stuart recalled Lincoln’s comment: “I might as well shut up housekeeping at once.” The train on which the Virginians returned home also carried Lincoln’s request for 75,000 volunteers to put down what he called a “rebellion.”
April 12, 1861 – After receiving ambiguous messages from U.S. Major Robert Anderson concerning surrender and evacuation of Fort Sumter and responding to the attempted reinforcement of the fort, Confederates fired on Sumter. The following day, Anderson’s troops evacuated the fort; the official surrender was on April 14.
April 15, 1861 – Lincoln requested additional troops in Washington, D.C., to protect the Union capitol.
April 15, 1861 – Lincoln and Seward officially issued the call for 75,000 troops from each state to force the seceded states back into the Union. War Secretary Simon Cameron issued a communiqué to the governors of several states echoing Lincoln’s request. These actions drew angry responses from the governors of Kentucky, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas. Coercion was a major reason the last four states on the list decided to join the Confederacy – they were convinced the Union is voluntary; the states are the true sovereigns; and the federal government had no right to force a state to remain in it (especially since the states created the federal or general government).
April 16, 1861 – Lincoln ordered the cessation of trade with the Confederate states.
April 17, 1861 – Through the Virginia Convention, the state voted to leave the Union. Incensed by Lincoln’s call for invasion, most Virginians saw the “union” as a voluntary coalition of sovereign states. Virginia’s citizens voted their approval, ratifying the secession measure on May 23, 1861.
April 18, 1861 – Robert E. Lee turned down the command of U.S. armies. He refused to participate in the unconstitutional invasion of sovereign states – especially his home state of Virginia – in violation of Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution.
April 19, 1861 – Following the suggestion of Winfield Scott and employing Scott’s Anaconda Plan, Lincoln ordered a blockade of Southern ports. Lincoln claimed the Southern states did not literally secede, but were simply out of their practical relationship with the Union, leading one to ask the slightly absurd question: Did the Union blockade its own ports?
April 19, 1861 – Troops from the Sixth Massachusetts entered Baltimore, Maryland, after being strongly warned to stay out by Mayor George W. Brown. In correspondence with the Lincoln administration, Brown referenced the fact that Pennsylvania troops had marched through his city the previous day and their unwanted presence almost led to violent conflict. Brown’s warning was ignored. The April 19 movement of Massachusetts troops through Baltimore became known as the Pratt Street Riot or First Blood incident and resulted in the deaths of at least four Union soldiers and twelve civilians.
April 22, 1861 – Rev. Richard Fuller (who baptized missionary advocate Annie Armstrong) and a congregation from Baltimore, Maryland, met with Lincoln, having the same peaceful intentions as Baldwin, Stuart, Randolph, and Preston. Fuller and his contingent received the same message from Lincoln concerning his concern for the loss of tariff revenue.
April 23, 1861 – Robert E. Lee became the commander of Confederate forces in Virginia.
April 25, 1861 – Union troops arrived to protect Washington, D.C.
April 27, 1861 – In contravention of his delegated constitutional powers, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus. In Maryland, the Merryman case arose from this unconstitutional maneuver, along with Lincoln’s battles with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney.
April 29, 1861 – Despite the fact a sizable number of Marylanders opposed forced union, the general sentiment was to remain neutral. Combined with a desire for neutrality, Maryland also felt pressure from the boot heel of the Lincoln administration, and the Maryland legislature voted against secession.
April 30, 1861 – Lincoln had Union troops evacuated from Indian Territory.
The demise of the true goal – Southern independence – was virtually ended on April 9, 1865, when Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia. According to later testimony, Lee deeply regretted the decision after he saw what “those people” did to the South.
April is Confederate History and Heritage Month in Alabama. Of course, it will be largely ignored. Irish-born Confederate General Patrick R. Cleburne astutely predicted what would happen if the South failed to gain independence:
“Surrender means that the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern school teachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by all the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit subjects for derision.”
It has been claimed that Cleburne wanted to return to Ireland after the war and fight to remove English troops from Irish soil. Unfortunately, Cleburne was killed at the Battle of Franklin. To his dying day Jefferson Davis believed the South had a right to govern itself.
Lord Acton lamented the destruction of states’ rights more than he cherished the English victory at Waterloo. What type of “education system” and media would teach Southerners to despise their own flesh and blood ancestors? The question answers itself.