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Then, to the lasting credit of all concerned, the future political enemies parted as the best of personal friends. Sherman left everything in perfect order, accounted for every cent of the funds, and received the heartiest thanks and best wishes of all the governing officials, who embodied the following sentence in their final resolution of April 1, 1861: “They cannot fail to appreciate the manliness of character which has always marked the actions of Colonel Sherman.” Long before this Louisiana had seceded, and Sherman had gone north to Lancaster, Ohio, where he arrived about the time of Lincoln's inauguration.
Meanwhile, on the eighteenth of February, the greatest of all surrenders had taken place in Texas, where nineteen army posts were handed over to the State by General Twiggs. San Antonio was swarming with Secessionist rangers. Unionist companies were marching up and down. The Federal garrison was leaving the town on parole, with the band playing Union airs and Union colors flying. The whole place was at sixes and sevens, and anything might have happened.
In the midst of this confusion the colonel commanding the Second Regiment of United States Cavalry arrived from Fort Mason. He was on
his way to Washington, where Winfield Scott, the veteran General-in-Chief, was anxiously waiting to see him; for this colonel was no ordinary man. He had been Scott's Chief of Staff in Mexico, where he had twice won promotion for service in the field. He had been a model Superintendent at West Point and an exceedingly good officer of engineers before he left them, on promotion, for the cavalry. Very tall and handsome, magnificently fit in body and in mind, genial but of commanding presence, this flower of Southern chivalry was not only every inch a soldier but a leader born and bred. Though still unknown to public fame he was the one man to whom the most insightful leaders of both sides turned, and rightly turned; for this was Robert Lee, Lee of Virginia, soon to become one of the very few really great commanders of the world.
As Lee came up to the hotel at San Antonio he was warmly greeted by Mrs. Darrow, the anxious wife of the confidential clerk to Major Vinton, the staunch Union officer in charge of the pay and quartermaster services. “Who are those men?” he asked, pointing to the rangers, who wore red flannel shoulder straps. “They are McCulloch’s,' she answered; “General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this morning.” Years after, when she and her husband and Vinton had sufered for one side and Lee had suffered for the other, she wrote her recollection of that memorable day in these few, telling words: “I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as, with his lips trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, 'Has it come so soon as this?' In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on his way to headquarters and noticed particularly that he was in citizen's dress. He returned at night and shut himself into his room, which was over mine; and I heard his footsteps through the night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he was praying. He remained at the hotel a week and in conversations declared that the position he held was a neutral one."
Three other Union witnesses show how Lee agonized over the fateful decision he was being forced to make. Captain R. M. Potter says: “I have seldom seen a more distressed man. He said, "When I get to Virginia I think the world will have one soldier less. I shall resign and go to planting
.?” Colonel Albert G. Brackett says: “Lee was filled with sorrow at the condition of affairs, and, in a letter to me, deploring the war in which we were about to engage, made use of these words: 'I fear the liberties of our country will be buried in
the tomb of a great nation." Colonel Charles Anderson, quoting Lee's final words in Texas, carries us to the point of parting: “I still think my loyalty to Virginia ought to take precedence over that which is due to the Federal Government; and I shall so report myself in Washington. If Virginia stands by the old Union, so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution) then I will still follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life. I know you think and feel very differently. But I can't help it. These are my principles; and I must follow them,"
Lee reached Washington on the first of March. Lincoln, delivering his Inaugural on the fourth, brought the country one step nearer war by showing the neutrals how impossible it was to reconcile his principles as President of the whole United States with those of Jefferson Davis as President of the seceding parts. “The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government. Three days later the provisional Confederate Congress at Montgomery in Alabama passed an Army Act authorizing the enlistment of one hundred
attackers on its landward side; and Fort Johnson over on James Island. Lastly, there was the worldrenowned Fort Sumter, which then stood, unfinished and ungarrisoned, on a little islet beside the main ship channel, at the entrance to the harbor, and facing Fort Moultrie just a mile away. The proper war garrison of all the forts should have beer over a thousand men. The actual garrison "including officers, band, and the Castle Pinckney sergeant — was less than a hundred. It was, however, loyal to the Union; and its commandant, Major Robert Anderson, though born in the slaveowning State of Kentucky, was determined to fight.
The situation, here as elsewhere, was complicated by Floyd, President Buchanan's Secretary of War, soon to be forced out of office on a charge of misapplying public funds. Floyd, as an ardent Southerner, was using the last lax days of the Buchanan Government to get the army posts ready for capitulation whenever secession should have become an accomplished fact. He urged on construction, repairs, and armament at Charleston, while refusing to strengthen the garrison, in order, as he said, not to provoke Carolina. Moreover, in November he had replaced old Colonel Gardner, a Northern veteran of "1812,” by