History

The July Crisis Part 2: On Treason (In the Cabinet)

My previous post delved into the 1850s background which led to the demented “Bleeding Kansas” episode in American history, a series of skirmishes beginning in 1855 that eventually erupted into a border war which descending into a nineteenth-century La Violencia perpetuated by bushwhackers, jayhawkers, and conventional Union military units throughout Missouri after the official outbreak of the war in April 1861.  But the 27,000 killed in the Kansas-Missouri border war pales in comparison to the losses in Maryland, Tennessee and Virginia.  But before reaching Virginia, the road takes us through Charleston.

VII: The Keg Detonates

The Civil War officially broke out on April 12, 1861 with P.G.T. Beauregard ordering Fort Sumter (commanded by the 55-year old, 35-year U.S. Army veteran Major Robert Anderson, Beauregard’s artillery instructor and close friend from West Point) shelled in Charleston, South Carolina’s harbor.  Anderson and his men endured 34 hours of bombardment from all sides:

Map depicting Charleston harbor and the location of fortifications in 1861, with lines showing the paths of artillery fire against Fort Sumter

Anderson’s 84 men had 60 cannons available, against the veritable arsenal Beauregard had arrayed against his mentor:

Beauregard, a trained military engineer, built-up overwhelming strength to challenge Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie had three 8-inch Columbiads, two 8-inch howitzers, five 32-pound smoothbores, and four 24-pounders. Outside of Moultrie were five 10-inch mortars, two 32-pounders, two 24-pounders, and a 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore. The floating battery next to Fort Moultrie had two 42-pounders and two 32-pounders on a raft protected by iron shielding. Fort Johnson on James Island had one 24-pounder and four 10-inch mortars. At Cummings Point on Morris Island, the Confederates had emplaced seven 10-inch mortars, two 42-pounders, an English Blakely rifled cannon, and three 8-inch Columbiads, the latter in the so-called Iron Battery, protected by a wooden shield faced with iron bars. About 6,000 men were available to man the artillery and to assault the fort, if necessary, including the local militia, young boys and older men.

Wait a second.  South Carolina seceded on December 20,1860.  How well-armed could the South Carolina militiamen have been to seize those installations and start a full-scale war just over four months later?  Heavily:

State troops quickly occupied Fort Moultrie (capturing 56 guns), Fort Johnson on James Island, and the battery on Morris Island. On December 27, an assault force of 150 men seized the Union-occupied Castle Pinckney fortification, in the harbor close to downtown Charleston, capturing 24 guns and mortars without bloodshed. On December 30, the Federal arsenal in Charleston was captured, resulting in the acquisition of more than 22,000 weapons by the militia [(The weapons in the arsenal consisted of about 18,000 muskets, 3,400 rifles, over 1,000 pistols, and a few artillery pieces, including five 24-pound field howitzers)].  The Confederates promptly made repairs at Fort Moultrie and dozens of new batteries and defense positions were constructed throughout the Charleston harbor area, including an unusual floating battery, and armed with weapons captured from the arsenal.

Captured from the arsenal—in truth, the Charleston Arsenal was looted.  South Carolina may have seceded prior to raiding federal facilities for armaments, but that doesn’t change the fact that South Carolina was not yet at war with the United States on December 30, 1860, and arguing federal property reverted to state ownership (despite the fact that South Carolina did not have any legitimate claim to the federally-owned and federally-produced weapons) after secession might imply that should slaves owned by South Carolinians pass north of the Mason-Dixon line, they would be automatically emancipated.

Besides the total disrespect for the property rights of anyone other than slaveowners in South Carolina, I also must ask: what moron would stock more than 20,000 military arms deep inside soon-to-be hostile territory, defending multiple important federal installations with less than 100 soldiers?  Would one be surprised to learn it was the Secretary of War?

VIII: What is Treason?

In an odd historical quirk, every man that served as Secretary of War in the 1850s rebelled against the United States.  George Crawford, Zachary Taylor’s Secretary of War, presided over his home state of Georgia’s Secession Convention.  His successor, Millard Fillmore’s Secretary of War Charles Conrad, led the secession movement in Louisiana and served both as a representative from Louisiana to the Confederate Congress and as a brigadier general in the CSA Army.  Conrad’s successor, Franklin Pierce’s Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, presided over the Confederacy itself.  Davis was followed by James Buchanan’s Secretary of War, former Virginia Governor John Buchanan Floyd, on March 6, 1857.

Secretary of War John B. Floyd stockpiled 105,000 muskets and 10,000 rifles at five different federal armories throughout the antebellum South in 1860.  Fifty years ago, in February 1963, American Heritage attempted to defend Floyd from the charge he committed treason while serving as President James Buchanan’s Secretary of War:

In 1859 the Army was making a change-over from the old flintlock smoothbore musket to an improved percussion weapon with rifled barrel. As more new rifles were made, Floyd had a job getting rid of the old guns. By law, each state was entitled to its quota for militia use, but he was able to sell only 31,600 of them at $2.50 apiece. The outdated muskets were a drug on the market in both North and South. Then, in the spring of 1860, when he had about 250,000 of them on his hands, he shipped 40,000 to southern arsenals, along with 65,000 old flintlocks altered to percussion and 10,000 new rifles. This was doubtless done to make room for the new rifles in northern arsenals, and since the move was made when only calamity-howlers foresaw war, there was nothing irregular about it.

Not until the fall of 1860 did Floyd’s gun transactions take on a tinge of deviousness. In October, when South Carolina leaders were actively planning secession in the event of Lincoln’s election, Governor William H. Gist of that state moved to add 10,000 men to his militia, and therefore needed 10,000 muskets. He sent Thomas F. Drayton to Washington to buy them. Drayton saw Floyd, who agreed to sell the slate 10,000 smoothbore muskets provided it was done under wraps.

“As this interview with Mr. Secretary Floyd was both semi-official and confidential,” Drayton wrote Gist, “your Excellency will readily see the necessity … of appointing an agent to negotiate with him, rather than conduct the negotiations directly between the State and the department.”

By this time Carolina hotspurs were talking in such a truculent vein that Floyd decided it might not be discreet to sell them even to Drayton, who was a well-known South Carolinian. He suggested a more impersonal intermediary—the Bank of the Republic in New York, whose president, G. B. Lamar, was a southernborn secession sympathizer. The deal was completed, and South Carolina got the guns.

Viewed in retrospect, it was an unwise transaction, for these guns later shot holes in Yankee soldiers. The Secretary’s furtiveness gave the affair a conspiratorial air, yet South Carolina was still in the Union, still entitled to the arms under the quota system. Later, when the Palmetto men tried to buy 40,000 more muskets, Floyd turned them down cold.

Figures from the St. Louis Arsenal tell a much different story:

Some significant conclusions can be drawn from this report which was issued just thirteen months prior to Secession (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 1—see App A.1).  The report shows that United States armories and arsenals held 610,262 small arms in twenty-one locations across the country.  Of those arms, 56,933 were located on the west coast or were in transit there.  In northern states that could pose an immediate threat to the South, there were 504,525 small arms. The future seceding states held, at that time, only 48,804 muskets and rifles, [2]  about eight percent of the total owned by the U. S. Government, and slightly less than ten percent of what the threatening northern states held.  But all of this was about to change through the influential actions of one man, Secretary of War John B. Floyd, who served in the Buchanan administration from 1857 through 1860.

It might be of some significance that Secretary Floyd hailed from Virginia.  He was, in fact, a former governor of the state.  His actions as Secretary of War appear, in retrospect, to have been considerably favorable toward the South.  After having received the results of the above inventory of arms at U. S. arsenals, Floyd ordered, on 30 December 1859, that 105,000 muskets and 10,000 rifles be transferred from three northern repositories to five southern arsenals.  This transaction was carried out in the spring of 1860 and received little notice from federal authorities.  At this time, of course, all of the southern arsenals were in federal hands.  Within a year, however, those arsenals, with all of their arms, would be controlled by secessionist governments (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 39—see App A.9).

This reduction of 115,000 small arms from northern inventories and their addition to southern arsenals considerably changed the potential balance of firepower. If we compare the number of southern arms to those held only by the northern states that posed an immediate threat to the South, then we will see that the proportions had changed significantly. The South now held 163,804 arms as opposed to the 389,525 in threatening northern inventories. This meant that the South would potentially control, at the outset of a regional conflict, nearly thirty percent of the small arms available in that theater of war, and this was the situation just nine months prior to secession. Moreover, with the strong possibility that Missouri would secede from the Union, secessionists looked longingly at the St. Louis Arsenal. Had they been able to add its 1859 figure of 33,734 small arms to the Confederate inventory, it would make the proportion 197,538 southern guns to 355,791 guns available to the North, giving the South control of more than thirty-five percent of the small arms in the theater of war. In fact, had the Confederacy come to control the St. Louis Arsenal, they likely would have held a majority of the small arms available to the western theater of operations, and who knows what chain of events that might have resulted from that set of circumstances?

Not to mention these were just the weapons the seceding states would “acquire” from federal stockpiles.  The southern states began arming long before secession:

In the months leading up to secession there was a flurry of activity as the southern states attempted to get their share (and more) of arms and accoutrements before leaving the Union.  Several states asked for their annual allotment of arms, designated for the state militias, a year or two in advance of what was due them.  It is hard not to conclude, when reading the correspondence of the War Department and the Ordnance Department in the Official Records of the Rebellion, that the southern states, from an early date, were fully aware of their intention to secede and desired to absent the Union as well-equipped as possible (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 3-15).

In addition to the 115,000 arms transferred to southern inventories by Secretary Floyd during 1860, several thousand other small arms were added by distribution in the annual allotment system and by purchase of surplus arms.  The total number of weapons distributed to southern states from all sources, including the St. Louis Arsenal, was as follows:  6-pounder bronze cannon—6;  12-pounder bronze howitzer—2;  .58 cal rifle muskets—1617;  .58 cal long range rifle muskets—686;  .58 cal cadet muskets—716;  .69 cal percussion muskets—450;  Sharps carbine—1;  Colt belt pistols—49;  percussion pistols—61;  various swords and sabers—325.  There were also at least 18,550 flintlock muskets (.69 cal) altered to percussion which were sold to southern states.  So, during 1860, the eleven states which would eventually secede from the Union had received, by annual distribution or by sale, (in addition to the transfer of the 115,000 arms) a total of: 8 cannon; 12,020 muskets and rifles; 110 pistols; and 325 swords and sabers.  (Another 5,560 flintlock  muskets (.69 cal) were sold to individual entrepreneurs who may or may not have been serving southern interests.  It is unclear how many of these guns made it into southern inventories.)  During this period, the St. Louis Arsenal gained 252 rifled muskets (.58 cal.), 8 Colt belt pistols and 8 non-commissioned officers’ swords as Missouri’s portion of the annual allotment.  But the record also shows that the arsenal sold 4,130 flintlock muskets, altered to percussion, to private parties, some of which might have had southern connections  (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 27-29.  Note, for instance, attempts of George B. Lamar, an agent for a southern state, attempting to buy large numbers of weapons for his client:  see App B.2-4.)

But Floyd was more than just the United States’ chief armorer starting in 1857:

This was at the time when Major Robert Anderson and his undersized garrison were stationed uneasily at Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbor. Readily accessible from the mainland, the fort was a pushover for attack from the rear; local firebrands were threatening to take it over, and Anderson was appealing to Floyd for reinforcements. Even the most aggressive of the Carolinians knew they had no color of legal jurisdiction over a federal fort—certainly not until secession became a fact —but they were willing to use “popular indignation” as a cudgel over the administration. Let a single man or gun be sent to Anderson, they said, and there would be no restraining the people from attacking and overwhelming the garrison. It was South Carolina’s aim to keep the federal force defenseless until secession was voted, after which the state would negotiate for the forts and seize them if negotiation failed.

Floyd at first took the firm position that the forts were strictly a federal trust and that the Carolinians were using the threat of violence to gain a control they could not secure otherwise.

“You tell me,” he protested on one occasion, “that if any attempt is made to do what under ordinary circumstances is done every day, you will be unable to restrain your people. Suppose you are not able to restrain them now , am I bound to leave those garrisons unprotected, to the mercy of a mob; am I not bound to enable them to resist an unlawful violence which you cannot control?”

This was a sound stand, but he receded from it when two fellow Cabinet members, Jacob Thompson of Mississippi and Howell Cobb of Georgia, warned him of its perils. Floyd now said that rather than cause violence he “would not consent that a man nor a gun” be sent to Charleston. When President Buchanan, growing worried about Anderson’s position, talked of sending reinforcements, Floyd opposed it vehemently and with success. The Army chief, General Winfield Scott, who was strongly in favor of bolstering the garrison, got nowhere because Floyd had pushed him out of control and was handling all correspondence with Anderson himself.

Floyd’s next move was to send Major Don Carlos Buell to confer with Anderson and give him confidential instructions. On December 11 Buell told Anderson he would have to get along with his seventy-odd officers and men, but that if he were attacked or felt attack imminent, he could move his command across the channel to Fort Sumter, a far stronger bastion that was as yet unfinished and ungarrisoned. These instructions were put on paper, a copy of them being approved later by Floyd.

But the Secretary of War was more concerned with his dubious financial transactions.  Even American Heritage cannot put a good spin on this:

In December, again hard up, Russell made another honor-saving call on Bailey, presenting the same alternatives—more money or ruin for everybody concerned. Bailey handed him $333,000 in Indian bonds. Previously Russell had given him his notes for the bonds, but now he took up the notes and gave Bailey instead a batch of the drafts signed by Floyd. Having rifled the Indians’ till for a total of $870,000, Russell gave as “security” Floyd’s drafts bearing a face value of $870,000, which Bailey hopefully locked in the safe. He might as well have stuffed it with old newspapers.

All this was going on in the background while the Secretary supposedly was grappling with the problem of preserving peace in Charleston. Although Floyd claimed to know nothing about the pilfering of the bonds, he well knew that the drafts he had authorized were in a bad way. While the nation faced crisis, the Cabinet officer chiefly concerned in protecting its interests was in a cold sweat about the exposure moving inexorably closer. Even in the best of circumstances Floyd was an executive failure. Under this dual stress he could hardly have been at his best.

I’m not convinced Floyd’s best could ever pass as adequate.  He showed a remarkable lack of loyalty to either his soldiers or the president that appointed him:

Reversing his original determination to maintain Anderson’s garrison, he urged the President to withdraw the force that so angered the Charlestonians. For all his hopes of avoiding an outbreak, Buchanan refused such a surrender. Anderson stayed. By December, Captain John Foster, the army engineering officer supervising a body of workmen at Fort Sumter, was so fearful that the Charlestonians would seize his unguarded fort that he got forty muskets from the local arsenal to distribute among the workmen. Watchful citizens learned of the removal of the muskets and telegraphed a protest to Washington. Floyd, who had sold 10,000 muskets to the Carolinians, was outraged that his own men should have forty. He wired Foster, “If you have removed any arms, return them instantly.”

Then Floyd takes a flying leap into the deep end of the disloyalty pool:

As yet he had made no overtly disloyal move. That came on December 20, 1860, when he quietly directed the ordnance bureau to send 113 heavy columbiad cannon and eleven 32-pountlers from the Pittsburgh arsenal to the federal forts at Ship Island, Mississippi, and Galveston. Both forts were unfinished, ungarrisoned, and far from ready for armament. Guns there would be useless, unguarded, and a handsome prize to be seized by secessionists. Unknown to the President or the Cabinet, the order went through, but when Unionists in Pittsburgh learned of it, they decided it could not go unprotested.

Floyd tries to send 124 pieces of heavy artillery south the day South Carolina secedes?!  In a just world, Floyd would have been immediately arrested for the grave crimes he has committed.  Naturally, that doesn’t happen:

Instead of sacking Floyd instantly, Buchanan decided to permit him to resign, but he was so averse to unpleasant scenes that he asked the Secretary of State, now Jeremiah Black, to request Floyd to go. When Black declined, Buchanan got Vice President John C. Breckinridge to handle the matter. Breckinridge passed the bad news to Floyd, who, after some grumbling, consented to resign.

But he did not. He lingered on, discredited but still in office, while the newspapers had a holiday with the bond-and-draft scandal. Buchanan momentarily expected to receive the resignation, but it did not come. Meanwhile Russell and Bailey were arrested, and the House appointed a committee to investigate their transactions. South Carolina, now seceded and describing itself as a brand-new republic, sent commissioners to Washington to negotiate for the federal property in the state, hoping to buy Forts Moultrie and Sumter like so much real estate.

In Charleston, Major Anderson had been reviewing the instructions authorizing him to move to Sumter in case of attack or if attack seemed imminent. If he waited until an assault actually began, he was lost. On December 26 he secretly moved his garrison from Moultrie to Sumter, a formidable bastion surrounded by water and therefore not cursed by Moultrie’s indefensibility against land attack. It was a maneuver that took careful planning, courage, and plenty of luck. Andersen, a devout, unwarlike Kentuckian—who, in spite of his southern background, remained loyal to the Union—made the move entirely in the cause of peace, believing weak Fort Moultrie to be a standing incitement to attack.

Here is where President Buchanan definitely shows he doesn’t have the chops to be Commander-in-Chief.  What Floyd does next (which, like it or not, Buchanan has tacitly permitted when he does not simply catapult Floyd out of office for gross insubordination) is unconscionable:

Although his resignation had been requested four days earlier, John Floyd still showed no intention of quitting. He saw in this new complication at Fort Sumter his chance to make a graceful exit, instead of being kicked out of the Cabinet in ignominy. The Secretary put on a fine show of offended righteousness, saying that Anderson had disobeyed orders and Buchanan had broken his “pledge.” Secretary of State Black, on the contrary, cheered Anderson’s move.

“Good,” he said. “I am glad of it. It is in precise accordance with his orders.”

“It is not,” Floyd snapped.

“But it is,” Black insisted. “I recollect the orders distinctly word for word.”

So the orders given Anderson via Major Buell were brought in. They not only supported Anderson but were endorsed by Floyd: “This is in conformity to my instructions to Major Buell.”

Floyd blames the besieged Anderson!  This is supposed to ensure a graceful exit?  By the way, what is this broken “pledge” Floyd is squawking about?

Earlier in December Buchanan had held an informal talk with several South Carolina congressmen, who left with the distinct impression that he had assured them there would be no reinforcement, no change in the military status in Charleston. When the news of Anderson’s transfer to Sumter trickled in to Washington on December 27, the Carolina commissioners angrily said it was a breach of faith. This was most decidedly a change in the military status, they insisted—exactly what Buchanan had promised not to do.

I’ve heard this argument before, do historians really buy it?  Major Robert Anderson moving his men to a more defensible position on the island in Charleston harbor Fort Sumter sits upon (a fort that is part of Anderson’s command, one might add) is a breach of faith, but South Carolina seceding from the Union isn’t?!  Apparently the words of rebellious South Carolina politicians carry more weight than those of President James Buchanan and his administration.  I feel compelled to point out South Carolina did not use the term ‘secession’ in the ordinance announced on December 20, 1860:

Passed unanimously at 1.15 o’clock, P.M., December
20th, 1860.
AN ORDINANCE

To dissolve the Union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled ”The Constitution of the United States of America.”

We, the People of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained,

That the Ordinance adopted by us in Convention, on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also, all Acts and parts of Acts of the General Assembly of this State, ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of “The United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.

THE
UNION
IS
DISSOLVED!

South Carolina did not secede—its politicians took the much more radical step to assert that by passing a single ordinance in a single state the “union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of “The United States of America,” is hereby dissolved.”  These politicians had the gall to claim South Carolina could unilaterally repeal the Constitution of the United States and the entire foundation and framework the nation existed and still exists upon, in essence declaring the country known as the United States of America null and void.  Mr. Friedersdorf, this is nullification—the supreme acts of sedition and treason.

Returning to American Heritage and their February 1963 issue, Floyd’s insubordination becomes epic:

Floyd then retreated from this contention and barricaded himself behind the other—that Buchanan’s pledge had been broken. This was strange logic, for if Anderson’s move had indeed broken a presidential assurance, then Floyd himself, in issuing the order permitting the step, was responsible. Angrily he told Buchanan that “the solemn pledges of this Government have been violated by Major Anderson” and insisted that the only way to “vindicate our honor” and prevent war was to haul the garrison out entirely. On December 29, when it became clear that the President was not hauling out the garrison, Floyd resigned. In the South he was hailed by many as an honest fellow who had quit the Cabinet rather than have any part in pledge-breaking.

Just before Floyd resigned, however, Buchanan got another unpleasant surprise when a telegram from indignant Pittsburghers arrived in Washington to protest about the 124 cannon being readied for shipment south. The order was promptly rescinded. (The forts at Ship Island and Galveston later fell into Confederate hands, and so would the cannon had they been shipped there.)

Dazzlingly, American Heritage still tries to defend Floyd:

The cry that Floyd “armed the South” was heard everywhere. The belief lingered even after a House committee cleared the former Secretary, except in the case of the 124 cannon that never got away.

The records from the St. Louis Arsenal do not at all back American Heritage’s claims.  Missives from Floyd’s successor Joseph Holt and the U.S. military’s Chief of Ordnance completely demolish Heritage’s entire argument that Floyd’s transfer of weapons was at all appropriate:

On January 8, 1861, barely a week after Secretary Floyd resigned his office and was replaced by Joseph Holt (see App A.3), the Chief of Ordnance sent the new Acting Secretary of War an eye-opening report revealing the serious lack of weapons in federal arsenals:

In my last annual report, dated 30th of October, 1860, I had the honor, among other matters, to state as follows:

“The number of arms manufactured at the national armories during the last year was not as great as the available funds would have justified.  This diminution is in a measure attributable to the diversion of armory operations from the manufacture of arms of the established model to the alteration of arms according to plans of patentees and to getting up models of arms for inventors.  Our store of muskets of all kinds at this time does not exceed 530,000, dispersed among the arsenals of the country—nowhere more than 130,000 arms being together.  As this supply of arms is applicable to the equipment of the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the militia of the country, it is certainly too small, and every effort should be made to increase the number of our new-model [.58 caliber] guns, whilst no further reduction by sale of the old-model [.69 caliber] serviceable arms should be allowed until our arsenals are better supplied.  Our store of muskets in former years reached nearly 700,000, and was not then considered too great for the country, as was evidenced by the liberal appropriations made for the further increase and for the construction of more perfect and productive machinery for the fabrication of small arms.”

Since that date, 127,655 serviceable muskets altered to percussion have been ordered to be sold, many of which have already been disposed of and passed out of the possession of Government.  I have now respectfully to recommend that no more arms on the orders already given be disposed of, and that no further sales be made except in the manner authorized by the Act of March 3, 1825.  (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 33—see App  A.6)

Secretary Holt followed the advice of the Chief of Ordnance and ordered an immediate halt to the sale of Government small arms.

The Committee on Military Affairs of the U. S. House of Representatives took a great deal of interest in the status of small arms in U. S. arsenals, especially after South Carolina seceded and captured the Charleston Arsenal with all of its ordnance while several other southern states were threatening secession.  The committee sought information on the transfer of arms to southern arsenals under Secretary Floyd, and then on January 18, 1861, the chairman of the committee, Benjamin Stanton, requested of Secretary Holt detailed information on the “number of improved arms, now recognized as suitable for the service, [that] are now in possession of the [U. S. War] Department, and how large a force the Department can now arm with the latest improved arms” (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 42—see App A.11-12).

On January 21, 1861, the Chief of Ordnance, Colonel Craig, produced for Mr. Stanton a detailed enumeration of the small arms transactions under former Secretary Floyd and the effect it had on the supply of guns remaining in Union inventories:

In answer to the letter of the Hon. B. Stanton of the 18th instant I have to state that it appears by the last returns that there were remaining in the U.  S. arsenals and armories as follows: Percussion muskets and muskets altered to percussion (caliber .69), 499,554, and percussion rifles (caliber .54), 42,011; total, 541,565. If from this number are deducted the numbers of the same description that were in the arsenals in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana, which arsenals have been officially reported to have been taken possession of by the authorities of those States, 60,878, it leaves this number, 480,687; the whole of which are “recognized as suitable for the service.” In addition to these there are, rifle muskets, model of 1855 (caliber .58), 22,827; rifles, model of 1855 (caliber .58), 12,508; total, 35,335; which are “the latest improved arms.”

In a footnote, the ever-fastidious Craig added a comment concerning the number of weapons which, it was implied, would soon fall into Confederate hands with the imminent secession of two more states:  “NOTE.—Of the above 480,687 muskets and rifles, 22,000 of them are in the arsenal at Augusta, Ga., and 36,362 in the arsenal at Fayetteville, N. C.” (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 42-43—see App A.13).

As for the throwaway line about 124 heavy guns never leaving Pittsburgh, those weren’t the only artillery slated for the south:

As for artillery, the Union states show the following totals of sea coast, siege and garrison, and field guns:  Maine—19;  New Hampshire—22;  Massachusetts—265;  Rhode Island—151;  Connecticut—73;  New York—744;  Pennsylvania—295;  Maryland—81;  District of Columbia—490;  Missouri—11;  Kansas—4;  New Mexico—5;  California—197: for a total of 2,357 Union guns.

The seceding states show the following number of heavy guns:  Virginia—864;  North Carolina—41;  South Carolina—133;  Georgia—22;  Florida—464;  Alabama—79;  Louisiana—187;  Texas—10;  Arkansas—10:  for a total of 1,810 Confederate guns. A large proportion of these guns was coastal artillery, and would not offer the advantage of small size or mobility to support the field armies of the South.  We might conclude then, that the Confederate states, at the time of secession, held about 77 percent as many artillery pieces as those held by the Union. So the North held a 1.3 to 1 ratio of advantage over the South in terms of the big guns.

Here is one circumstance where I heartily disagree.  First of all, P.G.T. Beauregard used (amongst a slew of other artillery pieces) three Columbiad cannons at Fort Moultrie to shell Fort Sumter.  After April 1861, somehow history seems to have largely forgotten the Civil War included an intense naval element.  Beyond the encircling blockade by the Union Navy, there was heavy fighting on major rivers.  This will become apparent when I delve into Vicksburg (and the Western Theater in general) in a later posting.

So why wasn’t John Floyd prosecuted for treason after the war?  Maybe because he was dead:

Considering Floyd’s capacity for creating chaos, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that when he quit Washington the Union’s gain was the South’s loss. When he later became a Confederate general, he showed no transcendent military skill and had poor luck in his opponents. In February of 1862 he joined General Simon Bolivar Buckner and General Gideon Johnson Pillow in defending Fort Donelson in Tennessee. With Grant pressing hard, Floyd handed over command of the fort to Buckner and escaped with a part of his force, leaving Buckner to surrender. For this he was relieved of command, returning in considerable humiliation to Virginia. He died there in 1863, a man so downright disorderly and careless that it is still hard to tell where confusion ended and mischief began.

John Floyd took up arms against his nation after doing everything in his power over the course of almost four years to heavily arm the antebellum south.  I think the mischief is as plain as day.

This leaves me with a single, burning question: why did John Floyd arm the south?

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One thought on “The July Crisis Part 2: On Treason (In the Cabinet)

  1. Pingback: The July Crisis Part 3: “Excuses” for Treason | In The Corner, Mumbling and Drooling

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