Thursday, November 29, 1860 (Thanksgiving, Unofficial)
The Lincoln Family attended services at the First Presbyterian Church in Springfield and then partook of a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Lincoln, however, spent the rest of the day in the thankless task of reading the mail (both fan and hate) that had been pouring in from across the country. There were, of course, many congratulations, but there were also “senseless fulminations and, in a few instances, disgraceful threats and indecent drawings.” There was “the advice of patriots,” as well as “seditious pamphlets and manifestos.” According to this same source, Henry Villard, a journalist and friend of Lincoln, also within the piled up mail were instances of “Female forwardness and inquisitiveness.”1
While Lincoln certainly had much to be thankful for on this day, President Buchanan probably had more. His panicked vexation that the secessionist mobs of Charleston would assail the forts and slaughter all inside would today be relaxed.
At the urging of the Assistant Secretary of State, William Henry Trescot, Governor Gist of South Carolina replied to a letter expressing the President’s fears. Although South Carolina would most definitely be leaving the Union, the Secession Convention would not convene until December 12.
I have found great difficulty in restraining the people of Charleston from seizing the forts, and have only been able to restrain them by the assurance that no additional troops would be sent to the forts, or any munitions of war. Everything is now quiet, and will remain so until the ordinance is passed, if no more soldiers or munitions of war are sent on. That is to say, I will use my utmost efforts to effect that object, and believe I will succeed; but the Legislature and myself would be powerless to prevent a collision if a single soldier or another gun or ammunition is sent on to be placed in the forts.
He also warned that he would be unable to promise peace “if a single soldier or another gun or ammunition is sent.” Gist closed with the hope that Buchanan would not “light the torch of discord which will only be quenched in blood.”2
Though this wasn’t much to be thankful for, the threat seemed to be pushed back farther than before, it would have to be enough for now.
- From Lincoln: President-Elect by Harold Holzer, Simon & Shuster, 2008. [↩]
- Quotes from The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861 By Samuel Wylie Crawford, C. L. Webster & Company, 1887. Later research shows that the dates may be a bit foggy, but that’s how it goes. [↩]