Thursday, January 31, 1861
The cold morning in central Illinois found Lincoln, accompanied by two of his cousins, bouncing along frozen roads and over an icy creek from Charleston to Farmington to visit his stepmother, Sarah Bush Johnston.
They shared a meal together and talked of old times. Lincoln spun stories and even visited his father’s grave. He was never close to his father and chose to keep his distance from him all through his adult life. As news of his arrival spread through town, the quiet family reunion was interrupted by old friends and well-wishers hoping to talk to the new President.
Later in the afternoon, Lincoln, along with his stepmother and cousins, traveled back to Charleston for dinner with other relatives.
Finally, Lincoln took center stage at the town hall for an impromptu reception. The townspeople, regardless of party affiliation, crowded into the hall to shake his hand. Lincoln was thrilled to be back home. But when asked to give a speech, he declined saying that “he could but express his gratification at seeing so many of his old friends and give them a hearty greeting.”
Instead of a political speech, he told a few stories and had a fine time with those around him. The time for serious business would come soon enough. Today was for family and friends.1
Is It For Sale?
South Carolina’s Isaac Hayne, representing Governor Pickens, had been in Washington DC for over two weeks. His job was to establish some sort of agreement between the United States and South Carolina over Fort Sumter. He had seen President Buchanan upon his arrival, but the President requested something in writing. Haynes had met with Southern senators and finally wrote to Governor Pickens in order to put it into words.
Pickens, through Hayne, reiterated that Fort Sumter was property of South Carolina even though the United States had a military post within it. Nevertheless, South Carolina wished to purchase the fort from the United States. If purchased, of course, Major Anderson and all Federal troops would have to leave. But the US could probably use the money much more than it could use a now-useless fort.
Hayne delivered the letter to Buchanan and hoped for a speedy reply.2
Seizing a Mint
The United States Mint in New Orleans was taken over by the State of Louisiana. The Secession Convention ordained that it and the US Customs House were now under the control of the state. The right to mint coins fell on the Federal government and a state taking control of the production of coins was an act of revolution. It was now more clear than ever to the Treasury Department that the Southern States were serious about leaving and remaining out of the Union.3