Wednesday, June 5, 1861
Abraham Lincoln, regardless of all moral, legal, and constitutional restraints, has thrown his abolition hosts among you who are murdering and imprisoning your citizens, confiscating and destroying your property, and committing other acts of violence and outrage too shocking and revolting to humanity to be enumerated.
All rules of civilized warfare are abandoned, and they proclaim by their acts, if not on their banners, that their war cry is ‘Beauty and booty.’ All that is dear to man, your honor, and that of your wives and daughters, your fortunes, and your lives, are involved in this momentous contest.
Beauregard had arrived at Manassas a few days ago, taking command of the Department of Alexandria.1 He had reconnoitered the ground, began throwing up entrenchments, requested more troops and was settling in when he was contacted by a prominent lawyer in Alexandria, a one-time Unionist, who was presenting a formal complaint about the various outrages that Union troops committed against his fellow Virginians.
Beauregard’s proclamation was the public response to the lawyer’s complaint. However, this proclamation was actually written by this same complaning lawyer and merely signed by the General. It was, however, no mere warning of impending Northern tyranny and the mass freeing of slaves. This was a call to arms. 2
Beauregard invited and enjoined the nearby men “to rally to the standard of your State and country, and by every means in your power compatible with honorable warfare to drive back and expel the invaders from your land.”
He also asked each of citizen to act as spies, to “give the earliest authentic information to these headquarters or to the officers under my command.”3
Harney: California or Bust!
Realizing that he really was no longer in command of the Department of the West, Union General William Harney wrote to Washington requesting another assignment. He was dismissed over a truce he made with pro-secessionist General Sterling Price. This truce President Lincoln found hard to swallow.
At first, he disputed his removal, but after there was only silence on the other end, he took the hint. “Under the course I pursued, Missouri was secured to the Union,” wrote Harney from his home in St. Louis, “and the triumph of the Government was only the more glorious, being almost a bloodless victory; but those who clamored for blood [presumably Genearl Lyon and Colonel Blair] have not ceased to impugn my motives.”
Almost poetically, Harney recalled his “long life, dedicated to my country.” He had been a soldier most of this life “and more than once I have held her honor in my hands.” His loyalty, he felt, was now in question. Should he be finally relieved of all duty, he feared that his “countrymen will be slow to believe that I have chosen this portion of my career to damn with treason my life, which is so soon to become a record of the past, and which I shall most willingly leave to the unbiased judgment of posterity.”
To spare himself this grief and to be “spared to do my country some further service that will testify to the love I bear her,” he requested “to be assigned to the command of the Department of California.”4
Though Harney did not get his wish, he would spend some time in Washington as a member of the Court of Inquiry before retiring in 1863.
Stubborn Rebel Battery at Pig Point
The USRC [United States Revenue Cutter] Harriet Lane, stationed at Newport News, Virginia was sent by General Butler on a reconnaissance mission up the James River. As the cutter reached the mouth of the Nansemond River, 12 miles up the James, they spotted men moving heavy artillery with ox teams. The flag of secession flew over them.
The ship drew within the range of her guns and opened fire. The Rebels returned fire from seven pieces.
Over the course of forty-five minutes (the Rebels claimed it was twenty), the Lane fired thirty rounds at the battery. Most of those shots fell short, though one scored a direct hit upon an eight-inch shell gun, knocking it out of the fight. The Rebels countered with fifty rounds. Two shots hit the Lane, both ripping through the rigging with one grazing the foremast.
The Harriet Lane was out-gunned and so steamed out of range and returned to Newport News.
Five Union sailors were injured, most by flying splinters. No Rebels were injured during the action.5
- This Department would soon become the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac, which itself would later become the Army of Northern Virginia. The date of the birth of the (Confederate) Army of the Potomac is fuzzy, but it seems to have been first used on June 29, 1861. [↩]
- The Military Operations of General Beauregard by Alfred Roman, Harper & brothers, 1884. [↩]
- Beauregard’s June 5th Proclamation is from the Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, p907. [↩]
- Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 3, p383. [↩]
- Official Navy Records, Series 1, Vol. 5, p698-700. [↩]