Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
WASHINGTON ON THE EVE OF THE WAR.
UNIFORM OF THE NATIONAL RIFLES. FROM A PHOTOGRAPH.
necessary to concentrate at Washington, in that season, a force of three thousand regular troops. Even had President Buchanan been desirous of bringing troops to the capital, the feverish condition of the public mind would, as the executive believed, have been badly affected by any movement of the kind, and the approaching crisis might have been precipitated. I saw at once that the only force which could be readily made of service was a volunteer force raised from among the well-disposed men of the District, and that this must be organized, if at all, under the old law at 1799. By constitution with gentleman well acquainted with the various classes of Washington society, I endeavored to learn what proportion of the able-bodied population could be counted on to sustain the Government should it need support from the armed and organized citizens.
On the 31st of December, 1860, Lieutenant-General Scott, General-in-Chief of the army (who had his headquarters in New York), was in Washington. The President, at last thoroughly alarmed at the results of continued concessions to secession, had summoned him for consultation. On the evening of that day I went to pay my respects to my old commander, and was received by him at Wormley's hotel. He chatted pleasantly with me for a few minutes, recalling past service in the Mexican war, etc.; and when the occasion presented itself, I remarked that I was gold to see him in good spirits, for that proved to me that he took a more cheerful view of the state of public affairs than he had on his arrival-more cheerful than we of Washington had dared to take during the past few days.
"Yes, my young friend," said the general, "I feel more cheerful about the affairs of the country than I did this morning; for I believe that a safer policy than has hitherto been followed will now be adopted. The policy of entire conciliation, which has so far been pursued, would soon have led to ruin. We are now in such a state that a policy of pure force would precipitate a crisis for which we are not prepared. A mixed policy of force and conciliation is now necessary, and I believe it will be adopted and carried out." He then looked at his watch, rose, and said: "I must be with the President in a quarter of an hour," and ordered his carriage. He walked up and down the dining-room, but suddenly stopped and faced me, saying: "How is the feeling in the District of Columbia? What proportion of the population would sustain the Government by force, if necessary?"
"It is my belief, General," I replied, "that two-thirds of
UNIFORM OF THE POTOMAC LIGHT INFANTRY. FROM A PHOTOGRAPH.