The "Congress of the Confederate States" had been summoned to meet at Montgomery on the 29th of April (1861), and a few days after the session began, an act was passed declaring that war existed between the seven "seceded" States and the United States, and authorized Mr. Davis to employ the power of their section to "meet the war thus commenced, and to issue to private armed vessels commissions or letters of marque and general reprisal, in such form as he shall think proper, under the seal of the
Confederate States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the Government of the United States, and of the citizens or inhabitants of the States and Territories thereof." They also offered a bounty of twenty dollars for each person who might be on board of an armed vessel of the United States that should be destroyed by a Confederate privateer-in other words, a reward for the destruction of men, women, and children. "Happily for the credit of humanity," says a historian of the war, "this act has no parallel on the statute-book of any civilized nation." Mr. Davis did not wait for this authority, but several days before the assembling of his "Congress," he issued commissions for privateering, signed by himself, and Robert Toombs, as secretary. With these hostile proclamations of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Davis, the great Conflict was fairly begun.
The Virginia Convention - Union Sentiments Suppressed by Violence - Ordinance of Secession Passed - Bad Faith - Virginia Annexed to the Confederacy - The People Disfranchised - The National Capital To Be Seized-Davis' Professions - Poetic Comments on Them - Events at Harper's Ferry and Gosport Navy-Yard - Response to the Call for Troops - Massachusetts Sends Troops to Washington - Attack upon Them in Baltimore - Critical Situation of the Capital - The President and Maryland Secessionists - Prompt and Efficient Action of General Wool - Union Defence Committee - General Butler's Operations in Maryland - He Takes Possession of Baltimore - Events at the Capital - Preparations for the Struggle.
AT this time Virginia had passed through a fiery ordeal and lay prostrate, bound hand and foot by her disloyal sons, at the feet of the Southern Confederacy. A State Convention assembled at the middle of February, and remained in session more than two months. A large majority of the members were animated by a sincere love for the Union, especially those from the mountain districts in Western Virginia; and even so late as a fortnight before its adjournment, an Ordinance of Secession was defeated by a vote of eighty-nine against forty-five. Yet the conspirators persevered with hope, for they saw one after another of weak Union members converted by their sophistry.
The crisis was reached when Edmund Ruffin fired his gun at Fort Sumter. "That gun," said a telegraphic despatch from Charleston, "will do more in the cause of secession in Virginia than volumes of stump speeches." So it did. It set bells ringing and cannon thundering in the Virginia capital, and