"The Disunion Movement; The North Carolina Forts," New York Times, January 29, 1861
On the 17th, Gov. ELLIS, of North Carolina, sent to the Legislature the correspondence between himself and Hon. J. HOLT, then Secretary of War ad interim, relative to the occupation of Forts Johnson and Caswell by State troops. On Jan. 12 Gov. ELLIS wrote:
"Reliable information has reached this Department, that, on the 8th inst, Forts Johnson and Caswell were taken possession of by State troops and persons resident in that vicinity, in an irregular manner.
Upon receipt of this information I immediately issued a military order requesting the forts to be restored to the authorities of the United States, which orders will be executed this day.
My information satisfies me that this popular outbreak was caused by a report, very generally credited, but which, for the sake of humanity, I hope is not true, that it was the purpose of the Administration to coerce, the Southern States, and that troops were on their way to garrison the Southern parts and to begin the work of subjugation. This impression is not yet erased from the public mind, which is deeply agitated at the bare contemplation of so great an indignity and wrong, and I would most earnestly appeal to your Excellency to strengthen my hands in my efforts to preserve the public order here, by placing it in my power to give public assurance that no measures of force are contemplated toward us.
Your Excellency will pardon me, therefore, for asking whether the United States forts will be garrisoned with United States troops during your Administration.
This question I ask in perfect respect, and with an earnest desire to prevent consequences which I know would be regretted by your Excellency as much as myself.
Should I receive assurance that no troops will be sent to this State prior to the 4th of March next, then all will be peace and quiet here, and the property of the United States will be fully protected as heretofore. If, however, I am unable to get such assurances, I will not undertake to answer for the consequences.
The forts in this State have long been unoccupied, and their being garrisoned at this time will unquestionably be looked upon as a hostile demonstration, and will, in my opinion, certainly be resisted.
Secretary HOLT responded, under date of Jan. 15:
"Your letter of the 12th inst, addressed to the President of the United States, has by him been referred to this Department, and he instructs me to express his gratification at the promptitude with which you have ordered the expulsion of the lawless men who recently occupied Forts Johnson and Caswell: He regards this action on the part of your Excellency as in complete harmony with the honor and patriotic character of the people of North Carolina, whom you so worthily represent.
In reply to your inquiry, whether it is the purpose of the President to garrison the forts of North Carolina during his administration, I am directed to say that they, in common with the other forts, arsenals and public property of the United States, are in the charge of the President, and that if assailed, no matter from what quarter or under what pretext, it is his duty to protect them by all the means which the law has placed at his disposal. It is not his purpose to garrison the forts to which you refer at present, because he considers them entirely safe, as heretofore, under the shelter of that law-abiding sentiment for which the people of North Carolina have ever been distinguished. Should they, however, be attacked or menaced with danger of being seized or taken from the possession of the United States, he could not escape from his constitutional obligation to defend and preserve them. The very satisfactory and patriotic assurance given by your Excellency, justify him, however, in entertaining the confident expectation that no such contingency will arise."
The forts were accordingly surrendered, and the State troops removed.
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