Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER IV

CONSPIRACY-THE DREADED PROVOST-MARSHAL

THE 'HE "impromptu” party at Judge Gildersleeve's had

been carefully planned by the suddenly alarmed Culpeppers.

Since the November election the air had been electrical with excitement, all culminating in the portentous inauguration of Jefferson Davis, at Montgomery, Alabama, the day prior to the young lawyer's arrival at New Richmond.

With accounts of the Montgomery inauguration, altogether reliable, came many rumors quite as unreliable: that both Lincoln and Davis had been assassinated; that neither Lincoln nor Davis had been assassinated, but that Davis was dauntless, while Lincoln had weakened, and was being guarded by Abolitionists to prevent him from “taking to his heels”-and, accordingly, the Republicans were gloomy and dispirited, while the Democrats were bold, aggressive, and jubilant.

On Inauguration Day evening, Dr. and Mrs. Culpepper had given a reception in honor of the elevation of Mrs. Culpepper's cousin to the presidency of the Confederate States of America; and until a late hour The Elms had been thronged with the elite of New Richmond's Southern aris

Much wine was consumed, and many cigars were smoked. That the South eventually would triumph was a foregone conclusion.

"Let us be brave and outspoken in the North, as are our brethren in the South, and in a few weeks the Negro

4

worshiping Abolitionists will be cringing at our feet. The South is invincible. Even if the South were eliminated, we Southerners in the North could smite the Abolitionists hip and thigh, and win the day.” Thus Dr. Culpepper had spoken, and his speech had been received with prolonged applause.

But the following morning, when the verbal wine, and the wine that was red, had lost their potency, the outlook was not so roseate.

Word came that, contrary to expectations, Davis' inauguration had greatly angered and united the North; that tens of thousands of Democrats were declaring themselves ready to fight for the Union; that Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland were not marching into the Confederacy's fold; that Logan-of all men—was fiercely rallying the clans of Southern Illinois to the defense of the Old Flag; that Douglas, their own “Little Giant,” had proffered his sympathy and support to Lincoln; that German, Irish, and Scandinavian papers everywhere were publishing broadsides of denunciation of the South, and appeals to their compatriots to rally to the support of Lincoln, Liberty, and the Union; that the entire diplomatic corps at Washington was noncommittal, or openly hostile to the Southern Confederacy; that every Northern governor had telegraphed his unswerving support to Mr. Lincoln; that all armories and arsenals were being ransacked for munitions of war, and that in all the Northern states the local militia was being armed and drilled; that provost-marshals were being multiplied and clothed with unlimited authority, and that one of them, Mike Murphy, formerly a Chicago policeman and ex-thug, had been ordered to New Richmond; and finally, that Lincoln himself, instead of being dispirited and frightened by the event at Montgomery the day before, had actually become fearless and outspoken, and had declared he would immediately make a

speech-making tour of the Northern cities while en route to Washington.

About noon it was noised abroad that the Federal Government already had a secret agent in New Richmond, "maliciously and gleefully marking those who were designed for the slaughter." Indeed, it was whispered that one of these "minions of the tyrannical government at Washington” had managed to be present at the reception the night before at The Elms.

All these rumors of the forenoon were disquieting enough, and rumors never lose anything by repetition, but in the afternoon there came a postscriptial rumor to the effect that Federal troops were being hurried from St. Louis to New Richmond, and would be quartered in the Court House square before morning.

But to the Culpeppers something more alarming had happened—a letter that might justify serious charges had been lost.

Mrs. Culpepper, an amiable and accomplished lady, an alumna of the École de l'Etoile in Paris, had always been very close to her cousin, now president of the Confederate States of America. Ever since his departure from Hopkinsville, Kentucky, to enter West Point, they had corresponded; and when he had returned from time to time to visit friends and relatives, he had always stopped at her father's house. Finally she had married the brilliant Fairfax Culpepper M. D., and gone with him to Southern Illinois, while her gifted cousin had risen step by step to a place of renown in the army, in Congress, in the President's Cabinet, and finally, as the political and spiritual successor of John C. Calhoun, to the leadership of the South. As the stress of feeling between the two sections had increased, their correspondence had taken on new life and vigor; and when he

1

[ocr errors]

had been elected to the presidency of the new government,
she had promptly congratulated him, and asked his advice
as to how she could best promote the Cause so dear and
sacred. To this letter Mr. Davis, in fullest confidence, had
made the following reply:

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

"My Dear Charlotte: Salutations to all of the House of Culpepper, and a thousand good wishes!

“These are indeed, as you say, parlous times; but be of good cheer, because ours is a righteous Cause and cannot fail of success. Trials we shall have, many of them, and war--though Toombs and Rhett and Quitman are contraryminded. The Northerners will not run like sheep, as even you, dear Charlotte, seem to think-they will fight like lions, and they will fight to a finish! I have known them too long, and too intimately, at West Point, at Washington, in Mexico, in Northern Illinois, Northern Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, to be mistaken; and I know of what stern stuff they are made and how doggedly they will persevere. It will be a long struggle and a hard struggle-but of the final outcome I have no doubt.

"You ask me to advise you as to how you, and other friends in the North, can best aid the Southern Confederacy. This is a delicate thing for me to do, for above all things do I hate treason; and though several states in their sovereign capacity have absolved their citizens from allegiance to the Government of the United States, yours is not among them-hence, unless your government should declare an unholy war against our government, it would be wrongsinfulfor you to pursue a course that would be inimical to your government, and even more reprehensible for me to advise, or even countenance, such action.

“However, in the event of war, as now threatened, all would be changed, especially for me; as to what course you should pursue, in that lamentable event, you must look to your Maker and your own conscience for guidance.

“What I write, therefore, is conditional upon the dictates of your own conscience, and is strictly confidential.

"1. Be conciliatory. Our Cause needs friends. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad. Yield not to

angry passions. Suffer not the Abolitionists to provoke you to wrath. They are hot-headed-keep your heads cool! Speak gently, remembering that ‘a soft answer turneth away wrath.' We are on probation, as the Methodists say-let's give a good account of ourselves. We are charged with 'spoiling for a fight. Let us prove that our constant yearning is for peace!

"2. Be diplomatic. This is no time for ‘shirt-sleeves diplomacy.' 'Above all, avoid all arguments and heated discussions.

"3. Talk patriotism, emphasizing the truth that 'treason' is a word all honorable Americans abhor. Allow that the most vitriolic Abolitionists are true patriots-for such they are. Claim for us—even our Toombses, our Rhettses, our Pryors, our Yanceys—intemperate as the most violent Abolitionists the same thing; for I hold that we all, whether under the one or the other flag, whether giving allegiance to the one or the other government, and despite all our unhappy disagreements, nevertheless are true Anglo-Saxons, true Americans, and true patriots. Instantly yield everything to our adversaries that our adversaries demand of us—courtesy, toleration, willingness to listen to Reason's utmost syllable and punctuation mark. Even more; meet insult with courtesy, cruelty with kindness, misrepresentation with astonishing forbearance, and boorishness with the high valor of gentle breeding

"4. Do not wantonly denounce Mr. Lincoln, or apply to him opprobrious epithets. Entirely apart from all constitutional questions, or questions relating to ethics or political economy, you must see that he holds the hearts of the yeomanry of the North' in the hollow of his hand. Do not assail his manners, habits, tastes, or personality, for, despite his gawkerie and uncouthness, he is singularly winsome and appealing. We all disagree with him; we feel that unwittingly he cruelly misrepresents us; we are convinced that the triumph of his policy and principles would mean the destruction of all that Washington, Jefferson, and Madison held sacred; nevertheless, dear Charlotte, always remember that Mr. Lincoln is of Virginia stock, like ourselves a Kentuckian, at heart the soul of gentleness, at times seems to be

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »