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 '1860 Crisis' by Todayinah Ed.
Todayinah Editor Todayinah Ed. says, What if Lincoln had been assassinated long before his took office? If you're interested in viewing samples of my other work why not visit Todayinah site.


October 8

In 1860, having concluded that it was too late to save the Union peacefully, Abraham Lincoln unwisely chose to reply frankly to a request for a statement of his views from the editor of the Louisville Journal, George D. Prentice who contended that such a statement would "assure all the good citizens of the South and ... take from the disunionists every excuse or pretext for treason".

A House DividedIt would not be the first time that he had said too much and inflamed southern secessionists. For in his "House Divided Speech" he had stated unambigously that the Union was in the grip of a slaveholder's plot. His partner in his Springfield Law Firm, William Herndon had it right when he said "It is true, but is it wise or politic to say so?".

Lincoln was to learn that it was one thing to make an explosively controversial statement as an outside senatorial candidate, quite another when heading inexorably towards the White House. And yet with John Brown striking slaveholdings seemingly with impunity, and leading free African-Americans over the border into Canada, dodging Prentice's question might appear a fatal weakness in national leadership. "It seemed as if he suddently bore the whole world upon his shoulders, and could not shake it off" - William HerndonAnd after all, it was that frightful absence of national leadership that had inspired Lincoln to seek the highest office as he had told Herndon just two short years before.

That America might really be in the throes of a slaveholder's plot was in all reality, improbable. Yet whilst slavery had been terminated in the north for three decades, events surely appeared to show that some time very soon that might not be the case. It would be hard to interpret the drift of events otherwise since Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) and the Dred Scott ruling (1858) which confirmed that the General Government had no right to interfer in the state's rights to legalise slavery.

Very soon Lincoln would discover that his unwise choice of words had triggered a general secession prior to his inauguration And worse his judgement as to whether Northerners would fight for the Union, or rather bid the Southern States good riddance, would prove to be faulty. For the time being at least, the Union would be split into two nations, one free, one slave, precisely as Lincoln had warned.

Of course Herndon knew something that few others outside his inside circule knew in the late fall of 1860; the drive behind Lincoln's ambition was his deeply flawed character. Because Abraham Lincoln was a life-long manic depressive now gripped by a mid-life crisis, ingesting more than nine thousand times the recommended daily dose of mercury. "Gloom and sadness were his predominant state" concluded Herndon. On the day of his election Herndon remarked that "It seemed as if he suddently bore the whole world upon his shoulders, and could not shake it off". And so, Abraham Lincoln would lead a truly unqiue Presidency; for he was the first man to suicide in the White House, by shooting himself in the head whilst sitting in apparent peace, as if calmy watching the Theatre, perhaps.



January 19

In 1861, on this day in Milledgeville the cooperationists led by Herschel Johnson carried the vote at the inappropriately named Secession Convention; the State of Georgia would remain in the Union for the time being at least.

At any Cost and at all HazardsThe shift of just 19 votes to defeat the vote secession was due to in part to a decision take on New Year's Eve. "We are all for Secession" one observer advised Governor Joseph Emerson Brown (pictured). It was hardly a startling insight; Unionists candidates for the state convention were withdrawing from the race. Brown was a former Whig who had in fact been strongly in favour of the secession ever since the election; at the same time though, he was no fan of Jefferson Davis, and had little appetite for Georgian membership of a Southern Confederacy.

"Southern Civilization - it Must be maintained at any cost and at all hazards" ~ Mayor of SavannahActually Brown himself had been in favour of ordering the State Militia to occupy Fort Pulaski which was guardian the Port of Savannah. The history was that President James Madison ordered a new system of coastal fortifications to protect the United States against foreign invasion following the War of 1812. Construction of a fort to protect the port of Savannah began in 1829 under the direction of Major General Babcock, and later Second Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, a recent graduate of West Point. Though completed in 1847, Fort Pulaski was under the control of only two caretakers until 1860. Of course should the State of George secede, the strategic value of the Fort to the defence of the Union would be effectively zero. In short, it was a military white elephant not worth fighting over.

The preciptive action to occupy the Fort would be certain to cross the line of interference with private property should the State of George secede from the Union; but it did'nt. That very day, Federal Representatives arrived from Washington, delivering a persuasive letter from the President-elect; the Union's best interest lay in abandoning the Fort, at least for now, it said. The Federal Officials in charge of coastal roads were being withdrawn, and their threat to mobilize labour for defence was best disregarded by the State Government. It was timely advice; the Major of Savannah spoke at the convention, "Southern Civilization - It Must be maintained at any cost and at all hazards". Fortunately, since Lincoln's assassination, cooler heads had prevailed in Washington. Determined attempts were now being made to avoid any such "hazards" that could force the country on the road to a disasterous Civil War. At least for now, another flashpoint had been avoided.



December 22

In 1860, on this day Yankee soldiers quit the United States Garrison at Fort Moultrie in South Carolina just two days after the State had seceded from the Union. At the Charleston Convention that had ratified that historic decision, ardent secessionists had predicted that the Union would commit an act of "hostility and coercision". Because it was widely expected that troops would occupy Charleston Harbor, perhaps decamping for the artificial island of rubble upon which the Union had constructed the as yet unfinished Fort Sumter.

Cooler Heads Might PrevailThe hidden hand of the President-elect was behind the wise decision to pull Yankee Troops. And rightly so because the mood in the South had turned bloody ever since John Brown had begun to fuel a slave revolt with weapons seized from Harper's Ferry.

The citizens of South Carolina had welcome the secession decision made at the Charleston convention. "[South Carolina] had acted nobly and history will accord to her the noble part she had plated. We have been grossly cheated by the North and I would rather that every soul of us would be exterminated then we should be allied to her again. When our Southern Confederacy is formed and in full operation, we will be the gainers and the North the losers" said T.H. Spann of Woodlawn.

"Let them Commerce the war and we will wage it with them until the last drop of blood is spent before we will submit". ~ T.H. SpannQuite who would be the winners and who the losers was a decision that hung in the balance during the nightmarish US Government transition period of 1860-1. The election of Abraham Lincoln - with less than forty percent of the popular vote, and an electoral college result recording not a single state in the south - had been the catalist for the secession. And yet Lincoln was dead in the ground with an assassins bullet in his head, and maybe, just maybe, cooler heads might prevail and allow both sides to back off long enough to avoid a costly conflict.



January 11

In 1861, to the considerable embarrassment of the so-called "Fire-eater", the ardent secessionist William Yancey on this day, his home State of Alabama voted to remain in the Union by a margin of just 61 to 39.

Defeat of the "Fire-Eaters"The shift of just twelve votes was due in no small part to the slowing down of the momentum of secession, and Alabamians were starting to doubt mantra that "aye the Southern states all will stand together".

Robert Rhodes exulted that "Alabama is in a blaze, and we are all expecting a brush with the Federal Troops". Yet teversals in the plans for arming the South had begun to raise serious questions in the minds of many, particularly since the arrest of Jefferson Davis for gun-running on January 7th.

This harsh reality took the argument away from Yancey and his group known as the "Fire-Eaters", amongst the most effective agitators for secession and rhetorical defenders of slavery. Because determined attempts were now being made by Washington to dampen the blaze, the fire might yet blow over.



January 7

In 1861, on this day the United States Senator from Mississippi, Jefferson Davis (pictured) was arrested in Washington attempting to purchase one thousand rifles from the manufacturer Eli Whitney. Davis' position in the Senate was mostly nominal, he had been preaching secession away from Washington for much of his term of office, and there was little doubt that he intended to resign his seat and ship the rifles back to Mississipi for the widely anticipated "War of the States".

Jefferson Davis ArrestedIn fact, the two gentleman had a long-standing relationship. Just before the Mexican War the Whitney plant began to use steel for gun barrels, and Jefferson Davis, then Colonel of the Mississippi Rifles, declared that the new guns were "the best rifles which had ever been issued to any regiment in the world". Later, when Davis became Secretary of War, he issued to the regular army the same weapon.

Yet attempts to fill southern ordinances were foundering, and badly. The United States Army Ordinance Office in Washington had wisely refused to sell five thousand guns from its Baton Rouge arsenal to the State of Mississipi. And Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb, and Secretary of War John B. Floyd had resigned; both politicians refusing to use their office to overtly assist the arming of the South.



April 24

In 1861, the Republic of Texas formally recognised the Confederate States of America in a keynote speech delivered by President William B. Travis on this day in Austin; whilst offering critical diplomatic support to his fellow South Carolinians, Travis carefully avoiding any direct comparison between the sieges of Fort Sumter and the Alamo.

Line in the SandNo longer the hot-headed twenty-six year old Lieutenant Colonel of the Texian Army, Travis had learnt a number of valuable lessons about leadership since he wrote the famous "Victory or Death" Letter on March 3rd, 1836.

Because having drawn a line in the sand, only one of the defenders of the Alamo had refused to cross it - Moses Rose, a French born former soldier in Napoleon Bonaparte's Grande Armée who insisted that he was not ready to die. And so during the late night hours of March 5th, Rose had snuck through enemy lines, broke into the Old Governor's Mansion and assassinated the Mexican general Antonio López de Santa Anna. Whereupon his successor, General Castrillon launched a disasterous strike on the east wall which was repelled by heavy cannon fire (that was in fact mostly shrapnel) but which caused the Mexican troops to despair and quit the siege.



September 22

In 1860, Texas Governor Sam Houston delivered a fiery speech, "The Folly of Disunion" on this day at an anti-secessionist rally in Austin.

Lone StarMany Texans heeded Houston's warning, narrowly voting to remain in the Union on February 23, 1861; Texas would not after all become the seventh star in the Confederate flag.

Born in 1793 in Virginia, Houston was a pivotal figure in the history of Texas. Not only did he sign the Texas Declaration of Independence from Mexico, but he also served periods as President of the Republic of Texas, Senator for Texas after it joined the United States, and finally as governor.

"Are we to sell reality for a phantom?"Although married to a Cherokee, and a slaveowner and opponent of abolitionism, he refused, because of his unionist convictions, to swear loyalty to the Confederacy and thus had a decisive role in preventing Texas from seceding from the Union.



February 23

In 1861, on this day the President-elect proceeded in great secrecy straight through Baltimore, Maryland on his whistle stop tour of seventy towns and cities ending with his inauguration in Washington, D.C on March 4th.

Plums delivered nuts safelyAllan Pinkerton (pictured), who later founded the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, played a key role by managing security throughout the journey. On his orders, on the evening of February 22 telegraph lines to Baltimore were cut to prevent communications from passing between potential conspirators in Pennsylvania and Maryland. The most dangerous link in the journey was in Baltimore where a city ordinance prohibited night-time rail travel through the downtown area. As a result, the railcars had to be horse-drawn between the President Street and Camden Street stations.

Once the President-elect's rail carriage had safely passed through Baltimore, Pinkerton sent a one-line telegram to the president of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad: "Plums delivered nuts safely". With Lincoln dead in the ground from an assassins bullet in his head, Pinkerton was taking absolutely no chances at all.

Because as the momentum for secession began to recede, hot-heads in the South were now clamouring for coup d'etat. Their failed plan was to have several assassins, armed with knives, interspersed throughout the crowd that would gather to greet the party at the President Street station. When the President-elect emerged from the car, which he must do to change trains, at least one of the assassins would be able to get close enough to kill him.



December 2

In 1860, seizing the initiative in the growing secessionist crisis, Congressional Committees boldly stepped into the dangerous power vacuum that had emerged between lame-duck President James Buchanan and the sinisterely quiet President-elect Abraham Lincoln. A "take it or leave it" offer was made to the would-be breakaway states: an amendment to the US Constitution that included a cast-iron guarantee of no further territorial expansion and a protection of the states rights to continue the institution of slavery.

Thirteenth AmendmentIn so doing, Congress beat a long retreat from the growth of republicanism that had surged through the Federal Government with apace since the election of Thomas Jefferson (pictured). Not that Jefferson was the guilty architect of course, because the states debts after the War of Independence had demanded a stronger central authority in order to protect the states from bankcruptcy. Those prophets (including many of the Founding Fathers themselves) who had advocated a Confederation with a weak General Government would now in hindsight be seen as presciently correct, it simply was not safe to place American freedoms in the hands of bankers and lawyers such as Lincoln.

The landmark decision would defuse the secession crisis, extending the state of the Union for a century. Secretary of State Seward would be legally required to decline Russian's unexpectedly generous offer for the "Alaska Purchase". Given the unlikelihood of slavery in the northern latitutes this seemingly unimportant decision would suddenly become a problem of apocalyptic dimensions for President Kennedy during the Alaskan Missiles Crisis one hundred years later.



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© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.