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 Research ACW US War Dept. Official Records HTML Ser. I, Vol. 1, Ch. IIII



January 4-20, 1861.


January 4, 1861.– United States Arsenal at Mount Vernon seized by State troops.
5, 1861.– Forts Morgan and Gaines seized by State troops.
9, 1861.– Ordinance of secession adopted in Mississippi:
11, 1861.– Ordinance of secession adopted in Alabama.
20, 1861.– Fort on Ship Island, Miss., seized by State troops.


No. 1.–Letter from Secretary of War to Hon. D. Clopton, declining to furnish plans of Mount Vernon Arsenal.
No. 2.–Capt. Jesse L. Reno, U. S. Ordnance Department, of the seizure of Mount Vernon Arsenal.
No. 3.–Ordnance Sergeant S. Patterson, U. S. Army, of the seizure of Fort Morgan.
No. 4.–Letter from the Governor of Alabama to the President of the United States.
No. 5.–Lieut. F. E. Prime, U. S. Corps of Engineers, of the seizure of fort on Ship Island, Miss.
No. 6.–Lieut. C. B. Reese, U. S. Corps of Engineers, of the formal occupation of Fort Gaines by the State troops.

No. 1.

Letter from the Secretary of War to Hon. A Clopton.

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, January 3, 1861.

Hon. DAVID CLOPTON, House of Representatives:

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 25th ultimo, asking for the plat and plan of the magazines at Mount Vernon Arsenal, Alabama. In reply, I have to say that I would cheerfully comply with your request did not the interests of the service in the present condition of affairs forbid the publication of information of that description.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. HOLT, Secretary of War ad interim.


No. 2.

Report of Capt. Jesse L. Reno, U. S. Ordnance Department, Of the seizure of Mount Vernon Arsenal.

MOUNT VERNON ARSENAL, January 4, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to inform you that this arsenal was taken possession of by four companies of volunteers from Mobile at daylight this morning. I did not make, nor could I have made, any resistance, as they had scaled the walls and taken possession before I knew anything about the movement.

The governor has demanded all the public property, and his men now have entire possession of the arsenal.

I telegraphed to you to-day for orders as to what disposition is to be made of the enlisted men and of myself. If, unfortunately, my telegram should not be answered, I will wait here a few days in hopes of hearing from you; but in the event the mails should be stopped, I will discharge all those that desire it, and bring the others with me to Washington.

The men have not been paid, and I fear that now there, is no prospect of it at present.

I shall probably leave here by the 11th instant, unless I should receive other orders. As it was impossible for me to hold this place with my seventeen men, I trust that the Department will not hold me responsible for this unexpected catastrophe.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. RENO, Captain, Ordnance.

Capt. Wm. MAYNADIER, Ordnance Office.


No. 3.

Report of Ordnance Sergeant S. Patterson, U. S. Army, of the seizure of Fort Morgan.

MOBILE, January 5, 1861.

DEAR SIR: I have been superseded by Colonel Todd, of the Militia of Alabama, and he took and receipted for all the property belonging to the Ordnance Department and fort.

I wait for orders from the Adjutant-General.

I am, very respectfully,

S. PATTERSON, Ordnance Sergeant, U. S. Army.



No. 4.

Letter from the Governor of Alabama to the President of the United States.

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT, Montgomery, Ala., January 4 [?], 1861.

To his Excellency JAMES BUCHANAN, President of the United States:

SIR: In a spirit, of frankness I hasten to inform you by letter that by my order Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, and the United States Arsenal {p.328} at Mount Vernon were on yesterday* peacefully occupied, and are now held by the troops of the State of Alabama. That this act on my part may not be misunderstood by the Government of the United States, I proceed to state the motives which have induced it, and the reasons which justify it, and also the course of conduct with which I design to follow that act.

A convention of the people of this State will, in pursuance of a previously-enacted law, assemble on the 7th instant. I was fully convinced by the evidences which I had that that convention would at an early day, in the exercise of an authority which in my judgment of right belongs to it, withdraw the State of Alabama from the Government of the United States and place it in the attitude of a separate and independent power. Being thus convinced I deemed it my duty to take every precautionary step to make the secession of the State peaceful, and prevent detriment to her people.

While entertaining such a conviction as to my duty, I received such information as left but little, if any, room to doubt that the Government of the United States, anticipating the secession of Alabama, and preparing to maintain its authority within this State by force, even to the shedding of the blood and the sacrifice of the lives of the people, was about to re-enforce those forts and put a guard over the arsenal. Having that information, it was but an act of self-defense, and the plainest dictate of prudence, to anticipate and guard against the contemplated movement of the authorities of the General Government. Appreciating, as I am sure you do, the courage and spirit of our people, you must be sensible that no attempt at the coercion of the State, or at the enforcement by military power of the authority of the United States within its jurisdiction in contravention of the ordinance of secession can be effectual, unless our utmost capacity for resistance can be exhausted. It would have been an unwise policy, suicidal in its character, to have permitted the Government of the United States to have made undisturbed preparations within this State to enforce by war and bloodshed an authority which it is the fixed purpose of the people of the State to resist to the uttermost of their power. A policy so manifestly unwise would probably have been overruled by an excited and discontented people, and popular violence might have accomplished that which has been done by the State much more appropriately and much more consistently with the prospect of peace and the interests of the parties concerned.

The purpose with which my order was given and has been executed was to avoid and not to provoke hostilities between the State and Federal Government. There is no object, save the honor and independence of my State, which is by me so ardently desired as the preservation of amicable relations between this State and the Government of the United States. That the secession of the State, made necessary by the conduct of others, may be peaceful is my prayer as well as the prayer of every patriotic man in the State.

An inventory of the property in the forts and arsenal has been ordered, and the strictest care will be taken to prevent the injury or destruction of it while peaceable relations continue to subsist, as I trust they will. The forts and arsenal will be held by my order only for the precautionary purpose for which they were taken, and subject to the control of the convention of the people to assemble on the 7th instant.

With distinguished consideration, I am your obedient servant,


* But see dates in Summary of Events, p. 326.


No. 5.

Report of Lieut. Frederick E. Prime, U. S. Corps of Engineers, of the seizure of fort on Ship Island, Miss.

BILOXI, Miss., January 30, 1861.

SIR: I have the honor to report that the works at Ship Island were visited by an armed body of men on the forenoon of the 13th instant. They stated to the overseer that their object was to take possession of the works, and, also, that they were acting on their own responsibility. After a short stay on the island, they left without interfering in any way with the work. On the afternoon of the same day another party, also armed, landed at Ship Island; their statement to the overseer was the same as that made by the first party. A flag was hoisted previous to their departure that evening. Ten men were left on the island, who occupied a vacant engineer building. As no interference was attempted on their part., operations were continued, so as to close the works as rapidly as possible. On the morning of the 20th instant, a third armed body of men took forcible possession of the works and engineer property at Ship Island. From that moment I considered myself relieved from all connection with those works. The forcible seizure on the 18th instant of the works and engineer property on east end of Dauphin Island (reported to the Department by Lieutenant Reese) has, in like manner, relieved me from all responsibility respecting Fort Gaines. The forcible occupation of Fort Morgan and my arrest at Pensacola have, I consider, relieved me from all connection with my other works, unless it be Fort Pickens, now garrisoned by the line of the Army. My duties are thus restricted to the settlement of outstanding liabilities against the works formerly in my charge. Should the Department, however, consider that I have, or may have hereafter, other duties to discharge with respect to these works, I would respectfully request that I be furnished with instructions to that effect.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

FREDERICK E. PRIME, First Lieutenant, Engineers.

Bvt. Brig. Gen. J. G. TOTTEN, Chief of Engineers.

Capt. H. G. WRIGHT:

DEAR CAPTAIN: Dame Rumor says all the expeditions to capture Ship Island have been made without any authority from the governor, and have not as yet received his sanction.

F. E. P.


No. 6.

Report of Lieut. C. B. Reese, U. S. Corps of Engineers, of the formal occupation of Fort Gaines by State troops.

MOBILE, ALA., January 19, 1861.

SIR: I have to state that Fort Gaines was formally taken possession of in name of the State of Alabama yesterday. I was about to send all the hands off on a steamer chartered for the purpose; some provisions, &c., were also to [be] taken to Mobile and sold. Colonel Todd, of the State Militia, arrived there in a small boat with four or five officers, at about {p.330} the same time that the steamer came to take the hands, provisions, &c., and prevented the shipment of anything but personal property, and demanded the surrender of fort and all property pertaining thereto. I gave the sub-overseer directions to turn over keys, &c. Colonel Todd informed me that about 30 men would be left there that day. Fort Morgan has now, I think, at least 400 and perhaps 500 men.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

C. B. REESE, Lieutenant of Engineers.

General J. G. TOTTEN, Chief of Engineers.


Main TitleThe War of the Rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.
Corporate NameUnited States. War Department.
Published/Created[S.l.], L.McKee and C.G. Robertson, 1859.
ContentsSer. I. v. 1-53 [serial no. 1-111] Formal reports, both Union and Confederate, of the first seizures of United States property in the southern states, and of all military operations in the field, with the correspondence, order and returns relating specially thereto. 1880-1898. 111 v.--ser. II. v. 1-8 [serial no. 114-121] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns, Union and Confederate, relating to prisoners of war and to state or political prisoners. 1894 [i.e. 1898]-1899. 8 v.--ser. III. v. 1-5 [serial no. 122-126] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns of the Union authorities (embracing their correspondence with the Confederate officials) note relating specially to the subjects of the first and second series. It embraces the reports of the Secretary of War, of the general-in-chief and of the chiefs of the several staff corps and departments ... 1899-1900. 5 v.--ser. IV. v. 1-3 [serial no. 127-129] Correspondence, orders, reports and returns of the Confederate authorities, similar to that indicated for the Union officials, as of the third series, but including the correspondence between the Union and Confederate authorities given in that series. 1900. 3 v.--[serial no. 130] General index and additions and corrections. Mr. John S. Moodey, indexer. Preface [by Elihu Root, Secretary of War]. Explanations. Synopsis of the contents of volumes. Special index for the principal armies, army corps, military divisions and departments. General index. Additions and corrections [arranged consecutively by volumes]. 1901.