The War Begun--The Duty of American Citizens
Pittsburgh Post, April 15, 1861
For two days the country has been in a condition of the most intense excitement.
The awful catastrophe so long anticipated has at last fallen upon us. The die is cast. The choice between compromise and battles has been made. Civil war is upon us. “Unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”
For two days business has been almost suspended in our streets, and every one, old and young, men and women, have been asking, “What of the battle?”
The telegraph first announced the brief fact that the battle had commenced. Then came statement after statement—contradictory, inconsistent, almost incredible. Fort Sumter was on fire. Its magazines had exploded. Its walls were crumbling. The U. S. vessels were in the offing, not firing a gun. The white flag, the Federal flag, the flag of the Confederate States, were each in turn reported as floating from Fort Sumter. People scarce knew what to believe.
The despatches which we publish this morning leave no doubt that Fort Sumter has unconditionally surrendered to the forces of the Confederate States; that Major Anderson has been driven out by fire within the walls of the fort; that a brisk cannonading from the Charleston batteries has seriously damaged the fort; that Major Anderson and his command have been compelled to yield; that the United States vessels in the harbor of Charleston looked calmly on and made no effort to reinforce or assist the fort, and, most singular of all, that after two thousand balls had been fired the battle had resulted without the loss of a single man on either side.
Thus much for the facts which may be found in this morning’s paper. The war has begun. The first blow has been struck. The aspect of the question is now wholly changed from what it has hitherto been. Before it was a political one, and all the conservative men deprecating the horrors of a civil war, have earnestly urged a fair compromise granting to the South her just rights under the Constitution. But the South has determined not to wait for the adjustment of the difficulty lawfully and Constitutionally, but have [sic] decided upon an armed revolution against the Government. The South has struck the first blow, a successful blow, but one which will unite the North as one man for the Union. The authority of the Government of our country must be maintained and supported by every loyal American citizens [sic]. The wrongs of the South are now a matter of minor consideration. The integrity of the Government and the authority of those who hold its power, is now the great object of national consideration.
A civil war has actually commenced between the sections of this once glorious Union. The heart of every patriot bleeds at this solemn truth. The true men of the country have now a great duty to perform. The preliminaries are over—revolution has taken arms and proceeded to the last extremity—and now every man who reveres the memory of Washington, must use his efforts and devote his wealth, his personal services and his life if necessary, in defending the integrity of the Government which the patriots of the revolution handed down as a PERPETUAL BLESSING to their posterity.
However much we may deprecate the political causes which have driven the South to this insane madness—this fratricidal war—the time is past for crimination and recrimination as to what might have been done, and what ought to have been done. The Flag of Our Countrythe glorious Stars and Stripes must be supported and defended by every American. The fight has now begun. An appeal has been made to the God of Battles. The past must answer for itself. Those who have caused the war must answer to their country and their God for what they have done.
The American flag—the flag of our Union—and the honored banner of a government which is bound to protect the interests of the whole country, the North as well as the South—has been fired into by American citizens, disloyal to the government of the country. We have appreciated their wrongs—we have advocated the restoration of their rights—we have not spared their enemies.
But now, they have fired upon the flag of their country, and of ours. No American of true heart and brave soul will stand this. No American ought to stand it.
The integrity of a great government must be maintained. Its power to punish, as well as to protect its children must be used. Political partizanship must now cease to govern men on this issue. Pennsylvania and Pennsylvanians are for the Union. The government which the people have appointed, and which is responsible to the people for its every act, would be direlect [sic] of its duty as a government, if it did not protect its property, its citizens, its flag, and its granted rights against all usurpers, all rebels, all traitors—external or internal foes, of whatever character.
We were born and bred under the stars and stripes. We have been taught to regard the anniversary of American Independence as a sacred day. For our whole life we have looked upon our national emblems as tokens of safety and prosperity to us and to our children, and no matter what may have been the wrongs of the South, in the Union, we would have resisted them to the extent of our ability; but when the South becomes an enemy to the American system of government; takes an attitude of hostility to it, and fires upon the flag, which she, as well as we, are bound to protect, our influence goes for that flag, no matter whether a Republican or a Democrat holds it, and we will sustain any administration, no matter how distasteful its policy may be to us personally, in proving to the world, that the American eagle,—the proud bird of our banner—fears not to brave the wrath of foreign foes, or the mad rebellion of its own fostered children.