March 12, 1861: Will Virginia be Helpless?

The Richmond Daily Dispatch worries that a surprise invasion from the North may catch Virginia unprepared:

Will the Legislature leave the State defenseless?

In view of the schemes said to be silently concocting at Washington for the subjugation of the South, the People of Virginia desire to know if the State and its capital are to be left exposed to a sudden incursion of an armed body from Washington, such as it is alleged is already projected for the purpose of seizing the Armory, munitions of war, and other sources of supplies to the Southern States. If the Convention will do nothing, will not the Legislature at least put the State in an attitude of defence by passing the bills for that purpose which received the unanimous sanction of the lower House before Lincoln’s Coercion Inaugural had appeared? If they will not, then we trust the People at the assailable points of Virginia will at once organize, and, under competent military [ aivisers, ] construct such temporary defences and establish such a look-out as will save the State from a sudden surprise. We should like to know why there is a necessity for the U. S. Government to arm and man a fort on the Potomac River and keep up and increase an army of a thousand regulars at Washington, and none for Virginia to throw up a single outwork, or put a single company in the field to defend its soil?

No effort, says the Washington correspondent of the Examiner, will be left untried to pacify Virginia, so as to give time for the Government to accumulate its resources, to make Old Point impregnable, and thus have the State of Virginia so controlled at all the strategic points that she cannot move, and a sufficient number of troops to move rapidly on to Richmond and seize the Armory, powder, arms and munitions of war. The following extracts show that under the velvety professions of peace, the claws of the tiger are beginning to move:

“The policy of Seward is to gain time. Gen. Scott does not like to undertake a general war without collecting all his resources, and getting in from the frontier as many troops as possible.–It is given out already that the Federal troops here, reaching nearly a thousand, are to be largely reinforced. Everything is to be got ready to overcome Virginia and Maryland, and to protect the Capital in event of their attempt to secede.

“Mr. Lincoln has decided upon the policy he intends to pursue, and it will be fully carried out by Gen. Scott, through the War and Navy Departments.

“Gen. Scott, Secretary Holt, Gen. Cameron and the Secretary of the Navy, were in conference for several hours to-day. They were arranging matters looking to the reinforcement of forts Sumter and Pickens, and it will be carried out very elaborately.

“Gen. Scott has been studying this matter fully for some time, and it is understood has arranged it to his entire satisfaction. He is of the opinion that reinforcements can be thrown into Fort Sumter easily and with but little loss of life. Major Anderson, however, is of a different opinion.–He believes it would be useless to send less than fifteen or twenty thousand men to Charleston harbor. This number would be able to silence their batteries and other means of defence, and successfully reinforce Sumter with men and supplies.

“Both arms, the Army and Navy, of the Government will be actively employed for some time to come in carrying out the policy of the new Administration. Orders to this effect have, it is believed, already been issued: and it was for this reason that Colonel Cooper. Adjutant General, through whose department all orders have to be issued, resigned his position in the army. There will be other resignations of distinguished officers when this matter is fully known.”

Again, we ask, will the Legislature adjourn and leave the State defenseless? In the language of the Examiner:

“We are standing on the uttermost edge of a great precipice and do not know the moment we shall be toppled over. When armies are about to act they do not publish their intention for the information of their adversaries or their victims. On any day we may find the telegraph wires cut, and see next morning three or four thousand regular troops filing through our streets, on their way to seize all defensible points not already in their hands.”

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