Lincoln Has Enough, Letter Urges Brother to Enlist

April 22, 1861/2011
Volume 2, Issue 18 (28 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

Lincoln Has Had Enough

April 22, 1861. Rioting continued in Baltimore. “When a Baltimore committee descended on [Lincoln’s] office on April 22 and demanded that he bring no more troops across Maryland and make peace with the Confederacy on any terms, he had had enough.

‘You would have me break my oath and surrender the Government without a blow,’ he exploded. ‘There is no Washington in that–no Jackson in that–no manhood nor honor in that.’

He had to have troops to defend the capital, and they could only come across Maryland.

‘Our men are not moles, and can’t dig under the earth; they are not birds, and can’t fly through the air,’ he reminded the committee. ‘Go home and tell your people that if they will not attack us, we will not attack them; but if they do attack us, we will return it, and that severely.’

“The threat was an empty one, because Lincoln did not have enough troops to defend Washington, much less to reduce Baltimore. . . .”

“For nearly a week, Washington was virtually under siege. Marylanders destroyed the railroad bridges linking Baltimore with the North and cut the telegraph lines. A Confederate assault from Virginia was expected daily, and everyone predicted that it would be aided by the thousands of secessionist sympathizers in the city. . ..”

SOURCE: David Herbert Donald, “Lincoln Takes Charge,” pp. 17-18, in With My Face to the Enemy: Perspectives on the Civil War, Robert Cowley, ed.


Governor Erastus Fairbanks

Governor Erastus Fairbanks

Vermont Sends Money and Supports Troops

April 23, 1861. Vermont’s Governor Erastus Fairbanks asked the state legislature for $500,000 to put down the rebellion. In response, the legislature voted $1 million, and also augmented soldiers’ federal pay of $13 per month with an additional $7 a month for Vermont soldiers.

Let Us Serve Together That We Might Die Together

On the same day, Joseph L. Perkins, a medical student at the University of Vermont, wrote poignantly to his brother of his intent to enlist and his hope that they might serve — and if necessary, die — together:

“. . . When this great national crisis came — when I felt that I must go to my country’s rescue, among my first thots were we would go togather, side by side, and if needs be die in each other’s defence.

Would it not be much easier to die in the arms of one we loved? Would not the death struggle be mitigated if we felt a heart near our own that shared all our joy and sorrows?

Joseph L. Perkins wrote to his brother asking that they serve together. Courtesy UVM Special Collections

Joseph L. Perkins wrote to his brother asking that they serve together. Courtesy UVM Special Collections

. . . yes, I have well considered this step thru days and nights of sad, sober thot. I am aware that my constitution will not endure much hardship and as you say I might be a burden rather than a help. I hope that my life is of too much value to throw away for nought In answer to whether it is dear to me I would refer you to my hopes of the future — to the love I bear her whose life is two fold dearer than my own and perhaps that stimulates me to action — What would be the pleasure of homes without Liberty? Twould not be home — we were born free let us die freemen. Shall we hold back the good we might do because we cannot do more? . . . [W]e have a Constitution — laws. We have elected a president Shall we support him in doing his duty-in executing the laws or desert him? We the light of the world toward which all nations are gazing shall we allow it to be extinguished because demons prefer drkness? No! So long as there courses [in our] veins a drop of American blood so long the Palmetto [South Carolina’s] flag cannot cast its damnable shadow ore New England homes.

Can there be found a man so depraved with soul so small that there cannot be aroused a spirit of self defence or that will not raise an arm to save a countrys fall–. This stirs my whole soul into action — My life is at my country’s disposal and if possible should be given ten thousand times ere I’d be ruled by tyrants and much less traitors. I didn’t know before what it was to feel patriotic-like the electric shock it goes through ought my whole system absorbing all things else . . .

Your brother

J.L. Perkins

Images of scanned letter
Full transcript of letter

SOURCE:  A War of the People Vermont: Civil War Letters, Jeffrey D. Marshall, ed., 20-22.


 Union Victory Predicted within Three Months

April 25, 1861. Finally, the 7th New York Regiment arrived in Washington, to the great relief of the administration and the city. More units arrived from Massachusetts and Rhode Island the next day. With Washington finally safe, emotions swung to the opposite extreme: Many predicted Union victory within three months.

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Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1861

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