James Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, April 16, 1861

    Source citation
    James Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, April 16, 1861, New York, NY, Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress, http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/alhtml/malhome.html.
    Author (from)
    Henderson, James
    Date Certainty
    Transcribed by the Lincoln Studies Center, Knox College, Galesburg, IL
    Adapted by Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following transcript has been adapted from the Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress.

    Private and Confidential

    New York April 16/1861

    Dear Sir

    It was with feelings of great satisfaction that I read your proclamation yesterday morning. The Administration is rising up to the dignity of the times' requirements. That proclamation and the glorious result now developing in the enthusiasm of the Free States will fall most unexpectedly in the conspirators' camp.

    On Saturday last I took the liberty of writing you of the pressing necessity to secure Washington from an attempt at seizure. Today from important communications just received from Charleston and Montgomery dated last Wednesday, I am able to inform you that it was then the intention of the conspirators to march on Washington, rendezvousing at Richmond Va, immediately after Fort Sumpter [Sumter] was evacuated, of which by the way they consider a certainty. This rapidity of movement on the one side, and expected demoralization on the other side of the North from loss of Sumpter, (in which they are signally mistaken) contain according to the plans of conspirators, the elements of success so as to secure Washington City and perhaps force Border Slaves States into Secession. They inform me also that there are 5000 men in Virginia, 3000 in Maryland, and 1000 in Washington City, (several hundred in employ of Government) who are ready to assist in movement contemplated by the conspirators. How affairs at Fort Pickens, and your proclamation and its glorious results, will alter their plans I know not. My impression is that Washington will be attacked this week by some force not far from 15.000 men. Martial Law should at once be declared in the District, and as many volunteers concentrated at the Capital immediately as can be at once accomadated. This may prevent the attempt. There may be an attempt if you do. The Crisis, I take it, occurs this week. This week the conspirators are stronger -- on land, and next week they will probably be weaker than the Federal forces. Are they likely to postpone? Let me beseech you then to do all that you can most energetically, all that you can most effectually to prevent the horrid calamity to our nation, our Government and Union of the seizure of the National Capital by Rebels. If we should lose Washington who can estimate our unfortunate position?

    So much are the conspirators convinced that without Washington City they are bound hand and foot, and so much does its possession enter into their schemes to confirm their bogus Government, that I am prepared to say your administration has more than half triumphed over this fearful conspiracy to destroy the Government when Washington is secured against any possible attack. Permit me to ask will not closely blockading the ports of the seceding States, and cutting off their mails, for a time, do most of the balance?

    You have a noble task before you, which I believe you will accomplish. A rigorous and determined policy, I can assure you, was never contemplated by the Conspiracy leaders and their friends on the part of the administration. You will baffle them, I hope, as Genl. Scott baffled them last winter. If Washington formed the Union we will say hereafter, Lincoln consolidated it and made it perpetual. One word of myself. I consider that in these trying times of our free institutions, and of our national character every many may share in the great work of perpetuating the one and preserving the other. At some risk and expense I learn the plans and designs of the conspirators only to expose them to those in power, and if possible to prevent their accomplishment. I do my duty. May God endue you and the able men around you to do yours.

    I am with great respect

    Your obt svt.

    Jas Henderson

    P.S. I would respectfully suggest two things. 1st. That you take needful precautions against personal violence, though that is not discussed now by the leaders. 2nd That as far as possible the Press may not be able to communicate important information to the enemy too soon.

    How to Cite This Page: "James Henderson to Abraham Lincoln, April 16, 1861," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/35692.