Cleveland (OH) Herald, “The Dread Arbitrament of War,” April 15, 1861

    Source citation
    “The Dread Arbitrament of War,” Cleveland (OH) Herald, April 15, 1861, p. 2: 2.
    Newspaper: Publication
    Daily Cleveland Herald
    Newspaper: Headline
    The Dread Arbitrament of War
    Newspaper: Page(s)
    Newspaper: Column
    Date Certainty
    Don Sailer, Dickinson College
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.


    Were the Federal Government a deadly foe of the revolted States, seeking for an excuse for armed collision with them, it could not, by any agency of its own, have so completely put its foe in the wrong as have these States themselves done. The fratricidal blood spilled at Charleston is but the last and most desperate step that shall bring swift vengeance upon the heads of the madmen, who, by a series of outrages unparalleled in the history of the civilized world, have at last compelled our government to open their batteries upon traitors. And the retribution must be swift, for the existence of the Union is at stake on one side, and the war must be terrible, for on the other side the defeat of the traitors is annihilation or ignominious banishment from their country of the leaders.

    On one side has been a patient endurance that no other government on earth would have shown – even to almost despair by the people that any government was left – and on the other side a steady advance in treason until its giant proportions [illegible] Federal patience construed into cowardice; the disaffected in all the Slave States defied the government, and the official usurpers [tickeled?] the ears of the mob by setting the day when even Washington should be in their hands – But this last act of treason is so base, that the rebel States will soon wake up to the terrible truth that not only are the Free States a unit in the cause of the Union, but all along on the borders of slavery will spring up armed men to fight the cause of the Union, and even in the heart of the Cotton States will we trust be found a spirit of patriotism that shall put treason under foot.

    What is the brief history of the last few weeks? Our government was in peaceful and lawful possession of the Forts in Charleston harbor. The doings of an organized secession mob forced the troops to abandon all save Sumter, where the little band of Federal soldiers sought shelter. While in such peaceful possession, without firing a hostile gun, without even checking the growth of the batteries everywhere around springing up under rebel hands, a merchant steamer attempts to peacefully relieve the Fort by supplies of men and provisions, not for any hostile act, but merely to hold property rightfully belonging to the Federal Government. The “Star of the West” was fired into, and driven out of the harbor. By and by, in utter violation of plighted faith, and under the dictates of an inhumanity that becomes demons, supplies of fresh provisions were denied the garrison of Sumter. Then the Federal Government avow a willingness, in carrying out its only object of preservation of its property, to withdraw all the forces that could be called a hostile one, leaving only half a dozen men to take care of the property, on condition that the rebels would allow such occupation. But that is denied, and in return the arrogant demand of an unconditional surrender is made. An officer from Sumter, under a flag of truce, asks permission to carry dispatches to Washington, and that permission is granted only that the same officer, on his return from Washington, may be refused access again to the Fort, and thus leave its commanding officer in perfect doubt as to the intentions of his Government. This was done, no doubt, with the hope that such suspense on the part of Major Anderson might grow into a dissatisfaction that would lead that officer to yield an easy capitulation.

    Then, every other means of protecting the property having failed, our Government notify the Secession authorities that it proposes to send, by an unarmed vessel, merely supplies of food to the starving garrison. The traitors would not even permit that act of common humanity, and before relief can come with its armed convoy, a peremptory demand to surrender is made, and on refusal, the batteries manned by thousands of men open their joint fire upon that hand of seventy Federal soldiers.

    The world will note this disgraceful history, and a forced appeal, by the Federal arm, to the God of battles will not go unanswered in favor justice and freedom.

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