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155 Years Ago: Saturday, February 16, 1861


twiggs-surrenders

The Surrender, Source: Library of Congress

U.S. Brigadier General David E. Twiggs wakes up to the screams of slaves who are coming home from market. “We’re all going to be killed!”, they scream. It is 4am in San Antonio, Texas. Texas Rangers appear, two by two, on muleback and horseback, mounted and on foot, carrying the Lone Star flag. By daylight, more than a 1,000 Rangers move into San Antonio. There is much enthusiasm from fellow Texans; even two women dressed in male attire, with pistols in their belts, mount their horses to meet up with their friends.

Twiggs eventually rides down to the main plaza, where he is instantly surrounded by secessionists demanding U.S. government property. He refuses their requests.

While many in the town are surprised by this development, Twiggs is not. While Twiggs wears a U.S. military uniform, his loyalties are not with the Union. As he wrote U.S. General Winfield Scott in December of last year, his home is Georgia. If Georgia seceded, he would follow her. Georgia had seceded on January 19. He had met with the Confederate commissioners on February 7, and had told them he would surrender. But first, there was a “show” to put on for the U.S. federal troops.

Twiggs pretends he is surprised. He meets with the leader of the Rangers, Ben McCulloch, and is given six hours to “reconsider” his public declaration that he would not hand over U.S. government property. By noon, Twiggs surrenders all of the U.S. posts and stores in Texas to the Confederacy. This includes 20 military installations, 44 cannons, 400 pistols, 1,900 muskets, 500 wagons, and 950 horses, valued at a total of $1.6 million. He insists that all U.S. troops retain personal arms and sidearms, along with all artillery, flags, etc.

Orders are sent to all of the Texas outposts to turn over the military property to the State. The officers and men are widely scattered, and many of them are taken completely by surprise. The Federal troops in town give their parole “not to take up arms” against the Confederacy, and are ordered to leave the post in the afternoon. Twiggs will leave for New Orleans, where he will be received with Confederate public honors. The Federal troops are filled with indignation.

Around 2pm, U.S. Colonel Robert E. Lee arrived from Fort Mason, Texas, on his way to Washington City. He approaches a woman, Caroline Baldwin Darrow, who is the wife of a clerk with the U.S. forces. Lee looks at the Rangers and asks “Who are those men?” Caroline answers that “They are McCulloch’s. General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this morning, and we are all prisoners of war.”

Caroline would write in her diary about Lee’s response:

I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as with his lips trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, “Has it come so soon as this?” In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on his way to headquarters, and noticed particularly that he was in citizen’s dress. He returned at night and shut himself in his room, which was over mine, and I heard his footsteps through the night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he were praying.

In Ohio, U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln makes his way by train from Cleveland, Ohio to Buffalo, New York. He is still hoarse and fatigued, and keeps his remarks to the crowds very brief. In Ashtabula, Ohio, the crowd calls for Mrs. Lincoln. Her husband remarks that “I should hardly hope to induce her to appear, as I had always found it very difficult to make her do what she did not want to.” In the village of Conneaut, someone shouts to Lincoln “Don’t give up the ship!”. Lincoln replies “With your aid I never will as long as life lasts.”

Source: Library of Congress

Source: Library of Congress

In Westfield, New York, Lincoln asks the crowd if Grace Bedell might be present. The 12-year old girl had written him a letter in October 1860, suggesting that he grow a beard because his face was so thin. Also, because “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.” Lincoln had written her back at the time, stating:

I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.

As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher, A. Lincoln

Now with a full beard, Lincoln leaves the train car and makes his way through the crowd, who is pointing out a young girl with black hair and black eyes. When he reaches her, he gives her several kisses on her cheek. The young girl blushes.

Upon his arrival in Buffalo, Lincoln is heartily greeted by former (13th) President Millard Fillmore. The crowds are once again very large, but they are more forceful than the previous stops. At one point the crowd makes a rush, overpowering Lincoln’s guard. There is wild confusion and cries of distress from all sides of the crowd. Lincoln, due to the desperate efforts of those immediately around him, gets out of the chaos, while his family & the rest of their party fights to get to the awaiting carriages to take them to the hotel.

The scene at The American Hotel is no better. The party of men accompanying Lincoln insist that he decline all further public receptions, as they can’t guarantee his protection. He does eventually make a few remarks outside of his hotel once the crowds calm down, once again giving similar remarks to those given in previous cities. In the crowd is a 23-year old lawyer, Stephen Grover Cleveland. This young man will eventually become the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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