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Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

New Year’s Day 1861

Posted By on January 1, 2011

On New Year’s Day 1861, there was some anxiety about the secession of South Carolina which took place on 20 December 1860 in response to Abraham Lincoln’s election.  Plans were being made to hold a day of fasting and prayer as called for by President James Buchanan.

We learn that the pastors of the M.E. Church in this city [Philadelphia] recommend to all their churches and people to observe Friday, 4th of January, as a day of fasting and prayer, in accordance with the recommendation of the President of the United States.

The New School Presbyterians will hold three Union Prayer Meetings in the course of the day.  The Presbyterians of the Old School will observe the day in accordance with the recommendation of the Moderator of the last General Assembly.

Lincoln’s inauguration would not take place for more than two months hence, and there was much speculation about the defense of the federal property in Charleston Harbor.  Several front page articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer presented information on the harbor forts, including Fort Sumter, and the leaders of the U.S. military stationed there, including Maj. Robert Anderson.  One piece seemed to indicate that it wouldn’t matter in whose hands the forts would be, and that the harbor could be blockaded without them.

The Fortifications – It is apparent, that if these forts were actually in the hands of the citizens of South Carolina, their only value would be to them to protect the shipping in their own harbor.  Four United States ships could completely blockade the approaches without aid from the forts; and Fort Moultrie, at the entrance, could not relieve that condition, no matter whether in the hands of South Carolina or the United States, and no ship could enter or depart without seizure.

Picture drawings of the forts were featured on the front page as well as a “schematic” of Fort Sumter

Meanwhile, there was interest in soldier and sailors recruiting efforts for a possible war.

The United States recruiting Service – In these days of war’s rumors things-military have unusual interest.  Some of our military organizations smell the battle afar off, like the war-horse described by Job, and notes of preparation sound to the charge.  At the same time, there appears to be great activity at Uncle Sam’s recruiting stations, and enlistments proceed with vigor.  We yesterday went to the recruiting office at No. 311 S. Front Street.  It was a dingy room, up stairs, and was a poor index to the “pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war.”  The furniture consisted entirely of an old desk, three chairs, and the star spangled banner.  The office is in charge of one Lieutenant and one Sergeant of marines.  During the last month about one hundred men were enlisted, and eight fresh recruits were added to the roll yesterday.  All physically capable of entering the military service are received.  Men are wanted.  The office is open every day from 8 ½ A.M. to 2 P.M.  Among the applicants every day are one or two who have not the corporeal requisites for duty, who are of course rejected, much to their disappointment.

It was an indication of how war was thought about – the “pride, [and] pomp… of glorious war.”  And so it was said from this newspaper from New Year’s Day of 1861.  But the nation was soon to be shocked into the realities of a modern warfare that no one at the time ever dreamed could be.

Articles were taken from page one of the Philadelphia Inquirer available through the on-line resources of the Free Library of Philadelphia.


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