James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
On April 17, the Virginia convention, sitting in secret, had passed an ordinance of secession, an act which became known to the authorities in Washington on the following day. As a rejoinder to Lincolns call for 75,000 troops, Jefferson Davis by proclamation invited applications for letters of marque and reprisal against the merchant marine of the United States. The President retorted (April 19) by proclaiming a blockade of Southern ports from South Carolina to Texas inclusive, and declaring that privateers acting under the pretended authority of the Confederate States would be treated as pirates. On the 18th, the United States commander at Harpers Ferry in Virginia, deeming his position untenable, abandoned it after demolishing the arsenal and burning the armory building. On the 20th the Gosport navy-yard was partially destroyed by the Union forces and left to the possession of the Virginians. On the same day Robert E. Lee, who was esteemed by Scott the ablest officer next to himself in the service, and who had been unofficially offered the active command of the Union army, resigned his commission, thus indicating that he had decided to cast his lot with the South. The gravity of the situation was heightened by the severance of communications between the national capital and the North, as a result of the trouble in Baltimore.1 On Sunday night (April 21) the telegraph ceased to be available. The only connection the government now had with its loyal territory and people was by means of private couriers; these made their way with difficulty through Maryland, where for the moment an unfriendly element prevailed. Correct information was difficult to get, and rumors of all sorts filled the air. The government and citizens alike were apprehensive of an attack on the capital.
Note 1. The Baltimore riot occurred on Friday, April 19. [back]