One of the first and most difficult tasks confronting the President and his secretaries in the organisation of the army and of the navy was in the matter of the higher appointments. The army had always been a favourite provision for the men from the South. The representatives of Southern families were, as a rule, averse to trade and there were, in fact, under the more restricted conditions of business in the Southern States, comparatively few openings for trading on the larger or mercantile scale. As a result of this preference, the cadetships in West Point and the commissions in the army had been held in much larger proportion (according to the population) by men of Southern birth. This was less the case in the navy because the marine interests of New England and of the Middle States had educated a larger number of Northern men for naval interests. When the war began, a very considerable number of the best trained and most valuable officers in the army resigned to take part with their States. The army lost the service of men like Lee, Johnston, Beauregard, and many others. A few good Southerners, such as Thomas of Virginia and Anderson of Kentucky, took the ground that their duty to the Union and to the flag was greater than their obligation to their State. In the navy, Maury, Semmes, Buchanan, and other men of ability resigned their commissions and devoted themselves to the (by no means easy) task of building up a navy for the South; but Farragut of Tennessee remained with the navy to carry the flag of his country to New Orleans and to Mobile.
It was easy and natural during the heat of 1861 to characterise as traitors the men who went with their States to fight against the flag of their country. Looking at the matter now, forty-seven years later, we are better able to estimate the character and the integrity of the motives by which they were actuated. We do not need to-day to use the term traitors for men like Lee and Johnston. It was not at all unnatural that with their understanding of the government of the States in which they had been born, and with their belief that these States had a right to take action for themselves, they should have decided that their obligation lay to the State rather than to what they had persisted in thinking of not as a nation but as a mere confederation. We may rather believe that Lee was as honest in his way as Thomas and Farragut in theirs, but the view that the United States is a nation has been maintained through the loyal services of the men who held with Thomas and with Farragut.
THE BEGINNING OF THE CIVIL WAR