That the South would deliberately plunge the country into civil war was difficult to comprehend, even after the first steps had been taken. The majority of the Northern people were hoping and believing, day by day, that something might transpire to quell the excitement and adjust the difficulties threatening to disturb the country.
Before leaving the Rocky Mountains I did not believe that war was certain to ensue, though I considered it quite probable. As I passed through Missouri, the only slave State that lay in my route, I found every thing comparatively quiet. In St. Joseph, on the day of my arrival, the election for delegates to the State Convention was being held. There was no disorder, more than is usual on election days in small cities. Little knots of people were engaged in discussion, but the discussions partook of no extraordinary bitterness. The vote of the city was decidedly in favor of keeping the State in the Union.
Between the 7th of December and the 12th of April, the Northern blood warmed slowly. The first gun at Sumter quickened its pulsations. When the President issued his call for seventy-five thousand men for three months, to put down insurrection, the North woke to action. Everywhere the response was prompt, earnest, patriotic. In the Northern cities the recruiting offices were densely thronged. New York and Massachusetts were first to send their favorite regiments to the front, but they were not long in the advance. Had the call been for four times seventy-five thousand, and for a service of three years, there is little doubt the people would have responded without hesitation.
For a short time after my arrival at the East, I remained in a small town in Southern New Hampshire. A few days after the first call was issued, a friend invited me to a seat in his carriage for a ride to Portsmouth, the sea-port of the State. On reaching the city we found the war spirit fully aroused. Two companies of infantry were drilling in the public square, and the citizens were in a state of great excitement. In the course of the afternoon my friend and myself were arrested, by a committee of respectable citizens, who suspected us of being Southern emissaries. It was with great difficulty we convinced them they had made a slight mistake. We referred them to the only acquaintances we had in the city. They refused to consider the truth established in the mouths of two witnesses, and were not induced to give us our liberty until all convenient proof of our identity had been adduced.
To be arrested within twenty miles of home, on suspicion of being delegated from Charleston or Montgomery, was one of my most amusing experiences of the war. The gentleman who accompanied me was a very earnest believer in coercion. His business in Portsmouth on that occasion was to offer his services in a regiment then being formed. A few months later he received a commission in the army, but did not obtain it through any of our temporary acquaintances at Portsmouth.