The new Union plan contemplated that Brigadier-General McDowell should march from Washington against Manassas and Bull Run, with a force sufficient to beat Beauregard, while General Patterson, who had concentrated the bulk of the Pennsylvania regiments in the neighborhood of Harper’s Ferry, in numbers nearly or quite double that of his antagonist, should move against Johnston, and either fight or hold him so that he could not come to the aid of Beauregard. At the council McDowell emphasized the danger of such a junction; but General Scott assured him: “If Johnston joins Beauregard, he shall have Patterson on his heels.” With this understanding, McDowell’s movement was ordered to begin on July 9.
Congress—The President’s Message—Men and Money Voted—The Contraband—Dennison Appoints McClellan—Rich Mountain—McDowell—Bull Run—Patterson’s Failure—McClellan at Washington
While these preparations for a Virginia campaign were going on, another campaign was also slowly shaping itself in Western Virginia; but before either of them reached any decisive results the Thirty-seventh Congress, chosen at the presidential election of 1860, met in special session on the fourth of July, 1861, in pursuance of the President’s proclamation of April 15. There being no members present in either branch from the seceded States, the number in each house was reduced nearly one third. A great change in party feeling was also manifest. No more rampant secession speeches were to be heard. Of the rare instances of men who were yet to join the rebellion, ex-Vice-President Breckinridge was the most conspicuous example; and their presence was offset by prominent Southern Unionists like Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, and John J. Crittenden of Kentucky. The heated antagonisms which had divided the previous Congress into four clearly defined factions were so far restrained or obliterated by the events of the past four months, as to leave but a feeble opposition to the Republican majority now dominant in both branches, which was itself rendered moderate and prudent by the new conditions.
The message of President Lincoln was temperate in spirit, but positive and strong in argument. Reciting the secession and rebellion of the Confederate States, and their unprovoked assault on Fort Sumter, he continued:
“Having said to them in the inaugural address, ’You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors,’ he took pains not only to keep this declaration good, but also to keep the case so free from the power of ingenious sophistry that the world should not be able to misunderstand it. By the affair at Fort Sumter, with its surrounding circumstances, that point was reached. Then and thereby the assailants of the government began the conflict of arms, without a gun in sight or in expectancy to return their fire, save only the few in the fort sent to that harbor years before for their own protection, and still ready to give that protection in whatever was lawful.... This issue embraces more than the fate of these United States. It presents to the whole family of man the question whether a constitutional republic or democracy—a government of the people by the same people—can or cannot maintain its territorial integrity against its own domestic foes.”