The Foundation Shakes Loose
President James Buchanan and the Southern Governors

     In the latter days of Antebellum as President James Buchanan's days became numbered awaiting Mr. Lincoln to take his seat, any hope that the Union's foundation had not been crumbling began to fade and the dark reality of a country in chaos emerged. All the outgoing President could hope for was that hostilities between the two sections quietly idle until after the inauguration on March 4th.

     Letters from the State Executives began filtering in to His Excellency during the month of January. From Montgomery, Alabama, Governor Andrew B. Moore ordered the occupation of Forts Morgan and Gaines as well as the United States Arsenal by his own state troops. The State of Alabama was set to meet in session on January 7, 1861. To avoid any intent on the part of the United States Government, the seizures of these properties were to ensure no interference from Federal Authorities would hinder their right to assemble.

     Louisiana followed suit later in the month. The quartermaster and commissary stores purchased by federal funding, and entrusted to the state, were seized by order of Governor Thomas O. Moore. Secretary of War Joseph Holt, appalled at what he considered a flagrant atrocity, questioned the Louisiana Executive personally, surprised such an act had the sanction of a state government that professed to be so moral and law abiding. Moore corresponded directly with President Buchanan regarding the Secretary of War's insolent behavior, having written without his direction and assured him he would notify the White House personally in relation to any property lately belonging to the United States. In short, federal funding or not, these stores lay within the Louisiana State borders, and to Louisiana they now belonged.

     Governor John W. Ellis in Raleigh also entertained ideas that if Federal Troops were to occupy the forts, he would be unable to control the circumstances liable to follow such action. He was commended by Joseph Holt for ordering an expulsion of those who had recently seized Forts Johnston and Caswell; however, should the forts and arsenals belonging to the general government be seized from any quarter outside its walls, the Chief Executive would use whatever Constitutional means necessary to maintain control of them.

     The federal forts under the Buchanan administration would not capitulate under pressure from hostile voices in the South. These properties for now would remain in control of the central government with a promise that only a defensive posture would be taken by the garrisons and no effort would be made invoking excitement by re-enforcing these structures with more soldiers.

     While doing all within his power to maintain the peace between the two sections, as the 15th President stepped aside, his successor would let Pandora open the box. The country's foundation had shaken loose and the country was poised to explode.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2004

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at