Today in History:

58 Series III Volume I- Serial 122 - Union Letters, Orders, Reports


prepared to assume and discharge the duties which will then devolve upon them without hesitation, and with zeal and fidelity.

If Your Excellency desires to withdraw the regular troops now stationed in this vicinity and to employ them elsewhere this brigade will cheerfully assume the duty of garrisoning the arsenals, naval stations, and forts on and near the river Delaware. This, perhaps, would be the best course in any sudden emergency, as it would place at Your Excellency's disposal experienced regular troops, while it would afford us an opportunity of perfecting our organization and discipline. The new troops would thus be rendered efficient and ready for the field in a few weeks, or even days, while Your Excellency would have at your command the present regular force for immediate service. One o f the regiments of this brigade is composed of citizens of German birth or ancestry; in the other, many of the officers and men who served in the late war with Mexico take a prominent and active part. Both a in a very short time be made equal to the best regular troops.

In the hope that this tender of service may be accepted in the spirit in which it is made, should occasion require it, I have the honor to the very respectfully, Your Excellency's obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Washington Guards.

WAR DEPARTMENT, Washington, January 28, 1861.


Superintendent of Police, 413 Broome Street, New York:

SIR: After carefully considering the suggestions of your letters of the 23rd instant, I have reached the conclusion that this Department has no authority to interpose in the matter to which you refer, and that, in consequence, it would be improper for me to offer any counsel for your quidance. If you are correct in your opinion as to the purpose of the movement you have arrested, it is certainly greatly to be deplored. To Congress, however, under the Constitution, belongs the power to regulate commerce between the several States, and in the exercise of that power no laws have been passed interdicting a free traffic in and transportation of arms from one State to another. The absence of such legislation disables the executive branch of the Government from interfering. If these arms are ascertained to be intended for use in the prosection of any treasonable enterprise, all concerned in their transportation, with knowledge of such purpose, would be liable to arrest; but as the laws now stand I do not see how the arms themselves, which are lawful articles of commerce between the States, could be detained except through the arrest of all concerned in forwarding them.

Judge Smalley's opinion, which I have not seen, may possible suggest means of overcoming the difficulties with which you must perceive the subject is now surrender. Additional legislation on the part of Congress may occur, and relieve the authorities of the embarrassments which they have encountered in the discharge of what they deem an urgent duty of patriotism.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Secretary of War.