Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Union or Secession
  • "What means this hot haste?"
Late in January 1861 the Norfolk Day Book reported that the United States Army was mounting heavy cannons at Fort Monroe and pointing them inland.
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"What means this hot haste?"

Report from the missing issue of the Norfolk Day Book for January 26, 1861, reprinted in the Charleston (S.C.) Mercury, January 30, 1861.

At the end of January 1861, a report in a lost issue of the Norfolk Day Book informed readers that the United States Army was placing cannons at Fort Monroe at the mouth of the James River. The fort had been constructed between 1819 and 1834 to defend the water approaches to the river and Hampton Roads, but the editor of the Day Book asked, "Did Virginia cede the ground on which this fort stands for the purpose of having its guns pointed inland, to menace a score or two of peaceful farmers, who till the soil under cover of its guns?" The editor apparently favored the secession of Virginia as a result of the army's threatening actions even before Abraham Lincoln took office as president of the United States on March 4, 1861.

Report from the missing issue of the Norfolk Day Book for January 26, 1861, reprinted in the Charleston (S.C.) Mercury, January 30, 1861.

EXCITEMENT IN NORFOLK—OPERATIONS AT FORTRESS MONROE.—The Norfolk Day Book of Saturday evening says.
A large force of men are now busily engaged in mounting large guns (thirty-two pounders) on the ramparts of this fort, all of which point inland and sweep the country for miles around. Eighteen of these guns are to be placed on that portion of the garrison that has no casemates, and doubtless they are to be left without shelter and ready for immediate action. They were to have been completed this week.
Did Virginia cede the ground on which this fort stands for the purpose of having its guns pointed inland, to menace a score or two of peaceful farmers, who till the soil under cover of its guns? And why is it that these "deep-mouthed dogs of war" are thus turned threateningly and frowningly upon the peaceful citizens of Virginia? Why is it that the taunt goes forth in the New York Herald, "Take if it you can—but I should like to see you try it?"
Were we not told a week or two ago that our master (?) at Washington had concluded to consent that all the forts in the Southern States should remain in status quo until the 4th of March?
 We ask, again, what means this hot haste in mounting, at this date, long rows of thirty-two pounders, pointing inland, and sweeping the farms of peaceful Virginians? Is not this an open declaration of war? Does it not savor strongly of coercion! Can any one think that all this preparation is for nothing? Does any sane man believe that Virginia can secede after the 4th of March, with a standing army of the U. S. troops and threatening cannon closing up the only outlet to her commerce? Will our Legislature remain supine under this open declaration of war, and these pre-considered threats and acts of defiance? Thousands of indignant Virginians await an answer to this last question.