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Union or Secession
  • "Resistance to Lincolns war policy"
  • "Resistance to Lincolns war policy"
  • "Resistance to Lincolns war policy"
Benjamin Franklin Gravely, of Henry County, believed on April 19, 1861, that the policy of President Abraham Lincoln required Virginians to resist.
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"Resistance to Lincolns war policy"

Benjamin Franklin Gravely to Christopher Yancy Thomas, April 19, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.

Following the surrender of Fort Sumter, in South Carolina, on April 13, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln requested 75,000 militiamen, including 2,340 officers and men from Virginia, to put down the Southern rebellion. Governor John Letcher and the governors of most of the other Southern states, except Maryland Governor Thomas Holliday Hicks, refused to comply with Lincoln's request. Benjamin Franklin Gravely, of Henry County, en route to Baltimore, advised Christopher Yancy Thomas, a member of the Senate of Virginia and the brother-in-law of his uncle, Peyton Gravely, to arrange for Union men to take command of the volunteers from the county. "Whatever may have been the differences of Opinion existing heretofore," he wrote, "as to the course to be pursued, in reference to our unfortunate political complications, there now seems to be but one Opinion, and that is resistance to Lincolns war policy." Gravely included in his letter a considerable amount of misinformation that was then circulating, but his information about violence in Maryland was generally accurate. He probably did not yet know that the Virginia Convention had voted for secession on April 17, 1861.

Benjamin Franklin Gravely to Christopher Yancy Thomas, April 19, 1861, Gravely Family Papers, Acc. 34126, Library of Virginia.

Danville Va April 19. 1861.
Dear Christopher.
Thinking it likely you would like to have the latest News, in these exciting and Revolutionary times, I will give you such as I have received, which is in advance of the Mail you will receive on tomorrow.
It has just been telegraphed here and is believed to be authentic, that Harpers Ferry has been burned by Federal troops, a part of the 7th Regment of New York and a large Number of Troops from Boston,—were attacked in Baltimore by Baltimoreans,—and a large number Killed on both sides & were still fighting, It is reported that Gen. Scot has resigned, & was soon after arrested by Lincoln, this However, needs Confirmation, all The Rail Roads leading into the City of Baltimore have been torn up.
Whatever may have been the differences of Opinion existing heretofore, as to the course to be pursued, in reference to our unfortunate political complications, there now seems to be but one Opinion, and that is resistance to Lincolns war policy. We have agreed heretofore as to the Causes of these difficulties and the remedies to be applied, but the matter is now brought to an issue, and it behooves us not to inquire who or what has brought it about but how, we are best to defend our homes, & our firesides: and to get rid of the great and bloody Crisis upon which we are on the brink, that it is to be one of the most bloody and inhuman wars that has ever been waged. I Confess I greatly fear, this letter is written to you in Confidence, and the suggestions I propose to make if they meet with your approbation, you can act upon them as far as you think fit.
Would it not be well that some of you prominent Union men, to put on foot the Organisation of one or two Volunteer Companies, in Henry, with all posible dispatch,—Name it to Dr. Rainey,—& others that you think suitable to be intrusted with it. Set me down for as much pecuniary aid is I am able under the circumstances to give.
I am now on my way to Baltimore, but think it likely I cannot get farther than Richmond, on account of the cutting off Communications between Washington & Richmond—all the Southern Governors have refused to furnish troops to Lincoln, except Gov. Hicks.—He however has not furnished them & it is thought he will recall his agreement to do so.
It behooves us not to suffer excitement and sensation dispatches to Control our action,—but proceed Cooly and dispassionate to do, our duty—
in haste Very Truly
Yr Bro
B F GRAVELY