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letter to George E. Levings, Esq., Cashier, Edgar Co. Bank, Paris, Illinois, from James Steele, Washington City, D. C.

"... a government vessel, unarmed and loaded with provisions for Ft Sumpter, attempted to enter the Charleston harbor. She was fired into by some of the rebel batteries, that Ft Sumpter thereupon fired one gun.." James Steele, Washington City, D. C., April 10, 1861


Dear Sir

I have this day directed Wm H Gohegan to present to you for payment a note which he holds against me for $2765 due 1st inst. Should you pay this note I shall be prepared at any time after 1st proximo to meet your draft on me at this place for same, or to remit as you may direct.

There are all sorts of war rumors and speculations afloat in the city. I have it from good authority that a dispatch has been received to day, by the Government, to the effect, that this morning, as a government vessel, unarmed and loaded with provisions for Ft Sumpter, attempted to enter the Charleston harbor. She was fired into by some of the rebel batteries, that Ft Sumpter thereupon fired one gun at the assailing battery as a signal that the vessel must not be molested, whereupon all the batteries of the harbor opened a general cannonade, and five Government War Ships laying outside immediately crowded up and together with Ft Sumpter opened fire upon the infernal traitors, and that the battle is now raging. It is possible of course that the dispatch is untrue, but at all events there is an immense excitement and buzz here, and it seems generally credited that the City is at once to be placed under martial law, and it is a fact that the entire militia force of the District is under arms, and that all the Volunteer Companies are to day taking the War Oath. For my part, while I deplore the necessity for war, I say let it come, if come it must. Anything is better than this uncertainty and suspense.

The stern necessities of the case must be met, and the idea of a 'peaceable secession' forever exploded. I believe they will be met, and consequently I believe we shall have war; and that it is best that we should, rather than establish the precedent that a state (or states) by its own volition, and at mere caprice has the right to secede. Such a right once conceded, and our government, instead of being the great and glorious monument of human wisdom and patriotism, and the best form of government ever devised, as we have ever been taught to regard it, is at once transformed into the most stupendous and contemptible farce in the entire history of the world. But if war has begun you will probably get your fill of discussions upon this subject, so I will not bore you any further at present.

I am much, very much better pleased with my situation than I anticipated, and would not exchange it for any Circuit Judgeship in the State of Illinois, as I believe it to be a far better position for general as well as legal & mental culture than such a Judgeship would be. I will be very much pleased to hear from you at any time and often. Present my respects to your wife and all enquiring friends.

Truly Your Friend, James Steele

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Date: Tue Nov 5 2002
Name: Phillip F. Schlee
E- mail: schlee@ksu.edu
Notes: This is a letter to George E. Levings, Esq., Cashier, Edgar Co. Bank, Paris, Illinois, from James Steele, Washington City, D. C., April 10, 1861. Rumors of the first battle of the Civil War are recounted in this letter. George E. Levings (1834-1905) married Sarah Sandford (1837-1917), a daughter of Brig.-Gen. Isaac Sandford and Belinda Foster. They had eight children: Calvin Sandford Levings, Willard Foster Levings, Sarah Levings, Esther Eleanor Levings, Edward Levings, John Algernon Levings, Charles Sandford Levings, and Franklin Smith Levings.

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