| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
BUCHANAN—THE FIRST SHOTS
 MEANWHILE a great man was coming into power. This was Abraham
Lincoln. He was the son of very poor people and his earliest days
were spent in the utmost poverty and want. His home in Kentucky
was a wretched little log cabin without doors or windows, and the
bare earth for a floor. But in spite of his miserable and narrow
surroundings Lincoln grew up to be a great, broad-minded loveable
He was very anxious to learn, and he taught himself nearly all he
knew, for in all his life he had only two or three months of school.
The few books he could lay hands on he read again and again till
he almost knew them by heart.
Lincoln grew to be a great, lanky, hulking boy. He had the strongest
arm and the tenderest heart in the countryside, and was so upright
in all his dealings that he earned the name of Honest Abe.
Everybody loved the ungainly young giant with his sad face and
lovely smile, and stock of funny stories.
He began early to earn his living, and was many things in turn. He
did all sorts of farm work, he split rails and felled trees. He was
a storekeeper for a time, then a postmaster, a surveyor, a soldier.
But none of these contented him; he was always struggling towards
While keeping shop he began to study law, and when he was not
weighing out pounds of tea and sugar he had his head deep in some
dry book. While trying his hand at
 other jobs, too, he still went
on studying law, and at length he became a lawyer.
Even before this he had taken great interest in politics and had
sat in the Illinois House of Representatives, and at length in
1846 he was elected to Congress.
But he only served one term in
the House, after which he returned to his law business and seemed
for a time to lose interest in politics.
But the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill aroused him again.
As a boy he had been to New Orleans. There he had seen the slave
market. He had seen negro parents parted from their children, and
sold to different masters. He had seen them chained like criminals,
beaten and treated worse than beasts of burden, and from these
sights he had turned away with an aching heart. "Boys," he said, to
his companions, "let's get away from this. If ever I get a chance
to hit that thing, I'll hit it hard."
And he did not forget what he had seen; the memory of it was a
constant torment and a misery to him. And now the chance had come,
and he hit "that thing" hard.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE GREAT EMANCIPATOR
He challenged Douglas, the author of the Kansas-Nebraska
Bill, to go round the country with him and make speeches on the
great subject of the day: Douglas to take one side of the question
and Lincoln the other. It was a bold thing to do, for Douglas was
considered the greatest speaker of the time, and Lincoln was scarcely
known. But the speeches made Lincoln famous and henceforth many of
the men in the North looked upon him as their leader. He wanted to
have slavery done away with, but above all he loved his country.
"A house divided against itself," he said, "cannot stand. I believe
this government cannot endure half-slave, half-free. I do not expect
the Union to be divided. I do not expect the House to fall. But I
do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing,
or all the other."
 He had no bitterness against the South, for he loved his whole
country, South as well as North. It was slavery he hated, not the
slave-holders. But the slave-holders hated him and his ideas. So
when in November, 1860, Lincoln was chosen President the Southern
States declared that they would not submit to be ruled by him.
As you know, the new President is always chosen some months before
the end of the last President's term. Lincoln was thus chosen in
November, 1860, but did not actually become President till March,
So with Buchanan still President several of the Southern States
declared themselves free from the Union. South Carolina led the
rebellion. Amid great excitement, a new declaration of independence
was read, and union with the other states was declared to be at an
The example of South Carolina was soon followed. Mississippi,
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas all declared their
union with the States at an end. They then joined together. And
calling themselves the Confederate States, they elected a President,
drew up a Constitution, and made ready to seize the Union forts
Meanwhile President Buchanan knew not what to do. He tried to
steer both ways at once. He said the Southern States had no right
to break away from the Union, but he also said that the Government
had no power to force them to return. In reality, however, his heart
was with the South, and he believed that the Southerners had just
cause for anger. So the Southerners soon came to believe that the
President would let them go their own way. Some of the Northerners,
too, thought a division would be a good thing, or at least that
disunion was better than war. "Let the slave states depart in peace,"
they said. But others would not hear of that, and were ready to
fight to the last if only the Union might be preserved.
 The country was fast drifting towards war; and soon the first shot
was fired. Charleston, the harbour of South Carolina, was guarded
by two forts, Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was
large, needing about seven hundred men to guard it properly, and
Major Anderson, who was in command, had only sixty men under him.
So, seeing that the people of South Carolina were seizing everything
they could, and finding that the President would send him no help,
he drew off his little force to Fort Sumter which could be more
Again and again Major Anderson asked for more men, and at length
an ordinary little passenger vessel was sent with two hundred and
fifty men. But when the little ship steamed into Charleston harbour
the Southerners fired upon it. And as it had no guns on board or
any means of defence it turned and sped back whence it had come.
Thus the first shots in the Civil War were fired.
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