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MRS. JOHN C. CALHOUN AND THE COMING OF THE CIVIL WAR Edited by Ernest M. Lander, Jr. As Senator John C. Calhoun lay dying he gloomily predicted the break-up of the Union. He believed his long-time defense of Southern rights had come to naught. After his death on March 31, 1850, many of his colleagues eulogized him the following day in the Senate chamber, but not all felt charitable even at that moment. Thomas Hart Benton, for example, regarded his doctrines as treasonable, and a Northern jurist explained that Calhoun was "more dangerous dead than living" for now his opinions would be "deified." His biographer Charles M. Wiltse has concluded: "When hostile armies faced each other on the field at last Calhoun's doctrines . . . were accepted by North and South alike as the intellectual genesis of the Confederacy." For a generation after the war Calhoun continued to receive much blame for secession.1 Although Calhoun died more than ten years before the outbreak of the Civil War, his widow, Floride Colhoun Calhoun, lived through the conflict. She and seven sons and daughters survived her husband, but the Calhoun children were an unhealthy group, prone to heart disease and tuberculosis, of which their father had died. By I860 four were dead, leaving James Edward, who was dying in California, Andrew Pickens, the eldest, and Anna, wife of Thomas Green Clemson. Mrs. Calhoun was then living at "Mi Casa" in Pendleton, four miles from her former home "Fort Hill," which was purchased by Andrew in 1854. Anna and her family lived in Bladensburg, Maryland, where her husband, a scientist and former diplomat, combined farming with his position in the Patent Office as Superintendent of Agricultural Affairs .2 During the 1850's Mrs. Calhoun corresponded regularly with Anna, her letters dealing mainly with family affairs. However, as the con1 Charles M. Wiltse, John C. Calhoun: Sectionalist, 1840-1850 (Indianapolis, 1951), pp. 477-81. See also Margaret L. Coit, John C. Calhoun, American Portrait (Boston, 1950), pp. 508-12, 532. 2 For Calhoun and Clemson genealogy, see C. M. McGee, Jr., and E. M. Lander , Jr., (eds.), A Rebel Came Home: The [Civil War] Diary of Floride Clemson . . . (Columbia, S.C, 1961), p. x; A. G. Holmes and G. R. Sherrill, Thomas Green Clemson, His Life and Work (Richmond, 1937). James Calhoun died of tuberculosis on Nov. 29, 1861. San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, Nov. 30, 1861; J. Mora Moss to T. G. Clemson, Mar. 29, 1861, Clemson Papers, Clemson University. 308 stitutional crisis unfolded she began to take a lively interest in political developments and also to worry about the safety of the Clemsons in Maryland. Of particular interest are her letters from November 24, 1860, until May 17, 1861, showing her fears and changing moods. All letters cited herein are in the Clemson Papers at Clemson University. On November 10, 1860, the South Carolina General Assembly, meeting in special session, unanimously agreed to call a convention for December 17; delegates were to be chosen in a special election on December 6. By the last week in November South Carolina was aflame with secession rallies throughout the state.3 Such a rally was held in Pendleton on November 24. That same evening Mrs. Calhoun wrote Anna: "Just received your letter of the 18th, and reply to it immediately as I returned from the Barbecue—As the day was unfavourable, the speaking was in the Presbyterian Church. Such a crowd on the floor and the galleries that I looked for an accident, but all passed off well—Some of the most inthusiastic speaking I have ever heard—Such applause as to almost deafen me—The Governors black band played most delightfully between the speakers. The orators were Mr [James] Chesnut first who spoke long loud and much to the purpose—Next Mr Boise [W. W. Boyce] of Charleston—longer and much to the purpose—3 Mr [John D.] Ashmore of Charleston—Loud inthusiastic but short— 4th Mr [James L.] Orr of Anderson—4He spoke long very vehement, and to the purpose—All spoke of your father in a complimentary manner. All were urging the necessity of speedy action before Lincoln is inaugurated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 308-317
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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