Civil War Letter to Governor Call, 1860

From: Call, R. K. (Richard Keith), 1792-1862, Collection M84-16

Civil War Letter to Governor Call, 1860

About This Document

Richard Keith Call (1792-1862) served as Florida's third and fifth territorial governor during the 1830s and 1840s. Born in Virginia and educated in Tennessee, Call served in the Creek War and became and aide and protegee of Andrew Jackson. He later served with Jackson in Florida, and returned to the territory in the early 1820s to assist in the establishment of a new American territorial government.

Call would sit in the state legislative council and as Florida's delegate to Congress. He also was a brigadier general in the state militia and in 1836 became territorial governor. While governor, Call commanded troops in the Second Seminole War. He was dismissed as governor as a result of conflicts with the Van Buren administration, but he was re-appointed governor in 1841. Defeated for governor in 1845, he would not again hold public office.

Call frequently changed his political affiliations, being in turn a Democrat, Whig, Know-Nothing, and Constitutional Unionist. As the country lurched toward Civil War in the late 1850s and early 1860s, he remained an ardent Unionist. Though no supporter of the Republican Party, Call opposed secession in the weeks after Lincoln's election and published a pamphlet entitled An Address to the People of Florida from General R.K. Call in which he labeled disunion "'high treason against our constitutional government.'" Call sent a copy of his pamphlet to Edward Everett, a noted northern orator who had unsuccessfully run as vice-president on the Constitutional Union ticket in the election of 1860. In Everett's reply, reproduced here, he thanked Call for the pamphlet and suggested that the U.S. Congress, in an effort to prevent Civil War, might provide Lieutenant General Winfield Scott with dictatorial powers for six months.

Following Florida's withdrawal from the Union in early January 1861, secessionists taunted Call: "'Well, Governor, . . . we have done it!'"

Call replied prophetically, "'And what have you done? . . . You have opened the gates of Hell, from which shall flow the curses of the damned which shall sink you to perdition!'"(1)

(1) Herbery J. Doherty, Jr., Richard Keith Call: Southern Unionist (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1961), 158.



Boston 31 Decr. 1860

My dear General,
   I received a few days Since
your favor of the 12th, with
two copies of the pamphlet
containing your address to the
People of Florida. I have
read it with profound attention
& deep Sympathy. Would to
Heaven, that Your wise &
prudent counsels might have
their just influence with your
fellow Citizens!
Genl. R.K.Call