William F. Small, Brigadier General

William F. Small
Brigadier General
Washington Guard

James D. Small
Copyright 2001
All Rights Reserved

Philadelphia, January 28, 1861
His Excellency James Buchanan
President of the United States

Sir: Two regiments of volunteer infantry - the First and Second Regiments of the Washington Guards - have been organized in this city for immediate duty in defense of the Union, and have authorized and requested me to tender their services to you. Sensible of the great dangers which now threaten the permanency of our beloved Union, and fully realizing their obligations as citizens and soldiers, the officers and men of this brigade are ready at once to answer any call which Your Excellency may make upon them. They make this offer in no unfriendly or hostile spirit toward any State or section of the Confederacy, and with no desire of making an exhibition of their patriotism and devotion to the institutions of the country. On the contrary, they sincerely trust that wise counsels may yet avert the perils by which the Federal Government is surrounded. But if pacific measures fail to restore harmony among the states and a resort to force shall become necessary to maintain the Union in all its constitutional integrity and power, they are prepared to assume and discharge the duties which will then devolve upon them without hesitation, and with zeal and fidelity.

If your Excellency desires to withdraw the regular troops now stationed in this vicinity and to employ them elsewhere this brigade will cheerfully assume the duty of garrisoning the arsenals, naval stations, and forts on and near the river Deleware. This, perhaps, would be the best course in any sudden emergency, as it would place at Your Excellency's disposal experienced regular troops, while it would afford us an opportunity of perfecting our organization and discipline. The new troops would thus be rendered efficient and ready for the field in a few weeks, or even days, while Your Excellency would have at your command the present regular force for immediate service. One of the regiments of this brigade is composed of citizens of German birth or ancestry; in the other, many of the officers and men who served in the late war with Mexico take a prominent and active part. Both are entirely reliable and could in a very short time be made equal to the best regular troops.

In the hope that this tender of service may be accepted in the spirit in which it is made, should occasion require it, I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your Excellency's obedient servant,

Wm. F. Small,
Brigadier-General, Washington Guards.



A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies
Published under the direction of
The Honorable Russell A. Alger, Secretary of War
Brig. Gen. Fred C. Ainsworth,
Chief Of The Record And Pension Office, War Department
Mr. Joseph W. Kirkley
Series III - Volume I.
Government Printing Office

Page 57-58

Buchanan, James (1791-1868), 15th president of the United States (1857-1861). He was a prominent figure in American political life for nearly half a century, holding some of the nation's highest offices. As president he played a role in the split that developed in his own Democratic Party. The split allowed the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln as president in 1860.

Buchanan tried to conciliate the Southern states to keep them from seceding from the federal Union over the issue of slavery. He failed, and his term in office was followed by the Civil War between the North and the South. He has been criticized ever since for not taking a more active stand against secession. However, although Buchanan was not a heroic figure, his policy of compromise was not unreasonable. Most presidents before him had taken the same approach, and even his decisive successor, Lincoln, tried conciliation as long as he could. Buchanan hoped that his policy would at least prevent the border-states-the northern tier of slave states from seceding. It is perhaps to his credit that, indeed, the states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri and the western part of Virginia (which split off as the state of West Virginia) did not join the Southern cause.