The month of March had come, and with it the close of the administration of President Buchanan
Congress had adjourned without an effort to avert the dangers threatening the nation.
Whatever may be thought of the vacillating policy of President Buchanan
, it is nevertheless true that he never at any time contemplated the surrender of the forts in Charleston harbor
, however anxious he was to avoid a collision that would alarm the Border States
, and precipitate war. His administration closed with the issues still unsettled, and the country steadily drifting to war. Up to the last moment the Confederate
authorities had hoped that Sumter
would be voluntarily evacuated, and they had at one time reason for the belief.
An accredited agent from President Lincoln
had visited the fort for the purpose of arranging for the removal of the garrison.
An intermediary between the Secretary of State
and the Confederate
authorities, Associate Justice John A. Campbell
, of the Supreme Court of the United States
, had telegraphed on the 15th of March that he felt perfect confidence in the belief that Fort Sumter
would be evacuated in five days that no measure changing the existing status was contemplated; that the demand for the surrender should not be pressed; and again on the 21st and 22d of March he telegraphed that his “confidence” in the decision was unabated.
In the meantime, however, other agencies were at work, of which he was probably ignorant, and which largely contributed to an immediate precipitation of hostilities.
Soon after the occupancy of Fort Sumter
, and up to the earlier days of President Lincoln
's administration, Major Anderson
had reported to his government that he was not in need of reinforcements, that he was secure in his position, that he could not be relieved without a struggle, and, in a later report, that in his opinion twenty thousand men would be necessary to take the batteries, and relieve him But as time passed, while reporting daily to his government, he brought finally the facts of his position so plainly to their notice, in a communication of the 1st of April, that action upon their part was imperative.
He reported that his provisions were nearly exhausted, that his command would be without food in a few days, and that his condition was such that some measures for his relief must be taken.
His communication engaged the immediate attention of the President
and his Cabinet.
Yielding to the argument of a “military necessity,” the written opinions of every member of the Cabinet
, except the Postmaster General
, Mr. Montgomery Blair
, was in favor of the withdrawal of the garrison from the harbor of Charleston
, when, suddenly, the