at hand were rapidly fitted for service and put into commission; while several swift ocean steamers of the largest size were hurriedly loaded with provisions, munitions, and forage.
By the 6th or 7th of April, nearly a dozen of these vessels had left New York and other Northern ports, under sealed orders.
, who had arrived at Washington
on the 6th, from Fort Sumter
, bearing a message from Major Anderson
that his rigidly restricted supplies of fresh food from Charleston market had been cut off by the Confederate
authorities, and that he must soon be starved into surrender, if not relieved, returned to Charleston
on the 8th, and gave formal notice to Gov. Pickens
that the fort would be provisioned at all hazards.
immediately telegraphed the fact to Montgomery
; and, on the 10th, received orders from the Confederate Secretary of War
to demand the prompt surrender of the fort, and, in case of refusal, to reduce
it. The demand was accordingly made in due form at 2 P. M., on the 11th, and courteously declined.
But, in consequence of additional instructions from Montgomery
— based on a suggestion of Major Anderson
to his summoners that he would very soon be starved out, if not relieved--Gen. Beauregard
, at 11 P. M., again addressed Major Anderson
, asking him to state at what time he would evacuate Fort Sumter
, if unmolested; and was answered that he would do so at noon on the 15th, “should I not receive, prior to that time, controlling instructions from my Government, or additional supplies.”
This answer was judged unsatisfactory; and, at 3:20 A. M., of the 12th, Major Anderson
was duly notified that fire would be opened on Fort Sumter
in one hour.
Punctual to the appointed moment, the roar of a mortar from Sullivan's Island
, quickly followed by the rushing shriek of a shell, gave notice to the world that the era of compromise and diplomacy was ended — that the Slaveholders' Confederacy had appealed from sterile negotiations to the “last argument” of aristocracies as well as kings.
Another gun from that island quickly repeated the warning, waking a response from battery after battery, until Sumter
appeared the focus of a circle of volcanic fire.
Soon, the thunder of fifty heavy breaching cannon, in one grand volley, followed by the crashing and crumbling of brick, stone, and mortar around and above them, apprised the little garrison that their stay in those quarters must necessarily be short.
Unless speedily relieved by a large and powerful fleet, such as the Union
did not then possess, the defense was, from the outset, utterly hopeless.
It is said that the Confederate
leaders expected to reduce the fort within a very few hours; it is more certain that the country was disappointed by the inefficiency of its fire and the celerity of its reduction.
But it was not then duly considered that Sumter
was never intended to withstand a protracted cannonade from batteries solidly constructed on every side of it, but to resist and repel the ingress of fleets from the Ocean — a service for which it has since proved itself admirably adapted.
Nor was it sufficiently considered that the defensive strength of a fortress inheres largely in its ability to compel its assailants to commence operations for its reduction at a respectful distance, and to