Chapter 5: events in Charleston and Charleston harbor in December, 1860.--the conspirators encouraged by the Government policy.
- Fortifications in Charleston harbor, 117.
-- Major Anderson takes command and warns the Government, 118.
-- treason in the War Department
-- alarm of the conspirators in Congress, 120.
-- the conspirators supplied with arms, 121.
-- military preparations in Charleston, 124.
-- the Government deaf to warnings and suggestions of Anderson and Scott, 125.
-- seizure of Fort Monroe contemplated, 126.
-- disruption of Buchanan's Cabinet, 127.
-- Anderson and his garrison leave Fort Moultrie and occupy Fort Sumter, 129.
-- raising of the flag over Sumter, 130.
-- rage of the conspirators
-- joy of the loyalists, 131.
-- Mrs. Anderson's journey to Fort Sumter and back, 133.
-- preparations to attack Fort Sumter, 136.
-- seizure of forts in Charleston harbor, 137.
-- seizure of the Custom House and post
-- office, 139.
Events that occurred in the harbor of Charleston
during the latter part of December, 1860, were quite as exciting as those in the city of Charleston
There are four military works there belonging to the National Government
, namely, Castle Pinckney, Fort Moultrie
, Fort Sumter
, and Fort Johnson
Castle Pinckney is situated upon the southern extremity of marshy land known as Shute's Folly Island
, and is near the city.
It presents a circular front on the harbor side, as seen in the engraving.
It is not strong, and was never considered very valuable as a defensive work.
At the time in question it had about fifteen guns mounted en barbette
, or on the parapet; and some columbiads, and a small supply of powder, shot, and shell, was within its walls, but no garrison to use them.
Castle Pinckney. |
is on Sullivan's Island
, between three and four miles from Charleston
, near the site of the famous little palmetto-log fort of that name, which defied the British fleet in 1776.
At the time we are considering, it was
in reality only a large inclosed water-battery, constructed with an outer and inner wall of brick, capped with stone, and filled between with sand, and presenting a solid mass about sixteen feet in thickness.
It was built with salient and re-entering angles on all sides, having a front on the southeast, or water side, of about three hundred feet, and a mean depth of about two hundred and forty feet. During the autumn, about one hundred and seventy men had been employed by the post commander,
Colonel John L. Gardner
, of the First Regiment of Artillery, in repairing, making additions, and generally strengthening the fort.
It was the only one of the four that was garrisoned.
, then the largest and by far the best of the strongholds, stands in the middle of the entrance to Charleston Harbor
proper, on the southwestern edge of the ship-channel, and nearly three and a half miles from the city.
It was a work of solid brick and concrete masonry, a truncated pentagonal in form, and built upon an artificial island resting on a mud-bank.
The island was constructed of chips from New England
carried there during a period of ten consecutive years, at the cost of half a million of dollars.
The fort itself cost another half million.
The walls were sixty feet in hight, and from eight to twelve feet in thickness, the weakest part being on the south or Morris Island
It was pierced for three tiers of guns on the north, east, and west sides
The two lower tiers were under bomb-proof casemates.
The first was designed for 42-pounder Paixhans
, and tie second for 8 and 10-inch Columbiads.
The third tier was open, so that the ordnance, to consist of mortars and 24-pounder guns, would be en barbette
, or nearly so, there being embrasures.
Its complement of heavy guns was one hundred and forty, but only seventy-five were now in the work.
For some time a large number of men had been employed in mounting ordnance there, and otherwise putting the fort in order for defense, yet there was no regular garrison to man it.
, on James Island
, directly West from Fort Sumter
, was of but little account then as a fortification.
It was a relic of the old war for Independence.
In October, 1860, Colonel Gardner
was removed from the command in Charleston Harbor
, by Floyd
, for attempting to increase his supply of ammunition,3
and Major Robert Anderson
, a native of Kentucky
, and a meritorious officer in the war with Mexico
, was appointed to succeed him in November.
He arrived there on the 20th, and assumed .the command.
He was convinced, from the tone of conversation and feeling in Charleston
, and the military drills continually going on there, with other preparations of like nature, that the conspirators had resolved to inaugurate a revolution.
“That there is a settled determination,” he said, in a letter to Adjutant-General Cooper
, on the 23d of November, “to leave the Union
and to obtain possession of this
work [Moultrie], is apparent to all.”
In that letter, which subsequent events converted into a most important historical document, he announced to the Government
the weakness of the forts in Charleston harbor
, and urged it to take immediate and effective measures for strengthening them.
He told the Secretary of War
that Fort Moultrie
was so weak as to invite an attack, then openly threatened, for the garrison was only between fifty and sixty in number, and had a line of ramparts to defend, fifteen hundred feet in length.
and Castle Pinckney,” he said, “must be garrisoned immediately, if the Government
determines to keep command of this harbor.”
, he said, was supplied with forty thousand pounds of cannon-powder and ammunition sufficient for one tier of guns, but was lying at the
mercy of insurgents.
Should they take possession of it, its guns would command Fort Moultrie
, and soon drive out its occupants.
was the key to the harbor; and Castle Pinckney was so near the city, and utterly undefended, that the Charlestonians considered it already in their possession.
He informed the Government
that two heavy mortars had been taken to the Arsenal in Charleston
, several months before, with the professed design of having them repaired, but they had never been returned; arid that Captain Foster
had actually been requested, by the adjutant of a South Carolina regiment, to show him the roll of his workmen on the fort, that they might be enrolled by the State
authorities for military duty, as they were organizing and drilling men in Charleston
“The clouds are threatening,” wrote the patriotic Anderson
, “and the storm may burst upon us at any moment.
I need not say to you how anxious I am, indeed determined, as far as honor will permit, to avoid collision with the citizens of South Carolina
Nothing will, however, be better calculated to prevent bloodshed, than our being found in such an attitude that it would be madness and folly to attack us. I do, then,” he repeated, “most earnestly entreat that a re-enforcement be immediately sent to this garrison, and that at least two companies be sent to Fort Sumter
and Castle Pinckney; half a company, under a judicious commander, sufficing, I think, for the latter work.
I feel the full responsibility of making the above suggestions, because I firmly believe that, as soon as the people of South Carolina
learn that I have demanded re-enforcements, and that they have been ordered, they will occupy Castle Pinckney and attack this fort.”
If these precautionary measures should be taken, he said, “I shall feel that, by the blessing of God, there may be a hope that no blood will be shed, and that South Carolina
will attempt to obtain possession of the forts in the harbor by diplomacy, and not by arms.
If we neglect, however, to strengthen ourselves, she will, unless these works are surrendered on her first demand, most assuredly attack them immediately.
I will thank the Department to give me special instructions, as my position here is rather politico-military than a military one. . . . Unless otherwise directed, I shall make future communications
through the regular channels ;” 4
that is, through Lieutenant-General Scott
, the general-in-chief
did not suspect, that in addressing the chief of the War Department of his Government through the Adjutant-General
, he was assailing ears deafened to such patriotic appeals by rank treason, and that he was laying before confederates of South Carolina
politicians information of the weakness of national forts, that would give them pleasure rather than pain.
Yet it was so. Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper
, a native of the State of New York
, had married a sister of Senator Mason
, one of the arch-conspirators of Virginia
, and was doubtless fully informed of the plans of the public enemies; for on the 3d of March, 1861, a little more than three months later, he left his office at Washington
, hastened to Montgomery, Alabama
, the Headquarters of the confederated conspirators, and was by them made adjutant-general of the insurgent forces, then preparing for the revolt.
John B. Floyd
, the Secretary of War
, was, at the very time we are considering, stripping the arsenals of
of guns and ammunition, and transferring them to the South
, for the use of the conspirators.
Let us look at the testimony of official records on this point.
From the beginning of the session, there was evident alarm among the conspirators in Congress whenever there was any intimation that official inquiry would be made concerning the condition of forts and arsenals in the Slave-labor States.
When, on the 20th of December, Mr. Clark
, of New Hampshire
, called up a resolution he had offered in the Senate, asking the President
for information concerning the condition of the forts and arsenals at Charleston
, and their relation to the National Government
and citizens of South Carolina
, and for the official correspondence on the subject, Hunter
, and others, vehemently opposed it, on the pretext that such action would tend to increase the excitement in the public mind.
On that occasion, Davis
made a peculiar exhibition of his dishonesty and flimsy sophistry.
He said such an inquiry would inflame the public mind, and result in an “irreparable injury to the public peace and future hopes of those who look forward to an amicable solution of existing difficulties.”
He (the President
) had no power to increase the garrison at Fort Moultrie
, and, if he had, the act would be unwise.
He had heard that the troops in Fort Moultrie
were hostile to the city of Charleston
If so, they ought to be removed.
He hoped there would be no collision.
He hoped the troops would simply hold the fort until peaceably transferred to other duty; “but if there is danger,” he said, “permit me here to say that it is because there are troops in it, not because the garrison is too weak.
Who hears of any danger of the seizure of forts where there is no garrison?
There stand Forts Pulaski
, at the mouth of the Savannah River
Who hears of any apprehension lest Georgia
should seize them?
There are Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter
in Charleston harbor
Who hears of any danger to them?
The whole danger then, Mr. President
, arises from the presence of United States troops.”
Such was the lullaby with which this arch-conspirator attempted to quiet the just suspicions of the people, that all the public property in the Slave-labor States was, in danger of seizure by disloyal men. There is ample proof that at that very time Davis
and his confederates had planned the seizure of all the forts and arsenals in those States.
On the 31st of December, Mr. Wilson
, of Massachusetts
, offered a resolution in the Senate, asking the Secretary of War
to give to that body information concerning the disposition of arms manufactured in the national armories or purchased for the use of the Government
during the past year.
A loyal man (Mr. Holt
) was now at the head of the War Department, and correct information was looked for.
Finally, a report of the Committee
on Military Affairs, of the House of Representatives, revealed some startling facts.
According to that report, so early as the 29th of December, 1859, Secretary Floyd
had ordered the transfer of sixty-five thousand percussion muskets, forty thousand muskets altered to percussion, and ten thousand percussion rifles, from the armory at Springfield
, and the arsenals at Watervliet
in New York, and Watertown
, to the arsenals at Fayetteville
in North Carolina
in South Carolina
, Mount Vernon
, and Baton Rouge
; and these were distributed during the spring of 1860.5
Eleven days after the issuance of the above order by Floyd
, Jefferson Davis
into the National Senate
a bill “to authorize the sale of public arms to the several States and Territories, and. to regulate the appointment of Superintendents of the National Armories
This proposition appeared, to the common observer, to be a very harmless affair.
reported it from the Military Committee of the Senate without amendment,
and called it up on the 21st of February, saying, in the blandest manner, “I should like the Senate to take up a little bill which I hope will excite no discussion
. It is the bill to authorize the States to purchase arms from the national armories.
There are a number of volunteer companies wanting to purchase arms
, but the States have not a sufficient supply.”
There were vigilant men who thought they discovered a treacherous cat under this heap of innocent meal; and, on the 23d of February, when the bill was the special order for the day, Senator Fessenden
, of Maine
, asked for an explanation of
the reasons for such action.
said that the Secretary of War
had recommended an increase of the appropriation for arming the militia of the country, and he thought it best for volunteers to have arms made by the Government
, so that, in case of war, the weapons would all be uniform.
offered an amendment, that would deprive the bill of its power to do mischief, but it was lost.
The bill was finally adopted by the Senate,
by a strict party vote, twenty-nine supporters of the Administration voting in the affirmative, and eighteen of the opposition voting in the negative.
During the debate, Davis
took the high State Supremacy ground, that the militia of the States were not a part of the militia of the United States
. The bill was smothered in the House of Representatives.
The conspirators were not to be foiled.
By a stretch of authority given in the law of March 3, 1825, authorizing the Secretary of War
to sell arms, ammunition, and other military stores, which should be found unsuitable for the public service, Floyd
sold to States and individuals over thirty-one thou.
sand muskets, altered from flint to percussion, for two dollars and fifty cents each.6
On the very day when Major Anderson
dispatched his letter above cited to the Adjutant-General
sold ten thousand of these muskets to G. B. Lamar
, of Georgia
; and only eight days before,
he sold five thousand of them to the State of Virginia
With a knowledge of these facts, the Mobile Advertiser
, one of the principal organs of the conspirators in Alabama
, said, exultingly:--“During the past year, one hundred and thirty-five thousand four hundred and thirty muskets have been quietly transferred from the Northern
arsenal at Springfield
alone to those in the Southern States
We are much obliged to Secretary Floyd
for the foresight he has thus displayed, in disarming the North and equipping the South for this emergency
There is no telling the quantity of arms and munitions which were sent South from other arsenals.
There is no doubt but that every man in the South
who can carry a gun can now be supplied from private or public sources.
contribution alone would arm all the militia-men of Alabama
A Virginia historian of the war makes a similar boast, and says :--“Adding to these the number of arms distributed by the Federal Government
to the States in preceding years of our history, and those purchased by the States and citizens, it was safely estimated that the South
entered upon the war with one hundred and fifty thousand small arms of the most approved modern pattern, and the best in the world.”
8 General Scott
that “Rhode Island
, and Texas
had not drawn, at the close of 1860, their annual quotas of arms, and Massachusetts
, and Kentucky
only in part; while Virginia
, South Carolina
, and Kansas
were, by order of the Secretary of War, supplied with their quotas for
1861 in advance
, and Pennsylvania
This advance of arms to the eight Southern States was in addition to the transfer, at about the same time, of one hundred and fifteen thousand muskets to Southern arsenals by the same Secretary of War
Not content with thus supplying the Slave-labor States with small arms, that traitorous minister attempted to give them heavy guns only a few days before he left his office.
On the 20th of December, he ordered forty columbiads10
and four 32-pounders to be sent immediately
from the arsenal at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania
, to the unfinished fort on Ship Island
, off the coast of Mississippi
; and seventy-one columbiads and seven 32-pounders to be sent from the same arsenal to the embryo fort at Galveston
, which would not be ready for its armament in less than five years. This bold attempt of the conspirator to furnish the enemies of the Government
with heavy ordnance was frustrated by the vigilance and prompt action of the people of Pittsburg
When the fact became known that Quartermaster Taliaferro
(a Virginian) was about to send these guns from the arsenal, an immense meeting of the citizens, called by the Mayor
, was held, and the guns were retained.
The conspirators, in Congress and out of it, denounced this exhibition of “mob law” bitterly.
soon afterward fled to Virginia
, and his successor, Joseph Holt
, countermanded the order.
It was to that faithless minister (Floyd
) and his plastic implement of treason, Adjutant-General Cooper
, that Major Anderson
addressed his earnest letter, pleading for power to protect the property of the Republic
in Charleston harbor
, and to preserve the integrity of the nation.
The reply was precisely as might be expected from such men. It was contained in less than a dozen lines, by which permission was given him to send a few workmen to repair Castle Pinckney; and he was instructed that when, thereafter, he had any communication to make for the information of the Department, it must be addressed to the Adjutant-General
's office, or to the Secretary of War
They discovered in Anderson
too true a patriot for their use, and they were
unwilling to have his earnest pleading go to the ears of General Scott
, to whom it was the duty of all subordinate officers to report.
Notwithstanding the apathy, as it seemed, at Washington
, and the assurances sent from there that there was no danger, so long as he acted prudently, Major Anderson
continued to urge the necessity of re-enforcements.
He was convinced that every able-bodied man in South Carolina
would be called into the military service of the State
, if necessary, for the seizure of the forts.
He knew that there were nightly military drills in Charleston
; and he was positively assured that the South Carolinians regarded the forts as their property.
He saw whole columns of the Charleston
journals made pictorial
by the insignias of various military companies attached to orders for meetings, day after day, such as the “Washington
Light Artillery,” the “Palmetto Guard,” the “Carolina Light Infantry,” the “Moultrie Guards,” the “Marion Artillery,” the “Charleston
riflemen,” the “Meagher Guard” of Irishmen, and the “German riflemen.”
He read the general orders of R. G. M. Dunovant
, the Adjutant
of the State
, requiring colonels commanding regiments to “report forth — with the number, kind, and condition of all public arms in possession of the Volunteer Corps composing the several commands,” and the appointment of nine aides-de-camp
to Governor Pickens
These were signs of approaching hostilities that the dullest mind might
Palmetto Guard. |
comprehend; and, in addition, Anderson
had the frank avowals of men in power.
had summoned Colonel Huger
, of Charleston
, to Washington
, for the real purpose, no doubt, of arranging more perfect plans for the seizure of the forts, for that officer was afterward an active general in the military service of the conspirators.
was directed by the Secretary
to confer with Huger
before his departure, and in that interview the Colonel
, the Mayor
), and other leading citizens of Charleston
assured him that the forts “must be theirs, after secession.”
All this he reported promptly to the Government
, and was mocked by renewed assurances of the safety of the forts from attack, and the wisdom of the policy of not adding to the military force in Charleston harbor
, for fear of increasing and intensifying the excitement of the South Carolinians.
He was even instructed to deliver over to the authorities of South Carolina
“any of Captain Foster
's workmen,” should a demand be made for them, “on the ground of their Being enrolled into the service of the State
These men, intimately acquainted with every detail of knowledge concerning the forts, would be of infinite service to the conspirators.
thus left to rely on his own feeble resources, he discovered that many men under his command had been tampered with by the conspirators.
This fact he promptly communicated to the Government
, saying:--“Captain Foster
informed me yesterday that he found that fifty men of his Fort Sumter
force, whom he thought were perfectly reliable, will not fight if an armed force approaches the work; and I fear that the same may be anticipated of the Castle Pinckney force.”
And thus he continued reporting almost daily the condition of the fortifications and of his forces, the movements of the South Carolinians, and the almost hourly accumulation of evidence that the seizure of Fort Sumter
would be soon attempted.
That stronghold lost, all would be lost.
But his appeals for men and arms were in vain.
His warnings were purposely unheeded.
The burden of responses to his letters was :--Be prudent; be kind: do nothing to excite the South Carolinians.
It will not do to send you re-enforcements, for that might bring on hostilities.
At the same time, he was instructed “to hold possession of the forts, and, if attacked, to defend himself to the last extremity.”
Time after time, from October 29th until the close of December, General Scott
urged the Government
to re-enforce the forts on the coasts of the Slave-labor States.
He laid before the President
facts showing their nakedness (the Secretary of War
having denuded the whole Atlantic coast of troops, and sent them to Texas
, and the Territories
north of it), and that they
Meagher Guard. |
were completely at the mercy of insurgents.
On the 31st of October he asked permission to admonish the commanders of Southern forts to be on the
alert against surprise or sudden assault; but even this was not given by the President
before January 3, 1861, when it was too late.17
He went to Washington City
on the 12th of December, and on the following day begged the Secretary of War
to re-enforce the Southern
did not coincide in his views.
He then asked Floyd
to procure for him an early interview with the President
That interview occurred on the 15th, when the subject of secession and the strengthening of the forts was freely discussed.
In reply to Scott
's suggestion to send re-enforcements immediately to Charleston harbor
, the President
said the time for such measures had not arrived.
He expected the Convention
of South Carolinians, who would assemble on the 17th, would send commissioners to him, to negotiate with him and Congress respecting the secession of the State
, and the property of the United States
within its limits, and that, if Congress should decide against secession, then he would send a re-enforcement, and order Major Anderson
to hold the forts against attack.18
The last sentence gave Floyd
a new idea of a method to aid the conspiracy.
The Virginia traitors (of whom he was the chief, in efficient action), at that time, contemplated the seizure of the immense Fortress Monroe
at Hampton Roads
, which guarded the great Navy Yard at Norfolk
, and would be of vast importance to the conspirators in executing the scheme entertained by Wise
and others, of seizing the National Capital
's inauguration, and taking possession of the Government
would gladly weaken the garrison of Fortress Monroe
for that purpose, at the expense of the Charleston
forts; and he now said quickly, and with great animation, “We have a vessel-of-war (the Brooklyn
) held in readiness at Norfolk
, and I will send three hundred men in her, from Fort Monroe
replied that so many men could not be spared from Fortress Monroe
, but might be taken from New York.19
No doubt it was Floyd
's intention, had the President
ordered re-enforcements to Charleston
, to take them from the already small garrison in Fortress Monroe
The appeals of Major Anderson
and the urgent recommendations of General Scott
produced much feeling in the Cabinet
, the Secretary of State
, warmly urged the President
to order re-enforcements to be sent at once, not only to Charleston
, but elsewhere.
Most of the other members of the Cabinet
, being conspirators yet hidden from public view, opposed the measure.
This opposition, and the threats of the South Carolina
delegation in Congress, as we have observed,21
caused the President
to refuse such order.22
It was on account of that refusal that Cass
after which the Cabinet
was almost a unit in sentiment for about a fortnight, when, as we shall observe presently, there was a grand disruption of the ministry.
For this patriotic act, the Charleston Mercury
, ungrateful for the steady support which Mr. Cass
had given to the policy of the Southern
leaders during Buchanan
's administration, denounced him
as a “hoary-headed trickster and humbug,” who had retired from the Cabinet
“because war was not made on South Carolina
found it necessary for him to assume grave responsibilities, for he was evidently abandoned to his fate by his Government.
He sent engineers and. workmen to repair Castle Pinckney, and, as vigorously as possible, he pushed on the labor of strengthening Fort Moultrie
When the Ordinance of Secession was passed, still more menacing became the actions of the South Carolinians.
knew that commissioners had been appointed to repair to Washington
, to demand the surrender of the. forts in Charleston harbor
; and he was conscious that preparations for seizing them, the very moment when the expected refusal to surrender should be made known, were in active progress.
He knew, too, that if he should remain in Moultrie
, their efforts would be successful; and two days after the passage of that ordinance, he wrote to the Department,
saying:--“I have heard from several sources that, last night and the night before, a steamer was stationed between this island and Fort
I am certain that the authorities of South Carolina
are determined to prevent, if possible, any troops from being placed in that fort; and that they will seize upon that most important work as soon as they think there is any reasonable ground for a doubt whether it will be turned over to the State
I think that I could, however, were I to receive instructions to do so, throw my garrison into that work; but I should have to sacrifice the greater part of my stores, as it is now too late to attempt their removal.
Once in that work with my garrison, I could keep the entrance of this harbor open until they constructed works outside of me, which might, I presume, prevent vessels from coming into the outer harbor. . . . No one can tell what will be done.
They may defer action until their commissioners return from Washington
; or, if assured by the nature of the debates in Congress
that their demand will not probably be acceded to, they may act without waiting for them.
I do not think we can rely upon any assurances, and wish to God I only had men enough here to man fully our guns.
Our men are perfectly conscious of the dangerous position they are placed in, but are in as fine spirits as if they were certain of victory.”
To this letter no response came.
Hour after hour the danger seemed to Anderson
Watch-boats were out continually, spying his movements, and ready to report the approach of a relief vessel of any kind.
Four days had passed, and no word came from his Government.
He had resolved to save the forts if possible, and he would wait no longer for instructions.
He was commander of all
the forts in the harbor, and might occupy
whichever he pleased.25
He resolved to assume the responsibility, for the public good, of abandoning the weaker and occupying the stronger.
Great caution and circumspection were essential to success.
There were vigilant eyes upon Anderson
on every side.
There was wide-spread disaffection everywhere among Southern-born men. Whom can I trust?
was a question wrung almost hourly from loyal men in public station.
had lately been promoted to his present command, and had been so little with his officers and men, that his acquaintance with them was extremely limited.
He revealed his secret intentions only to Captain
) John G. Foster
, his second in command, and two or three other officers.
's first care was to remove the women and children, with a supply of provisions, to Fort Sumter
To do so directly and openly would invite an immediate attack.
He resolved on strategy.
He would give out that they were going to Fort Johnson
, on James Island
Wherefore? would be asked by the watchful Charlestonians
His reply might properly be: Because I know you are about to attack me. I cannot hold out long.
I wish to have the helpless ones, with food, in safety.
This was substantially the course of events.
On Wednesday, the 26th of December, the women and children in Fort Moultrie
, and ample provisions, were placed in vessels and sent to Fort Johnson
The commandant there had been instructed to detain them on board until evening, under a pretext of a difficulty in finding quarters for them.
The firing of three guns at Moultrie
was to be the signal for them all to be conveyed immediately to Fort Sumter
, and landed.
The expected question was asked, and the plausible answer was given.
The people of Charleston
, as Anderson
desired, talked about his movement as a natural and prudent measure.
They now felt sure of their speedy possession of the forts.
All suspicion was allayed.
The stratagem was successful.
Just at the close of the evening twilight, when the almost full-orbed moon was shining brightly in the Southern
sky, the greater portion of the little garrison at Fort Moultrie
embarked for Fort Sumter
The three signal-guns were fired soon afterward, and the women and children were taken from before Fort Johnson
to the same fortress.
, Surgeon Crawford
, and two or three other officers were left at Fort Moultrie
, with a few men, with orders to spike the great guns, destroy their carriages, and cut down the flag-staff, that no “banner with a strange device” should be flung out from the peak from which the Stars and Stripes had so long fluttered.
That accomplished, they were to follow the garrison to Sumter
The movement was successful.
The garrison departed.
The voyage was short, but a momentous one.
A guard-boat had been sent out from Charleston
just as the last vessel left Sullivan's Island
At the same time a steam-tug was seen towing a vessel in from sea. She might have revealed the secret.
Providentially, the moon shone full in the faces of her people when looking in the direction of the flotilla, and they could not see them.
The soldiers and their families, and many weeks' provisions, were safe within its walls, and at eight o'clock the same evening, Major Anderson
wrote to the Adjutant-General
from his snug quarters, nearly over the sally-port:--“I have the honor to report that I have just completed, by the blessing of God, the removal to this fort, of all my garrison except the surgeon, four North Carolina
officers, and seven men.”
Electricity, speedier than steam, conveyed intelligence of the movement to the War Department from the Charleston
conspirators, long before Anderson
's message reached the National Capital
It fell among the disunionists in that capital like an unlooked — for thunderbolt, and the wires flashed back from the dismayed Floyd
these angry words:--“Intelligence has reached here this morning
that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie
, spiked your guns, burnt the carriages, and gone to Fort Sumter
It is not believed, because there is no order for any such movement.
Explain the meaning of this report.”
calmly replied by telegraph:--“The telegram is correct.
I abandoned Fort Moultrie
because I was certain that if attacked my men must have been sacrificed, and the command of the harbor lost.
I spiked the guns and destroyed the carriages to keep the guns from being turned against us. If attacked, the garrison would never have surrendered without a fight.”
When this last dispatch was written, the flag of the Union
had been floating over Sumter
for four hours. It had been flung to the breeze at meridian, after impressive religious services.
The commander, a devout man, took that opportunity to impress upon the garrison, then entering upon a season of great trial, the important truth, that to God alone they must look for strength to bear it. His companions were anxious to hoist the National
ensign before the dawn of the 27th, but the Major
would not consent to the act before the return of the chaplain.
He came at noon; and around the flag-staff, not far from the great columbiad, mounted on the parade of the fort, all the inmates of Sumter
The commander, with the
halliards in hand, knelt at the foot of it. The chaplain prayed earnestly for encouragement, support, and mercy; and when his supplications ceased, an impressive “Amen!”
fell from the lips of many
and stirred the hearts of all. Anderson
then hoisted the flag to the head of the staff.
It was greeted with cheer after cheer, while the band saluted it with the air of “Hail Columbia.”
While this impressive scene was occurring in the fort, a boat was approaching from Charleston
It contained a messenger from the Governor
of South Carolina
, conveying a demand, in courteous but peremptory phrase, for Major Anderson
's immediate withdrawal from Sumter
, and return to Moultrie
The Governor said that when he came into office, he found that “there was an understanding between his predecessor and the President
, that no re-enforcements were to be sent to any of the forts,” and especially to Sumter
; and that Anderson
had violated that agreement by thus re-enforcing it. The demand was refused; and the Major
was denounced in the Secession Convention, in the South Carolina Legislature, in public and private assemblies, and in the streets of Charleston
, as a “traitor to the South
” (he having been born in a Slave-labor State), and an enemy of its people.
The South Carolinians
felt the affront most keenly, for on the very day when he went from Moultrie
, a resolution, offered by Mr. Spain
, was considered in secret session in the disunion Convention, which requested the Governor
to communicate to that body any information he might possess concerning the condition of the forts in the harbor — what work was going on within them, how many men were employed, the number and weight of guns, number of soldiers, and whether assurances had been given that they would not be re-enforced; also, what steps had been taken for the defense of Charleston
and the State
It was afterward known that these conspirators intended to seize Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter
within twenty-four hours from that time, but their plans were frustrated by the timely movement of Anderson
The conspirators in Charleston
were filled with rage.
At the very hour when the old flag was flung out defiantly to the breeze over Sumter
, in the face of South Carolina
, the Secretary of War
, was declaring vehemently in the Cabinet
that “the solemn pledges of the Government
had been violated” by Major Anderson
, and demanding of the President
permission to withdraw the garrison from Charleston harbor
The President refused.
A disruption of the Cabinet
ensued; and the next communication that Major Anderson
received from the War Department, after the angry electrograph of Floyd
, was from Joseph Holt
, a loyal Kentuckian like himself, whom the President
had called to the head of that bureau.
He assured Major Anderson
of the approval of his Government, and that his movement in transferring the garrison from Moultrie
“was in every way admirable, alike for its humanity and patriotism as for its soldiership.”
Earlier than this, words of approval had reached Anderson
from the loyal North
; and five days after the old flag was raised over Sumter
, the Legislature of Nebraska
, two thousand miles away toward the setting sun, greeted him, by telegraph, with “A happy New year!”
Other greetings from the outside world came speedily, for every patriotic heart in the land made lips evoke benedictions on the head of the brave and loyal soldier.
places guns were fired in honor of the event; and never did a public servant receive such spontaneous praise from a grateful people, for his deed seemed like a promise of safety to the Republic
Pen and pencil celebrated his praises; and a poet, in a parody of a couple of stanzas of a dear old Scotch song, made “Miss Columbia
,” addressing Anderson
, thus express the sentiments of the people:--
Bob Anderson, my beau, Bob, when we were first acquent,
You were in Mex-i-co, Bob, because by order sent;
But now you are in Sumter, Bob, because you chose to go,
And blessings on you anyhow, Bob Anderson, my beau.
Bob Anderson, my beau, Bob, I really don't know whether
I ought to like you so, Bob, considering that feather.
I don't like standing armies, Bob, as very well you know,
But I love a man that Dares to Act, Bob Anderson, my beau.
From the hour when Anderson
and his little band31
, their position was an extremely perilous one.
His friends knew this, and were very uneasy.
His devoted wife, a daughter of the gallant soldier, General Clinch
, of Georgia
, with her children and nurse, were in New York City.
She knew, better than all others, the perils to which her husband might be exposed from ferocious foes without, and possible traitors within.
With an intensity of anxiety not easily imagined, she resolved in her mind a hundred projects for his relief.
All were futile.
At length, while passing a sleepless night, she thought of a faithful sergeant who had been with her husband in Mexico
, and who had married their equally faithful cook.
If he could be placed by the side of Major Anderson
, that officer would have a tried and trusty friend, on whom he could rely in any emergency.
Where was he?
For seven long years they had not seen his face.
Seven years before, they heard that he was in New York.
She resolved to seek him. At dawn she sent for a city directory.
's name was Peter Hart
She made a memorandum of the residence of every Hart
in the city; and, in a carriage, she sought, for a day and a half, for the man she desired to find.
Then she obtained a clew.
He might be in the Police establishment — there was a man of that name who had been a soldier.
She called on the Superintendent
of the Police, and was satisfied.
She left a request for Peter Hart
to call on her.
had resolved to go with Peter to Fort Sumter
, if he would accompany her. She was an invalid.
Her physician and friend, to whom alone she had intrusted the secret of her resolve, protested vehemently against the project.
He believed its execution would imperil her life.
She had resolved to go, and would listen to no protests or entreaties.
Seeing her determination, he gave her every assistance in his power.
came, bringing with him his wife, the faithful Margaret
They were delighted to see their former mistress and friend.
stood erect before her, with his heels together, soldier-like, as if to receive orders.
“I have sent for you, Hart
,” Mrs. Anderson
said, “to ask you to do me a favor.”
“Any thing Mrs. Anderson
wishes, I will do,” was his prompt reply.
“But,” she said, “it may be more than you imagine.”
“Any thing Mrs. Anderson
wishes,” he again replied.
“I want you to go with me to Fort Sumter
,” she said.
looked toward Margaret for a moment, and then promptly responded, “I will go, Madam
,” continued the earnest woman, “I want you to stay
with the Major
You will leave your family and give up a good situation.”
again glanced inquiringly at Margaret and then quickly replied, “I will go, Madam
“But, Margaret,” Mrs. Anderson
said, turning to Hart
's wife, “What do you
“Indade, Ma'am, and it's Margaret's
sorry she can't do as much for you as Pater
can,” was the warm-hearted woman's reply.
“When will you go, Hart
asked Mrs. Anderson
. “To-night, Madam
, if you wish,” replied her true and abiding friend.
“Be here to-morrow night at six o'clock,” said Mrs. Anderson
, “and I will be ready.
All things were speedily arranged.
The two travelers were to take only a satchel each for the journey.
was to play the part of a servant to Mrs. Anderson
, and to be ready, at all times, to second her every word and act. What difficulties and trials awaited them, no one knew.
The brave, patriotic, loving woman did not care.
It was enough for her to know that her husband and country were in peril, and she was seeking to serve them.
The travelers left New York on Thursday evening, the 3d of January.
None but her good physician — not even the nurse of her children-knew their destination.
She was completely absorbed with the subject of her errand.
They traveled without intermission until their arrival in Charleston
, late on Saturday night. She neither ate, drank, nor slept during that time.
From the Cape Fear
, she was the only woman in the railway train, which was filled with rough men hurrying to Charleston
to join in an attack on Fort Sumter
They were mostly shaggy haired, brutal, and profane, who became drunken and noisy, and filled the cars with tobacco-smoke.
“Can't you prevent their smoking here?”
she gently asked the conductor.
His only reply was, “Wal, I reckon they'll have to smoke.”
Her appeal to two rough men in front of her was more successful.
With sweet voice, that touched the chords of their better nature, she said, “Will you please to throw away your cigars?
they make me so
One of them glanced at the speaker, and said to his companion, “Let's do it; she's a lady.”
During the remainder of the journey these rude men were very respectful.
In that train of cars, Mrs. Anderson
was compelled to hear her husband cursed with the most horrid oaths, and threatened with savage violence should he fall into the hands of the exasperated mob. But she endured all heroically.
It was late in the evening when they reached Charleston
When the drunken soldiers were carried out, she asked an agent at the station for a
“Where are you from?”
“New York,” she replied.
“Where are you going?”
“Don't know; get me a carriage to go to the Mills House
“There are none.”
“I know better.”
“I can't get one.”
“Then give me a piece of paper that I may write a note to Governor Pickens
; he will send me one.”
The man yielded at the mention of the Governor
He supposed she must be some one of importance; and a few minutes afterward, she and Hart
were in a carriage, on their way to the Mills House
There the parlor into which she was ushered was filled with excited people of both sexes, who were exasperated because of her husband's movements.
His destruction of the old flagstaff at Moultrie
was considered an insult to the South Carolinians that might not be forgiven.
Their language was extremely violent.
met her brother at the Mills House
On the following morning he procured from Governor Pickens
a permit for her to go to Fort Sumter
She sought one for Hart
The Governor could not allow a man to be added to the Sumter
garrison, he said; he would be held responsible to the Commonwealth
of South Carolina
for any mischief that might ensue in consequence!
did not conceal the scorn which the suggestion and excuse elicited.
The State of South Carolina
-now claiming to, be a sovereign power among the nations of the earth — endangered by the addition of one man to a garrison of seventy or eighty, while thousands of armed hands were ready and willing to strike them!
was her father's old friend.
“Tell him,” she said, “that I shall take Hart
to the fort, with or without a pass.”
Her words of scorn and her demand were repeated to the Governor
He saw the absurdity of his conduct, and gave a pass for Hart
, but coupled the permission with a requirement that her messenger should obtain from Major Anderson
a pledge that he should not be enrolled as a soldier!
The pledge was exacted, given, and faithfully kept.
served his country there better than if he had been a mere combatant.
At ten o'clock on Sunday morning, the 6th of January, Mrs. Anderson
, with Hart
and a few personal friends then in Charleston
, started in a small boat for Sumter
, carrying with her a mail-bag for the garrison, which had lately been often kept back.
It was a most charming morning.
The air was balmy and the bosom of the bay was unrippled.
Nature invited to delicious enjoyment; but the brave woman, absorbed in the work of her holy mission of love and patriotism, heeded not the invitation.
Everywhere were seen strange banners.
Among them all was not a solitary Union flag.
She felt like an exile from her native land.
Presently, as the boat shot around a point of land, some one exclaimed,
claimed, “There's Sumter!”
She turned, and saw the national ensign floating gently over it. It seemed, as it waved languidly in the almost still air, like a signal of distress over a vessel in the midst of terrible breakers.
“The dear old flag!”
she exclaimed, and burst into tears.
For the first time since she left New York, Emotion had conquered the Will.
Sentinel-boats were now passed, and proper passwords were given.
They approached Sumter
, when a watchman on its walls trumpeted the inquiry, “Who comes there?”
A gentleman in the boat replied through a trumpet, “Mrs. Major Anderson
She was formally ordered to advance.
As her friends conveyed her up the rocks to the wharf, her husband came running out of the sally-port.
He caught her in his arms, and exclaimed in a vehement whisper, for her ear only, “My glorious wife!”
and carried her into the fort.
“I have brought you Peter Hart
,” she said.
“The children are well.
I return to-night.”
Then, turning to the accompanying friends, she said, “Tell me when the tide serves; I shall go back with the boat.”
She then retired with her. husband to his quarters nearly over the sally-port, and took some refreshments; the first since leaving N lew York
The tide served in the course of two hours. When Mrs. Anderson
was placed in the boat by her husband, she experienced almost an irresistible desire to draw him after her — to take him away from the great peril.
With the plashing of the oars, when the boat was shoved off, came a terrible impression as if she had buried her husband and was returning from his funeral.
But she leaned lovingly, by faith, on the strong arm of the All-Father, and received strength.
Invalid and a woman as she was, she had performed a great service to her husband and country.
She had given them a faithful and useful friend in Peter Hart-how faithful and useful, the subsequent history of Fort Sumter
until it passed into the hands of armed insurgents, three months later, only feebly reveals.
Unheeding the entreaties of friends, who tried to persuade her to remain, and offered to bring her family to her; and the assurance of a deputation of Charlestonians, who waited upon her, that she might reside in their city, dwell — in Sumter
, or wherever she pleased, Mrs. Anderson
started for the National Capital
accompanied by Major Anderson
was no place for her While her husband was under the old flag; and she would not add to his cares by remaining with him in the fort.
A bed was placed in the cars, and on that she journeyed comfortably to Washington
She was insensible when she arrived at Willard's Hotel, into which she was conveyed by a dear friend from New York, a powerful man, whose face was the first that she recognized on the return of her consciousness.
After suffering for forty-eight hours from utter exhaustion, she proceeded to New York, and was for a long time threatened with brain fever.
Thus ended the mission of this brave woman.
She alone had done what the Government
would not, or dared not do. She had not sent, but taken, a valuable re-enforcement to Fort Sumter
When we look back to the beginning of the great civil war, the eye of just appreciation perceives no heroism
more genuine and useful than that displayed by this noble woman; and history and romance will ever delight to celebrate her deed.
We have observed that the occupation of Sumter
created great exasperation among the conspirators.
They had been outgeneraled, and were mortified beyond measure.
They did not expect so daring an assumption of responsibility by the gentle, placid Major
, who, only the day before, had accepted their proffered hospitality, and eaten a Christmas dinner in Charleston
with some of the magnates of the city and State.
Little did they suspect, when seeing him quietly participating in the festivities of the occasion, that, within thirty hours, he would extinguish, for a season, the most sanguine hopes of the South Carolina
It was even so; and they had no alternative but to consider his movement as an “act of war.”
They did so, and proceeded upon that assumption.
The Charleston Courier
declared that “Major Robert Anderson
, of the United States Army, has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war between American citizens, by an act of gross breach of faith.
He has, under counsels of panic,
deserted his post at Fort Moultrie
, and, under false pretexts, has transferred his garrison, and military stores and supplies, to Fort Sumter
Such was the sentiment of the deceived, offended, astonished, and bewildered Charlestonians, who, at dawn, on the morning of the 27th,
had seen clouds of heavy smoke rolling up from Fort Moultrie
They had crowded the Battery
, the wharves, and the roofs of their houses, and gazed seaward for two hours before they comprehended the meaning of the startling apparition.
The conflagration was a mystery, and wild conjecture alarmed the timid, and filled every mind with anxiety.
There was in it an aspect of war, and many breakfasts in Charleston
were left untasted on that eventful morning.
At length, some workmen came from the vicinity of Fort Moultrie
, and revealed the truth.
Exasperation succeeded wonder.
The more excitable portion of the population asked to be led immediately in an attack upon Fort Sumter
They declared that they could pull it down with their unarmed hands, they felt so invincible.
Martial music and the tramp of military columns were soon heard in the streets.
The Secession Convention at once requested Governor
to take military possession of Forts Moultrie
, and Castle Pinckney.
The order for such occupation was speedily given.
The hall of the Citadel Academy
, the great military school of the State
, that opens on the largest of the public squares of the city, was made the place of rendezvous for the military officers
, and the grounds near it were covered by an excited populace.
The Government Arsenal, into which Secretary Floyd
had crowded a vast amount of arms and ammunition, taken from those of Massachusetts
and New York,32
was seized in the name of the State
It had, for some time, been held by only a sufficient number of men to insure its safety in a time of profound peace.
For a while a guard of State militia had been there, under the pretext of defending it from injury by an excited population; and these, by order of the State
authorities, took full possession of it on Sunday, the 30th of December. Seventy thousand stand of arms, and a vast amount of military stores, valued at half a million of dollars, were thus placed in the hands of the conspirators.
These were used at once.
Men in Charleston
were armed and equipped from this National treasure-house; and within three hours after the ensign of the Republic
had been raised over Sumter
two armed steamers (General Clinch
), which had been watching Anderson
's movements, left the city, with about four hundred armed men, under General R. G. M. Dunovant
(who had been a captain in a South Carolina regiment in the war with Mexico
, and was now Adjutant-General
of the State
), for the purpose of seizing Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie
. One-half of these troops, led by Colonel J. J. Pettigrew
, landed at Pinckney
The commandant of the garrison, Lieutenant R. K. Mead
(a Virginian, who soon afterward deserted his flag and hastened to Richmond
), made no resistance, but fled to Sumter
His men so strongly barricaded the door of the Castle
that the assailants were compelled to enter it by escalade.
They found the cannon spiked, the carriages ruined, the ammunition removed, and the flag-staff prostrated.
Borrowing a Palmetto flag from the captain of one of the steamers, Pettigrew
unfurled it over the Castle
It was greeted by the cheers of thousands on the shore.
It was the first flag raised by the insurgents over a National fortification.
The remainder of the troops, consisting of the Washington Artillery, the German Artillery, the Lafayette Artillery, and the Marion Artillery, in number about two hundred and twenty-five, under Colonel Wilmot
G. I)De Saussure
, proceeded in the steamers to Fort Moultrie
The people in Charleston
looked on with the greatest anxiety, for they thought the guns of Sumter
might open fire upon their friends when they should land on the beach of Sullivan's Island
They did not know how tightly Major Anderson
's hands were tied by instructions from his Government.
While the insurgents left Fort Sumter
unassailed, he was compelled to keep its ports closed.
The insurgent troops were landed without opposition, and Fort Moultrie
was surrendered by the sentinel, in accordance with orders, to Colonel Alston
, one of Governor Pickens
's aids, and Captain Humphreys
of the arsenal.
They found the fort much more extensive than it was a few months before,
's men had worked faithfully, under skillful direction, in preparing it to resist an attack.
Old works had been repaired, and new ones constructed.
But the affair was comparatively a shell now, for its interior was a scene of utter desolation.
The guns were spiked; the carriages were destroyed; nearly all the ammunition and every piece of small-arms had been carried away; the flag-staff lay prone across the parade, and partly burned; and no munitions of war or military stores, of much account, were left, excepting some heavy cannon-balls and about six weeks provisions for Anderson
The guns of Sumter
looked directly into the dismantled fort, and a few shots from them would have driven De Saussure
and his men out among the sand-hills.
was compelled to keep them silent; and the South Carolinians quietly took possession of the abandoned fortress, and flung out over its desolated area the Palmetto
It was then too dark for the citizens of Charleston
to see it, but their hearts were soon cheered by the ascent of three rockets from Fort Moultrie
, which gave them assurance that the insurgents were safely within its walls, while the garrison at Sumter
seemed asleep or paralyzed.
Under the direction of Major Ripley
, late of the National Army
, Fort Moultrie
was enlarged and strengthened.
The ramparts were covered with huge heaps of sand-bags, and new breastworks, composed of these and palmetto logs, were erected, and heavy guns were mounted on them.
On the same day when Fort Moultrie
was seized, the revenue cutter William Aikin
, lying in Charleston harbor
, under the command of Captain N. L. Coste
, of the revenue service, was surrendered by that faithless officer into the custody of the insurgents.
With his own hands he hauled down the National
flag which he had sworn to defend, ran up the Palmetto
banner — the emblem of revolt — and gave himself and his vessel to the service of the conspirators.
His subordinate officers, honorable and loyal, at once reported themselves for duty at Washington
This was the beginning of the defection of naval officers who were born in Slave-labor States.
The first army officer who resigned his commission to take up arms against his Government was Captain R. G. M. Dunovant
, mentioned on the preceding page.
Official notes now began to pass between Sumter
and surrounding points.
On the afternoon of the 27th, as we have observed, Governor Pickens
sent a message to Anderson
, requiring him to leave Sumter
and return to Moultrie
That commander refused.
On the following morning, Anderson
sent his post-adjutant to Fort Moultrie
, to inquire of the commander there by what authority he and armed men were in that fortification of the United States
He replied, “By the authority of the Sovereign State of South Carolina
, and by command of her government.”
's refusal caused Pickens
to treat him as a public enemy within the domain of South Carolina
; and the Charleston Mercury
, with the peculiar logic characteristic of the class it represented, declared that the “holding of Fort Sumter
by United States troops was an invasion of South Carolina
In a letter written to Adjutant-General Cooper
, on the 28th, Anderson
said:--“I shall regret very deeply the persistence of the Governor
in the course he has taken.
He knows how entirely the city of Charleston
is in my power.
I can cut his communication off from the sea, and thereby prevent the reception of supplies, and close the harbor, even at night, by destroying the light-houses.
These things, of course, I would never do, unless compelled to do so in self-defense.”
On the same day, the authorities of South Carolina
seized and appropriated to the uses of the State
the Custom House
, and the Post-office kept within its walls.
That building, fronting on Broad Street, was venerated as the theater of many events connected with the old war for Independence.33
From that time until the close of President Buchanan
's administration, and even longer, Major Anderson
was compelled, by Government policy, to see the insurgents gather by thousands in and around Charleston
, erect fortifications within reach of his guns, and
make every needful preparation for the destruction of Fort Sumter
and its little garrison, without being allowed to fire a shot.
Looking back from our present stand-point, we perceive in this forbearance either the consummate wisdom of man or the direct interposition of God.