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Chapter 3:


The Confederate States Commissioners—Messrs. John Forsyth of Alabama, M. J. Crawford of Georgia, and A. B. Roman of Louisiana—with proposals from their government, were sent to Washington after the inauguration of Mr. Lincoln as President. They were instructed ‘to make to the government of the United States overtures for the opening of negotiations, assuring that government that the President, Congress, and people of the Confederate States earnestly desire a peaceful solution of these great questions, and that it is neither their interest nor their wish to make any demand that is not founded in strictest justice, nor to do any act to injure their late confederates.’1

It was hoped that these commissioners, representing an organized government, perfect in all its parts, and clothed with powers by seven sovereign States, would be deemed entitled to greater consideration, and might accomplish more than the commissioners sent by South Carolina alone had been able to do.

But Mr. Lincoln and his advisers assumed very formal ground, and declined all official intercourse with representatives of ‘rebellious States.’ They would have nothing to do with ‘irregular [32] negotiations, having in view new and untried relations with agencies unknown to, and acting in derogation of, the Constitution and the laws.’2

The correspondence of the Southern Commissioners with Mr. Seward attests this. The interesting particulars added thereto by the Honorable John A. Campbell, late Associate-Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, show that not only were the conciliatory proposals tendered to the Federal government by the Confederate States treated with uncourteous disregard, but that a covert attempt at provisioning and reinforcing Fort Sumter, was being made, pending the delay to which our commissioners were subjected in Washington, while unofficial but positive assurances were given them of an early evacuation of that fort.

So many despatches and letters, public and private, had been forwarded to the South by influential Southern statesmen then in Washington, to the effect that, despite heavy outside pressure, the President could be induced to settle the question at issue without a resort to arms, if sufficient time were allowed him, that up to the very last hour the Confederate authorities at Montgomery, and many high officials in Charleston, really hoped that the Federal troops would yet be withdrawn from Sumter, and the impending danger of war be averted. General Crawford, United States Army, in his essay, ‘The First Shot Against the Flag,’ speaking of this impression, says distinctly, ‘and they had at one time reason for the belief.’3 General Doubleday expresses himself with no less certainty when he states that ‘Anderson now had no doubt that we would be withdrawn, and the papers all gave out the same idea.’4

Not until Captain G. V. Fox, of the United States Navy, had obtained introduction into Sumter, under the plea of ‘pacific purposes,’ though in reality to concert a plan for its reinforcement; not until Colonel Lamon, representing himself as a confidential agent of President Lincoln, had gained access to the fort, under the pretence of arranging matters for the removal of the troops, but ‘in reality to confer with Major Anderson, and ascertain the amount of provisions on hand;’5 not until, on the 8th of April, [33] Mr. Chew, from the State Department at Washington, had notified both Governor Pickens and General Beauregard ‘that the government intended to provision Fort Sumter peaceably, if possible, forcibly, if necessary;’ not until then was the last expectation of an amicable settlement of our difficulties dismissed from the minds of those who, though vigorously preparing for war, cherished none the less the delusive hope of peace.

It was rumored at the time, and has been repeated since by General Crawford, that Mr. Chew, after delivering his message to the South Carolina authorities, ‘barely escaped from the city of Charleston without molestation.’ This is an error. Mr. Chew, who was an intelligent man, no doubt felt the very equivocal nature of his mission at such a juncture, and did manifest symptoms of anxiety for his personal safety; but General Beauregard and Governor Pickens gave him at once most positive assurances that he had no reason to fear any act of violence from the people of Charleston. ‘The crowd you see around this building,’ General Beauregard told him, ‘shows the eagerness of the people to be informed of the news you bear us, and nothing more. You may go among them, repeat what you have here said, and not a word of insult will be offered you.’ To make assurance doubly sure, however, and to appease the apparent nervousness of Mr. Lincoln's messenger, he was escorted to the railroad depot by aids of General Beauregard and Governor Pickens, and left Charleston unmolested, and as freely as he had entered it. The only thing he could have complained of—though we have no evidence that he ever did—is, that his telegrams to Mr. Lincoln never reached their destination, and that his return journey was unusually protracted. The explanation of these facts is that General Beauregard, who considered himself justified in making use of every rightful stratagem of war, arrested Mr. Chew's telegrams, and purposely delayed some of the trains that took him back to Washington.

Major Anderson's letter to Colonel L. Thomas, AdjutantGen-eral United States Army, dated April 8th, 1861, and the telegrams from Messrs. Crawford, Roman, and Forsyth, from Washington, establish the fact that the object of the Federal government in delaying its final answer to the Southern Commissioners was to gain time for the reinforcement of Sumter before it could be reduced by the South Carolina troops under General Beauregard. [34] The following is an extract from Major Anderson's letter. It explains itself, and clears him from all participation in that act of duplicity:

Fort Sumter, S. C., April 8th, 1861.
To Colonel L. Thomas, etc.: Colonel,—* * * * * * *
I had the honor to receive by yesterday's mail the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he here states surprises me very greatly, following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was “authorized” to make. I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. It is, of course, now too late for me to give any advice in reference to the proposed scheme of Captain Fox. I fear that its result cannot fail to be disastrous to all concerned. Even with his boat at our walls, the loss of life (as I think I mentioned to Mr. Fox) in unloading her will more than pay for the good to be accomplished by the expedition, which keeps us, if I can maintain possession of this work, out of position, surrounded by strong works, which must be carried to make this fort of the least value to the United States government.

We have not oil enough to keep a light in the lantern for one night. The boats will have to, therefore, rely at night entirely upon other marks. I ought to have been informed that this expedition was to come. Colonel Lamon's remark convinced me that the idea, merely hinted at to me by Captain Fox, would not be carried out.

We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which, I see, is to be thus commenced. That God will still avert it, and cause us to resort to pacific means to maintain our rights, is my ardent prayer.

I am, Colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Robert Anderson, Major 1st Artillery commanding.

These three most significant telegrams are from our commissioners:


Washington, April 5th, 1861.
Hon. Robert Toombs, etc., Montgomery, Ala.:
The movement of troops and preparation on board of vessels of war, of which you have already been apprised, are continued with the greatest activity. An important move, requiring a formidable military and naval force, is certainly on foot. The statement that this armament is intended for St. Domingo may be a mere ruse.

We are, however, credibly informed that Commodore Stringham, who takes charge of the squadron, sails for St. Domingo.

Having no confidence in the administration, we say, be ever on your guard. [35] Glad to hear that you are ready. The notice promised us will come at the last moment, if the fleet be intended for our waters.


April 6th, 1861.
Hon. Robert Toombs, Secretary, etc., Montgomery, Ala.:
No change in the activity of the warlike armaments mentioned yesterday. The rumor that they are destined against Pickens, and perhaps Sumter, is getting every day stronger. We know nothing positive on the subject, but advise equal activity on your part to receive them if they come. We have not yet been notified of the movement, but the notification may come when they are ready to start.


Washington, April 11th, 1861.
General G. T. Beauregard:
The Tribune of to-day declares the main object of the expedition to be the relief of Sumter, and that a force will be landed which will overcome all opposition.

The correspondence between General Scott and Captain Fox, the communication of Secretary Cameron to the latter, the letters of President Lincoln to the same and to Lieutenant D. D. Porter, come as corroborating evidence of the preconcerted determination of the Federal authorities to dupe the Southern people and their representatives in Washington.

The justice and impartial logic of history will establish, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the Southern Commissioners, in their parting communication to Mr. Seward, dated April 9th, 1861, were fully justified in using the following dignified and truthful language:

Your refusal to entertain these overtures for a peaceful solution, the active naval and military preparations of this government, and a formal notice to the commanding general of the Confederate forces in the harbor of Charleston, that the President intends to provision Fort Sumter by forcible means, if necessary, are viewed by the undersigned, and can only be received by the world, as a declaration of war against the Confederate States; for the President of the United States knows that Fort Sumter cannot be provisioned without the effusion of blood.


Among the few persons, in Charleston and elsewhere, who, from the first, doubted the purpose of the Federal authorities, and never believed in any good coming from the unaccountable delays in the negotiations at Washington, was General Beauregard, Charleston's popular commander.

He had lost no time in pushing forward, as rapidly as possible, the plan of attack he had adopted immediately after his arrival. That plan was to form a circle of fire, by distributing all his available guns and mortars around a circumference of which Fort Sumter should be the centre. To accomplish this he had three of the six mortars about to be put in position at Cummings's Point removed to the Trapier Battery on Morris Island. They were 10-inch mortars. The three others (8-inch) he left where they had been originally mounted. With his usual prompt decision and remarkable activity, he asked and obtained from Savannah and Pensacola other mortars which he knew were there, and distributed them as follows: three in Fort Johnson, on James Island; one in Castle Pinckney, an inner defence in the harbor; two in Christ Church parish, near Mount Pleasant; and three on Sullivan's Island, in the vicinity of Fort Moultrie.

All his mortars were now placed in proper positions, and in accord with the principles of gunnery; that is to say, near enough to Fort Sumter to do it the greatest possible damage, and yet far enough away to be almost beyond range of its fire, with the exception of the three 8-inch mortars at Cummings's Point, already referred to, which were of but slight value or importance.

The merlons and traverses at Fort Moultrie and the batteries near it, as originally constructed by the officers in charge, were totally inadequate to the purpose for which they were intended. He had them rebuilt of a much larger size and greater solidity. He also located his gun-batteries with the utmost care, endeavoring to enfilade the barbette guns of Sumter, so as to disable them, should the emergency arise.

It was on the Morris Island shore that General Beauregard first applied his plan of detached batteries for the defence of channels and rivers. Close observation had shown him that batteries thus constructed and armed with a few guns each, well protected by heavy traverses and merlons, were much more efficacious than would be a single large work, having all the guns concentrated in it, without these protections. When a fort is attacked by a fleet, [37] its exposed barbette guns are soon disabled and the gunners driven to cover; whereas, in detached batteries, which mutually support each other, those not immediately under fire can be worked at leisure and with accuracy. One gun ashore, well protected, is equivalent to many guns afloat, and the advantage is certain to be on the side of the fire of the detached batteries, especially when guarded against a land attack by a proper supporting force.

Captain John Randolph Hamilton, of Charleston, an ex-officer of the United States navy, had constructed a floating battery, originally of rough materials, and so clumsy and ungainly in appearance as to be criticised by those who first examined it. General Beauregard being directly applied to by the inventor, and approving of his design, procured for him the iron plating necessary for the completion of his work. Early in April it was ready for use, and was removed to the western extremity of Sullivan's Island, where it was placed in position, so as to deliver a destructive fire upon the postern entrance of the fort facing the city, a point which could not be effectively bombarded from any other battery.

An iron-clad land battery was also constructed, at that time, by C. H. Stevens, of Charleston, who afterwards became a brigadier-general in the Confederate army, and was killed at the battle of Chickamauga. It consisted of heavy timbers overlaid with railroad iron, so fitted together as to present a smooth inclined surface, to be properly greased when ready for action. Its heavy guns, three in number, were fired through embrasures supplied with strong iron shutters. General Beauregard likewise approved of Mr. Stevens's plan, and added to it such suggestions as his engineering experience justified. This battery was erected at Cummings's Point, only thirteen hundred yards from Fort Sumter.

Both Captain Hamilton's and Mr. Steven's batteries proved the wisdom of their inventors, and fully met General Beauregard's expectations. They were, in fact, the first experiments from which sprang all iron-clad war vessels and land batteries in the United States, and to them may be attributed most of the important changes and improvements since made in naval architecture and armaments.

‘On the 6th of April,’ says General Doubleday, in his ‘Reminiscences,’ ‘Beauregard restricted our marketing to two days in the week. On the 7th it was wholly cut off, and we noticed [38] gangs of negroes hard at work strengthening the defences on Morris Island. . . . Anderson was greatly troubled at the failure of all his plans to keep the peace. . . . The rebels knew, and perhaps he knew, that on the 6th and 7th of April a number of naval vessels had left New York and Norfolk under sealed orders. Their destination could hardly be doubted.’

The orders cutting off the supplies, alluded to by General Doubleday, were issued and rigidly enforced by General Beauregard, whose object was not only to prevent the fort from receiving supplies of provisions, but also to prevent the purchase of oil, without which no signals could be made to the expected fleet; moreover, without oil, the wheels and chassis of Major Anderson's guns, then clogged by the sand drifts in the work, could not be kept in proper order for immediate effective use.

To guard further against the entrance of the Federal fleet, which might be effected during a dark night, despite the vigilance of our channel batteries, General Beauregard determined to use two large Drummond lights, one on Morris Island, the other on Sullivan's Island, at points specially selected, in order to illuminate the channels leading to Fort Sumter, and thereby facilitate the firing of the Morris Island beach batteries and other works bearing on the outer harbor. He had ordered and received these valuable lights from New York, and having placed them in bombproofs, so constructed as to insure their usefulness and safety, intrusted them to the care of Professor Lewis R. Gibbes, of the Charleston College.

In connection with these two Drummond lights, and as an additional safeguard, Captain Hartstein, a distinguished ex-officer of the United States navy, was placed in command of the steam harbor boats, and detailed to watch the various channel entrances, with orders, should he discover vessels attempting to approach Fort Sumter, to throw up signal rockets, as a warning to the batteries and the Drummond lights, and then to steam slowly in, after hoisting a light of special color, by which his vessels could be distinguished from those of the enemy. This duty, at times very harassing, was performed by him and his officers and men, with unremitting zeal and energy.

Another object—and an important one—still remained to be accomplished: some of the barbette guns of Sumter, on the landface fronting the city, could not be effectively reached by the [39] batteries thus far erected., General Beauregard, therefore, in order to perfect his line of attack and also to prevent a landing of any reinforcement at the postern gate of the fort, constructeda masked battery of four guns at the west end of Sullivan's Island, in rear of a small summer residence abandoned by its owners. It proved to be, says General Doubleday, in his ‘Reminiscences,’ page 140, a formidable work ‘which effectually enfiladed two rows of our upper tier of guns en barbette, and took a third tier in reverse, It was a sad surprise to us, for we had our heaviest metal there.’

Immediately after the delivery of Mr. Lincoln's message by Mr. Chew, General Beauregard sent the following despatch to the Secretary of War, at Montgomery:

Charleston, April 8th, 1861.
To L. P. Walker:
Dear Sir,--An authorized messenger from Mr. Lincoln has just informed Governor Pickens and myself that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter, “peaceably if they can, forcibly if they must.”

To this the Secretary of War replied:

Montgomery, April 10th, 1861.
To General Beauregard, Charleston:
If you have no doubt of the authorized character of the agent who communicated to you the intention of the Washington government to supply Fort Sumter by force, you will at once demand its evacuation; and if this is refused, proceed in such a manner as you may determine to reduce it.

General Beauregard was ready. He had displayed untiring energy in his preparations, and had been most zealously and effectively assisted by the South Carolina authorities and the officers and men under him. One thing only remained to be attended to, and that was the placing in position of a small Blakely rifled gun, the first ever used in America, which had just arrived from England—an unexpected present to the State from Charles K. Prioleau, of Charleston, a partner in the Liverpool branch of the firm of John Frazer & Co. It arrived off the harbor on the day before the order from Montgomery was received, and delayed its execution for twenty-four hours.

At two o'clock P. M. April 11th, General Beauregard, through [40] his aids, Captain S. D. Lee, Colonel James Chestnut, Jr., and Lieutenant A. R. Chisolm, made a formal demand for the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter. The terms offered were: ‘to transport Major Anderson and his command to any port in the United States he might select; to allow him to move out of the fort with company arms and property, and all private property; and to salute his flag on lowering it.’6

General Beauregard's despatch, forwarded on the same day to the Secretary of War, was as follows:

Charleston, April 11th, 1861.
To L. P. Walker:
Major Anderson replied: “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, demanding the evacuation of this fort, and to say, in reply thereto, that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor and of my obligation to my government prevent my compliance.” He adds, verbally: “I will await the first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces, we will be starved out in a few days.” Answer.

The answer came in all haste. It was as follows:

Montgomery, April 11th, 1861.
To General Beauregard, Charleston:
We do not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter. If Major Anderson will state the time at which, as indicated by him, he will evacuate, and agree that in the meantime he will not use his guns against us, unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter, you are authorized thus to avoid the effusion of blood. If this, or its equivalent, be refused, reduce the fort as your judgment decides to be the most practicable.

The substance of these instructions was immediately forwarded to the fort, by General Beauregard's aids, accompanied by Colonel Roger A. Pryor, of Virginia. But Major Anderson, as the official despatch has it, ‘would not consent.’ In consequence of which, after timely notice had been given to him in General Beauregard's name, on April 12th, at 4.30 A. M., ‘We opened fire.’

1 See letter of Southern Commissioners to Mr. Lincoln, ‘Rebellion Record,’ vol. i. p. 42.

2 Mr. Seward's reply to the Southern Commissioners.

3 ‘Annals of the War,’ p. 324.

4 General Doubleday's ‘Reminiscences of Sumter and Moultrie,’ p. 133.

5 Ibid. p. 134.

6 General Beauregard's Report of the Bombardment of Sumter.

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