The National Crisis.
can Fort Pickens
be taken?--affairs at Fort Sumter
--examining Ships' papers.
Ben Lane Posey
writes a letter to the Mobile Advertiser, in which he disapproves of the granting of the armistice by the State
authorities, and defends Gen. Chase
from the attacks made upon him. On the possibility of now taking the fortress he says:
But conceding that it was, or is a strong and terrible fortress, pray let them tell us when it will be less strong and terrible than now.--Shall we sit down before its walls and wait for some horn from Jericho
to blow them down with its blast?
If the argument is good for the present, it is good for all coming time.
But Fort Pickens
was not, at the time, either strong or terrible.
It requires two things to make a strong fortress.
First, the defences made by nature and art; and second, a garrison sufficient to make them available.--Gibraltar
is rather a strong fortress, and yet Gibraltar
has twice been captured from the force of numbers from an insufficient garrison.
The Castle of San Juan
de Ullao is rather a strong fortress, but it has twice changed flags for the same reason.
I might give other i?lustrations, but these are sufficient to demonstrate that, without a sufficient garrison, no fortress is very strong or terrible.
This was precisely the weakness of Fort Pickens
Its garrison was less than 100 men. It is a fort of vast area and armament.
Its proper garrison is 2,000.
It mounts upwards of 200 guns — I believe about 240.
To express the idea by a seeming paradox, its strength was its weakness — or its weakness consisted in its strength.
In short, it was too large in area to be defended by 100 men. Its area is 1,000 yards. Its garrison, if deployed on its walls, would make only one man to every 30 feet. Would not this be a hopeful line of battle to back an avalanche of 1,500 brave, fierce men, launched upon them with the fury of devils?
Assailing a dozen or fifteen points simultaneously, how could a garrison of 100, divided into squads of half a dozen, prevent the entrance of the assailants?
There is another consideration.
To load, fire and trim a cannon requires at least ten men and a boy. That is the number assigned to each gun on a war vessel, where the guns are most manageable.
No less than twelve men can efficiently man the guns on Fort Pickens
The garrison, then, could man only eight guns, if all were put to the same work.
All the artillerists are exposed in appearing at the guns, and a single discharge from the assailants would silence half the guns.
But worse than this for the garrison.
The fort was in the poorest condition for defence.
Sand had nearly filled up the ditch which protects the land side from assault.
On the water side there was no ditch, and sand hills twenty feet high had formed near the fort, which made the casemate guns on that side so useless that all of them were dismounted and the casemates filled up. On the land side a high bluff extending along the beach would have protected the assailants until within a hundred yards of the fort.
These facts will show how easily it might have been taken.
But conceding that it could not easily have been taken by a force of fifteen to one, and that it would cost a great sacrifice of life, and probably end in failure, the question remains, when will it become weaker, and when will its capture become easier or cheaper?
Will it be after a fleet of 300 guns have come to its assistance, and when its garrison shall be increased to 500 or 1,000?
Was it wise or foolish to delay attack when large reinforcements were on the way to relieve the threatened garrison?
Was it wise to defer an attack upon an unprepared, weakly-garrisoned fort, and to attack it when it has become vastly stronger?
Yet these are the absurdities of those who justify the delay upon military grounds.
But the game is up now. The golden moment is lost.
has arrived, and the Gulf Squadron will arrive very soon.
Its delay this long is due to the fact that it was not supplied with provisions, and had to come by way of Havana
for a supply.
is now beyond our power.
The mere presence of the fleet outside the harbor is a virtual reinforcement of it. In case of an attack, it is there to defend; and it can, in one hour, land reinforcements at Fort Pickens
and take its position of defence.
The Whig Press, of Middletown, Orange county, New York
, publishes an interesting letter written by an officer in Major Anderson
's command to a relative in that county.--It is dated at Fort Sumter
, on February 7th, and says that the soldiers are standing at their guns, port fires lighted, daily expecting an attack.
From the batteries at Cummings' Point
, six mortars bear directly upon Fort Sumter
, and these are behind fortifications which will stand severe fire before they can be made untenable.
It probably will be Major Anderson
's policy, in case of an attack, first to batter down Fort Moultrie
and all the houses on Sullivan's Island
, and then to take the other batteries seriatim.
The officer seems to?have no fear of the floating batteries which are said to be in course of construction.
They will be under Sumter
's guns for the distance of a mile at least, before they can be made available, and if they get under the walls, "infernal machines" will be hurled into them.
The writer also details certain other defensive preparations, and says that they have abandoned all hope of receiving aid from the Government
, but gives his word that a manly and vigorous defence will be made.
In the mean time, how is it with brave Major Anderson
and his devoted little band?
Accident has enabled me to inform you. Every word that I write is, as near as I can recollect, from the lips of a recent eye-witness.
The garrison, mostly Irishmen, have been working night and day completing the fortifications, at the period of their occupation in such an imperfect state that they could not have resisted an attack, had one been made by the Charlestonians.
The main door-way is built up so that two men cannot walk abreast through it. One armed with a revolver or bowie might defend it against a hundred assailants, supposing he were not shot himself.
Just within, opposite the door, is a huge mortar.
The stones on the wharf have been removed to strengthen the weak side of the fort.
There are piles of hand grenades ready for use. The lower casemates have been closed fast, the guns shotted, piles of grape and canister placed beside them.
looks harassed and wan, but perfectly resolute; he can talk of nothing but the fort and his position; he admits that he dreams of it by night — when he sleeps.
He deplores the responsibility forced upon him, admits that his sympathies are with the South
, but declares that, first of all, he is a United States
He objects to his endorsement by Abolition journals, declares that they publish forged letters attributed to himself and his officers.
His men are all faithful and resolute, in perfect military discipline; they never grumbled or mutinied — all stories to that effect being unmitigated lies.
They look haggard and worn, and preserve a strict silence when questioned.
They do not now
expect to be reinforced.
still hopes the business may be settled without bloodshed.
But he will defend himself to the last, if attacked.
Such, three nights ago, was the internal aspect at Fort Sumter
Examining Ships' papers.
We make the following extract from a letter to the Macon (Ga.)
Telegraph, of the 16th, from a member of the Jackson Artillery, stationed at Fort Brown
On Tuesday morning a schooner was discovered off Jekyll Point
, which soon showed a disposition to pass us without calling.
was the officer of the day, and in a few minutes he had the guns manned and a ball whistling across the bow of the craft.--This the schooner did not heed, but a shell from one of our howitzers passing uncomfortably near her bow brought her to as quick as possible.
A boat was lowered and the Captain
came ashore with the crown of his hat full of papers.
To Lieut Cummings
' inquiry why he did not show a flag, he answered that he had none on board but a United States
flag, which he supposed was not worth much.--The Lieutenant
answered, "not a d--," and after examining his papers invited him to the officers' quarters and then dismissed him. Today we have overhauled two more schooners, but have found them all right and let them go on their way rejoicing.