The National Crisis.
full particulars of the firing into the Star of the West--the capture of the Alabama.
Forts — from Charleston — succession and Postage — Life at the forts — Commercial preparations for war, &c., &c.
the "engagement" at Charleston.
The Charleston Courier, of Thursday, furnishes the particulars of the firing on the steamer Star of the West by the South Carolina troops. The troops had been notified fourteen hours in advance of the expected arrival of the steamer, and arrangements had been made to signal her. The account says:
Scene in the city.Early in the morning, between the hours of six and seven, the city was intensely excited at the expected reports of heavy ordnance in the harbor. "The Star of the West," was the ex exclamation of all. "One," "two," "three," "four," guns — the contest is begun. In a few minutes people from all parts of the city came from their houses, and were seen rushing out to the water's edge. The streets were soon thronged with eager men, hurrying towards the Battery and the wharves to ascertain all that could be learned of the noise made by the guns in the offing. The cannon, as long as they were discharged, went off in regular, deliberate succession, clearly evincing that in serving them the utmost military precision had been attained, and reflected great credit upon those managing them. With the naked eye nothing of what was going on in the harbor could be discovered, and consequently the most intense excitement prevailed to find out what had caused the cessation of reports after seventeen or eighteen had been discharged. It was not until half an hour or so that the populace, by this time fully aroused to the importance of the movement evidently made by our troops, was put in possession of the facts of the affair. In the meantime, crowds of people had gathered in the most convenient localities, for procuring information. The bulletin boards of the newspaper offices, the wharves and street corners, were filled with people, and every scrap of intelligence was greedily devoured.
Narration of facts.About six and a half o'clock, or thereabouts, the steamer General Clinch, Capt. Relyea, having discovered the approach of the Star of the West, signalled the fact to the occupants of the battery lately thrown up on the beach at Morris' Islands. This vessel, it is known, left her wharf sometime during the evening before, with a guard of eighty men from the ranks of the Palmetto Guards and the Irish Volunteers. The duty assigned them was to keep strict surveillance over the harbor, and to make such signals as had been agreed upon in the event of the approach of reinforcements to the fortress in possession of the United States troops, as well as to report the approach of any vessel that may appear in the offing.--In the early grey of the morning the guard boat first described the steamer heading in from the sea, and with as much celerity as possible performed the remaining part of the task assigned her. As soon as signalled, the entire camp on Morris' Island was astir. There was no need for the reveille beat to quarters. The men were already at their posts before the orders were given. For some minutes they remained in anxious suspense, ready for what every one believed sure to come, and that — a volley from the heavy guns of Sumter. As soon as the Star of the West rounded the point, she took to what is termed "Ship Channel," inside the bar, and proceeded straight forward, until nearly opposite the work on Morris' Island, not more than three-quarters of a mile from the battery, and within excellent range of the guns. At this position of affairs the command was given to fire, and a ball was sent whizzing athwart the bows of the steamer. This significant hint to proceed no further was noticed in no other manner by the vessel than by displaying a large flag of the Federal Union. As soon as the Stars and Stripes were run up to the mast-head, the act of defiance was met with a succession of heavy shots from the fortification. The vessel continued on her way, with increased speed; but one or two shots taking effect, she concluded to advance no further, and this conclusion was hastened by the shots from Moultrie, which, though harmless and out of range of the steamer, still gave evidence that hotter work was on hand if further attempt was made to proceed. The "Star of the West" was clearly made out as the name of the vessel, so that there was no mistake on this point. She was possessed of no armament. As soon as five or six shots had been fired upon her from Morris' Island, and as many more from Moultrie, it was evident that she would lower her colors to half-mast. She veered about so as to avoid any further messengers of this kind from the fortifications, which, with one or two more discharges, finally ceased.
The damage doneThe steamer was very trifling, only two of about seventeen shots — all that was fired — took effect upon her. One struck the vessel about the forward part of the bow, the other amidships, in the vicinity of the wheel-house. No idea of the extent of damage done could be ascertained, indeed it could not have been known whether she had been struck at all had it not been for the heavy, dull sound, and subsequent crash, always accompanying the ball that "makes its mark" in a naval engagement. At all events she could not have been badly injured or disabled, for even while the firing continued she rounded to and started off seaward. As soon as this intention was shown, all firing was instantly suspended.
Sumter — except the opening of the port-holes and running out of the guns which bear upon Morris' Island and Moultrie. Major Anderson, however, prudently forbore to fire, and no doubt experienced great relief when he saw the vessel steaming out of the harbor.
The feeling at Castle Pinckney.At Castle Pinckney, under command of Col. Pettigrew, the ardor of the men knew no bounds. The greatest eagerness was shown by all to have a shot at the stranger, with the intention of bringing out the fire of Fort Sumter. The guns of the Castle were all manned simply upon the spontaneous movement of the men themselves. Each sprang to his post, without command of the officer in change. It was with the greatest difficulty than he could restrain them from firing; and it was not until a peremptory order to that effect was given that they held themselves aloof from the batteries. The eagerness at Forts Moultrie and Johnson was equally great — though the garrison at the former were gratified in the privilege of a number of harmless shots. Better luck to them next time.
Who fired the first shot?Since the event of the crisis, much curiosity has been excited to learn the man who fired the first shot. After diligent inquiry, we believe it is settled that the honor belongs to the Washington Light Infantry. Though this corps is not stationed in the entrenchments on Morris' Island, from which the first gun was fired, still, a single representative of the corps, we are informed, was at one of the guns, and to him betel the duty. We believe the name of the gentleman is Lieut. J. L. Branch.
The city.After all the facts of the affair in the harbor had become generally known throughout the city, the excitement in nowise abated.--Several companies of troops, never before in actual service, were called out and sent to different localities, where their presence might be needed, and every precaution was taken by the energetic administration to secure all points that might be useful. In the streets, military uniforms were numerous. Old and young assumed the "cloth of war," and took their places in the ranks.--War, actual war, seemed inevitable; but with the thousand and one rumors that flew about, nothing could be set down as certain.
The flag of Truce.Towards eleven o'clock, a boat from Fort Sumter, bearing an officer in full uniform, with a white flag, was seen to approach the city. The officer was met at the wharf by one or two gentlemen, and was suffered in quietness to land. He gave his name as Lieut. Hall, U. S. A., bearer of dispatches from Maj. Anderson, commanding Fort Sumter, to the Governor of South Carolina, and inquired the way to the Governor's quarters. Under the guidance of several gentlemen the Lieutenant was taken to the City Hall, followed by an immense, though orderly and excited through — attracted by curiosity to learn the object of his mission. After arriving at the City Hall, it was found that the Governor did not occupy any portion of the building, and after a delay of several minutes to learn where the Executive could be found, the officer was joined by a gentleman in military habit, who undertook to give him conduct. While waiting at this point, the crowd outside increased at a tremendous rate. The Court-room was filled; the stairs were filled, and even the street was densely thronged, though not the slightest indignity, either by word or deed, was inflicted upon the representative of the United States. In perfect security he was allowed to take his way to the Governor, with whom he afterwards remained for over two hours. The object of the mission not being known, created great excitement among the people — so much so that many of them lingered in the vicinity of the Gubernatorial quarters until after 2 o'clock, at which time Mr. Hall ended his interview. He was then escorted to a carriage, and driven, in company with two Aids of the Governor, to the wharf, where he re-embarked for the fort. The correspondence between Major Anderson and Gov. Pickens has been published by telegraph; but as a part of the history of the important event, we publish in full the letter of the last-named gentleman, of which only a sketch came over the wires:
The Governor's letter.
Endorsement of the act by the Legislature.The following resolutions were adopted by the South Carolina House of Delegates on receiving the correspondence from the Governor: ‘ Resolved. That this General Assembly looks upon any attempt to reinforce the troops now in possession of Fort Sumter, as an act of open and undisguised hostility on the part of the Government of the United States. ’ Resolved, further, That this General Assembly learns, with price and pleasure, of the successful resistance this day, by the troops of this State, acting under orders of the Governor, to an attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter. Resolved, further, That this General Assembly entirely approves and endorses the communication of the Governor this day made to Major Anderson. Resolved, further, That this General Assembly pledges itself to an earnest, vigorous, and unhesitating support of the Governor in every measure adopted by him in defence of the honor and safety of the State.
Arrest for treason.The Charleston Mercury, of Thursday, says: ‘ J. N. Merriman, Collector of the port of Georgetown, S. C., was on Monday last arrested by the people of Georgetown on a charge of treason against the State. A letter was found written by him and addressed to Mr. Buchanan, stating that he (Merriman) had just cleared vessels in the name of the United States, and that he would continue to do so. The letter calls upon the President to send a boat and men to collect the Federal revenue, and informs him of the progress made in the construction of the works near Georgetown, and promises to keep him posted from time to time in relation to the same. The letter is signed by his initials, J. N. M. When arrested, he acknowledged having written it. Lapse, his deputy, was also arrested. He said he had been in the habit of writing out Merriman's letters, but had not done so in this case, as he considered it treason. Both have been committed for trial. ’
The capture of the Alabama forts.The Mobile News, of Saturday last, gives the following account of the capture, by Alabama troops, of the Federal forts within her limits: ‘ The movement of the Mobile companies on Mount Vernon Arsenal up the river and Fort Morgan down the Bay, kept the city in a ferment of excited interest yesterday, and it was not until late in the day that intelligence arrived that both those points of Federal occupation and defence were in the hands of the soldiery of the State of Alabama. The sudden stroke of policy in Alabama, the coup d'etat and coup de guerre, was quietly and effectively carried out in this wise: Acting under the Governor's orders, at eleven o'clock on Thursday night, the following companies detailed for that service embarked on a steamer for Fort Morgan: the "Cadets," Capt. Sands; the "Fusiliers," Lieutenant Emrick commanding; that "Independent Rifles." Capt. Stikes, and the "Artillery,"Capt. Ketchum. Steaming down the bay they arrived at the Fort about 3 o'clock and quietly occupied it, its only garrison being an Ordnance Sergeant and his family, and a laborer or so. The Fort is now held by the greater portion of the force which took possession, about two hundred men being under arms. The works are being put in more defensible condition. ’ The detachment detailed for the seizure of the Mt. Vernon U. S. Arsenal, located forty-five miles up the river, consisted of the "Mobile Rifles,"Capt. Woodruff; the "Washington Light Infantry," Capt. Gracie, and the "Gardes Lafayette, " Capt. Bellos. They embarked about the same time as the detachment for Fort Morgan. They arrived at the Arsenal about day break, and being provided with ladders for the purpose escaladed the walls of the premises at three different points simultaneously, and formed around the armory in the center. The garrison, consisting of a squad of about thirteen soldiers and as many Government employees, of course made no resistance, being captured before they knew of the presence of an enemy. Had they not been taken by surprise, however, and had they been so disposed, they might have given some trouble and shed some blood, as the arsenal is defensible against musketry, and their number was more than a third of that of their assailants. The arsenal contains 20,000 stand of arms, 1,500 barrels (not kegs) of powder, 300,000 rounds of cartridge and other munitions. It is now held by thirty men of the "Washington Light Infantry," who are having pleasant picnic duty, we suspect.
Life in the forts.She Savannah Republican, of Tuesday, publishes the following letter:
The forts at Key West.The Charleston Mercury is appealing to the people of Florida to seize the forts and other Government property at Key West and Pensacola. It says: ‘ "These forts can command the whole Gulf trade; and should Mr. Buchanan carry out what appears to be his present plan, he certainly must desire to hold possession of these forts. He may thus, with the assistance of war steamers, block up the whole Gulf; but let Florida hold these forts and the entire aspect of affairs is changed. Such vessels in time of war will have no port of entry, and must be supplied in every way from a very long distance, and that at sea; while the commerce of the North in the Gulf will fall an easy prey to our bold privateers, and California gold will pay all such little expenses on our part. We leave the matter for the reflection and decision of the people of Florida." ’
The steamer Joseph Whitney with troops for the South.The Boston Traveller, of Wednesday, thus notices the announcment we had by telegraph of the steamer Joseph Whitney having been chartered to carry troops from Boston to the South: It is announced that the detachment of United States troops now stationed at Fort Winthrop, in this harbor, have received orders to be in readiness to go South. They number seventy men. An agent of the General Government was in town yesterday, and chartered the steamer Joseph Whitney, of the Baltimore line, as a transport for the troops. The Herald says: ‘ "We understand proposals were previously made to engage the propellers forming the line between Boston and Charleston, but owing to the pecuniary interest held in these propellers by Charleston capitalists, it was deemed not advisable." ’ It is stated that the Joseph Whitney will take on board seven hundred and fifty barrels of provisions and three hundred and fifty tons of coal. Her agents state that they are not at liberty to reveal her destination. It is said that the company at Fort Winthrop are light artillery men. The Boston Transcript says that the Whitney cleared for Norfolk, though her destination is understood to be the Coast of Florida.
From Charleston.The following weather item is from the Charleston Courier: The mild weather of the past few days has produced its effect upon vegetation. Green buds have made their appearance on the trees, and fig trees, always most forward to welcome the warm breath of spring, are covered with tender sprouts. The Columbia (S. C.) Guardian furnishes the following: The news announcing the action of Florida, although expected, produced a great excitement on Monday night. On yesterday morning the ringing of the city bell "Secession," and the firing of cannon, by direction of the city authorities, announced the glad tidings to our citizens. The Hamburg company of "Minute Men," and "Cherokee-pond Company," of Edgefield, both left Hamburg this morning, on the down eight o'clock train, for Charleston. Both companies numbered about 200 men.
Dispatch from Charleston.
Commercial preparations for Civil war.Several of the Marine Insurance Companies of New York city, says the Commercial, have already adopted the "War Clause" in their policies, viz: "Warranted free from seizure or detention arising from the acts of any seceding or revolting State." The subject will come before the Board of Underwriters to-morrow, when they will probably agree upon this clause; if so, all the companies will unite in the same restriction. We learn also that the companies have generally advanced their rates one hundred percent, on risks from this port to Charleston.--To ports in the Gulf of Mexico, the same advance will probably be demanded.
Florida, Mr. Edmund Ruffin, of Virginia, addressed the Convention. Bishop Rutledge, of the Diocese of Florida, has handed to the Treasurer of the State of Florida an obligation to pay $500 to assist in defraying the expenses of the State, so soon as the Convention passes the Ordinance of Secession.
Meeting in Baltimore.A very large Union meeting was held at Baltimore on Thursday evening. Among the most distinguished speakers was Hon. Reverdy Johnson. He made a legal argument of great length against the right of secession.--He also thought it necessary that time should be had to afford an opportunity to the Northern States to make the concessions which will guarantee to all the States their rights. The North was the aggressor and to blame, and the South was not blameless. But the time would come when all the difficulties could be healed, and peace and prosperity be restored. Mr. Johnson spoke at length, and his remarks were so protracted that but a faint idea of them can be given, so late was the hour when he concluded. Throughout he was frequently interrupted by applause, and once or twice by confusion on the floor. At the conclusion of his remarks three cheers were given for Gov. Hicks, three for Major Anderson, three groans for President Buchanan and three groans for South Carolina. Resolutions were adopted expressive of a desire for a compromise for the settlement of existing difficulties on a constitutional basis, and that such of the Northern States as have passed Personal Liberty bills shall repeal the same.
University were rapidly enlisting in the various military organizations of the State, and making every preparation to leave in case the State needed their services. The United States Marines still maintain their position at Fort Washington, without further reinforcements. Maj. Terrett has been relieved from the command of the fortress by Capt. Taylor, of the Marine Corps. Capt. Taylor is a native of Alexandria, Va. There was a mass meeting at Nottoway Court-House, Va., on Tuesday. Although the mud was deep and the weather inclement the attendance was very large. The Rev. Edward Martin, of the Presbyterian Church, and Dr. Campbell, both made eloquent speeches in favor of arming the county, and $5,000 was subsequently raised in the form of county bonds. The Nottoway troop, numbering fifty-two, were on parade. A rifle company is to be organized at Blacks and Whites Saturday.