previous next


Chapter 12:

  • Protests against the conduct of the Government of the United States
  • -- Senator Douglas's proposition to evacuate the forts, and extracts from his speech in support of it -- General Scott's advice -- manly letter of Major Anderson, protesting against the action of the Federal Government -- misstatements of the Count of Paris -- correspondence relative to proposed evacuation of the Fort -- a crisis.

The course pursued by the government of the United States with regard to the forts had not passed without earnest remonstrance from the most intelligent and patriotic of its own friends during the period of the events which constitute the subject of the preceding chapter. In the Senate of the United States, which continued in executive session for several weeks after the inauguration of Lincoln, it was the subject of discussion. Douglass of Illinois—who was certainly not suspected of sympathy with secession, or lack of devotion to the Union—on March 15th offered a resolution recommending the withdrawal of the garrisons from all forts within the limits of the states which had seceded, except those at Key West and the Dry Tortugas. In support of this resolution he said:
We certainly can not justify the holding of forts there, much less the recapturing of those which have been taken, unless we intend to reduce those States themselves into subjection. I take it for granted, no man will deny the proposition, that whoever permanently holds Charleston and South Carolina is entitled to the possession of Fort Sumter. Whoever permanently holds Pensacola and Florida is entitled to the possession of Fort Pickens. Whoever holds the States in whose limits those forts are placed is entitled to the forts themselves, unless there is something peculiar in the location of some particular fort that makes it important for us to hold it for the general defense of the whole country, its commerce and interests, instead of being useful only for the defense of a particular city or locality. It is true that Forts Taylor and Jefferson, at Key West and Tortugas, are so situated as to be essentially national, and therefore important to us without reference to our relations with the seceded States. Not so with Moultrie, Johnson, Castle Pinckney, and Sumter, in Charleston Harbor; not so with Pulaski, on the Savannah River; not so with Morgan and other forts in Alabama; not so with those other forts that were intended to guard the entrance of a particular harbor for local defense. . . .

We can not deny that there is a Southern Confederacy, de facto, in existence, with its capital at Montgomery. We may regret it. I regret it most profoundly; but I can not deny the truth of the fact, painful and mortifying as it is. . . . I proclaim boldly the policy of those with whom I act. We are for peace.


Douglas, in urging the maintenance of peace as a motive for the evacuation of the forts, was no doubt aware of the full force of his words. He knew that their continued occupation was virtually a declaration of war.

The general-in-chief of the United States Army, also, it is well known, urgently advised the evacuation of the forts. But the most striking protest against the coercive measures finally adopted was that of Major Anderson himself. The letter in which his views were expressed has been carefully suppressed in the partisan narratives of that period and well-nigh lost sight of, although it does the highest honor to his patriotism and integrity. It was written on the same day on which the announcement was made to Governor Pickens of the purpose of the United States government to send supplies to the fort, and is worthy of reproduction here:1

letter of Major Anderson, United States army, protesting against Fox's plan for relieving Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter, S. C., April 8, 1861.
To Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General United States Army.
Colonel: I have the honor to report that the resumption of work yesterday (Sunday) at various points on Morris Island, and the vigorous prosecution of it this morning, apparently strengthening all the batteries which are under the fire of our guns, shows that they either have just received some news from Washington which has put them on the qui vive, or that they have received orders from Montgomery to commence operations here. I am preparing, by the side of my barbette guns, protection for our men from the shells which will be almost continually bursting over or in our work.

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 there 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 can not 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 [244] 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.2

We shall strive to do our duty, thought 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.

This frank and manly letter, although written with the reserve necessarily belonging to a communication from an officer to his military superiors, expressing dissatisfaction with orders, fully vindicates Major Anderson from all suspicion of complicity or sympathy with the bad faith of the government which he was serving. It accords entirely with the sentiments expressed in his private letter to me, already mentioned as lost or stolen, and exhibits him in the attitude of faithful performance of a duty inconsistent with his domestic ties and repugnant to his patriotism.

The “relief squadron,” as with unconscious irony it was termed, was already under way for Charleston, consisting, according to their own statement, of eight vessels, carrying twenty-six guns and about fourteen hundred men, including the troops sent for reenforcement of the garrison.

These facts became known to the Confederate government, and it was obvious that no time was to be lost in preparing for, and if possible anticipating the impending assault. The character of the instructions given General Beauregard in this emergency may be inferred from the ensuing correspondence, which is here reproduced from contemporary publications:

Charleston, April 8th.
L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.
An authorized messenger from President Lincoln just informed Governor Pickens and myself that provisions will be sent to Fort Sumter peaceably, or otherwise by force.

(Signed) G. T. Beauregard.


General G. T. Beauregard


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. Answer.

(Signed) L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.

Charleston, April 10.
L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.
The demand will be made to-morrow at twelve o'clock.

(Signed) G. T. Beauregard.

Unless there are especial reasons connected with your own condition, it is considered proper that you should make the demand at an early hour.

(Signed) L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.

Charleston, April 10th.
L. P. Walker, Secretary of War, Montgomery.
The reasons are special for twelve o'clock.

headquarters Provisional army, C. S. A., Charleston, S. C., April 11, 1861, 2 P. M.
sir: The Government of the Confederate States has hitherto forborne from any hostile demonstration against Fort Sumter, in the hope that the Government of the United States, with a view to the amicable adjustment of all questions between the two Governments, and to avert the calamities of war, would voluntarily evacuate it. There was reason at one time to believe that such would be the course pursued by the Government of the United States; and, under that impression, my Government has refrained from making any demand for the surrender of the fort.

But the Confederate States can no longer delay assuming actual possession of a fortification commanding the entrance of one of their harbors, and necessary to its defense and security.

I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter. My aides, Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee, are authorized to make such demand of you. All proper facilities will be afforded for the removal of yourself and command, together with company arms and property, and all private property, to any post in the United States which you may elect. The flag which you have upheld so long and with so much fortitude, under the most trying circumstances, may be saluted by you on taking it down.

Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee will, for a reasonable time, await your answer.

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

(Signed) G. T. Beauregard, Brigadier-General commanding. Major Robert Anderson, Commanding at Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, S. C.


headquarters Fort Sumter, S. C., April 11, 1861.
General: 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 obligations to my Government prevents my compliance.

Thanking you for the fair, manly, and courteous terms proposed, and for the high compliment paid me,

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

(Signed) Robert Anderson, Major U. S. Army, commanding. To Brigadier-General G. T. Beauregard, Commanding Provisional Army, C. S. A.

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 mean time, he will not use his guns against us, unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter. You are thus to avoid the effusion of blood. If this or its equivalent be refused, reduce the fort as your judgment decides to be most practicable.

(Signed) L. P. Walker, Secretary of War.

headquarters Provisional army, C. S.A., Charleston, April 11, 1861, 11 P. M.
Major: In consequence of the verbal observations made by you to my aides, Messrs. Chesnut and Lee, in relation to the condition of your supplies, and that you would in a few days be starved out if our guns did not batter you to pieces—or words to that effect—and desiring no useless effusion of blood, I communicated both the verbal observation and your written answer to my Government.

If you will state the time at which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree that in the mean time you will not use your guns against us, unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you. Colonel Chesnut and Captain Lee are authorized by me to enter into such an agreement with you. You are therefore requested to communicate to them an open answer,

I remain, Major, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

(Signed) G. T. Beauregard, Brigadier-General commanding. Major Robert Anderson, Commanding at Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, S. C.

headquarters Fort Sumter, S. C., 2:30 A. M., April 12, 1861.
General: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your second communication of the 11th instant, by Colonel Chesnut, and to state, in reply, that, [248] cordially uniting with you in the desire to avoid the useless effusion of blood, I will, if provided with the proper and necessary means of transportation, evacuate Fort Sumter by noon on the 15th instant, should I not receive, prior to that time, controlling instructions from my Government, or additional supplies; and that I will not in the mean time, open my fire upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort, or the flag of my Government, by the forces under your command, or by some portion of them, or by the perpetration of some act showing a hostile intention on your part against this fort or the flag it bears.

I have the honor to be, General,

Your obedient servant,

(Signed) Robert Anderson, Major U. S. Army, commanding. To Brigadier-General G. T. Beauregard, Commanding Provisional Army, C. S. A.

Fort Sumter, S. C., April 12, 1861, 3:20 A. M.
sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.

We have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servants,

(Signed) James Chesnut, Jr., Aide-de-camp. (Signed) Stephen D. Lee, Captain S. C. Army, and Aide-de-camp. Major Robert Anderson, United States Army, commanding Fort Sumter.

It is essential to a right understanding of the last two letters to give more than a superficial attention to that of Major Anderson, bearing in mind certain important facts not referred to in the correspondence. Major Anderson had been requested to state the time at which he would evacuate the fort, if unmolested, agreeing in the meantime not to use his guns against the city and the troops defending it unless Fort Sumter should be first attacked by them. On these conditions General Beauregard offered to refrain from opening fire upon him. In his reply Major Anderson promises to evacuate the fort on April 15th, provided he should not, before that time, receive “controlling instructions” or “additional supplies” from his government. He furthermore offers to pledge himself not to open fire upon the Confederates, unless in the meantime compelled to do so by some hostile act against the fort or the flag of his government.

Inasmuch as it was known to the Confederate commander that the [249] “controlling instructions” were already issued, and that the “additional supplies” were momentarily expected; inasmuch, also, as any attempt to introduce the supplies would compel the opening of fire upon the vessels bearing them under the flag of the United States—thereby releasing Major Anderson from his pledge—it is evident that his conditions could not be accepted. It would have been merely, after the avowal of a hostile determination by the government of the United States, to await an inevitable conflict with the guns of Fort Sumter and the naval forces of the United States in combination; with no possible hope of averting it, unless in the improbable event of a delay of the expected fleet for nearly four days longer. (In point of fact, it arrived off the harbor on the same day, but was hindered by a gale of wind from entering it.) There was obviously no other course to be pursued than that announced in the answer given by General Beauregard.

It should not be forgotten that during the early occupation of Fort Sumter by a garrison the attitude of which was at least offensive, no restriction had been put upon their privilege of purchasing in Charleston fresh provisions, or any delicacies or comforts not directly tending to the supply of the means needful to hold the fort for an indefinite time.

1 See The Record of Port Sumter, p. 37.

2 The Count of Paris libels the memory of Major Anderson, and perverts the truth of history in this, as he has done in other particulars, by saying, with reference to the visit of Captain Fox to the fort, that, “having visited Anderson at Fort Sumter, a plan had been agreed upon between them for revictualing the garrison.”—Civil War in America, authorized translation, Vol. I, Chapt. IV, p. 137.

Fox himself says, in his published letter, “I made no arrangements with Major Anderson for supplying the fort, nor did I inform him of my plan”; Major Anderson, in the letter above, says the idea had been “merely hinted at” by Captain Fox, and that Colonel Lamon had led him to believe that it had been abandoned.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
April 10th (4)
April 11th, 1861 AD (3)
April 12th, 1861 AD (2)
April 8th, 1861 AD (1)
April 15th (1)
April 11th (1)
April 8th (1)
April 4th (1)
March 15th (1)
15th (1)
11th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: