cutter may be ordered for the same purpose as early as tomorrow” (31st December).
The President immediately decided to order reënforeements; but he preferred to send them by the Brooklyn, which had remained in readiness for this service. He thought that a powerful war steamer with disciplined troops on board would prove more effective than a sloop-of-war and cutter with raw recruits. Accordingly on the next morning (Monday) he instructed the Secretaries of War and the Navy to despatch the Brooklyn to Fort Sumter. On the evening of this day the General called to congratulate him on the fact that the Secretaries had already issued appropriate orders to the respective army and navy officers, and stated that these were then in his own pocket.
In contradiction to this prompt action, it is difficult to imagine how the General could have asserted, in his report to President Lincoln, that “the South Carolina commissioners had
already been many days in Washington, and no movement of defence [on the part of the United States] had been permitted.” In regard to the “many days” delay:– These commissioners arrived in Washington on the 26th December; the General sent his request to the President on Sunday, the 30th; and on Monday morning he himself received the necessary orders for the departure of the expedition. General Scott, notwithstanding this prompt response to his request, proceeds still further,and charges the President with having “refused to allow any attempt to be made” to reënforce Fort Sumter, “because he was holding negotiations with the South Carolina commissioners,” although this alleged refusal occurred at the very time (31st December)
when he himself had in his own hands the order for the Brooklyn to proceed immediately to Fort Sumter. Nay, more: “Afterwards,” says the General, ” Secretary Holt and myself endeavored, in vain, to obtain a ship-of-war for the purpose, and were finally obliged to employ the passenger steamer Star of the West.” After this statement, will it be credited that the Star of the West was employed in place of the Brooklyn at the pressing instance of General Scott himself? And yet such is the fact. The President yielded to this unfortunate change with great reluctance, and solely in deference to the opinion of the commanding General on a question of military strategy. What a failure and confusion of memory The report to President Lincoln exhibits!
At the interview with President Buchanan on the evening of the 31st December, the General seemed cordially to approve the matured plan of sending reënforcements by the Brooklyn.
Why, then, the change in his opinion? At this interview the President informed him he had sent a letter but a few hours before to the South Carolina commissioners, in answer to a communication from them, and this letter would doubtless speedily terminate their mission;–that although he had refused to recognize them in an official character, yet it might be considered improper to transmit the orders then in his possession to the Brooklyn until they had an opportunity of making a reply, and that the delay for this purpose could not, in his opinion, exceed forty-eight hours. In this suggestion the General promptly concurred, observing that it was gentlemanly and proper. He, therefore, retained the orders to await the reply. On the morning of the 2d January the President received and returned the insolent communication of the South Carolina commissioners without an answer, and thus every obstacle was removed from the immediate transmission of the orders. In the mean time, however, the General had unluckily become convinced, after advising with an individual believed to possess much knowledge and practical experience in naval affairs, that the better plan to, secure both secrecy and success would be to send to Fort Sumter a fast side-wheel mercantile steamer from New York with the two hundred and fifty recruits.
Such was the cause of the change, according to the undoubted information communicated to the President at the time by the Secretaries of War and the Navy. For this reason alone was the Star of the West substituted for the service instead of the Brooklyn. The change of programme caused a brief delay; but the Star of the West, with recruits on board, left New York for Charleston on the afternoon of the 5th January. On the evening of the same day, however, on which this ill-fated steamer went to sea, General Scott despatched a telegram to his son-in-
law, Colonel Scott, of the United States army, then at New York, to countermand her departure; but this did not reach him until after she had left the harbor.
The cause of this countermand proves how much wiser it would have been to employ the Brooklyn in the first instance on this important service. This shall be stated in the language of
Secretary Holt in his letter of the 5th March, 1861, in reply to certain allegations which had been made and published ★ by Mr. Thompson, the late Secretary of the Interior. In this he says:
“The countermand spoken of (by Mr. Thompson) was not more cordially sanctioned by the President than it was by General Scott and myself; not because of any dissent from the order on
the part of the President, but because of a letter received that day from Major Anderson, stating, in effect, that he regarded himself secure in his position; and yet more from intelligence which late on Saturday evening ( 5th January, 1861) reached the Department, that a heavy battery had been erected among the sand hills, at the entrance to Charleston harbor, which would probably destroy any unarmed vessel (and such was the Star of the West) which might attempt to make its way to Fort Sumter. This important information. satisfied the Government that there was no present necessity for sending reënforcements, and that when sent they should go not in a vessel of commerce, but of war. Hence the countermand was despatched by telegraph to New York; but the vessel had sailed a short time before it reached the officer ( Colonel Scott) to whom it was addressed.”
General Scott, as well as the Secretaries of War and the Navy, convinced of the blunder which had been committed in substituting the Star of the West for the Brooklyn, proceeded to provide, as far as might be possible, against anticipated disaster. For this purpose the Secretary of the Navy, on the 7th January, despatched an order to the commander of the–Brooklyn ( Farragut), and General Scott simultaneously forwarded to him a despatch to be delivered to the U.S. officer in command of the, recruits on the Star of the West. By this the commander of the recruits was informed that Captain Farragut had been in-
★ “National Tntelligencer,” 5th March, 1861
structed to afford him “aid and succor in case your [his] ship be shattered or injured; second, to convey this order of recall, in case you cannot land at Fort Sumter, to Fort Monroe, Hampton Roads, there to await farther orders.” In a postscript he was further directed “to land his troops at Fort Monroe and discharge the ship.” The sequel will show that these precautions were useless.
The Star of the West, under the command of Captain McGowan, proceeded on her ill-starred voyage, amid anxious apprehensions for the fate of the recruits and mariners on board.
She arrived in Charleston harbor on the 9th of January, the flag of the United States flying at her mast-head; and whilst endeavoring to approach Fort Sumter, was fired upon by order of
Governor Pickens. She then immediately changed her course and returned to New York. Fortunately no lives were lost, nor was the vessel materially injured. This statement of facts proves incontestably that the President, so far from refusing, was not only willing but anxious, within the briefest period, to reënforce Fort Sumter.
On the very day and immediately after this outrage on the Star of the West, Major Anderson sent a flag to Governor Pickens, informing him of the reason why he had not opened fire from Fort Sumter on the batteries which had attacked the Star of the West. This was because he presumed the act had been unauthorized. He demanded its disavowal, and if this were not sent in a reasonable time he would consider it war, and fire on any vessel that attempted to leave the harbor. Had he adhered to his purpose, the civil war would then have commenced. This demand of Major Anderson, so worthy of an American officer, was totally disregarded by the Governor. Instead of disavowing the act or apologizing for it, he had the audacity, but, two days after the outrage, to send the Hon. A. G. Magrath and General D. F. Jamison, whom he styled as “both members of the Executive Council and of the highest position in the State,” to Major Anderson, for the purpose of persuading him to surrender the fort. In the letter which they bore from the Governor, dated on the 11th January, they were instructed to present to
Major Anderson”considerations of the gravest public character, and of the deepest interest to all who deprecate the improper waste of life, to induce the delivery of Fort Sumter to the constituted authorities of the State of South Carolina, with a pledge
on its part to account for such public property as may be in your charge.”
This Major Anderson appears to have regarded, not merely as an effort to persuade him voluntarily to surrender the fort, but as an absolute demand for its surrender. In either case,
however, his instructions, already quoted, prescribed his line of duty. Under these he ought to have peremptorily informed the emissaries of the Governor that he would not surrender, but
would defend the fort against attack by all the means in his power. In this course he would not only have obeyed his instructions, but have acted in accordance with the explicit determination of the President, announced but eleven days before (31st December) to the South Carolina commissioners. But Major Anderson, notwithstanding these considerations, as well
as his own declared purpose but two days before to consider the attack on the Star of the West as war, and to act accordingly, unless it should be explained and disavowed, now proposed to
Governor Pickens to refer the question of surrender to Washington. In his answer of the same date to the Governor’s menacing request, whilst stating that, he could not comply with it, and
deeply regretting that the Governor should have made a demand of him with which he could not comply, he presents, the following alternative : “Should your Excellency deem fit, prior to a resort. to arms, to refer this matter to Washington, it would afford me the sincerest pleasure to depute one of my officers to accompany any messenger you may deem, proper to be the bearer of your demand.” This proposition was promptly accepted by the
Governor, and in pursuance thereof he sent on his part Hon. I. W. Hayne, Attorney-General of South Carolina, to Washington; whilst Major Anderson sent as his deputy Lieutenant J. Norman Hall, of the first artillery, then under his command in the fort. These gentlemen immediately set out for Washington, and arrived together on the evening of the 13th January, 1861.
Thus, greatly to the surprise of the President, had a truce or suspension of arms been concluded between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens, to continue, from its very nature, until he should again decide against the surrender of Fort Sumter. This was what the writers on public law denominate “a partial truce under which hostilities are suspended only in certain places, as
between a town and the army besieging it.” ★ Until this decision should be made by the President, Major Anderson had thus placed it out of his own power to ask for reënforcements, and equally out of the power of the Government to send them with- out a violation of the public faith pledged by him as the commandant of the fort. In the face of these facts, the President
saw with astonishment that General Scott, in his report to President Lincoln, had stated that the expedition under Captain Ward, of three or four small steamers, “had been kept back,”
not in consequence of this truce between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens, “but by something like a truce or armistice concluded here [in Washington], embracing Charleston and
Pensacola harbors, agreed upon between the late President and certain principal seceders of South Carolina, Florida, Louisiana, &c., and this truce lasted to the end of the administration.”
From the confused and inaccurate memory of the General, events altogether distinct in their nature are so blended in his report to President Lincoln, that it is difficult to disentangle them. Such is eminently the case in mixing up the facts relative to Charleston and Pensacola in the same sentences. In order to render each clear, we shall first treat of Charleston and afterwards of Pensacola.
The expedition of the Star of the West had scarcely returned to New York, when the news of the truce between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens reached Washington (13th
January). Between the two events it was physically impossible to prepare and send a second expedition, and this could not be done afterwards until the truce should expire, without a vio-
lation of public faith. It did not last, as the General asserts, “to the end of the administration,” but expired by its own ____________________
★ Vattel Law of Nations, p. 404.