Another Expedition To Ft. Sumter — Fanning the Flames of war

Another Expedition To Ft. Sumter — Fanning the Flames of war

I was not aware of a second expedition to Ft. Sumter before Lincoln sent his force in April which started the war. I will post information on that expedition regardless if this forces reaches Sumter or not. I will not be posting reports of work done on the fortifications for either side unless the report contains some very important information.



OFFICIAL RECORDS: Series 1, vol 1, Part 1 (Charleston Campaign)


HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, D. C., February 20, 1861.

Lieutenant Colonel HENRY L. SCOTT, A. D. C., &c., New York:

See Captain Ward, commanding the North Carolina, receiving ship, and ask him to get his squadron ready as soon as he can, and let you know how many recruits he will want in addition to his marines; learn, also, what subsistence stores he will want, including a good quantity of desiccated vegetables; also coals, &c. See that he is supplied with everything for Anderson. I shall write to-morrow. No time now. Afraid of the wires.



Page 179

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, Washington, D. C., February 21, 1861.

Lieutenant Colonel HENRY L. SCOTT,
Acting Adjutant-General, New York:

SIR: I inclose a copy of a memorandum made by Lieutenant Hall, showing what articles are required at Fort Sumter, in addition to the usual supplies of the Subsistence Department, which the General-in-Chief wishes you to take measures to procure and have transferred to Captain Ward of the Navy, if he can take them on his vessels.

Please also have prepared as large a supply of subsistence as Captain Ward can take, including desiccated vegetables and potted meats.

When the expedition under Captain Ward shall sail [time] he may require a detachment of from fifty to two hundred recruits, with or without officers, as he may wish. See that they are confidentially prepared for that service. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Assistant Adjutant-General.


Page 180

HEADQUARTERS OF THE ARMY, New York, February 22, 1861.

[Colonel L. THOMAS, A. A. G.:]

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your confidential letter of the 21st instant, conveying instructions of the General-in-Chief. I have already taken steps towards executing those instructions, by conferring with Captain Ward, of the Navy, and the quartermaster and commissary of subsistence on duty in this city. I shall see Major Thornton to-morrow. Captain Ward will not be able to take any bales of hay for bedding purposes, and at his suggestion I propose to send mattresses to Fort Sumter instead, unless objected to by the General-in-Chief. Captain Ward will provide the coal and wood which Lieutenant Hall’s memorandum calls for. In relation to clothing, I am unable to make out what the memorandum requires. Instead, therefore, of writing myself to Philadelphia, I beg that the necessary orders may be given from Washington to the clothing officers in Philadelphia to send to Colonel Tompkins here the clothing required by the memorandum, and the garrison flag and cord for lanyards on this same memorandum. I shall see that everything else on the memorandum is provided here, including such groceries as might be for sale to officers, &c. The clothing should be put up in small bales, so that it may be distributed among the vessels. Colonel Tompkins will attend to its proper marking after its arrival here. Please let me know as soon as you give the

Page 181

order to the clothing department. I saw Commodore Bruce, who will do all that he can, but hopes to receive instructions.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


P. S.-I have arranged with Captain Ward to send all the stores, &c., on board the North Carolina, addressed to him. He will attend to their distribution among his vessels.

H. L. S., Lieutenant-Colonel.


Page 183

No. 53.] FORT SUMTER, S. C., February 23, 1861. [Received A. G. O.,

February 26.]

Colonel S. COOPER,


COLONEL: I have the honor to end herewith some slips from the Charleston Mercury of yesterday. That paper publishes everything that is calculated to bring on a collision. I do not consider the rumor worthy of the least attention, but it accounts for the increased vigor exhibited last night, and continued to-day, in pushing forward their works on Cummings Point and at Fort Moultrie. They were working at the former place until midnight last night, and a large force is busy there now on the parapet [in which openings are formed apparently for four embrasures], and in hauling up timbers from a raft. A large shed has been put up, which may be intended for a bomb-proof storehouse or a magazine. At Fort Moultrie the glaces is being rapidly extended, and it is high enough to cover their wall, as if they expected me to attempt breaching it. They are also at work this morning on the gun battery at Fort Johnson.

I am, colonel, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, First Artillery, Commanding.



The special dispatches of the Mercury announcing that a stealthy re-enforcement of Fort Sumter had been determined on, and that Federal troops, in boats, night be expected at any moment that circumstances should happen to favor their attempt to reach the fort, were confirmed about 9 o’clock last night by telegrams received by the governor. Shortly afterwards dispatches came up from Fort Moultrie, stating that the lieutenant in charge of the harbor watch had reported that he was informed by a pilot that the steamship Daniel Webster had been seen by him off Cape Romain at noon. Notice as immediately given to the different posts. General Dunovant and Captain Hamilton proceeded immediately to Fort Moultrie; Major Stevens repaired to the Morris Island batteries. Everything was got in readiness for the expected visitors.

Up to the hour at which we go to press [half past 4 o’clock] there has been nothing seen either of the Daniel Webster or her boats. We are very sure that the gallant troops on Morris and Sullivan’s Islands will keep a bright lookout for both.

page 184


WASHINGTON, February 21-6 p.m.

There is the best of reason for believing that Holt designs re-enforcing secretly, by boats, at night. The re-enforcements have already been sent. You may look out for them at any moment. The programme is also to surround Fort Pickent with ships of war. That post is considered impregnable to the Southern forces. The whole anxiety of Scott and the coercionists centers now in Fort Sumter. There the Cabinet has determined that Lincoln shall find everything ready to his hand.

FORT SUMTER.-The Washington correspondents of Northern papers are continually disposing of this formidable post in divers ways. The last bulletin which we notice “settles the fact” in this summary style:

“I have just read a private letter from a citizen of South Carolina, formerly in Congress from that State, which states that Fort Sumter will be taken, at whatever cost of life, on or before the 4th of March next. The writer is himself to take part in the enterprise, and as he is also perfectly well informed in regard to the intentions of the State authoritities, it may be considered that this information settles the fact, if there is any doubt of it, that the fort is to be taken, and without reference to what the Montgomery government may advise or order on the subject.”

FORT SUMTER, S. C., February 23, 1861.


Page 187

ADJUTANT-GENERAL’S OFFICE, Washington, February 28, 1861.


First Artillery, Commanding Fort Sumter, Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: I acknowledge the receipt of your several communications, including No. 55, of the 25th instant. The Secretary of War directs me to send you the inclosed slip, and to say that the Peace Convention yesterday agreed upon the basis of a settlement of our political difficulties, which was reported to Congress. The Secretary entertains the hope that nothing will occur now of a hostile character.

I am, sir, &c.,




The Commissioners from the Southern Confederacy are expected to arrive here before the close of this week. They are accredited to the incoming administration, and pending the efforts to negotiate, nothing will be done calculated to disturb the public peace.

Page 196

FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 14, 1861.

General JOS. G. TOTTEN,

Chief Engineer U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: The news received yesterday by telegraph, to the effect that orders were issued to evacuate this fort, seems to have caused an almost entire cessation of work on the batteries around us. I am not ceasing work on the preparations, although I am taking an inventory of the materials on hand, and otherwise getting ready for such orders should they actually arrive.

I have received my vouchers from town, together with my own private books and papers that were in the office. All of the office furniture, records, maps, instruments, &c., are retained by the authorities. I have here, however, most of the most useful maps and drawings.

Unless otherwise directed I shall discharge my force when the orders for evacuation arrive, and leave with the command, with my assistants, and report to you at Washington.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Engineers.

EXECUTIVE MANSION, March 15, 1861.

The honorable SECRETARY OF WAR:

MY DEAR SIR: Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it? Please give me your opinion in writing on this question.*

Your obedient servant,



In reply to the letter of inquiry addressed to my by the President, whether, “assuming it to be possible now to provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it,” I beg leave to say that it has received the careful consideration, in the limited time I could bestow upon it, which its very grave importance demands, and that my mind has been most reluctantly forced to the conclusion that it would be unwise now to make such an attempt.

In coming to this conclusion I am free to say I am greatly influenced by the opinions of the Army officers who have expressed themselves on the subject, and who seem to concur that it is, perhaps, now impossible to succor that fort substantially, if at all, without capturing, by means of a large expedition of ships of war and troops, all the opposing batteries of South Carolina. All the officers within Fort Sumter, together with Generals Scott and Totten, express this opinion, and it would seem to me that the President would not be justified to disregard such high authority without overruling considerations of public policy.


*The following papers marked “Answer” and as inclosures “A”-“H,” are filed with the President’s inquiry; they were probably submitted to the Cabinet March 15, 1861.

Major Anderson, in his report of the 28th ultimo, says:

I confess that I would not be willing to risk my reputation on an attempt to throw re-enforcements into this harbor within the time for our relief rendered necessary by the limited supply of our provisions, and with a view of holding possession of the same with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men.

In this opinion Major Anderson is substantially sustained by the reports of all the other officers within the fort, one of whom, Captain Seymour, speaks thus emphatically on the subject:

It is not more than possible to supply this fort by ruse with a few men or a small amount of provisions, such is the unceasing vigilance employed to prevent it. To do so openly by vessels alone, unless they are shot-proof, is virtually impossible, so numerous and powerful are the opposing batteries. No vessel can lay near the fort without being exposed to continual fire, and the harbor could, and probably would, whenever necessary, be effectually closed,, as one channel has already been. A projected attack in large force would draw to this harbor all the available resources in men and material of the contiguous States. Batteries of guns of heavy caliber would be multiplied rapidly and indefinitely. At least twenty-thousand men, good marksmen and trained for months past with a view to this very contingency, would be concentrated here before the attacking force could leave Northern ports. The harbor would be closed. A landing must be effected at some distance from our guns, which could give no aid. Charleston Harbor would be a Sebastopol in such a conflict, and unlimited means would probably be required to insure success, before which time the garrison of Fort Sumter would be starved out.

General Scott, in his reply to the question addressed to him by the President, on the 12th instant, what amount of means and of what description, in addition to those already at command, it would require to supply and re-enforce the fort, says:

I should need a fleet of war vessels and transports which, in the scattered disposition of the Navy [as understood], could not be collected in less than four months; 5,000 additional regular troops and 20,000 volunteers; that is, a force sufficient to take all the batteries, both in the harbor [including Fort Moultrie], as well as in the approach or outer bay. To raise, organize, and discipline such an army [not to speak of necessary legislation by Congress, not now in session] would require from six to eight months. As a practical military question the time for succoring Fort Sumter with any means at hand had passed away nearly a month ago. Since then a surrender assault or from starvation has been merely a question of time.

It is true there are those, whose opinions are entitled to respectful consideration, who entertain the belief that Fort Sumter could yet be succored to a limited extent without the employment of the large army and naval forces believed to be necessary by the Army officers whose opinions I have already quoted.

Captain Ward, of the Navy, an officer of acknowledged merit, a month ago believed it to be practicable to supply the fort with men and provisions to a limited extent without the employment of any very large military or naval force. He then proposed to employ four or more small steamers belonging to the Coast Survey to accomplish the purpose, and we have the opinion of General Scott that he has no doubt that Captain Ward at that time would have succeeded with his proposed expedition, but was not allowed by the late President to attempt the execution of his plan. Now it is pronounced from the change of circumstances impracticable by Major Anderson and all the other officers of the fort, as well as by Generals Scott and Totten, and in this opinion Captain Ward, after full consultation with the latter-named officers and the Superintended of the Coast Survey, I understand now reluctantly concurs.

Mr. Fox, another gentleman of experience as a seaman, who, having formerly been engaged on the Coast Survey, is familiar with the waters of the Charleston Harbor, has proposed to make the attempt to supply the fort with cutters of light draught and large dimensions, and his proposal has in a measure been approved by Commodore Stringham, but


he does not suppose or propose or profess to believe that provisions for more than one or two months could be furnished at a time.

There is no doubt whatever in my mind that when Major Anderson first took possession of Fort Sumter he could have been easily supplied with men and provisions, and that when Captain Ward, with the concurrence of General Scott, a month ago proposed his expedition he would have succeeded had he been allowed to attempt it, as I think he should have been. A different state of things now, however, exists. Fort Moultrie is now rearmed and strengthened; the principal channel has been obstructed; in short, the difficulty of re-enforcing the fort has been increased ten if not twenty fold.

Whatever might have been done as late as a month ago, it is too sadly evident that it cannot now be done without the sacrifice of life and treasure not at all commensurate with the object to be attained; and as the abandonment of the fort in a few weeks, sooner or later, appears to be an inevitable necessity, it seems to me that the sooner it be done the better.

The proposition presented by Mr. Fox, so sincerely entertained and ably advocated, would be entitled to my favorable consideration if, with all the light before me and in the face of so many distinguished military authorities on the other side, I did not believe that the attempt to carry it into effect would initiate a bloody and protracted conflict. Should he succeed in relieving Fort Sumter, which is doubted by many of our most experienced soldiers and seamen, would that enable us to maintain our authority against the troops and fortifications of South Carolina? Sumter could not now contend against these formidable adversaries if filled with provisions and men. That fortress was intended, as her position on the map will show, rather to repel an invading foe. It is equally clear from repeated investigations and trials that the range of her guns is too limited to reach the city of Charleston, if that were desirable.

No practical benefit will result to the country or the Government by accepting the proposal alluded to, and I am therefore of opinion that the cause of humanity and the highest obligation to the public interest would be best promoted by adopting the counsels of those brave and experienced men whose suggestions I have laid before you.


There was a signed copy of the within placed in the hands of President Lincoln.

(The guns of Sumter would shut down the use of the harbor for sea trade.)


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