Plans to Re-enforce Fort Sumter by sea — it’s no secret

Plans to Reforce Sort Sumter by sea.

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

Inclosure E.]

Memorandum of Captain G. V. Fox.

WASHINGTON, D. C., February 8, 1861.

Lieutenant General WINFIELD SCOTT, U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: The proposition which I had the honor to submit fully in person is herewith presented in writing. Lieutenant Hall and myself have had several free conferences, and if he is permitted by the South Carolina authorities to re-enter Fort Sumter, Major Anderson will comprehend the plan for his relief. I consider myself very fortunate in having proposed a project which meets the approval of the General-in-Chief, and I ask no reward but the entire conduct of the part, exclusive of the armed vessels. The commander of these should be ordered to co-operate with me, by affording protection and destroying their naval preparations near the bar, leaving to me, as the author of the plan, the actual operations of relief. I suggest that the Pawnee be immediately sent to the Delaware Breakwater to await orders; the Harriet Lane to be ready for sea, and some arrangement entered into by which the requisite steamer and tugs should be engaged, at least so far as not to excite suspicion. I would prefer one of the Collins steamers. They are now being prepared for sea, and are of such a size and power as to be able fearlessly to run down any vessels which might attempt to capture us outside by a coup de main. I could quietly engage one and have her ready to start in twenty-four hours’ notice, without exciting suspicion. I shall leave for New York at 3.10 p. m., and any communication previous will find me at Judge Blair’s. If the Pawnee pivot-gun is landed it should certainly be remounted.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,


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[Inclosure G.]

NEW YORK, February 23, 1861.

MY DEAR BLAIR: Mr. Blunt received a telegraph from General Scott a few days since which he thought indicated an adjournment of my plan; but I put the construction upon it that another was substituted for mine, and I feel certain it must be “boats.” To corroborate this the New York Times, of February 21, says: “Government has determined to relieve Fort Sumter by boats at night.” I consider this plan possible, and the alternative of mine, but inferior at every step. The distance from Fort Sumter to outside is five miles-an hour’s pull. From this point the open ocean, winter season, and at night, say two hundred men (requiring for six months five hundred and forty-six barrels of provisions) are to be put into boats, rowed over a very dangerous bar, and subjected for half an hour to a fire of grape from sixty guns. Besides, if a single tug (they have four) eludes Major Andersons’s vigilance, she would run in amongst these boats with perfect impunity to herself and utter destruction to them. I have made two cruises on the coast of Africa, where the passing of bars by boats, unless very light and in broad daylight, was considered the most dangerous duty we were subjected to, fatal accidents being common in the smoothest weather. Moreover, this plan has been spoken of publicly in connection with the U. S. ship Brooklyn, and from this fact is probably made a special study by the Charlestonians.

I simply propose three tugs, convoyed by light-draught men-of-war. These tugs are sea-boats, six feet draught, speed fourteen knots. The boilers are below, with three and a half feet space on each side, to be filled with coal. The machinery comes up between the wheel-houses, with a gangway on either hand of five to six feet, enabling us to pack the machinery with two or three thicknesses of bales of cotton or hay. This renders the vulnerable parts of the steamer proof against grape and fragments of shells, but the momentum of a solid shot would probably move the whole mass and disable the engine. The men are below, entirely protected from grape-provisions on deck. The first tug to lead in empty, to open their fire. The other two to follow, with the force divided, and towing the large iron boats of the Baltic, which would hold the whole force should every tug be disabled, and empty they would not impede the tugs. When such men as George W. Blunt,

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Charles K. Marshall, and Russell Sturgis, all seamen, give my plan the preference, it must have merit. At Kinburn, in the Black Sea, eight gunboats passed in the night forts mounting eighty guns-only one boat hit. The next day, in broad daylight, the Cracker (English) came out under their deliberate fire-distance nine hundred yards. The Vladimar (Russian steamer at Sebastopol) was under fire at various distances during the whole war, but her motion prevented her being disabled. How few of Dahlgren’s shots hit the target with all the elements of success he is capable of producing! I am sure I could convince the authorities of the preference that is due to his plan, if I could argue the plan instead of write it.

Sincerely yours,

G. V. FOX.


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WAR DEPARTMENT, March 19, 1861.

Lieutenant General WINFIELD SCOTT:

DEAR SIR: The President requires accurate information in regard to the command of Major Anderson in Fort Sumter, and wishes a competent person sent for that purpose. You will therefore direct some suitable person to proceed there immediately, and report the result of the information obtained by him.

I am, sir, very respectfully,


Secretary of War.


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The within may do good and can do no harm. It commits no one.


The order of which this is a copy was presented to the President March 19, 1861.

G. V. Fox, formerly of the Navy, was selected by General Scott as the messenger, and approved by the President.

S. C.


Numbers 78.] FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 20, 1861.

(Received A. G. O., March 23.)

Colonel L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General U. S. Army:

COLONEL: I have the honor to report that last night they were unusually vigilant watching the entrance to this harbor. This morning we see them mounting a gun in battery Numbers 1, apparently clearing ground for platforms for a new battery on the sea shore, behind Numbers 2, and strengthening the covered way on the left of the iron battery. We see framework, perhaps for a large shed, to the right of the iron battery. They are evidently apprehensive that an attempt may be made to throw re-enforcements into this work. I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Major, First Artillery, Commanding.


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FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 21, 1861.

Major R. ANDERSON, First Artillery, Commanding:

MAJOR: I have examined the commissary supplies on hand, and find them to be in kind and amount as follows, viz:

Six barrels of flour; six barrels of hard bread; three barrels of sugar; one barrel of coffee; two barrels of vinegar; twenty-six barrels of pork; one-fourth barrel of salt; one and a half barrels of rice; three boxes of candles.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,


Second Lieutenant, First Artillery, A. A. C. S.


(Edited for content)

FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 22, 1861.

General JOS. G. TOTTEN,

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

Last night a special messenger, Mr. Fox, arrived from Washington, and came down to the fort under the escort of Captain Hartstene, formerly of the United States Navy. After a confidential interview with Major Anderson, he left immediately for Washington.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Engineers.


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FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 13, 1861.

His Excellency Gov. F. W. PICKENS:

SIR: I have the honor herewith respectfully to inclose, for the consideration of your excellency, a note received yesterday by the clerk of Captain Foster from the beef contractor, which appears to show an interference with your excellency’s orders.

I am confident in the event of your excellency having made any change in your instructions in reference to my supplies I would have been promptly notified thereof. A similar interference may have prevented my receiving some boxes of solidified milk, which have been several days in the city to my address and which cannot have been detained on account of freight, as it was prepaid. This certainly would not, in the eyes of the transportation agent, come under the head of contraband of war or prohibited articles. It may be ass well for me to mention here a few points which have not received that attention to which I think they are entitled.

About six weeks ago I sent, under cover to Colonel L. M. Hatch, quartermaster-general, a note from Sergeant Renehan, of this command, to his brother-in-law, asking him to send from Fort Moultrie his private property, which was already packed up, and I respectfully asked Colonel Hatch if he would be pleased to give it his attention. No reply has been received to my communication, nor have the articles been sent.

About a month since instructions were given by the honorable Secretary of War that Captain Foster’s private property on Sullivan’s Island, as well as some public papers in the office in Charleston, should be sent down. Neither the property nor the papers have yet been received here.

Early in January I sent some officers to Fort Moultrie for certain private property left there. They were received in so different a manner from the civility and courtesy that characterized the manner of Colonel De Saussure that I have not ventured to make another attempt to obtain possession of it, and I am thus cut off from regimental books (not public property) and office papers, valuable to us, and merely interesting to others.

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Some of the officers of this command have been put to considerable inconvenience and discomfort by the detention in the city of their hired servant, who left the post with a permit from the honorable Secretary of War. His detention after the discovery that the correspondence, at first characterized as a “very improper one,” proved to be “nothing more than what might have been expected between and silly persons in their situations,” is unwarranted. I attached no importance to this matter from the first, and so remarked to a gentleman who came down to see me in reference to it. No one, not even an owner of a slave, would have a right, under such circumstances, to prevent his return, and it was undoubtedly called for in this case by common civility and courtesy, as the officers have no opportunity of replacing him. In regard to packages arriving from time to time, through the express or otherwise, if it is necessary to trouble your excellency for special permits whenever articles of such minor importance as condiments, &c., are to be sent down to us, it is questionable with me whether it would not be better for us to do without them altogether, and to send instructions to the various express companies not to receive any packages destined for my command.

With sentiments of high consideration and regard,

I am, very respectfully, your excellency’s obedient servant,

Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.


Inclosure Numbers 2.]

EXECUTIVE OFFICE, DEPARTMENT OF WAR, Charleston, S. C., March 15, 1861.


SIR: I am instructed by his excellency the governor to inform you that he is unwilling to modify his original permission that you should receive from the markets in this city such supplies of fresh meat and vegetables as you might indicate. A proper investigation will be instituted to inquire what obstacle has been interposed to the execution of the orders given on the subject.

I will inquire why Lieutenant-Colonel Hatch has not sent the private property of Sergeant Renehan which was left at Fort Moultrie.

With respect to the furniture left by Captain Foster in the house occupied by him before he left Sullivan’s Island, and the papers, &c., left in his office in this city, I reply that Captain Simonton was requested to separate the furniture claimed by Captain Foster from his own, and send it to Fort Sumter through the quartermaster-general. This has been delayed, I believe, chiefly on account of some reclamations on the part of Captain Simonton for injures done to his own furniture during the time the house was occupied by Captain Foster, and for rent. I have been informed that the matter has been attended to by Captain Simonton within the past few days, and I will take steps to have Captain Foster’s property sent ot him without delay. As to the papers, Mr. Legare, who was indicated by Captain Foster as a proper person to carry out his wishes, reported to me that he had collected and sent the papers, &c., to Captain Foster.

With respect to the property which you failed to recover from Fort Moultrie, I am informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Ripley that he sent word to you that if you would transmit an inventory of any articles of property left by you he would endeavor to collect and send them to you, but that he received no reply to his offer.

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As to the servant referred to in your letter, it is proper that I should say that I am unwilling to discuss any question of right or courtesy growing out of the case beyond the unquestionable privilege of a slave owner to permit or not, at his own pleasure, the return of his slave to a hostile fort; but, as you have put a different interpretation on the language employed by me in my letters on the subject than I designed, I desire to state what I did mean: “The very improper correspondence” between the slaves to which I alluded had reference ot the slaves alone, as information was given by the woman to the boy of operations in this city which were not proper to be communicated to any one in your garrison, and the reply of the boy clearly showed that his temper and principles had not been improved by a residence in Fort Sumter. The other words of mine, which you quote-“nothing more than what might have been expected between silly persons in their situation”-were meant as kind expressions on my part, to disabuse the minds of Dr. Crawford and other officers at the fort of any unfavorable impression upon me of a complicity on their part with the improper correspondence of idle negroes. I am, sir, respectfully, yours,



FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 17, 1861.

Honorable D. F. JAMISON, Executive Office, Department of War:

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 15th instant in reply to mine of the 13th to his excellency the governor.

I hasten to ask you to refer to my letter to his excellency, and you will see that I did not solicit any modification of his original permission about receiving supplies of fresh meat and vegetables. I am satisfied with the existing arrangement, and only called attention to a reported interference of it. I thank you for your promise in reference to the property of Captain Foster.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ripley did kindly offer to attend to collecting any “private property” left on the island by the officers, and I thanked him for having done so.

The property alluded to in my note is not, strictly speaking, private, but belongs to the regiment or post, and therefore was not, in my opinion, embraced in his offer. My object in mentioning this matter was to call attention to it, in order that such directions might be given regarding it as might be deemed proper.

I beg leave to assure you that I had no desire to discuss the question of right or of courtesy in reference to the treatment my officers received in the failure to return the hired boy, and my remarks were intended to apply to the professed owner of the boy, who, neglecting his duty as owner or master for months, had permitted the boy to hire himself out, every one supposing him to be free, and now, at a time when the exercise of his “undoubted right” puts gentlemen here to a serious inconvenience, for the first time asserts his rights of ownership.

His excellency mentions in his letter to me, received yesterday, that the boy is a slave, and, of course, that ends the matter. In justice to myself I must state that I did not intentionally place a forced construction on your words. The day your first letter was received about the boy a gentlemen came down to see me about the “improper correspondence,” which he was told had reference to the negroes joining us in the event

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of a collision. He remarked to his informants, as he told me, that he thought it a foolish story, advised them to say nothing about it, and said that he was certain, at all events, that I had no idea of anything of the kind, and came down to tell me of the rumor.

I regret exceedingly that your letter contains the remark it does in reference to the effect of a residence at Fort Sumter on the boy’s “temper and principles,” and I am satisfied that, upon further consideration, you will regret it.

I am, sir, respectfully, yours, &c.,


Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.

(I find it somewhat amusing that the war who started the war to “free the slaves” would cpmplain about a slave not being permitted to serve him and his men.)

FORT SUMTER, S. C., March 26, 1861.

General JOS. G. TOTTEN,
Chief Engineer U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:

P. S.-A messenger from the President of the United States arrived yesterday about 2 o’clock, and after delivering his dispatches and having an interview with Major Anderson, departed about 3 o’clock. Mr. Lamon, I understand, was the gentleman’s name, and he was escorted to the fort from the city by Colonel Duryea, of the governor’s staff.


Captain, Engineers.


At this point I will stop. The relationship between the two countries seem to be friendly, respectful and cooperative. Upcoming will be an exchange between Beauregard and Anderson on the issue of surrendering Fort Sumter.


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