Possible Evacuation of Fort Sumter

War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0272 OPERATIONS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR, S. C. Chapter I.

WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,

Montgomery, March 9, 1861.

Brigadier General P. G. T. BEAUREGARD, Charleston:

GENERAL: Your report of the 6th instant has been received at this Department. What you have done and what you propose to do is approved. Push forward your contemplated works with all possible expedition, especially with the view to prevent the re-enforcement of Fort Sumter. This must be prevented at all hazards, and by the use of every conceivable agency. Fort Sumter is silent now only because of the weakness of the garrison. Should re-enforcements get in, her guns would open fire upon you.

There is information at this Department – not official, it is true, but believed to be reliable – that five or six United States ships are in New York Harbor all ready to start.

The United States steamer Pawnee has left Philadelphia suddenly for Washington, fully provisioned and ready to go to sea, and it is probable that the effort to re-enforce Sumter may be made by sending in men in whale-boats to-night. Should this plan succeed and the garrison be re-enforced sufficiently to stand an assault the attempt may be made to fight their way upu by five or six war vessels.

In his report to this Department Major Whiting suggested the possibility of re-enforcements by land. Upon examining the map it occurs to me that this possibility might be accomplished in two ways: First, at the south of Morris Island there is an inlet which connects with Schooner Creek, and affords a water communication in the rear of all our works directly up to Fort Sumter. The creeks are, however, very winding, and probably if taken in hand at once could easily be obstructed by sinking flats or boats. Second, Stono River affords, I should think, an entrance to vessels of from eight to twelve feet draught, which may land troops on James Island, or go through a cut known as James Island Cut. Neither method, I take it, would be practicable if any troops were on James Island; but in the absence of them a sudden rush might possibly avail.

These suggestions are made without special knowledge, and are submitted for your consideration.

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

L. P. WALKER,

Secretary of War.

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Page 273

WASHINGTON, March 11, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Army Confederate States, Charleston, S. C.:

Believed here that Anderson will be ordered to evacuate Sumter in five days. Was certainly informally agreed on in Cabinet Saturday night. May have been done as ruse to throw you off your guard and enable them to re-enforce.

LOUIS T. WIGFALL.

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WASHINGTON, March 11, 1861.

His Excellency JEFFERSON DAVIS, Montgomery, Ala.:

It is believed here in Black Republican circles that Anderson will be ordered to vacate Fort Sumter in five days. An informal conclusion to this effect was arrived at Saturday night in Cabinet. Anderson telegraphed, it is said, that he had no fuel and but fifteen days’ provisions.

LOUIS T. WIGFALL

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MARCH 13, 1861.

F. W. PICKENS, Charleston, S. C.:

Telegram to Wigfall received. He is absent. Evacuation of Sumter probable; not certain. If so, it is a necessity, not a concession.

H. P. BREWSTER.

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Page 275

WASHINGTON, March 14, 1861.

Gov. F. W. PICKENS, Charleston, S. C.:

I confidently believe Sumter will be evacuated, and think a Government messenger left here yesterday with orders to that effect for Anderson.

JOHN FORSYTH.

MONTGOMERY, March 14, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD, Charleston:

Steamers Star of the West, Harriet Lane, Crusader, Mohawk, and Empire City ordered to sail from New York last night. Said to carry arms, provisions, and men. Destination not known.


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Page 277

[MARCH 20, 1861.]

General BEAUREGARD, Commanding:

Has Sumter been evacuated? Any action by Anderson indicating it?

CRAWFORD.

FORSYTH.

ROMAN.

WASHINGTON, March 20, 1861.

John. R. TOOMBS, Montgomery, Ala.:

You have not heard from us because there is no change. If there is faith in (the) man we may rely on the assurances we have as to the status. Time is essential to a peaceful issue of this mission. In the present posture of affairs precipitation is war. We are all agreed.

ROMAN.

CRAWFORD.

FORSYTH.

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Page 279

Montgomery, March 21, 1861.

General P. G. T. BEAUREGARD, Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: The probability is, if there be any reliance on rumors semi-official in their character, that Fort Sumter will be shortly abandoned. Of course, it would be proper to afford Major Anderson and his men a safe conduct out of the harbor; but before this is done you must feel perfectly assured that there are no mines laid with trains within the fort. This might be individually accomplished by informing Major Anderson that you intended immediately on its abandonment by him to occupy it, and to take possession of everything left behind; that you did not desire to do this, except upon an inventory to be made out by yourself and one of his officers, and the proper officer to be detailed by him to perform this duty would be Foster, the Engineer.

Should he reply to this proposition that he cannot consider what course you may pursue after his abandonment of the fort, and therefore decline to assist in the inventory, it will be your duty to communicate to him the existence of the rumor, and to demand from him such assurance of its falsity as shall fully satisfy you. If he declines to give this assurance it will be your duty to prevent their departure. It is hardly probably that he will decline either of these propositions, but should he decline both you must pursue the course herein indicated, and keep him where he is.

Very respectfully,

L. P. WALKER,

Secretary of War.

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Page 280

March 24, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD:

MY DEAR GENERAL: I have read the papers and your note to Major Anderson. As to the inventory suggested, of all public property, would it not be well to wait his propositions first? Because, if we propose an inventory, it will imply that our Government is to be responsible for the amount in any future settlement, whereas, considering that the United States forces inaugurated a state of hostilities, approaching a state of war (by the removal from Moultrie, by leaving the carriages, spiking the guns, and cutting down the flagstaff, and left the fort in actual flames, which would have reached the magazine if I had not taken possession and stopped the progress), then the attempt to throw re-enforcements in and the whole course of the Government and command here, has forfeited all claim for future accountability for armament and public property in this fort now; besides, the expenses they have forced us to, in order to ward off the conquest and subjugation intended by their occupation of Sumter, all cancel the obligation to account. If Anderson should offer or desire to have an inventory, then I will agree to it with pleasure, or any reasonable request, so as to get them out without difficulty. But I would, when they retire, sign the inventory with a protest against the Government being finally responsible, unless it might be expedient to do so in a full settlement. I have no idea that Anderson has as yet any authority to agree to your propositions in any shape, because I do not think the Government has yet empowered him. I merely throw out these suggestions for the present, and have no objections to your sending a letter somewhat like yours, if you think the time has now arrived.

With great regard, yours, very truly,

F. W. PICKENS.

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Page 281

EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT,

State of South Carolina, March 25, 1861.

[General BEAUREGARD?]:

MY DEAR SIR: I sent Lamon to Major Anderson, and all right. Will see you as soon as I can. I told him we would agree to evacuation upon any honorable and reasonable terms, but would not suffer any war vessel to come up to the fort, and everything must be conducted respectably, and in no arrogant or wanton manner towards us. He says Spencer will come out in a few days, certain.

Truly,

F. W. PICKENS.

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Page 282

(posted as reference)Lamon was authorized to arrange matters, Anderson ought now to say so, in reply to yours; and if he does not, I shall begin to doubt everything.*

Very truly, with great regard,

F. W. PICKENS.

Charleston, S. C., March 26, 1861.

Honorable L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War, Montgomery, Ala.:

SIR: The Department letter of the 21st has been received, and I inclose you herewith the copy of the letter I have thought proper to address to Major Robert Anderson, with whom I am personally well acquainted.+ His answer will be communicated to the Department as soon as received, and I have no doubt it will be satisfactory. Mr. Lamon left here last night, saying that Major Anderson and command would soon be withdrawn from Fort Sumter in a satisfactory manner. I am, however, progressing with my offensive and defensive batteries, which will all be finished and armed to-morrow night or the day after. I find great difficulty, for want of an ordnance officer, in properly organizing the armament, & c., of said batteries. I have this day had assigned to me for that duty Lieutenant Rutledge, South Carolina Navy, who I hope will be of assistance to me in that department.

As already telegraphed, Captain W. H. Stevens, of the Engineers, is not at present required here. He might be usefully employed at Savannah if not wanted elsewhere, or I may soon have need of him for the defenses of the sea coast of South Carolina, which I may have to order hereafter.

Four of the Drummond lights ordered for this harbor have this day arrived, with the required instructions, a copy of which is herewith inclosed. No operator could be sent with them. I have procured the welcome and generous services of Professor Gibbes, of Charleston College, for the purpose of instructing a proper person here in their use. I have no doubt that Professor Riddle, of New Orleans, postmaster, would be happy to give his assistance in a like manner for the six sent there, two of which might be sent to Pensacola or some other harbor. With four here we shall have enough now.

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

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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HDQRS. PROVISIONAL ARMY CONFEDERATE STATES,

Charleston, S. C., March 27, 1861.

Honorable L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War, Montgomery, Ala.:

SIR: I have the honor to inclose you herewith copies of Major Robert Anderson’s answer to my letter of the 26th instant, and of my reply to him.# It will be seen that he distinctly and positively refuses to give the pledge asked of him. But I consider his answer equivalent to any

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* Seems to refer to letter from General Beauregard forwarded by Major Anderson to Adjutant-General U. S. Army, March 27, p. 222.

+ See inclosure Numbers 1 to Major Anderson’s letter of March 27, p. 222.

# See inclosures 2 and 3, Anderson to Thomas, March 27, pp. 222, 223.

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Page 283

pledge that might be required of him, for he is, in my opinion, a most gallant officer, incapable of any act that might tarnish his reputation as a soldier; and, should he ask for any assistance of Governor Pickens or myself for the removal of his command from this harbor, it will be a sufficient guarantee that Fort Sumter will be left in its present condition. At any rate, when he makes the said application, an officer will be appointed by me to verify the fact and make proper arrangements with him.

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

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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Montgomery, March 29, 1861.

Brigadier General G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Commanding, & c., Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: The Secretary of War directs that you will allow no further communications between the Government of the United States and Fort Sumter, unless the written instructions of the intermediary are first submitted to your inspection, with satisfactory assurances that there are no verbal instructions inconsistent with those which are written.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector General.

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Page 283

SIR: I have the honor to inclose you herewith a copy of the letter from Major Robert Anderson in answer to mine of yesterday, a copy of which has already been sent to the Department. It will be seen by Major Anderson’s answer, if there be any truth in (the) man, that nothing like a doubtful course can be feared from him on the evacuation of Fort Sumter, which ought now to be decided upon in a few days, for this state of uncertainty ought not to last longer than is necessary to have all our preparations made to compel him to a surrender, should the United States Government not be willing to withdraw him peaceably.

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

G. T. BEAUREGARD,
Brigadier-General, Commanding

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WAR DEPARTMENT, A. AND I. G. O.,

Montgomery, March 29, 1861.

Brigadier General G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Commanding, & c., Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: The Secretary of War directs that you will allow no further communications between the Government of the United States and Fort Sumter, unless the written instructions of the intermediary are first submitted to your inspection, with satisfactory assurances that there are no verbal instructions inconsistent with those which are written.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

S. COOPER,

Adjutant and Inspector General.

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This now brings us to April 1, 1861 and a repeat of a previously posted letter. I should finish up this series in the next post.

We see the issue to war is Fort Sumter and the collection of revenue, not slavery. We see it is the Confederacy believes that Major Anderson initiated the hostilities by his actions at Fort Moultrie. The Confederate government still holds out for peace under the assumption that Major Anderson will leave Fort Sumter in a peaceful manner and that the United States will act in a manner to preserve peace, with no armed mission to Charleston. We see it is no secret that a ARMED force is getting ready to sail so the idea that Lincoln maneuvered the South into firing the first short is pure hogwash. The Confederacy was just doing what any country would do — protecting itself

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