Last Minute Decisions

War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0283 Chapter I. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. – CONFEDERATE.

CHARLESTON, S. C., April 1, 1861.

Honorable L. P. WALKER, Montgomery, Ala.:

The following telegram just received from Commissioner Crawford:

I am authorized to say that this Government will not undertake to supply Sumter without notice to you. My opinion is that the President has not the courage to exe-

Page 284

cute the order agreed upon in Cabinet for the evacuation of the fort, but that he intends to shift the responsibility upon Major Anderson, by suffering him to be starved out. Would it not be well to aid in this by cutting off all supplies?

CRAWFORD.

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WASHINGTON, April 2, 1861.

Honorable ROBERT TOOMBS, Montgomery, Ala.:

The war wing presses on the President; he vibrates to that side. He has conferred with several officers, and naval engineer, supposed to be in regard to Sumter; perhaps to collecting revenue at New Orleans.

Commodore Pendergrast is not at Key West but at Norfolk; could not therefore land troops. Senator Dixon conversed fully with Chase on Saturday; found him much moderated and strongly inclined to peace policy.

Their form of notice to us may be that of the coward, who gives it when he strikes. Watch at all points. It is said the Pawnee sailed from this place this evening with three companies of artillery.

MARTIN J. CRAWFORD.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,

Montgomery, April 2, 1861.

Brigadier General G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Charleston Harbor, Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: The Government has at no time placed any reliance on assurances by the Government at Washington in respect to the evacuation of Fort Sumter, or entertained any confidence in the disposition of the latter to make any concession or yield any point to which it is not driven by absolute necessity, and I desire that you will govern yourself generally with strict reference to this as the key to the policy of the Government of the Confederate States.

You are specially instructed to remit in no degree your efforts to prevent the re-enforcement of Fort Sumter, and to keep yourself in a state of the amplest preparation and most perfect readiness to repel invasion, acting in all respects – save only in commencing an assault or attack, except to repel an invading or re-enforcing force – precisely as if you were in the presence of an enemy contemplating to surprise you.

The delays and apparent vacillations of the Washington Government make it imperative that the further concession of courtesies such as have been accorded to Major Anderson and his command, in supplies from the city, must cease; and, in general terms, the status which you must at once re-establish and rigidly enforce is that of hostile forces in the presence of each other, and who may at any moment be in actual conflict; but as past conditions have allowed this Government to continue thus far courtesies of personal convenience to Major Anderson and his officers, it is proper now, as these courtesies are required to be determined by the necessities of your position, that you signify in respectful terms to Major Anderson that all communication with the city from the fort and with the fort from the city, for any purpose of supply is absolutely inhibited; and after having so notified that gentleman at the very earliest moment practicable you will make your surveillance of the harbor and the enforcement of the rule of instruction indicated in the notice to the commander of Fort Sumter as rigid as all the means at your command and the most watchful vigilance can secure.

Until the withdrawal of the Commissioner of this Government from Washington – an event which may occur at any moment – no operations beyond what is indicated in the foregoing would be admissible. Promptly, however, on the receipt by this Government of the intelligence of such withdrawal the Department will transmit to you specific instructions for your guidance.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. P. WALKER,

Secretary of War.

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WASHINGTON, April 3, 1861.

Honorable ROBERT TOOMBS, & C., Montgomery, Ala.:

Much activity to-day in the War and Navy Departments. It is said the Minnesota, at Boston, has been ordered to the mouth of the Mississippi. Powhatan suddenly put in commission to sail next week. Four companies now here – three artillery, one sappers and miners -ordered to New York. Report says these movements have reference to the San Domingo question. Pawnee will not be ready for sea until Saturday.

Our intermediary says they dare not deceive him, as they know we do not rely upon them but upon HIM.

CRAWFORD.

ROMAN.

FORSYTH.

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HEADQUARTERS PROVISIONAL FORCES,

Charleston, S. C., April 4, 1861.

Honorable L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War:

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of instructions of the 2nd instant, in reference to Fort Sumter, and respectfully ask to be further instructed in regard to the mails of Major Anderson, which have been allowed daily up to this time, whether they shall be continued or limited to once or twice a week.

The batteries are now all complete, but I regret to have to state that there are but few, if any, well-instructed artillerists on Morris Island; also, that the shells and fuses of the sea-coast guns and columbiads cannot be entirely relied upon.

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

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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WASHINGTON, April 5, 1861.

Honorable ROBERT TOOMBS, & C., Montgomery, Ala.:

The movement of troops and preparation on board of vessels of war, of which you have already been apprised, are continued with the greatest activity. An important move requiring a formidable military and naval force is certainly on foot. The statement that this armament is intended for St. Domingo may be a mere ruse.

We are, however, most creditably informed that Commodore Stringham, who takes charge of the squadron, sails for St. Domingo.

Having no confidence in the administration, we say, be ever on your guard. Glad to hear that you are ready. The notice promised us will come at the last moment if the fleet be intended for our waters.

CRAWFORD.

ROMAN.

FORSYTH.

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Page 287

[APRIL 6, 1861.]

Honorable ROBERT TOOMBS, Secretary, & c., Montgomery, Ala.:

No change in the activity of the warlike armaments mentioned yesterday. The rumor that they are destined against Pickens and perhaps Sumter is getting every day stronger. We know nothing positive on the subject, but advise equal activity on your part to receive them if they come. We have not yet been notified of the movement, but the notification may come when they are ready to start.

CRAWFORD.

FORSYTH.

ROMAN.

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Page 287

WASHINGTON, April 6, 1861.

Honorable A. G. MAGRATH, Charleston, S. C.:

Positively determined not to withdraw Anderson. Supplies go immediately, supported by naval force under Stringham if their landing be resisted.

A FRIEND.

[Indorsements.]

To CHARLESTON OFFICE:

The above is by a reliable man.

CALDWELL.

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MONDAY, April 8. – Sent by James E. Harvey by telegraph last Saturday morning.

CHARLESTON, April 6, 1861.

L. P. WALKER:

The following telegraph I have just received from Washington:

Positively determined not to withdraw Anderson. Supplies go immediately, supported by a naval force under Stringham if their landing is resisted.

A FRIEND.

Governor and General Beauregard visiting the posts in the harbor, and will not be here for a few hours. In their absence I telegraphed to Washington to know who was the person signing himself “A Friend.” The reply satisfies me that the person is high in the confidence of the Government at Washington. Mr. Wigfall, who is with me, concurs in the propriety of giving you notice of it without delay.

A. G. MAGRATH.

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WASHINGTON, April 6, 1861.

To Honorable A. G. MAGRATH, JAMES L. PETIGRU,

B. F. DUNKIN, and Miss S. C. HARVEY, Charleston, S. C.:

Order issued for withdrawal of Anderson’s command. Scott declares it military necessity. This is private.

JAMES E. HARVEY.

Honorable A. G. MAGRATH, Charleston, S. C.:

Great efforts making to reconsider withdrawal, but will fail. Final consultation to-morrow.

JAMES E. HARVEY.

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Page 288

Honorable A. G. MAGRATH, Charleston, S. C.:

Final order still reserved. No decision reached in council yesterday, though six for withdrawal and one against.

Is it true your people will oppose voluntary withdrawal and demand capitulation? If so, friends of peace here are powerless.

JAMES E. HARVEY.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,

Montgomery, April 6, 1861.

Brigadier General G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Commanding Charleston Harbor, Charleston, S. C.:

SIR: Your letter of the 4th instant has been received. In reply to your inquiry as to Major Anderson’s mails, I have to say that the policy of the Government is most decided that there shall be such a surveillance of Charleston Harbor and of Fort Sumter as shall assure this Government that the latter is, for all military purposes, entirely isolated. The courtesies which have been accorded to the commander of that fortress have been, in the opinion of this Department, taken advantage of in some cases by persons whose object in visiting Fort Sumter was chiefly to obtain information of the state of our defenses, to be communicated to the Government at Washington. Acting, then, on the leading ideas that the military isolation of Fort Sumter and the prevention of all possible espionage by the Washington Government are absolutely required, you are directed, while allowing Major Anderson to receive his mails, to exercise such instructive discretion as will secure the ends in view.

Minute instructions, covering every possible case, cannot, of course, be given you, but you are directed to exclude possibility of the admission of any one who may be sent by or be favorable to the Government at Washington, always excepting such messenger or bearer of dispatches from that Government as you may be fully

assured shall be conveying orders for the surrender or evacuation of the fortress.

You are specifically instructed to permit no one of the persons now in Fort Sumter to depart therefrom; and to secure absolute compliance with this requirement you will use the utmost vigilance and apply all the means at your command. And in this connection the Department would ask your attention to a telegraphic statement generally published under date of “April 4th,” to the effect that Lieutenant Talbot, an officer of the garrison of Fort Sumter, had been allowed to depart therefrom. As this is in apparent conflict with thee instructions communicated to you by telegraph, the Department presumes that there were special reasons, affecting the public interest, which, in your judgment, made the case properly exceptional, and I shall therefore be pleased to be made acquainted with the circumstances.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. P. WALKER.

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[APRIL 8, 1861.]

AN ORDNANCE to transfer to the Government of the Confederate States of America the use and occupancy of the forts, arsenals, navy-yards, custom-houses, and other public sites within the limits of this State.

We, the people of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do ordain and declare, and it is hereby ordained and declared by the authority of the same, that the Government of the Confederate States of America is

Page 289

hereby authorized to occupy, use, and hold possession of all forts, navy-yards, arsenals, custom-houses, and other public sites within the limits of this State, and their appurtenances, lately in the possession of the United States of America, together with Fort Sumter, and to repair, rebuild, and control the same at its discretion, until this ordinance be repealed by a convention of the people of this State.

Done at Charleston, the 8th day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one.

D. F. JAMISON,

President.

Attest:

B. F. ARTHUR, Clerk.

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WASHINGTON, April 8, 1861.

General G. T. BEAUREGARD:

Accounts are uncertain, because of the constant vacillation of this Government. We were reassured yesterday that the status of Sumter would not be changed without previous notice to Governor Pickens, but we have no faith in them. The war policy prevails in the Cabinet at this hour.

M. J. CRAWFORD.

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CHARLESTON, April 8, 1861.

L. P. WALKER:

Authorized messenger from Lincoln just informed Governor, Pickens and myself that provisions would be sent to Sumter peaceably, otherwise by force.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.

MONTGOMERY, April 8, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD, Charleston:

Under no circumstances are you to allow provisions to be sent to Fort Sumter.

L. P. WALKER.

CHARLESTON, April 8, 1861.

Honorable L. P. WALKER:

Anderson’s provisions stopped yesterday. No answer from him. I am calling out balance of contingent troops.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.

HEADQUARTERS, STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA,

April 8, 1861.

[General BEAUREGARD:]

DEAR GENERAL: I inclose the within copy of Major Anderson’s note.* Please say to the Secretary of War that we thought detaching an officer from the garrison was weakening its efficiency and not taking much from the consumption of food. Tell him that you as well as myself saw the

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* See Anderson to Pickens, April 4, p. 238.

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foolish firing, and both regretted it, and that you immediately issued orders as to the future firing, & c., and that the captain in charge of the watch-vessel, the Petrel, was discharged for his neglect of duty, & c.

In great haste, but most sincerely,

F. W. PICKENS.

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HDQRS. PROVISIONAL ARMY CONFEDERATE STATES,

Charleston, S. C., April 8, 1861.

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

SIR: The War Department letter of the 6th instant has been received. I send herewith a copy of the letter addressed yesterday to Major Robert Anderson, stopping his provisions from this city, in obedience to the instructions of the Department.* He has not yet answered it, probably on account of the prevailing bad weather, or perhaps he wishes to await the orders of the United States Government.

Lieutenant Talbot was allowed to go to Washington in order to diminish as much as practicable the number of Major Anderson’s officers, and in the hope that he would communicate to the Government at Washington their true condition in Fort Sumter, which Governor Pickens and myself have reasons to believe is not satisfactory to them.

On account of the unfortunate publication this morning of the proceedings of the State Convention of South Carolina, containing a detailed report of the State secretary of war, giving the exact condition, strength, and number of batteries and troops collected for the defense of this harbor, I have called out the balance of the five thousand men to which I have been limited by my instructions of the 1st ultimo – a measure rendered still more necessary on account of the warlike preparations at present being made by the United States Government with so much mystery.

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

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

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WAR DEPARTMENT, C. S. A.,

Montgomery, April 8, 1861.

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

SIR: The discontinuance by the United States of negotiations with the Commissioners representing this Government, of which doubtless you have before this been made aware, leaves no doubt as to the policy wee should pursue.

A large force will probably, and if at all, almost immediately, be needed to resist the coercive measures of the Washington administration. To meet this condition of affairs, this Department, acting with reference to the power vested in the Executive by the act of the Congress entitled “An act to provide for the public defense,” suggests to your excellency the necessity of calling at once for three thousand volunteers, to be drilled, equipped, and held in instant readiness to meet any requisition from this Department. These troops will, of course, not be receiving pay until they shall be mustered into service, but the emergency is so pressing that your excellency will fully appreciate the great importance of thorough preparation, especially in regard to instant capacity to move. A simi

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* See inclosure to Anderson to Thomas, April 7, “Union Correspondence,” & c., p. 248.

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lar request has been addressed to the Executive of the Confederate States. Asking an early reply to the suggestions above made,

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

L. P. WALKER.

(Similar letter to the governor of Florida, Tallahassee; the governor of Georgia; governor of Louisiana, Baton Rouge; governor of Texas, Austin; governor of Alabama, Montgomery; governor of Mississippi.)

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APRIL 8, 1861.

“I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only, and that if such attempt be not resisted no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.”

The above was communicated to us on the evening of April 8 by Robert S. Chew, esq., of the State Department in Washington, and Captain Talbot stated that it was from the President of the United States, as did Mr. Chew, and was delivered to him on the 6th instant at Washington, and this was read in their presence and admitted.

F. W. PICKENS.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.

MONTGOMERY, April 9, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD, Charleston:

Major Anderson’s mails must be stopped. The fort must be completely isolated.

L. P. WALKER.

CHARLESTON, April 9, 1861.

L. P. WALKER:

The mails have already been stopped.

G. T. BEAUREGARD.

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We see very little trust in the Federal government by the Confederate authorities. Supplies were still sent from Charleston to Sumter. Also please note that contrary to what most people from the other side says, there was a peace delegation in Washington and the Federal government broke off these negotiations.

Did anyone notice the reference of a ship being sent to New Orleans to collect revenue?

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