Major Anderson’s Reluctance at Fort Sumter
In his “Rise and Fall”, Jefferson Davis wrote that it is “undeniably that the ground on which Fort Sumter was built was ceded by South Carolina to the United State IN TRUST for the defense of her own soil and her own chief harbor. No other State or combination of States could have any distinct interest or concern in the maintenance of a fortress at that point, unless as a means of aggression against South Carolina herself.” He added that the North’s claim that it was public property was untenable unless stated from an imperial view of total control over the people of that State.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Major Anderson’s Reluctance at Fort Sumter
“The course pursued by the government of the United States with regard to the forts had not passed without earnest remonstrance from the most intelligent and patriotic of its own friends . . . [Senator Stephen] Douglas of Illinois – who was certainly not suspected of sympathy with secession, or lack of devotion to the Union – on March 15th offered a resolution recommending the withdrawal of the garrisons from all forts within the limits of the States that had seceded, except those at Key West and the Dry Tortugas. In support of the resolution he said:
“We certainly cannot justify the holding of forts there, much less the recapturing of those which have been taken, unless we intend to reduce those States themselves into subjection. I take it for granted, no man may deny the proposition, that whoever permanently holds Charleston and South Carolina is entitled to possession of Fort Sumter.
Whoever permanently holds Pensacola and Florida is entitled to the possession of Fort Pickens. Whoever holds the States in whose limits those forts are placed is entitled to the forts themselves. Unless there is something peculiar in the location of some particular fort that makes it important for us to hold it for the general defense of the whole country, its commerce and interests, instead of being useful only for the defense of a particular city or locality.
It is true that Forts Taylor and Jefferson, at Key West and Tortugas, are so situated as to be essentially national, and therefore important to us without reference to the seceded States. Not so with Moultrie, Johnson, Castle Pinckney, and Sumter, in Charleston Harbor; not so with Pulaski, on the Savannah River . . .
We cannot deny that there is a Southern Confederacy, de facto, in existence, with its capital in Montgomery. We may regret it. I regret it most profoundly; but I cannot deny the truth of the fact, painful and mortifying as it is . . . I proclaim boldly the policy of those of with whom I act. We are for peace.”
Mr. Douglas, in urging the maintenance of peace as a motive for the evacuation of the forts, was no doubt aware of the full force of his words. He knew that their continued occupation [by Lincoln] was virtually a declaration of war [on the South].
The general-in-chief of the United States Army, also, it is well-known, urgently advised the evacuation of the forts. But the most striking protest against the coercive measure finally adopted was that of [Fort Sumter commander] Major Anderson himself. The letter in which his views were expressed has been carefully suppressed in the partisan narratives of that period and well-nigh lost sight of, although it does the highest honor to his patriotism and integrity.
It was written on the same day on which the announcement was made to Governor Pickens of the purpose of the United States government to send supplies to the fort, and it is worthy of reproduction here:
“Letter of Major Anderson . . . Protesting Against [Secretary of War] Fox’s Plan for Relieving Fort Sumter.
Fort Sumter, April 8, 1861
To Colonel L. Thomas, Adjutant-General, United States Army.
Colonel: . . . I had the honor to receive, by yesterday’s mail, the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he states surprises me very greatly – following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was “authorized” to make.
I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout our country. It is, of course, now too late for me to give any advice in reference to the proposed scheme of Captain Fox.
We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which I see is about to be thus commenced. That God will still avert it, and cause us to revert to pacific means to maintain our rights, is my ardent prayer.
Your obedient servant, Robert Anderson, Major, 1st Artillery, commanding.”
This frank and manly letter . . . fully vindicates Major Anderson from all suspicion of complicity or sympathy with the bad faith of the government he was serving. The “relief squadron,” as with unconscious irony it was termed, was already underway for Charleston, consisting, according to their own statement, of eight vessels, carrying twenty-six guns and about fourteen hundred men, including the troops sent for reinforcement of the garrison.
These facts became known to the Confederate government, and it was obvious that no time was to be lost in preparing for, and if possible anticipating the impending assault.”
(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton & Company, 1881, pp. 281-284)