« AnteriorContinuar »
EXCITEMENT IN CHARLESTON.
more genuine and useful than that displayed by this noble woman; and history and romance will ever delight to celebrate her deed.
We have observed that the occupation of Sumter created great exasperation among the conspirators. They had been outgeneraled, and were mortified beyond measure. They did not expect so daring an assumption of responsibility by the gentle, placid Major, who, only the day before, had accepted their proffered hospitality, and eaten a Christmas dinner in Charleston with some of the magnates of the city and State. Little did they suspect, when seeing him quietly participating in the festivities of the occasion, that, within thirty hours, he would extinguish, for a season, the most sanguine hopes of the South Carolina conspirators. It was even so; and they had no alternative but to consider his movement as an "act of war." They did so, and proceeded upon that assumption. The Charleston Courier declared that "Major Robert Anderson, of the United States Army, has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war between American citizens, by an act of gross breach of faith. He has, under counsels of panic,
deserted his post at Fort Moultrie, and, under false pretexts, has transferred his garrison, and military stores and supplies, to Fort Sumter."
• December, 1860.
Such was the sentiment of the deceived, offended, astonished, and bewildered Charlestonians, who, at dawn, on the morning of the 27th, had seen clouds of heavy smoke rolling up from Fort Moultrie. They had crowded the Battery, the wharves, and the roofs of their houses, and gazed seaward for two hours before they comprehended the meaning of the startling apparition. The conflagration was a mystery, and wild conjecture alarmed the timid, and filled every mind with anxiety. There was in it an aspect of war, and many breakfasts in Charleston were left untasted on that eventful morning. At length, some workmen came from the vicinity of Fort Moultrie, and revealed the truth. Exasperation succeeded wonder. The more excitable portion of the popula-tion asked to be led immediately in an attack upon Fort Sumter. They declared that they could pull it down with their unarmed hands, they felt so invincible. Martial music and the tramp of military columns were soon heard in the streets. The Secession Convention at once requested Goy
SEIZURE OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY.
ernor Pickens to take military possession of Forts Moultrie and Johnson, and Castle Pinckney. The order for such occupation was speedily given. The hall of the Citadel Academy, the great military school of the State, that opens on the largest of the public squares of the city, was made the place of rendezvous for the military officers, and the grounds near it were covered by an excited populace. The Government Arsenal, into which Secretary Floyd had crowded a vast amount of arms and ammunition, taken from those of Massachusetts and New York,' was seized in the name of the State. It had, for some time, been held by only a sufficient number of men to insure its safety in a time of profound peace. For a while a guard of State militia had been there, under the pretext of defending it from injury by an excited population; and these, by order of the State authorities, took full possession of it on Sunday, the 30th of December. Seventy thousand stand of arms, and a vast amount of military stores, valued at half a million of dollars, were thus placed in the hands of the conspirators. These were used at once. Men in Charleston were armed and equipped from this National treasure-house; and within three hours after the ensign of the Republic had been raised over Sumter," two armed steamers (General Clinch and Nina), which had been watching Anderson's movements, left the city, with about four hundred armed men, under General R. G. M. Dunovant (who had been a captain in a South Carolina regiment in the war with Mexico, and was now Adjutant-General of the State), for the purpose of seizing Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie. One-half of these troops, led by Colonel J. J. Pettigrew, landed at Pinckney. The commandant of the garrison, Lieutenant R. K. Mead (a Virginian, who soon afterward deserted his flag and hastened to Richmond), made no resistance, but fled to Sumter. His men so strongly barricaded the door of the Castle that the assailants were compelled to enter it by escalade. They found the cannon spiked, the carriages ruined, the ammunition removed, and the flag-staff prostrated. Borrowing a Palmetto flag from the captain of one of the steamers, Pettigrew unfurled it over the Castle. It was greeted by the cheers of thousands on the shore. It was the first flag raised by the insurgents over a National fortification.
The remainder of the troops, consisting of the Washington Artillery, the German Artillery, the Lafayette Artillery, and the Marion Artillery, in number about two hundred and twenty-five, under Colonel Wilmot G. De Saussure, proceeded in the steamers to Fort Moultrie. The people in Charleston looked on with the greatest anxiety, for they thought the guns of Sumter might open fire upon their friends when they should land on the beach of Sullivan's Island. They did not know how tightly Major Anderson's hands were tied by instructions from his Government. While the insurgents left Fort Sumter unassailed, he was compelled to keep its ports closed.
The insurgent troops were landed without opposition, and Fort Moultrie was surrendered by the sentinel, in accordance with orders, to Colonel Alston, one of Governor Pickens's aids, and Captain Humphreys of the arsenal. They found the fort much more extensive than it was a few months before,
1 See page 121, and note 1, page 121.
INSURGENTS IN FORT MOULTRIE.
for Anderson's men had worked faithfully, under skillful direction, in preparing it to resist an attack. Old works had been repaired, and new ones constructed. But the affair was comparatively a shell now, for its interior was a scene of utter desolation. The guns were spiked; the carriages were destroyed; nearly all the ammunition and every piece of small-arms had been carried away; the flag-staff lay prone across the parade, and partly burned; and no munitions of war or military stores, of much account, were left, excepting some heavy cannon-balls and about six weeks' provisions for Anderson's garrison. The guns of Sumter looked directly into the dismantled fort, and a few shots from them would have driven De Saussure and his men out among the sand-hills. But Anderson was compelled to keep them silent; and the
South Carolinians quietly took possession of the abandoned • December 27, fortress, and flung out over its desolated area the Palmetto flag." It was then too dark for the citizens of Charleston to see it, but their hearts were soon cheered by the ascent of three rockets from Fort Moultrie, which gave them assurance that the insurgents were safely within its walls, while the garrison at Sumter seemed asleep or paralyzed.
Under the direction of Major Ripley, late of the National Army, Fort Moultrie was enlarged and strengthened. The ramparts were covered with huge heaps of sand-bags, and new breast works, composed of these and palmetto logs, were erected, and heavy guns were mounted on them.
On the same day when Fort Moultrie was seized, the revenue cutter William Aikin, lying in Charleston harbor, under the command of Captain N. L. Coste, of the revenue service, was surrendered by that faithless officer into the custody of the insurgents. With his own hands he hauled down the National flag which he had sworn to defend, ran up the Palmetto bannerthe emblem of revolt-and gave himself and his vessel to the service of the conspirators. His subordinate officers, honorable and loyal, at once reported themselves for duty at Washington. This was the beginning of the defec tion of naval officers who were born in Slave-labor States. The first army officer who resigned his commission to take up arms against his Government was Captain R. G. M. Dunovant, mentioned on the preceding page.
THE SITUATION IN CHARLESTON HARBOR.
Official notes now began to pass between Sumter and surrounding points. On the afternoon of the 27th, as we have observed, Governor Pickens sent a message to Anderson, requiring him to leave Sumter and return to Moultrie. That commander refused. On the following morning, Anderson sent his post-adjutant to Fort Moultrie, to inquire of the commander there by what authority he and armed men were in that fortification of the United States. He replied, "By the authority of the Sovereign State of South Carolina, and by command of her government."
Anderson's refusal caused Pickens to treat him as a public enemy within the domain of South Carolina; and the Charleston Mercury, with the peculiar logic characteristic of the class it represented, declared that the "holding of Fort Sumter by United States troops was an invasion of South Carolina.” In a letter written to Adjutant-General Cooper, on the 28th, Anderson said:-"I shall regret very deeply the persistence of the Governor in the course he has taken. He knows how entirely the city of Charleston is in my power. I can cut his communication off from the sea, and thereby prevent the reception of supplies, and close the harbor, even at night, by destroying the light-houses. These things, of course, I would never do, unless compelled to do so in self-defense." On the same
day, the authorities of South Carolina seized and appropriated to the uses of the State the Custom House, and the Post-office kept within its walls. That building, fronting on Broad Street, was venerated as the theater of many events connected with the old war for Independence.'
From that time until the close of President Buchanan's administration, and even longer, Major Anderson was compelled, by Government policy, to see the insurgents gather by thousands in and around Charleston, erect fortifications within reach of his guns, and
make every needful preparation
for the destruction of Fort Sumter and its little garrison, without being allowed to fire a shot. Looking back from our present stand-point, we perceive in this forbearance either the consummate wisdom of man or the direct interposition of God.
1 In the basement of the Custom House, Colonel Moultrie and other patriots concealed from the eyes of British officials, in 1775, nearly one hundred thousand pounds of " provincial powder." Its vaults were military prisons, and there hundreds of patriots suffered long and hopelessly, and scores perished of wounds and privations, while the British held possession of the city, from May, 1780, until the close of the war. From that building Isaac Hayne, the martyr, was taken out to execution, having been brought up from a damp vault for the purpose. This building originally fronted the sea; but, in the course of time, stately warehouses arose between it and the water.
A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT IN CONGRESS.
AFFAIRS AT THE NATIONAL CAPITAL.-WAR COMMENCED IN CHARLESTON HARBOR.
HEN intelligence of Anderson's occupation of Fort Sumter went abroad, it created intense excitement. In the Freelabor States, as we have observed, it produced joyful emotions. In the Slave-labor States it kindled anger, and intensified the hurricane of passion then sweeping over them. From these, proffers of sympathy and military aid were sent to the South Carolinians, and they were amazingly strengthened by the evidences of hearty co-operation in their revolutionary designs, which came not only from the Cotton-producing States, but from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and even from Maryland.
The National Capital, in the mean time, became the theater of important and startling events, calculated to add to the feverish excitement throughout the country. Congress had not adjourned during the holidays, as usual. On the day when the South Carolina Ordinance of Secession was December 20, passed," the House of Representatives was discussing the Pacific 1860. Railway Bill. Half an hour after that ordinance was adopted,
the telegraph told the news to the representatives of that State in Congress, and all but two of them immediately left the hall. A little later it was publicly announced by Representative M. R. H. Garnett, of Virginia, who, contending in the discussion that his State would not be responsible for any bonds which the Government might issue for the construction of the Pacific Road, said:"Why, Sir, even while your bill is under debate, one of the Sovereign States of this Confederacy has, by the glorious act of her people, withdrawn, in vindication of her rights, from the Union, as the telegraph announced to us at half-past one o'clock. . . . It is my solemn belief that the people of Virginia, when my State takes that course which thronging events will lead her to take, will not hold themselves responsible for the first cent of these bonds and appropriations." These words were followel by applause from some of the Southern members; and Messrs. Boyce and Ashmore, the two remaining representatives of South Carolina, arose from their seats, shook hands with some of their friends, and left the hall. Four days afterward, a letter signed by the entire South Carolina delegation, then in Washington, was sent in to the Speaker, announcing, in the peculiar phraseology of the devotees of State Supremacy, that the action of their State had dissolved their connection with those whom they had "been associated with
1 Report of the Proceedings of Congress, in the Washington Globe, December 20, 1860.