Imágenes de páginas

his duty to make the attempt. Captain Fox returned to New York April 5, with the orders of the Secretary of the Navy for the necessary coöperation of the war vessels. On the evening of April 8 the merchant steamer Baltic, bearing two hundred recruits, the required supplies, and Captain Fox, dropped down the bay and went to sea early next morning, with the belief and understanding that the war ships Powhatan, Pawnee, Pocahontas, and Harriet Lane, and the steamtugs Uncle Ben, Yankee, and Freeborn, should meet the Baltic at the appointed rendezvous ten miles off Charleston bar, due east of the light-house, on the morning of the 11th of April.

Towards the end of March, while the interviews and conversations were going on between Judge Campbell and Seward, and the Sumter affair was a daily topic of discussion, Lincoln (to use his own words)

told Mr. Seward he might say to Judge Campbell that I should not attempt to provision the fort without giv; ing them notice. That was after I had duly weighed the matter and come to the deliberate conclusion that that would be the best policy. If there was nothing before to bind us in honor to give such notice, I felt

so bound after this word was out.t

It is impossible to fix the exact date of this presidential instruction; but several allusions indicate it with sufficient nearness. A dispatch of the commissioners under date of March 22 uses the phrase: "and what is of infinite importance to us, that notice will be given him [Campbell] of any change in the existing status." So also Mr. Welles, advising the Fox expedition in the Cabinet meeting of March 29, adds, "and of communicating at the proper time the intentions of the Government to provision the fort peaceably if unmolested."§ Finally, as already stated, Mr. Seward, on April 1, gave Campbell the written memorandum. "The President may desire to supply Sumter, but will not do so without giving notice to Governor Pickens." ||

Now that the Fox expedition was ready and ordered to sail, President Lincoln proceeded to carry out this part of his plan. Again, with his own hand, he prepared the following

[blocks in formation]

follows: "I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort." liver to him the copy of it here inclosed, and retain this After you shall have read this to Governor Pickens, deletter yourself.

But if, on your arrival at Charleston, you shall ascertain that Fort Sumter shall have been already evacuated, or surrendered by the United States force, or shall have been attacked by an opposing force, you will seek no interview with Governor Pickens, but return here forthwith.¶

This autograph manuscript draft of Lincoln's was also copied, and signed" Simon Cameron, Secretary of War," and placed in the hands of Mr. R. S. Chew, a faithful clerk of the State Department, who proceeded to Charleston and delivered it to Governor Pickens.

Thus, on the evening of April 8, 1861, the Montgomery authorities received decisive information that all their hopes of recognition and peaceful disunion were at an end, and that the desperate trial of war was at length upon them. Already, to some extent, forewarned of this contingency, they hastened to make dispositions to meet it. The seven States of South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas were now united in the rebel Government; they were promptly notified of the changed condition of affairs, and each asked to raise a contingent of three thousand volunteers. Bragg, at Pensacola, was notified that "Our commissioners at Washington have received a flat refusal," ** and was instructed to put himself on the defensive, while officers, supplies, and soldiers were or dered to his support with a somewhat spasmodic energy. Beauregard was again put on the alert and ordered to increase his vigilance and vigor. "Under no circumstances are you to allow provisions to be sent to Fort Sumter." " Major Anderson's mails must be stopped. The fort must be completely isolated." Beauregard complied with alacrity; issued orders, and sent detachments to his posts and batteries; armed additional guardboats to patrol the harbor; and called out the entire balance of the contingent of five thousand men which had been authorized.

President Lincoln in deciding the Sumter question had adopted a simple but effective policy. To use his own words, he determined to "send bread to Anderson"; if the rebels fired on that, they would not be able to con

¶Lincoln, instructions, April 5, 1861. Autograph MS.
** Walker to Bragg, April 8, 1861. War Records.
Walker to Beauregard, April 8, 1861. War Rec-
Walker to Beauregard, April 9, 1861. War Rec-



vince the world that he had begun civil war. All danger of misapprehension, all accusations of "invasion" and "subjugation,” would fall to the ground before that paramount duty not only to the nation, but to humanity. This was universal statesmanship reduced to its simplest expression. To this end he had ordered the relief expedition to sail, and sent open notice to Governor Pickens of its coming. His own duty thus discharged, no less in kindness than in honesty, the American people would take care of the result. It is the record of history that he was right in both his judgment and his faith.

That he by this time expected resistance and hostilities, though unrecorded, is reasonably certain. The presence of armed ships with the expedition, and their instructions to fight their way to the fort in case of opposition, show that he believed the arbitrament of the sword to be at hand. His authorization to Anderson to capitulate after the ordinary risks of war is evidence that he did not expect a decisive battle or a conclusive victory. Whether the expedition would fail or succeed was a question of minor importance. He was not playing a game of military strategy with Beauregard. He was looking through Sumter to the loyal States; beyond the insulted flag to the avenging nation.

The rebels, on their part, had only a choice of evils. They were, as wrong-doers are sure to be, on the horns of a dilemma. Their scheme of peaceable secession demanded incompatible conditions- the union of the South and the division of the North. To preserve the former was to destroy the latter. If they set war in motion, they would lose their Democratic allies in the free States. If they hesitated to fight, the revolution would collapse in the slave-States. As usual on such occasions, rash advice carried the day. "Gentlemen," said an uncompromising fire-eater to Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet, "unless you sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama, they will be back in the old Union in less than ten days.' 11*

The possibility suggested to Captain Hartstene, that Sumter might be relieved by boats on a dark night, evidently decided the rebel authorities to order an immediate attack of

McPherson, "History of the Rebellion," pp.112,113. +As, in consequence of a communication from the President of the United States to the Governor of South Carolina, we were in momentary expectation of an attempt to reënforce Fort Sumter, or of a descent upon our coast to that end from the United States fleet then lying at the entrance of the harbor, it was manifestly an imperative necessity to reduce the fort as speedily as possible, and not to wait until the ships and the fort should unite in a combined attack upon us. Beauregard, Report, April 27, 1861. War Records.

[blocks in formation]

At 2 P. M. on the 11th that officer accordingly made the demand, offering facilities to remove the troops, with their arms and private property, and the privilege of saluting their flag.§ The demand was laid before a council of officers, who voted a unanimous refusal.|| "I have the honor," thereupon replied Anderson, "to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the evacuation of this fort; and to say in reply thereto, that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligations to my Government, prevent my compliance"; at the same time thanking him for his compliments and courteous terms.¶ The rebel aides-de-camp who bore these messages engaged in informal conversation with Anderson, in the course of which, with somewhat careless freedom, he said to them: "Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days."** The phrase was telegraphed to Montgomery, whence instructions came back once more to offer time to deliver up the fort; whereupon, near midnight of the 11th, Beauregard again wrote:

Fort Sumter, and agree that in the mean time you will If you will state the time at which you will evacuate not use your guns against us unless ours shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon

It was long past midnight when the aides once more reached the fort and handed this second message to Anderson. Anderson in return submitted to them the following proposition in writing:

I will, if provided with the proper and necessary means of transportation, evacuate Fort Sumter by noon on the 15th instant should I not receive prior to that time controlling instructions from my Government, or additional supplies; and that I will not in the mean

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

time open my fire upon your forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act against this fort or the flag of my Government, by the forces under your command or by some portion of them, or by the perpetration of some act showing a hostile intention on your part against this fort or the flag it bears.*

This cautious and resolute answer was not what the rebel commander desired; but apparently he expected nothing else, for he had given his aides discretionary authority to refuse the stipulation. They retired to an adjoining room to consult and compose their answer, and at twenty minutes past three o'clock on the morning of Friday, April 12, 1861, handed Anderson their written notice that the rebel batteries would open their fire upon the fort in one hour. Then taking their leave, they entered their boat and proceeded directly to Fort Johnson, and gave to the officer commanding that post "the order to open fire at the time indicated."†

Unwelcome as was the prospect of the impending conflict, it must in one sense have been a relief as a contrast to the uncertainty in which the fate of the garrison had hung for more than three months. The decisive moment of action was at last reached, and the spirit and strength of every inmate of the fort leaped into new life under the supreme impulse of combat. Until the full dawning of the morning, nothing could be done within the fort. Anderson gave the necessary orders about the coming attack. The sentinels were all withdrawn from their exposed stations on the parapet; every gate and opening was closed; the men were strictly enjoined not to leave the shelter of the casemates except on special summons. These few preparations hastily completed, Sumter seemed to the outside world to have relapsed into the security and silence of a peaceful sleep.

[ocr errors]

The fort had been built on an artificial island midway in the mouth of Charleston harbor; it was three miles from the city, but projecting points of the neighboring islands inclosed it in a triangle. On these the rebels had built their siege works - to the north-east Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, distant 1800 yards; to the south, the Cumming's Point batteries on Morris Island, distant 1300 yards; to the west, Fort Johnson on James Island, distant 2500 yards. Some were built merely to oppose the expected reënforcements through the harbor channels; most of them were earth-works. Two were constructed of wood and protected with railroad iron; one of these had been designed to serve as a floating battery, but proving a

Anderson to Beauregard, April 12, 1861, 2.30 A. M. Victor, "Southern Rebellion."

Chesnut and Lee to Jones, April 12, 1861. War


F. J. Porter, Inspection Report. War Records.

failure in this object, was now advantageously grounded behind a protecting sea-wall. Altogether there were from fourteen to nineteen of these batteries, mounting a total of thirty guns and seventeen mortars, manned and supported by a volunteer force of four to six thousand men.

The greater part of them were holiday soldiers, but among their officers were a dozen or two formerly belonging to the Federal army and possessed of a thorough military education. To these the management of the enterprise was mainly confided.

Fort Sumter, on its part, was a scarcely completed work, dating back to the period of smooth-bore guns of small caliber; its walls were of brick, forty feet high and eight feet thick; it was pierced for one hundred and forty guns, to be mounted in two tiers of casemates and on the parapet. But when Anderson inspected it on his arrival in November previous, the brick-work of walls and casemates was still unfinished, and only a few guns were mounted. Foster, the engineer in charge, had, with limited help and materials, and in the face of constant obstacles and discouragements, pushed the work towards completion. There was now a total of forty-eight guns mounted and ready for use, though furnished with very rude and insufficient appliances. Of these, twenty-one were in the casemates and twenty-seven on the parapet. To man and support them Anderson had a garrison of nine commissioned officers, sixty-eight noncommissioned officers and privates, eight musicians, and forty-three non-combatant laborers

a total of one hundred and twenty-eight souls. We shall see that while the opposing artillery was nearly equal in number, there existed, in fact, a great disparity in its quality. Not only was Anderson's fire diffused and that of the enemy concentrated, but the rebels had on their side seventeen ten-inch mortars, which could deliver a vertical fire and drop large shells into the fort; while Anderson had nothing to answer them but the horizontal fire of his guns to throw missiles against the face of the rebel bomb-proofs, formed of heavy sandbanks or sloping railroad iron.

The inhabitants of Charleston were informed

of the intended bombardment; months of speech-making, drilling, and war preparation had excited an intense eagerness to witness the fight. In the yet prevailing darkness they came pouring out of their houses by a common impulse, and thronged to the wharves and buildings on the bay, where they sought advantageous positions to behold the longwished-for spectacle. At about half-past four, as the dim outline of Fort Sumter began to define itself in the morning twilight, they saw

a shell rise from the mortar batteries near Fort

Johnson, and make its slow and graceful curve upon Sumter. This was the signal. Gun after gun and battery after battery responded to its summons, and in less than an hour all the besieging works were engaged in an active cannonade.

Inside of Sumter the garrison received the assault with a certain degree of deliberation. The first care was to note the effect of the firing. The opening shots of the rebels were badly aimed, and fell wide of the mark. With the advancing daylight their gunners obtained a better range; the solid shot began to strike the face of the wall, and the shells from the mortars to explode with alarming precision over the parapet. Nevertheless, no great or rapid damage was done. One vital point was, however, quickly decided. Housed in the casemates, the garrison was comparatively safe; but out on the unprotected parapet, under the concentrated fire of all the rebel artillery, Anderson's little handful of cannoneers would melt away like frost in the morning sun. With a full war garrison he could have replaced officers and men as they were shot down; but with only sufficient trained force to work nine guns, he dared not risk the loss of a single man. His first reluctant duty, therefore, was to order the abandonment of all his barbette guns. These were twenty-seven in number, more than half his available armament, and comprising nearly all his pieces of large caliber. Through this necessity alone, Fort Sumter was largely shorn of its offensive power. His twenty-one casemate guns, of which only four were forty-two pounders, and the remainder thirty-twos, constituted the total of his fighting artillery.

The rations of bread having been exhausted a day or two before, the command breakfasted on pork and water, and at about 7 o'clock Captain Abner Doubleday, the ranking officer, took his station at a casemate gun and hurled the defiance of Sumter, with a solid shot, against the formidable iron-clad battery on Cumming's Point. Fully roused by the combined excitements of resentment and danger, the men sprang with alacrity to their duty; even the forty-three engineer workmen, forgetting their character of non-combatants, eagerly volunteered and rendered active service in the defense. In fact, the enthusiasm of the garrison somewhat outstripped its prudence. They began the engagement with a supply of only seven hundred cartridges; by the middle of the day this stock had become so much reduced that the fort was compelled to slacken its fire. From this time on only six guns were kept in action-two towards Morris Island, two towards Fort Moultrie, and two towards the batteries on the west end of Sulli

van's Island. These were also fired at longer intervals, while the only six needles in the fort were kept busy sewing up cartridge-bags out of the extra clothing, blankets, hospital sheets, and even coarse paper.

So the unequal combat went on throughout the first day. The journal of the bombardment kept by Captain Foster shows that no very decisive damage was effected on either side. From the fort there were occasional good shots. The iron-clad batteries were repeatedly struck, but the light balls bounded off their sloping roofs. At other batteries they buried themselves harmlessly in the impervious rebel sand-banks. Embrasures were struck; groups of rebel officers and men allowing their curiosity to draw them out from their shelter were hustled pell-mell back into their bomb-proofs; an incautious schooner, receiving a ball, hauled down her Confederate flag and hurried out of range; the two forty-two pounders bearing on Moultrie silenced a gun, riddled the barracks and quarters, and tore three holes through the rebel flag.

The effect of the enemy's fire upon Fort Sumter [says Foster] during the day was very marked in respect to the vertical fire. This was so well directed, and so well sustained, that from the seventeen mortars engaged in firing ten-inch shells one-half of the shells came within or exploded above the parapet of the fort, and only about ten buried themselves in the soft earth of the parade without exploding. . . . The effect of the direct fire from the enemy's guns was not so marked as the vertical. For several hours' firing from the comfort. Subsequently it improved, and did considerable mencement, a large proportion of their shot missed the damage to the roof and upper story of the barracks and quarters, and to the tops of the chimneys on the gorge. The shots from the guns in the batteries on the west end of Sullivan's Island did not produce the gorge in reverse in their fall, completely riddling any considerable direct effect, but many of them took the officers' quarters, even down to the first story, so great was the angle of fall of many of the balls.

One additional danger manifested itself: three times during the day the wooden buildings in the fort caught fire, but were extinguished without great difficulty, being low and easily accessible. The rebel batteries, provided with several furnaces, now and then fired a hot shot; but whether these or bursting shells started the burning the officers themselves could not determine. The very work of ruin going on in the building used as officers' quarters aided in restraining the flames. The hallways were provided with iron water-tanks, which, being soon perforated by cannon-balls, deluged the chambers, and rendered the wood difficult to ignite.

Amid experience of this kind the eventful. 12th of April, the first day of the Sumter bombardment, at length drew to a close. The fire of Sumter ceased; the direct fire of the


rebel batteries slackened, and was finally discontinued; only the mortars kept up a slow and sullen bombardment through the night at intervals of from ten to fifteen minutes. The work of sewing up cartridge-bags was continued until midnight; sentinels and lookouts were stationed to watch for the possible coming of boats from the fleet-possibly of boats bearing a storming party from the rebel camps. But the night proved dark and rainy, with a continuance of the prevailing gale, making the waters of the harbor too rough for either of these undertakings. Under cover of the thick gloom, Foster, the engineer, ventured outside the walls. and satisfied himself "by personal inspection that the exterior of the work was not damaged to any considerable extent, and that all the facilities for taking in supplies in case they arrived were as complete as circumstances would admit."* Three United States men-of-war had been seen off the bar during the afternoon, and the fort had dipped its flag in signal to them. What was the fleet doing?

The several vessels of the Fox expedition were scarcely at sea when they encountered a driving gale. Captain Fox himself, who sailed in the Baltic on the morning of the 9th, was yet ignorant of the changed destination of the flag-ship Powhatan. This was doubtless an entirely unintentional omission, arising through the cares, the dangers, the confusion, the cross-purposes, the system of profound secrecy which for a few days prevailed at Washington. The Baltic reached the rendezvous off Charleston just in time to hear the opening guns of the bombardment. The Harriet Lane was already there. The Pawnee arrived at daylight. There was an apparent conflict of orders, and a hesitation to coöperate. The Baltic and the Harriet Lane stood in to offer to carry provisions to the fort; but as they neared the bar of the harbor, they saw by the quick-flashing rebel guns that the war was already begun. At this intelligence, the commander of the Pawnee declared his intention to go in and "share the fate of his brethren of the army." Fox, cool and practical, brought him back to reason by explaining the Government instructions, and induced him to await the chance of rendering more effective service. The two ships of war anchored near the bar, and the Baltic stood off and on to await the arrival of the Powhatan and the tugs. This, however, was a vain hope. The Powhatan was on her way to Pensacola, the tugs had been scattered by the storm. The Freeborn was not permitted to leave New York. The Uncle Ben was driven into Wilmington and fell into the hands of the rebels. The Yankee failed to * Foster, journal, April 12, 1861. War Records.

reach the rendezvous till long after the whole affair was over. But, still ignorant of these disasters, and hoping hourly for the arrival of the missing vessels, the fleet waited and made signals all the long afternoon and through the dark and stormy night, while the lookouts in the garrison were anxiously scanning the turbulent waters of the bay for the coming of the boats, and the rebel gunners stood by their channel batteries in the drenching rain hoping to intercept and sink them.

Captain Fox and the officers of the fleet were sorely disappointed at the non-arrival of the Powhatan and the tugs. The former had on board the armed launches and the necessary sailors to man them; the tugs were to have carried the supplies and perhaps drawn the boats in tow. With these facilities for transportation, there is every probability that they would have reached the fort. The storm was both an advantage and a hindrance; it increased the friendly darkness to hide them from the rebel gunners, but at the same time it lashed the waters of the bay into fury. When morning came, such had been the pitchy gloom of the night and the roaring of the rain and the surf, that the commanders of the rebel batteries were unable to report that their watch and guard had been completely effective. "Opinions differ," wrote one of their best officers, " as to whether anything got into Sumter last night. They may or may not. The night was dark and occasionally stormy, and a heavy sea running. If anything did, it could not have been very extensive."+

With the morning of the 13th, Captain Fox and the officers began to despair of the Powhatan and the tugs. Unwilling to remain mere idle spectators of the fight, they cast about to use such expedients as presented themselves. Among the merchant vessels by this time collected at the bar, awaiting the issue of the contest, was an ice schooner; this they impressed and began to prepare for an attempt to enter the following night. There were plenty of volunteers among both officers and seamen for the hazardous duty; but long before nightfall the bombardment had come to an end. That Captain Fox's undertaking thus terminated without direct practical result was not his fault. With characteristic firmness and generosity, President Lincoln took upon himself the principal blame for its failure.

soon afterward] was not in fact brought to a test. By The practicability of your plan [so he wrote to Fox reason of a gale well known in advance to be possible and not improbable, the tugs, an essential part of the plan, never reached the ground; while, by an accident bly I to some extent was, you were deprived of a warfor which you were in nowise responsible, and possivessel, with her men, which you deemed of great im+ Whiting to Beauregard, April 13, 1861. MS.

« AnteriorContinuar »