« AnteriorContinuar »
"Fort Sumter opened early and spitefully, and paid especial attention to Fort Moultrie. almost every shot grazing the crest of the parapet, and crashing through the quarters.f" This was the rebel report of the beginning of the second day's bombardment, April 13. The garrison of Sumter was refreshed by a night of comparatively secure rest in their casemates, and, no doubt, a hearty breakfast of pork and water, and, so long as the stock of cartridges made up during the night held out, they kept up so brisk a fire from their few guns that the rebels began to be confirmed in the opinion that the fort had really been reënforced. On their side the besiegers also increased both the speed of firing and their accuracy of aim, and seeing that they were making no headway in the test of breaching the walls, they began to pay more attention to the use of red-hot shot. ‡
Thus far this unequal contest of nearly fifty concentrating guns, replied to by about six, had gone on without material damage to either party showing, in proportion to the strength of each, nothing but indented brick walls or displaced sand-bags, battered chimneys and perforated barracks, a few slight contusions from splinters, and one or two disabled guns. According to all the reports, it might have proceeded at this rate the whole week, and the waste of ammunition would have been its most serious feature. But at this stage a new element entered into the strife, and soon turned the fortune of the day against the unlucky garrison of Sumter.
At about 9 o'clock in the morning, the roof of the officers' quarters once more caught fire, either from a bursting shell or a red-hot shot; and this time a distance from water, and the exposure to the enemy's missiles, made it impossible to extinguish the flames. Worse than all, it quickly became evident that the fire would soon encircle the magazine and make it imperative to close it. At Captain Foster's suggestion, all hands not employed at the guns now sprang to the work of taking out a supply of powder. About fifty barrels were thus secured, distributed for safety in the various casemates, and covered with wet blankets, when the fire and heat so far increased that it was necessary to close the heavy metal doors of the magazine and bank it up with earth. The enemy, observing the smoke, redoubled the fire of the batteries; a strong * Lincoln to Fox, May 1, 1861.
Ripley, Report, April 16, 1861. War Records.
south wind carried the flame to all the barracks inside the fort; and though the men fought the advance of the fire, they were at length compelled to give way and take refuge in the casemates. Even here they were not safe; the course of the wind was such as to fill every nook and corner of the fort with blinding, stifling smoke; the men crouched close down to the floors, covered their faces. with wet handkerchiefs, or took exposed stations near the embrasures to obtain a breath of fresh air. As if this were not enough, a still subtler danger pursued them. The rapid conflagration and sweeping wind had filled the air with fire-flakes, and these drifted on the strong currents and counter-currents into the casemates to such an extent as to ignite the beds, boxes, and various small articles hastily collected there. Under such circumstances the fifty barrels of powder saved with so much exertion from the magazine could no longer be kept, and upon Anderson's order all but five barrels were thrown through the embrasures of the fort into the sea. Noon had meanwhile come, and, engaged in these pressing occupations, the garrison had ceased firing. By-andby the wind changed a little, rendering the situation somewhat safer and more comfortable. There were but few cartridges left; still an occasional shot was fired, which the rebels themselves, roused to admiration of the garrison, received with cheers.
A new incident now engaged general attention. The flag-staff of the fort, struck seven different times during the first day and three the second, fell at about one o'clock in the afternoon. Lieutenant Snyder and a couple of men, without much delay, again hoisted the flag on a jury-mast extemporized on the parapet. The rebels had meanwhile noted the fall of the flag, and sent several different communications to Sumter. The first messenger was the ubiquitous and eccentric Senator Wigfall. Beauregard, to get rid of him, sent him as an aide to the commander of Morris Island. From there, after a short consultation among the rebel officers, he was dispatched to Fort Sumter to make inquiries. He crossed the bay dramatically in an open boat, with his handkerchief tied to his sword for a flag of truce, and clambered up the wall to an accessible embrasure, where, one account says, an astonished artilleryman, seeing this unique apparition, summarily made him a prisoner of war. §
Officers soon came, however, and after a somewhat spirited dialogue, and some further waving of Wigfall's sword and handkerchief out of an embrasure, to which the rebel batteries paid no attention, he was brought into
Foster, journal, April 13, 1861. War Records.
Anderson's presence. He made a complimentary speech to Anderson, requesting that hostilities might be suspended and terms of evacuation arranged. What then occurred Captain Foster reports as follows:
The commanding officer desiring to know what terms he came to offer, Mr. Wigfall replied, "Any terms that you may desire,-your own terms,-the precise nature of which General Beauregard will arrange with you." The commanding officer then accepted the conditions, saying that the terms he accepted were those proposed by General Beauregard on the 11th, namely: to evacuate the fort with his command, taking arms and all private and company property, saluting the United States flag as it was lowered, and being conveyed, if he desired it, to any Northern port. With this understanding Mr. Wigfall left, and the white flag was raised and the United States flag lowered by order of the commanding officer. The officious Wigfall had not been gone a great while when two different messages arrived at Sumter from General Beauregard. the first to inquire whether Anderson needed assistance, and the second to tender him the use of a fire-engine and the services of a surgeon, both of which they had brought from the city. All of these Anderson declined with thanks, saying he had no wounded, that the fire was by this time nearly burned out, and that he thought the magazine safe. From these interviews Anderson now learned that Beauregard was entirely ignorant of Wigfall's mission or his own capitulation. He explained the circumstances, and threatened to hoist again his flag. He was persuaded, however, first to submit the matter to be fully reported at headquarters. General Beauregard, after some parley, ratified Wigfall's unauthorized proceeding and accepted Anderson's terms in detail. By eight o'clock on Saturday evening the capitulation was definitely arranged, and on the following day, Sunday, April 14, Anderson and his command sailed northward in the Baltic, which had come to the relief of Sumter. In a military point of view, Anderson's capitulation was hasty. The defense of the fort can hardly be called heroic; there was not a man killed, not a casemate gun disabled, not a breach in the walls, plenty of ammunition in the magazine, and starvation not immediately impending.
The burning of the quarters [says Captain Foster] produced a great effect on the defense while the fire lasted, inasmuch as the heat and smoke were almost stifling, and as the fire burned all around the magazines, obliging them to be closed, and thus preventing our getting powder to continue the firing. It also destroyed the main gates and the gun-carriages on the
*The opinion of the rebel engineer, after the bom. bardment, agrees with that of Captain Foster. Major Whiting wrote as follows to Beauregard, on the 17th of April, proposing to abandon Morris Island: "Fort Sumter cannot be retaken from Morris Island alone. Your mortar batteries have accomplished that work.
parapet of the gorge. But we could have resumed the firing as soon as the walls cooled sufficiently to open the magazine, and then, having blown down the wall left projecting above the parapet, so as to get rid of flying bricks, and built up the main gates with stones and rubbish, the fort would actually have been in a more defensible condition than when the action commenced. ... The want of provisions would soon have caused the surrender of the fort, but with plenty of cartridges the men would have cheerfully fought five or six days, and, if necessary, much longer, on pork alone, of which we had a sufficient supply. I do not think that a breach could have been effected in the gorge at the distance of the battery on Cumming's Point within a week or ten days; and even then, with the small garrison to defend it and means for obstructing it at our disposal, the operation of assaulting it, with even vastly superior numbers, would have been very doubtful in its results.*
An ambitious and combative commander, therefore, carefully noting these elements of strength and resistance, and seeing a relieving fleet at the mouth of the harbor, would have "held the fort," and sent back a message of defiance. But when Anderson first took command of Sumter he wrote that "my position here is rather a politico-military than a military one," and on this assumption he seems to have acted throughout. Viewed in a political light, his conduct is perfectly justifiable. He had faithfully maintained the authority of the Government and the honor of the flag. He had repelled force by force. Obeying President Lincoln's instructions, he had incurred the ordinary risks of war, and now possessed full authority to save himself and his command by capitulation.
In the bombardment of Sumter the insurgents for the third time made active, aggressive war upon the United States, even if we leave out of sight the occupation of forts by simple entrance or by the show of force, the building of batteries to menace Sumter, and receiving the surrender made by Twiggs in Texas. In fact, since the 27th of December, a continued series of acts had been perpetrated by them, not only outraging the authority of, but levying actual war against, the United States.
The rebels indulged in great rejoicing over their victory. Charleston, which had for two days witnessed the bombardment almost en masse, was once more vociferous with speeches and ablaze with bonfires; while at Montgomery the insurgent Secretary of War ordered an official salute to celebrate the surrender, and to emphasize the prediction of the previous evening that the rebel flag would
It cannot be touched from Cumming's Point. The late bombardment shows that. Let the enemy occupy it [Morris Island] entirely. We can shell him out from our remaining mortar batteries and keep him at a distance." Whiting to Beauregard, April 17, 1861. MS.
"float over the dome of the old Capitol at Washington before the 1st of May."
Looking back now at the events of the first month of Lincoln's administration, we must wonder at the impression which prevailed then, and which has so often been expressed by impulsive men since, that he was too slow in making his decision to provision and reenforce Fort Sumter.
We find that on the 15th of March, only ten days after his first information about the condition of the fort, he formally asked the written opinion of his Cabinet on the subject; and that on the 6th of April, only three weeks later, he gave his final order that the expedition should proceed on its mission. The intervening time was spent by him in consulting his Cabinet and his military and naval officers about possible plans for relief and reënforcement; about alternative policies to be pursued; watching the culminating treason in the South and the slowly swelling loyalty in the North; awaiting the end of the contradictory words and acts of the Virginia Convention, whose majority protested Unionism in public and at last voted secession in secret; allowing his Secretary of State, by an unofficial negotiation with the rebel commissioners, to disclose the attitude of the Montgomery cabinet; using the delay which the rebels supposed they had contrived for their own benefit for preparing the Sumter expedition; making the individual members of his Cabinet responsible to the party and to the country for the advice they gave; and finally, by all this, to gain a coveted "choice of position" and compel the rebels to attack and thus consolidate
When he finally gave the order that the fleet should sail he was master of the situation; master of his Cabinet; master of the moral attitude and issues of the struggle; master of the public opinion which must arise out of the impending conflict; master if the rebels hesitated or repented, because they would thereby forfeit their prestige with the South; master if they persisted, for he would then command a united North. And all this was done, it must be remembered, not in the retirement which gives calm reflection, but after the rush and hurry of a triumphal journey and the parade of an inauguration, in the confusion of conflicting counsel, the worry of preliminary appointments, the prevalence of an atmosphere of treason and insurrection, the daily defection of Government officials.
In the face of such self-assertion and victory, the verdict of history can never be that he was tardy or remiss; to have acted more *"Rebellion Record."
peremptorily in that strange crisis, when all men's minds were simply groping and drifting, would have brought upon him the just criticism of recklessness. No act of his will gain him greater credit than his kindly forbearance and patient wisdom in allowing full time and reflection for the final decision at this supreme juncture. He had said in his inaugural: “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors." This promise to the South he kept in its most vital spirit and meaning. An autocratic ruler might have acted more arbitrarily; but in a representative government it would have been imprudent to do otherwise than to await and rely upon the slow but mighty anger of an outraged patriotism.
THE CALL TO ARMS.
PRESIDENT LINCOLN's decision and orders
to prepare the Sumter and Pickens expeditions brought him face to face with the serious possibilities of civil war; and better to understand any military problems with which he might have to deal, he wrote to General Scott on the 1st of April, as follows:
Would it impose too much labor on General Scott to make short, comprehensive, daily reports to me of what occurs in his department, including movements by himself, and under his orders, and the receipt of intelligence? If not, I will thank him to do so.t
General Scott at once complied with the request, and from the 1st of April to the 4th of May sent the President nearly every day a short memorandum in his own handwriting, inclosed in an envelope marked "confidential"-the whole series forming collectively a sort of historical journal of the highest interest and authenticity; and portions of it show better than any comment what was being done by the new Administration to meet the crisis which the Fort Sumter bombardment precipitated upon the country.
"General Scott's daily report, No. 3,"-so indorsed in Lincoln's handwriting and dated April 3, 1861,-in part runs thus:
There will remain in Washington a detachment of cavalry recruits from Carlisle recruiting depot, about So men and horses; Magruder's horse artillery; Griffin's ditto, belonging to the Military Academy and now needed there; Elsey's foot artillery and Haskin's ditto. The companies of foot artillery are acting as infantry. varies. We heard to-day that the number now there The number of marines at the Washington Navy Yard is some 200. There is not another company of regulars within reach of Washington, except 7 at Fort Monroe, making about 400 men, the minimum force needed there under existing circumstances; one company at the Fayetteville arsenal, N. C., to guard arms and ammunition against a thick population of blacks; a garrison of recruits (50) at Ft. Washington, ten miles + Unpublished MS.
below us; a garrison of 100 recruits in Fort McHenry, Baltimore; about 750 recruits in New York harbor; 220 ditto at Newport Barracks opposite to Cincinnati, and about 350 men at Jefferson Barracks and the St. Louis arsenal near by, mostly recruits.*
This memorandum was supplemented two days later (April 5, 1861) by a detailed report from the Adjutant-General to the President, which showed the full strength of the army of the United States and its distribution to be as follows:
Department of the East, 3894; Department of the West, 3584; Department of Texas, 2258; Department of New Mexico, 2624; Department of Utah, 685; Department of the Pacific, 3382; miscellaneous, 686; grand total, officers and men, 17,113.*
General Scott's daily report, April 5, 1861: I have nothing of special interest to report to-day; but that machinations against the Government and this capital are secretly going on all around us, in Virginia, in Maryland, and here, as well as farther south, I have no doubt. I cannot, however, say that they are as yet formidable, or are likely ever to come to a head. I have no policemen at my service, and no fund for the payment of detectives, but under the circumstances recommend that such agents should be at once employed in Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington, Alexandria, Richmond, and Norfolk. For the reasons stated, I am not prepared to suggest that a militia force should be called out to defend this Capital, under section 2 of the militia act, passed February 28, 1795. The necessity of such call, however, may not be very distant.*
General Scott's daily report, April 6, 1861:
A second steamer will arrive from Texas at New
York in a day or two, with six troops of dismounted cavalry. In advance, I have ordered two of those companies or troops to proceed from the ship to this place, to be filled up with men (cavalry recruits) here. ... The other four troops of cavalry I have ordered to proceed from the ship to Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, to be remounted there, whence they can be readily brought here if deemed necessary.*
General Scott's daily report, April 9, 1861;
I suggested to the Secretary of War yesterday the calling out, say ten companies, of the militia or (by substitution) uniformed volunteers of this city to aid in the defense of the public buildings and other public property of the Capital against "an invasion or insurthis additional force, and the manner of employing it, rection, or probable prospect thereof." The necessity for were yesterday pretty fully discussed before the Secretary of War by Colonel Smith, Colonel Stone (two most excellent officers), and myself. Colonel Stone, inspector-general to Major-General Weightman's division, thinks that twice that number of loyal volunteers can be promptly furnished by the division, and I apprehend that the twenty companies may be deemed necessary in a few days. I hope that the President may give the Secretary of War the authority to make the call for ten companies at once. . . I have this moment received the President's instructions of this
date, through the Secretary of War, on the safety of
WAR DEPARTMENT, WASHINGTON, D. C., April 9, 1861.
Sir: I am instructed by the President of the United States to direct you to take all necessary precautions for protecting this Capital against a surprise or any assault whatever, and that for this object, among other means, you proceed forthwith to mature a plan under the 24th Section of the Act of Congress entitled "An Act more effectually to provide for the organization of the militia of the District of Columbia," approved March 3, 1803, and that you advise the President whenever in your judgment the occasion shall have arisen for the President's action under said section.
Very respectfully, SIMON CAMERON,
GENERAL ORDERS No. 9.
I. A Military Department to be taken from the Department of the East and called the Department of Washington is hereby constituted, to consist of the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia, according to its original boundary.
Brevet-Colonel C. F. Smith, 10th Infantry, is assigned to the command of this Department according to his brevet rank. Headquarters at Washington
General Scott's daily report, April 8, 1861: City. . . . By order:
For the defense of the Government, more troops are wanted. The steamer with the dismounted cavalry (six companies) from Texas, must be in New York today or to-morrow, to be followed by another steamer, with about the same number of troops, from Texas, in a week. There is a growing apprehension of danger here in the meantime. I rely on the presence of a third battery of flying artillery (Sherman's) by Saturday next. It is coming from Minnesota. Three other companies of artillery on foot, serving as infantry, will be at New York, from the same quarter, in fourteen days. All these reënforcements, excepting Sherman's battery, may be too late for this place. For the interval I have sent Colonel Smith (the immediate commander of all the forces in the District of Columbia) to learn what number of reliable volunteers can be obtained in this city, and have also desired him to see whether the companies already here may not be advantageously concentrated near to the President's square. I beg leave to suggest that a small war steamer, to cruise between Alexandria and the Long Bridge over the Potomac, would be of great importance to the system of defense that we are planning.
* Unpublished MS.
L. THOMAS, Adjutant-General.t
General Scott's daily report, April 11, 1861:
Several companies of District volunteers were mustered into the pay and service of the United States yesterday and this forenoon, and the process is still going on. A few individuals in several companies declining to take the oath of allegiance to the United States were of course rejected; but I am happy to report that five or six other companies have sworn allegiance without excepting a man. The stripping of the rejected men yesterday of their arms, accoutrements and uniforms, by their own officers, has, I learn, had a fine effect upon the patriotism and devotion of the entire militia of the District. A fine company, not one of the ten called for, having presented itself this morning, of its own motion, and requested it might be accepted, I did not hesitate to consent, and hope for approval. Before night we shall have probably eleven companies sworn in. The Clerk of the House of Representatives having, through the Secretary of War, desired that a company might be assigned to guard the Capitol, I shall instruct Col. Smith to comply with that reasonable request.
+ War Records.
General Scott's daily report, April 13, 1861: The two companies of dismounted cavalry arrived last night, as I had anticipated in my report of yesterday. At my instance the Secretary of War has called for four other companies of District volunteers, which will make in all fifteen companies of this description for the defense of the Capital, besides six companies of regulars, the marines at the Navy Yard, and (I hope very soon) the war steamer to cruise on the Potomac between the Long Bridge and a point a little below Alexandria. The next regular reënforcements to be expected here are: Sherman's battery of flying artillery from Minnesota, and the companies of foot artillery from the same quarter, in five and seven days; and a portion of the troops expected in the next steamer from
Texas. From the same steamer I shall have the means
of reënforcing Fort McHenry (at Baltimore), a most important point.*
These extracts show us the steps which were being quietly taken by the Government to meet the possible dangers growing out of the Fox expedition to Charleston. They included every resource which the regular army then afforded; and to call upon the militia of the States was, of course, at that moment out of the question, as it would have frustrated the very result the President had planned and anticipated.
The Sumter fleet finally at sea, the official notice sent to Governor Pickens, and the work of enrolling militia for the defense of Washington progressing so satisfactorily, Lincoln again set himself, during the brief respite, to the work of making the new appointments. Ordinarily this was only an act of official favor or partisan reward, which might be performed at leisure; but now it was also a work of pressing need, because of the imperative duty of substituting faithful and loyal agents for indifferent or treasonable ones in the public service. That such abounded, the numerous resignations and still more plentiful avowals made manifest beyond a doubt. The city was full of strangers; the White House full of applicants from the North. At any hour of the day one might see at the outer door and on the staircase one file going, one file coming. In the anteroom and in the broad corridor adjoining the President's office there was a restless and persistent crowd,-ten, twenty, sometimes fifty, varying with the day and hour, each one in pursuit of one of the many crumbs of official patronage. They walked the floor; they talked in groups; they scowled at every arrival and blessed every departure; they wrangled with the door-keepers for right of entrance; they intrigued with them for surreptitious chances; they crowded forward to get even as much as an instant's glance through the half-opened door into the Executive chamber. They besieged the representatives and senators who had privilege of
* Unpublished MS.
precedence; they glared with envy and growled with jealousy at the Cabinet ministers who, by right and usage, pushed through the throng and walked unquestioned through the doors. At that day the arrangement of the rooms compelled the President to pass through this corridor and the midst of this throng when he went to his meals in the other end of the Executive Mansion; and thus, once or twice a day, the waiting expectants would be rewarded by the chance of speaking a word, or handing a paper direct to the President himself-a chance which the more bold and persistent were not slow to improve.
At first, Lincoln bore it all with the admirable fortitude acquired in Western political campaigns. But two weeks of this experience on the trip from Springfield to Washington, and six weeks more of such beleaguering in the Executive office, began to tell on his nerves. What with the Sumter discussion, the rebel negotiation, the diplomatic correspondence, he had become worked into a mental strain and irritation that made him feel like a prisoner behind the Executive doors, and the audible and unending tramp of the applicants outside impressed him like an army of jailers. We can well imagine how it intensified the suspense with which he awaited the news from the fleet and the answer to his official communication to the governor of South Carolina.
Amid such surroundings and labors the President received the news which now reached the whole country from Sumter. It came very gradually first the military scurry about Charleston; then Beauregard's demand for a surrender, followed by Anderson's prompt refusal; and finally, on the morning of Saturday, April 13, the newspapers of Washington, like those of every city in the Union, North and South, were filled with the startling head-lines and the thrilling details of the beginning and progress of an actual bombardment. That day, however, there was little change in the routine of the Executive office. Mr. Lincoln was never liable to sudden excitement or sudden activity. Through all his life, and through all the unexpected and stirring events of the rebellion, his personal manner was one of steadiness of word and act. It was this quality which, in the earlier stages of the war, conveyed to many of his visitors the false impression of his indifference. His sagacity gave him a marked advantage over other men in enabling him to forecast probable events; and when they took place, his great caution restrained his comments and controlled his outward bearing. Oftentimes, when men came to him in the rage and transport of a first indignation over some untoward incident,