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had these five companies been the only force available; the second, on the supposition that the president meant that any attempt with a force reasonably large would have provoked secession, was a shortsighted view. To garrison the forts could not have been more obnoxious than to put them in a state of defence. At any time before the secession of a state they could have been garrisoned without bringing on actual conflict. The statesmen of the South were well aware that an attack upon an armed force of the United States, before secession, must place them irretrievably in the wrong. South Carolina did not secede until December 20. To resist the sending of troops before this date to any of these forts would have been unqualified treason, and for this no one in the South was prepared. The safety of the secession movement, the extension of sympathy throughout the South, rested very greatly upon strict compliance with the forms of law and with the theories of the Constitution held by that section. At least one ardent secessionist, Judge Longstreet, recognized this when he appealed to South-Carolinians to refrain from any act of war, "let the first shot," he said, "come from the enemy. Burn that precept into your hearts."1 It was impossible that the southern leaders should place themselves, or allow their people to place them, in the attitude of waging war against the Union, while even in their own view, their states still remained
1 National Intelligencer, January 11, 1861.
within it. There was, too, still a very large Union sentiment in the South, though finally swept into the vortex by the principle of going with the state, which would not have been averse to a determined action on the part of the president and might have upheld it, as in 1833. Such vigor would have given this sentiment a working basis, through the evidence that the Federal authority was to be upheld; and it would have caused a pause even in the least thoughtful of the secessionists had they felt that their coast strongholds were to be held and all their ports to be in the hands of the enemy. In the dearth of manufactures in the South, the holding of their ports was an essential to southern military success. Their closure by blockade was equally an essential to the success of the North. The strategy of the situation was of the clearest and most palpable; and with their coast forts in Union hands, warlike action on the part of the South is not conceivable. One can thus understand the importance of spreading the reiterated statements of "intense excitement" and "danger of attack," in the event of reinforcement; statements which, in the circumstances, must be regarded, if the phrase may be used, in the nature of a gigantic and successful "bluff.'
Many people have thought that the awakening of the North to a willingness for vigorous action had to be gradual, and that the long delay was therefore necessary to unify Union sentiment. This is
a moot question. But in any case it is not given to the human mind to follow with certainty every ramification of events under hypothetical conditions; and the subject must be dealt with from the point of view that every emergency should be met as it arises. There was too much weighing of the political effect of every step taken; the plain path of duty should have been taken and held to, and supposititious political effects left to take care of themselves.
Moreover, on this question the president ignored the psychological power of unchecked action; feelings and prepossessions gravitate to the centre of energy; the acquiescence of the authorities in regard to the southern garrisons was thus an immense element in urging the South to a movement which gathered in weight and sympathy under declamatory appeals to arise and assert its manhood.
The military property of the United States at Charleston consisted of the armory, covering a few acres, where were stored twenty-two thousand muskets and a considerable number of old, heavy guns, and of three forts named for South-Carolinians of Union-wide fame. The smallest of these, Castle Pinckney, was a round, brick structure, in excellent condition, on a small island directly east of the town and distant from the wharves but half a mile. It completely commanded the town, and had a formidable armament of four forty-two-pounders, fourteen twenty-four-pounders, and four eight-inch sea
coast howitzers. The powder of the arsenal was here stored. The only garrison was an ordnance sergeant, who, with his family, looked after the harbor light which was in the fort.
Almost due east again, and three miles distant, was Fort Moultrie, on the south end of Sullivan's Island, a low sand spit forming the north side of the harbor entrance. The work had an area of one and a half acres, and mounted fifty-five guns in barbette. The drifting sands had piled themselves even with the parapet, and the work was in such condition as to be indefensible against a land attack. The whole was but of a piece with the long-continued neglect arising from many years of peace and the optimistic temperament of a people who never believe that war can occur until it is upon them; it was the natural outcome of the almost entire absence of governmental system and forethought of the time. The fort was garrisoned by two companies, comprising sixty-four enlisted men and eight officers, of the first regiment of artillery; the surgeon, band, a hospital steward, and an ordnance sergeant brought the total to eighty-four.
Almost south of Moultrie was Cummings Point, on Morris Island, forming the southern side of the harbor entrance. Nearly midway between this point and Moultrie, but a half-mile within the line. joining them, and distant three and a half miles from the nearest part of the city, was Fort Sumter, begun in 1829, and after thirty-one years not yet
finished. Built on a shoal covered at most stages of the tide, it rose directly out of the water, with two tiers of casemates, and surmounted by a third tier of guns in barbette. In plan it was very like the transverse section of the ordinary American house, the apex of the two sides representing the lines of the roof, looking towards Moultrie. It was intended for a garrison of 650 men and an armament of 146 guns, of which 78 were on hand.
On a report made in July by Captain J. G. Foster, repairs on Moultrie were begun September 14, and next day upon Sumter, some two hundred and fifty men being employed. The sand about the walls of Moultrie was removed, a wet ditch dug, a glacis formed, the guard-house pierced with loop-holes, and the four field-guns placed in position for flank attack.
At the end of October, Captain Foster, foreseeing events, requested the issue of arms to the workmen to protect property, and the secretary of war approved the issue of forty muskets, if it should meet the concurrence of the commanding officer. Colonel Gardner, in reply, November 5, doubted the expediency, as most of the laborers were foreigners, indifferent to which side they took, and wisely advised, instead, filling up “at once" the two companies at Moultrie with recruits and sending two companies from Fort Monroe to the two other forts.1 The requisition was thus held in abeyance, and the 1 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 68.