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was turned over very properly to the keeping and defense of the State force at the urgent request of the Governor of South Carolina. I would most respectfully, and from a sincere devotion to the public peace, request that you would allow me to send a small force, not exceeding twenty-five men and an officer, to take possession of Fort Sumter immediately, in order to give a feeling of safety to the community.":

The ever-ready Trescot arranged an interview December 20 with the president for the delivery of the letter. The president stated that he would give an answer the next day. In the mean time Trescot, seeing the difficulties to which it led, consulted both Senators Davis and Slidell, who thought the demand "could do nothing but mischief”; and on consultation with two of the South Carolina delegation in Washington, Governor Pickens was advised by telegraph to withdraw the letter, which was done. Trescot's letter to Governor Pickens, returning that of the latter, after mentioning all that had been done by the executive to refrain from injuring the sensibilities of South Carolina, said: The president's "course had been violently denounced by the Northern press, and an effort was being made to institute a Congressional investigation. At that moment he could not have gone to the extent of action you desired, and I felt confident that, if forced to answer your letter then, 1 Crawford. Fort Sumter, 81-83.

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he would have taken such ground as would have prevented his even approaching it hereafter you had all the advantage of knowing the truth, without the disadvantage of having it put on record. . . . I was also perfectly satisfied that the status of the garrison would not be disturbed. . . . I have had this morning an interview with Governor Floyd, the Secretary of War . . . while I cannot even here venture into details, which are too confidential to be risked in any way, I am prepared to say... that nothing will be done which will either do you injury or properly create alarm.” 1

The president's painful weakness is but too clear in the fact that he had not only given his confidence so largely to such a man, whose position and attitude he knew, but saw nothing derogatory in such a letter as that of Governor Pickens, and could draught a reply (December 20) in which, while stating that no authority had been given to Governor Gist to guard the Charleston arsenal, he said: "I deeply regret to observe that you seem entirely to have misapprehended my position, which I supposed had been clearly stated in my message. I have incurred, and shall incur, any reasonable risk ... to prevent a collision. . . . Hence I have declined for the present to reinforce these forts, relying upon the honor of the South Carolinians that they will not be assaulted whilst they remain in their present condition; but that commissioners will 1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 85, 86.

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be sent by the convention to treat with Congress on the subject." 1

If the shades of Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor still haunted the White House, they must have wrung their ghostly hands in agony at their impotence. And so the pitiable story proceeds of a weak, well-meaning old man surrounded by false. and traitorous counsellors; afraid to do the duty which was before him as plain as the light of day; hoping to fend off the dissolution of the Union during the few short months which remained to him of office; leaving the mighty deluge of woe, so sure to come through his inaction, to his successor.

December 18 the president sent Caleb Cushing with a letter to Governor Pickens, with the idea of inducing the authorities and people of South Carolina to await the action of Congress and the development of opinion in the North as to the recommendation of his message. Governor Pickens told Cushing, December 20, the day of the passage of the ordinance of secession, that he would make no reply to the letter, and stated "very candidly that there was no hope for the Union, and that, as far as he was concerned, he intended to maintain the separate independence of South Carolina." "

1 Curtis, Buchanan, II., 385. The emphasis is Buchanan's. 1 Governor's message to legislature, quoted by Crawford, Fort Sumter, 87.

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(DECEMBER 2, 1860-JANUARY 8, 1861)


HE question of the United States forts was now uppermost, and upon the action regarding them hung war or peace. Three commissionersRobert W. Barnwell, James H. Adams, and James L. Orr-were appointed by South Carolina to lay the ordinance of secession before the president and Congress, and were empowered as agents of the state to treat for the delivery of the forts and other real estate, for the apportionment of the public debt, and for a division of all the property of the United States.1

In apprehension of the occupation of Sumter by Anderson, a patrol by two small steamers, the Nina and General Clinch, was established, with orders to prevent such action at all hazards and seize Fort Sumter if it should be attempted. A LieutenantColonel Green was sent to Fort Monroe to observe any movements; and one Norris, at Norfolk, was employed to give information of any action at the Norfolk navy-yard. A committee of prominent

1 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 111.

men was sent to Fort Sumter, which thoroughly inspected the works and reported upon them.

Meantime, Major Anderson had been preparing, with great caution and foresight, to move his command. For some ten days the officers had been apprised that it was advisable to send the families of the men to the unoccupied barracks on James's Island, known as Fort Johnson, a mile and a quarter west of Sumter. The work of mounting guns at Sumter had been discontinued for three days, and the elevating screws and pintle bolts sent to Moultrie so that the guns should not be used if the SouthCarolinians should anticipate his action, and also to give the impression that occupancy of the fort was not designed. All stores and provisions at Fort Moultrie which could be carried, and personal belongings, except what the men could carry in their knapsacks, were loaded as for Fort Johnson in the two small sailing-vessels which were to carry the women and children.

Christmas Day had been fixed for the transfer, but heavy rains prevented. The delay might have had other consequences, for, curiously enough, on the morning of December 26, Colonel R. B. Rhett, Jr., waited upon the governor, with a private warning letter from Washington to the effect that Anderson was about to seize Sumter, and urged the governor to secure it."


All was made ready on December 26, and the 1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 91.

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