Page images
[ocr errors]

of the West, with the much-needed reinforcements, turned from the weak Confederate batteries, the guns of Sumter silent.

While the president had come slowly to a recognition of his duty to reinforce Sumter, and could not but see in the changed attitude of the northern mind towards himself a thorough appreciation of his action in regard to Anderson and Sumter, his political instincts should have enabled him to recognize that to lean upon Congress for readjustment was, in the temper of both parties, hopeless.


[ocr errors]



(JANUARY, 1861)

BLACK'S insistence

LACK'S insistence upon reinforcing Sumter eventually had effect, but there was a fatal divergence, due to Scott, from his wish to send the Brooklyn, then lying ready for sea at Norfolk, with trained troops from Fort Monroe. Scott, December 28, sent a memorandum to Floyd, still his superior, expressing the hope that Sumter should not be evacuated; that one hundred and fifty recruits should be immediately sent as reinforcement from Governor's Island, and that one or two armed vessels be sent to support the fort. He also hoped that his previous recommendations regarding "Forts Jackson, St. Philip, Morgan, and Pulaski, and particularly in respect to Forts Pickens and McRee and the Pensacola navy - yard, in connection with the last two named works, may be reconsidered by the secretary.' "" 1 Two days later, December 30, he sent a memorandum to the president asking permission to send, without reference to the war department, two hundred and fifty re1 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 112.

[ocr errors][merged small]

cruits from New York to Sumter, together with extra arms, ammunition, and subsistence. He also hoped “that a sloop-of-war and cutter may be ordered for the same purpose as early as to-morrow." The president, now so much more alive to the situation, and probably upon the insistence of Black, preferred to send the Brooklyn. “He thought that a powerful war steamer with disciplined troops on board would prove more effective than a sloop of war and cutter with raw recruits." 1 The morrow, Monday, December 31, began well. Holt, who had taken over the war department, at once sent for Scott; and Colonel Dimick, commandant of Fort Monroe, was ordered to put aboard the Brooklyn, then at Norfolk ready for sea, as soon as she could receive them, "four companies, making at least two hundred men," and subsistence for ninety days. Had General Scott adhered to this wise plan, there would have been a different story.


With the orders given for Sumter's relief came an unfortunate delay on the part of the president, who felt it necessary to give the commissioners of South Carolina time to reply to his letter, just sent (December 31). Scott, who was called in for consultation, agreed in the propriety of the delay as being "gentlemanly and proper. Later in the

* 3

1 Buchanan, Administration on Eve of Rebellion, 189.

2 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 119.

3 Buchanan, Administration on Eve of Rebellion, 190.

same evening Buchanan promised the disunion secretary of the interior, Thompson, that the orders for the reinforcements should not be renewed "without being previously considered and decided in the cabinet." Two days later, on receiving the commissioners' caustic reply, he exclaimed, "It is now all over, and reinforcements must be sent." 1 But the delay was fatal. In the meantime Scott became convinced, "after advising with an individual believed to possess much knowledge and practical experience in naval affairs, that the better plan to secure both secrecy and success" would be to send recruits in a merchant steamer from New York. The Star of the West, of the New Orleans line, on the insistence of Scott and against the judgment of the president,' was thus chosen; and "two hundred well instructed men with, say, three officers," were ordered to be embarked as secretly as possible from Governor's Island, thus substituting a weak, unarmed, side - wheel merchantman and lately recruited men for the powerful man-of-war and seasoned soldiers.


To suppose such a change more conducive to secrecy was perfectly vain, as was shown by its publication broadcast. The details left to General Scott were carried out at New York by Lieutenant

1 Buchanan to Thompson, January 9, 1861, Curtis, Buchanan, II., 402.

2 Buchanan, in National Intelligencer, October 28, 1862; Curtis, Buchanan, II., 447; Buchanan, Administration on Eve of Rebellion, 189, 190. 3 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 128.

VOL. XIX.-15


Colonel Lorenzo Thomas, the assistant adjutantgeneral on his staff. The ship was cleared as if for her regular trip, the provisions bought as for the ship's account, and at 5 P.M., January 5, an hour of darkness at this season, she left her wharf, stopped off S'a en Island, received aboard from a tug four officers and two hundred men, and stood to sea. A New York paper of the same afternoon announced the mover eat.' The news appeared also in the Constitutiof Washington), January 8, a fact upon whi. Secretary Thompson based his right to telegraph the news the same day to Charleston. Senator Wigfall also telegraphed on the 8th, so that Charleston was fully informed the evening before the ship's arrival. Colonel Thomas sent a letter from New York, January 5, to Anderson, of general advice regarding the movement, which directed him, "should a fire, likely to prove injurious, be opened upon any vessel bringing reinforcements or supplies, or upon tow boats within reach of your guns, they may be employed to silence such fire: and you may act in like manner in case a fire is opened upon Fort Sumter itself." 2

This letter, which should have been sent by a special messenger in the inception of the arrangement, did not reach Anderson in time, his only intimation of the ship's coming being a paragraph in a Charleston evening paper of January 8, which 1 Crawford, Fort Sumter, 176.

2 War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 132.

« PreviousContinue »