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NPS History E-Library

Civil War Series

Five Flags Over Fort Sumter



The sun had just burned away behind the city of Charleston on the day after Christmas 1860 when a depleted company of United States soldiers marched down the sandy shore of Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, and climbed into three boats. They lay their muskets below the gunwales. and with six men at the oars of each boat they began pulling for Fort Sumter, a mile away across the main ship channel. As the tiny flotilla glided into the still winter water, the shadow of Fort Moultrie rose low and ominous behind them, along with an assortment of seaside lodgings including the big Moultrie House, to which Carolina planters had been wont to send their families in the heat of summer.

The enlisted men in those boats belonged to Company F, First U.S. Artillery, which—with Company H and the regimental band—composed the garrison of Fort Moultrie. Most of them had spent more than three years here, and they treasured the place as one of the most desirable assignments in the country. The resort community on the beach and the proximity of the city offered amusements unknown to most army posts: many of these men had served on the swampy, isolated coast of Florida or on the frontier, so they doubtless left Moultrie with regrets.


Leading the expedition was Major Robert Anderson, a fifty-five-year-old Kentuckian who had spent nearly four decades serving the flag that he now carried tucked beneath his arm: His father had done so before him and had also held the rank of major when, during the Revolution, he served in another Fort Moultrie on this same spot. Behind Anderson, the second boat was commanded by Lieutenant Richard Kidder Meade, Jr., a young Virginian who within six months would exchange his blue uniform for a gray one—and die wearing it. Captain Abner Doubleday sat in the third boat, which eventually took the lead.

Doubleday, the man once credited with organizing the modern version of baseball, watched nervously as a small steamboat approached on a course that would intersect his. That steamboat was manned by South Carolinians who now considered themselves hostile to the United States government and for whom the migration of these boats to Fort Sumter was an act of war to be stopped by force of arms. Back at Fort Moultrie, Company H stood ready to follow. A couple of officers and a handful of men stood at the lanyards of heavy guns trained on the channel if the guard boat opened fire, they had orders to blast it out of the water. Major Anderson wanted to avoid such bloodshed if possible, and he directed his own boat behind the steamer. Meade followed, but Doubleday tried to race across the path of the faster vessel. His men bent their backs willingly, but their skill with the oars left something to be desired and Doubleday realized that even in the growing darkness the South Carolinians would come close enough to make them out. Despite the winter chill, he ordered his men to doff their greatcoats and cover their muskets with them and to remove their tall black uniform hats. This gave them more of a civilian appearance, and Doubleday hoped they might pass for workmen on their way back to the unfinished fort. The ruse succeeded, and the steamer passed on.

Doubleday's was the first boat to reach the wharf at Fort Sumter. He marched his company through the gate with their muskets at the ready and collected scores of masons, carpenters, and ironworkers who lived inside. Most of them were local tradesmen and therefore disloyal to the United States, the captain reasoned, so he herded them into the barracks and placed a guard over them. Major Anderson soon arrived with the rest of Doubleday's company, and the boats returned for the balance of the Moultrie garrison.


The events that drove these soldiers into Fort Sumter had been rumbling for decades. Most of Major Anderson's men had not been born when Missouri petitioned for statehood and Northern abolitionists sought to limit slavery there. For the first time in American history the slave and the free states clashed over the conflicting moral and economic issues, but in 1820 the Missouri Compromise settled those differences temporarily: Maine was admitted as a free state and Missouri was allowed to come in with slavery. That maintained the balance of slave and free states, assuring an equal number of Senate representatives from each, but under the compromise there would be no more slave states allowed north of Missouri's southern border.

Friction between North and South arose again in the final years of that decade, when the federal government imposed a protective tariff on the importation of manufactured good's. Specifically designed to protect Northern industry, the tariff proved costly to the South, which—as a result of its dependence upon slave-labor agriculture—relied heavily on importation for such products. Vice-President John Calhoun, of South Carolina, expressed the opinion that his state had the right to nullify the tariff, and when the crisis came to a head in 1832 he resigned his office and became the spokesman for resistance to the national government. President Andrew Jackson viewed Calhoun's theory of nullification as nothing short of treason and threatened military action if any state attempted to flout federal laws or leave the Union: the Force Act of 1833, combined with a conciliatory reduction in the tariff, ended the Nullification Crisis.



Calhoun remained the chief spokesman for the slave South until his death in 1850, and South Carolina became the crucible in which Southern sentiment burned brightest. Calhoun lived just long enough to see another sectional crisis when California sought admission to the Union as a free state. He and other radicals recognized that the old political balance would be lost and that their peculiar economy would be seriously threatened by the admission of free state's from the territories ceded by Mexico: for many Southerners, the Mexican War had seemed an opportunity to gain more territory for the expansion of slavery. The governor of South Carolina was among the loudest of those who called for a convention of Southern states at Nashville, which many believed would lead to the withdrawal of those states from the Union. It took another complicated compromise to smooth over this difficulty, as Southerners accepted California in return for a strict Fugitive Slave Act aimed at preventing their chattel from escaping into free territory.

It was the turn of Northern radicals to bridle in 1854, when passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed residents of the two territories to determine for themselves whether they would apply for admission as free or slave states. Abolitionists stirred themselves to assure that Kansas came in free, some of them migrating there themselves while others supported immigration movements. The factions fell into guerrilla warfare there, and it was in Bleeding Kansas that John Brown found his calling, slaughtering settlers from slave states. The sectional conflict never really subsided thereafter, and Brown himself fueled it to fever pitch with his ill-conceived crusade to Harpers Ferry in 1859.


The turmoil over Kansas led Northern opponents of slavery to form the Republican party, through which they dedicated themselves to preventing the extension of slavery into the territories. The Republican candidate for president lost to Democrat James Buchanan in 1856, but four years later the party fielded Abraham Lincoln, a relatively unknown Illinois lawyer who had served one term in Congress. During that term, Lincoln had opposed the Mexican War, which tainted him in the eyes of militant Southerners, but the Republican platform of 1860 proved even more distasteful to the South than the party candidate. Republicans stood against the expansion of slavery, for the hated tariff, and they promised a homestead act that could only assure the population of the territories by antislavery settlers.

Southern sectionalists, particularly in South Carolina, threatened to secede from the Union if Lincoln won. There was little question that he would win, either, for the Democratic party divided itself between Stephen Douglas of Illinois and John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky, the sitting vice president. Still more Southern sympathizers were siphoned off by the nomination of John Bell, of Tennessee, who ran on a compromise Union ticket. Though he drew barely two-fifths of the popular vote, Lincoln won the election.

After it became clear that Lincoln had won, but before the secessionists began gathering, the Buchanan administration looked solicitously to its military posts in the South, and especially in South Carolina. An inspector who had visited Charleston in early November reported that the harbor defenses consisted of Fort Sumter, which was unfinished, Castle Pinckney, manned by a single ordnance sergeant, and Fort Moultrie. The garrison at Moultrie consisted of five company officers, sixty-four artillerymen, nine musicians, and a hospital steward, all under Lieutenant Colonel John L. Gardner, who had begun his military career in 1813.

Fort Moultrie did not invite confidence, the inspector noted. It had been designed to withstand assaults from seaward; it lay vulnerable to fire from sand hills and vacation houses behind the fort, and the hospital and storehouses lay outside, where they could readily be burned. There was little room inside the fort to store supplies. To make matters worse, the garrison was woefully small and in failing discipline. The enlisted men remained sufficiently obedient, but they betrayed a certain lethargy.

The inspector's report reached the desk of the adjutant general, in Washington, on November 13. Two days later, after consultation with the secretary of war, the adjutant general ordered Major Anderson to relieve Colonel Gardner. Anderson arrived on November 21, fully aware that he had undertaken a delicate, difficult, and potentially dangerous assignment.


Anderson was chosen not only for his military competence but for his Southern birth and his discretion. Fearful of inciting the South Carolinians to any overt act that would require him to respond, President Buchanan needed a soldier who was as diplomatic as he was disciplined. His secretary of war felt that Anderson would do.

At first, Anderson attended to the defenses at Fort Moultrie, mounting new guns and establishing a new routine of exercise and target practice, both with the big guns and muskets. He asked for reinforcements in Moultrie and a couple of companies for Fort Sumter, as well as half a company to lodge in Castle Pinckney and a half dozen ordnance men to prepare fixed ammunition from the loose powder and projectiles. From the reports of his officers and the comments of visitors, Anderson believed that the citizens of Charleston burned to take either Moultrie or Sumter, which commanded Moultrie, and that the attempt would be made as soon as the state seceded, if not before. And while no formal action had yet been taken toward secession, there seemed no question that it would happen.

The War Department declined to send any reinforcements, doubting that Charleston forts would be attacked.

The War Department declined to send any reinforcements, doubting that the Charleston forts would be attacked. Supplementing the garrison would only aggravate the situation, thought Secretary of War John B. Floyd.

Floyd was a Virginian. He would die in bed three years hence as a Confederate general and a bad one at that. Neither did he show much merit as a cabinet officer. He had already engaged in some shady shifting of funds for which the president had requested his resignation, and he had recently sold a goodly number of surplus army muskets to Southern states; some of those weapons had landed in South Carolina, where they were carried by militiamen hostile to the United States. Floyd was more reluctant to augment the forces under his own authority, and he made no protest about the state militia that positioned itself around the U.S. arsenal in Charleston, preventing removal of ammunition or arms by soldiers from Moultrie. Among other deficiencies, the secretary suffered from a measure of sympathy for the secessionists who threatened his soldiers, and his hesitation satisfied the timorous policy of his chief executive. The only reinforcement offered for Major Anderson's garrison was Lieutenant Meade, who was ordered down by the Engineer Department to assist in supervising construction.

In lieu of reinforcements, Anderson sought authority early in December to hire some discharged soldiers for police and fatigue duty inside Moultrie, while the senior engineer officer in the harbor, Captain John G. Foster, considered arming some of his laborers in Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney. The crews inside Sumter then numbered 115 men, most of whom were foreign-born, and at Pinckney there were 30 employed, besides a temporary work force of 125 at Moultrie. Foster asked if he could not draw a hundred smoothbore muskets to divide among the Sumter and Pinckney men. The officer in charge of the arsenal—a South Carolinian who would also become a Confederate general—declined to issue the muskets. Foster gave up the idea after a few days, deciding that even the immigrant workmen had been too thoroughly infected with secessionist doctrine to be trusted.



Foiled in every attempt to strengthen his position, Anderson began to wonder whether he would be allowed to defend his post at all, asking whether he would be able to burn down the buildings that commanded the fort from behind, or whether it would even be permissible to fire upon an armed force that approached the fort. If he were attacked he doubted that he would be able to hold out very long, and he advised ordering the engineer work stopped, lest the attacking forces reap the benefits of the improvements. He remarked that he had refrained from mounting most of the guns in Fort Sumter because, if it was not to be occupied by friendly troops, its ordinance could be used against Moultrie.

A few days later an envoy from the adjutant general arrived at Fort Moultrie, bringing verbal instructions that he put to paper once safely inside the fort. Major Don Carlos Buell expressed Floyd's belief that the South Carolinians would never try to take the Charleston forts by force, but if they did Anderson was to defend those bastions "to the last extremity." Recognizing that the size of the garrison would not allow him to defend all three forts, Floyd allowed Buell to say that Anderson could occupy any of the three he chose if the secessionists moved against them. "You are also authorized to take similar steps whenever you have tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act," Buell wrote, in concluding his memorandum on Floyd's instructions. That sentence offered the only evidence that Floyd did not intend to sacrifice the men of Fort Moultrie, and Anderson remembered it. Three days after Buell's visit Anderson apprised Washington that it was generally believed the Carolinians would take Sumter first and use the guns there to pound Moultrie into submission.


"I shall, of course, prepare here for the worst," he promised.

As Christmas neared, delegates gathered for a secession convention. Fearful of mob action, Captain Foster finally drew forty muskets from the arsenal to defend Sumter and Pinckney. He did so under an old requisition, bypassing the officer who had refused him earlier, but citizens who learned of it demanded that he return the weapons. Under the pressure of those citizens, the military storekeeper at the arsenal asked Foster to do so, but Foster forwarded the question to Washington. It seemed that the South Carolina authorities had been promised that no weapons would be taken by the U.S. garrison, so in a midnight decision Floyd directed that Foster return the old smoothbores. He did so on December 20.


That same day, South Carolina newspapers announced that the convention had adopted an ordinance of secession. At least as far as South Carolina authorities were concerned, their state had become an independent nation. Faced with that development and the agitation over Captain Foster's muskets, John Floyd apparently reconsidered his confidence in the restraint of Charleston mobs and militia, and he modified his instruction that Anderson should hold his position "to the last extremity."

"It is neither expected nor desired that you should expose your own life or that of your men in a hopeless conflict in defense of these forts," Floyd said. He neither reiterated nor retracted his permission to occupy whichever facility Anderson deemed most defensible, but that may have been an oversight; it happened that President Buchanan had implied a promise that no such changes would be made.


Commissioners traveled to Washington from South Carolina to discuss the status of the forts, and Charleston steamers began patrolling both Castle Pinckney and Fort Sumter. Major Anderson detected one steamer lying between Moultrie and Sumter, as though to resist any transfer of troops, and he heard that some of the workmen inside Sumter were wearing the blue secession cockade.

Writing separately to his own superiors at the Engineer Department, Captain Foster asked what to do about his work on the forts. He had masons hard at work on Moultrie, preparing it for an assault from land, but Sumter was defended by a single enlisted man and his efforts there would prove futile if it were assailed. The engineer in charge at Washington referred a copy of Foster's letter to the secretary of war with an "earnest request" for instructions, but Floyd did not reply. Two days later the engineer took Foster's letter to Floyd's office and read it to him personally, but the secretary declined to offer any direction and refused even an offered copy of the letter.

By then it no longer mattered. Anderson had spirited his garrison away to Fort Sumter, and in the resulting furor Floyd would leave office without bothering to submit a resignation, claiming that he did not wish to be a party to coercion. That sounded more appealing than a departure compelled by his mishandling of funds.

By the morning of December 27, smoke rose from the smoldering gun carriages in Fort Moultrie. At noon that day, Major Anderson gathered his little force on the parade ground inside Fort Sumter. He brought his men to attention while his aging chaplain, Matthias Harris, voiced a prayer, then Anderson raised his cherished flag with its thirty-three stars while the band bellowed a salute. He was interrupted shortly thereafter by a visit from Colonel James J. Pettigrew, an aide to Governor Francis Pickens, who asked him to return to Fort Moultrie and reprimanded him for violating the agreement against reinforcing Fort Sumter. Anderson denied knowledge of any such agreement, pointed out that he had merely transferred his garrison rather than reinforcing anything, and said he could not and would not return to Moultrie.

In the afternoon Colonel Pettigrew approached Castle Pinckney with some South Carolina infantry, scaled the wall, and demanded possession in the name of the governor. Lieutenant Meade, who had returned during the night, yielded the place and proceeded to Fort Sumter. The rear guard at Fort Moultrie, including Surgeon Samuel W. Crawford, Captain Foster, and Mrs. Foster, departed at sundown in the last lighter, and that evening most of a South Carolina regiment appeared on Sullivan's Island to wrest Moultrie from the lone engineer sergeant who had been left in charge. In Charleston, troops seized the arsenal, the post office, and the customs house.



In Washington, members of the Buchanan administration viewed the news with either dismay or glee, depending upon their political sentiments. Floyd raged over the allegedly broken pledge and insisted that Anderson be ordered back to Moultrie, but Northern cabinet officers held firmly against such a course. Buchanan cringed under the criticism of both his militant department secretaries and the South Carolina commissioners, vexed at the necessity of making a decision. Winfield Scott, the enormous old general in chief, stirred himself from a sickbed to advise the administration not only to sustain Anderson's actions but to support him with troops and ships.

To the surprise of many, the equivocating Buchanan took Anderson's side however reluctantly. On the last day of 1860 the president wrote a long letter to the Carolina commissioners explaining the miscommunication that led Anderson, on Floyd's independent instructions, to an apparent violation of the assurances that Buchanan had given. He refused to remove the garrison from Sumter and promised to defend the fort. What was more, when General Scott asked for presidential permission to send Anderson reinforcements secretly without notifying Floyd, Buchanan agreed.

Major Anderson found himself within a veritable castle on a reinforced sandbar between Sullivan's Island and James Island. The work had been begun in 1829, just as the first secession sentiment took root in South Carolina, but most of the first two decades had been spent building up the artificial island on which it sat. The thick masonry walls of the fort did not begin to take shape until the 1840s, and they had climbed slowly over the intervening years until they hovered nearly forty feet above the water. Two tiers of embrasures stared from four of the fort's five faces, and a third, "barbette," tier was planned for the terreplein along the parapet.

While the exterior of Fort Sumter was complete, a great deal remained to be done inside. The Engineer Department had increased the work force to over a hundred men in August 1860, by which time the disintegration of the Democratic party had all but assured the Republican victory on which South Carolina had promised to secede. Over the summer and fall the masons had finished the casemate arches to support the second tier of guns, laid the granite flagstones for part of the second tier, and put down the tracks for the first-tier guns. The floors and stairways in the east barracks were finished when the garrison moved in, and bricklayers had begun work on the embrasures of the second tier.

In the days before the evacuation of Fort Moultrie Captain Foster's assistant, First Lieutenant George W. Snyder, drove the workmen to mount Sumter's guns as quickly as possible. Major Anderson had objected to that, arguing that they could be used against Moultrie, but now he had cause to appreciate Snyder's efforts. Of the eighty-one guns within the fort, fifteen sat on carriages ready for use, including eleven 32-pounders aimed at Moultrie from the first tier. One more 32-pounder had been placed on the only portion of the second tier that had been floored, along the right flank, while three 24-pounders peered over the left gorge angle from the barbette tier.


For all Snyder's diligence, most of the first tier and all but one unfinished embrasure in the second offered potential assailants vulnerable apertures rather than the ominous mouths of cannon. Sixty-six more dismounted guns and their carriages littered the parade, among them several 42-pounders, ten 8-inch guns, and some huge 10-inch Columbiads. Powder and shot sufficient for 5,600 rounds lay piled alongside this disassembled ordinance. Snyder resumed work as soon as the new inhabitants had settled in, and on December 29 alone he supervised the mounting of three more guns. Meanwhile. Carolinians occupied Fort Johnson, on James Island, and began throwing up gun emplacements on Morris Island, at the entrance to the harbor.

Designed for a garrison of 650, the place seemed crowded with barely half that many people because of the unfinished quarters and the encumbrances on the parade. With the engineers, the troops from Moultrie, and Ordnance Sergeant James Kearney, who had stood guard over Sumter, Major Anderson counted nine officers and seventy-seven enlisted men, not all of whom were ready for duty. Forty-six women and children lodged with these soldiers; it was customary in those days for garrison soldiers to house their families on the post. Between the employees from Moultrie and those already within Sumter there were also 205 laborers. Anderson housed the laborers in the completed barracks building and moved both the officers and the enlisted men, with all the women and children, into the officers' quarters. The forts stores could not last long with that many mouths to feed.


It was the intention of Winfield Scott that Anderson should have more provisions, as well as a couple of hundred more men to share them. On the evening of January 5, 1861, under the direction of First Lieutenant Charles R. Woods, three officers and 200 recruits from Fort Columbus transferred from a tugboat to the steamer Star of the West in New York Harbor.

The next day, Major Anderson was called to the wharf at Fort Sumter to greet a boat carrying his wife, his brother, and Peter Hart, who had served as a sergeant in Anderson's company during the Mexican War. He learned from them, finally, that the administration did not intend to order him back to Moultrie. The visitors knew nothing of the mission undertaken by the Star of the West, however, for that was still supposed to be secret. Corrupted rumors of the ship's departure had leaked out nonetheless, and Charleston authorities would be on the lookout for it.

That evening Mrs. Anderson and the major's brother returned to Charleston for the long trip north. Peter Hart, whose presence Mrs. Anderson believed to be a great personal consolation to her husband, remained behind at the sufferance of South Carolina officials, but not as a soldier. He was permitted to stay in the fort as a civilian workman, and Captain Foster put him to work as a carpenter.

On the night of January 8, aboard the Star of the West, Lieutenant Woods issued his men arms and ammunition, and at midnight the ship appeared off Charleston. South Carolina officials had extinguished the lighthouse lamps, but the pilot took his bearings with the light from Fort Sumter. Just before daylight of January 9 a patrol boat appeared off the main channel and signaled the stranger before turning back to spread the alarm. Rockets soared upward from the guard boat, but the Star of the West steamed toward the harbor, hugging the channel off the shore of Morris Island and flying the U.S. ensign from the fantail. On the island sat a crude coastal battery manned by cadets from the Citadel. A seventeen-year-old gunner tightened one of the lanyards, giving it a sharp pull at the word of his commander.



The shot flew across the bow of the steamer, and an angry Lieutenant Woods ran up a larger flag. That merely invited more gunfire. A few rounds flew over the ship, one lodged near the rudder, and one skimmed off the water to strike just above the waterline and just below the leadsman, who was testing the depth of the water.

On the ramparts at Sumter, a sentinel called for Major Anderson. Every officer in the fort soon stood on the parapet, watching the unarmed steamer defy the Morris Island battery and cruise into the harbor. At less than a mile's distance Fort Moultrie opened on her, too, and as the Sumter gun crews stood ready their officers fell into debate over whether to return the fire. The captains and lieutenants Truman and Snyder, Northerners all, urged Anderson to open his guns on Moultrie, at least. Meade the Virginian and Lieutenant Theodore Talbot, a native of Kentucky, advised against it in fear that it would inaugurate civil war; they were joined by First Lieutenant Jefferson C. Davis, who suggested that the major demand first whether Governor Pickens had ordered the batteries to fire on the flag. Anderson, who had promised to avoid any action that might precipitate war, decided to take that course.

Perceiving that no one at Sumter was going to help him and that patrol boats might cut off his escape, Lieutenant Woods ordered the captain to turn about and make for the open sea again. The Morris Island battery kept up a futile fire until the Star of the West scraped back across the bar, after which the Citadel cadets and the garrison of Fort Sumter both watched the ship sail out of sight.

Major Anderson sent a messenger to Pickens, asking him to disclaim any complicity. If the governor failed to do so, Anderson warned that he would fire on any vessel that came within range of his guns. Pickens instead took full credit for the incident. Anderson then put off his threat long enough to communicate with his government, asking Pickens for permission to send an envoy. Late that night Lieutenant Talbot, weakened by the tuberculosis that would kill him and Snyder within months, started for Washington.

Lieutenant Talbot reached Washington within the week. The new secretary of war, Joseph Holt, replied to Talbot's rendition of the affair by remarking that the attack was an unprovoked act of war which, if undertaken by a foreign power, would have merited immediate and overwhelming retaliation. But he approved of Anderson's restraint on the grounds that the ship was fired upon by "the government of South Carolina, which is a member of this confederacy," thus refusing to recognize the secession resolution. Holt nevertheless avoided anything that smacked of aggression in return; he mentioned that the garrison did not appear to be in any immediate danger and therefore decided not to attempt any more reinforcements for the moment. He instructed the major to report frequently on his situation, and especially on any apparent preparations to attack the fort or block aid from Washington.

"Whenever," Holt wrote, "in your judgment, additional supplies or reenforcements are necessary for your safety, or for a successful defense of the fort, you will at once communicate the fact to this Department, and a prompt and vigorous effort will be made to forward them." Yet in that same letter Holt admitted that such an attempt "would, no doubt, be attended by a collision of arms and the effusion of blood."



Talbot returned to the fort on January 19. His news cheered Major Anderson and his officers, as did a warm message from General Scott, which was read to the garrison at the evening parade.

The political situation began to change rapidly now. On the same day the guns opened on the Star of the West, Mississippi seceded from the Union. The next day Florida went out and Alabama the day after that. By the end of the month Georgia and Louisiana followed suit, and Texas announced its independence on the first of February. Within another week delegates from the seven states convened at Montgomery, Alabama, and adopted a constitution. Acting as the provisional government of the Confederate States of America, on February 15 that convention passed a resolution to take both Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens, on Florida's Gulf coast, and to do it by force if necessary.

All the while, Major Anderson applied himself as though it were up to him to hold the fort as long as possible against the entire Confederacy. He sent away all but the fifty-five most trustworthy of his workmen, sought permission to remove the women and children to New York, and argued with South Carolina authorities about the delivery of meat and vegetables from the city. As January waned be counted thirty-eight barrels of pork in the storehouse, with thirty-seven barrels of flour, thirteen barrels of hardtack, two barrels of beans, one of coffee, and half a barrel of sugar. By the end of the month the labor force had been further reduced to forty-three men, and the women and children were packing to leave.

Half the women and all the children were supposed to be fed from the groceries delivered from Charleston, which had to be purchased privately from the individual soldier's pocket. Some of the enlisted men's wives worked as laundresses for the garrison, though, and were therefore eligible to draw rations from the government supply; once they were gone, Major Anderson was confident that he would at least have plenty of bread and pork to last until spring.

Those who remained toiled steadily on the defenses. By January 21 Anderson could boast that fifty-one of his guns were in place, including three huge howitzers aimed at the gate. Three of the 10-inch Columbiads and four of the 8-inch version lay on the parade, waiting to be buried at sharp angles as mortars; no carriages were available for them, so the engineers intended to fix them in permanent positions aimed at Morris Island, Fort Moultrie, and toward the city. At the same time, South Carolinians strengthened their batteries on Sullivan's Island, at Fort Johnson, and on Cummings Point, the nearest end of Morris Island. Anderson estimated that the governor had two thousand men under arms around the harbor.

Relations between the garrison and the secessionists had not deteriorated completely, however. Officers' boats still plied back and forth between the fort and the city, a Charleston butcher continued to supply the soldiers with fresh beef, and on one occasion in January Lieutenant Davis accompanied a number of the enlisted men to the courthouse to observe a murder trail. Fort Sumter still received its mail from an officer of the militia, but Major Anderson felt so isolated from the city that when he sent another envoy to Washington he asked the adjutant general to supply that officer with some stationery.


Anderson wrote daily to the War Department, numbering his letters so Secretary Holt could detect missing correspondence and observe any interruption of the service. Although gummed envelopes had come into common use by 1861, the major sealed his letters with wax, hoping that the Washington officials would be able to determine whether unauthorized persons had inspected his correspondence.

On the first of February the women and children boarded a lighter at the wharf, transferring later to a steamer. The officers' wives had already departed the fort for lodging in Charleston, but twenty women and twenty-two children left with this last contingent. Surgeon Crawford counted five infants among them, although no one recorded any births taking place inside Fort Sumter. Fierce weather prevented their ship from starting for New York until the afternoon of February 3.

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