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Full text of "Major Robert Anderson and Fort Sumter, 1861"



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Major Robert Anderson 

and 

Fort Sumter 
1861 



By 

Eba Anderson Lawton 



XLbc fmicfeerbocfter press 

New York 

1911 



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Copyright, 1911 

BY 

EBA ANDERSON LAWTON 



TZbc fmicfcerbocfter press, mew Jt?ock 






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©CI.A286398 



The Defence of Fort Sumter — a 

Record of the Actual History 

of the Events 

On this, the fiftieth anniversary of the De- 
fence of Fort Sumter by Major Robert 
Anderson, I am writing to present for the 
veterans who have memory of the events and 
for the generation which has grown up since 
the War, a correct narrative of what actually 
happened and to correct various mis-state- 
ments and misapprehensions which have, dur- 
ing the past half century, been permitted to 
confuse the history. 

If the question were to-day asked who was 
General Anderson, the answer from many 
citizens of this younger generation might 
easily be " I never heard of him." Others 
would say: "He was in command of Fort 
Sumter; he surrendered the Fort." 

The services of this American patriot and 



all that he suffered for the cause of his idol- 
ized country and in the fulfilment of his duty 
to the Government, his dignified silence under 
ingratitude and lack of appreciation, his 
modesty in leaving credit to be given to others 
for work planned and carried out by himself, 
his self-effacement during the days of the 
bombardment and during the later long 
months of the War; — these are to be recorded 
in the full Memoirs, which will present the 
Life of Robert Anderson told in his diary and 
letters, and which is shortly to be published by 
G. P. Putnam's Sons of New York and 
London. The present monograph has to do 
simply with the record of Anderson's service 
in Port Moultrie and Fort Sumter and with 
the replacing of the flag over Sumter in April, 
1865. 

It is time that Americans generally, and 
particularly the young people of the present 
generation, should know something about the 
real character and service of this patriot and 
earnest Christian. 



3 

At the time Major Anderson, who had just 
been promoted to the First Artillery, was 
placed in command at Fort Moultrie, he had 
personal acquaintance with none of the offi- 
cers at Moultrie. He found the Fort in a 
dilapidated condition. The garrison was ab- 
surdly small and all the munitions were in a 
condition of chaos. He realized that the peo- 
ple of Charleston were highly excited and 
that the authority of the United States was 
likely to be assailed. Anderson at once made 
a full report to Washington and demanded 
immediate reinforcements. 

Oh the 11th of December, Major Ander- 
son received instructions brought to him by 
Major Buell, which instructions were at once 
committed to writing. On Sunday, the 23d, 
a sealed letter was handed to him by Major 
Withers, Assistant Adjutant-General, which 
letter had been written by Floyd, Secretary 
of War. The letter is reproduced in fac- 
simile with this. 

The readers of to-day will realize the in- 



4 

famy of the instructions given to Major 
Anderson by the official in authority, the Sec- 
retary of War. The public orders were to 
defend the Fort to the last extremity. The 
secret " confidential " order instructed the 
Major to give up the Fort without a fight. 
It is an evidence of the loyal reticence of the 
man that he kept this secret to himself through- 
out his life. 

If Major Anderson had made public that 
confidential order, the whole condition of 
affairs might have been changed. 

It is probable that the White House would 
have been mobbed and Buchanan, the weak- 
kneed President, and Floyd and the other 
men in authority, who were traitors to their 
oath, would have been justly called to 
account. 

Major Anderson had, from his childhood, 
been brought up with a reverence and love 
not only for his country, but for his Govern- 
ment. He had a full heritage of loyal patriot- 
ism, for his father had been an officer in 



5 

Washington's army and his mother was a 
cousin of Chief Justice Marshall. It was his 
loyalty to the Government that kept him from 
allowing anything to be known of this in- 
famous order, because he realized that any 
such knowledge could only have brought the 
Government into contempt. No one but his 
Father in Heaven knew of this dastardly at- 
tempt that had been made to brand him in the 
eyes of the world as a traitor to his trust and to 
the Government, which would, of course, have 
denounced him had he obeyed the confidential 
order. 

In this emergency, Anderson turned to God 
in prayer, and under the divine guidance he 
was able to escape the snare that had been 
set for him. 

On the 26th of December, 1860, he aban- 
doned Fort Moultrie and moved his force to 
Fort Sumter, and not until the order was 
given to man the boats did even his officers 
know of his intention. At Sumter, the flag 
was raised with prayer. 



Promptly from Washington came a tele- 
gram, which with answer is presented below: 

Received at Charleston, Dec. 27, 1860, at 2 o'clock 
p. m. By Telegraph from Washington, 27th, 
to Ma j. R. Anderson, U. S. A. 

Fort Moultrie. 

" Intelligence has reached here this morn- 
ing that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie, 
spiked your guns, burnt the carriages, and 
gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed, be- 
cause there is no order for any such movement. 
Explain the meaning of this report. 

" J. B. Floyd, 

" Sec'ij of War." 

Answer: " The telegram is correct. I 
abandoned Fort Moultrie because I was cer- 
tain that, if attacked, my men must have been 
sacrificed and the command of the harbor lost. 
I spiked the guns and destroyed the carriages 
to keep the guns from being used against us. 



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If attacked, the garrison would never have 
surrendered without a fight. 

" Robert Anderson, 

" Major 1st Arty. Comdg. 
" Fort Sumter, S. C, 

" 4 p. m., Dec. 27, '60." 

On the back of the telegram is written by 
Major Anderson the rough draft of his re- 
ply. It is interesting to note, in connection 
with Floyd's order, Anderson's answer that 
"the garrison would never have surrendered 
without a fight." This is the officer who, by 
some, was stigmatized as " not loyal to the 
Union." There are few parallel cases in his- 
tory. Many men have died for their country, 
but few have been so devoted in their loyalty 
as to be prepared, even at the risk of loss of 
reputation, to protect their government from 
contempt. The flag-staff at Fort Moultrie, 
where Jasper in the old days had raised the 
national flag, was cut down by the order of 
Major Anderson who said, "No other flag 



8 

but the Stars and Stripes shall ever float from 
that staff." 

In one of the obituary notices that came 
into print after Anderson's death, an officer 
raises the claim that he had advised Anderson 
to transfer his force from Moultrie to Sumter. 
A letter from this same officer will be given in 
the forthcoming Memoir, and the world will 
be able to judge between the words that were 
given before and those written after the death 
of Major Anderson. 

Further evidence in regard to the respon- 
sibility for the transfer is given in the letter 
here cited from Major Anderson to his wife: 

" Fort Sumter, S. C, 

" 8 p. m., Dec. 26, I860. 
" Thanks be to God. I give them with my 
whole heart for His having given me the will, 
and shewn me the way to bring my command 
to this Fort. I can now breathe freely. The 
whole force of S. Carolina would not ven- 
ture to attack us. Our crossing was accom- 



9 

plished between six and eight o'clock. I am 
satisfied that there was no suspicion of what 
we were going to do. I have no doubt that 
the news of what I have done will be tele- 
graphed to New York this night. We saw 
signal rockets thrown up all around just as 
our last boat came over. I have not time to 
write more — as I must make my report to the 
Ad. Genl. . . . Praise be to God for His 
merciful kindness to us. I think that the 
whole country North and South should thank 
Him for this step." 

During weary months, with no instruc- 
tions, or no comprehensible instructions, from 
the Government, Anderson was left to his own 
responsibility. The harbor was closed, so 
that no reinforcements could reach him. 
Provisions from Charleston were stopped and 
batteries were erected around the doomed fort. 
Anderson was, as he pitifully expressed it, like 
" a sheep tied watching the butcher sharpening 
a knife to cut his throat." By orders subse- 



10 



quently received, he had been forbidden to open 
fire unless Fort Sumter was actually attacked. 

A devoted friend wrote Major Anderson 
that he had heard from Colonel Lamon — who 
had been sent from Washington to report on the 
condition of affairs, — that he intended to blow 
up the Fort. I quote part of his answer: 

" I do not, of course, know what terms Col- 
onel Lamon used in repeating the declaration 
referred to. So great was the excitement in 
S. Carolina against this command, when I 
came into this Fort, and for weeks afterwards, 
that I was satisfied, that, if attacked, and over- 
come, not a soul would have been left alive, and 
I did, during that time, say, more than once, 
that, rather than let my garrison suffer that 
fate, I would blow up the Fort as they entered 
the walls, and all who might be in it. I told 
Colonel Lamon that I had made that remark. 

" Cut off from all intercourse with my Gov- 
ernment, I have been compelled to act accord- 
ing to the dictates of my own judgment, and, 
had the contingency referred to, arisen, I 



II 



should, after prayerfully appealing to God, 
to teach me my duty, have cheerfully and 
promptly performed it. 

" You have not time, my dear General, to 
read, nor have I time to detail, the delicate 
and important points which have arisen since 
I have been in this harbour. I have tried to 
perform all my duty, and I trust that I have, 
by the blessing of God, so acted, that the most 
searching investigation shall show that I have 
done nothing amiss. 

" I must say that I think the Gov. has 
left me too much to myself — has not given 
me instructions, even when I have asked for 
them — and that responsibilities of a higher and 
more delicate character have devolved upon 
me than was proper — and I frankly say that 
such is the fact at this present moment. 

" Were it not for my humble, but firm re- 
liance upon God, my heart would have no 
spring, no hope — but I know that He will, 
in His own time, dispel the clouds which now 
hang over our Country, and give us Light." 



12 

Offers came from the Confederate author- 
ities to this commander, seemingly abandoned 
by his Government, which allowed him to 
withdraw his garrison, taking with him all 
the property, public and private, and saluting 
his flag. The promise was given that the 
garrison would be sent to any point of the 
United States that Anderson might select. 
This offer was respectfully declined. Ander- 
son stood undaunted, firm in his faith that God 
would show the way. 

On the morning of the 12th of April, just 
fifty years ago, the rebel force, about ten thou- 
sand strong, opened fire upon the devoted 
garrison, which comprised in all, officers, non- 
commissioned officers, privates, and the band, 
some sixty men. 

After a glorious resistance, the Fort was 
evacuated; the terms of evacuation being the 
same that had been offered and refused a few 
days before. " That flag which has been 
raised with prayer, shall never be lowered 
except with honor." 



13 

The rebels lined their batteries and cheered 
the garrison as the men left the Fort and 
passed out to the fleet beyond the bar. The 
garrison reached New York on the 19th of 
April, 1861. 

The enthusiasm was unbounded. The whole 
Country realized that the honor of the Nation 
had been fully vindicated by his loyalty. 

Even those who later, either through jeal- 
ousy or personal enmity, tried to belittle him, 
joined in the universal praise. I quote from 
a letter of one of his officers to him at this 
time : " The whole Country looks to you with 
a depth of affection which has not had its 
parallel since the days of Washington." 

These honeyed words were from the same 
officer who, after Major Anderson's lips were 
sealed in death, dared to say that his Com- 
mander was not a Union man. 

In answer to the false statement that An- 
derson had surrendered the fort, I give a copy 
of his despatch to the Government of April 
18th: 



14 

" Steamship ' Baltic ' off Sandy Hook, 
"April 18, 1861. 10:30 a.m., via New York. 

" Having defended Fort Sumter for thirty- 
four hours, until the quarters were entirely 
burned, the main gates destroyed by fire, the 
gorge walls seriously impaired, the magazine 
surrounded by flames, and its door closed 
from the effects of the heat, four barrels and 
three cartridges of powder only being avail- 
able, and no provisions remaining but pork, 
I accepted terms of evacuation offered by 
General Beauregard (being the same offered 
by him on the 11th instant, prior to the com- 
mencement of hostilities) and marched out of 
the Fort on Sunday afternoon, the 14th in- 
stant, with colors flying and drums beating, 
bringing away company and private property, 
and saluting my flag with fifty guns. 
" Robert Anderson, 
" Major First Artillery, 

" Hon. Simon Cameron, 

" Secretary of War, 

" Washington, D. C." 



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15 

His health was completely shattered — 
from the fearful responsibility resting upon 
him for so many months, acting upon a con- 
stitution enfeebled from want of food and 
sleep. But when the Legislature of Kentucky 
notified him through the President that he 
was the only Union officer whom the State 
would allow to raise troops within her terri- 
tory, he answered the call. He did not care 
or think of himself, his whole heart and soul 
were absorbed in his determination to save his 
State " from the sin of secession," and he ac- 
complished the task. After organizing the 
Army of the Cumberland, and leaving his old 
Lieutenants Thomas and Sherman to go on 
with the work — then and not until then was 
he forced to ask to be relieved. He was never 
after that date on active service. But what 
a glorious war record! He saved his coun- 
try's honor in Charleston Harbor, and kept 
old Kentucky a Union State. 

I want also to emphasize with the readers 
of this generation certain things that were 



16 

not fully understood by men whose loyalty 
was of a less exalted type than that which char- 
acterized Anderson. He was born in Ken- 
tucky, but the early influences that surrounded 
him were all in favor of the support of the 
Union. Anderson knew no North and no 
South. When still young he left home for 
West Point, and from the time of his entry 
into the army to the close of his service his 
duties had carried him into nearly every part 
of the United States. 

He was nothing of a politician. He never 
voted in his life, having an old-fashioned idea 
that a soldier owed his allegiance to the Gov- 
ernment no matter of what party, and that 
therefore he had no business to have any 
political bias. 

His feeling about the duty of a soldier 
can be well illustrated by his remarks to 
an officer from the South, who said that 
while he loved the flag, he loved his State 
better, and who had convinced himself that 
his duty lay with his State. Major Ander- 



17 

son's reply was: "The selection of the 
place in which we were born was not an act of 
our own volition; but when we took the oath 
of allegiance to our Government, it was an 
act of our manhood, and that oath we cannot 
break." 

An expression has been quoted by some who 
could not understand his absolute devotion to 
the cause of the Union. The words were: 
" My heart is not in this war." I quote what 
my father often said and what he felt from 
his very heart. His love was for the whole 
country. 

" Our Southern brethren have done griev- 
ously wrong, they have rebelled and have at- 
tacked their father's house and their loyal 
brothers. They must be punished and 
brought back, but this necessity breaks my 
heart." Is this loyalty or treason? 

On the 14th of April, 1865, the original 
flag which had been taken down by Major 
Anderson was again raised by him over the 
ruins of Fort Sumter. I give a facsimile of 



i8 

the order for the raising. That flag now 
rests in a glass case in the office of the 
Secretary of War in Washington with this 
inscription : 

" This flag floated over Fort Sumter, South 
Carolina, during the bombardment April 12th 
and 13th, 1861, and upon the evacuation of 
the fort, April 14th, 1861, was saluted and 
lowered by Major Robert Anderson, First 
U. S. Artillery, Commanding. On April 
14th, 1865, Brevet Major-General Anderson 
raised this same flag and planted it upon the 
ruins of Fort Sumter, when it was saluted 
by one hundred guns and by a National 
salute from every fort and battery that fired 
upon Fort Sumter." 

To all children of the present day, I com- 
mit this brief sketch of the services rendered 
by Major Anderson to his country during the 
bombardment of Fort Sumter. Let his ex- 
ample of devotion as a Christian, as a soldier, 
and as a patriot be for you a guide and in- 
centive. Never forget that this Christian 



19 

soldier loved his country next to his God. 
Take for your watchword the words of Mr. 
Crittenden in his farewell address to the 
Senate : 

" Long after Fort Sumter shall have crum- 
bled away, brightly will stand forth the ex- 
ample of Anderson as that of a soldier true 
to his standard, and of an American true to 
his country." 



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