President-Elect Lincoln Gets Back-Channel Update from Fort Sumter
Captain Abner Doubleday, in Fort Sumter during the perilous winter of 1860-1861, wrote his brother Ulysses in New York about disagreements with his commanding officer, Major Robert Anderson. Ulysses forwarded some of these letters to President-Elect Lincoln in Springfield, who was closely monitoring the situation in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The shots fired there three months later began the Civil War.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, Autograph Letter Signed, to Ulysses Doubleday, January 24, 1861, Springfield, Illinois. 1 p., 4.75” x 7.75”. Archivally framed 28" x 26”.
Springfield, Ills. Jan. 24, 1861
U. Doubleday, Esq
My dear Sir
Yours of the 15th inclosing that which I now return was duly received, and for which I thank you.
I have neglected for a few days to return the inclosed.
Abner Doubleday (1819-1893) was born in New York, graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1842, and married Mary Hewitt (1823-1907) of Baltimore in 1852. In 1858, he was assigned to Fort Moultrie in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. By the beginning of 1861, Doubleday was one of three captains under the command of Major Robert Anderson.
Abner kept up a steady correspondence with his brother Ulysses Doubleday, a banker and stock broker in New York City. As early as September 29, 1860, Ulysses forwarded two of his brother’s letters to Republican presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln informing him of “the purpose of the Charlestonians to seize the forts in their harbor.”
After Lincoln’s election in November 1860, several southern states began the process of seceding from the Union, with South Carolina leading the way by adopting an ordinance of secession on December 20. Even before that, in Charleston, men were openly preparing for an assault on Fort Moultrie. As Mary Doubleday wrote to her brother-in-law, Ulysses: “the Charlestonians are erecting two batteries, one just opposite us, at a little village, Mount Pleasant, and another on the end of this island; and they dare the commander to interfere while they are getting ready to fight sixty men. In this weak little fort I suppose President Buchanan and Secretary Floyd intend the southern confederacy to be cemented with the blood of this brave little garrison.” In a postwar reminiscence, Abner Doubleday wrote of his wife’s letter, “By some means it found its way into the columns of the Evening Post, and did much to call attention to the subject, and awaken the Northern people to a true sense of the situation.”
President James Buchanan’s administration was divided on their response to southern actions. Buchanan felt secession was illegal but that he was powerless to oppose it with force. Many in his cabinet fully supported the southern states. His Secretary of War John B. Floyd resigned on December 29, 1860, joined the Confederacy, and became a Confederate general.
On December 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson and the garrison of United States soldiers at Fort Moultrie abandoned that vulnerable post to occupy the much more defensible but still unfinished Fort Sumter on an island in the midst of Charleston harbor.
Under intense pressures, Captain Doubleday questioned the loyalty of his commanding officer, Major Anderson of Kentucky. In his reminiscences fifteen years later, Doubleday criticized many of Anderson’s actions and decisions in those fateful weeks. He was particularly irritated that Anderson did not protest the actions of South Carolina governor Francis W. Pickens: “Anderson would do nothing—not even send a communication to the governor on the subject, although the latter, without authority from the State Legislature, was thus wielding all the powers of a military dictator. The enemy were greatly emboldened at our weakness or timidity, and with good reason, for they saw us stand by with folded arms, and allow steamboat loads of ammunition and war material to pass us, on their way to Morris Island, to be used in the erection and arming of batteries to prevent any United States vessels from coming to our assistance.”
On January 9, 1861, the steamer Star of the West arrived at Charleston harbor from New York to resupply Anderson’s garrison at Fort Sumter. Cadets from the Citadel Academy fired on the Star of the West, hitting it three times but causing no major damage. The captain of the ship withdrew from the harbor without landing his supplies at Fort Sumter and returned to New York.
Of Anderson’s refusal to respond to the firing on the Star of the West without express orders from Washington, Doubleday wrote, “it was evident that time was far more valuable to the enemy than it was to us, for it enabled them to complete and arm their batteries, and close the harbor against our men-of-war, thus virtually imprisoning us in our island home.” Doubleday believed that Anderson, “in amplifying his instructions not to provoke a collision into instructions not to fight at all...thought he was rendering a real service to the country. He knew the first shot fired by us would light the flames of a civil war that would convulse the world, and tried to put off the evil day as long as possible.”
On January 8, Mary Doubleday, Eliza Bayard Anderson, and the wives of other federal officers left Charleston for the North. During the following three months, Abner Doubleday in Fort Sumter wrote several letters to his wife Mary in New York and Washington.
Within the first weeks after his inauguration as President, Lincoln called on Mary Doubleday, who was in Washington, to request that she show him letters from her husband in Fort Sumter, “so that he might form a better opinion as to the condition of affairs there.”
On April 8, 1861, a messenger from President Lincoln informed the governor of South Carolina that a naval expedition would resupply Fort Sumter, and Major Anderson received the news the following day. In his response to an April 10 demand for surrender, Anderson “politely declined to accede to this request, but stated in conversation we would soon be starved out.” Doubleday later complained, “This gratuitous information ought never to have been given to the enemy, in view of the fact that a naval expedition was on its way to us.”
From all four sides, Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter from nineteen batteries early in the morning of April 12. After a day and a half of exchanging artillery fire, Major Anderson agreed to surrender the fort. The next morning, while loading a canon for a salute to the flag, Private Daniel Hough was the only Union soldier killed in the engagement. The U.S. army forces left Fort Sumter on April 14, and arrived in New York on April 19. The Civil War had begun.
Ulysses Doubleday (1824-1893) was born in New York, the son of a Congressman and War of 1812 veteran. He was the younger brother of Abner Doubleday (1819-1893). Before the Civil War, Ulysses Doubleday was a banker and broker in New York City. He married Mary Stewart in 1850. In January 1862, he was appointed a major and commander of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery. In August, he became an aide-de-camp to his brother and held that position until he was discharged in March 1863. In October 1863, he received an appointment as lieutenant colonel of the 3rd U.S. Colored Infantry. In April 1864, he was given command of the artillery brigade in the District of Florida and resigned in October 1864. A few days later, he became colonel of the 45th U.S. Colored Infantry, then held command of brigades in the Army of the James in Virginia until the end of the war. He briefly went to Texas with his brigade in the summer of 1865 but was discharged from the service in September 1865. In January 1866, President Andrew Johnson nominated him for promotion to brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 1865, and the Senate confirmed the appointment two months later. After the war, he was a member of the New York Stock Exchange and the Union League. He retired to a large farm in western North Carolina.
Ulysses Doubleday to Abraham Lincoln, January 15, 1861, New York
[This letter is the one to which Lincoln responded.]
Bank of North America
New York Jany 15, 1861
Hon. A. Lincoln
I enclose for your perusal, and reenclosure in the accompanying envelope, a letter from Capt. Doubleday to his wife. A previous letter to me dated Jany 3d stated that men, arms and munitions of war were constantly passing Ft Sumter, to supply the battery erecting on Morris Island. That he had constantly urged Major Anderson to forbid all such supplies as were evidently intended for warlike purposes to be sent, to that post, or any other occupied by the enemy, for the purpose of cutting off the communication of the garrison with the sea, considering the keeping open of communications as one of the most vital principles of warfare. Maj. A. refused. This letter will show you that he has still further refused to do his plain duty. The phrase in the conclusion of the letter “Southerners here” refers to Maj. A. Lts. Talbot & Davis, the latter though an Indianian being a strong proslavery man. I send you this letter without my brother’s knowledge, that you may see who is, and who is not true. The condition of this garrison is this. They number 60 soldiers and 11 musicians. They have only hard bread, pork and beans enough to last with economy four months[.] They have no coal, nor any other fuel, except parts of some old buildings, enough to last about forty days. The men and officers are worn out with watching and work. The enemy are rapidly strengthening their batteries on Morris & Sullivans Islands, and have sunk vessels, loaded with stones, in the channel, so as to prevent large ships approaching Ft. S. Every day the situation of the garrison grows more critical, thanks to the vacillation and incompetency of Mr. Buchanan and Maj. Anderson. I write warmly because I see so plainly that all this could have been prevented. Depend upon it Maj. A.s heart is not with his duty.
The enclosed slip from the Evening Post shows that my view is also entertained in Charleston.
Charleston, S.C., January 11, 1861
The demonstrations going on at the North in honor of Major Anderson and in approval of his course, are a source of considerable amusement to us, who know the man and his motives. Resolutions in commendation are passed, and swords of honor voted by northern anti-slavery legislatures and popular assemblies, in view of the acts of a gentleman who has not the slightest sympathy with the principles of those who praise him, and whose every thought and feeling is with the South and her institutions. A soldier’s duty to the government which he served impelled the evacuation of Fort Moultrie and the occupation of Fort Sumter. Considerations of personal honor demand that he shall hold this latter fortress to the last extremity; and this, in accordance with orders from his government, he will undoubtedly do. At the same time, however, as evidence of how little his heart is engaged in the resistance which circumstances, in his view, have rendered necessary, he has said that he prayed God that the first shot thrown at Fort Sumter might lay him low.
To the officers of the First Regiment of rifles, who were sent by the Governor on the morning after the removal of the forces to inquire as to the object and intention of Major Anderson, that gentleman replied that the move had been made for the protection of his garrison and to avoid the shedding of blood; that he was a southerner by birth, education and feeling; that his full sympathies were with his section, and that his mind was made up to avoid firing a single gun unless compelled to do so in self-defence; that not one drop of blood should be shed if he could help it, and that his move was simply a precautionary measure against an attack which would require him to fire upon his friends. That Major Anderson was perfectly sincere in this, his well-known character for honor and veracity is of itself sufficient proof. We have, moreover, daily confirmation of his truth in the fact that steamers loaded with soldiers, cannon, horses, provisions, ammunition and laborers, are constantly passing under the guns of his fort, on their way to the forts and batteries occupied by the Carolina troops. Through his unwillingness to come into collision with those whose cause he deems so just, the state has been entirely uninterrupted in its active preparations for war. Fort Moultrie has been thoroughly repaired, Fort Johnson put in order, Fort Morris erected, and the islands at the mouth of the harbor covered with troops. These feelings on the part of Major Anderson are fully appreciated by the Governor, and all possible courtesies in the way of postal communication with his government are fully and freely granted.
As a further proof of Major Anderson’s temper and disposition toward the South, it will be remembered, that the guns fired from Fort Moultrie upon the Star of the West failed to draw a shot from Fort Sumter. The ship was beyond the reach of Fort Moultrie, and the guns were fired to see if Anderson was ready to “take up the cudgels.”
Mary Doubleday to Ulysses Doubleday, December 11, 1860, Fort Moultrie, South Carolina
Fort Moultrie, December 11, 1860
Dear — : I feel too indignant. I can hardly stand the way in which this weak little garrison is treated by the heads of the government. Troops and proper accommodation are positively refused, and yet the Commander has orders to hold and defend the fort. Was ever such a sacrifice (an intentional one) known? The Secretary has sent several officers at different times to inspect here, as if that helped. It is a mere sham, to make believe he will do something. In the meantime a crisis is very near. I am to go to Charleston the first of the week. I will not go farther if I can help it.
Within a few days we hear—and from so many sources that we cannot doubt it—that the Charlestonians are erecting two batteries, one just opposite us, at a little village, Mount Pleasant, and another on the end of this island; and they dare the commander to interfere while they are getting ready to fight sixty men. In this weak little fort I suppose President Buchanan and Secretary Floyd intend the southern confederacy to be cemented with the blood of this brave little garrison.
These names should be handed down to the end of time.
When the last man is shot down, I presume they will think of sending troops. The soldiers here deserve great credit—though they know what an unequal number is coming to massacre them, yet they are in good spirits and will fight desperately. Our Commander says he never saw such a brave little band. I feel desperate myself. Our only hope is in God. My love to father and all.
Mary Doubleday to Abraham Lincoln, ca. April 1861, [Washington, D.C.]
To the President of the United States
In looking over my letters I find there is little in them that would be either useful or interesting to you.
Capt Doubleday has been exceedingly cautious in his correspondence, as many letters written have never been received, & all were liable to inspection.
I enclose a letter of the last date, & an extract.
Should I receive anything of interest, I shall be happy to submit it for your perusal. I beg you will remember that the letter was only intended for myself.
Yours very respectfully
[Clipped excerpt enclosed, from Abner Doubleday to Mary Doubleday, ca. March 1861, Fort Sumter, South Carolina]
If Government delays many days longer it will be very difficult to relieve us in time, for the mens provisions are going fast. As for fuel I dont care. I am in favor of using the doors and flooring and gun carriages.
I shall look to see rosy cheeks & eyes bright as diamonds
[Two pages of letter enclosed, from Abner Doubleday to Mary Doubleday, March 27, 1861, Fort Sumter, South Carolina]
For Mrs. Mary Doubleday
Care of A. K. Hewitt, Esq
Bank of the Metropolis
Fort Sumter, S. C. / March 27th, 1861
My Dearest Mary
I received two letters from you to day, in which you express great weariness with respect to the painful uncertainty which surrounds us. Government must either make a bold push to relieve us or allow us to be withdrawn. There seems to be no middle course. It will soon be decided. It is useless to leave us here unless we have orders to open fire upon the batteries around us, and before we attempt this we must have provisions, and fuel
To day is my day for guard. I shall feel as badly in the morning as if I had been on the Southern Cars all night. About 4 in the morning it becomes very tedious.
Yesterday and to day letters have been passing backwards and forwards between the Major and Genl. Beauregard. I do not know what the contents were. I suppose nothing of much importance.
The hostile batteries I think must be trying to frighten us. They keep up a tremendous firing with blank cartridges, balls & shells out to sea, to show us what they can do. I suppose I have no doubt we could whip all their batteries around us in a fair fight, but then from present appearances we might ultimately have to surrender from hunger. We still have plenty to eat but it will not last long. Our flour has given out & we are eating hard bread.
[Enclosure: Abner Doubleday to Mary Doubleday, April 2, 1861, Fort Sumter, South Carolina]
For Mrs. Mary Doubleday
Care of A. K. Hewitt Esq
Bank of The Metropolis Washington D.C.
Fort Sumter, S. C.
April 2d 1861
We have no news as yet. I will keep this letter open until the mail is about to close, in hopes a messenger may be here. At present every thing seems uncertain. The dysentery has broken out among the men and the Doctor is afraid it will spread. We have three cases this morning.
Nothing from the North came yesterday as there is but one mail on Sunday. To day I hope to hear from you again.
Every one is weary of the confinement here. It is nothing but walking around the parapet, eating and sleeping.
I cannot see how this National quarrel is going to end. Every thing looks dark and yet I feel as if it would all come out right at last. The action of Virginia in refusing to let the U. S. have its own cannon is most extraordinary as that state has not seceded. How we can get along without fighting in the midst of all this lawlessness it is impossible for me to see. The only effectual aim the South has would appear to be piracy or privateering. She threatens to sieze all defenceless merchant vessels belonging to the United States & confiscate the cargoes. The North cannot retaliate as the South has few or no vessels of its own, almost all in use being hired from the North.
The mail is just in. The question of Fort Sumter does not seem to have been decided. In haste
With kisses & love
Your aff husband
Ulysses Doubleday to Abraham Lincoln, September 29, 1860, New York, New York
Bank of North America
New York Sept 29. 1860.
Hon. Abraham Lincoln.
I enclose two letters from Capt. Abner Doubleday, of the 1st Reg’t. U. S. Artillery, whose contents will explain themselves. They are the last of a large number, all, until recently, pointing to the purpose of the Charlestonians to seize the forts in their harbor. The arrival, some two weeks since, of an Engineer officer to strengthen the defences of Ft. Moultrie, led him to suppose that the open boasts of Mr. Buchanan’s sympathy and complicity with the treasonable intentions of the secessionists, were to be disproved by energetic action on his part. Capt. D. is from this state, and being an avowed Republican is looked on with much suspicion by the people around Ft. Moultrie; so much so, that we have strong suspicions some of his letters are occasinally opened. I send you these letters, not because it is more your business than mine to try and save the country from the disgrace, apparently so sure, but because the almost certainty of your election may give you means of information and an influence, which may avail to prevent it. Your success is simply a convenient pretext, for the desire to secede, my brother writes, has always been rampant in Charleston. I enclose you a map of his making, showing that if the forts once pass into the hands of the traitors, no revenue cutter could lie off, and blockade the harbor, for the first foul wind would drive her ashore. If the forts were properly manned, the attempt at secession, if made, (which is doubtful), would not succeed, for the duties would be collected at Ft. Moultrie, and postal and judicial advantages would be cut off, so that they would bear their present burdens and receive none of their present accommodations. Please return me as soon as convenient the letters and map. Mr. Chas Ridgely banker, of your city knows me; in case you should have any suspicion of a hoax, please inquire of him. Considering your election as the surest means of disabusing the Southern mind of its baseless fears, I am working for your election, though I shall never have any favors to ask of you, as President
[Enclosure: Abner Doubleday to Ulysses Doubleday, September 23, 1860, Fort Sumter, South Carolina]
For U. Doubleday Esq
Bank of North America
New York City.
Fort Moultrie, Charleston S. C.
Sept 23d 1860.
I will not write to you at present in the way I proposed for I doubt if there will be any necessity for it. A little piece of information was obtained here yesterday, which throws a new light upon the state of affairs here. I have all along been puzzled by the way the people, or rather the leaders of the people talk. Secession with (every) one I meet seems to be a foregone conclusion. They all say as a matter of course they must have the forts if they secede, and yet they do not appear to think of attacking us. They deny all intention of doing so, and no appeals are made to popular passions with reference to this place, which would be made if they really designed to take the forts with a strong hand. I think now I have obtained the key to this mystery Trescott is Asst. Sec of State, and before his late visit to this place was acting as Sec. that is, as one of the Cabinet. Being a secessionist and a leader, besides being deeply interested as a resident of the sea-board, he would be likely to ascertain the intentions of Government if any man could. Trescott stated unreservedly in his late visit here that there would be no fighting, that the administration would withdraw the troops in the harbor and give up the Forts to the south if secession took place, but that they would put a revenue cutter or a war vessel of some kind to cruise off the mouth of the harbor to prevent any exit or entrance, and would declare Charleston not a port of entry. In addition to these, all postal and telegraphic arrangements would cease.
I do not believe the Administration have the right to give up one foot of U. S. soil to the State of S. Carolina. Castle Pinckney not only commands Charleston, but the interior passage between Charleston and Savannah.
The conversation alluded to above took place between Trescot and Col. Gardner. Col. G. has now adopted some good plans of defence in case of an attack, but they require us to have ample time for preparation and due notice which in not likely to be given.
Ordering Engineers here to put these Forts in complete order at the expense of the U. S. and then turning them over in that condition to S. C. looks rather queer.
Acknowledge the receipt of my letters alphabetically.
There is a great quantity of <4> broken bone fever about, but we have escaped so far.
With love and regards to all
Your aff brother
[Enclosure: Abner Doubleday to Ulysses Doubleday, September 25, 1860, Fort Moultrie, South Carolina]
For U. Doubleday Esq
Bank of North America, Wall Street, New York,
Fort Moultrie, Charleston, S. C.
Sept 25th 1860.
A short time ago, when I saw Capt. Forster of the Engineers arrive here and commence work upon the Forts in the harbor, I naturally enough concluded that the President was opposed to secession and had determined to resist it. The fact that our recruits were ordered from New York, and the rumor that we would soon have large additions to our force from Old Point and Texas, increased my confidence in the Executive. These rumors would seem to be without foundation, and we thus present the attitude to the South of irritating them by fortifying against them, without sending any force to occupy the defences. Upon speaking to Forster on the subject, he laughed heartily, and said he had not the remotest idea that the President intended to act against the secessionists. He was sent down here in a hurry it is true, but it was in his opinion simply because the President having learned that England and France intended an armed intervention in Mexico, determined to prevent it by force, and thus had his attention drawn to the state of some of our Forts. At the same time Forster was ordered here, a squadron was sent to Vera Cruz, and Engineers ordered to Savannah. This would seem to confirm his view. I am aware a company of Artillery has been ordered to Augusta Arsenal, but Augusta is not a harbor, and a company of troops simply residing there and not living in a Fort could exert no influence against secession. The object is in all probability to guard against negro insurrection, as there must be many thousand stand of arms at the arsenal.
It appears to me if Government really intended to act against secessionists troops would have been sent first from Old Point, New York and Boston. Ordering 40 recruits here is not doing much. In nullification times it is said Gen. Scott was here with a thousand men, and had the Fort palisaded very strongly. It is certainly a compliment to Col. Gardner to suppose he can do with a hundred, what Gen. Scott was required to do with a thousand.
The fact that some flanking arrangements are being added to this work, and some loop holes made in the guard house, (the latter I think was done at our instigation by Capt. Forster,) has created some excitement among the country people in our vicinity. By all means try and obtain a file of the Charleston Mercury and post yourself up as to the feeling around us. You will see that that paper is very confident that the President is on their side, and this confidence is undoubtedly shared by the leaders. They have therefore no object in attacking us, and in fact regard the labor being bestowed upon the Fort as an additional present for them. Still we feel some uneasiness and they some distrust. They fear Buchanan cannot be relied upon and they do not like to see additional strength given to the Forts. Secession is a forgone conclusion with them, and they would have no hesitation in stepping in here at any moment. It will probably be a month before the sand (which now comes up to the coping) is removed, and as for the two small flanking arrangements, it will be another month before they can be finished. The Fort has a very low relief, the height of the outer wall being about that of a moderate sized room. The brick work is very ancient, the mortar in between it has become displaced; and cracks and crevices exist everywhere, so that our men consider the wall no obstacle to their ingress or egress. We have 500 yards of parapet to line, and even after our recruits arrive, if they do arrive, we will only have about 60 men to line this parapet against an attack of perhaps 1500 men, who can divide our little force by attacking on all sides. The danger we anticipate will proceed from the desire of the secessionists to commence the campaign by driving us out to give themselves a prestige. They could then magnify the exploit ad infinitum, and boast they had whipped two companies of U. S. troops with a Colonel at their head, and would probably add, that they had accomplished this feat after all the resources of Engineering had been exhausted upon the work. The truth is after the sand is all cleared away, the mortar between the bricks replaced, and the bastionets built, the Fort will still need a garrison adequate in numbers to defend it. Under no circumstances am I in favor of giving it up without fighting. If no one else stands by me I will go it alone. While the bastionets are being built it is evident they will be merely steps by which people can enter the Fort. It is not until they are run up to the full height that they become of any use. I reiterate then, that our great danger proceeds from the strong desire the leaders here have to give their followers military prestige. The Forts are in such a state as to tempt them to attack. Should they conclude to act against us they feel certain the General Government cannot reach them, and that they would be sustained by the people of the State. I have no doubt the course of South Carolina will be decided upon, before this work is placed in a defensible condition, for they only desire a reasonable proof that Lincoln will be elected to act at once, and it is my opinion they will not wait for the action of their own Legislature. I do not try to talk to the leaders now, for the bitterness is intense, and they seem incapable of discussing the question with calmness. They say they are aware it will result in ruin and distress but they dont care.
As I have already stated the country people do not like to see the engineers at work here, and I doubt if the leaders like it, for our proceedings are watched by eager and jealous eyes. In the mean time I fear the negroes will become excited by vague rumors in relation to approaching hostilities. It would seem they are already becoming so. Large and disorderly crowds of them are complained of in Charleston, and they appear to be becoming unruly on the island. A man came here last night and spent the greater part of the night under the protection of the troops here, alleging that his life was in danger from crowds of unruly negroes. It may have been however, a mere accidental occurrence.
Straws show which way the wind blows, and the Secretary has ordered here a new surgeon (in place of Dr Byrne) who is a Charlestonian and a secessionist. I refer to Dr Simons who was dismissed from the army for deserting his command when the cholera was raging. He has since been reinstated through political influence.
You speak of going to call upon Breck. Pay no attention to anything he says on the subject of defence here, for his judgment is very immature, and he prides himself in taking a strange out-of-the-way view of everything around him. His opinion is not worth a farthing on any subject
I think probably Col. Gardner would be pleased if we were ordered away from here, but every other officer would consider it a burning shame and an everlasting disgrace to give up the U. S. Forts here to these scoundrels.
Much could be done by Col. G. were he so disposed, to prepare us for an attack without attracting public attention. Timber, planks, provisions, ammunition &c. could be prepared which would be of the greatest utility in case of an attack. But he will not even bring inside a light battery which is down in the gun shed and liable to be carried off at any moment, as it is several hundred yards from the Fort and is not even guarded by a sentinel. He will not mount the flank guns which are absolutely essential for the defence. Ever since I heard him say he sympathised deeply with the wrongs of South Carolina, I have distrusted him. It is true he talks against them when none of them are around, but he does not act from principle but policy. However there is little doubt but that he will make some effort at defence, if he has ample warning and the question is forced upon him. Perhaps as he sees the majority will be for it, he will go for it too, but none of us have any respect for his military opinions. He has fully resolved to do nothing unless he knows positively an attack is to be made upon us, and then I imagine it might be too late.
Returning to “our muttons” however, our safety consists in the universal belief here that the President will not act against the secessionists. All we can do I suppose is to await events. In the mean time an element is entering into the political contest here, which may have important results. The mechanics have nominated a ticket and come out strong against the ruinous competition which besets them on all sides in consequence of the education of slaves to be mechanics. Almost every planter now has his black carpenters, shoemakers &c. and these can afford to undersell the whites. The latter then wish to have a law passed preventing slaves from being employed in the mechanic arts. The vote of the mechanics may unite the poor white population and then have a controlling effect upon the question of separate State action.
Trescott you know is very inimical to me. He was with the officers in the billiard room when I issued the order against gambling there and as he has taken this order to himself, he will be very apt to show his hostility to me by using his present influence as Asst Sec of State against me with the Sec of War. He is very deep and wiley and I suspect I shall feel his hostility in some indirect manner.
I have kept out of trouble here so far, by not visiting anybody where it was possible to avoid it, and by avoiding all discussion. The Charlestonians believe in free discussion—within certain limits—but those limits are rather too narrow to suit me.
I am very much dissatisfied with Col. Gardner. He talks loudly of what he will do. He will burn every house on the island &c., but he does not really believe an attack will take place, and he does not even provide his command with provision and ammunition which will be requisite whether we are attacked or not. He ought at once to assume that we may be attacked, give each officer his specific duties, appoint a common rallying ground, and introduce into the Fort, timber for obstructions and palisades. Now, if we should be attacked, we would have to fight like a mob, without any fixed plan.
Col. Hatch, one of the most prominent and one of the best informed of the militia officers in town, showed us a place where he had scaled the wall of the Fort without the slightest difficulty. Mary said to one of her friends a lady who resides in Charleston, “that she must find some place of refuge in case of an attack.” The lady colored slightly and said, with a tinge of bitterness “she did not believe they had the spunk to attack us but if they did she said come to water St. and I will take you in.[”]
One of the principal secessionists asked Col. Gardner what he would do if a column of 500 men should attack us. He answered jestingly that he would kill 250 of them, put the rest to flight, and burn every house on the island.
If anything should ever happen here, I am certain the whole burden of this want of preparation would fall upon me. As Col. G. lives outside in an exposed situation he would be captured at once, and the command devolve upon me, without even a cartridge in the boxes of the men to meet the assault.
Where is Gen. Scott? has he nothing to say in this matter? I will write to father soon. Give my best love to him and your & Toms family and our regards to our other friends.
Your aff brother / A. D.
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