Confederate Military History, Vol. 5
Fort Sumter, in the very mouth of the harbor, was in an unfinished state and without a garrison. On the night of the 26th of December, 1860, Maj. Robert Anderson dismantled Fort Moultrie and removed his command by boats over to Fort Sumter. The following account of the effect of this removal of Major Anderson upon the people, and the action of the government, is taken from Brevet Major-General Crawford’s “Genesis of the Civil War.” General Crawford was at the time on the medical staff and one of Anderson’s officers. His book is a clear and admirable narrative of the events of those most eventful days, and is written in the spirit of the utmost candor and fairness. In the conclusion of the chapter describing the removal, he says:
The fact of the evacuation of Fort Moultrie by Major Anderson was soon communicated to the authorities and people of Charleston, creating intense excitement. Crowds collected in streets and open places of the city, and loud and violent were the expressions of feeling against Major Anderson and his action … [The governor of the State was ready to act in accordance with the feeling displayed.] On the morning of the 27th, he dispatched his aide-de-camp, Col. Johnston Pettigrew, of the First South Carolina Rifles, to Major Anderson. He was accompanied by Maj. Ellison Capers, of his regiment. Arriving at Fort Sumter, Colonel Pettigrew sent a card inscribed, “Colonel Pettigrew, First Regiment Rifles, S.C. M., Aide-de-Camp to the Governor, Commissioner to Major Anderson. Ellison Capers, Major First Regiment Rifles, S.C. M.” . . . Colonel Pettigrew and his companion were ushered into the room. The feeling was reserved and formal, when, after declining seats, Colonel Pettigrew immediately opened his mission: “Major Anderson,” said he, “can I communicate with you now, sir, before these officers, on the subject for which I am here?” “Certainly, sir,” replied Major Anderson, “these are all my officers; I have no secrets from them, sir.” The commissioner then informed Major Anderson that he was directed to say to him that the governor was much surprised that he had reinforced “this work.” Major Anderson promptly responded that there had been no reinforcement of the work; that he had removed his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, as he had a right to do, being in command of all the forts in the harbor. To this Colonel Pettigrew replied that when the present governor (Pickens) came into office, he found an understanding existing between the previous governor (Gist) and the President of the United States, by which all property Within the limits of the State was to remain as it was; that no reinforcements were to be sent here, particularly to this post; that there was to be no attempt made against the public property by the State, and that the status in the harbor should remain unchanged. He was directed also to say to Major Anderson that it had been hoped by the governor that a peaceful solution of the difficulties could. have been reached, and a resort to arms and bloodshed might have been avoided; but that the governor thought the action of Major Anderson had greatly complicated matters, and that he did not now see how bloodshed could be avoided; that he had desired and intended that the whole matter might be fought out politically and without the arbitration of the sword, but that now it was uncertain, if not impossible.
To this Major Anderson replied, that as far as any understanding between the President and the governor was concerned, he had not been informed; that he knew nothing of it; that he could get no information or positive orders from Washington, and that his position was threatened every night by the troops of the State. He was then asked by Major Capers, who accompanied Colonel Pettigrew, “How?” when he replied, “By sending out steamers armed and conveying troops on board ;” that these steamers passed the fort going north, and that he feared a landing on the island and the occupation of the sand-hills just north of the fort; that 100 riflemen on these hills, which commanded his fort, would make it impossible for his men to serve their guns; and that any man with a military head must see this. “To prevent this,” said he earnestly, “I removed on my own responsibility, my sole object being to prevent bloodshed.” Major Capers replied that the steamer was sent out for patrol purposes, and as much to prevent disorder among his own people as to ascertain whether any irregular attempt was being made to reinforce the fort, and that the idea of attacking him was never.. entertained by the little squad who patroled the harbor.
Major Anderson replied to this that he was wholly in the dark as to the intentions of the State troops, but that he had reason to believe that they meant to land and attack him from the north; that the desire of the governor to have the matter settled peacefully and without bloodshed was precisely his object in removing his command from Moultrie to Sumter; that he did it upon his own responsibility alone, because he considered that the safety of his command required it, as he had a right to do. “In this controversy,” said he, “between the North and the South, my sympathies are entirely with the South. These gentlemen,” said he (turning to the officers of the post who stood about him), “know it perfectly well.” Colonel Pettigrew replied, “Well, sir, however that may be, the governor of the State directs me to say to you courteously but peremptorily, to return to Fort Moultrie.” “Make my compliments to the governor (said Anderson) and say to him that I decline to accede to his request; I cannot and will not go back.” “Then, sir,” said Pettigrew, “my business is done,” when both officers, without further ceremony or leavetaking, left the fort.
Colonel Pettigrew and Major Capers returned to the city and made their report to the governor and council who were in session in the council chamber of the city hall. That afternoon Major Anderson raised the flag of his country over Sumter, and went vigorously to work mounting his guns and putting the fort in military order. The same afternoon the governor issued orders to Colonel Pettigrew, First regiment of rifles, and to Col. W. G. De Saussure, First regiment artillery, commanding them to take immediate possession of Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie. Neither fort was garrisoned, and the officers in charge, after making a verbal protest, left and went to Fort Sumter, and the Palmetto flag was raised over Moultrie and Pinckney. In the same manner the arsenal in Charleston was taken possession of by a detachment of the Seventeenth regiment, South Carolina militia, Col. John Cunningham, and Fort Johnson on James island, by Capt. Joseph Johnson, commanding the Charleston Riflemen. The governor also ordered a battery to be built for two 24-pounders on Morris island, bearing on Ship channel, and his order was speedily put into execution by Maj. P. F. Stevens, superintendent of the South Carolina military academy, with a detachment of the cadets, supported by the Vigilant Rifles, Captain Tupper. This battery was destined soon to fire the first gun of the war. In taking possession of the forts and the arsenal, every courtesy was shown the officers in charge, Captain Humphreys, commanding the arsenal, saluting his flag before surrendering the property.