Wednesday, December 26, 1860
Though the weather was still cold, rainy and foggy, Major Anderson decided now to enact his plan. By mid-morning, the troops at Fort Moultrie were loading food – a lot of food – onto boats. It was thought that their destination was Fort Johnson where the women and children were to be staying.
This action perked the interest of some Charlestonians (“why so much food?”), but their fears were quickly allayed when reminded of how many women and children there actually were.
Anderson had told only one of his officers of his plan, Captain John Foster, in command of the Engineers and whose boats he would be using.
The first ships carrying the women and children were to head to Fort Johnson, but being “unable” to find a nice place to land, were then to proceed to Fort Sumter. It would be dark then and Anderson’s true plan could begin.
He had ordered the boats from Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney (each still under the watch of a single family) to meet at Moultrie. Those, along with the three oared barges of the Engineers, would be used to ferry the troops from Moultrie to Sumter, hopefully before being spotted.
As the second wave was loaded, Captain Foster and a small crew, as ordered, stayed behind. As the boats disembarked, he covered their passage with the guns of Fort Moultrie. It was not clear sailing. A vessel was approaching the boats – a steamer. South Carolina patrolled the harbor each night watching for something exactly like what was happening now.
Foster ordered the guns to be loaded and prepared to fire. As the ship drew closer to the boats heading to Sumter, he was ready to fire and thus open the war. The ship, however, passed by, apparently never noticing. The boats arrived just after eight.
So that they would not easily fall into the hands of the rebels and be immediately turned upon Sumter, Foster “spiked” the guns by jamming ramrods into their vents. Their work completed, they joined Anderson at Sumter.1
At this day’s Cabinet meeting, President Buchanan confronted Secretary of War John Floyd about the two scandals now eating up the press. It was clear that Buchanan wanted Floyd’s resignation, but as a courtesy, did not request it. It was also clear that Floyd was looking for a way to gracefully exit. Today’s meeting and his outburst of the day before gave him another day to collect himself.2
The South Carolina commissioners arrived in Washington to meet with the President. A meeting was scheduled for one o’clock the next day.3