Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

‘Resupplying Fort Sumter’

An All Fool’s Day Full of Secrets

Played out

Monday, April 1, 1861 – All Fool’s Day On this April holiday, secrecy would turn out to be a fool’s game. Lincoln had ordered Gustavus Fox to ready some ships in the Brooklyn Navy Yard to prepare to sail, but whether they would sail for Fort Sumter or Fort Pickens was not yet mentioned (though Sumter could be assumed, since it was Fox’s plan). Preparations for either or both expeditions could take place without anyone being the wiser. And that’s just what happened. The plans to reinforce Fort Pickens were being prepared by Capt. Meigs, Col. Keyes and Lt. David Porter (personally selected by Meigs). Seward and General Scott also added their weight to it. The daring plan was for one ship to land troops at Pickens while a warship, under Lt. Porter, steamed into the bay to make sure no Southern troops could attack. General Scott signed the orders with a note to have a ship prepared. The USS Powhatan had recently arrived at the Navy Yard, so Meigs ordered her to be readied… Read More

Lincoln Polls Cabinet; Orders to Ready the Ships

Brooklyn Navy Yard - Harper's Weekly

Friday, March 29, 1861 – Good Friday Lincoln got little to no sleep the previous night. At noon, the cabinet gathered again, minus Secretary of War Simon Cameron. It came down to two choices. Should they follow General Scott’s plan and surrender Fort Sumter and, if the General got his way, Fort Pickens? Or should they try Gustavus Fox’s plan to resupply and reinforce Fort Sumter? All the information that they were going to have to make a decision was before them. They knew of the conditions at Sumter – the troops had only enough provisions to last two more weeks. They knew that there was no sympathy left for the Union. They knew the force that Fox could gather for his attempt to reinforce. The meeting broiled with discussion until Lincoln asked each member to summarize his opinion on the subject. He had asked this a week or so ago and all but one was in favor of surrendering Sumter. Perhaps this new information would change things. Secretary of State Seward held his ground,… Read More

The Decision to Surrender Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

Friday, March 15, 1861 My dear Sir: Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under the circumstances is it wise to attempt it ? Please give me your opinion in writing on this question. Your obedient servant, A. Lincoln. Lincoln asked this from each of the Cabinet members. Before they would reply, however, the President requested that Gustavus Fox again detail his plan for resupplying Fort Sumter. General Winfield Scott and a few other military brass also gave their opinions. Scott countered that even if Fox’s plan would work, it would have to be repeated over and over every time Major Anderson needed supplies. Secretary of State Seward was against it. He couldn’t assume that it was possible to provision the fort. If it were possible, he would be fine with it, but it was not, so the fort had to be surrendered. He was waiting for Southern Unionists to react to secession, bringing their states back into the fold. Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General, took the opposite view of Seward, fully backing… Read More

A Quiet Sunday and a Daring Plan

New York Avenue Presbyterian Church

Sunday, March 10, 1861 It was a quiet Sunday in Washington DC. With Seward still sick and in bed, the Lincolns attended church services at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. They would become regulars. The pastor, Phineas Densmore Gurley was of the old school. He was anti-slavery as well as pro-Union. The Lincolns soon rented an entire pew, making a $50 annual contribution.1 Commander James H. Ward of the New York Harbor fleet, had been at the ready, waiting for the command to resupply Fort Sumter. He was in Washington, being requested by Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells. He had offered his services to Buchanan and was still ready to set sail. Wells and General Winfield Scott called upon Commander Ward to bring him up to speed on the recent Sumter developments. There was no way to reinforce or resupply Anderson at Fort Sumter, they told him. Still, Ward suggested a plan on a smaller scale. Provisions and a relative handful of men could be sneaked into the fort under cover of darkness… Read More

Lincoln’s First Cabinet Meeting; Her Guns Would Fire Upon You

Charleston Defenses

Saturday, March 9, 1861 President Lincoln held a Saturday Night Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue of surrendering or resupplying Fort Sumter. He knew nothing (or at least little) of Seward’s dealings with the Confederate Commissioners. It was at this Cabinet meeting that the rest of the Cabinet first heard about Sumter’s dilemma. The prevailing thought was that Sumter had to be surrendered. There was no other option. Lincoln also took this time to write out questions to General Scott. He had had meetings with the General several times and knew his opinion on the matter. However, he wanted other options and more details.1 1st To what point of time can Major Anderson maintain his position at Fort Sumpter, without fresh supplies or reinforcement? 2d. Can you, with all the means now in your control, supply or re-inforce Fort Sumpter within that time? 3d If not, what amount of means and of what description, in addition to that already at your control, would enable you to supply and reinforce that fortress within the time?2 __________________… Read More

Buchanan’s New Secretary of the Treasury

It's Dix!

Tuesday, January 15, 1861 President Buchanan’s last selection for the Secretary of the Treasury, Philip Thomas, supposedly resigned over qualms he had with Buchanan’s stance on Fort Sumter. That may well be true, but actually, Thomas simply could not work with banks on Wall Street. In light of that, Buchanan asked the banks who they would like. John A. Dix, current Postmaster of New York City and former Senator in the 1840s, was their man and so he was Buchanan’s. After some political wrangling and a supposed offer of the Secretary of War position (which he declined), Buchanan filled the Secretary of the Treasury seat with John A. Dix a day after Thomas had resigned.1 __________________ “I Beg of You… Surrender the Fort” Near Pensacola, Florida, Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer of Pennsylvania was still in charge of Fort Pickens. He and his 81 men had been asked to surrender the fort by Colonel W.H. Chase, Commander of the State of Florida’s forces. “Listen to me, then, I beg of you, and act with me in… Read More

Rumors and Mail for Sumter; Lincoln Nudges Cameron

Cape Romain Lighthouse, built in 1858.

Sunday, January 13, 1861 Charleston itself had calmed down since the Star of the West incident. Rumors, of course, flew around rampantly. Occasionally small boats carrying South Carolina or Federal officials would come and go, sparking more speculation. It was also said that Major Anderson had killed two mutineers last week. More men were supposedly in chains and one had escaped to Charleston. None of this was true, but that rarely stops folks from talking. It was reported that the USS Brooklyn, sent to assist in reinforcing Sumter, was off of Cape Roman [Romain], 30 miles up the coast from Charleston.1 Governor Pickens had agreed to allow the mail to begin flowing in and out of Fort Sumter. The arrangement was that the mail from Charleston was to be delivered to Fort Johnson (now in South Carolina’s hands) at 12 noon every day. A boat from Sumter was to pick it up there once a day. This was to “avoid all chances for rencounters and bloodshed between our [Sumter’s] boats crews and riotous persons on… Read More

US Ship Fired Upon By South; Mississippi Secedes!

Mississippi Secedes

Wednesday, January 9, 1861 In the early morning hours, the merchant class steamer Star of the West arrived to reinforce and resupply Major Anderson at Fort Sumter. She had actually arrived on the scene before dawn, but due to the warning sent from Southern sympathizers in Washington (like the former Secretary of the Interior), Charleston had made sure no guiding lights could be seen. The only light in the harbor was from Sumter itself. Then came the dawn. It was a beautiful clear sky – perfect for sailing. It was also beautiful weather for being spotted. And that’s just what happened. The watch-ship the Clinch signaled to the Star asking her to identify herself. There came no reply. The Star had to maneuverer between Sumter and Moultrie, well in range of the battery on Morris Island. The rebel artillery crew took notice of her and prepared for action. Aiming to place a warning shot well in front of the Star, the gunner sighted his piece. As the US steamer raised a large American flag as… Read More

Warship Brooklyn Dispatched to Sumter; Another Fort Falls; First Civil War Death?


Monday, January 7, 1861 Due to the situation around Fort Sumter and Anderson’s letter mentioning the new rebel artillery position built upon Morris Island, General Scott, under the approval of President Buchanan, ordered the sloop-of-war USS Brooklyn, with her 21 guns, to chase, catch up with and escort the Star of the West in her efforts to reinforce Major Anderson. She was ordered not to cross “the bar” (not to enter Charleston Harbor), but to be there for support.1 The Brooklyn was the ship that they originally wanted to use for the job, but thought that it might be too forward. With the new present danger, they reconsidered and hoped that it would be able to aide the Star as much as possible.2 __________________ Florida Claims Another Fort The US Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida was captured in the morning by state militia troops. Ordnance Sergeant Henry Douglas (like Sgt Powell who had just made his way here from the captured Apalachicola Arsenal) had only a handful of men and was requested to turn… Read More

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