Everything Quiet, Must Be Some Action Soon

Saturday, March 30, 1861

The stress was beginning to get to Lincoln. He spent much of the day with a headache so bad that he eventually “keeled over” from the pain. Still, he would be able to manage well enough.

Secretary of State Seward, on the other hand, was not having much luck. South Carolina Governor Pickens was impatiently waiting for word from Ward Hill Lamon, who assured him that Sumter would be surrendered. It had been fifteen days since Seward first assured him that Sumter would be surrendered in five days. Pickens wired the Confederate Commissioners still in Washington, who contacted Seward (through a mutual associate) to deliver the message. This would be something Seward would have to work on. He promised a reply by April 1.1

Seward, putting the Sumter question on the back burner for now, focused upon the two forts on the Florida Keys and Fort Pickens in Pensacola. For these, he had a military engineer in mind: Captain Montgomery Meigs.

Meigs was an excellent engineer. He had been cast away by Buchanan to the Keys due to political differences. While there, he got to know the situation very well. He and Seward stopped by the White House to see the President, who asked the if he thought Fort Pickens could be held. Meigs believed it could be.

“Could you not go down there again and take a general command of these three great fortresses and keep them safe?” asked Lincoln, according to Meigs own account. Meigs, however, was only a Captain. He would have no authority over the Majors at the forts. Seward’s solution was to have Meigs promoted immediately so he could take command of all three forts. Lincoln would have to think on this for a couple of days.2


In Charleston, the members of the State Convention were given a tour of Fort Moultrie and Morris Island. Many large guns were fired in their honor, some with live shot. Anderson was able to take note of which batteries had increased in strength.3

On this same date that he wired Washington wondering about Fort Sumter’s surrender, Governor Pickens wired Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker telling him of the arrival of 2,000 muskets for General Beauregard. “Everything quiet,” Pickens writes in closing, “must be some action soon.”4

  1. The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume 1 by Jefferson Davis – This is an interesting take on the whole situation. It’s very biased (of course), but this bit is true enough and has been corroborated by Justice Campbell, the “mutual associate.” []
  2. Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. Here Klein used Meigs’s own account. []
  3. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 1, p228. []
  4. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 53, p138. []
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Everything Quiet, Must Be Some Action Soon by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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