Sunday, April 7, 1861
The squeeze was being put to Major Anderson at Fort Sumter.
The Confederate Commissioners, still in Washington had received a telegram from South Carolina Governor Pickens attempting to suss out the conflicting rumors. They wired back that they were going to call upon Secretary of State Seward the next day at 2pm. For now, they believed that hostile actions were already underway. They were sure that Fort Pickens in Florida would be a target, perhaps the Texas frontier and maybe even Fort Sumter.
“If Seward’s reply is not satisfactory we shall consider the gauntlet of war thrown down and close our mission.”1
It was no secret that Anderson’s provisions were running disastrously low. The rebels had denied the thirty laid off, noncombatant workers the right to leave Sumter, thus giving Anderson thirty more mouths to somehow feed. Just a day before, Confederate General Beauregard limited their “market days,” on which they’d gather some supplies from the city of Charleston, to just twice a week.
On this date, under orders from the Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Walker, Beauregard cut off all communication between Charleston and Sumter concerning supplies. This was due to the “the delays and apparent vacillations of the United States Government.”
The mail, however, would still be carried.2
Beauregard had been Anderson’s student, assistant and friend at West Point. Earlier in the day, perhaps in preparation for carrying out this cold order, Beauregard wrote to Anderson, “Let me assure you, major, that nothing shall be wanting on my part to preserve the friendly relations and impressions which have existed between us for so many years.”3
With that, he cut off his friend’s supplies in a hope to starve him out of Sumter.
As the rebels caught wind of the ships sailing for Fort Sumter, they assumed that Fort Pickens was on the list as well. Confederate General Braxton Bragg, commanding forces near Pensacola and Fort Pickens wrote to Secretary Walker stating that he “would fire upon any reinforcements to Pickens unless ordered not.”
Reinforcements of his own were expected: 1,200 troops from Mississippi and Georgia were to be with him in 24 hours.4
Supreme Court Justice John Campbell wrote to Seward on behalf of the Confederate Commissioners. The Justice had been acting as an intermediary between both parties. The Commissioners, said Campbell, were in anxiety over the movement of troops and rumors about reinforcements. The Justice assured them that no move would be made against Fort Sumter without informing Governor Pickens.
Seward sent an unsigned note back to Campbell: “Faith as to Sumter fully kept. Wait and see.”
This was not exactly a lie. It could be (and probably was) interpreted to mean that Fort Sumter would be evacuated shortly, as promised by Seward. What it actually meant, however, was that word would be sent to Governor Pickens, they just had to “wait and see.”
Actually, word had already been sent. Robert Chew left this morning for Charleston with a message for the Governor.5