Florida Leaves the Union – Still More Forts Fall!

Thursday, January 10, 1860

Like South Carolina and Mississippi before her, Florida’s Secession Convention voted to leave the Union (62 to 7). Also in Florida, Lieutenant A. J. Slemmer of Pennsylvania was in command of all Federal troops in the Pensacola Bay region (Forts Pickens, McRee and Barranas, plus the Navy Yard). Knowing he was about to be attacked by the gathering Florida and Alabama militia units, he thought it best to consolidate his troops in one location: Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island, commanding the mouth of Pensacola Bay.

That same day, the Navy Yard was captured by the Rebel units, as were the two abandoned forts. Slemmer was on his own in Fort Pickens with a force of 81 men. Though his fort was the strongest in the Gulf, he would need to do a lot of work to get it battle-ready.1

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Sumter Would Have to be Reduced

Fearing that Major Anderson would attack ships entering and leaving Charleston Harbor, South Carolina’s Governor Pickens wished to devise a plan to take Fort Sumter. He had a few engineers look things over and what they reported was not very favorable.

Sumter could not be taken by a surprise attack, especially not by the local militia units in Charleston. It would have to be reduced by artillery batteries that would need to be built for the purpose. It would take weeks to pull this off.

Anderson was told by Washington that he would be supported, but he must act on the defensive.2

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More Forts for the South

In Louisiana, at the mouth of the Mississippi River, south of New Orleans, Forts St. Philip and Jackson were captured by state militia units.

Forts were also falling in North Carolina, a state that was hardly considering secession. State militia units captured Fort Johnson while other units captured Fort Caswell, both at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. They were taken without a shot being fired.3

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This morning in Springfield, Lincoln received word from New York Senator (and past rival for the Republican candidate for President) William Seward accepting a position in Lincoln’s cabinet. Harper’s Weekly reported that “The Republicans are in ecstasies.”



  1. From Harpers’ Popular Cyclopaedia of United States History by Benson John Lossing, 1893. []
  2. From Allegiance by David Detzer and Days of Defiance by Maury Klein – my old standards. []
  3. From Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-65 by Walter Clark, 1901. []
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Florida Leaves the Union – Still More Forts Fall! by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International