Tuesday, November 13, 1860
Confusing reports from Charleston told of Fort Moultrie (on Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of the harbor), being seized by the Charleston Light Infantry. As it turned out, the Light Infantry was detailed by the city to guard the fort against the threat of a mob attempting to seize it.1
Making it even more confusing to tell which mob was which, the South Carolina legislature resolved to raise 10,000 volunteer troops to defend the state.
Meanwhile, Georgia senator Robert Toombs gave a scathing speech before the state legislature. He defended southern rights, states rights. According to Toombs, the North had perverted and expanded too far the reach of Washington. He warned that the abolition of slavery was the real goal of Lincoln’s party. Secession must happen immediately – “guarantees from men who had already violated their plighted faith to uphold the Constitution were worthless.”
After his term in the senate was up, he would resign.
Also on this date, the Georgia house unanimously passed a bill to give one million dollars to the defense of the state. The bill having passed the house was now on its way to the senate.2
While many in the North were adamantly anti-secession, some, like the ironically-named Bangor Daily Union, seemed pretty okay with it – and for logical reasons. “Union depends for its continuance on the free consent and will of the sovereign people of each state, and when that consent and will is withdrawn on either part, their Union is gone. A state coerced to remain in the Union is a subject province and can never be a co-equal member of the American Union.”
Lincoln, however, was still optimistic. In reply to a letter he received a few days ago from a Kentucky supporter promising the acquiescence of cooler southern heads (there was also the request for a political favor), Lincoln wrote back that he should “rest fully assured that the good people of the South who will put themselves in the same temper and mood towards me which you do will find no cause to complain of me.”3
It stated that the harbor was defended by three forts: Sumter, Moultrie and Pinckney. Moultrie was the only truly occupied fort. Sumter wasn’t yet finished and was thus unmanned. Pinckney was garrisoned with only a handful of troops. All in all, not even 100 men held all three of the Charleston forts. Their commander was the aged Lt. Col. John Gardner, who fought in the War of 1812.
While two forts were on islands (Sumter and Pinckney), Fort Moultrie was vulnerable from a land attack – it was only designed to repel an attack from the sea. If it were to be attacked by forces stationed in Charleston, it would probably fall.4
- From the Richmond Daily Dispatch, November 12 and 14, 1860. [↩]
- From the Milledgeville Federal Union [weekly], November 20, 1860. [↩]
- Letter from Abraham Lincoln to Samuel Haycraft, November 13, 1860. [↩]
- Days of Defiance; Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War by Maury Klein, Vintage Press, 1999. [↩]