The Fog Over Sumter

Tuesday, April 2, 1861

While Washington was reeling from a figurative fog (and the silence that would hang over this day), Fort Sumter woke this morning to a very literal fog, allowing but a few yards of vision in any direction.

Captain Foster, head of the engineers and laborers at the fort, had requested permission from Confederate General Beauregard to allow the noncombatant laborers to leave. This was the only way to buy time for the troops in the fort. Rations were running out. If the mouths of the laborers could be fed by someone else, somewhere else, the garrison could hold out six more days.1

Beauregard had received the request and though he was “inclined to object” to the laborers leaving, he telegraphed Confederate Secretary of War Walker, seeking his opinion.

Walker was also of such an inclination. “No portion of the garrison must be permitted to leave unless all go.”

The Secretary detailed this order in a letter sent the same day. He wished for Beauregard to cease with the pleasantries and to “re-establish and rigidly enforce” that status of “hostile forces in the presence of each other, and who may at any moment be in actual conflict.”

Nobody in Montgomery, wrote Walker, put any stock in any promises of surrender from Washington. He believed that reinforcements could be on their way at any time and that Beauregard must keep himself “in a state of the amplest preparation and most perfect readiness.” He was not, of course, to attack the fort unless to repulse a reinforcement effort.

The Confederate Commissioners were still in Washington. Walker forbade any action (apart from what was already mentioned) until they were withdrawn, which would be shortly. After the Commissioners were safely back in the South, specific instructions would be forwarded to the General.

Speaking of the Commissioners, their fingers were on the pulse of the administration.

“The war wing presses on the President; he vibrates to that side… Their form of notice to us may be that of the coward, who gives it when he strikes. Watch at all points.”2

  1. Official Records, Series I, Vol. 1, p231. []
  2. Official Records, Series I, Vol. 1, p284-285. []


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