Tuesday, December 25, 1860; Christmas Day
President Buchanan had just gotten wind of Secretary of War Floyd’s possible plot to arm the South by using Northern arsenals and was horrified. It’s no wonder that he was, with everyone and their brother telegraphing Washington to figure out why.1
It was likely that Buchanan would be lumped in with Floyd. In fact, the Pittsburgh Gazette did just that:
These facts go to show conclusively the treasonable purpose of the administration. Every Northern Arsenal has been stripped of arms and ordnance, and every Southern Arsenal crammed full and left in such condition as to give the Secessionists a chance to capture them, and provide themselves thoroughly with the accoutrements of war, at the expense of the government. The one hundred and odd cannon to be sent from here to Ship Island and Galveston are, without doubt, to be placed where they can be captured without a blow.
The traitors of the South are thus being furnished by a government in league with them with all the ammunitions of war.2
Secretary of War Floyd had recently been somewhat involved in a financial scandal involving a relative of his and a question of $870,000 in missing bonds. Though Floyd seemed to have no real involvement here, his name came up then as it was coming up in relation to the weapons scandal. Buchanan decided that Floyd had to go.
First, however, the President needed to countermand Floyd’s order to send guns from Pittsburgh to the South. That he did on Christmas evening (though it wouldn’t reach Pittsburgh for another two days3 ).
Upon learning about his orders being nixed, Floyd was livid. This anger, however, would not come out that night.4
This Christmas night, Floyd was visited by Texas Senator Louis Wigfall, a South Carolina native. Wigfall was a hard-drinking man, so that might have come into play here, but anyway, he had a plan and wanted Floyd to be a part of it.
Wigfall’s plan was to kidnap President Buchanan and install Vice-President John Breckinridge in his place. With a Kentuckian in the White House, the South would be less apt to secede. The plot was already planned out. All Floyd had to do was get Buchanan out of Washington.
Probably figuring that he was already up to his neck in trouble, Floyd declined, infuriating Wigfall – but the plot went no further.5
A Very Anderson Christmas
Major Robert Anderson spent the evening at a Christmas party, but left early to attend to some business. Seeing the futility of attempting to hold Fort Moultrie, especially since Fort Sumter was now completed and unmanned, it seemed folly to remain in his present location.
He had devised a plan to move the women and children from Moultrie, across the harbor to Fort Johnson. Information about this plan was purposely leaked out and Charleston didn’t really seem to care. The real plan, however, was to move the troops from Moultrie to Sumter – something which Charleston (and Washington) would very much care about.
The weather was foggy on this night, so the plan would have to wait until the next day.6
- From Days of Defiance by Klein. [↩]
- Pittsburgh Gazette, December 25, 1860. [↩]
- There are clearly some mixed up dates that go along with this story. Many of the orders appear to have been verbal. [↩]
- From a helpful article entitled Guns for the Union by Jim Wudarczyk. [↩]
- Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War By Ernest B. Furgurson, Random House, Inc., 2005. [↩]
- Allegiance by David Detzer. [↩]