Saturday, January 5, 1861
Somehow the secrecy surrounding the reinforcement of Major Anderson at Fort Sumter developed no leaks. The 200 men and supplies were aboard the merchant-class steamer Star of the West and heading out of New York Harbor at 9pm.
Docked at Pier 29, the owner of the Star leased it to the US government on the agreement that he would buy supplies for the troops at Sumter. He left the harbor under the pretense of travel to New Orleans, stopping by Governor’s Island to pick up the troops.
So far, so good.1
Troops at the Government’s Leisure
Major Anderson was now basically cut off from quick communication with Washington. That is why the report that he wrote to them on the last day of December did not reach them until this day. In that report, he mentioned the battery that was being built on Morris Island (this was the first that Washington had heard of it).
He reaffirmed his decision to move to Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie where “our safety depended on their forbearance.” If an attack would have been made, his command would have been sacrificed. No longer was this the case.
While in previous communications, Anderson practically begged for more troops, since moving to Sumter, he was simply glad “we are now where the Government may send us additional troops at its leisure.”
At its leisure? Buchanan and General Scott had spent days formulating a plan to secretly slip reinforcements and supplies into Sumter without starting a war!
What need was there for additional troops when Anderson closed with “the knowledge that we can command this harbor as long as our Government wishes to keep it”?
True, the Governor of South Carolina had now barred any US officer or soldier from purchasing anything in Charleston, but even that was no huge deal. They would get by.2
Both President Buchanan and General Scott were now left wondering why they sent an unarmed boat packed with 200 men and supplies into a now heavily fortified enemy harbor to a command that didn’t really seem like it needed 200 men and supplies. They tried to recall the ship, but the Star of the West had already left port.3
Lincoln’s second meeting with Chase went about as well as the first. They were joined by Amos Tuck, a former congressman from New Hampshire, who was looking for a position somewhere in Lincoln’s administration. They talked most of the day, but were unable to come to any conclusion.4