Warship Brooklyn Dispatched to Sumter; Another Fort Falls; First Civil War Death?

Monday, January 7, 1861

Due to the situation around Fort Sumter and Anderson’s letter mentioning the new rebel artillery position built upon Morris Island, General Scott, under the approval of President Buchanan, ordered the sloop-of-war USS Brooklyn, with her 21 guns, to chase, catch up with and escort the Star of the West in her efforts to reinforce Major Anderson. She was ordered not to cross “the bar” (not to enter Charleston Harbor), but to be there for support.1

The Brooklyn was the ship that they originally wanted to use for the job, but thought that it might be too forward. With the new present danger, they reconsidered and hoped that it would be able to aide the Star as much as possible.2

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Florida Claims Another Fort

The US Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida was captured in the morning by state militia troops. Ordnance Sergeant Henry Douglas (like Sgt Powell who had just made his way here from the captured Apalachicola Arsenal) had only a handful of men and was requested to turn over the keys. Douglas demanded to know under whose authority the state militia men were acting.

When shown the order by Governor Perry allowing the use of “what force might be necessary,” Douglas acquiesced, turning over the keys, though he did so under protest.3

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Crittenden’s Compromise

John J. Crittenden, Senator from Kentucky, defended his “Crittenden Compromise” in the Senate, outlining its details. Basically, he was a Unionist who believed that the South had a Constitutional right to secede. Secession “is not forbidden by the Constitution, nor does it conflict with any principle of the Constitution….”

He also supported the right for slave owners to take their slave property into any territories they wished.

His “compromise” featured Constitutional amendments that heavily favored the South. He wanted stricter enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law and slavery to be forever legal in the South and Washington DC. Also, he wanted to extend the 36° 30′ Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific, allowing slavery south of it and disallowing it to the north. Oh, and the whole thing could never be changed or repealed.

Cittenden hoped that these concessions would be enough to keep the South from seceding.4

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The First Civil War Death?

That night, what many see as the first death of the Civil War occurred at Castle Pinckney. It was an unfortunate accident. Around 10pm, one of the sentinels was approached by an unknown person. The guard presented his musket, challenging the supposed intruder when it accidentally fired, hitting the stranger.

This stranger turned out to be Private Robert Little Holmes of the Carolina Light Infantry, also stationed at Castle Pinckney. The ball passed through both lungs and he succumbed after twenty minutes. He was nearly 31 years old. Today he is buried in the northwest corner of Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston.5

You can see photos of his grave site taken by my friend Courtney right here.



  1. From The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861 by Samuel Wylie Crawford, 1887. []
  2. From Days of Defiance by Maury Klein []
  3. From Traitors: the Secession Period, November 1860-July 1861 by Edward S. Cooper, Associated University Press, 2008. []
  4. Crittenden’s Address to the Senate, January 7, 1861. []
  5. Charleston Mercury, January 9, 1861. []
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Warship Brooklyn Dispatched to Sumter; Another Fort Falls; First Civil War Death? by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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