You May Determine to Reduce It

Wednesday, April 10, 1861

From Fort Sumter, Major Anderson could see that the Confederate soldiers defending Charleston were quickly working to meet the ships in Gustavus Fox’s mission to resupply the Union fort. A company of rebel cavalry were landed at Cummings Point and there was a new gun on Sullivan’s Island, bringing it to a full new battery of four guns. They would be able to bombard any ship attempting to land at Sumter. Not only would boats be under its fire, but the fort as well. Those four guns could rain shells over the walls of Sumter, driving the men to the lower gun deck.

Anderson’s men were in fine spirits, though a bit weary from half-rations and being imprisoned there for months.1

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General Beauregard, in charge of the defenses of Charleston, was indeed busy readying his men. There were guns and ammunition for the city, for Forts Moultrie and Johnson, Cummings Point and other batteries in and around the harbor. The floating battery was positioned near Sullivan’s Island.

Confederate Secretary of War Walker, agreeing with President Jefferson Davis to bombard the fort, wired Beauregard ordering him, if the word that the ships to resupply Sumter were legitimate, to demand the surrender of the fort. He closed with “if this is refused, proceed in such a manner as you may determine to reduce it.”

Beauregard replied that the demand would be made “tomorrow at 12 o’clock.”

This wasn’t what Walker had in mind. He shot back that unless there were “special reasons,” the demand should be made earlier than that.

“The reasons are special for 12 o’clock,” Beauregard assured him.

However, Beauregard also assured his men that he believed the resupplying would begin on this night. Perhaps that was simply said as motivation.2

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The people of Charleston weren’t sure what to think. To some, there was an excited, festive air. The city itself wasn’t in too much danger as all the fighting would be way out at the fort. The soldiers were naively prepared for a battle they couldn’t begin to comprehend. Some thought it was possible that the Federals could land a force of 4,000 on Morris Island and fight their way into the city. This could all end very badly.

Others feared a “negro uprising.” Charleston’s population was over half black. If Federal troops marched through the streets, would they rise up?

Darkness fell over the city, but new supplies of gunpowder kept the ammunition wagons rolling through the night.3



  1. Official Records, Series I, Vol. 1, p248. []
  2. Official Records, Series I, Vol. 1, p296-300. []
  3. Allegiance by David Detzer. []
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You May Determine to Reduce It by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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