Page images


Public criticisms of the defense.



Not one of the combatants on either side had been killed, and hence the defense of Fort Sumter did not pass without public criticism. In Virginia it gave rise to bitter disappointment. The Unionists said, "Anderson has made a feeble defense, or no defense of Sumter. He told Beauregard on the first summons that he would evacuate the fort in two days." They inquired "how many shell were thrown from Sumter in these two days of terrific cannonading, and nobody hurt on either side, and the flag of the United States lowered to King Cotton?" In Europe the enemies of the republic already began to sneer: they said, "An American battle is not as dangerous as an American steam-boat." Captain Foster, the engineer officer of the fort, in his report to the Secretary of War, remarks, "After the cessation of fire, about 600 shotmarks on the face of the scarp wall were counted, but they were so scattered that no breached effect could have been expected from such a fire. The only effect of the direct fire during the two days was to disable three barbette guns, knock off large portions of the chimneys and brick walls projecting above the parapet, and to set the quarters on fire with hot shot. The vertical fire produced more effect, and it prevented the working of the

Report of the engineer.

upper tier of guns, which were the only really effective

ones in the fort.

"But we could have resumed the firing as soon as the walls cooled sufficiently to open the magazines, and then, having blown down the walls left projecting above the parapet so as to get rid of flying bricks, and built up the main gates with stones and rubbish, the fort would actu ally have been in a more defensible state than when the action commenced. The weakness of the defense lay principally in the lack of cartridge bags. The want of provisions would soon have caused the surrender of the fort;

but, with plenty of cartridges, the men would have cheerfully fought five or six days, and, if necessary, much longer, on pork alone, of which we had a sufficient supply. I do not think that a breach could have been effected in the gorge at the distance of the battery on Cummings's Point within a week or ten days, and even then, with the small garrison to defend it, and means for obstructing it at our disposal, the operation of assaulting it with even vastly superior numbers would have been very doubtful in its result."

the government,

not with Anderson.

the government.

The commandant of the fort, however, did all that was The fault lay with possible in the circumstances of the case. His apparent indecision was in truth the necessary consequence of the irresolution of How was it possible for him to act when the government could not determine what it would order him to do? The fort was in fact surrendered when the Confederates were permitted to establish batteries within reach of its guns, and the garrison left unprovis ioned and unre-enforced for fear that the Charlestonians might be angry.

The fort might have

out difficulty.

The engineer officer whom I have just quoted, in his report to the Committee on the Conduct of been relieved with the War, remarks, "Almost every day we saw new batteries in progress, intended to destroy the fort that we were placed to defend. In addition, after these works were completed and armed, their garrisons practiced the guns with shot and shell to obtain our range, and frequently burst their shells on different sides of the fort, and sometimes over it. Not content with this, the iron-clad battery on Morris Island, in its morning practice on the 8th of March, 1861, fired a solid shot at the sally-port of the fort, barely missing it by striking the sea wall."

"Thus terminated the siege of Fort Sumter after over



three months' duration, during all of which time it could easily have been re-enforced by vessels running in at night. As a proof of this, witness the ease with which the blockade-runners during the war ran into Charleston, sometimes even through three lines of blockading vessels, and past our batteries on Morris Island."



The conspirators were constrained by their political necessities to aggression. By the bombardment of Fort Sumter they drew the whole South to their cause. On the other hand, the Northern people rose up as one man to vindicate the honor of the national flag and to sustain the republic.

The plot of the secessionists was to prevent the passage of troops through Baltimore, and to seize Washington while in a defenseless condition.

The Northern troops forced their way through Maryland, held that state in subjèction, and saved Washington from capture.

"STRIKE a blow: the very moment that blood is shed, Virginia will make common cause with her sisters of the South." "Sprinkle blood in the faces of the people of Alabama, or else they will be back in the Union in less than ten days."

Political necessity

the South.

In the interior of Fort Sumter, a Carolinian commissioner, who knew well the frantic condi for aggression in tion of his people, had sought an interview with Anderson. "Give up the fort; in the name of humanity, I conjure you to give it up, or thousands will howl round these walls, and pull the bricks out with their fingers."

Such were the exclamations of the leaders of secession throughout the South-such the pitch of frenzy to which they had wrought up their people.

Not less intense was the feeling produced in the North as soon as Fort Sumter fell. It found expression, however, in a different manner. Already those constitutional peculiarities which distinguished the two antagonists on many a subsequent bloody field were manifesting them


Reluctance of the North to enter on the war.


selves. In the supreme moment of rushing to a charge, the battle-cry of the Southern troops is "a yell of defiance;" that of the Northern troops, a "deep-toned cheer." Very truthfully had the conspirators declared that it would be hard to provoke the North to fight. To the last, when it was certain that war could not be avoided, she hoped against hope; she prayed to be delivered from the trial. When the news came that Sumter had fallen, and that the flag of the nation was dishonored, the instant effect produced Effect of the fall of Was that of solemn silence- that silence which, in the resolute man, is the precursor of irrevocable determination; and then there arose all through the country, from the Canadian frontier to where the Ohio, rolling his waters westwardly for a thousand miles, separates the lands of freedom from those of slavery, not the yell of defiance, but the deep-toned cheer. The political interpretation of the effect of the bom bardment of Sumter on the North is that


Interpretation of

that effect. it at once produced a coalescence of the Union and anti-slavery sentiment; on the South it irresistibly carried whatever Union sentiment existed into secession. On each side of the Ohio the populations were unified. That river at once became their separating line.

In vain some of the journals, which, through their anEffect on the jour- tipathy to the Republican party, had leaned nalism of the North. to the slave interest, accused the government of commencing war, and blamed it for irritating South Carolina by sending relief to Fort Sumter; in vain they declared that the South, fighting for its dearest interests, could never be conquered; in vain they clamored for a treaty of peace, and begged that the dissatisfied states might be permitted to depart: the people intuitively saw the true position of affairs, and that the only

« PreviousContinue »