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struck before there would be any concert of action among the Southern States, that South Carolina, after trembling awhile on the brink of the awful secession gulf, in a vain effort to induce Georgia to take the lead, by her treasonable ordinance of the 20th December, plunged "headlong, without her leaders being able to agree among themselves on any justifiable pretext or cause, into irretrievable ruin! And thus the blow was struck! The die was cast! The fatal step was taken! The Rubicon was crossed !
SKETCH BOOK OF THE WAR.
OF THE STAR OF THE WEST.
An impression having been quite extensively made that the first Rebel outrage upon our national flag was the reduction of Fort Sumter, and political stump orators, impelled by a zeal not according to knowledge, having frequently conduced to the rendering of that impression more indelible, by heedlessly ignoring the precedent historic fact of the outrage upon the steamer "Star of the West,” a correction of that error seems called for.
The story of the “Star of the West,” though perhaps of less thrilling interest than that of Fort Sumter, yet is too intimately connected with it to be excluded from this work, and its priority, as a matter of history, entitles it to precedence.
Major Anderson, while in the faithful discharge of his duties, as commandant of the Charleston forts, not being privy to the truckling compliances, pledges, and assurances made by the President, in complaisance to avowed treason-plotters, and believing Fort Moultrie untenable, in the event of the Rebels seizing Fort Sumter, of which there were sufficient indications of their intention, either found authority in the last orders he had received from the War Department, for shifting his little force, of about seventy men, from Moultrie to Sumter, or assumed the responsibility of so doing. Under the circumstances, his course would have been justifiable, in absence of such orders. Accordingly, on the night of the 26th of December, 1860, having spiked the guns, burnt the gun-carriages, and destroyed the buildings, he abandoned the fort, and transferred the garrison and stores over to Fort Sumter, which was a much stronger Fort, commanding the harbor, and, to a great extent, Fort Moultrie itself.
The people of Charleston were thereupon thrown into great excitement, and Governor Pickens sent one of his aids to ascertain by what authority the commandant had acted, and to desire his return to Fort Moultrie.
Major Anderson replied that he had acted on his own responsibility, and declined to return. Castle Pinckney and Sullivan's Island, as also Fort Moultrie, were seized on the 27th by order of Governor Pickens. The revenue cutter William Aiken was also surrendered by her commander to the South Carolina authorities. Those authorities were very indignant at Major Anderson's change of position, and Mr. Buchanan censured him for it, while General Scott approved his action by letter, proffering to stand by him to the last; and the House of Representatives, on the 7th of January, 1861, passed a resolution approving “the bold and patriotic act of Major Anderson in withdrawing from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter.”
It having been decided, by a majority of one, in Cabinet Council at Washington, on the evening of the 29th of December, not to withdraw Major Anderson's force from Fort Sumter, it became necessary to reinforce it; accordingly, at a Cabinet session, held on the 2d of January, 1861, that measure was determined on, and in pursuance of that determination, the “Star of the West," an unarmed steamer, was dispatched with a reinforcement of 200 men.
The original design was to send the reinforcement by the Brooklyn, but on reflection, the days of conciliation having not yet passed, the “Star of the West” was substituted for the purpose of avoiding the appearance of a hostile demonstration.
The “Star of the West" left New York at 5 P. M., on the 5th of January, 1861, with four officers and 200 soldiers, with proper equipments, designed to reinforce Sumter, and arrived off Charleston bar at 11 o'clock A. M. on the 9th, and, finding the buoys removed and lights out, was obliged to proceed with great caution, running slowly, and frequently sounding in quest of the main channel, with lights out to prevent being seen. After 4 o'clock she was hove to, to await daylight.
At day break the soldiers were all ordered below to prevent being seen, and none but the ship's crew allowed on deck. As soon as it was light enough to see she crossed the bar and proceeded up the channel to about two miles from Fort Moultrie-Fort Sumter being about the same distance—when a fire was opened on her from a masked battery on Morris Island, less than a mile distant.
She continued on, with the national flag displayed, under fire of the battery for ten minutes, Fort Moultrie also saluting her in the same manner, some of the shot passing over her, and others taking effect, till her position becoming critical from the circumstances that she would have to approach within easy range of Fort
Moultrie before she could bear away for Fort Sumter, and a supposed armed schooner was approaching from Fort Moultrie, in tow of a steamer, and the “Star of the West” being defenceless, her commander, Captain McGowan, deemed it proper, in order to avoid certain capture or destruction, to reverse her course, and, if possible, get to sea. She wore round, and steamed down the channel, the battery still firing upon her till the shot fell short. She cautiously proceeded, crossed the bar at 8:50 A. M., and continued on her return course to New York, where she arrived on the 12th of January.
Thus it is manifest, from the foregoing account, that it was the boom of the Rebel
the “Star of the West," instead of the outrage upon Sumter, as the stump orators commonly have it, that was the death-knell of slavery.
The authorities at Charleston had been apprised of the sailing of the “Star of the West” for Fort Sumter by a telegram from Secretary Thompson, at Washington; in fact, there was but very little transpired at Washington, that could be of any interest to the Rebels, that they were not immediately apprized of. In truth, not only Senators and Representatives, but high Government officials, were in complicity with them.
The Government dispatches to Major Anderson had been intercepted by the rebels, so that he was ignorant of the approach of reinforcements, and of the character of the “Star of the West,” if not also of the secession of South Carolina. He only knew that the steamer which had been attacked carried the United States flag, and supposed the assault some unauthorized mistake which would be disapproved and corrected by the proper