Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anderson's covert act of War

  • [SC SECESSION CONVENTION] The Convention passes an Ordinance on customs with an amendment providing for South Carolina citizens owning up to 1/3 of a vessel to register it a South Carolina ship/1860
  • The South Carolina commissioners arrive in Washington, D.C., to arrange for the transfer of federal property inside South Carolina borders to the Palmetto Commonwealth/1860
Fearing an attack on Fort Moultrie's indefensible rear, which is only a sandy cow pasture, US Major Robert Anderson uses the Christmas holiday and the attention on the Secession Convention meeting in Charleston to make a covert move to protect himself. 

During the day, US Major Robert Anderson, in Charleston, orders three schooners loaded with belongings of the families of the men of Anderson's Fort Moultrie garrison along with stores to prepare for a move to Fort Sumter, along with their women and children. (Officially these schooners were chartered to take the women and children to Fort Johnson to be out of harm in case of an attack on Fort Moultrie, but Anderson was planning a covert move to Fort Sumter.) 

Late in the afternoon, the schooners set sail to lie off Fort Johnson until a gun could be heard signaling the successful garrison transfer of the garrison to Fort Sumter. Simultaneously, Anderson orders Captain Abner Doubleday, one of Anderson's two battery commanders, to have the garrison formed and ready to move in 20 minutes. Twenty minutes later, the whole command (with the exception of a small rear guard to man the Fort Moultrie cannon to fire on the SC guard boat if it attempted to hinder Anderson's crossing the harbour) marches quietly through the streets of Moultrieville about 1/4 mile to boats which have been concealed behind a seawall. 

Anderson and one company shoves off while Doubleday's men load their boats. It is twilight, and Doubleday sees a South Carolina guard boat bearing down on them which had been cruising between Sumter and Moultrie to prevent a crossing. Realizing retreat is impossible, he orders his men to take off their coats and put them over their rifles in the bottom of the boat. Doubleday opens his own coat to conceal his rank buttons, hoping they can pass for a party of laborers returning to the fort. 

The ruse works. Towing a barge, the guard boat stops for a quick look, then steams on into the twilight. Doubleday arrives at Sumter before Anderson and is greeted by the workmen there, many of whom wear Secession cockades. The surprised workmen are driven into the fort at bayonet point and held until Anderson gets there. He had hugged the shoreline in order to miss the SC guard boat and consequently arrives later. The schooners are then brought in from Fort Johnson and the women and children and family belongings unloaded. The SC workmen are sent to Fort Johnson on the schooners, then head back to Fort Moultrie for more supplies. 
Anderson arrives at Fort Sumter

Meanwhile at Moultrie, the rear guard spikes the cannon, chops down the flagpole, sends all remaining supplies, and prepares many of the gun carriages for burning in the morning. Thus, Anderson has run in the night to Fort Sumter, where he strengthens the facilities and mounts guns.  

Anderson's move to Fort Sumter under the cover of darkness is considered by Southerners a blatant act of war since now a US military force has guns pointing at the city of Charleston. 

Until Anderson’s covert actions on this day, most Southerners still considered this political situation capable of being settled diplomatically around the table rather than by gunfire. /1860

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