Thursday, April 7, 2011

Act of war: Sumter relief fleet sails for Charleston

Revenue cutter USS Harriet Lane
  • [SEIGE OF FORT SUMTER] At Charleston, South Carolina, Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard, following orders by Secretary of War Leroy P. Walker in Montgomery, Alabama, notifies US Major Robert Anderson commanding Fort Sumter that he is cutting off communications between Charleston (and thus Washington authorities) and Fort Sumter, putting Anderson in an information blackout. The Confederate government about a week ago began to smell a Yankee rat after Presidential envoys had promised the evacuation of Fort Sumter but nothing had happened. They had begun to wonder if their diplomatic courtesies in the face of repeated acts of war were the victims of a kind of political and military bait and switch by the Lincoln Administration, buying time while they prepared to reinforce Fort Sumter. Indeed, their gut was right, and their intelligence confirmed it./1861
  • FEDERAL ACT OF WAR AGAINST THE SOUTH! A Federal fleet sets sail from the Brooklyn Navy Yard for Charleston, SC, to reinforce and resupply Major Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter. The Expedition, as it is called, is commanded by Navy Captain Gustavus V. Fox and consists of the armed side-wheel steamer Harriet Lane, the second class screw sloops Pawnee and Pocahontas, the transport Baltic with 200 men and provisions, and three tugs viz. the Freeborn, Uncle Ben, and Yankee. The ships are to sail individually to preserve the secrecy of the expedition. The tugs have most of their machinery below the waterline and any above is protected by hay or cotton bales. Upon arriving at Charleston Harbor, they are ordered to pass about 1300 yards from the land batteries under cover of darkness, moving at 14 knots on a cross course to avoid being struck by shells. If hit, however, there are sufficient launches to save the on-board military reinforcements whom Lincoln had told Governor Pickens would not be present on the expedition. Launches are to be used anyway if the seas are calm. Confederate gunboats could make short work of the launches, but fire from Sumter would fight them off. This is all fanciful, however, because what the Lincoln Administration and Expedition mastermind Gustavus V. Fox think is a top secret mission is known by Confederate authorities. It is because of this fleet's expedition that Beauregard will prepare to ask Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter and, subsequently, fire upon the fort prior to the Expedition’s arrival. But Lincoln, however bungling a President, is a shrewd strategist. He will achieve his goal of having the Confederates fire on the US flag./1861 

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