War of the Rebellion: Serial 001 Page 0117 Chapter I. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC. - UNION.

Search Civil War Official Records

into no reciprocal agreement with me on the subject. They did not profess to have authority to do this, and were acting in their individual character. I considered it as nothing more in effect than the promise of highly honorable gentlemen to exert their influence for the purpose expressed. The event has proven that they have faithfully kept this promise although I have never since received a line from any one of them, or from the convention, on the subject. It is well known that it was my determination, and this I freely expressed, not to re-enforce the forts in the harbor, and thus produce a collision, until they had been actually attacked, or until I had certain evidence that they were about to be attacked. This paper I received most cordially, and considered it as a happy omen that peace might be still preserved, and that time might thus be gained for reflection. This is the whole foundation for the alleged pledge.

But I acted in the same manner as I would have done had I enter into a positive and formal agreement with parties capable of contracting, although such an agreement would have been on my part, from the nature of my official duties, impossible. The world knows that I have never sent any re-enforcements to the forts in Charleston Harbor and I have certainly never authorized any change to be made "in their relative military status."

Bearing upon this subject, I refer you to an order issued by the Secretary of War, on the 11th instant to Major Anderson, but not brought to my notice the 21st instant. It is as follows:

Memorandum of verbal instructions to Major Anderson, First Artillery, commanding at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.

You are aware of the great anxiety of the Secretary of War that a collision of the troops with the people of this State shall be avoided, and of his studied determination to pursue a course with reference to the military force and forts in this harbor which shall guard against such a collision. He has therefore carefully abstained from increasing the force at this point, or taking any measures which might add to the present excited state of the public mind, or which would throw any doubt on the confidence he feels that South Carolina will not attempt by violence to obtain possession of the public works or interfere with their occupancy. But as the counsel and acts of rash and impulsive persons may possibly disappoint these expectations of the Government, he deems it proper that you shall be prepared with instructions to meet so unhappy a contingency. He has therefore directed me verbally to give you such instructions.

You are carefully to avoid every act which would needlessly tend to provoke aggression; and for that reason you are not, without evident and imminent necessity, to take up any position which could be construed into the assumption of a hostile attitude. But you are to hold possession of the forts in this harbor, and if attacked you are to defend yourself to the last extremity. The smallness of your force will not permit you, perhaps, to occupy more than obey of the three forts, but an attack on or attempt to take possession of either one of them will be regarded as an act of hostility, and you may then put your command into either of them which you may deem most proper to increase its power of resistance. You are also authorized to take similar defensive steps whenever you have tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act.


Assistant Adjutant-General.

FORT MOULTRIE, S. C., December 11, 1860.

This is in conformity to my instructions to Major Buell.


Secretary of War.

These were the last instructions transmitted to Major Anderson before his removal to Fort Sumter, with a single exception, in regard to a particular which does not in any degree affect the present question. Under these circumstances it is clear that Major Anderson acted upon his own responsibility, and without authority, unless, indeed, he had "tangible