Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 1860: Anderson Takes Command in Charleston

On Thursday, November 15, 1860, Major Robert Anderson took command of the small garrison at Charleston, South Carolina.  Anderson replaced Colonel John L. Gardner of Massachusetts.

The Charleston garrison -- 10 officers and 64 enlisted men of Companies E and H of the U.S. First Artillery and the regimental band -- were all at Fort Moultrie, then the only active military base in the harbor.  The other forts were either obsolete or unfinished.

South Carolina state authorities put their secession plans in motion early in November of 1860, almost immediately upon the election of Abraham Lincoln, and the federal property in the state, everything from the forts that guarded Charleston harbor to the courthouses and post offices, quickly became a major issue.  The state's leaders wanted the United States to vacate the property or at least negotiate a sale price. 

The Buchanan War Department was trying to placate the Charlestonians by replacing Gardner with Anderson, a Kentuckian.  Gardner had started a major row by attempting to move a supply of arms from the Federal arsenal in the town to Fort Moultrie.  On November 7, he sent an officer ashore with a boat to move the arms, but a large crowd gathered at the wharf to prevent the transfer.  Soon, most of Charleston was protesting to Washington.

Anderson, 56, was a 35-year veteran of the army.  He graduated from West Point in 1825, 15th in his class.  He fought in the Black Hawk and Seminole Wars, then in the Mexican War where he was wounded at Molino Del Rey.  In peace time, he served on War Department boards and translated several French texts on artillery into West Point instruction manuals.  He had a reputation as an industrious and energetic officer. 

Saturday, November 06, 2010

November 6, 1860: Election Day

Tuesday, November 6, 1861, was Election Day, and Abraham Lincoln was elected the 16th president of the United States. Lincoln won 180 electoral votes, much more than the minimum 152 needed.

Lincoln won only 40% of the national popular vote, but handily defeated his three challengers. He won the election with a strong sweep of the northern states; he won 60% of the vote in the North while losing just two dozen counties.

Of the eleven states that would eventually secede, Lincoln appeared on the ballot only in Virginia. He finished fourth there with just 1.1% of the vote. In the four slave states that did not secede Lincoln came in fourth in Missouri, Kentucky and Maryland, and finished third in Delaware.

Constitutional Unionist candidate John Bell won Virginia, Kentucky and his native Tennessee for 39 electoral votes.

Southern Democratic candidate John Breckenridge won the rest of the south, eleven of the 15 slave states, for 72 electoral votes. He won 45% of the section's popular votes to Bell's 39%.

Northern Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas won 5-15% of the popular vote in most slave states and higher percentages in Northern states where he was Lincoln's main opponent.  In all, he finished second in the popular vote with 29.5%, but with his votes so scattered around the country he was able to win only 12 electoral votes, finishing last in that category.  He won the state of Missouri, and picked up three of New Jersey's seven electoral votes.

The split in the Democratic Party and the addition of the Constitutional Unionists don't appear to be big factors in Lincoln's win.  If all the opposition votes had gone to a single candidate in every free state, Lincoln would have lost only New Jersey, California and Oregon, and still would have won with 169 electoral votes.  In several states the opposition did try to unite behind fusion candidates, but there was too much animosity between the competing interests for much success.

The election of 1860 saw the second-highest turnout in United States history with 81.2% of the eligible voters casting ballots.  In 1876, 81.8% of the voters went to the polls.