Saturday, March 19, 2011

150 Years Ago: Fox at Charleston

United States Navy officer Gustavus FoxImage via Wikipedia

President Abraham Lincoln really wanted to hang on to Fort Sumter if he could, especially since he had promised to do so in his inaugural address.  On one hand, his cabinet was almost unanimously for giving up the fort; on the other, public opinion was strongly against giving up the fort without a fight and growing stronger and louder by the day.  Lincoln needed more information and sent three men to Charleston to report back on the situation there.

The first of these men was Captain Gustavus Fox.  He met with Lincoln on this date, Tuesday, March 19, 1861, then immediately left for Charleston.  He arrived two days later and met with Governor Francis Pickens to explain his mission.  Pickens allowed him to travel to the fort to meet with Major Robert Anderson, the commander of the garrison there.

Anderson thought it was too late, that to relieve him now would be a massive undertaking.  He also made it clear that he was running low on supplies and could not stay in the fort past April 15.  Fox later insisted that he did not tell Anderson about his plan to use small boats to relieve the fort at night, but apparently enough hints were dropped that Anderson figured it out on his own.

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