Thursday, March 24, 2011

150 Years Ago: Hurlbut and Lamon Visit Charleston

On Sunday, March 24, 1861, Lincoln's other two emissaries, Stephen Hurlbut and Ward Lamon, both old friends of Lincoln's, arrive in Charleston.  Hurlbut and Lamon traveled together, but parted ways once they reached the city.

Hurlbut's mission was to take the pulse of the people of Charleston and of South Carolina.  After meeting with James Petigru, one of the few Union men still in the state, Hurlbut reported back to Lincoln that "there is positively nothing to appeal to -- the sentiment of national patriotism, always feeble in Carolina, has been extinguished and over-ridden."

Hurlbut thought that the situation was hopeless.  Nothing would satisfy Charlestonians except surrender of the fort and recognition of South Carolina's independence.

Lamon met with Governor Francis Pickens and General P. G. T. Beauregard, who commanded the troops arrayed against Fort Sumter.  Lamon probably complicated the already complicated situation.  He was seen by both Southern leaders as the president's authorized agent and gave both men the idea that the fort might soon be surrendered.

Lamon's report to Lincoln was as bleak as Hurlbut's.  He brought back a message from Pickens that "nothing can prevent war except the acquiescence of the President of the United States in secession and his unalterable resolve not to attempt any reinforcement of the Southern forts."

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