Thursday, April 14, 2011

150 Years Ago: A Final Ceremony at Fort Sumter

On Sunday, April 14, 1861, Major Robert Anderson's garrison evacuated Fort Sumter, relinquishing control of the fort to the Confederate authorities.  As per the terms of the surrender agreement made the previous day, Anderson was allowed to salute the U.S. flag and take his men and their personal property back to New York.

One of the large guns on the barbette began firing a 100-gun salute.  A burning ember landed on a pile of cartridges behind the piece causing a huge explosion.  During the 34-hour bombardment of the fort, some 4000 shells had been fired by both sides with no loss of life.  Now, during the surrender ceremony, Private Daniel Hough was killed and five others were wounded.  One of these, Private Edward Gallway, died a few days later in a Charleston hospital.  They were the first of over 600,000 men who would die during the war.  The salute was stopped at 50 shots.

Private Hough was buried at the fort with a company of South Carolina volunteers presenting arms and a Confederate naval chaplain conducting the service.

The U.S. flag was lowered and presented to Anderson.  Four years to the day later, on April 14, 1865, Anderson, then a major general but in ill health and in retired status, would return to the fort and hoist the same flag in a victory ceremony.

With the band playing "Yankee Doodle," the U.S. Army garrison marched to the wharf where they boarded transports that would take them to the U.S.S. Baltic, still outside the harbor, that would take them to New York.  Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard, South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens and other dignitaries made a formal inspection of the fort they had just captured.  They found it heavily damaged and estimated that it would cost at least $350,000 to make repairs.

In Washington, President Abraham Lincoln learned of the surrender of Fort Sumter and met with his cabinet and military advisers.  He also met with his political rival Stephen Douglas, and read to him the proclamation of war he would issue in the morning.  Douglas wholehearted approved of the proclamation and promised his full support, but advised him to call out 200,000 militia.  The Democratic Party would support the war.

From The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton:
Dining with three cabinet members not long after the fall of Fort Sumter, Winfield Scott expressed complete confidence in Northern victory, but doubted that there would be an early end to the nation's troubles. For a long time to come, he said, it would require the exercise of all of the powers of government "to restrain the fury of the noncombatants."

This fury was an elemental force that swept through North and South in precisely the same way, and it was going across the land like a flame. It did not look like fury at first; it was wild, laughing, extravagant, armed with flags and music and the power of speech, groping insistently for heavier weapons. The coming of war had released it. Something unendurable had ended; the uncertainty and the doubt were gone, along with the need to examine mind and heart for unattainable answers, and a Boston merchant looked about him at the crowds, the waving banners, and the general jubilation and wrote: "The heather is on fire. I never before knew what a popular excitement can be." The London Times's Mr. Russell, stopping in North Carolina on his way to Charleston, saw the same thing -- "flushed faces, wild eyes, screaming mouths," with men shouting so stridently for Jefferson Davis and the Southern Confederacy (to which North Carolina had not yet attached itself) that the bands playing "Dixie" could not be heard. Men slapped strangers on the backs, women tossed bunches of flowers from windows, and in Richmond a crowd paraded to the Tredegar Iron Works under a Confederate flag, dragged a cannon to the steps of the state Capitol, and fired a salute. Some fundamental emotion had slipped the leash; it would control both President Lincoln and President Davis, and yet at the same time it was a force which the two men themselves would have to control in order to make war.

Dazzled by the overwhelming public response to the news that one flag had gone down and another had gone up, ordinarily sensible men gave way to uncritical vaporing. Youthful John Hay, the somewhat condescending ornament of the White House secretariat, looked at a company of untried Northern militia and wrote: "When men like these leave their horses, their women and their wine, harden their hands, eat crackers for dinner, wear a shirt for a week and never black their shoes -- all for a principle -- it is hard to set any bounds to the possibilities of such an army." Hard indeed; particularly so since exactly the same sort of men were doing exactly the same things in the South for a diametrically opposed principle, creating boundless possibilities of their own. Leroy Pope Walker, the Confederate Secretary of War, told a serenading crowd in Montgomery that the Confederate flag "will, before the first of May, float over the dome of the old capitol in Washington," and he went on to say that if Southern chivalry were pushed too far, the flag might eventually rise over Faneuil Hall in Boston. The eminent German-American Carl Schurz wrote admiringly that "millionaires' sons rushed to the colors by the side of laborers," and correspondent Russell noted that barefooted poor whites in the deepest South were whooping it up for Confederate independence as loyally as the wealthiest planters.

Through the fall and winter, events had seemed to move slowly, as if fate wanted to give men a chance to have second thoughts about what was being done. Now everything began to go with a rush, and what was done would be done for keeps.

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