Black History: First Shots of the Civil War

© copyright 2008 Storm Bear.  Town Called Dobson

To view the original, travel to a Town Called Dobson.  Black History: First Shots of the Civil War

Six days after South Carolina seceded, U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and secretly relocated the 85 men under his command, who comprised two companies of the 1st U.S. Artillery, to Fort Sumter. Anderson had been appointed to command the Charleston garrison that Fall because of rising tensions. Anderson had been a protégé of Winfield Scott, the senior general in the U.S. Army at the time, and was thought more capable of handling a crisis than the garrison’s previous commander. Throughout the autumn, South Carolina authorities considered both secession and the expropriation of Federal property in the harbor to be inevitable. As tensions mounted, the environment around the fort-which was located in what was still technically a constituent U.S. state-increasingly resembled a siege, to the point that the South Carolina authorities placed picket ships to observe the movements of the troops and threatened violence when forty rifles were transferred to one of the harbor forts from the U.S. arsenal in the city.

Several forts had been constructed in the harbor, including Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie. Fort Moultrie was the oldest and was the headquarters of the garrison. However, it had been designed essentially as a gun platform for defending the harbor, and its defenses against land-based attacks were feeble; during the crisis, the Charleston newspapers commented that sand dunes had grown up against the walls in such a way that the wall could easily be scaled. When the garrison began clearing away the dunes, the papers objected. Fort Sumter, by contrast, dominated the entrance to Charleston Harbor and was thought to be one of the strongest fortresses in the world once its construction was completed; in the autumn of 1860 work was nearly done, but the fortress was thus far garrisoned by a single soldier, who functioned as a lighthouse keeper. However, it was considerably stronger than Fort Moultrie, and its location on a sandbar prevented the sort of land assault to which Fort Moultrie was so vulnerable.

Under the cover of darkness on December 26, 1860, Anderson spiked the cannons at Fort Moultrie and moved his command to Fort Sumter. South Carolina authorities considered this a breach of faith and demanded that the fort be evacuated. At that time President James Buchanan was still in office, pending Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861. Buchanan refused their demand and mounted a relief expedition in January 1861, but shore batteries fired on and repulsed the unarmed merchant ship, Star of the West. The battery that fired was manned by cadets from The Citadel, who were the only trained artillerists in the service of South Carolina at the time.

Following the formation of the Confederacy in early February, there was some internal debate among the secessionists as to whether the capture of the fort was rightly a matter for the State of South Carolina or the newly declared national government in Montgomery, Alabama. South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens was among the states’ rights advocates who felt that all of the property in Charleston harbor had reverted to South Carolina upon that state’s secession as an independent commonwealth. This debate ran alongside another discussion as to how aggressively the properties-including Forts Sumter and Pickens-should be obtained. Jefferson Davis, like his counterpart in Washington, D.C., preferred that his side not be seen as the aggressor. Both sides believed that the first side to use force would lose precious political support in the border states, whose allegiance was undetermined; prior to Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, five states had voted against secession, including Virginia, and Lincoln openly offered to evacuate Fort Sumter if it would guarantee Virginia’s loyalty.

In March, Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard took command of South Carolina forces in Charleston; on March 1, Davis had appointed him the first general officer in the armed forces of the new Confederacy, specifically to take command of the siege. Beauregard made repeated demands that the Union force either surrender or withdraw and took steps to ensure that no supplies from the city were available to the defenders, whose food was running out. He also increased drills amongst the South Carolina militia, training them to operate the guns they manned. Ironically enough, Anderson had been Beauregard’s artillery instructor at West Point; the two had been especially close, and Beauregard had become Anderson’s assistant after graduation. Both sides spent the month of March drilling and improving their fortifications to the best of their abilities.

By April 4, President Lincoln, discovering that supplies in the fort were shorter than he had previously known, and believing a relief expedition to be feasible, ordered merchant vessels escorted by the United States Navy to Charleston. On April 6, 1861, Lincoln notified South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens that “an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only, and that if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort.”

In response, the Confederate cabinet, meeting in Montgomery, decided on April 9 to open fire on Fort Sumter in an attempt to force its surrender before the relief fleet arrived. Only Secretary of State Robert Toombs opposed this decision: he reportedly told Jefferson Davis the attack “will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet’s nest. … Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”

The Confederate Secretary of War telegraphed Beauregard that if he were certain that the fort was to be supplied by force, “You will at once demand its evacuation, and if this is refused proceed, in such a manner as you may determine, to reduce it.” Beauregard dispatched aides to Fort Sumter on April 11 and issued their ultimatum. Anderson refused, though he reportedly commented, “Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days.”

Further discussions after midnight proved futile. At 3:20 a.m., April 12, 1861, the Confederates informed Anderson that they would open fire in one hour. At 4:30 a.m., a single mortar round fired from Fort Johnson exploded over Fort Sumter, signaling the start of the bombardment from 43 guns and mortars at Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, and Cummings Point. Edmund Ruffin, a notable secessionist, had traveled to Charleston in order to be present for the beginning of the war, and was present to fire the first shot at Sumter after the signal round. Anderson withheld his fire until 7:00 a.m., when Capt. Abner Doubleday fired a shot at the Ironclad Battery at Cummings Point. But there was little Anderson could do with his 60 guns; he deliberately avoided using guns that were situated in the fort where casualties were likely. Unfortunately, the fort’s best cannons were mounted on the uppermost of its three tiers, where his troops were most exposed to enemy fire.

The fort had been designed to hold out against a naval assault, and naval warships of the time did not mount guns capable of elevating to fire over the walls of the fort; however, the land-based cannons manned by the South Carolina militia were capable of landing such indirect fire on Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter’s garrison could only safely fire the guns on the lower levels, which themselves, by virtue of being in stone emplacements, were largely incapable of indirect fire that could seriously threaten Fort Moultrie. Moreover, although the Federals had moved as much of their supplies to Fort Sumter as they could manage, the fort was quite low on ammunition, and was nearly out at the end of the 34-hour bombardment. The shelling of Fort Sumter from the batteries ringing the harbor awakened Charleston’s residents (including diarist Mary Chesnut), who rushed out into the predawn darkness to watch the shells arc over the water and burst inside the fort. The bombardment lasted through the night until the next morning, when a shell hit the officers’ quarters, starting a serious fire that threatened the main powder magazine.

The fort’s central flagpole also fell. During the period the flag was down, before the garrison could improvise a replacement, several Confederate envoys arrived to inquire whether the flag had been lowered in surrender. Anderson agreed to a truce at 2:00 p.m., April 13, 1861.

Terms for the garrison’s withdrawal were settled by that evening and the Union garrison surrendered the fort to Confederate personnel at 2:30 p.m., April 14. The soldiers were safely transported back to Union territory by the U.S. Navy squadron whose anticipated arrival as a relief fleet had prompted the barrage. No one from either side was killed during the bombardment, with only five Union and four Confederate soldiers severely injured. During the 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag-Anderson’s one condition for withdrawal-a pile of cartridges blew up from a spark, killing one soldier (Private Daniel Hough) and seriously injuring the rest of the gun crew, one mortally (Private Edward Galloway); these were the first fatalities of the war. The salute was stopped at fifty shots. Anderson lowered the Fort Sumter Flag and took it with him to the North, where it became a widely known symbol of the battle, and a rallying point for supporters of the Union.

The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the first military action of the American Civil War. Following the surrender, Northerners rallied behind Lincoln’s call for all of the states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union. With the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. For months before that, several Northern governors had discreetly readied their state militias; they began to move forces the next day. The ensuing war lasted four years, effectively ending in April 1865, with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Charleston Harbor was completely in Confederate hands for the four-year duration of the war, a hole in the Union naval blockade. Union forces retook the fort just days after Lee’s surrender and the collapse of the Confederacy. On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after lowering the Fort Sumter Flag in surrender, Anderson (by then a major general, although ill and in retired status) raised it over the fort again.

Two of the cannons used at Fort Sumter were later presented to Louisiana State University by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who was president of the university before the war began.

Birth Of A Notion Disclaimer

Special Request to Town Called Dobson Fans The San Francisco Chronicle is pondering the addition of new cartoons for their paper – a process that seems to be initiated by Darren Bell, creator of Candorville (one of my daily reads – highly recommended). You can read the Chronicle article here and please add your thoughts to the comments if you wish. If anything, put in a good word for Darren and Candorville.

I am submitting Town Called Dobson to the paper for their consideration. They seem to have given great weight to receiving 200 messages considering Candorville. I am asking TCD fans to try to surpass that amount. (I get more than that many hate mails a day, surely fans can do better?)

This is not a race between Darren and I, it is a hope that more progressive strips can be represented in the printed press of America.

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David Wiegand

Executive Datebook Editor

The San Francisco Chronicle

901 Mission St.

San Francisco, CA 94103

Chicken Little Cries; “We Have No Choice.” Kucinich Locked Out

copyright © 2007. Betsy L. Angert

Americans acknowledge “The sky is falling.”  We, the people must unite and take our country back.  Democrats must choose the most desirable candidate.  The best candidate is defined as the one who can win the White House.  The Top Three are fine; perhaps, not as good as, they could be, but they will do the job.  Dennis Kucinich, for many is ideal.  His proposals are well thought out and he fully addresses the issues that affect the common folk.  However, Americans hear at every turn, Dennis Kucinich does not have a chance.  

Presidential aspirant Kucinich was excluded from  the American Association for Retired Persons [AARP] debate in the Hawkeye State. In Granite country, ABC News declared Dennis Kucinich would be barred from the dialogue.  Silver State voters were not able to see the profound Presidential hopeful on stage.  He was relegated to the streets allowed to speak only to the neon lights.  The Palmetto State decreed, “Dennis, this is not your kingdom.”  Indeed, you are locked out in this land of liberty.  Now, Texas tells its tall tale.  Dennis Kucinich will not be the hero in the Lone Star State.

The consensus amongst those whose capital counts votes is, it is important to win the White House.  Dennis Kucinich and his supporters only slow the process.  Actually, they threaten the comfort that is the status quo.  While many Progressives hesitantly accept this may be true,; nonetheless, these Democrats who seek change state, we must do as we have done before.  We need to unite behind a single candidate, two, or three.  Choose from those who have a chance to “beat” the brutal Republicans, and then, once the field is narrowed, all Democrats must vote for the nominee.

After all, there is war in the Middle East.  Iraq and Afghanistan have been torn asunder.  Iran may be next.  Israel is unstable.  North Korea is a concern.  We must not forget Lebanon, and our own shores.  No one is safe or secure.

Here at home, the Health Care system is in shambles.  Jobs have gone aboard.  The stock market is down.  Morale is low.  The economy is in the tank.  Fuel costs are high, as is rage among the American populace.  It is time for a change.  Democrats need to take the country back if we are to survive.  If the Republicans “win” the White House, the average American will be locked out.  The people cannot be treated as Dennis Kucinich has been.

Kucinich supporters must face the facts.  Come in from the cold.  Forget their commitment to principles that honor all people equally.  Those devoted to the common cause must be sensible.  If the Democrats are to triumph, every Progressive must accept that America may be at war in Iraq through at least 2013.  If those on the Left wish to be victorious we must follow the Clinton, Obama, or even Edwards lead.  If that means more troops are sent to Afghanistan, so be it.  We Liberals have to submit to the notion that a Single Payer, Not For Profit Heath Care plan will not be in our future.  If Insurers and Pharmaceuticals still decide for us, oh well.  At least a Democrat will be in the Oval Office,

Remember the math, 1+1=2.  Facts are facts.  Philosophical arguments are useless; they are merely a waste of time.  If you vote for potential President Dennis Kucinich, you just throw away your ballot, and forfeit our chance to win.  Hence, Progressives, Liberal, Democrats unite.  

Each day, as Elections approach, Democratic Americans join arms.  In Iowa, citizens held hands as they caucused.  In New Hampshire, constituents came together to cast their ballots.  Nevada and Michigan residents had their turn.  Voters determined who might represent them.  In South Carolina Republicans rekindled their zeal for democracy.  Days from now, Democrats will do the same in that southern region.  

Throughout the territory, Americans take advantage of every opportunity to be informed.  Inhabitants in the first primary States became personally acquainted with the aspirants.  In every locale people sit around television sets and watch the Presidential hopefuls debate.  The populace truly makes an informed decision, or so we are lead to believe.  Yet, in a nation where corporate moguls with mountains of money own the airwaves, and the companies that supply our medical, mechanical, and mundane needs dictate what is advisable, the people do not have the freedoms they could have.

Americans know this.  Common folks understand all too well, we do not have access to information.  Americans remember the false intelligence that led us into the Iraq War.  Each of us recalls the atrocities hidden from view.  The body bags flown into Dover Air Force Base in the dead of night were sadly not a dream.  The Human Rights violations witnessed belatedly through photographs too long suppressed, from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prison were a glimpse into stark reality of what is.

The people speak out; yet, they remain silenced, and powerless.  In part, as Americans we have learned to accept that we alone can do little.  We are convinced not to vote for our convictions, but to cast a ballot for the presumed electable, corporate determined, candidate.  

There is reason to believe that there is strength in numbers, and there is.  However, if we consider the large numbers of us who do not follow the wisdom within, our perspective changes.  When one-by-one we  relent, and become part of the mass movement, then we as a whole settle for less than what might have been.  When the Party nominee is the person, who from the first, we fully endorse, whose proposed policies we truly support, then there is no problem.  We can follow the lead of our allegiance.

However, when the person who best represents our authentic principles, from the beginning has been locked out, and declared “not viable,” when that individual is unknown to most Americans, and is not placed on many a ballot, we must decide whether we will submit, and settle for what is available to us.

Many ask Kucinich supporters not to vote for principles, for a person emblematic of all that they value.  Those who wish to see Dennis Kucinich in the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, are told to endorse a chosen candidate, one the Party leaders, and the media deem electable.  

Liberal Progressives receive requests, “Ignore the fact that Big Three are each tied to profiteers.”  We can only expect so much.  If we are to be good Democrats, we must make sure that Republicans do not take office.  That is of utmost importance.  It matters not that the Party’s, neither of them, act in the interest of the average Joe or Joanne.

Sure, they say . . . “A national Single Payer, Not for Profit Health care would be nice.  An immediate withdrawal of all troops from Iraq would be welcome. No war with Iran, ah, but to hope.  The promise of a repeal of the Patriot Act and the restoration of civil liberties . . .Well, we can only imagine. To think the United States might cancel the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] and the rebuild the auto, steel, aerospace, shipping, and manufacturing industries . . . dare we dream. Could we possibly initiate carbon-free and nuclear-free energy policies.  One can only wonder.”

Those who believe that what we conceive, we can achieve know that with Dennis Kucinich, in the White House all this would be possible.

Yet, supporters, such as I, feel as a lone Chicken Little the smallest voice among the dissenters.  I cry in fear as do my fellow Democrats, “The sky is falling.  The sky is falling.”  Progressives say they have heard that before and while they believe it to be true, an umbrella will protect them.  I think not.

For me, a small cloth collapsible canopy made of thin fabric will not shield me from harm.  I have tried to safeguard my brethren and myself for years.  Many of my ballots were parachutes intended to slow the fall.  However, none truly did a adequate job.  The wind and watershed of the wealthy who control the economy and the agenda always had their way.

My lovable eighty-nine year young cousin mused aloud of his near century of votes.  He reflected, throughout his adult life only once has he voted for a Presidential candidate who spoke to his ethics, beliefs, and humane principles.  In his days as a voter, he did as people have done.  He cast a ballot against the Presidential candidate he thought worse for the nation, for the world.  In each of the decades that my relative was able to vote, he did not feel the person he cast a ballot for in the general election was the quality candidate America needed.  The nominees were corrupt, or tied to powers-that-be. The interests of the people were ignored, and consistently, while change was promised, the average American did not benefit.

I offer the reflections of another frustrated citizen who cares, who observes his choice for President and our dreams are being crushed.  Michael Collins, I thank you.

“Chain, Chain, Chain …” The Texas Primary

Forced Loyalty Oath Locks Out Kucinich

By Michael Collins

“Scoop” Independent News

January 19, 2008

Dennis Kucinich may not win the Democratic nomination for president, but he’s leaving a pro-democracy legacy across the country. To begin with, this candidate actually discusses critical issues demonstrating his respect for voters. With regard to the voters’ right to know, he just asked for the first recount in memory for a presidential primary simply because it makes perfect sense. The New Hampshire results need a serious second look.

Kucinich struck another blow for democracy by challenging the restrictive loyalty oath required by the Texas Democratic Party to get on the primary ballot. He actually reads the contracts he signs. When presented with the loyalty oath required to run as a Democrat in the Texas primary, Kucinich prudently edited the document to reflect the requirements of free citizens living in a democracy: . . .

The concern expressed by Kucinich was simple. If the eventual Democratic nominee supports the Iraq War, signing this oath would require Kucinich to support that nominee and therefore the war. To make matters worse, supporting the war would negate his duty as a Member of Congress to protect and uphold the Constitution. Like a few others, Kucinich knows that this is an unconstitutional war since it was never declared by Congress (See Article I, Section 8, “To declare war”). What other choice did he have but to reject the loyalty oath? What justification did the other candidates have to accept the oath? . . .

Democracy’s Champion among the Candidates ??

Dennis Kucinich is the one consistent advocate for expanded democracy and measures to fight election fraud among all of the presidential contenders. Kucinich has a strong record as an advocate for working men and women by promoting civil rights, voting rights, and human rights at home and abroad. He’s never shied away from taking both principled and practical positions on elections. These are, after all, the essential element to achieve his goals.

His call for a recount in New Hampshire was without rancor or negative speculation. He simply recognized the problem, invoked the right to recount, and paid the bill. . .

From his first days on the national stage, Kucinich has stood for the people and against the interests of greed and exploitation. In return for his efforts, he’s been ridiculed and marginalized.

Imagine, a man who fights for the people, the Constitution, the rights of all Americans, and for this reason is intentionally removed from view.  Then, envision that same quality person seated in the White House, having been elected by an educated electorate.  Oh, I do dream of the time when a President of the United States represents the common folk.  I also understand, that if I,  join with all other Democratic Americans and vote for the candidate that is thought to be  the lesser of the “evils,” then I will have helped  my fellow countrymen to get what we have had for all the years that my eighty-nine year young cousin recalls.  

I will not contribute to change if I concede Dennis Kucinich cannot be my candidate of choice.  I will have simply surrendered to the status quo.

Mahatma Gandhi teaches, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Perchance, if we wish to expect a different outcome from elections we must not do as voters have done for at least a century. .  Open-minded Progressives may wish to consider, facts, as we know them only prove what we already believe.  Mathematicians may discover that just as the sum of angles of a triangle in a three dimensional plane do not total 180 degrees, if we do as we have never thought to do, we may realize 1+1 does not always equal 2.  Perhaps, if we change, so too will the State of the Union.  Indeed, America may actually become a nation where all men, women, and children are created equal.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

~ Albert Einstein [American Physicist]

Dennis Kucinich (D) on Texas Democrats loyalty oath

When We Are the Change . . .