WAR FOR THE UNION, 1861-1865
%419. South Carolina secedes%.—The only state where in 1860 presidential electors were chosen by the legislature was South Carolina. When the legislature met for this purpose, November 6, 1860, the governor asked it not to adjourn, but to remain in session till the result of the election was known. If Lincoln is elected, said he, the “secession of South Carolina from the Union” will be necessary. Lincoln was elected, and on December 20, 1860, a convention of delegates, called by the legislature to consider the question of secession, formally declared that South Carolina was no longer one of the United States.
[Footnote 1: “We the people of the state of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain ... that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.”]
%420. The “Confederate States of America."%—The meaning of this act of secession was that South Carolina now claimed to be a “sovereign, free, and independent” nation. But she was not the only state to take this step. By February 1, 1861, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas had also left the Union. Three days later, February 4, 1861, delegates from six of these seven states met at Montgomery, Ala., formed a constitution, established a provisional government, which they called the “Confederate States of America,” and elected Jefferson Davis and Alexander H. Stephens provisional President and Vice President.
Toward preventing or stopping this, Buchanan did nothing. No state, he said, had a right to secede. But a state having seceded, he had no power to make her come back, because he could not make war on a state; that is, he could not preserve the Union. On one matter, however, he was forced to act. When South Carolina seceded, the three forts in Charleston harbor—Castle Pinckney, Fort Sumter, and Fort Moultrie—were in charge of a major of artillery named Robert Anderson. He had under him some eighty officers and men, and knowing that he could not hold all three forts, and fearing that the South would seize Fort Sumter, he dismantled Fort Moultrie, spiked the cannon, cut down the flagstaff, and removed to Fort Sumter, on the evening of December 26, 1860.
[Illustration: CHARLESTON HARBOR]
This act was heartily approved by the people of the North and by Congress, and Buchanan with great reluctance yielded to their demand, and sent the Star of the West, with food and men, to relieve Anderson. But as the vessel, with our flag at its fore, was steaming up the channel toward Charleston harbor, the Southern batteries fired upon her, and she went back to New York. Anderson was thus left to his fate, and as Buchanan’s term was nearly out, both sides waited to see what Lincoln would do.