While Anderson was thus penning the plain issue, as it lay in the clear light of a soldier’s conception of right and conviction of duty, another pen was framing the reply agreed upon by the President and his advisers at Washington. Major Anderson might have faith in the God of battles, but what faith could he have in a Government holding one-third of a vast continent peopled by thirty millions of freemen which could not or would not, in face of the most urgent reiterated appeals and the most imminent and palpable necessity, send him two or three companies of recruits, when the possession of three forts, the peace of a city, the allegiance of a State, if not the tremendous alternative of civil war, hung in the balance?
[Sidenote] Adjutant-General to Anderson,
Dec. 1, 1860. W.R. Vol.
I., pp. 82, 83.
“It is believed,”—so ran the reply, and apparently the final decision of the Government,—“from information thought to be reliable, that an attack will not be made on your command, and the Secretary has only to refer to his conversation with you, and to caution you that should his convictions unhappily prove untrue, your actions must be such as to be free from the charge of initiating a collision. If attacked, you are, of course, expected to defend the trust committed to you to the best of your ability. The increase of the force under your command, however much to be desired, would, the Secretary thinks, judging from the recent excitement produced on account of an anticipated increase, as mentioned in your letter, but add to that excitement and might lead to serious results.”
This renunciation by the War Department of the proper show of authority and power, demanded by plain necessity and repeatedly urged by its trusted agents, must have touched the pride of Anderson and his brother officers. But a still deeper humiliation was in store for them, The same letter brought him the following notice: “The Secretary of War has directed Brevet Colonel Huger to repair to this city as soon as he can safely leave his post, to return there in a short time. He desires you to see Colonel Huger, and confer with him prior to his departure on the matters which have been confided to each of you.”
[Sidenote] Abner Doubleday, “Reminiscences
of Forts Sumter and
Moultrie,” p. 42.
Colonel Huger was an ordnance officer of the army, then stationed for duty in Charleston, of distinguished connections in that city, and having on that account as well as personally great local influence.
What the precise nature of the instructions were, which the Department sent him, does not appear from any accessible correspondence. The result of the action which the two officers took thereunder is, however, less doubtful.