It appears to have been, in effect, a mission by two army officers of honorable rank, in obedience to direct commands from the Secretary of War, to humbly beg the Charlestonians not to assault the forts. Major Anderson on his part dismisses the distasteful mission with a significantly curt report: “I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt on the 4th of your communication of the 1st instant. In compliance therewith I went yesterday to the city of Charleston to confer with Colonel Huger, and I called with him upon the Mayor of the city, and upon several other prominent citizens. All seemed determined, as far as their influence or power extends, to prevent an attack by a mob on our fort; but all are equally decided in the opinion that the forts must be theirs after secession.”
What a bitter confession for a brave and sensitive soldier, who knew that with half a company of artillerymen in Castle Pinckney, as he had vainly demanded, the Charleston mob, with the conspiring Governor and insurgent secession convention, would have been compelled to accept from him, as the representative of a forbearing Government, the safety of their roof-trees and the security of their hearthstones.
[Sidenote] Anderson to Adjutant-General,
Dec. 6, 1860. W.R. Vol.
I., pp. 87, 88.
But, his duty was to obey, and so he resigned himself without a murmur to the hard conditions which had fallen to his lot. “I shall, nevertheless,” adds Anderson, “knowing how excitable this community is, continue to keep on the qui vive and, as far as is in my power, steadily prepare my command to the uttermost to resist any attack that may be made.... Colonel Huger designs, I think, leaving Charleston for Washington to-morrow night. He is more hopeful of a settlement of impending difficulties without bloodshed than I am.”
THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
Less than a month intervened between the November election at which Lincoln had been chosen and the annual session of Congress, which would meet on the first Monday of December, and it was necessary at once to begin the preparation of the annual message. A golden opportunity presented itself to President Buchanan. The suffrages of his fellow-citizens had covered his political theories, his party measures, and his official administration with condemnation, in an avalanche of ballots. But the Charleston conspirators had within a very few days created for him a new issue overshadowing all the questions on which he had suffered political wreck. Since the 6th of November the campaign of the Border Ruffians for the conquest of Kansas, and the wider Congressional struggle for the possession of the Territories, might be treated as things of the past. Even had they still been pending issues, they paled into insignificance before the paramount question of disunion. Face to face with, this danger, the adherents of Lincoln, of Douglas, of Bell, and the fraction of the President’s own partisans in the free-States would be compelled to postpone their discords and as one man follow the constitutional ruler in a constitutional defense of the laws, the flag, and the territory of the Union.