Whether the vigilance of a spy or the subservient fear or zeal of the storekeeper gave the Charleston authorities information of this trifling removal of arms, cannot now be ascertained. The muskets had scarcely reached their destination when Captain Foster was astonished by receiving a letter from the military storekeeper saying that the shipment of the forty muskets had caused intense excitement; that General Schnierle, the Governor’s principal military officer, had called upon him, with the declaration that unless the excitement could be allayed some violent demonstration would be sure to follow; that Colonel Huger had assured the Governor that no arms should be removed from the arsenal. He (Captain Humphreys) had pledged his word that the forty muskets and accouterments should be returned “by to-morrow night,” and he therefore asked Captain Foster to make good his pledge.
Captain Foster wrote a temperate reply to the storekeeper, which, in substance, he embodied in the more vigorous and outspoken report he immediately made to the Ordnance Department at Washington: “I have no official knowledge (or positive personal evidence either) that Colonel Huger assured the Governor that no arms should be removed from the arsenal, nor that, if he did so, he spoke by authority of the Government; but on the other hand I do know that an order was given to issue to me forty muskets; that I actually needed them to protect Government property and the lives of my assistants, and the ordnance sergeants under them at Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney, and that I have them in my possession. To give them up on a demand of this kind seems to me as an act not expected of me by the Government, and as almost suicidal under the circumstances. It would place the two forts under my charge at the mercy of a mob. Neither of the ordnance sergeants at Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney had muskets until I got these, and Lieutenants Snyder and Meade were likewise totally destitute of arms.”
[Sidenote] Foster to De Russy, Dec. 18,
1860. W.R. Vol. I., pp. 95,
“I propose to refer the matter to Washington, and am to see several gentlemen, who are prominent in this matter, to-morrow. I am not disposed to surrender these arms under a threat of this kind, especially when I know that I am only doing my duty to the Government.”
[Sidenote] Foster to De Russy, Dec. 20, 1860. W.R. Vol. I., p. 101.
[Sidenote] Foster to De Russy, Dec. 19,
1860. W.R. Vol. I., pp. 97,
According to his promise, Captain Foster went to the city on the 19th to hold an interview with General Schnierle and “several other prominent citizens of Charleston” on the subject of the alleged “intense excitement” which was again paraded as a menace to induce him to return the arms. If he was originally surprised at the reported excitement he was now still more astonished to find that it did not exist except in the insurrectionary zeal of those