He had not long to wait for a solution of the question. The Government was in all appearance deaf to the advice of its Secretary of State, General Cass, of its General-in-Chief, Lieutenant-General Scott, of its Charleston Commander, Major Anderson, of its engineer, Captain Foster, so long as the problem was the safety of three great forts. But when the question became the possession of forty muskets, and the arming of two ordnance sergeants, “men with worsted epaulettes on their shoulders and stripes down their pantaloons” in the language of the Secretary of War, that eminent functionary could sacrifice his rest and slumber to the crisis. Captain Foster, who had returned from the city to Fort Moultrie, was awakened a little after midnight to receive the following peremptory instruction:
[Sidenote] W.R. Vol. I., p. 100.
I have just received a telegraphic
dispatch informing me that you
have removed forty muskets from Charleston arsenal to Fort
Moultrie. If you have removed any arms return them instantly.
JOHN B. FLOYD, Secretary of War.
[Sidenote] Foster to De Russy, Dec. 20, 1860. W.R. Vol. I., p. 101.
It was probably in no hopeful mood nor with enviable feelings that this brave officer returned by telegraph the strict routine answer of a loyal subordinate: “I received forty muskets from the arsenal on the 17th, I shall return them in obedience to your order." The necessary consequence he embodied in his report to the department on the next day: “The order of the Secretary of War of last night I must consider as decisive upon the question of any efforts on my part to defend Fort Sumter and Castle Pinckney. The defense now can only extend to keeping the gates closed and shutters fastened and must cease when these are forced.”
----------  “Although this would place my officers and Forts Sumter and Pinckney entirely at the mercy of any mob, I considered myself bound as an officer to obey the order, which I did by the prompt return of the muskets by 10 o’clock that morning.”—Foster, Report to The Committee on Conduct of the War.