Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 452 pages of information about Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02.
who were performing this farcical role purely for its theatrical effect.  A majority of the “prominent citizens,” who had been convoked as a part of the stage retinue to intimidate him by the threat of a mob, had not yet even heard of the affair.  Detecting readily the sham and pretense of the performance, he seems to have at least accorded them the merit of an honest delusion.  He quietly and politely explained to them the regularity of his orders and proceedings, and the good faith of himself and his brother officers.  But he firmly declined to return the muskets until he should be directed to do so by the Government.  Yet willing to go to the verge of his discretion to allay irritation, he agreed to appeal immediately by telegraph to the Ordnance Bureau for a decision.

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."[1] 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.”

[1] “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.


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Abraham Lincoln, a History — Volume 02 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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