Sunday, December 26, 2010

Anderson Moved His Command to Fort Sumter

Major Robert Anderson, commander of United States forces in Charleston Harbor, moved his entire command, under cover of twilight darkness to Fort Sumter, 150 years ago tonight.  There, he hoped, he could keep his command secure from the growing Charlestonian mobs.  

He thought, hoped, and prayed this move might also give the entire country some breathing room.

Had President Buchanan supported Anderson fully, Civil War might very well have been averted.  

Such, of course, was not the case.

At a little after 8pm, Major Anderson wrote to his wife: “Thanks be to God.  I give them with my whole heart for His having given me the will, and shewn me the way to bring my command to this Fort.  I can now breathe freely.  The whole force of S. Carolina would not venture to attack us.  Our crossing was accomplished between six and eight o’clock.  I am satisfied that there was no suspicion of what we were going to do.  I have no doubt that the news of what I have done will be telegraphed to New York this night.  We saw the signal rockets thrown up all around just as our last boat came over.  I have not time to write more—as I must make my report to the Ad. Genl. . . . Praise be to God for His merciful kindness to us.  I think that the whole country North and South should thank Him for this step.” [quoted in Lawton, Major Robert Anderson (1911), 8-9]

Friday, December 24, 2010

Review of Harry Stout, UPON THE ALTAR OF THE NATION (2006)

Harry S. Stout, Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the American Civil War (New York: Viking, 2006).

Christian gentlemen founded South Carolina, informants assured the London Times correspondent, William Howard Russell, upon his arrival in Charleston in April, 1861.  “It was established not by witch-burning Puritans, by cruel persecuting fanatics, who . . . breathed in the nostrils of their newly-born colonies all the ferocity, bloodthirstiness, and rapid intolerance of the Inquisition,” they claimed, shortly after their bombardment of Fort Sumter.  Confusing its own bigotry with Christianity, Puritanism birthed impurity and “inchastity.”  Further, Yankee Puritans “know how to read and write, but they don’t know how to think, and they are the easy victims of the wretched imposters on all the ‘ologies and ‘isms.”  To make matters unbearable, such hateful and ignorant persons had recently elected Abraham Lincoln as President. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Russell Kirk on Abraham Lincoln, 1970

One hundred fifty years ago today, the Union—or, what was left of it—was in an uproar.  Two days earlier, after three days of debate, the South Carolina Convention declared itself independent of the American Union. 

Never before or since has a greater threat existed against the cohesiveness and integrity of the United States of America.  The hapless James Buchanan, a liar and a coward, sat in the Oval Office, impotent.  The incoming president would not take the oath of office for another three months. 

It seems appropriate, then, as we begin the 150th anniversary of the events that led to the American Civil War, we turn to the intellectual and spiritual patron of this website, Russell Kirk, and consider his views on Abraham Lincoln, the man who would become so identified with the four-year noble tragedy.

[posted originally at]

Doubleday Concerned

One hundred fifty years ago today, New Yorker and Army Captain, Abner Doubleday, sat concerned in Charleston, South Carolina.  

Only three days earlier, South Carolina had declared itself independent from the American Union.  One could find federal property throughout and around the city (forts, treasuries, armories, etc.), and Doubleday wondered what the hapless Pennsylvania Democrat and dough face occupying the White House might do about it.

The declaration of independence and secession was clear enough.

AN ORDINANCE to dissolve the union between the State of South Carolina and other States united with her under the compact entitled "The Constitution of the United States of America." We, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by us in convention on the twenty-third day of May, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, whereby the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified, and also all acts and parts of acts of the General Assembly of this State ratifying amendments of the said Constitution, are hereby repealed; and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of the "United States of America," is hereby dissolved.  Done at Charleston the twentieth day of December, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty. 

Simple enough to state; extremely difficult to make real.

As Doubleday recorded in his memoirs, writing as a Unionist and self-proclaimed "Black Republican," in the heart of secession, “This dallying with treason in the Cabinet was one of the most discouraging signs of the times. . . . It was plain enough, from demonstrations already made, that . . . the rebels would seize the fort, and turn its powerful armament upon us.  There was no one there to resist them.” [D-day, Reminiscences, 57]