How It Was Done

Pittsburgh Daily Gazette, April 18, 1861

In all the history of the world there is no account of so singular a contest as that in which the American government is now engaged. Five months ago treason and revolt burst forth like the sudden eruption of a volcano. A weak Executive, whose leading advisers were traitors, bent before the storm, and suffered the outbreak to progress until not only ourselves but the whole civilized world trembled for the safety of the government. Indeed it would have been overthrown had not other and better men been placed in authority.

For four weeks after the 4th of March the administration of Mr. Lincoln seemed to be as inert, and weak, and timid as that of his predecessor; yet we now see that it was working with extraordinary vigor, but so quietly that neither friends nor foes could tell what it was doing, or whether it was doing anything. Deep murmurs of discontent began to be expressed by the former, and exultant shouts of triumph arose from the ranks of the traitors.

The administration suffered the story to go out that it was desirous of evacuating Sumter, and even went so far as to authorize Major Anderson to negotiate with Gen. Beauregard in respect to terms. He did so. He proposed to withdraw all his force except a corporal and two men, who should be left as the nominal representatives of the government, and have the care of its property, and also required a pledge that this small guard should not be molested.

Beauregard, under the orders, doubtless, of Jefferson Davis, refused to agree to the proposed terms, but demanded a full surrender of the fort. This the rebels regarded as a great triumph, little dreaming that it was only the first move in a series, which for consummate tact and strategy is perhaps unparalleled.

The next move was to let it be known that the administration desired to send a single unarmed vessel with provisions to the now starving garrison; but that it had no intention to reinforce it. This too was refused.

Then the curtain was rolled up, and all men were permitted to see the vigorous preparations for war, both by sea and land, going on at New York. Ship after ship sailed, with sealed orders, laden with troops, munitions and stores. All parties, both North and South, came to the conclusion that all this was intended for Charleston, and that Sumter was to be reinforced and saved at any cost. This brought the traitor government to the point, and orders were given to Gen. Beauregard to commence actual hostilities by opening his batteries upon Sumter.

We were all mistaken. The administration had no intention of making a fight at Sumter. Some of the ships of war cast anchor—if we may believe the telegrams—in the lower part of Charleston harbor, but showed no inclination to take any part in the battle. On Anderson's side the fight was only a sham; for with admirable skill he managed to fire away for some twenty four hours without killing a man. Boats plied unharmed between Charleston and Morris Island, directly across Anderson's line of fire. In all this Major Anderson only obeyed orders, and his conduct from first to last has the President's cordial approbation. Many persons were inclined to censure him for giving up so easily; but now they understand it. When a dispatch told us that the balls of Sumter were knocking chimney-tops off like a hurricane, and that not a man had been injured, we were strongly tempted to suspect his fidelity; yet, when properly understood, nothing could be more mortifying to the pride of the Southern "chivalry" than such a fact as this. Why, Anderson made even his guns laugh at them.

Sumter is of itself of no strategical value in this contest to either party; but it has been turned, by this skilful manoeuvre, to a most admirable account. By holding on to it, some thousands of the rebel troops were kept at Charleston harbor, which probably saved the Capital of the nation from assault on the fourth of March. For this we are indebted, not to Mr. Buchanan, but to Major Anderson, who, on his own responsibility, took possession of it, and thus foiled the traitors for that time. Mr. Lincoln, with admirable sagacity, kept it for five weeks in a weak and helpless condition, and suffered the impression to go abroad that he was unable, or afraid, to retain or strengthen it. He next let the impression get abroad that he was about to do something for it; and then, in order to gain the inside track, Jefferson Davis ordered his general to besiege it. Thus he ran blindly into the trap, and drew upon himself and his bogus government the awful responsibility of inaugurating active war against the government. Lincoln used Sumter to draw their fire—to put them thoroughly in the wrong—to compel them to act out their true character—to put them in a position where all men could see them as they were, and thus withdraw from them the sympathy of every honest man. He uttered no threats; he did nothing to provoke them; he asked nothing humiliating; he only expressed a wish to be permitted peaceably to supply a starving garrison. But he made a movement in New York, which, by a mistaken inference, was construed into a threat. With characteristic barbarity they resisted the peaceful and merciful mission of the unarmed provision-ship, and hastened to open a murderous cannonade upon the little garrison and inaugurate a war. Thus to treason, barbarity and cowardice, they added the commission of an egregious blunder.

The seige of Fort Sumter—although in itself, perhaps, the broadest farce in the annals of warfare, and one that will elicit shouts of laughter throughout the world—has already revolutionized this great nation; for on the part of the traitors it was war as fierce and determined as ever was waged; and now, with singular unanimity, the whole people of the free States regard them as national enemies. Their first blow, although claimed as a victory, is really one of the most disastrous defeats that ever a set of poor wretches sustained. To be treated by Anderson, under the orders of Lincoln, as a set of maniacs or spoiled children, who were not to be hurt, was awful. Lincoln was careful of their blood, but terribly severe upon their pride, which, like Achilles' heel, or a nigger's shin, is their most vulnerable part.