Civil War Letters Between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens


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Harper's Weekly, January 19, 1861

Other Pages From this Newspaper Include:

Governor Pickens (Cont.) | Civil War Map of Fort Sumter | Civil War News from January 19, 1861 | Civil War Ship "Brooklyn" | Star of the West | Civil War Letters Between Major Anderson and Governor Pickens

Below we present a leaf from the January 19, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly. This leaf was printed just as the Civil War was getting underway.  It presents correspondents between South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens, and Union Major Anderson, in command at Ft. Sumter.  These correspondents occurred before the actual bombardment of Ft. Sumter.



 [JANUARY 19, 1861.


(Previous Page) or authority. Under that hope I refrain from opening fire on your batteries. I have the honor, therefore, respectfully to ask whether the above-mentioned act—one which I believe without parallel in the history of our country or any other civilized government—was committed in obedience to your instructions, and notify you, if it is not disclaimed, that I regard it as an act of war, and I shall not, after reasonable time for the return of my messenger, permit any vessel to pass within the range of the guns of my fort.

"In order to save, as far as it is in my power, the shedding of blood, I beg you will take due notification of my decision for the good of all concerned. Hoping, however, your answer may justify a further continuance of forbearance on my part, I remain, respectfully,



" Governor Pickens, after stating the position of South Carolina to the United States, says that any attempt to send United States troops into Charleston harbor to reinforce the fort would be regarded as an act of hostility, and in conclusion adds that any attempt to reinforce the troops at Fort Sumter, or to retake and resume possession of the forts within the waters of South Carolina, which Major Anderson abandoned after spiking the cannon and doing other damages, can not be regarded by the authorities of the State as indicative of any other purpose than the coercion of the State by the armed force of the Government.

"Special agents, therefore, have been off the bar to warn approaching vessels, armed and unarmed, having troops to reinforce Fort Sumter aboard, not to enter the harbor. Special orders have been given the commanders at the forts not to fire on such vessels until a shot across their bows should warn them of the prohibition of the State. Under these circumstances the Star of the West, it is understood, this morning attempted to enter the harbor with troops, after having been notified she could not enter, and consequently she was fired into. The act is perfectly justified by me.

"In regard to your threat about vessels in the harbor, it is only necessary for me to say you must be the judge of your responsibility. Your position in the harbor has been tolerated by the authorities of the State, and while the act of which you complain is in perfect consistency with the rights and duties of the State, it is not perceived how far the conduct you propose to adopt can find a parallel in the history of any country, or be reconciled with any other purpose than that of your government imposing on the State the condition of a conquered province.


To His Excellency Governor Pickens:

" SIR,—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, and say that, under the circumstances, I have deemed it proper to refer the whole matter to my Government, and intend deferring the course I indicated in my note this morning until the arrival from Washington of such instructions as I may receive.

"I have the honor also to express the hope that no obstructions will be placed in the way, and that you will do me the favor of giving every facility for the departure and return of the bearer, Lieutenant T. Talbot, who is directed to make the journey.   


Lieut. Talbot left Charleston accordingly for Washington, without hindrance by the authorities.

The picture on page 37 will convey to the beholder some idea of the work known as Fort Johnson, on the nearest extremity of James Island to Fort Sumter. In the event of an attack upon that Fort from the shore, Fort Johnson would naturally be the principal point from which the attack would be made. At present it is hardly a fortified point, there being nothing but a barrack and a few storehouses to certify to its military character. But the Charleston papers state that men are busily engaged in throwing up earthworks and batteries there.


The steamship Marion, 800 tons burden, of the New York and Charleston line, was seized by the State authorities of South Carolina on 10th, to be converted into a vessel of war. She was built here by Jacob Bell, and was launched on February 3, 1851. At the time of her capture she was commanded by Captain Sam Whiting.


The Brooklyn is at present hourly expected at Charleston, and may take an active part in any future contest at that point. She was launched at New York on the 27th of July, 1858, and took her place in the navy on the 1st of January, 1859. She is by far the largest sloop of war in our navy, or in the world, and carries the heaviest battery ever placed on the deck of any vessel of her class ; yet she only draws 16 feet water. Her length on deck is 247 feet, breadth of beam 43 feet, depth of hold 21} feet, being 2000 tons, government measurement ; and is rated at 14 guns on the navy register, although pierced for 24 9-inch shell guns and two 10-inch pivot guns, the weight of each being nearly six tons. All the hatch and mast combings on this deck are of mahogany—a wood never before used for such a purpose in our navy. All the spare spars required, together with three boats, are carried upon a bridge amidships, elevated above the deck sufficiently high to walk under, which is an entirely new arrangement. By this improvement the space upon deck is kept clear and unobstructed for working the guns. Her en-tire complement is about 300 men. The captain's cabin occupies the space of 25 feet in length at the after end of this deck. The boilers are Martin's patent, now generally adopted in the naval service. Her propeller is of composition, 14 feet 6 inches in diameter, and weighing 13,500 pounds. It is arranged for hoisting on deck when not needed, and can be taken out of water by means of a capstan, arranged for the purpose, in less than two minutes. She is sparred precisely like sailing vessels of similar tonnage in the merchant service, her screw being merely an auxiliary affair. Her speed is estimated at ten knots under steam.


THE mean stairs of the tenement-house rattled and creaked with the steps of late rioters ; all the foot-worn boards sprung again with the tread of loutish men that stumbled through the damp, ill-lighted halls of the house No. 600 and odd Fourth Street.

With the cap of Fortunatus on I saw what I relate.

In one meager, gaunt room of the house aforesaid sat, on a Christmas-Eve, a lady and a child. I knew she was such by her voice, manner, and gesture, in spite of the mean garb which covered her. She worked upon a sewing -machine. All the fittings of the room said poverty ; for they were the remnants of a once fine suit of furniture. A handsome bureau and a cheap chair eyed each other askance; the chair with ill-concealed plebeian contempt frowned upon the bureau, and it with lofty indifference held itself high above its neighbor. Well might it. with the hidden treasure it carried in its case. The child sat upon the floor, with its tiny legs crossed outside its dress; in its hand it held a stocking.

" Shall I hang it up, mamma?" she asked.

I thought from where I stood that mamma had not heard her ; but she slowly ceased from working, and the machine stopped its clicking. The little Yankee clock on the mantle, interpreting the child's thought, cried every second, " Be quick!" " Be quick!" " Be quick !"

" Shall you hang it up, my child? Yes, indeed you shall, though Heaven alone knows who will fill it. What indeed is left to us in life now ?"

She fell into a reverie, and thoughts of other Christmas-Eves, past and gone, were running in her head. The child pulled the dress of its mother, and stirred upon the floor ; its red lips moved convulsively, which the mother seeing, caught the baby up and rocked it upon her breast until it fell asleep. When she saw this was accomplished she put the child upon the bed, hung the red stocking to the mantle, and pinning her shawl on went out. With the cap on I followed.

When the close air of the corridors was passed we came to the dismal street. It was dismal be-cause of dirt, but riotous by reason of the anniversary of the dear Christ's birth. I thought, and the lady thought, that even the gas-lamps burned brighter and clearer. I know that the stars were shining more brilliantly than ever, and that the white beams they scintillated through the cold air were only the wands of angels, who are always near upon that night. Carefully threading our way, we went toward the Bowery. All the living tide of people parted on each side, and made wind-rows of humanity upon the walk ; all their pockets were plethoric; all their baskets ran over ; all the sweet virtues of the mortal heart shone vividly in the faces of the populace ; for, as I knew, and the people knew, they had forgotten care, and were careless. Down the busy street we went, looking in each window where toys were for sale, where all the wondrous people of fairy-land had their abiding places. In some shops there were green trees with such rare store of fruit upon them of every kind that I looked about to see the trap-door, and the ring with the magician above ; for surely we were in Aladdin's garden. Soon we stopped, and entered one of these little stores. The lady, after looking all about, purchased a doll and some confections, and cast a longing glance upon a toy-cradle. She put it down with a sigh, and was going away. There were many people in the store, and among others a tall gentleman with a fur collar to his cloak. He saw the look and action of my companion, and motioned the shop-keeper to give it her. She took it with a surprised look of gratitude, and left the store. I followed behind.

I should have known it was Christmas-Eve by this gentleman's action.

As we wended our way with swift steps homeward I heard the sound of feet pursuing us. The lady looked about and I also. We saw the Fur Collar coming down the street after us : when we stopped, he also stopped ; as we loitered, he also loitered : his acts were the counterpart of ours. I had thought to doff my cap and render assistance if need be ; but he never came any nearer, and we walked on. As we turned the last corner between us and the place where the child lay quietly sleeping we both looked back : in the bright starlight the Fur Collar was coming down the street at a swinging pace : affrighted, the lady bounded to the door, just to see the Fur Collar turn the corner and discover her retreat. What evil thoughts had he masked under his charitable action ?

Then I pondered ; can this be Christmas-Eve ? Panting and breathless the lady gained her room ; she looked at the child, and I bent over her shoulder ; it lay so softly in its rest, with one idle arm of ivory over its face toward off the world and life, that I wished I too were a babe asleep upon Christmas-Eve. Afterward the lady took the sewing-machine and put it away in a corner ; then the doll and sweetmeats were placed in the stocking and hung where the child's eyes would first fall upon them on waking; then going to the bureau she took from thence a miniature, and some worn and faded letters.

If I had been visible to mortal eyes then I should have been seen in a corner with folded arms and gathered brow closely watching. This was what the lady said :

" It is no harm to look upon your face now, dear Walter ; it is no sin, since my husband is gone. Oh, why did you not come again from abroad, and take me to your heart as you promised ?"

Why, indeed ? I said to myself, and peeped over her shoulder. I saw a strong manly face, full of kind light in the eyes and altogether most noble-featured.

The lady reached and took up the letters with tender care—how old and how silent the room and the world were then ! I thought I heard the beatings of her heart as it pulsed its flood through her ivory breast. I surely saw her bodice vibrate. All the fluttering leaves of the sacred epistles fell apart, and with their white lips told me her tale. I saw there the record of a sorrowful, disappointed life ; I saw the accomplishment of an unequal and unhappy marriage, because without love; I saw the long, long days she watched and waited for the tarrying bridegroom ; and, finally, the reluctant assent to the sacrifice of all hopes. Then I saw a gap in the volume and the burial of the husband, the surrendering of house and home to pay debts ;

and, finally, the cap of Fortunatus, which I wore, brought me back to the room where we were and the daily tenor of this lady's life.

" Twelve long years (she spoke again)—twelve long years, and no sign of him ever yet gladdened my heart." Then looked to where the child lay, and said, " This is not his."

The wells in her heart afforded such bounteous store of sensibility that they ran over at her eyes.

" What a change it is, and what a life I lead !" she spoke once more. " Who could have thought that in twelve short years these things could have come to pass ?" I went to the window and looked out : the cap was not water-proof and betrayed my eyes. As I live I saw the Fur Collar in the street, pacing up and clown, and glancing occasionally at the window. Still the woman sat in thought.

It was late at night, and the streets were silent, and the city dead and dumb. Alone in the wide world, we two kept watch and communion ; then my companion turned and put away the letters and picture, and drew out the machine to work upon, but by the aid of the cap the task was completed. She looked at it amazedly. " I must have done it in a dream," she said, and would not be satisfied until it had been thoroughly pulled.

I looked out at the window again, but the streets were silent and no stragglers were abroad. " The Fur Collar has given it up and gone away," I said. The lady kneeled and made her devotions. In the Presence, which drew near, I removed for a little while the cap. As she arose I heard footsteps on the stair ; they came nearer and nearer, and I thought were passing, but a hand knocked at the door for admittance. The lady started in fear—none were at hand to save her from danger : she hesitated, but, glancing at the child, mustered courage to approach the door and say,

" Who is there ?"

There came the answer back, " A friend."

" I am alone, friend, and can not let you in. What do you wish ?"

"To come in," said the friend.

At the sound of the voice she gave a start and made an effort to breathe : she unlocked the door instantly, her face as white as stone.

It was the Fur Collar with a domino on.

If the lady had had any vitality left she would have shrieked out, but all manner of contending emotions left her without power to do so. I pre-pared to take off the cap, but the Fur Collar had taken off his domino, and I saw the face of the portrait whom she had called Walter. She fell to fainting when he disclosed his face : he bent tenderly over and kissed her into animation. When she was alive he told her his life, and the reason of his not coming years ago to fulfill his word. He said that he had been cast away, and unable to reach his home until the present time ; that he -had escaped to California, and had made some money; that he knew of her marriage, and but for her situation would never have seen her again, and might have searched a long time but for the chance meeting in the toy-shop. Then the lady fell to upbraiding herself for her faithlessness in not keeping her vow ; but the Fur Collar would have none of it. He told her she was forgiven, if she would now fulfill it.

The lady said she would.

The lady and the Fur Collar sat long in quiet talk afterward : they sat so long that I heard a cock crow, and saw the eye of day unclose in the east. I saw also the child awake and catch at its treasure with a ringing laugh.

Then I knew for a surety that Christmas had in-deed come.


A BEAUTIFUL morning ; a delicious breeze tempered the burning rays of a mid-summer sun; a boundless wilderness of prairie afforded a rich feast for the eye—which did not, however, satisfy the earnest protest of our breakfastless stomachs. Yet, under this undulating sea of brilliant-hued verdure lay concealed the treacherous sloughs.

" These sloughs," said Lanky, " make me think of a girl I once loved and wanted to marry, but—didn't. You see she was handsome, and knew it; had any quantity of lovers, but somehow allowed me to make an ass of myself by giving me to understand that I was the one. All at once she up and married another fellow, leaving me in a slough —ha, ha, ha ! I wonder how I ever got out ! Since that I never see a pretty woman without thinking of the poor devils she has left floundering in the slough of jilted lovers, and wishing that after Eve had eaten the apple the old Serpent had ended the trouble by swallowing her. Whoa ! whoa !"

Rip ! splash ! bang ! A shower of mud and water. The dash-board kicked into splinters ; ditto the whiffle-trees. The horse rearing and plunging, sinking deeper and deeper into the soft, oozy, black mire. We had not turned to the right, and had thoughtlessly driven into the Big Slough !

" Gee ! gee !" cried Lanky. " Turn around and drive back!"

Easier said than done. The struggling horse was down, and both thills broken short off. Lanky jumped, caught his foot in the reins, and fell flat upon his face in the soft mud. I was more successful. Seizing the horse by the bits, I have a very indistinct recollection of going through a series of gymnastic and equestrian performances never equaled by the champions of the saw-dust arena. I turned impossible somersaults, made miraculous leaps, stood upon my head one moment, lay upon my back the next, rolled over the horse, rolled under the horse, swung round his head like a whip-lash, my feet cutting down the tall grass in swaths equal to those made by a first-rate mower, and all this upon a carpet of mire wherein the horse at times sank almost out of sight.

At last I somehow reached dry land, still clinging to the bits, where I was joined by Lanky, who, as he scraped the mud from his face, hair, and whiskers, said,

"What the devil am I going to do? Mud from

head to foot, and not a clean rag to put on ! I'm in a pretty pickle ! Look here ! I've torn the seat clean out of my pants !"

"Never mind that now," said I. "Mount the horse, ride back to the cabin where we staid last night, and tell the old man to come here with his oxen and help us get out the wagon !"

Lanky galloped off instanter.

I waded back to the wagon, and sat down. I was too cross, wet, muddy, and hungry to think or care about any thing in particular. I only de-sired the speedy return of Lanky.

Sitting thus, and broiling, broiling in the hot, red-hot rays of the sun, a century (so it seemed) must have passed, when, greatly to my relief, a man, with horse and wagon, came in sight, bearing off toward the north upon the ridge we should have followed. Trot, trot, trotting along so nicely, I was envious of the traveler's good luck, and —down went the fore wheels of his wagon, snap went the axle, the horse sprang clear of the harness and ran off like the wind, the traveler turned a somersault over the dash-board, landing upon his head.

That traveler was undoubtedly astonished—I am sure I was ; but no opportunity was given to express my feelings or go to his assistance. As I turned to jump from the wagon I saw two men, with a team, at a stand-still about a quarter of a mile to the south, shouting and gesticulating as though addressing an assemblage of their fellow-citizens upon the political issues of the day. They were in a bad predicament, in the middle of the Big Slough.

I shouted and waved my hat. They shouted and waved their hats. But alas ! I could not understand them ; they could not understand me. At length one of the men pulled off his boots and pantaloons, and commenced wading toward me. That man will ever have a distinct recollection of that quarter-mile heat. It was awful. At times sinking nearly to his waist, slipping here and falling there, he staggered up to the wagon, panting and blowing, muddy, bloody, reeking with perspiration—a most dismal-looking specimen of a man.

" I say, friend," gasped he, " I'm a hard-looking customer just now ; but never mind the odds and luck too ! W' have had a sweet old time, t'other side of this slough. Had to leave our wagon—stuck fast ! Got the horses on to a dry spot, and there we are ! Can you help us any?"

I explained my situation to the man, and advised that we wait until the reinforcements came up. He assented ; and we amused ourselves watching the other traveler, who had recovered from his astonishment, and was now " pegging" away over the prairie after his runaway horse.

Soon came Lanky with the old man and his oxen. We immediately commenced work—and such work ! In three hours we were all out of the slough. As it was then late in the afternoon, we reluctantly concluded to favor the old man with our company for another night.

We were a sorry-looking assemblage. The poorest rag-picker would have turned up his nose at our clothing. Our faces, bodies, and hands were incrusted in black mud, which, having dried and cracked, gave us the appearance of a damaged lot of Congo negroes.

During the remainder of the day torn clothes, broken harnesses, fractured wagons, and mud furnished plenty of employment. We expatiated in glowing terms and vigorous language upon the beauties of a prairie country, especially in a wet season. At supper our potatoes were boiled in a kettle in which Lanky swore he had seen the old lady wash her feet, the night before. We ate them, however, with a keen relish. We were too hungry to be over-fastidious about trifles.




CHAPTER XXXIII. RESPECTABLE reader, there is no use in asking you if you have ever been in the Hotel of the "Balance," at Constance. Of course you have not. It is neither recorded in the book of John, nor otherwise known to fame. It is an obscure hostel, only visited by the very humblest wayfarers, and such poor offshoots of wretchedness as are fain to sleep on a truckle-bed and sup meanly. Vaterchen, however, spoke of it in generous terms. There was a certain oniony soup he had tasted there years ago whose flavor had not yet left his memory. He had seen, be-sides, the most delicious schweine fleisch hanging up from the kitchen rafters, and it had been revealed to him in a dream that a solvent traveler might have rashers on demand.

Poor fellow ! I had not the vaguest idea of the eloquence he possessed till lee came to talk on these matters. From modest and distrustful, he grew assured and confident ; his hesitation of speech was replaced by fluent utterance and a rich vocabulary ; and he repeatedly declared that though the exterior was unprepossessing, and the service generally homely, there were substantial comforts obtainable which far surpassed the resources of more pretentious houses. "You are served on pewter, it is true," said he ; " but pewter is a rare material to impart relish to a savory mess." Though we should dine in the kitchen, he gave me to understand that even in this there were advantages, and that the polite guest of the salon never knew what it was to taste that rich odor of the " roast," or that fragrant incense that steamed up from the luscious stew, and which were to cookery what bouquet was to wine.

"I will not say to you, honored Sir," continued he, " that in the mixed company which



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