Seizure of Southern Forts, and Beginning of Hostilities


This Site:

Civil War

Civil War Overview

Civil War 1861

Civil War 1862

Civil War 1863

Civil War 1864

Civil War 1865

Civil War Battles

Confederate Generals

Union Generals

Confederate History

Robert E. Lee

Civil War Medicine

Lincoln Assassination


Site Search

Civil War Links


Civil War Art

Revolutionary War

Mexican War

Republic of Texas


Winslow Homer

Thomas Nast

Mathew Brady

Western Art

Civil War Gifts

Robert E. Lee Portrait


Seizure of Southern Forts, and The Beginning of the Civil War

Details from the January 12th edition of Harper's Weekly

Major Anderson in Harper's Weekly | 

Seizure of Southern Forts, and Beginning of Hostilities | 

News of Loyal Union States | 

Major Anderson's Command at Fort Moultrie | 

Major Anderson Enters Fort Sumter | 

Major Anderson Enters Ft. Sumter (Cont.)


In order to allow you to see the major events of the Civil War unfold just as the people living at the time, we present original Harper's Weekly articles in their entirety.  Below we present a leaf of the January 12, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.  We have digitized an image of the original leaf, and have converted it to readable text.  This leaf presents the first news stories of the incredible events leading to the start of the Civil War. 

The Leaf below contains the following incredible reports (Title takes you to the article)

  1. Congressional Actions Immediately Preceding the Civil War

  2. Bill Authorizing the Use of Force in Collecting Tariffs from the South

  3. The South Carolina Secession Convention

  4. The South Carolina Seceding Cabinet

  5. The Presidents Response to the Secessionists

  6. Seizure of Fort Moultrie

  7. Charleston's Seizure of Revenue Ship

  8. Forts in Georgia are Seized by Secessionists

  9. Forts Seized in Mobile Alabama

  10. Major Anderson Besieged at Fort Sumter

  11. Major Anderson Abandons Fort Moultrie

  12. US Senate Unable to Reach Compromise

  13. Head of War Department, Floyd Resigns

  14. Reasons for Secretary Floyd's Resignation





[JANUARY 12, 1861


Miss Havisham glanced at him as if she understood what he really was, better than I had thought possible, seeing what he was there ; and took up a little bag from the table beside her.

"Pip has earned a premium here," she said, "and here it is. There are five-and-twenty guineas in this bag. Give it to your master, Pip."

As if he were absolutely out of his mind with the wonder awakened in him by her strange figure and the strange room, Joe, even at this pass, persisted in addressing me.

" This is very liberal on your part, Pip," said Joe, " and it is as such received and grateful welcome, though never looked for, far nor near nor nowheres. And now, old chap," said Joe, conveying to me a sensation, first of burning and then of freezing, for I felt as if that familiar expression were applied to Miss Havisham ; " and now, old chap, may we do our duty ! May you and me do our duty, both on us by one and another, and by them which your liberal present—have—conveyed—to be—for the satisfaction of mind-of-them as never—" here Joe showed that he felt he had fallen into frightful difficulties, until he triumphantly rescued himself with the words, " and from my-self far be it !" These words had such a round and convincing sound to him that he said them twice.

" Good-by, Pip !" said Miss Havisham. " Let them out, Estella."

" Am I to come again, Miss Havisham?" I asked.

"No. Gargery is your master now. Gargery ! One word!"

Thus calling him back as I went out of the door, I heard her say to Joe in a distinct emphatic voice, " The boy has been a good boy here, and that is his reward. Of course, as an honest man, you will expect no other and no more."

How Joe got out of the room I have never been able to determine ; but I know that when he did get out he was insanely proceeding up stairs instead of coming down, and was deaf to all remonstrances until I went after him and laid hold of him. In another minute we were out-side the gate, and it was locked, and Estella was gone.

When we stood in the daylight alone again, Joe backed up against a wall, and said to me, "Astonishing !" And there he remained so long, saying "Astonishing!" at intervals, so often, that I began to think his senses were never coming back. At length he prolonged his remark into "Pip, I do assure you that this is astonishing !" and so, by degrees, became conversational and able to walk away.

I have reason to think that Joe's intellects were brightened by the encounter they had passed through, and that on our way to Pumblechook's he invented a subtle and deep design. My reason is to be found in what took place in Mr. Pumblechook's parlor : where, on our presenting ourselves, my sister sat in conference with that detested seedsman.

" Well?" cried my sister, addressing us both at once. "And what's happened to you? I wonder you condescend to come back to such poor society as this, I am sure I do !"

" Miss Havisham," said Joe, with a fixed look at me, like an effort of remembrance, "made it wery partick'ler that we should give her—were it compliments or respects, Pip?"

" Compliments," I said.

"Which that were my own belief," answered Joe—" her compliments to Mrs. J. Gargery."

"Much good they'll do me!" observed my sister ; but rather gratified too.

" And wishing," pursued Joe, with another fixed look at me, like another effort of remembrance, " that the state of Miss Havisham's elth were sitch as would have—allowed, were it, Pip?"

" Of her having the pleasure," I added.

"Of ladies' company," said Joe. And drew a long breath.

" Well !" cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook. " She might have had the politeness to send that message at first, but it's better late than never. And what did she give young Rantipole here ?"

" She giv' him," said Joe, " nothing."

Mrs. Joe was going to break out, but Joe went on.

" What she giv'," said Joe, "she giv' to his friends. 'And by his friends,' were her explanation, ' I mean into the hands of his sister Mrs. J. Gargery.' Them were her words; ' Mrs. J. Gargery.' She mayn't have know'd," added Joe, with an appearance of reflection, " whether it were Joe, or Jorge."

My sister looked at Pumblechook : who smoothed the elbows of his wooden arm-chair, and nodded at her and at the fire, as if he had known all about it beforehand.

"And how much have you got?" asked my sister, laughing. Positively laughing !

"What would present company say to ten pound ?" demanded Joe.

"They'd say," returned my sister, curtly,. "pretty well. Not too much, but pretty well."

" It's more than that, then," said Joe.

That fearful Impostor, Pumblechook, immediately nodded, and said, as he rubbed the arms of his chair : "It's more than that, mum."

"Why, you don't mean to say—" began my sister.

" Yes, I do, mum," said Pumblechook ; " but wait a bit. Go on, Joseph. Good in you! Go on !"

"What would present company say," proceeded Joe, " to twenty pound ?"

"Handsome would be the word," returned my sister.

"Well, then," said Joe, "it's more than twenty pound."

That abject Hypocrite, Pumblechook, nodded Again, and said, with a patronizing laugh, "It's

more than that, mum. Good again ! Follow her up, Joseph !"

"Then to make an end of it," said Joe, delightedly handing the bag to my sister ; "it's five-and-twenty pound."

"It's five-and-twenty pound, mum," echoed that basest of swindlers, Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her ; "and it's no more than your merits (as I said when my opinion was asked), and I wish you joy of the money !"

If the Villain had stopped here his case would have been sufficiently awful, but he blackened his guilt by proceeding to take me into custody, with a right of patronage that left all his former criminality far behind.

" Now you sec, Joseph and wife," said Pumblechook, as he took me by the arm above the elbow, " I am one of them that always go right through with what they've begun. This boy must be bound out of hand. That's my way. Bound out of hand."

" Goodness knows, Uncle Pumblechook," said my sister (grasping the money), " we're deeply beholden to you."

"Never mind me, mum," returned that diabolical corn-chandler. " A pleasure's a pleasure all the world over. But this boy, you know ; we must have him bound. I said I'd see to it—to tell you the truth."

The Justices were sitting in the Town Hall near at hand, and we at once went over to have me bound apprentice to Joe in the Magisterial presence. I say we went over, but I was pushed over by Pumblechook, exactly as if I had that moment picked a pocket or fired a rick; indeed it was the general impression in Court that I had been taken red-handed, for, as Pumblechook shoved me before him through the crowd, I heard some people say, "What's he done ?" and others, "He's a young 'un too, but looks bad, don't he ?" One person of mild and benevolent aspect even gave me a tract ornamented with a woodcut of a malevolent young man in a perfect sausage-shop of fetters, and entitled, To BE READ IN MY CELL.

The Hall was a queer place, I thought, with higher pews in it than a church—and with people hanging over the pews looking on—and with mighty Justices (one with a powdered head) leaning back in chairs, with folded arms, or taking snuff, or going to sleep, or writing, or reading the newspapers—and with some shining black portraits on the walls, which my unartistic eye regarded as a composition of hardbake and sticking-plaster. Here, in a corner, my indentures were duly signed and attested, and I was " bound ;" Mr. Pumblechook holding me all the while as if we had looked in on our way to the scaffold to have those little preliminaries disposed of.

When we had come out again, and had got rid of the boys who had been put into great spirits by the expectation of seeing me publicly tortured, and who were much disappointed to find that my friends were merely rallying round me, we went back to Pumblechook's. And there my sister became so excited by the twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have a dinner out of that windfall, at the Blue Boar, and that Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbies and Mr. Wopsle.

It was agreed to be done ; and a most melancholy day I passed. For it inscrutably appeared to stand to reason, in the minds of the whole company, that I was an excrescence on the entertainment. And to make it worse, they all asked me from time to time—in short, whenever they had nothing else to do—why I didn't enjoy myself. And what could I possibly do then but say I was enjoying myself—when I wasn't?

However, they were grown up and had their own way, and they made the most of it. That swindling Pumblechook, exalted into the beneficent contriver of the whole occasion, actually took the top of the table; and, when he ad-dressed them on the subject of my being bound, and fiendishly congratulated them on my being liable to imprisonment if I played at cards, drank strong liquors, kept late hours or bad company, or indulged in other vagaries which the form of my indentures appeared to contemplate as next to inevitable, he placed me standing on a chair beside him to illustrate his remarks.

My only other remembrances of the great festival are, that they wouldn't let me go to sleep, but whenever they saw me dropping off, woke me up and told me to enjoy myself. That, rather late in the evening Mr. Wopsle gave us Collins's Ode, and threw his bloodstain'd sword in thunder down with such effect that a waiter came in and said, " The Commercials underneath sent up their compliments, and it wasn't the Tumbler's Arms." That, they were all in excellent spirits, on the road home, and sang 0 Lady Fair ! Mr. Wopsle taking the bass, and asserting with a tremendously strong voice (in reply to the inquisitive bore who leads that piece of music in a most impertinent manner, by wanting, to know all about every body's private affairs), that he was the man with his white locks flowing, and that he was upon the whole the weakest pilgrim going.

Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now.



ON Thursday, December 21, in the Senate, a bill was reported to provide for a Territorial Government for Arizona. Senator Brown, of Mississippi, wished to have a section added for the protection of slave property. Senator Trumbull, of Illinois, desired that the law in force when the Territory was annexed to this country be continued until it shall become a State. Senator Doolittle, of Wisconsin, made a long and powerful speech, in which he re-

viewed the whole question of Slavery. He was followed by Senators Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, Green of Missouri, Mason of Virginia, and others, and, without taking a vote, the Senate adjourned until Monday.—In the House, Mr. Stevens, of Washington Territory, made personal explanation in reference to a dispatch which had appeared in a Boston and a New York paper. Mr. Morris, of Illinois, Chairman of the Special Committee appointed to investigate the defalcation, offered a resolution empowering the Committee to sit elsewhere than in Washington, should circumstances require it, and after some opposition it was passed. The House then went into Committee of the Whole on the Indian Appropriation Bill, and soon after adjourned until Monday.

On Monday, 31st, in the Senate, Senator Powell, of Kentucky, Chairman of the Special Committee of Thirteen on the State of the Union, reported that the Committee had been unable to agree, and asked that the journal of their proceedings be printed. Senator Wilson, of Massachusetts, offered a resolution, which was objected to and laid over, requesting the Secretary of War to inform the Senate relative to the condition of the arms in the national armories, etc. The special order—Territorial business —was then postponed, and Senator Benjamin proceeded to make his expected secession speech, which he closed with a declaration that the South could never be subjugated. A scene of indescribable confusion thereupon ensued in the galleries, which were finally cleared by the Sergeant-at-Arms.—In the House, the Speaker presented a communication from the Secretary of War. Several resolutions were offered, having for their object an inquiry into the condition of the forts and arsenals, but being objected to, they were laid over under the rules. Mr. Pryor, of Virginia, offered a resolution declaring that any attempt to preserve the Union by force would be impracticable, and demanded the previous question, which was ordered. After considerable objection to the vote being taken, and a somewhat excited discussion, the resolution was tabled—98 to 55. The Committee on Military Affairs, on motion of Mr. Stanton, of Ohio, was then instructed to inquire into the manner in which arms had been distributed during the year 1860, the condition of the forts, arsenals, etc., and whether the fortifications are suitably garrisoned—the Committee having power to send for persons and papers. Messrs. Davis and Holman, of Indiana, each presented resolutions relative to the recent action of the South Carolina Convention, but the House adjourned before any action on them was taken.

On Wednesday, January 2, in the Senate, Senator Baker, the new Republican Senator from Oregon, replied to the secession speech of Senator Benjamin, delivered on Monday. He denied the right of secession in tote, and proved, from authorities, that the Constitution, instead of being a mere compact between sovereign States, is, in fact, a perpetual bond between the people of the whole country. Senator Baker, without concluding, yielded to a motion to adjourn; but before the adjournment took place, Senator Davis, of Mississippi, asked and obtained leave to present a preamble and resolution virtually sanctioning the demand of South Carolina that the Federal troops be withdrawn from the fortifications in Charleston harbor, though not expressly saying so in so many words. They were laid on the table and ordered to be printed.—In the House, the day was spent principally in an effort to get a vote on a resolution of inquiry in reference to the late rebellious movements in South Carolina. The Indian Appropriation Bill was passed.

On Thursday, January 3, in the Senate, Senator Baker, of Oregon, proceeded to finish his speech in reply to Senator Benjamin, of Louisiana, commenced on Wednesday. He was followed by Senator Douglas, who took the position that the laws could only be enforced by civil process, or by a force headed by a civil officer, and that when rebellion became revolution, and a de facto government was formed, then war could be declared.—In the House, Mr. Bingham reported back from the Judiciary Committee the bill further to provide for the collection of duties on imports, with various amendments. The House, for want of a quorum, adjourned over until Monday.


Mr. Bingham's bill, reported by him from the House Judiciary Committee on 3d, provides, whenever, by reason of unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages of persons, it shall become impracticable, in the judgment of the President, to execute the revenue laws and collect the duties on imports in the ordinary way, it shall be lawful for him to direct the Custom-house for such district to be established and kept in any secure place within some port or harbor of said district, either on land or on board any vessel; and in that case it should be the duty of the Collector to reside at such place, and there detain all vessels and car-goes arriving within the district until the duties imposed on the cargoes by law shall be paid in cash, any thing in the laws of the United States to the contrary notwithstanding; and in such cases it shall be unlawful to take the vessel or cargo from the custody of the proper officer of the customs, unless by a process from some Court of the United States; and in case any attempt shall be made to take such vessel or cargo by any force or combination, or assemblages of persons too great to be overcome by the officers of the customs, it shall and may be lawful for the President, or such person or persons as he shall have empowered for the purpose, to employ such part of the land or naval forces or militia of the United States as may be deemed necessary for the purpose of preventing the removal of such vessel or cargo and protecting the officers of the customs in retaining the custody thereof.


On 26th ult., in this body, citizens of the United States in South Carolina were declared citizens of South Carolina. An ordinance was introduced by Mr. Rhett, providing for a Convention of the Southern States to be held at Montgomery, Alabama. On 27th, the Governor was authorized to receive foreign ambassadors, etc. ; a Council was provided to advise him. On 29th, the collector of customs at Charleston informed the Convention that all the officers of the customs had entered the service of the State. An ordinance was introduced permitting duties to be paid in paper currency. On January 2d, an ordinance was passed which defines and prescribes the punishment for treason. It declares that treason consists in levying war against the State, adhering to its enemies, and giving them aid and comfort—for all which the penalty is "death without the benefit of clergy." Another ordinance provides that all judicial powers shall revert to the State ; and another that all powers heretofore vested in Congress shall be vested in the General Assembly of the State.


Governor Pickens has appointed Hon. A. G. M'Grath Secretary of State of South Carolina, Hon. D. F. Jamison Secretary of War, C. G. Memminger Secretary of the Treasury, W. H. Harlee to regulate the Postal Department and the light-houses, and A. C. Garlington Secretary of the Interior.


A dispatch to the Herald, dated Washington, January 2, says:

"The President's reply to the Commissioners of South Carolina has just been communicated. They demanded, as a preliminary step to the initiation of negotiations, that the troops be withdrawn from the forts in Charleston harbor.

" The President positively refuses to do this, and reiterates his views in reference to the public property as set forth in his Message to Congress, and informs them that he not only intends to collect the revenue and execute the laws, but to defend the property of the United States with all the power at his command.

"He does not recognize the Commissioners officially, but regards them as distinguished citizens of the United States from South Carolina.

" The orders to Major Anderson are given in full. "From them it appears he could only have acted as he has done, and certainly, if he had any tangible evidence that South Carolina designed taking Fort Sumter. "The policy pursued and the understanding had with the people of South Carolina up to the evacuation of Fort Moultrie are given, and the people of the United States will now understand what kind of pledges existed between the President and the authorities of South Carolina, and whether South Carolina will be sustained, even by the

South, in taking possession of property which does not be. long to her.

The position taken by the President has produced the utmost consternation among the Commissioners and their friends."


On 31st the people of Charleston seized Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, Fort Johnson, the United States Arsenal at Charleston, and the revenue cutter in the bay.

The President intends to collect the duties by force, and has sent to the Senate the name of Mr. McIntyre, of York, Pennsylvania, as Collector, vice Colcock, removed. The sloop of war Brooklyn, which has recently returned with the expedition sent out to survey the proposed route for a railroad across the Isthmus at Chiriqui, together with another war-vessel at Norfolk, has been ordered to be kept in readiness to proceed to Charleston at a moment's warning, and a rumor is current that all the important Southern posts are to be immediately reinforced.


First Lieutenant Underwood, second in command of the revenue - cutter Aiken, seized by the secessionists at Charleston, arrived at Washington on 3d, and reported to the Secretary of the Treasury. Lieutenant Underwood states that Captain Coste, the commander of the cutter, was an avowed secessionist some time before South Carolina decided to go out, and agreed, when the State declared herself out of the Union, to resign and turn the vessel over to him, Lieutenant Underwood; but instead of doing so he visited Fort Sumter before Major Anderson took possession of it, and examined it for several hours, and finally placed the cutter in such a position as to leave her at low-water high and dry on land. While she was thus situated the secessionists took possession of her, Captain Coste being still in command, and Lieutenant Underwood, being his subordinate, was of course powerless to act. Captain Coste then informed Lieutenant Underwood that his services would not be required there any longer, and he proceeded immediately to Washington, and reported the above facts to Secretary Thomas.


A dispatch from Charleston states that returns from Georgia indicate that the State has gone largely for secession.

Forts Pulaski and Jackson have positively been occupied by the Georgia State troops, under the Governor's instructions, and it is said that but for this the fortresses would have been taken by an uprising of the people.

Senator Toombs received a dispatch on 3d from Governor Brown, of Georgia, stating that he had ordered the Georgia troops to occupy Fort Pulaski, to prevent the Federal troops from taking it until the meeting of their Convention. Neither Fort Jackson nor the arsenal had been taken, and the Governor gave no intimation that he intended to take them. The Governor issued the order to occupy Fort Pulaski for the reason that he had learned that the Administration had given orders to reinforce all the forts in the South. Other forts have undoubtedly been taken for the same reason. The President, it is understood, did issue such an order, but it was afterward revoked. The President also received a dispatch announcing the occupation of Fort Pulaski by the Georgia troops.


A telegram from Mobile announces the seizure of the United States Arsenal at that place, in which were stored fifteen hundred barrels of powder, three hundred thousand rounds of musket cartridges, and other munitions of war, but only six stand of arms. It was also rumored that Fort Morgan had been taken possession of.


A dispatch, dated Worthington, January 8, says: "Intelligence was received last night that Fort Sumter is now besieged; that all Major Anderson's communications are cut off; that Fort Moultrie has been completely repaired, and the guns remounted, and every thing is in readiness to open a fire on Major Anderson. New batteries are being erected around him by the secessionists, and every day his danger and the difficulties of reinforcing him are increased. His frequent applications for reinforcements, and even the tears and prayers of his wife having failed to move the President, he has determined never again to renew his request, but will perish, if he must, in the fort. His men have bound themselves by an oath to stand and perish with him. It is beyond a doubt that a combination is forming to take forcible possession of the government at Washington on or before the 4th of March, but the precise time is not yet determined.

" The above is from sources which leave no doubt of its reliability."


The Wilmington (North Carolina) Herald says : "After Major Anderson removed to Fort Sumter, Governor Pickens sent Colonel Pettigrew and Major Capers down to him with a dispatch. The Courier says his reply had not transpired, but we learn that a gentleman who arrived here yesterday from Charleston says that Major Anderson received the above-named gentlemen courteously, and stated to them that he had acted upon his own responsibility, and for security; that he deprecated the necessity for it, and hoped no attack would be made upon him ; that he should hate to turn his guns upon his countrymen; but unless commanded by the Government of the United States, he would never surrender the post while he lived; and that if an attack was made, upon him, he hoped the first shot fired at the fort would pierce his heart. It is said he has one year's provisions in the fort, and over 200 men."


The Senate Committee, as above-mentioned, reported a failure to agree upon a Compromise on Monday. The House Committee, on 28th, voted down the project to restore the Missouri Compromise. They passed resolutions in favor of an enabling Act for New Mexico, at the instance of Mr. Adams, of Massachusetts. They have done nothing else of moment. A new Committee composed of members from the border States is in session.


On 30th Secretary Floyd resigned his position as the head of the War Department. lie says that the movement of Major Anderson in evacuating Fort Moultrie and occupying Fort Sumter was directly contrary to the spirit of assurances which had been given by Secretary Floyd to the authorities of South Carolina, that no change should be made in the disposition of the Government forces in the fortifications in Charleston harbor, until the State Commissioners could arrive in Washington and have a hearing. As soon as the action of Major Anderson became known, the Commissioners called upon Secretary Floyd for explanations. Mr. Floyd disavowed the act, but the Commissioners would not be satisfied with any thing short of the withdrawal of the troops from Fort Sumter. This, it appears, Secretary Floyd was willing to agree to, and he accordingly asked the permission of the President to issue the necessary order. The Cabinet had a very long discussion on the subject; but, finally, the weight of the Cabinet being against complying with the demand of the Commissioners, Secretary Floyd felt himself called upon to resign.


In his letter of resignation he says: "I then considered the honor of the Administration pledged to maintain the troops in the position they occupied, for such had been the assurances given to the gentlemen of South Carolina who had a right to speak for her. South Carolina, on the other hand, gave reciprocal pledges that no force should be brought by them against the troops or against the property of the United States. The sole object of both parties in these reciprocal pledges was to prevent a collision and the effusion of blood, in the hope that some means might be found for a peaceful accommodation of the existing troubles, the two Houses of Congress having both raised Committees looking to that object. Thus affairs stood until the action of Major Anderson, taken unfortunately while the Commissioners were on their way to this Capital on a peaceful mission looking to the avoidance of bloodshed, has complicated matters in the existing manner. Our refusal or even delay to place affairs back as they stood under our agreement invites a collisions and (Look here for remainder of this story on Floyd's Resignation)



site stats


Site Copyright 2003-2018 Son of the South. For Questions or comments about this collection,


privacy policy

Are you Scared and Confused? Read My Snake Story, a story of hope and encouragement, to help you face your fears.