Fort Sumter

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timewalker

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We can find plenty of examples of foreign toeholds in a country's territory. But the reality of the country was not in question, as it was in 1861. If Lincoln had said "boys, secede, it's fine with me, but I want to keep Ft. Sumter." most secessionists would have said "hell, yes!" to that deal.

But what Lincoln was saying is: "secession isn't going to happen. The federal government will not relinquish its authority over all the US. Starting with Ft. Sumter."

At the same time, the middle Southern states(especially VA) were wavering. Davis was leading an experiment. He thinks: "If we push at Charleston, Lincoln will push back. And the upper South will have a choice: shoot at Southerners or shoot at Yankees." He was correct that enough, if not all, would prefer to shoot at Yankees. So he gets most of what he wants, and a viable nation, if they could keep it.

He also overtly starts the shooting, and the indifference in the North vanishes. It would have anyway(preserving the Union was a goal not solely dependent on firing on Sumter), but Davis pulled a Pearl Harbor. An initial victory with long term consequences.
I think the point that people are trying to make is that it does not matter whether South Carolina legally seceded or not. If secession was illegal, then clearly firing on Fort Sumter was illegal.

They argue, however, that secession was legal. If we assume that premise (which I believe to be clearly wrong), then they argue that South Carolina was within its legal rights to fire on Fort Sumter. The point we have been trying to make is that even if we accept their premise, firing on Fort Sumter was illegal in that it was an act of war by one sovereignty against another.

The point is to show that South Carolina is d***ed either way. Either their actions in firing at Sumter were an illegal act of rebellion against the legitimate government or were an act of war against the United States. Either way, Lincoln is not the "agressor" as they try to paint him. Either he is acting to supress a rebellion or he is responding to an attack against his country.

All of which puts South Carolina in the wrong no matter what you think of the validity or illegality of secession.
 

ole

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All of which puts South Carolina in the wrong no matter what you think of the validity or illegality of secession.
A minor point (he says, donning the nit-picky Stetson), but the order to fire on the fort did not come from Governor Pickens. The order to reduce the fort came from Jefferson Davis.

None of which absolves South Carolina for its leading role in the agitation for secession. One thing that has escaped me is why the other six seceding states were so willing to be the tail wagged by South Carolina.

ole
 

trice

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A minor point (he says, donning the nit-picky Stetson), but the order to fire on the fort did not come from Governor Pickens. The order to reduce the fort came from Jefferson Davis.

None of which absolves South Carolina for its leading role in the agitation for secession. One thing that has escaped me is why the other six seceding states were so willing to be the tail wagged by South Carolina.
They weren't really. A few days earlier, it looked like it was going to start at Ft. Pickens in Pensacola. There was a rush for the trains from Montgomery; people wanted to be spectators. But Bragg cabled back to Davis and his Secretary of War that it would be a bloody assault, not a good chance at all. He thought the only reason he might succeed was that his raw troops didn't understand how bad it would be.

That only left Beauregard in Charleston.

Tim
 
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Mr King

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The firing on Fort Sumpter was not the first shot fired.
The first shots were fired by the Citadel Cadets against the federal warship 'Star of the West' who invaded the Sovereign State of South Carolina's coast. The federal warships' invasion through the state's coast to resupply and reenforce the Fort without authorization nor permission was an act of war.

Why wasn't the firing on 'Star of the West' not declared as an act of war by the republican party? Why wait till the firing of Fort Sumpter?

When would you choose to fire and take Fort Sumpter? With Robert Anderson and his garrison with a low supply of food or wait until it was reenforced and resupplied? South Carolina had chosen the former.
 

Elennsar

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Source: http://blueandgraytrail.com/event/Star_of_the_West

January 5, 1861At the last minute General Winfield Scott substitutes the Star of the West, a New York based merchant marine vessel for the Brooklyn, a heavily armed and reinforced sloop ordered to sail to Fort Sumter to resupply the federal outpost. The Brooklyn, however, is to travel to Fort Sumter with the Star of the West.

With the federal garrison under Maj. Robert Anderson moving from Fort Moultrie, on the shore of Charleston Bay to Fort Sumter, built on a rock shoal in the center of the bay, relief and re-supply became a major goal of the United States. To this end Winfield Scott picked the Brooklyn, a naval sloop to carry men and material to the beleaguered federal outpost. The ship was loaded with about 200 men, arms, munitions and supplies.

Upon receiving word that the Rebels had scuttled ships in the harbor to make the approach to the fort more difficult, and because the general and President Buchanan both felt that the approach of a heavily armed naval vessel might trigger an incident, General Scott chose to transfer the cargo from the Brooklyn to the Star of the West because of its shallower draft and because it was known to the citizens of Charleston (its route, New York to New Orleans brought it to the Rebel city on a regular basis).


So, emphatically not a warship, though the Brooklyn is around, it is not the ship sent in to the harbor to resupply Sumpter.

Secondly...the only way South Carolina could be sovereign in the sense that resupplying a United States fort and reinforcing its garrison even if the Star of the West had been a warship would be even remotely an a hostile act would be if it was seperate from the United States. Which would mean that it attacking the Star of the West was attacking the United States, which had and has every right to defend itself.

As to why the Republican party didn't declare it as an act of war...because they're not in power yet. This took place in January, Lincoln only became president in March. And with the late secceeding states still in the Union, their majority, if any, in congress is hardly enough to pass it through by their will alone.
 

M E Wolf

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Dear List Members;

As I have mentioned on other threads of secession; Virginia had already demonstrated a legal and bloodless secession from the Federal Government; to which continues to baffle me as to why this legal test wasn't used by "The South."

When the Federal City/Capitol was to be built on a ten mile square picked by Washington; Prince Georges, Montgomery and Alexandria City portioned land for that purpose. Alexandria citizens unhappy about being a part of Washington applied via the courts as to return back to Virginia.
What is now known as Arlington County; was peacefully returned by the Federal Government to Virginia; transfer of court jurisdiction, paperwork, deeds and such were peacefully done. This was done in the earlier 1800s so there was something that gave a template for the 'Cotton States' to go into secession peacefully.

With General Scott's switching of ships; he clearly was using every means possible not to upset things any further.

Personally, the South, e.g. Davis; was spoiling for a fight and with a hair trigger to match with his need for control and attention; jumped on an opportunity but, the collateral effect was that he didn't count on the resolve of an untested President, under estimated the intelligence of the common man North or South; West or East.

Virginia was delaying any rash judgments--really blew it, in my opinion when they joined the rebellion. I would be ashamed to be a Virginian during the Civil War era; as I saw the legal way to peacefully lead to secession and didn't need hot headed polititians and generals to do so.

Just some thoughts.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,
M. E. Wolf
 
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PvtClewell

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To add background to Elennsar's post:

This comes from Maury Klein's book 'Days of Defiance':

"(Winfield) Scott had already ordered the sloop Brooklyn prepared to receive 200 men and 90 days' provisions at Fort Monroe. No sooner had Buchanan agreed to the plan, however, than Scott decided it would be better to emply a merchant side-wheeler, which was faster and, with its lighter draft, could cross the channel bar more easily. Buchanan was dubious but deferred to superior military judgment. A ship named Star of the West was hired. Amid elaborate efforts to keep the preparations secret, she left New York Harbor on the night of January 5. A letter was dispatched telling Anderson of the ship's departure and giving him leave to return any hostile fire against her. It reached him too late.

"Buchanan had at last taken his stand, yet within days events caused him to regret it. During the first week in January the governors of Alabama, Georgia and Florida authorized the seizure of federal arsenals and forts in their states. Fort Pulaski in Savannah, two forts and an arsenal in Alabama, and the Apalachicola arsenal in Florida were occupied by state militias..."

From me. That's interesting about those states authorized to seize federal property in the first week of January. Florida secedes Jan. 10, Alabama on Jan. 11 and Georgia on Jan. 19. All of those secessions happened after the Star of the West incident, meaning those states were still part of the Union. Those seizures, to my mind, therefore amount to theft.

Although Anderson could have protected the[ I]Star[/I] by returning fire, he opted not to because he was unclear of what his orders were, and he personally felt the burden that by returning fire he might initiate a civil war. Admirable restraint, I think, given the circumstances.
 

timewalker

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Evidently Mr. King feels that if someone declares an illegal act/act of war and is not punished therefore, it is license to commit any illegal act/act of war one wishes with impunity.

An odd legal precedent.
 

Mr King

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Evidently Mr. King feels that if someone declares an illegal act/act of war and is not punished therefore, it is license to commit any illegal act/act of war one wishes with impunity.

An odd legal precedent.
The South Carolinians fired against the invading warships out of self defense. Wouldn't you shoot an invader who breaks into your home who could possibly harm your love ones?
 
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Elennsar

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Invading warships? Um, no. Sorry. No invading warships. One merchant ship and one warship to defend it against attack by those who had taken up arms against the American government.

This is more equivalant to shooting someone for cutting across your yard to feed their dog, however. Since after all, he was trespassing.

Even that's not a good metaphor for it.
 

OpnDownfall

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Many criminal types seem to get more satisfaction from stealing a Dime, than in Finding a Dollar.
 

ole

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This is more equivalant to shooting someone for cutting across your yard to feed their dog, however. Since after all, he was trespassing.
A truly awesome analogy!

ole
 
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PvtClewell

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To tell you the truth, I don't think the Brooklyn actually accompanied the Star of the West into Charleston Harbor.

More from Klein:

"That same day (Jan. 5) Buchanan also learned that South Carolina troops had put a new battery on Morris Island overlooking the harbor entrance. If Anderson felt secure, he asked Scott uneasily, why send an unarmed (my emphasis) ship into a potentially dangerous confrontation? They decided to recall the ship, but the Star of the West had already departed. Two days later (my emphasis) the Brooklyn was ordered to pursue and aid the Star. Would nothing in these wretched weeks go right? Buchanan wondered. For more than a month Anderson had pleaded for reinforcements, and now that they had finally been sent he suddenly stopped asking for them."

From me: I don't think the Brooklyn ever catches up to the Star because the Star, as previously noted, is faster. So apparently she enters the harbor as a single unarmed merchant vessel, hardly an invading warship.

"...On the 8th, Buchanan sent a special message to Congress stressing the gravity of the crisis and urging it to pass the Crittenden compromise or any similar measure. The seizure of federal forts, arsenals, and magazines by states that had not seceded had heightened the threat of war. These acts he labeled 'by far the most serious step which has been taken since the commencement of the troubles.' While pleading for peace, he reiterated his belief that "the right and duty to use military force defensively against those who resist the federal officers in the execution of their legal functions...is clear and undeniable. (Klein's emphasis). But he had done all he could; it was up to Congress now to act."
 

M E Wolf

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Dear Mr. King;

I would have to say, that 'war' was not even declared at that point in time, when the Star of the West and or Ft. Sumter were fired upon.

The ship was not declared a vessel of war but of resupplying the fort.

The fact that General Beauregard's forces fired upon the Star of the West and Ft. Sumter was an act of war. Up to that point only 'rebellion' was the term used. Aggressive attack --first shots were instituted by the newly established CSA. No different than Pearl Harbor or 9-11. USA was minding its own business when the Japanese planes attacked Pearl and terrorists attacked civilians turning airplanes into missles. Retalliation is to be expected.

I think Jeff Davis and Beauregard and any other 'officer' from the old US Army would know exactly what it meant to shoot at the ship and the fort. I see no excuses myself; as it is within the "Articles of War" for previous conflicts the US Army had; e.g. Mexican War, etc.

Just some thoughts.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,
M. E. Wolf
 

Mr King

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Invading warships? Um, no. Sorry. No invading warships. One merchant ship and one warship to defend it against attack by those who had taken up arms against the American government.

This is more equivalant to shooting someone for cutting across your yard to feed their dog, however. Since after all, he was trespassing.

Even that's not a good metaphor for it.
This isn't a statement that I would compare to what happened with firing on the federal warship. Does this mean that any country in the UN can have the right to have their battleships passing through the US waterways without our permission?
 
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Mr King

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Dear Mr. King;

I would have to say, that 'war' was not even declared at that point in time, when the Star of the West and or Ft. Sumter were fired upon.

The ship was not declared a vessel of war but of resupplying the fort.

The fact that General Beauregard's forces fired upon the Star of the West and Ft. Sumter was an act of war. Up to that point only 'rebellion' was the term used. Aggressive attack --first shots were instituted by the newly established CSA. No different than Pearl Harbor or 9-11. USA was minding its own business when the Japanese planes attacked Pearl and terrorists attacked civilians turning airplanes into missles. Retalliation is to be expected.

I think Jeff Davis and Beauregard and any other 'officer' from the old US Army would know exactly what it meant to shoot at the ship and the fort. I see no excuses myself; as it is within the "Articles of War" for previous conflicts the US Army had; e.g. Mexican War, etc.

Just some thoughts.

Respectfully submitted for consideration,
M. E. Wolf
This is a problem here. I don't know why many thinks whoever fires the first shot is the one who started the war. Wars have never or not always been declared by whoever fires the first shot or sheds first blood. It's the events that leads to the firing of the first shot that brought war.

The reason why Japan bombed Pearl Harbor was because the US government had cut off economic trade with them since they were allied with Germany. The Japanese economy was crumbling and all they could see to revive it was through war.

When the US was going through the great depression, war brought the US out of it; World War II.

When the South seceded from the Union, the rich and the elite up North were losing money from all the tariff taxes they had passed on the South.
 

Elennsar

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Your question does not relate to the situation in which the Confederates issued a de facto declaration of war by firing upon a ship of the United States, engaged in the act of resupplying a fort held and owned by the same nation.

So why are you asking?

Red herrings are a bad defense.


I don't know where your idea on how "he who started the war" is based on something other than he who begins attacking first came from, I really don't.

As to tariff taxes...government tariff taxes...

The North was getting rich off of its own successes and enterprises. The amount of money the government collected in tariffs is not how, even if they were (which is highly doubtful) unreasonable.
 

Mr King

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Well, you see that the South's firing at Fort Sumpter was the declaration of war while I see that the invasion of the federal warship was a violation and a act of war.

Since we differ on that issue, there is no need nor should we argue against each other about that because that produces quarrels. I don't want to quarrel with anyone on differences in opinions about this great war subject. :smile:
 
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Elennsar

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This isn't a personal, petty trivial distinction with no real relevance.

It is the difference between the statement that the Southerners (the Confederacy, if you prefer) attacking the United States started the war (based on disinterested law) and the statement (unfounded in law past or present) that the mere presence of the USS Brooklyn, in order to protect the resupply of an American fort, meant that there was an 'invasion" South Carolina.

Now, if the Brooklyn had opened fire, that would be one thing. Or if the Confederacy was clearly and legally established as a recognized independent nation, it might be an offense (though not an act of war in and of itself) to bring the Brooklyn along.

As is, it wasn't recognized as an independent nation. It was recognized as part of the United States in rebellion against the government of said country, with the intent of becoming independent.

Whatever the rationalization of the Confederates opening fire, "self defense" doesn't hold water.

Thusly, they started the war.

I refuse to accept "agree to disagree" on something that's not subject to opinion.
 

PvtClewell

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Well, you see that the South's firing at Fort Sumpter was the declaration of war while I see that the invasion of the federal warship was a violation and a act of war.
Neither am I interested in starting a quarrel, but I am interested to know why you insist the Star of the West to be a 'federal warship?'

She was a merchant vessel hired by the United States government, not owned or commissioned by same.

She was unarmed.

She entered the harbor alone.

She was resupplying a Federal garrison on property deeded to the United States government, and while I'm not a lawyer, I would guess she had legal right of access to Sumter (Somebody please correct me if I am wrong on this because I am curious to know). If she had a right to access, then what is she in violation of?

Even so, how does all of this constitute an invasion?

Even if you fast forward to April 12, 1861, the naval relief flotilla never got a chance to enter Charleston Harbor before the bombardment of the fort began. I've never understood how the relief mission — which was known by Gov. Pickens in advance — is considered an invasion.

Thank you.
 
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