Why didn't the South Wait?

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Robin Lesjovitch

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You've not served on a gun crew then.

Getting the charge from the magazine to a gun chest (limber chest if light artillery) is not even part of a gun drill; it's simply a replenishment of ordnance before and after combat. Getting the charge from there to the gun during combat is part of the gun drill, but not nearly the hardest part.

Not any private that could load and fire a musket could reliably fill any artillery position, though admittedly perhaps three of the seven positions could be sufficiently learned in an afternoon, and a fourth in only 15 minutes. But at that time, being able to read and figure was more than a lot of infantry privates could provide, and three other artillery positions required that.
I thought about this. i am convinced that if i were in charge of a gun, my first need would be someone who could depress and elevate the tube and bore sight it. Second would be one who was naturally good at lift and carry, who could safely and efficiently get the ammo to the muzzle. After that, I do not think stopping the vent, ramming, swabbing, pricking the bag charge or placing a primer in the vent are really difficult skills, they just need to be done. My point was that Anderson did not need a lot of skilled gunners; willing hands would do.
 

WJC

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Anderson did not need a lot of skilled gunners; willing hands would do.
No, unskilled, raw recruits in a gun crew would have been suicidal. The tasks required specific practice and discipline.
We tend to think in terms of Hollywood depictions: put in some gunpowder and a ball and light a match to a fuse, then do it over again. It was far more complex, requiring coordinated teamwork with each of the five-member crew assigned specific tasks:
After firing, the barrel had to be adequately cleaned and cooled down by inserting the sponge and turning it clockwise exactly three times- a two-man job- while the Gunner was holding the vent closed to prevent premature ignition. Meanwhile, a fourth crew member had to take a wooden box specially made for the task to a magazine, select a pre-measured powder cartridge (a wool bag) of the right size, put it in the box, close the lid on the box and the magazine door, and take the cartridge to the gun. This careful process was vital to assure no sparks ignited any cartridges or loose powder.
Next, the two men who sponged the barrel took the cartridge from its protective box and rammed it down the barrel until properly seated. At the same time, another crew member was getting the required shell or shot, bringing it back to the gun where crewmembers would ram into the barrel until seated against the cartridge. If a shell were used, its fuse had to be set before ramming it home.
The Gunner then inserted a punch to pierce the cartridge and the gun had to be aimed. At Fort Sumter, the movement of the guns for aiming was largely restricted by the casement since they were intended to fire on ships coming into the harbor. Lateral movement required man-handling the guns into position, a difficult task considering some weighed several tons.
When all was ready, the Gunner removed the punch from the vent hole and inserted a friction primer. making sure everyone was in their proper place, he fired the gun by pulling the attached lanyard, the gun recoiled, filling the casement with smoke, and the process started over.
See Instruction for Heavy Artillery. (Washington, DC: War Department, 1857).
 

Greywolf

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Thanks for your response.
I've seen no evidence that Lincoln intended "to start a war". If you have, perhaps you can provide it, probably best in a new thread.
It is difficult for us today to appreciate the situation as Lincoln took office. Wild rumors, an inability to trust those who had been committed, patriotic office-holders just weeks earlier, an overarching uncertainty pervaded Washington. Lincoln later told Senator Orville Browning that “of all the trials I have had since I came here, none begin to compare with those I had between the inauguration and the fall of Fort Sumpter [sic]. They were so great that could I have anticipated them, I would not have believed it possible to survive them!”
<Theodore C. Pease & James G. Randall, Editors, The Diary of Orville Hickman Browning. (Springfield, IL: Illinois State Historical Library, 1925), Vol. I, p. 47.>
Lincoln finally approved a plan to resupply Fort Sumter, the plan we have often discussed here. It was intended to supply the garrison allowing more time for 'cooler heads to prevail'. Lincoln still thought that secession was a minority effort that would collapse with time.
He took pains to alert Governor Pickens of his intent to relieve the garrison peacefully, but to use force if attacked.
Some have described this as a win-win 'coin toss': either the garrison would be peacefully resupplied or if the rebels thwarted the attempt militarily, responsibility for the violence would fall clearly on the rebels.
What I have never understood, and what I still hope this thread will answer, is why Davis 'took the bait', ordering Beauregard not to allow any provisions to enter Fort Sumter under any circumstances, then later to demand evacuation while authorizing him to "reduce" the Fort.
Clearly Davis 'blinked'. Why?
It was a ruse by Lincoln, many posts on other threads show that, so I'm not posting the same stuff over. That Davis blinked as you say by no means clears Lincoln. He wasnt negotiating, he wasn't letting them go, and he knew they were not coming back voluntarily. Mr Lincolns war. It is not just he who fires the first shot whom is guilty.
 
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Greywolf

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They didn't DARE wait.

Waiting would have entailed thought. Thought would have brought about questions. Questions would have brought about discussions.

Tempers might have cooled. Rational thought might have been brought forth. That would have involved delay, doubt, and reflection.

No, better to "sprinkle blood" upon the faces of the Southern people, rush them, lead them into war before they had to much time to think.

Time would have ruined everything to those bent on revolution.

Unionblue
A bedtime story or do you have sources for your opinion?
 

unionblue

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It was a ruse by Lincoln, many posts on other threads show that, so I'm not posting the same stuff over. That Davis blinked as you say by no means clears Lincoln. He wasnt negotiating, he wasn't letting them go, and he knew they were not coming back voluntarily. Mr Lincolns war. It is not just he who fires the first shot whom is guilty.
You're right.

It is a pattern of behavior that indicates who is guilty, such as all the warlike acts of the Southern States BEFORE Lincoln was ever sworn in as President.

Who fired the first shot was merely the end results of such long, continued acts of aggression.

The slaveholding South.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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No, unskilled, raw recruits in a gun crew would have been suicidal. The tasks required specific practice and discipline.
We tend to think in terms of Hollywood depictions: put in some gunpowder and a ball and light a match to a fuse, then do it over again. It was far more complex, requiring coordinated teamwork with each of the five-member crew assigned specific tasks:
After firing, the barrel had to be adequately cleaned and cooled down by inserting the sponge and turning it clockwise exactly three times- a two-man job- while the Gunner was holding the vent closed to prevent premature ignition. Meanwhile, a fourth crew member had to take a wooden box specially made for the task to a magazine, select a pre-measured powder cartridge (a wool bag) of the right size, put it in the box, close the lid on the box and the magazine door, and take the cartridge to the gun. This careful process was vital to assure no sparks ignited any cartridges or loose powder.
Next, the two men who sponged the barrel took the cartridge from its protective box and rammed it down the barrel until properly seated. At the same time, another crew member was getting the required shell or shot, bringing it back to the gun where crewmembers would ram into the barrel until seated against the cartridge. If a shell were used, its fuse had to be set before ramming it home.
The Gunner then inserted a punch to pierce the cartridge and the gun had to be aimed. At Fort Sumter, the movement of the guns for aiming was largely restricted by the casement since they were intended to fire on ships coming into the harbor. Lateral movement required man-handling the guns into position, a difficult task considering some weighed several tons.
When all was ready, the Gunner removed the punch from the vent hole and inserted a friction primer. making sure everyone was in their proper place, he fired the gun by pulling the attached lanyard, the gun recoiled, filling the casement with smoke, and the process started over.
See Instruction for Heavy Artillery. (Washington, DC: War Department, 1857).
OK.
If we are sure that recruits were of no use to Anderson, why did General Scott board them?
 
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WJC

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OK.
If we are sure that recruits were of no use to Anderson, why did General Scott board them?
Thanks for your response.
Because they were all he had.
The idea did not originate here among us: Anderson himself said so. Gustavus Fox said later "Our military force consisted of 200 recruits of no earthly use to Fort Sumpter [sic] in such an emergency because they were undrilled."
<Robert M. Thompson and Richard Wainwright, Editors, Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox. (New York: Naval History Society, 1918), pp. 34-41.>
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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Thanks for your response.
Because they were all he had.
The idea did not originate here among us: Anderson himself said so. Gustavus Fox said later "Our military force consisted of 200 recruits of no earthly use to Fort Sumpter [sic] in such an emergency because they were undrilled."
<Robert M. Thompson and Richard Wainwright, Editors, Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox. (New York: Naval History Society, 1918), pp. 34-41.>
Ok.
why were they sent, if of no use?
 
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byron ed

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I thought about this. i am convinced that if i were in charge of a gun, my first need would be someone who could depress and elevate the tube and bore sight it. Second would be one who was naturally good at lift and carry, who could safely and efficiently get the ammo to the muzzle. After that, I do not think stopping the vent, ramming, swabbing, pricking the bag charge or placing a primer in the vent are really difficult skills, they just need to be done. My point was that Anderson did not need a lot of skilled gunners; willing hands would do.
Or, allow experience to inform. You miss the point that if the gun is going to be set and ranged for any kind of distance, some skilled crew is required. The tactical strategy of artillery, the primary reason its brought to the field, is to engage and "soften" the enemy at great distance. Though in the event of desperate close range defense (or turning a captured piece), yes I agree that mere willing hands, any infantryman, could handle firing scatter shot ("canister"), and that did happen.

(btw whatever "bore sighting" is meant to mean, precision sighting of the piece was typically done with an accessory attached to the gun; a pendulum hausse; which corrected for carriage lean and provided a graduated scale. That's not a feature on the tube itself - so you'd be shooting by guess and by golly, good enough at scatter shot range. The point being that not just anybody running up to the gun would have an accessory sight or know how to use one without training. Also, I've heard "bore sighting" in the context of looking down the bore to confirm it's clear, an inspection, not a reference to aiming the piece, but I'd defer to anyone who knows more about that).
 
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trice

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Ok.
why were they sent, if of no use?
Generally speaking, they were sent because they were all that was readily available.

The US Army as of January 1, 1861 was roughly 16,000 officers and men (a bit over 1,000 were officers). In round numbers, 14,000 of those were stationed West of the Mississippi River (about 2,200 in Texas, the rest at various posts stretching to the Pacific Ocean). The other 2,000 East of the Mississippi covered the fortifications and posts along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Louisiana, the Canadian border from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, and a few scattered interior posts like Washington DC, Harpers Ferry and West Point.

IIRR, the 200 raw recruits were at a depot on Staten Island. They were hastily assigned to some officers and loaded on to the transport.

If they had been unloaded at Fort Sumter, they would have still been raw recruits and generally useless -- possibly even less drilled and trained than most of the South Carolina militia surrounding them. However, at Ft. Sumter they would have immediately been under the control of very experienced professional officers, combined with a cadre of actual trained soldiers. They would have rapidly improved or suffered the consequences.

They also would have provided a substantial increase in raw numbers for Col. Anderson. Even including the few Maryland hired workers who stayed on after Anderson moved to Ft. Sumter, he had less than 100 in his garrison. Adding 200 men would give him a much larger work force to finish emplacing guns at Ft. Sumter, if nothing else (they would also greatly increase the daily drain on supplies). As that work completed, they could be trained in operating the guns.

In the end, they are not enough to hold Ft. Sumter, but they are enough to make it tougher to reduce. The real impact of delivering them would have probably been more psychological than material.
 
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byron ed

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...After firing, the barrel had to be adequately cleaned and cooled down by inserting the sponge and turning it clockwise exactly three times- a two-man job- while the Gunner was holding the vent closed to prevent premature ignition. Meanwhile, a fourth crew member had to take a wooden box specially made for the task to a magazine, select a pre-measured powder cartridge (a wool bag) of the right size, put it in the box, close the lid on the box and the magazine door, and take the cartridge to the gun...
A bit of an overplay. I think RL was talking about field artillery, not the sort of emplaced heavy artillery procedures you describe here. In the case of field artillery, light artillery, to pose that recruits (few being "raw" recruits) manning as gun crew would have been suicidal is an exaggeration. If they knew how to load and fire a musket they had enough of a skill set to fire canister, no precision required. And a moot point anyway, since it happened.
 

thomas aagaard

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Yes 18 artillery companies was in the east. (the rest of the 197 companies where in the west)
Since 1850 the army had been allowed to prioritize the units in the west when it came to manpower.
A typical company was 1-2 officers and 30-40 men.
The units in the east was worse off.

The result is that the US army in early 1861 was in no way ready for a war or able to do anything about the situation.
And with 25% of the army being surrendered in Texas, the situation got worse.

At 1st Bull run the regular army was only able to send one single understrengthed infantry battalion in the field.
And that one had plenty of raw recruits.
 

WJC

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A bit of an overplay. I think RL was talking about field artillery, not the sort of emplaced heavy artillery procedures you describe here. In the case of field artillery, light artillery, to pose that recruits (few being "raw" recruits) manning as gun crew would have been suicidal is an exaggeration. If they knew how to load and fire a musket they had enough of a skill set to fire canister, no precision required. And a moot point anyway, since it happened.
Thanks for your response.
There were no Field Artillery pieces in Fort Sumter. All were large guns for coastal defense.
As to the danger, it's worth remembering that two soldiers were killed and four injured when one of the guns fired prematurely during the salute prior to leaving the Fort. It happened in the process of ramming home the powder cartridge.
 
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WJC

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If they had been unloaded at Fort Sumter, they would have still been raw recruits and generally useless
Additionally, they would have increased the consumption of whatever food that was landed with them. The best use for them (and this is speculation) might have been using them in a surprise raid on Sullivan's Island to capture and silence Fort Moultrie. That certainly was a concern of the rebels, who- as events proved when some drunks were suspected of being invading Yankees- were unprepared for such an attack. It never happened because the element of surprise was lost.
 

trice

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Additionally, they would have increased the consumption of whatever food that was landed with them. The best use for them (and this is speculation) might have been using them in a surprise raid on Sullivan's Island to capture and silence Fort Moultrie. That certainly was a concern of the rebels, who- as events proved when some drunks were suspected of being invading Yankees- were unprepared for such an attack. It never happened because the element of surprise was lost.
Possibly, but they would have been in rough shape when they first arrived (raw recruits, not used to discipline, probably most recovering from seasickness). Anderson probably needed some time to sort them out before anything like that was attempted. Even then, he'd want to use a good number of his more experienced men mixed in with the raw recruits. It would be hard to see him sending a force of more than 100-150 to land (not sure if he had the boats to do it, either).

Fort Moultrie wasn't much of a threat to Fort Sumter immediately after Anderson abandoned it. The newly-raised SC troops needed to build gun-carriages and remount the guns (even then, they were building the carriages from green wood; they had problems with that during the April bombardment). A quick raid might have been able to grab Ft. Moultrie without excessive casualties; a failure would have been very bloody. The US troops might then do some damage, add days or weeks to the point where Ft. Moultrie could be dangerous to Ft. Sumter, maybe blow the magazines with attending damage to the fort and town. Maybe he could seize some extra supplies to bring back to Ft. Sumter. Anderson would not have enough men to hold Ft. Moultrie.

If Anderson actually wanted to threaten Charleston, Castle Pinckney is probably a better choice and easier to hold. Fort Moultrie was vulnerable to close-assault as well as siege where Castle Pinckney was not and guns at Castle Pinckney could devastate the city at the slightest provocation. That's not something Anderson would do, IMHO, but a clear possibility to any man with his knowledge.
 

Greywolf

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Thanks for your response.
Because they were all he had.
The idea did not originate here among us: Anderson himself said so. Gustavus Fox said later "Our military force consisted of 200 recruits of no earthly use to Fort Sumpter [sic] in such an emergency because they were undrilled."
<Robert M. Thompson and Richard Wainwright, Editors, Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox. (New York: Naval History Society, 1918), pp. 34-41.>
Those 200 could fire muskets in the event of a csa move to take the fort by force and intact. However that we know now that didnt matter since the fort was reduced.
 
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WJC

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Those 200 could fire muskets in the event of a csa move to take the fort by force and intact. However that we know now that didnt matter since the fort was reduced.
Thanks for your response.
Though damaged, Fort Sumter was not "reduced". Even had the food and 200 soldiers been safely moved into the Fort, there was no need for Beauregard to launch an assault when the Fort was becoming unliveable. At best it would have only delayed the inevitable.
 

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Taking the offensive, turning the secession crisis into a shooting war, would be a profound political decision, not for Major Anderson to make. AFAIK he was a responsible officer, not given to recklessness or exceeding (violating?) his orders.

As @WJC said, the Carolina/Confederate troops were not very experienced either, but two green forces fumbling in the dark has potential for disaster.
 
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