-- Final Orders --

Friday April 5, 1861

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

The Powhatan's Conflicting Orders

While Fox returned to New York to outfit his expedition, Navy secretary Welles, with Lincoln's approval, placed Captain Samuel Mercer of the Powhatan in charge of the naval force which would rendezvous at Charleston Harbor. Welles also telegraphed the commander of the Navy Yard, Captain Andrew H. Foote, to hold the Powhatan for further instructions.

During the day, it became evident at the New York Navy Yard that there were conflicting claims to the Powhatan. The President had earlier (see April 1) ordered the ship to be attached to Captain Meigs's secret expedition to relieve Fort Pickens. Now, however, secretary Welles was directing the Navy Yard to hold the Powhatan pending new instructions.

At 8 p.m. that evening, Meigs and Porter telegraphed Seward that Welles's orders to delay the Powhatan were hindering their preparations. Between eleven o'clock and midnight, Seward went to We lles's rooms at Willard's Hotel and informed him of Meigs's problem. Welles, who considered the Powhatan as assigned to the Sumter expedition, was distressed by Seward's interference. They agreed to take the problem immediately to the President.

Just before midnight, the two secretaries briefed Lincoln. Lincoln determined that the Powhatan must be restored to the Sumter mission. He declared that "on no account must the Sumter expedition fail," and there was no time to be lost in getting it underway. Lincoln ordered Seward to telegraph that the Powhatan be returned to Captain Mercer "without delay." After some protest, Seward agreed.

Bibliography: ORN, 111-12, 234-36; Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, ed. Morse, 1: 23-26; Hoogenboom, "Gustavus Fox and Sumter," pp. 391-92; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, p. 105.

[Main Menu] [Final Orders Home] [Back] [Next] ... [Calendar] [Notebook]