-- Initial Problems at Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens --

Tuesday March 5, 1861

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Anderson's Letter

On the morning after the inaugural festivities, Lincoln went to his office and found a report from Major Robert Anderson, written on February 28, which had reached Washington on Inauguration Day.

Anderson reported that he had made an examination of his provisions and found that his supplies would be exhausted in about four to six weeks. Equally disconcerting, Anderson reported that he and his staff agreed that it would take a considerable land and naval force to relieve and reinforce the fort. He estimated it would take no less than "twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men."

Lincoln presented the information to General Winfield Scott for evaluation and received a gloomy response that evening. Scott, who had earlier advised the reinforcement of Sumter, now stated that the time had passed to save the fort. "I now see no alternative but a surrender, in some weeks," Scott argued. "Evacuation seems almost inevitable . . . if, indeed, the worn out garrison be not assaulted & carried in the present week."

Scott also mentioned the existence of "something like a truce," which he also referred to as a "truce, or informal understanding," at Fort Pickens. It had been established by the Buchanan administration following the movement of federal troops to the fort from the mainland. Reinforcements remained aboard ship with orders not to land at the fort until "an attack shall be made by the secessionists."


Bibliography: Potter, Impending Crisis, p.. 570; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, pp. 376-79; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 44-47; Joseph Holt to Lincoln, 5 March 1861, with remarks by Scott, Lincoln Papers.

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