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

Tuesday March 5, 1861

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Anderson's Loyalty

Upon receiving Anderson's report, Lincoln expressed some question about the officer's loyalty, given Anderson's southern connections and the lack of earlier warning about the precarious situation at Sumter. Was Anderson trying to aid the South by influencing the government to abandon Sumter?

Lincoln's suspicions of Anderson's loyalty proved in the end to be unfounded. The major fulfilled his responsibilities to defend the fort under arduous circumstances. Further, Anderson had earlier reported to the War Department of the buildup of southern forces, and that his situation was increasingly perilous. He had received instructions to stay on the defensive and avoid a clash if possible. His assessment that reinforcement would entail a large military force was not unreasonable, and was seconded by other officers. Had the Buchanan administration determined to do more to strengthen and defend Fort Sumter, there is every reason to think Anderson would have fufilled his responsibilities.

On the other hand, it is clear that Anderson was bent on doing all that he could to avert conflict. He had moved to Sumter in order to make military engagement less likely and ceased requesting reinforcements despite the buildup of fortifications intended to overwhelm him. He preferred abandoning Sumter rather than sending a relief expedition, which would provoke conflict. According to Richard N. Current and Kenneth M. Stampp, Anderson thought disunion had become inevitable, and he desired that it be peaceful.

Somewhat curiously, the careers of Anderson and Lincoln had briefly intersected many years before. In 1832, during the Black Hawk War, Lincoln volunteered for twenty days' service in the army after his militia unit disbanded. Anderson, then a lieutenant, mustered Lincoln in as a private.

Bibliography: Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 44-45; Stampp, And the War Came, pp. 262-63; Swanberg, First Blood, pp.34, 212, 222-24; Thomas, Abraham Lincoln, pp. 30-33; Klein, Days of Defiance, pp. 198-200, 319.

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