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Anderson the Southerner, in whom he hoped to find a good capitulator. But this time Floyd was wrong
The day after Christmas Anderson's little garrison at Fort Moultrie slipped over to Fort Sumter under cover of the dark, quietly removed Floyd's workmen, who were mostly Baltimore Secessionists, and began to prepare for defense. Next morning Charleston was furious and began to prepare for attack. The South Carolina authorities at once took formal possession of Pinckney and Moultrie; and three days later seized the United States Arsenal in Charleston itself. Ten days later again, on January 9, 1861, the Star of the West, a merchant vessel coming in with reinforcements and supplies for Anderson, was fired on and forced to turn back. Anderson, who had expected a man-of-war, would not fire in her defense, partly because he still hoped there might yet be peace.
While Charleston stood at gaze and Anderson at bay the ferment of secession was working fast in Florida, where another tiny garrison was all the Union had to hold its own. This garrison, under two loyal young lieutenants, Slemmer and Gilman, occupied Barrancas Barracks in Pensacola Bay. Late at night on the eighth of January (the day
before the Star of the West was fired on at Charleston) some twenty Secessionists came to seize the old Spanish Fort San Carlos, where, up to that time, the powder had been kept. This fort, though lying close beside the barracks, had always been unoccupied; so the Secessionists looked forward to an easy capture. But, to their dismay, an unexpected guard challenged them, and, not getting
proper password in reply, dispersed them with the first shots of the Civil War.
Commodore Armstrong sat idle at the Pensacola Navy Yard, distracted between the Union and secession. On the ninth Slemmer received orders from Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief at Washington, to use all means in defense of Union property. Next morning Slemmer and his fifty faithful men were landed on Santa Rosa Island, just one mile across the bay, where the dilapidated old Fort Pickens stood forlorn. Two days later the Commodore surrendered the Navy Yard, the Stars and Stripes were lowered, and everything ashore fell into the enemy's hands. There was no flagstaff at Fort Pickens; but the Union colors were at once hung out over the northwest bastion, in full view of the shore, while the Supply and Wyandotte, the only naval vessels in the bay, and both commanded by loyal men, mastheaded extra colors and stood clear. Five days afterwards they had to sail for New York; and Slemmer, whose total garrison had been raised to eighty by the addition of thirty sailors, was left to hold Fort Pickens if he could.
He had already been summoned to surrender by Colonel Chase and Captain Farrand, who had left the United States Army and Navy for the service of the South. Chase, like many another Southern officer, was stirred to his inmost depths by his own change of allegiance. “I have come,” he said, “to ask of you young officers, officers of the same army in which I have spent the best and happiest years of my life, the surrender of this fort; and fearing that I might not be able to say it as I ought, and also to have it in proper form, I have put it in writing and will read it.” He then began to read. But his eyes filled with tears, and, stamping his foot, he said: "I can't read it. Here, Farrand, you read it.” Farrand, however, pleading that his eyes were weak, handed the paper to the younger Union officer, saying, “Here, Gilman, you have good eyes, please read it.” Slemmer refused to surrender and held out till reinforced in April, by which time the war had begun in earnest. Fort Pickens was never taken. On the contrary, it supported the
bombardment of the Confederate ’longshore positions the next New Year (1862) and witnessed the burning and evacuation of Pensacola the following ninth of May.
While Charleston and Pensacola were fanning the flames of secession the wildfire was running round the Gulf, catching well throughout Louisiana, where the Governor ordered the state militia to seize every place belonging to the Union, and striking inland till it reached the farthest army posts in Texas. In all Louisiana the Union Government had only forty men. These occupied the Arsenal at Baton Rouge under Major Haskins. Haskins was loyal. But when five hundred state militiamen surrounded him, and his old brotherofficer, the future Confederate General Bragg, persuaded him that the Union was really at an end, to all intents and purposes, and when he found no orders, no support, and not even any guidance from the Government at Washington, he surrendered with the honors of war and left by boat for St. Louis in Missouri.
There was then in Louisiana another Union of ficer; but made of sterner stuff. This was Colonel W. T. Sherman, Superintendent of the State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy at
Alexandria, up the Red River. He was much respected by all the state authorities, and was carefully watching over the two young sons of another future Confederate leader, General Beauregard. William Tecumseh Sherman had retired from the Army without seeing any war service, unlike Haskins, who was a one-armed veteran of the Mexican campaign. But Sherman was determined to stand by the Union, come what might. Yet he was equally determined to wind up the affairs of the State Academy so as to hand them over in perfect order. A few days after the seizure of the Arsenal, and before the formal secession of the State, he wrote to the Governor:
SIR: As I occupy a quasi-military position under the laws of the State, I deem it proper to acquaint you that I accepted such position when Louisiana was a State of the Union, and when the motto of this seminary was inserted in marble over the main door: “By the liberality of the General Government of the United States. The Union - esto perpetua.” Recent events foreshadow a great change, and it becomes all men to choose.... I beg you to take immediate steps to relieve me as superintendent, the moment the State determines to secede, for on no earthly account will I do any act or think any thought hostile to, or in defiance of, the old Government of the United States.