ORIGINAL: Capt. Harlock
Interesting, but the records from the early days of the Lincoln administration point in the opposite direction. Several sources I've read say that Lincoln received a message from Major Anderson informing him that he had only six weeks of rations, on his first full day in office, March 5. This does not seem to have substantially changed over time, for Anderson offered to evacuate Fort Sumter on April 15 if he had not been re-supplied by then. (See the communications earlier in this thread.) It is hard to imagine why a man of Anderson's integrity would have offered to surrender his fort unless he had to.
Thats for a number of reasons, firstly in DC they read ex post facto information for current computation, ie they worked forwards from a known to work out what supplies were on hand at any time, as they knew the CS were reading all comms and did not want to ask a question of such importance in the clear.
The other reason is that post war those records were misrepresented to demonstarte a different picture from the actual reports themselves from Anderson and the garriosn QM show to be the case.
American Caeser G Durrand: Admittidly pro Southern, but the facts are that the QM report, and Andersons report, show no abscence of provisions, and transfer of dry and fresh goods from the Harbour was only stopped when the details of Lincolsn resupply of Ft Pickens, was passed to the CS leaders.
The myth of Sumter's "starving garrison" has been perpetuated with a nearly unanimous voice by Northern historians and Lincoln biographers. For example, Ida Tarbell, in her widely acclaimed work entitled The Life of Abraham Lincoln, wrote: "Almost the first thing brought to his attention on the morning of his first full day in office was a letter from Major Anderson, the officer in command of Fort Sumter, saying that he had but a week's provisions, and that if the place was to be reinforced so that it could be held, it would take 20,000 good and well-disciplined men to do it.... What was to be done? The garrison must not be allowed to starve."(40) The reader is invited to compare this paraphrase of Anderson's report with what was actually written: "I confess that I would not be willing to risk my reputation on an attempt to throw re-enforcements into this harbor within the time for our relief rendered necessary by the limited supply of our provisions, and with a view of holding possession of the same with a force of less than twenty thousand good and well-disciplined men."(41) Somehow, "limited supply of our provisions" translated into Tarbell's narrative as "a week's provisions." Another example of this loose dealing with important historical data, which is prevalent in Northern accounts of the war, is the following quotation from John T. Morse, Jr.: "On the same day [4 March 1861] there came a letter from Major Anderson.... There were shut up in the fort together a certain number of men and a certain quantity of biscuit and of pork; when the men should have eaten the biscuit and the pork, which they would probably do in about four weeks, they would have to go away. The problem thus became direct, simple, and urgent."(42) In his Diary, Secretary Welles likewise mentioned "certain intelligence of a distressing character from Major Anderson at Fort Sumter, stating that his supplies were almost exhausted, that he could get no provisions in Charleston, and that he with his small command would be wholly destitute in about six weeks."(43)
Modern accounts of the Sumter affair have relied upon these contradictory sources to spin a fanciful tale of a "nearly hopeless" situation in which a "woe-filled" Anderson and an "undernourished" command were forced "to choose between starvation and surrender."(44) The fact of the matter, however, is that in his genuine communiqué of 28 February 1861, Anderson made no mention of "a week's provisions," (Tarbell), did not discuss "a certain quantity of biscuit and of pork" which would be exhausted "in about four weeks" (Morse), and certainly gave no indication that he and his men would be "wholly destitute in about six weeks" (Welles). To the contrary, on the twenty-fifth of February, J.G. Foster, Captain of Engineers with the Sumter garrison, wrote to General Joshua G. Totten in Washington that "the health of the command is very good, with no sickness among the officers or men of sufficient importance to take them from a single day's duty. Major Anderson is and has been well, and there is no foundation for the report of his illness."(45) Certainly, if the condition of the garrison was as desperate as it was alleged to have been a week later when Lincoln took office, Foster's letter would certainly have indicated such. Would not starvation or even undernourishment have been "of sufficient importance" to mention in his report if such were really the condition of Anderson's men? Secretary Welles also claimed that Anderson "could get no provisions in Charleston," and yet Foster contradicted this statement in his letter to Totten dated the twenty-sixth of February that "our supplies and mails come from town [Charleston] as usual."(46)
Foster's testimony requires closer examination. As Jefferson Davis pointed, "It should not be forgotten that, during the early occupation of Fort Sumter by a garrison the attitude of which was at least offensive, no restriction had been put upon their privilege of purchasing in Charleston fresh provisions, or any delicacies or comforts not directly tending to the supply of the means needful to hold the fort for an indefinite time."(47) A statement which appeared in the New York Herald of 8 March 1861 supports Davis' assertion: "The War Department today received letters from Major Anderson dated the 4th but they contain nothing of especial importance. The most friendly feelings exist between him and the South Carolina authorities. Postal facilities are still open to him, and privileges of marketing, to a limited extent, continue."(48) Anderson's access to provisions and the delivery of mail to the fort was not terminated until the seventh of April — only after it had become known to the Confederate Government that a war expedition had been secretly launched and would soon arrive at the Charleston harbor. The historical record clearly indicates that, contrary to the propaganda put forth by Lincoln, spread by the Northern press, and then later perpetuated by Northern historians after the close of the war, Anderson and his men were by no means starving. In his report of 26 December 1860, Anderson announced that he had "one year's supply of hospital stores and about four months' supply of provisions" for his command.(49) Three days later, he wrote in a letter to Robert N. Gourdin, a prominent citizen of Charleston, "I have supplies of provisions, of all kinds, to last my command about five months, but it would add to our comfort to be enabled to make purchases of fresh meats and so on, and to shop in the city."(50)
Even though Anderson had caused resentment from the South Carolinians by transferring his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter — an act which the State authorities viewed as a breach of the pledge of the U.S. Government not to reinforce Sumter — they were still willing to attempt to pacify the situation by offering to provision the garrison now set in hostile array against them. It should be noted that on 28 December 1860, Anderson had sent this message to Adjutant General Cooper: "[The Governor] knows not how entirely the city of Charleston is in my power. I can cut his communication off from the sea, and thereby prevent the reception of supplies, and close the harbor, even at night, by destroying the lighthouses."(51) Since all of Anderson's communications with his government in Washington, D.C. had to go through the authorities in Charleston, he knew that this threat to close the Charleston harbor would be read by Governor Pickens. Nevertheless, on 19 January 1861, less than a month after this threat was made, South Carolina Secretary of War D.F. Jamison sent the following message from the Governor to Anderson: "Sir, I am instructed by his excellency the governor to inform you that he has directed an officer of the State to procure and carry over with your mails each day to Fort Sumter such supplies of fresh meat and vegetables as you may indicate."(52) Anderson's response is interesting: "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of this date.... I confess I am at a loss to understand the latter part of this message, as I have not represented in any quarter that we were in need of such supplies. As commandant of a military post, I can only have my troops furnished with fresh beef in the manner prescribed by law, and I am compelled, therefore, with due thanks to his excellency, respectfully to decline his offer."(53)
Not having waited for a reply from Anderson, Secretary Jamison had arranged for "two hundred pounds of beef and a lot of vegetables" to be sent over to the fort,(54) which Anderson refused to accept. At this point, Anderson was given free access to the Charleston markets to purchase provisions at his own discretion. This amiable arrangement having been established, Anderson realized that interference from Washington would be a grave mistake and even wrote to Adjutant-General Cooper on 30 January 1861, "I do hope that no attempt will be made by our friends to throw supplies in; their doing so would do more harm than good."(55) On the seventeenth of March, Anderson indicated that he was "satisfied with the existing arrangement"(56) and on the first of April, Second Lieutenant Norman J. Hall reported to Anderson that there was "at least thirty-five days of comfortable subsistence for the command."(57) Thus, the U.S. Government's own records not only prove that Anderson's men were well-provisioned all along, but it also shows the popular caricature of the South Carolinians as "fire eaters" set to inaugurate bloodshed at the slightest provocation to be utterly false.