The Fort Sumter Dispute

January 18, 1861 – South Carolina authorities issued a third demand for Major Robert Anderson to surrender his Federal garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor | Image Credit:

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor | Image Credit:

South Carolinians had protested the Federal presence in the harbor ever since Anderson moved his troops from Fort Moultrie to Sumter last month. President James Buchanan had refused demands from state officials to remove the Federals, and on January 7 the U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution endorsing Anderson’s transfer from Moultrie.

Major Robert Anderson | Image Credit:

Major Robert Anderson | Image Credit:

Anderson received orders from Washington to act only on the defensive unless he came under attack. Even so, South Carolina Governor Francis W. Pickens demanded Anderson’s surrender on the 11th. Anderson refused. Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi wrote to Pickens warning him to minimize hostility toward Anderson and his men because to “shut them up with a view to starve them into submission would create a sympathetic reaction much greater” than Republican Party propaganda could produce in the North.

South Carolina envoys Lieutenant J. Norman Hall and State Attorney General Colonel J.W. Hayne met with President Buchanan on January 13. Hall presented the messages about South Carolinians demanding Fort Sumter’s surrender and Anderson’s refusal. Hayne requested that Buchanan negotiate to turn Sumter and all other Federal property in South Carolina to the state. Buchanan refused, and an uneasy truce began in Charleston Harbor. Buchanan also received a message from Anderson noting the deteriorating condition of his garrison.

The next day, the South Carolina legislature approved a measure declaring that any Federal attempt to aid Anderson’s forces at Fort Sumter would be considered an act of war. Governor Pickens demanded Sumter’s surrender twice more on the 15th and 18th, and both times Anderson declined. This standoff continued into February.



  • Davis, Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government (Kindle Edition 2008, 1889), Loc 3851
  • Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 10
  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 22-25
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161

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One thought on “The Fort Sumter Dispute

  1. […] U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution supporting Major Robert Anderson’s transfer of Federal troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort […]


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