Friday, December 14, 2007

Countdown to Sumter--Part 2

Taken at Fort Moultrie with Fort Sumter in the Distance

Just after the War of 1812, the American military began building a series of forts on the Southern coast of the United States. The plans for Charleston, South Carolina were ambitious. Beginning in 1829, engineers imported 70,000 tons of New England granite to build up a sandbar in the middle of the harbor. They built a five-sided fort, about 190 feet long, with walls five feet thick and 50 feet high. The plans called for the fort to house 650 men and 135 guns in three tiers. By 1860, the structure was not only unmanned, but it was also incomplete. However, it still worried Major Robert Anderson.

Major Anderson continued to send dispatches from his vulnerable position in Fort Moultrie. He told Washington he needed reinforcements and more supplies, but the administration made it clear than no help was on the way. Secretary of State Lewis Cass reportedly resigned because he was disgusted with the way President James Buchanan was handling (or not handling) the secession crisis.

On this date in 1860, Major Anderson sent a dispatch to the Buchanan administration. He outlined his fears about Fort Sumter once more. He suspected that it was only a matter of time before the secessionists captured the fort and began shelling his position at Fort Moultrie. “I shall, of course, prepare here for the worst,” he wrote.

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