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1861 January 12: War in Earnest

January 12, 2011

On January 12, 1861, The Prescott Transcript newspaper (Prescott, Wis.) excitedly wrote of the reinforcements being sent to Major Robert Anderson, the commanding officer at the South Carolina fort, Fort Sumter. It seems that many viewed this as the start of the war, a war which they believe will not get much bigger then this.


250 U.S. Troops sent to Ft. Sumpter [sic]

The Steamer Northern Light1 Fired into by the REBELS!


By telegraph to St. Paul2 we learn that war has actually begun. The war department has sent 250 U.S. soldiers to reinforce Ft. Sumpter [sic] by the steamer Northern Light.1 The troops were landed at the Fort, and the steamer attempted to pass on the to the dock, when sh[e] was fired into by the rebels and obliged to leave without landing. The government has been informed that no drafts will be honored, and no attention will be paid to the demands of the U.S. collector at that port.

The latest Wahington despatches state that Thompson, Secretary of the Interior has resigned.

1.  The civilian steamship hired by the United States government to transport military supplies and reinforcements to the garrison of Fort Sumter was actually named the Star of the West. An account of “The Firing on the ‘Star of the West'” appeared on page 54 of the January 26, 1861, issue of Harper’s Weekly, which is available on microfilm in the UWRF Chalmer Davee Library. The illustration is on page 52. The same illustration also appears in the 2-volume set of Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Chicago: McDonnell Bros., 1866), page 37, which is in the UWRF Area Research Center’s special collections.

On January 19, 1861, the Transcript corrected itself:

In last week’s issue we stated that the troops sent to reinforce Maj. Anderson were landed. This was incorrect; the rebels fired seventeen shots at the “Star of the West,” which had them on board, four taking effect with injury to the ship only. The troops have since been returned to New York and landed upon Governor’s Island, where for the present they are, without doubt, beyond the reach of the rebels. The South Carolina Agents now in Washington demand the unconditional evacuation of for Sumpter [sic], with a view to avoid the shedding of blood. The Administration has not yet considered the proposition.

2.  The Saint Paul (Minn.) Pioneer was, according to an article in the January 19, 1861, issue of the Transcript, the only newspaper in the area “that receives the telegraphic reports from the East. … It is the best daily paper that we receive, arriving here on the morning of publication, with Eastern dispatches of the previous evening, being two or three days ahead of any Eastern and Southern daily, and containing all the important intelligence.”

View the digital copies on Flickr (newspaper article, Star of the West image)

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