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1861 March 24: Fort Pickens and Fort Sumter

March 26, 2011

The March 27, 1861, issue of The Hudson North Star provides more on the the planned evacuation of Fort Sumter, from the New York Herald.


Fort Pickens Soon to be.

NEW YORK, March 24,

 The Herald‘s Washington despatch1 says the President issued orders yesterday to Major Anderson to evacuate fort Sumpter [sic].  Major Anderson, in leaving, is to salute his flag and embark in the war steamer despatched for the purpose. No opposition will be made by the Charleston authorities.

A.J. Slemmer (cropped), from the Library of Congress


The Cabinet was said to be considering, on Saturday [March 23], despatches received from Lieut. Slemmer,2 who states that unless he shall be supplied with provisions soon he will have to abandon fort Pickens.3 Gen. Bragg,4 in command of the Confederate forces near fort Pickens, notified Lieut. Slemmer that supplies cannot be landed at that fort without a permit from Jefferson Davis. The Brooklyn, St. Louis, Sabine, and Wayndotte [sic],5 were off fort Pickens.


1. Despatch is an alternative spelling to the way we are used to seeing dispatch spelled.
2. Adam J. Slemmer (1828-1868) was a career military officer. He was Major Anderson’s counterpart in Florida; in January 1861 he was in command of the troops at Fort Barrancas in Pensacola Harbor. On January 10, after the surrender of the  Pensacola Navy Yard, he transfers his forces to Fort Pickens and holds the fort until reinforcements arrive.

3. Fort Pickens was the largest of a group of forts designed to fortify Pensacola Harbor, in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico, and it guarded the entrance to the Harbor. Although the fort had been unoccupied since the Mexican-American War, Slemmer decides that it is more defensible than any of the other forts. Despite repeated Confederate threats, Fort Pickens will remain in Union hands throughout the Civil War.

A Sketch of Fort Pickens, Flordia, by Lt. Langdon, May 27, 1861 - from the "Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies" (see footnote 6)

4. Braxton Bragg (1817-1876) was a career U.S. Army officer who joins the Confederacy as a brigadier general on March 7, 1861. Early in the war he commands forces in Pensacola, Florida, as well as other Gulf areas.
5. These are all ships taking part in the blockade of Southern ports. The U.S.S. Wyandotte—misspelled in this article—was a steamer launched in 1853 as the Western Port and is recommissioned as the Wyandotte in 1859. On January 10, 1861, she is used to transport Slemmer’s troops from Fort Barrancas to Fort Pickens and on April 12 takes part in the daring nighttime reinforcement of Fort Pickens. During the war she serves in support of the Union Navy blockade of Confederate waterways and is decommissioned in 1865. Not to be confused with a monitor originally named Tippecanoe when it is launched in 1864, and is renamed the Wyandotte in 1869.
6. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1891-1895 (in the Special Collections of the UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center: E 464 .U6).

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