Union’s Mission to Relieve Fort Sumter

Union’s Mission to Relieve Fort Sumter

Pelzer, John D.

Originally published in: America’s Civil War magazine, September (1997) 

Published Online: June 12, (2006)


The Union soldiers saw no one as they marched out of Fort Moultrie just after sunset on December 26, 1860, and made their way through the tiny town of Moultrieville, South Carolina, to the sea wall where their bobbing boats were moored. The election one month before of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln as president of the United States had caused a sense of crisis within the Federal garrison at Fort Moultrie. In the aftermath of the election, South Carolina had seceded from the Union, and the Northern soldiers knew it was only a matter of time before South Carolina asserted its claim to Fort Moultrie and the other forts guarding the approaches to Charleston Harbor.

The decision to abandon Fort Moultrie and withdraw its garrison to the more defensible Fort Sumter had not been an easy one for the fort’s commander, Major Robert Anderson. The 56-year-old Kentuckian had taken command of Fort Moultrie only a month before. Officials in Washington reasoned that Anderson, a native Southerner, would do nothing to provoke war.

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