Saturday, September 10, 2016

Lieutenant-General Winfield Scott's Memoranda for the Secretary of War, March 15, 1861

It seems from the opinions of the Army officers who have expressed themselves on the subject – all within Fort Sumter, together with Generals Scott and Totten – that it is perhaps now impossible to succor that fort substantially, if at all, without capturing, by means of a large expedition of ships of war and troops, all the opposing batteries of South Carolina. In the mean time – six or ten months – Major Anderson would almost certainly have been obliged to surrender under assault or the approach of starvation; for even if an expedition like that proposed by G. V. Fox should succeed once in throwing in the succor of a few men and a few weeks' provisions, the necessity of repeating the latter supply would return again and again, including the yellow-fever season. An abandonment of the fort in a few weeks, sooner or later, would appear, therefore, to be a sure necessity, and if so, the sooner the more graceful on the part of the Government.

It is doubtful, however, according to recent information from the South, whether the voluntary evacuation of Fort Sumter alone would have a decisive effect upon the States now wavering between adherence to the Union and secession. It is known, indeed, that it would be charged to necessity, and the holding of Fort Pickens would be adduced in support of that view. Our Southern friends, however, are clear that the evacuation of both the forts would instantly soothe and give confidence to the eight remaining slaveholding States, and render their cordial adherence to this Union perpetual.

The holding of Forts Jefferson and Taylor, on the ocean keys, depends on entirely different principles, and should never be abandoned; and, indeed, the giving up of Forts Sumter and Pickens may be best justified by the hope, that we should thereby recover the State to which they geographically belong by the liberality of the act, besides retaining the eight doubtful States.

SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 1 (Serial No. 1), p. 200-1;  Samuel Wylie Crawford, The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861, p. 363

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