ANDERSON, Robert (1805-1871), Major General, Commandant of Fort Sumter. Autograph letter signed ("Robert Anderson") to John B. Murray Esq., in New York; "Fort Sumter, S.C.", 9 February 1861. 4 full pages, 8vo, second leaf neatly tipped to a protective sheet. Fine condition.
ANDERSON FROM FORT SUMTER, UNDER SEIGE: "NO ONE CAN TELL WHEN THERE MAY BE A CHANGE - AND THEN YOU WILL PROBABLY HEAR EXCITING NEWS...."
The commandant of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, writing the same day Jefferson Davis was elected President of the Confederate States, gives thanks for stationery and provisions sent by a friend to sustain his officers and men, bottled up in the Fort since January. After Anderson had secretly withdrawn his garrison to Fort Sumter in late December, several attempts by the Federal government to supply the fort had been turned back by rebel guns. "You see that I am...indulging the luxury of writing on a sheet of nice note paper. Accept...my thanks for the bountiful supply of paper envelopes and pens you were kind enough to send....[P]ermit me to regard you as the agent in this matter of my wife & let her settle the amt." But he is even more grateful to Murray for arranging to send "meats, vegetables, solidified milk, tea, coffee, sugar and other 'notion,' to make us comfortable," and offers "the warmest thanks of myself and my brother officers." He hopes that "we shall not be again reduced to the necessity of having to resort to such a low diet, as I am now at liberty to procure some articles...from the City [Charleston]. There is, among a certain class of persons in Charleston, a very bitter feeling towards me and my command and they canvass with asperity every act of the Gov[ernmen]t which savours of civility towards us. Believing that the Gov[erno]r [Francis Pickens] is disposed to act the part of a humane man in his intercourse with us, I make it [a] rule to refrain from making such demands on the grocer or the market as will attract attention and cause feeling against the Gov[ernmen]t."
But Anderson, very aware that the Confederates were massing artillery all around the Fort, clearly anticipates trouble: "I think, though, by the exercise of a little discretion we shall, by the blessing of God, get along very well, as long as the present lull lasts. No one can tell when there may be a change - and then you will probably hear exciting news from Charleston."
"Mrs. Anderson informed me of the reasons she had used in urging you not to attempt getting the supplies to us, and I think that she was right...though your intentions were humane and noble...." The "exciting news" Anderson foresaw came on 12 April, a little over a month after Lincon's inauguration, when the ring of Confederate batteries opened fire on Sumter, marking the opening salvo of America's bloodiest conflict.