-- Final Orders --

Problem 5: April 6, 1861

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What Lincoln Did

Lincoln went ahead with plans to relieve both Fort Pickens and Fort Sumter. As soon as Navy secretary Welles informed Lincoln that Fort Pickens had not been reinforced, the President "deemed it absolutely essential" that a special messenger be sent overland to Pensacola with orders to land the troops immediately so as to secure the fort and surrounding island. In the late afternoon, at about 5 p.m., Welles selected Lieutenant John Worden for this "secret, responsible, and somewhat dangerous duty."

Lincoln also prepared a notice for Governor Francis W. Pickens of South Carolina, and instructed a State Department clerk, Robert S. Chew, to read the following words to the governor:

I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.
If, however, on his arrival at Charleston, Chew found that Fort Sumter had already been evacuated, surrendered, or attacked, he was to return to Washington without meeting with the governor. [Click on Chew to see his instructions.]

Along with Chew, Lincoln sent Captain Theodore Talbot to Charleston. Talbot had carried Anderson's letter of April 1 to Washington. He was now to attempt a return to Sumter, or at least to communicate with Anderson, urging the commander to hold out until the relief expedition arrived. Chew and Talbot left Washington at 6 p.m., at the very time Captain A.H. Foote was telegraphing Navy secretary Welles that the Powhatan was sailing to Fort Pickens instead of Sumter.


Bibliography: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 4: 8-9, 34-35; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 108-10; Lincoln, Works, eds. Nicolay and Hay, 6: 239-41; OR, p. 251; Welles, Essays by Gideon Welles: Civil War, ed. Mordel l, pp. 96-97.

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