Events Leading Up To The War
Firing on the Star of the West
(9 JAN 1861)
The supplies and troops were sent in a large merchant steamer, the Star of the West. She
crossed the bar early on the morning of January 9, 1861, and steamed up Ship channel, which
runs for miles parallel with Morris island, and within range of gulls of large caliber. Her course lay
right under the 24-pounder battery commanded by Major Stevens and manned by the cadets.
This battery was supported by the Zouave Cadets, Captain Chichester; the German Riflemen,
Captain Small, and the Vigilant Rifles, Captain Tupper. When within range a shot was fired
across her bow, and not heeding it, the battery fired directly upon her. Fort Moultrie also fired a
few shots, and the Star of the West rapidly changed her course and, turning round,
steamed out of the range of the guns, having received but little material damage by the fire.
Major Anderson acted with great forbearance and judgment, and did not open his batteries. He
declared his purpose to be patriotic, and so it undoubtedly was. He wrote to the governor that,
influenced by the hope that the firing on the Star of the West was not supported by the authority
of the State, he had refrained from opening fire upon the batteries, and declared that unless it
was promptly disclaimed he would regard it as an act of war, and after waiting a reasonable time
he would fire upon all vessels coming within range of his guns.
The governor promptly replied, justifying the action of the batteries in firing upon the vessel, and
giving his reasons in full. He pointed out to Major Anderson that his removal to Fort Sumter and
the circumstances attending it, and his attitude since were a menace to the State of a purpose of
coercion; that the bringing into the harbor of more troops and supplies of war was in open
defiance of the State, and an assertion of a purpose to reduce her to abject submission to the
government she had discarded; that the vessel had been fairly warned not to continue her
course, and that his threat to fire upon the vessels in the harbor was in keeping with the evident
purpose of the government of the United States to dispute the right of South Carolina to dissolve
connection with the Union. This right was not to be debated or questioned, urged the governor,
and the coming of the Star of the West, sent by the order of the President, after being duly
informed by commissioners sent to him by the convention of the people of the State to fully
inform him of the act of the State in seceding from the Union, and of her claim of rights and
privileges in the premises, could have no other meaning than that of open and hostile disregard
for the asserted independence of South Carolina. To defend that independence and to resent
and resist any and every act of coercion are "too plainly a duty," said Governor
Pickens, "to allow it to be discussed."
To the governor's letter Major Anderson replied, that he would refer the whole matter to the
government at Washington, and defer his purpose to fire upon vessels in the harbor until he
could receive his instructions in reply. Thus a truce was secured, and meanwhile active
preparations for war were made daily by Major Anderson in Fort Sumter and by Governor
Pickens on the islands surrounding it. War seemed inevitable, and the whole State, as one man, was firmly resolved to meet it.
The Civil War in South Carolina