Today, the Fort Moultrie at Fort Sumter National Monument America the Beautiful Quarter Coin remembers when Major Anderson interpreted the activity in the harbor and chose to remove his men from the fort 157 years ago.
From The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, published in 1880.
War Department, Adjutant- General ‘s Office, December 27, 1860.
Major Anderson, Fort Moultrie:
Intelligence has reached here this morning that you have abandoned Fort Moultrie, spiked your guns, burned the carriages, and gone to Fort Sumter. It is not believed, because there is no order for any such movement. Explain the meaning of this report.
J. B. Floyd, Secretary of War.
Charleston, December 27, 1860.
Hon. J. B. Floyd, Secretary of War:
The telegram is correct. I abandoned Fort Moultrie because I was certain that if attacked my men must have been sacrificed, and the command of the harbor lost. I spiked the guns and destroyed the carriages to keep the guns from being used against us.
If attacked, the garrison would never have surrendered without a fight.
Robert Anderson, Major, First Artillery.
No. 12.] Fort Sumter, S. C, December 27, 1860.
(Received A. G. O., December 31.)
Col. S. Cooper, Adjutant-General.
I had the honor to reply this afternoon to the telegram of the honorable Secretary of War in reference to the abandonment of Fort Moultrie.
In addition to the reasons given in my telegram and in my letter of last night, I will add as my opinion that many things convinced me that the authorities of the State designed to proceed to a hostile act.
Under this impression I could not hesitate that it was my solemn duty to move my command from a fort which we could not probably have held longer than forty-eight or sixty hours, to this one, where my power of resistance is increased to a very great degree.
The governor of this State sent down one of his aides today and demanded, “courteously, but peremptorily,” that I should return my command to Fort Moultrie.
I replied that I could not and would not do so.
He stated that when the governor came into office he found that there was an understanding between his predecessor and the President that no re-enforcements were to be sent to any of these forts, and particularly to this one, and that I had violated this agreement by having re-enforced this fort.
I remarked that I had not re-enforced this command, but that I had merely transferred my garrison from one fort to another, and that, as the commander of this harbor, I had a right to move my men into any fort I deemed proper.
I told him that the removal was made on my own responsibility, and that I did it because we were in a position that we could not defend, and also under the firm belief that it was the best means of preventing bloodshed.
This afternoon an armed steamer, one of two which have been watching these two forts, between which they have been passing to and fro or anchored for the last ten nights, took possession by escalade of Castle Pinckney.
Lieutenant Meade made no resistance. He is with us tonight.
They also took possession tonight of Fort Moultrie, from which I withdrew the remainder of my men this afternoon, leaving the fort in charge of the overseer of the men employed by the Engineer Department.
We have left about one month’s and a half of provisions in that fort; also some wood and coal and a small quantity of ammunition.
We are engaged here today in mounting guns and in closing up some of the openings for the embrasures — temporarily closed by light boards, but which would offer but slight resistance to persons seeking entrance.
If the workmen return to their work, which I doubt, we shall be enabled in three or four days to have a sufficient number of our guns mounted, and be ready for anything that may occur.
I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Robert Anderson, Major, First Artillery, Commanding.
The Fort Moultrie at Fort Sumter National Monument America the Beautiful Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of the fort, circa 1860.