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The Star of the West Fired Upon and Driven Back to Sea.


January/February 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, January 11, 1861.



The Star of the West Fired Upon and Driven Back to Sea.


CHARLESTON, Jan. 9—The steamer Star of the West in endeavoring to enter our harbor about daylight this morning was opened upon by the garrison on Morris Island, and also by Fort Moultrie.  The steamer put about and went to sea.  I have not been able to learn whether the steamer or any person on board was injured.  The belief is that no injury was sustained.  Fort Sumpter did not respond.

Lieut. Hall, of Fort Sumpter, came over to the city, about 11 o’clock with a flag of truce.  He repaired to the quarters of the Governor, followed by a crowd of citizens.  He was in a secret conference with the Governor and council for two hours.  At 2 o’clock he was sent in a carriage with the Governor’s aid to the wharf, and returned to Fort Sumpter.  The object of his mission is not known.  It is not supposed that it relates to the firing on the Star of the West.  The people are greatly excited.

There were no demonstrations against Lieut. Hall, although great curiosity to know what he came for.


AUGUSTA, GA., Jan. 9—A dispatch received here from Charleston states that the steamship Star of the West attempted to reinforce Fort Sumpter this morning, when the batteries on Morris Island opened a fire on her.  Some ten shots were fired at the Star of the West, when she retired.  Fort Sumpter did not fire a gun.


NORFOLK, VA., Jan. 9—The Brooklyn has just put to sea.  She passed the capes at two o’clock, this P. M.


WASHINGTON, Jan. 9—The object of the departure of the Brooklyn for Charleston is supposed to be relative to the Star of the West, in case the authorities of South Carolina oppose the ingress of the latter into the harbor by bringing back the troops to Norfolk.


The Very Latest from Charleston.




The Matter Referred to Headquarters.


CHARLESTON, Jan. 9—About eleven o’clock this morning, a boat from Fort Sumpter, bearing Lieut. Hall, with a white flag, approached the city.  Lieut. Hall had an interview with Gov. Pickens, and was afterwards escorted to his boat and re-embarked for Fort Sumpter.  The communication from Major Anderson is as follows:

To his Excellency, the Governor of South Carolina:

SIR:  Two of your batteries fired this morning on an unarmed vessel bearing the flag of my Government.  As I have not been notified that war has been declared by South Carolina against the United States, I cannot but think this is a hostile act committed without your sanction or authority.  Under that hope, I refrain from opening a fire on your batteries.  I have the honor, therefore, respectfully to ask whether the above mentioned act—one which I believe is without parallel in the history of our country or any other civilized Government—was committed in obedience to your instructions, and notify you that if it is not disclaimed I regard it as an act of war; and I shall, after reasonable time for the return of my messenger, not permit any vessel to pass within the range of the guns of my fort.  In order to save as far as it is in my power the shedding of blood, I beg you will take due notification of my decision for the good of all concerned.

Hoping, however, that your answer may justify a further forbearance on my part, I remain, respectfully,  ROBERT ANDERSON.

Gov. Pickens, after stating the position of South Carolina to the United States, says that any attempt to send United States troops into Charleston harbor, to reinforce the forts, would be regarded as an act of hostility, and in conclusion adds that any attempt to reinforce the troops at Fort Sumpter, or to retake and resume possession of the forts within the waters of South Carolina, which Major Anderson abandoned, after spiking the cannon and doing other damages, cannot but be regarded by the authorities of the State as indicative of no other purpose than the coercion of the State by the armed force of the Government.  The special agents, therefore, have been off the bar to warn vessels armed or unarmed, having troops to reinforce Fort Sumpter aboard, not to enter the harbor.

Special orders have been given to commanders at the forts, not to fire upon such vessels till a shot across their bows should warn them of the prohibition of the State under these circumstances.

The Star of the West this morning attempted to enter the harbor with troops, after having been notified she could not enter, and consequently she was fired into.  The act is perfectly justified by me.  In regard to your threat about vessels in the harbor, it is only necessary for me to say, you alone must be the judge of your responsibility.

Your position in the harbor has been tolerated by the authorities of the State, and while an act of which you complain is in perfect consistency with the right and duty of the State, it is not perceived how far the conduct you propose to adopt can find a parallel in the history of any country, or be reconciled with any other purpose than than of your government imposing on the State the condition of an acquired province.


A second communication from Maj. Anderson, was as follows:

To his Excellency Gov. Pickens:

SIR—I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication, and say that, under the circumstances, I have deemed it proper to refer the whole matter to my government, and intend deferring the course I indicated in my note this morning until the arrival from Washington of such instructions as I may receive.  I hav the honor, also, to express the hope that no obstructions will be placed in the way, and that you willl do me the favor of giving every facility for the departure and return of the bearer, Lieut. T. Talbot, who is directed to make the journey.


Gov. Pickens immediately granted the permission desired, and directed Lieut. Talbot to have every facility and courtesy extended to him as bearer of dispatches to the U.S. Government, both in going and returning.

CHARLESTON, Jan. 10—Lieutenant Talbot left Charleston last night with dispatches from Maj. Anderson to the President of the United States.  Lieut. Talbot goes to Washington for further instructions from the President.  A party of gentlemen entertained him at the Charleston Hotel previous to his departure.

There is no excitement here.


The Attack on the Star of the West.

AUGUSTA, GA., Jan. 10—The Charleston Courier of to day says:  At about half-past six o’clock yesterday morning the steamer Gen. Clinch discovered the steamer Star of the West, and signaled the fact of her approach to the occupants of the battery on Morris Island.  As soon as the signals were seen by those on guard there, Morris Island was astir with men at their posts, before the order could be given them to prepare for action.  They remained in anxious suspense, but ready for what they believed was sure to come—a volley from Fort Sumpter.  The Star of the West rounded the point, took the ship channel inside the bar, and proceeded straight forward until opposite Morris Island, about three-fourths of a mile from the batteries.

A ball was then fired athwart the bows of the steamer.  The Star of the West displayed the stars and stripes.  As soon as the flag was unfurled, the fortification fired a succession of heavy shots.  The vessel continued on her course with increased speed, but two shots taking effect upon her, she concluded to retire.  Fort Moultrie fired a few shots at her, but she was out of her range.  The damage to the Star of the West was trifling, as only two out of seven shots took effect upon her.  Fort Sumpter made no demonstration, although at the port holes gun were run out bearing on Morris Island.






CHARLESTON, S. C., Jan. 10—Dispatches stating that the United States sloop-of-war Brooklyn is coming here with an armed force, create intense excitement.  Great preparations are being made in the harbor to receive her.  A large steamer called the Marion, of Charleston and New York line, has been purchased by South Carolina, and ordered to be razed for a man-of-war.  Her upper cabin is to be taken off, and she is to be supplied with a complete armament.  The buoys in the harbor have been removed.  The Brooklyn will be fired into.  Fort Sumpter will then open on South Carolina fortifications, and the fight will become general.

The people are preparing for it and for the worst.  The Brooklyn cannot come in without a great fight.  Major Anderson will protect her.  He only pledged himself not to prevent communication between the South Carolina forts until Lieut. Talbot came back.  A steam tug called the Aid left the wharf to-night for the purpose of reconnoitering.  She is mounted with one gun, and is under command of Lieutenant Hamilton, formerly of the federal army.  There is much talk of sending to Savannah for tugboats to take the place of gun-boats.