Reflection on Fort Sumter

Reflection on Fort Sumter

Soliloquy of Lincoln, Beauregard, Anderson, Davis and the author

A short Play with 5 scenes

Abraham Lincoln:

Act 1, Scene 1 (Pacing in the Oval Office in the White House, on the first week of March 1861.)

What should I do? What should I do? Buchanan did nothing. And now we are facing the possibility of Civil War. Major Anderson and his men are still holding Fort Sumter, desperately asking for reinforcement. Certainly I could not follow Buchanan, for the awesome responsibility I have sworn to undertake. But how could I send reinforcement, and start the Civil War? Shed the blood of the sons of America? I could not do that either.

I have pleaded with my southern brothers not to leave the Union in my inaugural address, that in your hands, my dissatisfied countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. I have spoken those sincere promises, and would do whatever I can to avoid drinking this bitter cup, hoping that cooler heads would prevail.

My Cabinet is quite divided and they voted three-to-three to abandon the fort. I have to keep my own counsel, praying to the Lord to give me wisdom to make the right decision.

Anderson's men are starving. I must send food to them and doing this way, I hope I won't antagonize our southern brothers ---------------------. (Spoke with optimistic hope.)

Pierre G.T. Beauregard:

Act 2, Scene 2 (At his headquarter in Charleston, South Carolina, on April 12, 1861, at about 4 a.m.)

Thank God that I have been appointed to command Charleston. The cannons are pointing at the wrong direction: to the sea. Now I have to correct the error by turning all the cannons facing Ft. Sumter, and add more cannons in a Ring of Fire, plus securing and moving plenty of gunpowder for the job. I have reinforced Ft. Moultrie on Sullivan Island, Ft. Johnson on James Island, Cumming's Point on Morris Island, plus our new invention, "The Floating Battery." I positioned battery Simkins and Harleston in Ft. Johnson; battery Gregg, and Star of the West battery in Morris Island; battery Cove, Bee, Marion and Rutledge in Sullivan Island. I have trained the green volunteers and converted them to proficient artillerists. I must also prevent a relief expedition from getting through to Maj. Anderson. I must be able to batter Sumter into submission if it is necessary.

I have followed the order of President Davis to demand Maj. Anderson to surrender and evacuate Sumter, by force if necessary. "You will at once demand its evacuation, and, if this is refused, proceed in such manners you may determine to reduce it." Anderson refused. The Union relief ship is close by, and I must act now. At 3:20 a.m., I sent Maj. Anderson the ultimatum, "Sir: By the authority of Brigadier General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time." The hour has come. It is really ironic that my teacher Anderson, at the Point, who taught me all the skill in artillery, which now I use the same knowledge against my mentor. Duty has to override personal friendship. It is so difficult -------- but, I must do my duty and bombard Sumter. (Spoke with determination.)

Robert Anderson:

Act 3, Scene 3 (At Ft. Sumter, Good Friday, April 14, 1865, at the re-dedication ceremony, Standing straight, thinking, pondering ----------)

I thank the Almighty God that I have lived to see this day, and to be here to perform this, perhaps the last act of my life, of duty to my country.

Thank the Lord that we re-take Sumter. A garland of roses is presented to me. The old tattered Stars and Stripes I have kept for four years, at last is hoisted again by me in Sumter, amidst joyous shouts and applause. A sudden breath of wind catches it and it flows straight above me fluttering in the air.

Finally came the full one-hundred-gun salute, and they speak loud and clear.

I remember vividly what had happened four years ago.

I know I have done my duty: moving my command quietly from Moultrie to Sumter, activating the guns, and defending the Fort and the flag until further resistance would be futile.

Confederate fire kept pouring in from all directions and the sky lighted up like fireworks. The continuous bombardment and the lack of reinforcement doomed our command. We fought back and we returned fire -----------. My men fought bravely, beyond the call of duty, until we could fight no more. We have done our duty. Thank God! After four long years, I have seen this day! The same battle-wearied Federal flag is being raised again! (Spoke with relief!)

Jefferson Davis:

Act 4, Scene 4 (Sitting in his prison cell at Ft. Monroe, April 12, 1866, after the war, alone, reflecting ------------)

It is all over now. Lee, Johnston, Taylor and Kirby-Smith had all laid down their arms on the armies they commanded.

But we are right! Our course is right!

And all these started from my handling on Fort Sumter.

Yes, I remember our intelligence told us that Lincoln had sent his relief ship steaming towards Sumter. I immediately called my Cabinet to determine what to do. I would not allow foreign power intruding to our sacred territory. No Sir! Our sacred Confederate States must maintain its sovereignty. Foreign occupation should never be tolerated. In addition, public opinion stated that Border States would never join us until we have indicated our power to free ourselves, until we have proven that a garrison of 70 men cannot hold the portal of our commerce. The fate of the Southern Confederacy hangs by the ensign of Fort Sumter. Let us be ready for war ------------.

But all Cabinet Secretaries concurred with my view, except one.

I am surprised that the ultra fire-eater Toombs was the only dissenting voice. I still remember his pleading. "The firing on that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has ever seen. It is suicide, murder ----------- You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountain to ocean; legions now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death; It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal."

Playing the role of being the first one to open fire, we were blamed to start this War Between the States. It created a big storm in the North. It united the scattered Union factions; it galvanized the Yankees' determination to fight us; it awakened the sleepy citizens to join force; it jelled the moderate Democrats with the 'black' Republicans in one spirit. It hurt us more than it helped.

I could have handled the Border States with a different way! I could have sent official emissary and commissioners to persuade the Southern delegates to vote for Secession in their Conventions. And that would achieve the same goal without uniting the Northern States.

If I had just listen to Toombs' counsel, if I had a chance to do this over again and had listened to him, and kept different factions of the North divided, we might have a chance --------- ---------. (Spoke with a little regret.)

The author of this Play:

Act 5, Scene 5 (Arrived at Ft. Sumter on a bright day, some time in December 1997.)

The ferry, General Beauregard, is approaching the Fort. Like a looking through zoom lens, the magnificent Sumter slowly enlarged in front of my view. I take off my hat and put it close to my heart, and pay respect to this awesome land. I feel very privileged to set foot on this soil where the Civil War history starts, and I have the feeling as if I were a pilgrim going to Mecca, or a Christian going to Jerusalem. Allow me to jot down a few lines on my reflection on Ft. Sumter. Allow me to express my sentiment on this epic history in the form of a poem. This poem is dedicated to Fort Sumter, the symbol of the Civil War, and to the six hundred thousands plus soldiers, from the North and from the South, who sacrificed their lives fighting for their freedom they believed in: preserving the Union or holding on to their State Right.

Ode to Sumter © Dec 1999

O Fatal Sumter! What have you done?
Where have all the able young men gone?
You have called your sons from the South
To bomb, to shoot, to burn and to fire!
You have asked your youths from the North
To use railroad and telegraph wire!

From the East, fought New Bern and Hatterras,
Far North in St. Albans, you rained terrors.
Marched to the South, the swamp of Olustee
Extended Far West, laid the arid Valverde
Are these your utmost boundaries?
Like the horror written in the soldiers' diaries?

O Island Sumter! Where is thy Sting?
Wiping out six hundred thousand, for nothing?
Or be it for Honor and Glory
To preserve the mighty Country
State Right, Freedom were the core,
Cleansed the drying blood forever more.

Four bloody years you had exhausted
Food, horses, men, guns and resource
Your appetite had them all consumed
Until no more could they sing their tune.
Hoisted your wind-blown tattered banner
On the old rocky Isle of Sumter!

(Reciting the poem with respect and dedication.)

(1) Some quotations from Lincoln, Beauregard, Anderson and Davis are incorporated into the article.
(2) The content of the writing is based on historical facts. The drama and the time sequence of the soliloquy may or may not happen as stated. The author takes the liberty to create such scenes.
(3) The extreme geographic North, South, East and West of the Civil War conflict are represented by St. Albans, Vermont; Olustee / Ft. Pickens, Florida; Fort Hatterras / New Bern, North Carolina; Valverde / Glorieta Pass, New Mexico. The four points represent the perimeter of the Civil War battlefields / conflict points.
(4) The poem is written by the auther. (1999).
(5) The Play was written in (2000).

Copyright (C), all rights reserved.

Author and Webmaster, Gordon Kwok

First posted on March 12, 2001
Uploaded on current server: March 19, 2009