|Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor, April 12 and 13, 1861 (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
As we commemorate the opening shots of the Civil War, here is an interesting snapshot from the minutes of the Virginia Convention. In this excerpt, the Convention President informs the delegates of Virginia Governor John Letcher's response to a communication from Francis Pickens, the Governor of South Carolina. Pickens had asked Letcher what Virginia was planning to do in response to the opening of hostilities. The telegram is also interesting for the confident description of the state of affairs in Charleston Harbor.
COMMUNICATION FROM THE GOVERNOR
The PRESIDENT laid before the Convention the following communication:
April 13th, 1861.
Gentlemen of the Convention:
Since your adjournment this morning, I have received another despatch from his Excellency, Gov. Pickens, which is herewith communicated. I consider it a duty to communicate any despatch that may be sent to me by the Governor of a State. In reply to the enquiry with which the despatch closes, I have replied, "The Convention now in session will determine what Virginia will do."
Respectfully, JOHN LETCHER.
CHARLESTON, S. C., April 13th, 1861.
To Governor Letcher:
Received your despatch. It is true that Fort Sumter was bombarded all day yesterday, after refusing to evacuate, and four vessels were off the bar with troops and supplies waiting for the tide to come in, and the Fort was in signal with them.
President Lincoln sent a special messenger, and informed me in writing that supplies would be put in, but asked no reply. Not a man at our batteries was hurt even. The Fort was furious in its fire on us. Our iron battery did great damage to the Fort in the south wall. Our shells fall freely in the Fort; it is not known exactly with what effect, but supposed to be serious, as they are not firing this morning. Our Enfield battery dismounted three of the large Columbiads. We will take the Fort and can keep sixteen ten-inch mortars all the time on it, besides heavy guns which will give no peace, night or day. We can sink the fleet if they attempt to enter the channel. If they land elsewhere we can whip them. I have here, now, nearly seven thousand of the best troops in the world, and a reserve of ten thousand on our railroads. The war is commenced, and we will triumph or perish. This is my answer to you. Please let me know what Virginia will do, as I telegraph to you candidly.
F. W. PICKENS.The events that unfolded in the wake of Ft. Sumter helped to propel Virginia towards secession. Only a few days later -- on April 17 -- Pickens would have his answer when the Convention voted to leave the Union.