“It Commits No One”

March 19, 1861
Abraham Lincoln, now in his third week as United States president, wrestled with making administrative appointments and the crisis over Fort Sumter. While Major Robert Anderson, U.S. commander of Fort Sumter, was sending almost daily reports of his garrison’s condition, Lincoln wanted first-hand information.

Today, at Lincoln’s behest, Secretary of War Simon Cameron wrote to U.S. Army General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. “The President requires accurate information in regard to the command of Major Anderson in Fort Sumter, and wishes a competent person sent for that purpose. You will therefore direct some suitable person to proceed there immediately, and report the result of the information obtained by him.”

Scott quickly chose Gustavus V. Fox to undertake the president’s mission. Fox had been in the navy, and now he advocated a naval resupply expedition to Sumter.

Lt.Gen. Winfield Scott

Scott endorsed the mission, saying it “may do good and can do no harm. It commits no one [to any one course of action].”

Anderson’s command was now less than a month away from running out of food. Even though secessionists had them surrounded in Charleston Harbor, Anderson reported his men were of good spirits. They kept busy watching Confederate movements on the South Carolina shores, and they compiled accurate date on the type and position of Rebel guns.

Today, Anderson reported that a “snow squall” had passed over the fort the night before and the air was cold. And, he noted, “the paymaster is now paying off this command.” Well, payday is payday — even if you’re under siege.

[url=http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=March%2019%2C%201861;rgn=full%20text;idno=waro0001;didno=waro0001;view=image;seq=0225]The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 1, pp 208-209.[/url]

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