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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Tweeting the War: Showdown in Charleston

By Mary Hadar

Updated: 12/20/10, 12:55 p.m. ET

As we posted yesterday,The Washington Post is tweeting the events leading to the secession of South Carolina 150 years ago, in the words of the people who lived it -- from journals, letters, official records and newspapers of the day, particularly The Washington Evening Star.

Key voices we will use:

Major Robert Anderson
(Library of Congress)

Major Robert Anderson
The major, newly arrived at Charleston, came from a slave-owning Kentucky family and had spent his entire adulthood in the military. He fought in two Indian wars and the Mexican War before being assigned at age 54 to the sensitive, and perhaps impossible, job of protecting the U.S. forts in Charleston Harbor without sparking a war.

President James Buchanan
(Library of Congress)

President James Buchanan
The lame-duck Democratic president, 69, was trying to serve out the last three months of his term without plunging the country into war or allowing the southern states to secede without congressional approval.

S.C. Gov. Francis Pickens
(Battles and Leaders)

S.C. Gov. Francis Pickens
Newly elected South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens was a 55-year-old Democrat who had just returned from duty as Buchanan's minister to Russia to lead his state out of the union -- peacefully if possible, by force if necessary.

1860s press reports

1860s media reports
Some events are tweeted straight from the news media, primarily the Washington Evening Star.

Journals, diaries.

Journals and diaries
Some tweets come from letters, diaries and journals.

Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln
The president-elect will not take office until March and can only watch with dismay from Springfield as South Carolina declares its independence from the Union. .

Setting the stage: As South Carolina prepared to hold its secession convention in December of 1860, attention focused on the three federal forts guarding Charleston Harbor -- Moultrie, Castle Pinckney and Sumter (which was under construction). If the state seceded and a settlement could not be negotiated for the federal property within it, these forts were likely to be the site of the first fighting.

U.S. Major Robert Anderson was stationed at Fort Moultrie with an insufficient garrison of 7 officers and 75 men, 8 of whom were musicians in the band. Fort Moultrie was an unfortunate location for U.S. forces as it left them vulnerable to attack. It had fallen into disrepair, with sand dunes now higher than the walls. The houses around the fort looked down into it. Concerned for the safety of his men, Anderson sent off a flurry of letters to the War Department in Washington seeking guidance on how to uphold his orders to guard the harbor forts without sparking war.

Meanwhile, in states throughout the South, plans to secede moved ahead.

Follow updates on Twitter or on our Civil War page.


By Mary Hadar  | December 10, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  News, Tweeting the war  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Tweeting the War
Next: John Marszalek: What motivated South Carolina to secede so quickly?


So... Anderson and Pickens have the same face?

Posted by: Simon23p | December 10, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

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