January 15, 1861: Chase to Slemmer: “Surrender the fort.”

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
11:11 AM

On the 15th Colonel Chase, commanding the forces of Florida, accompanied by Commander Farrand, late of the U. S. Navy, asked for a consultation, at which Colonel Chase read me the following letter:

Lieut. A. J. SLEMMER, U. S. Army, Commanding Port Pickens, Harbor of Pensacola:

Sir: I have full powers from the governor of Florida to take possession of the forts and navy-yard, &c., &c., in this harbor. I desire to perform this duty without the effusion of blood. You can contribute toward this desirable result, and, in my judgment, without sacrifice of the honor of yourself or your gallant officers and men.

Now, as commissioner on the part of the governor of the State of Florida, I request the surrender of Fort Pickens and the public property it contains into my hands, to be held subject to any agreement that may be entered into between the commissioners of the State of Florida and the Federal Government at Washington. I would not counsel you to do aught that was dishonorable; on the contrary, to do that which will secure for you the commendation of all Christian gentlemen; and if you refuse and hold out, for whom do you consent that blood shall flow—the blood of brethren? Certainly not for the deadly enemies to the assaulters, for they are not such, but brethren of the same race. If the Union now broken should be reconstructed Fort Pickens and all the public property passes peacefully under Federal authority. If a Southern Confederacy separates itself from the Union would it not be worse than folly to attempt the maintenance of Fort Pickens or any other fortified place within its limits?

Listen to me, then, I beg of you, and act with me in preventing the shedding the blood of your brethren. Surrender the fort. You and your command may reoccupy the barracks and quarters at Barrancas on your simple parole to remain there quietly until ordered away, or to resume the command of the harbor should an adjustment of present difficulties in the Union be arrived at. All the baggage and private property of any kind belonging to yourself, officers, men, and their families shall be preserved to you.

Consider this well, and take care that you will so act as to have no fearful recollections of a tragedy that you might have averted, but rather to make the present moment one of the most glorious, because Christianlike, of your life.

I beg of you to receive this communication in the same spirit in which it is offered.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


OR Series I Vol I pp. 337-338

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