Robert Anderson

Robert Anderson from Ft. Sumter in 1861, Just Before Civil War

Robert Anderson from Ft. Sumter in 1861, Just Before Civil War


Single page signed note, 4.5" x 5.5", inlaid to another sheet to 7" x 10.75". Signed and dated by Robert Anderson, Major as "Robert Anderson / Major" and dated "Fort Sumter SC / Jany 24, 1861". Near fine with lovely strong contrasting ink and a few faded spots of foxing. The piece is accompanied by documented provenance as described below.


A fantastic note scripted entirely in the hand of Major Robert Anderson only months before the infamous battle at Fort Sumter. Leading up to the events, tensions continued to rise following the election of 1860, officials in the Army and the Buchanan administration wisely investigated the situations at military installations throughout the South. What they found in Charleston was hardly reassuring— Fort Moultrie was vulnerable to shore attack, Fort Sumter was unfinished and Castle Pickney was manned by a single ordinance officer. In an attempt to rectify the situation, Anderson was dispatched to replace the garrison’s elderly commander, Bvt. Col. John L. Gardner, and remained holed up there since just after Christmas with a tiny garrison of 87 officers and enlisted men—the last precarious symbol of federal power in passionately secessionist South Carolina. In addition to being regarded as an eminently competent and discreet officer, it was believed that putting a Southerner in command of the forts would be perceived as a diplomatic gesture. Although staunchly pro-Union, it was widely known that Anderson had no quarrel with the institution of slavery.


The fort had been the source of tension between the Union and Confederacy for several months. After South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, the state demanded the fort be turned over but Union officials refused. Just a few weeks before this hand scripted note, a supply ship, the “Star of the West,” tried to reach Fort Sumter on January 9, but the shore batteries opened fire and drove it away. For both sides, Sumter was a symbol of sovereignty. The Union could not allow it to fall to the Confederates, although throughout the Deep South other federal installations had been seized. For South Carolinians, secession meant little if the Yankees still held the stronghold. The issue hung in the air when Abraham Lincoln took the oath of office on March 4, stating in his inauguration address: “You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors.”


Lincoln did not try to send reinforcements but he did send in food. This way, Lincoln could characterize the operation as a humanitarian mission, bringing, in his words, “food for hungry men.” He sent word to the Confederates in Charleston of his intentions on April 6. The Confederate Congress at Montgomery, Alabama, had decided on February 15 that Sumter and other forts must be acquired “either by negotiation or force.” Negotiation, it seemed, had failed. The Confederates demanded surrender of the fort, but Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, refused.

His note in full is shown below:

"For Mis Lucy S Randall



Yours Very truly

Robert Anderson

Major US

Fort Sumter SC

Jany 24, 1861"

Throughout the crisis in Charleston Harbor during the winter and spring of 1861, Anderson acquitted himself with dignity and resolve. Immediately upon emerging from Fort Sumter, Anderson found himself a national hero. Less than one week later, an estimated 100,000 people gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square Park to fete Anderson and salute the 33-star flag he had rescued from the fort after its surrender. The man and the flag then went on tour across the North, recruiting military volunteers and raising funds for the war effort.


One hundred and fifty years later, that war’s profound implications still reverberate within American hearts, heads and politics, from the lingering consequences of slavery for African-Americans to renewed debates over states’ rights and calls for the “nullification” of federal laws. Many in the South have viewed secession a matter of honor and the desire to protect a cherished way of life.


But the war was unarguably about the survival of the United States as a nation. Many believed that if secession succeeded, it would enable other sections of the country to break from the Union for any reason. “The Civil War proved that a republic could survive,” says historian Allen Guelzo of Gettysburg College. “Europe’s despots had long asserted that republics were automatically fated either to succumb to external attack or to disintegrate from within. The Revolution had proved that we could defend ourselves against outside attack. Then we proved, in the creation of the Constitution, that we could write rules for ourselves. Now the third test had come: whether a republic could defend itself against internal collapse.”


A fantastic piece of history scripted from Fort Sumter by Major Robert Anderson during his period while he was hold up at the Fort just months before the attack and start of the Civil War!


Provenance: This item was recently discovered in an extra illustrated volume of “History of the City of New York” by Mary L. Booth, New York W. R. C. Clark, 1867. Originally two volumes, the monumental task of expanding the work to 21 volumes by none other than Emery E. Childs esquire of New York City. In volume 1 of this work exists a lovely india ink Drawing of Mary L. Booth along with a notation: ”presented by her to E E C” in pencil. Next to the title page we find an original letter of Booth to Childs dated April 4, 1872: “ I am in receipt of your favor of the 4th inst., and am grateful to hear that you are taking the trouble to illustrate my History of the City of New York in the manner you describe. I shall be happy to see you, should you favor me with a call as I am usually in my office during business hours and should be pleased to facilitate your Enterprise by any means in my power”


It is assumed that the book took several years to assemble at which point, assumedly through Childs, it made its way to Senator Charles B. Farwell of Chicago who took the seat of John A. Logan in 1887. Farwell had an extensive library that fortunately survived the great Chicago fire in 1871 having been housed in his Lakeside home. In the American Bibliopolist of November 1871 there is an article about the devastation to libraries caused by the tragedy. “Mr C. B. Farwell’s library is also fortunately far out from the city, at his country house, and is safe. The same remark will also apply to the extensive collection of books and curiosities belonging to Mr. E. E. Childs.” This establishes the Chicago connection between Childs and Farwell.


That these letters were preserved for over 140 years and have never been on the market for that period is remarkable on many levels. It is the state of being wedged in these volumes that also account for what is mostly the pristine state of preservation.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.



Item: 66277

Price: $1,000.00
Robert AndersonRobert AndersonRobert Anderson
Robert Anderson
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