Inside the Firing on the Star of the West

Shortly after dawn, around 6 am, on January 9, 1861, Captain Abner Doubleday spotted a steamer preparing to enter Charleston Harbor by route of the Morris Island channel. The men at Fort Sumter had heard rumors the previous day that a merchant ship was approaching with re-enforcements. They understandably dismissed the rumors. After all, why would the government publicize such a vital secret, the men at Sumter wondered? Even more importantly, why would the government fail to inform the Union forces in Charleston Harbor of such re-enforcements? Additionally perplexing, why would the government send a merchant ship rather than a vessel of war? Assuming the government not to be completely inept (a poor assumption with President James Buchanan in charge), the men of Fort Sumter worried that the entire story and ship could also be a ruse, perpetrated by South Carolina. Maybe the ship was a decoy or a test. Worse, the ship might contain several hundred South Carolinian marines, ready to assault a trusting Fort Sumter. Whatever the rumors, Doubleday immediately noted that this ship, bearing a normal American flag, was not an official naval vessel.[1] This was odd, in and of itself.

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