Letter from SC Commissioners to President Buchanan Asking Him to Withdraw Federal Troops from Charleston Harbor, 28 December 1860

Printable PDF Version


Additional Flash Versions

Related Lessons and Documents

Document Description:

On 26 December 1860, just two days before this letter was written, Major Robert Anderson, the commanding officer in Charleston, moved federal troops from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter.  In response, the state militia seized all federal property in Charleston, except for Fort Sumter.  The Convention of the People of South Carolina, which passed the Ordinance of Secession and the Declaration of Immediate Clauses, formed a commission, consisting of R.W. Barnwell, J.H. Adams, and James L. Orr, to negotiate with President James Buchanan regarding the presence of federal troops in Charleston Harbor. 

In this letter dated 28 December 1860, the Commissioners wrote to President Buchanan to give him a copy of the Ordinance of Secession and ask him to withdrawal federal troops from Charleston harbor. In a letter dated 30 December 1860, President Buchanan responded that he is not withdrawing troops from the harbor.   He explained to the South Carolina Commissioners his inability under the U.S. Constitution to resolve any disagreements with Congress and stated his intention of upholding his constitutional duty to protect the property of the United States, including Fort Sumter, if it is attacked.  Although the attack on Fort Sumter would not occur for four more months, this exchange between the Commissioners and President Buchanan illustrates the significance of federal troops in Charleston in the initiation of armed combat between the two sides.


Letter of Commissioners to President Buchanan, December 28, 1860. Constitutional Convention (1860-1862). Correspondence of the Commissioners Authorized to Negotiate with President James Buchanan.  S 131057. South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Columbia, South Carolina.

Correlating SC Social Studies Academic Standards:

Standard 3-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the events that led to the Civil War, the course of the War and Reconstruction, and South Carolina’s role in these events.

Indicator 3.4-4 Outline the course of the Civil War and South Carolina’s role in significant events, including the Secession Convention, the firing on Fort Sumter, the Union blockade of Charleston, and Sherman’s march through South Carolina.

Standard 4-6: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the Civil War and its impact on America.

Indicator 4-6.3 Explain how specific events and issues led to the Civil War, including the sectionalism fueled by issues of slavery in the territories, state’s rights, the election of 1860, and secession.

Standard 8-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the American Civil War—its causes and effects and the major events that occurred during that time.

Indicator 8-3.4 Compare the attitudes of the unionists, cooperationists, and secessionists in South Carolina and summarize the reasons that the members of the South Carolina secession convention in 1860 voted unanimously to secede from the Union, including concerns about states’ rights and fears about abolition.

Standard USHC-4: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the causes and the course of the Civil War and Reconstruction in America.

Indicator USHC-4.2 Explain how the political events and issues that divided the nation led to civil war, including the compromises reached to maintain the balance of free and slave states, the successes and failures of the abolitionist movement, the conflicting views on states’ rights and federal authority, the emergence of the Republican Party and its win in 1860, and the formation of the Confederate States of America.

Additional Flash Versions:

Commissioner to Buchanan, Page 1 Commisioner to Buchanan, Page 2 Commisioner to Buchanan, Page 3


Related Documents:

Letter from President Buchanan to the South Carolina Commissioners regarding Federal Troops in Charleston Harbor, 30 December 1860


Statement on use and reproduction