I arrived by train at the station in Charleston, South Carolina the morning of March 24, 1864. What I thought was to be a “secret” mission wasn’t quite what I thought. The first newspaper I picked up announced that Colonel Lamon was arriving from Washington City. (I am often called Colonel as just before I let Illinois the governor named me Colonel of a local Zouaves unit, an honorary title, for sure.)
The next morning I met with Governor Francis Perkins. I anticipated a give-and-take conversation. That’s not what happened at all. Governor Perkins informed me that “Nothing can prevent a war except acquiescence of the president of the United States in secession and his unalterable resolve not to attempt the reinforcement of the Southern forts. To think of South Carolina remaining any longer in the Union is simple preposterous. We have five thousand well-armed soldiers around this city. All the states are arming with great rapidity. This means war with all its consequences. Let your president attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter, and the tocsin of war will be sounded from every hill and valley.”
For once in my life, I had mostly “no comment.” I did ask to see Major Anderson. Governor Pickens provided me with a pass and an escort (which I could have done without) and passage on board the steamer Planter. Major Anderson presented his situation as “tenuous”. He said that he and his 85 men would have to surrender within a month even if no shots were fired, because they would be out of food.
Upon returning to shore, I actually did meet with Mr. Huger, the postmaster, to act on the guise of my travel there.
It was my intent in returning to Washington City, to inform the president that Major Anderson either had to be reinforced or evacuated.
W. H. Lamon