Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16, 1861 - Lt. Slemmer Refuses to Surrender

U.S.S. Wyandotte at Pensacola in 1861
Part of a continuing series on the military aspects of the secession of Florida.

January 16, 1861

On the morning of January 16, 1861, 150 years ago today, Lieutenant Slemmer and the small force of U.S. soldiers and sailors in Fort Pickens were stunned to see the two U.S. Navy vessels in Pensacola Bay underway for the mouth of the harbor.

Lieutenant Gilman was sent in a small boat to intercept them and it was agreed that the U.S.S. Wyandotte would remain close by to assist the fort in case of attack and to carry the garrison to safety in the event they were overwhelmed by superior forces. With the assurance of assistance from the warship, Slemmer had a letter drafted to Colonel William H. Chase commanding the state forces besieging him that he would not lower his flag:

Looking across to the Southeast Bastion
We deprecate as much as you or any individual can the present condition of affairs, or the shedding of the blood of our brethren. In regard to this matter, however, we must consider you the aggressors, and if blood is shed that you are responsible therefor. - Lt. J.H. Gilman, by order of Lt. Slemmer, January 16, 1861.

With his men now better rested, Slemmer continued with the work of mounting artillery in Fort Pickens. Prior to meeting with Colonel Chase on the 15th, he had successfully placed three 32-pounders on the southeast bastion, prepared his 24-pounder flank howitzers for action against any attacking infantry force and placed the battery of field guns brought over from Fort Barrancas on the ramparts. 

With each additional day allowed him to prepare, Lieutenant Slemmer was making sure that any effort by state forces to take the fort by storm would result in severe casualties.
If you would like to follow a daily summary of military events across the South from 1861, be sure to visit our sister blog, Civil War Daily.

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