The Fort Sumter Troubles. — An Unconditional Surrender Demanded — Ultimatum of the President — Major Anderson's Appeal — Refusal to Strike his Flag.
WASHINGTON, April 10. — This has been a most exciting day in Washington — almost unprecedented — the rumors afloat being more varied and contradictory than on any preceding day in this lamentable era in the history of the Union.
It is very generally conceded here to-day that the recent navy and army movements at New York are intended for the relief of Major Anderson and his beleaguered garrison at Fort Sumter. The difficulty that has arisen with regard to the proposed evacuation of Fort Sumter, and the present position of affairs are, as far as can be ascertained, as follows;
Nearly four weeks since, the president and cabinet, on the representation of General Scots, decided to evacuate Fort Sumter as a military necessity — that is to say, the reinforcing and provisioning of it was not deemed essential, in view of the cost of blood and treasure it would require to accomplish the purpose. This decision of the president was communicated to Maj. Anderson by a special messenger, with instructions to open negotiations with the military authorities at Charleston to carry the project into execution.
These negotiations have been progressing ever since, and the numerous messengers that have been passing between Charleston and Washington have communicated to Major Anderson the instructions of the government and to the president the demands of the authorities of the Southern Confederacy. It is understood that Maj. Anderson refused, under instructions, and unconditional surrender of the fortress to the confederacy, but proposed to abandon it with his garrison, leaving the fort in possession of a corporal and two privates, to protect the property of the government, and leave it thus to await future events. He is also understood to have demanded of Gen. Beauregard that a pledge should be given him that no attempt should be made to take possession of it after the evacuation of the garrison, and that the officer left in charge should not be molested, or his possession as the nominal representative of the government interfered with.
This proposition did not meet the views of Gen. Beauregard, who demanded that the flag of the United States should be saluted and lowered, as was done at the Pensacola Navy Yard, and that a formal surrender of the fort should be made by the government of the United States to the government of the Southern Confederacy, and the confederacy flag of seven stars raised on the flag stag and saluted.
This demand, which would be a virtual recognition by the president and Major Anderson of the existence of the Southern Confederacy, was firmly refused, and the decision of Major Anderson was subsequently sustained and approved by the president and his cabinet. Thus matters stood up to the commencement of last week, when Gen. Beauregard intimated to Major Anderson that, if the demand of the confederacy was not complied with, an order would be immediately issued to cut off all further communication between the fort and Charleston, and that his regular supplies of marketing would be stopped. This fact was brought to Washington by Colonel Lamon, as the ultimatum of the confederacy. A cabinet meeting was then called and it is said that the refusal to make a formal surrender of the fort and the lowering of the flag was unanimously reaffirmed.
Immediately after this decision, orders were given for the military and naval preparations that have since occasioned so much excitement, the object being to use them if necessary in relieving the garrison of Major Anderson from threatened starvation, and maintaining the dignity of the government and the honor of the flag in Charleston harbor; or if not required there, to dispatch the expedition to Texas to maintain the treaty stipulations of the government on the frontier, and drive back the Indians and Mexicans who are threatening to invade the state.
In the meantime Lieut. Talbot was dispatched by Major Anderson to Washington with further information as to the condition of affairs, in which rumor says that Major Anderson urged the government not to allow the flag which he had so long maintained in the face of his beseigers to be humbled as they required — and to compel the gallant men who had so nobly stood by him, including the mechanics, who could have left him if they had desired, to witness the humiliating sight of any flag but that of their country floating from its battlements.
This dispatch, the latest from Maj. Anderson, was received on Friday evening last, when orders were sent to New York to hurry off the expedition at the earliest possible moment, and its destination fixed for Sumter. In the meantime information was received at Washington that Gen. Beauregard had notified Major Anderson that he would be allowed to receive no further supplies, or hold any communication with Charleston. On receiving this information the president dispatched Lieut. Talbot to Charleston with instruction to Maj. Anderson to notify the confederate authorities that the government proposed immediately to dispatch an unarmed vessel with food for the garrison at Fort Sumter; and that he was instructed, if the vessel should be fired upon, to return the fire from Fort Sumter. Mr. Chew, of the state department, was also sent on the evening of the same day to Charleston, to informally communicate with the authorities, and inform them what was the decision and purpose of the government, in case Lieut. Talbott was refused access to Major Anderson. They were both denied the opportunity of communicating with Fort Sumter, and are expected to arrive here to-night.
The expedition from New York was accordingly ordered to rendezvous off the Charleston bar, where, if the rough weather has not interfered with them, they will probably reach to-morrow. Commander Porter, a son of Commodore Porter, in command of the Powhattan, has full charge of the naval expedition, and has instructions from the president and General Scott as to the course he shall pursue. The military portion of the expedition, and the forces when landed, will be under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Harvey Brown, who has been stationed for two years past at Old Point Comfort — a most gallant and discreet officer. There will be, it is said, no precipitate act calculated to bring about a collision, but an effort will be first made to induce General Beauregard to allow the unarmed vessel to proceed to Sumter and land her cargo of provisions. If this is refused she will start in without obtaining permission, and if fired upon by the shore batteries, Major Anderson will respond from Sumter, and the forces will be landed from the steamers and the batteries attacked in the rear.
The above is a summary of the programme of affairs as obtained from those most likely to be well informed, amid the mass of rumors that are afloat at the capital.