Charleston experienced economic decline for decades until 1861. Known for the stately manners of its inhabitants and its graceful architecture, the city was rather like a «worried old man…. a little in the world, but still in memory of his dignity before,» as one visitor put it. It was a cosmopolitan city with significant minorities of French, Jews, Irish, Germans – and about 17,000 blacks (82 percent of whom were slaves) who represented 43 percent of the total population. Charleston had been a center of the slave trade since colonial times, and about forty slave traders operated in the same two-square block, while white Charlestonians publicly boasted of the loyalty of their slaves, living in fear of a revolt that would massacre them in their beds. «People talk to [slaves] as if they were chairs and tables,» Mary Chesnut wrote in her diary. «They don`t wave. Are they stupid? or smarter than us; silent and strong to offer their time? The election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 brought the theme of slavery in the United States to airtime. In direct response to Lincoln`s election as president, seven southern states separated from the Union instead of continuing to negotiate the issue of slavery and making compromises that have been the norm for so many decades.

Major Robert Anderson of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment had been appointed commander of the Charleston garrison, which was falling due to rising tensions. The Kentuckyer native was a protégé of Winfield Scott, the army general, and was considered more capable of dealing with a crisis than the former garrison commander, Colonel John L. Gardner, who was about to retire. Anderson had served a previous mission at Fort Moultrie and his father had been a defender of the fort (then Fort Sullivan) during the American War of Independence. During the fall war, South Carolina authorities considered secession and expropriation of federal property in the port inevitable. As tensions increased, the environment around the fort increasingly resembled a siege, so the South Carolina authorities placed picket ships to observe the movements of the troops and threatened to attack when forty rifles were transferred from the American arsenal into the city to one of the port fortresses. [1] [12] [13] [11] Until the end of Buchanan`s presidency, no specific agreement or «ceasefire» remained in force in Charleston. Despite his floating in other cases, Buchanan maintained that he would not give up or sell Sumter. South Carolina and the Confederate government claimed responsibility for the fort and insisted that it be abandoned.

But because the Buchananians and the Confederacy were prepared, for various reasons, to avoid an immediate confrontation with Sumter, there was the appearance of an agreement. In the words of Lincoln`s biographer, Nicolay and Hay, «while Mr. Buchanan was refusing a ceasefire in theory, he did grant one.» The central mast of the fort was suppressed on 13 April at 1 p.m.m, raising doubts among the Confederates about the fort`s willingness to surrender.