Who Owned Fort Sumter?

Oftentimes you’ll see neoconfederates claiming that South Carolina owned Fort Sumter.  Don’t believe that claim.

David Detzer gets into the history of how Fort Sumter came about and its construction in his book, Allegiance:  Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War, pages 103-107.

The South Carolina statute transferring Forts Moultrie, Johnson, and Castle Pinckney to the United States can be viewed here, pages 501-502.

Notice what exactly is covered by the statute:

“All the lands reserved for fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island; provided, the same shall not exceed five acres, with all the forts, fortifications, and buildings thereon, together with the canal leading from the cove on the back of the fort, nearly up to the same, as delineated on the plan of Charleston harbour by Col. Senf, and is in the secretary of state’s office at Columbia.” — Note this is not Fort Sumter’s location.

“The high lands and part of the marsh belonging to fort Johnston, as delineated on the said plan of Charleston harbour; provided, the same shall not exceed twenty acres, including the present site of fort Johnston.”  —  Again, note this is not Fort Sumter’s location.

“The land on which fort Pinckney is built, and three acres around the same.”  —  Once again, this is not Fort Sumter’s location.

“A portion of the sand bank marked C, on the south easternmost point of Charleston, as delineated on the said plan of Charleston harbour, not exceeding two acres.  A quantity of land not exceeding four acres, for a battery or fort, and necessary buildings, on Dr. Blythe’s point of land at the mouth of Sampit river.”  —  Once again this is not Fort Sumter’s location.

“The small island in Beaufort river, called Mustard island, opposite Paris’s island, and a tract of land on St. Helena island, opposite the same, not exceeding seven acres of land, as being a commanding ground suitable for a principal fort.”  —  Once again, this is not Fort Sumter’s location.

The statute further provided that within three years of enactment the United States had to repair the existing facilities in the areas mentioned or the act would be voided.  It also provided that within three years of enactment the United States had to build forts or fortifications on the ceded grounds without existing facilities and keep garrisons in them, or the cession of those grounds would be void.  Recall that none of those cessions encompassed the location of Fort Sumter.  Finally, the statute provided that all civil and criminal processes issued by the state could be served on these installations, the installations would be exempt from paying taxes to the states, and the United States would compensate any property owners for any property taken as a result of this statute.

Nothing in the area covered by the statute pertains to Fort Sumter. Further, the statute was written in 1805, long before building Fort Sumter was ever contemplated, and 1808, which is three years after the statute as delineated within, was also long before Fort Sumter was ever contemplated.  This statute has no relation whatsoever to Fort Sumter.  You will find a number of neoconfederates who can’t understand the written English language will claim that this statute meant Fort Sumter belonged to South Carolina, not the United States.  As you can see, that claim is nonsense.

Fort Sumter was covered by a separate cession of land to the United States by the state of South Carolina, and covered in this resolution, passed by the South Carolina legislature in December of 1836:

“The Committee on Federal relations, to which was referred the Governor’s message, relating to the site of Fort Sumter, in the harbour of Charleston, and the report of the Committee on Federal Relations from the Senate on the same subject, beg leave to Report by Resolution:

“Resolved, That this state do cede to the United States, all the right, title and claim of South Carolina to the site of Fort Sumter and the requisite quantity of adjacent territory, Provided, That all processes, civil and criminal issued under the authority of this State, or any officer thereof, shall and may be served and executed upon the same, and any person there being who may be implicated by law; and that the said land, site and structures enumerated, shall be forever exempt from liability to pay any tax to this state.

“Also resolved: That the State shall extinguish the claim, if any valid claim there be, of any individuals under the authority of this State, to the land hereby ceded.

“Also resolved, That the Attorney-General be instructed to investigate the claims of Wm. Laval and others to the site of Fort Sumter, and adjacent land contiguous thereto; and if he shall be of the opinion that these parties have a legal title to the said land, that Generals Hamilton and Hayne and James L. Pringle, Thomas Bennett and Ker. Boyce, Esquires, be appointed Commissioners on behalf of the State, to appraise the value thereof. If the Attorney-General should be of the opinion that the said title is not legal and valid, that he proceed by seire facius of other proper legal proceedings to have the same avoided; and that the Attorney-General and the said Commissioners report to the Legislature at its next session.”

Samuel W. Crawford speaks to the ownership and construction of Fort Sumter in his book, The Genesis of the Civil War:  The Story of Sumter, 1860-61, pages 1-8.

Some neoconfederates make the claim that South Carolina specified the fort had to be used in defense of South Carolina, or of Charleston, and that if it ever was not placed to that use its ownership would revert to South Carolina.  As we can see from the legislation, such is not the case.  As Crawford tells us, “It had been acquired and the jurisdiction yielded by the Legislature of the State in the usual way.  There was no special contract between the Federal Government and this Commonwealth, nor any feature which distinguished the legal relations between them from those maintained with the other States of the Union.”

In other words, Fort Sumter belonged to the United States.  Anyone who makes any claim to the contrary is simply wrong.



  1. This is where I should ask my question. On January 9, 1861 when local cadets fired on and prevented the ship ‘Star of the West’ from resupplying Ft Sumter, would that be considered an act of war that pre-dated the firing on Ft Sumter?

    1. See my response to the earlier question.

  2. Did you compare what any Southern Writer had to say about this issue? Book, Article etc by a Southern writer. Both sides facts would be nice for a change so the reader can discern forthemselves. Most of what you have said appear to be your opinion or at the least very opinionated.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment again, Ms. Bass. My conclusions were based on the evidence. This isn’t a case of one person puts out an opinion and then for balance we get another person’s opinion. I posted links to the actual statutes so people could see what they actually said. There is no opinion about that. The links to Crawford and Detzer didn’t link to opinions but rather to results of research. Truth in history doesn’t depend on which section one calls home. I don’t look at where a person lives to determine their credibility, ma’am. I look at how they handle evidence and whether or not their conclusions follow from the evidence. I learned this from a southerner who is the descendant of two confederate soldiers. Feel free to add your comments again.

      1. You could go to the S.C. archives and photocopy the legislation. Which is not an opinion. But, because you are not a Southerner, it would be suspected that you doctored it with your own opinions. Even if you posted something from David M. Potter, who was a Southerner, it wouldn’t be considered “true” by such people as he went and taught at Yale and didn’t write within the acceptable Southern view. Oh well, such people will never be placated by facts or evidence. Even the exact words of the people of the day.

        1. Then again, you were born in the south, went to middle school and two years of high school in the south, went to grad school in the south, and live in the south now, and if you don’t have the requisite viewpoint some folks won’t consider you a “southerner.” These are the folks Prof. Robertson calls derisively, “professional southerners.”

          Brooks has explored this on occasion. One example is here. I kind of like the idea of thinking someone is worth reading and listening to because their conclusions flow from proper handling of the evidence instead of propagandizing. But I guess I’m funny that way. 🙂

        2. Well Hello, [edit] My Catholic schooling really taught me to look at both sides of everything and not to miss the details. BTW, Was it Yale or Harvard that to this day refuses to recognize the Southern Graduates before 1861. You know the winner of the war gets the spoils.and writes the tale.

          1. Thank you for writing again, Ms. Bass. Please forgive the edit. As I explained before, I like for folks to believe the commenters here are ladies and gentlemen. My Catholic schooling taught me to reason from evidence. As far as I know, both Harvard and Yale recognize southern graduates before 1861. Perhaps you are speaking about graduates who committed treason against the United States? It seems to me that it would be up to the individual school in that case. The claim that the victor writes the history is simply untrue. I’m sure you’ve read the works of Edward Pollard, Robert E. Lee, Jr., James Longstreet, John Bell Hood, Joseph E. Johnston, Jubal Early, Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, and even Sam Watkins. If the winners wrote the history, these men wouldn’t have been allowed to publish. How do you think the pervasiveness of the lost cause myth impacts your belief that the winners wrote the history? How do you think John Latscher’s statement that the National Park Service taught the lost cause version up to the 1990s impacts your belief the winners wrote the history? If the winners write the history of wars, can you tell me how many histories of the Vietnam War written by Vietnamese historians are on the shelf of your local bookstore?

  3. Another question? Does not a ‘Fort’ hold a higher status than a depot or a logistic installation? This is some very good detailed info on the subject.

    1. If it was up to me, it would. It probably depends on how a country wants to take it. I wonder if anyone else has an opinion on this.

      1. The reason I asked that is, here in metro Atlanta the old Atlanta Army Depot became Ft Gillem in the 1970’s. I remembered hearing comments that now it has Fort status and no longer a Depot , Maybe just a few DOD workers doing a little bragging ? LOL

  4. I also, recall a delegation was in Washington with proper paper work to secede and pay Washington for any property they might have a claim to. Alas the non-statesman Lincoln refused to see them, he preferred instead to start the War with staking his claim to Fort Sumter. Things got a bit fuzzy when Lincoln refused to accept the secession saying they were not out of the union but rebels; then the double speak began and when the time came at the end they were compelled to be in this union by force of bayonet and gun, a union Lincoln said they had never left.

    1. Three comments in one day. I’m honored, Ms. Bass. Please tell me what the proper paperwork to secede would be, considering unilateral secession was not a legal action. How much did they offer to pay for Forts Sumter, Moultrie, and Johnson, and Castle Pinckney? Also, did they include other Federal buildings in Charleston, such as the customs house and the post office? Do you know when they arrived in Washington? Who was the President when they arrived? Since unilateral secession was not a legal action, then what else would they be but rebels? How is it doublespeak when they were compelled to be in the Union they had never left? They remained in the Union, and the supremacy of the US Constitution was backed up by military force. I confess I don’t see double speak there. Perhaps you could elucidate for me?

      1. This is a lot of good detailed info on the ownership of the fort. I think it’s clear form the US’s legal standpoint the Ft was federal property. I feel most courts would have ruled that way if had went to a court. I would like to see more correspondence between Davis and this in SC as to why the Fort was fired upon. I have read a lot of after the fact as to why the decision was made to but not a lot leading up to it by those in SC and the Confederate government. Jefferson Davis books ‘Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government’ to me seems more of an after the fact justification.

    2. Let’s see. Secession was illegal therefore anyone who willingly worked on behalf of secession was a traitor. That’s crystal clear. The Southerners who attempted secession failed. So you’re supporting their attempt to do so by saying they had that right when it is very clear they did not have that right? It’s pretty obvious what happened in the past because the facts are clear. Fort Sumter was US property. Some of the people in South Carolina decided to leave the Union illegally and then when told to attack the fort by Jefferson Davis did so, therefore they started the war.
      You ignore the very real fact that if they had not fired on that fort and let the navy resupply it that the war might not have ever happened. Davis knew that unless a war did start more people would begin to turn against secession. He needed the war to give the Confederacy a chance to actually become an independent nation.

  5. BorderRuffian · · Reply

    “Who owned Fort Sumter?”

    Does this matter?

    The South declares its independence. What does the claim mean if you allow a foreign power to possess forts and arsenals within your own territory?

    1. It matters a great deal for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the United States was not a foreign power, since unilateral secession is not a legal act. Secondly, it is neoconfederates who make the claim that South Carolina owned the fort. Thirdly, and moot due to the first reason, the existence of Guantanamo Bay shows conclusively foreign powers can possess military installations within your territory. South Carolina could have presented the United States with a bill for rent, and then when the United States refused to pay they could have sued in Federal Court for payment, thereby getting a judicial ruling on the legality of unilateral secession without having to go to war.

      1. Since the South Carolina ceded the property in question it could not charge rent, and the law ceding the property explicitly banned South Carolina from levying property tax on it.

        I suppose they could have declared that they were confiscating the property via eminent domain and sued to take possession. That would have offered a path to a court ruling on the legality of secession.

        1. I see what you’re saying. The big question, though, is what court would the confederates recognize as having authority over them?

      2. Jed Grossman · · Reply

        How can you maintain that “unilateral secession is not a legal act”? Where in the US Constitution (USC) is there any language stating that the States or the People cannot secede or voluntarily remove themselves from the union that they voluntarily joined. That is the essence of freedom and independence! Furthermore, the 10th Amendment explicitly states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”. This language is clear and speaks for itself. Before waging a long and bloody war of invasion that killed almost 700,000 men, wounded countless others and resulted in unimaginable destruction, Lincoln and/or the Congress could have sought a judicial ruling on the legality of their undeclared war but unleashing their invasion but they chose not to. What part of the soil of South Carolina, Virginia or any of the other seceding states belonged to anyone other than the sovereign citizens of those states, with the exception of those “forts, magazines, Arsenal’s, Dock-yards and other needful Buildings” by Congress from the States pursuant to Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 if the USC.

        1. I can maintain unilateral secession is not a legal act because I’m not a total moron. I can read the Constitution and I can tell what it means. According to the Constitution, no state can say the Constitution and US Laws no longer apply to it, therefore no state can legally secede on its own. A state wishing to secede from the United States must have the consent of the other states for it to be legal. People who have no clue about what the Constitution says like to quote the Tenth Amendment, but the Tenth Amendment doesn’t apply because the Constitution forbids unilateral secession. Anyone who comes to me claiming unilateral secession is legal is telling me loud and clear they are either uninformed, an idiot, or both.

          You also don’t have a clue about Lincoln’s ability to wage war. The Supreme Court ruled Lincoln’s actions were completely legal. Learn some history.

        2. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

          If by the asking what part of a state belonged to the federal government you are referring to Fort Sumter, then the answer is Fort Sumter. The US Government had (and still has) clear title to Fort Sumter. As to secession, Al answered it quite clearly. This matter has been discussed repeatedly. What keeps getting ignored is that it was discussed during the ratification process of the US Constitution where it was made clear that once a state joined the union under that Constitution it could not leave. This point was made clear by a man who opposed Virginia’s ratification of that Constitution, Patrick Henry, as well as others.

          The Tenth Amendment seems to be viewed by some as a super amendment that empowered states to do anything they wanted. It did not do that. Some are trying to say it invalidated the Supremacy Clause and that is not so. As I tell my students, no federal court has ever ruled against the Supremacy Clause. The Tenth Amendment people can scream all they want to, but the Supremacy Clause is the trump card of the Constitution.

          1. The courts have ruled on secession a number of times, and in each case they always said what the confederates did was illegal.

        3. John A. Lindsay · · Reply

          As you point out, the United States exercises sovereign authority over certain structures according to Article I, Section 8, Clause 17. To enforce that clause, the United States would only build needful buildings on land that the several states chose to cede to the United States rather than lease said land. When land is ceded it ceases to belong to the original owner and belongs to the entity it was ceded to. Now, when military personnel fire upon land and military forces of another nation, is that not an act of war? When they seize land belonging to another nation, is that not an act of war? When they fire upon or seize unarmed civilian vessels (Star of the West) who are operating in approved shipping lanes, is that not an act of war? So even if you are right; even if unilateral succession is legal, the United States still owned Fort Sumter (along with other seized territories) and the Confederacy committed numerous acts of war against the United States. Further, after firing upon Fort Sumter the Confederacy declared war on the United States. What need is there for any court decision here? Where is there even any authority for a court decision? The Constitution grants the power to fight both insurrection and invasion to Congress and Congress had authorized the President on their behalf when they were not in session. Further, Congress DID authorize Lincoln to call up troops and take action when they did come into session.
          So what do we have? IF the several states had no legal power to succeed, they were in armed rebellion and Lincoln was doing his duty and acting in accordance to the Constitution and the law by putting down the rebellion. If the several states did have the legal power to succeed then the nation known as the Confederate States of America committed several acts of war against the United States (including invasion) AND declared war on the United States and Lincoln was doing his duty and acting in accordance to the Constitution and the law by waging war against a hostile power.

        4. Patrick Degan · · Reply

          It is a basic legal principle that binding agreements apply to all the parties involved, that all hold fidelity to that agreement, and that no one party can arbitrarily break or alter the terms of that agreement at will without the consent of all the parties involved, and that full compliance with the agreement can be compelled of a recalcitrant party if and when necessary to do so. This principle is fundamental to contract law and is fundamental to constitutional law all the more so, in accordance to the Compact Theory as outlined by James Madison. No explicit clause prohibiting secession was ever necessary to the constitution. The prohibition is implicit. Secession is fundamentally illegal. Therefore it follows logically, legally, that there was never any such recognised legitimate nation as the Confederate States of America; that its so-called constitution was null and void, its government a pseudo-government at best, operating with pretended authority it could not rightfully claim, and that making war against the legitimate, legal government of the United States, which the southern states were still bound to despite their declarations to the contrary, was insurrection and treason by constitutional definition. The federal government is constitutionally empowered to suppress insurrection and punish treason. Therefore, no judicial review of the war effort carried out by the constitutionally established government of the United States against those states in rebellion against that legitimate authority was necessary.

  6. josephinesouthern · · Reply

    It is not who fired the 1st shot, it is who caused the 1st shot to be fired. ie, Lincoln et al.
    I mulled over what you said about traitors and I guess you haven’t read Judge Neapolitano’s book on the Constitution, or the “The South Was Right” by the Kennedy Brothers. You seem pretty sure of your interpretations of the Constitution. However, having signed on as sovereign states after they won their freedom from Great Britain they were indeed within their rights to dissolve that compact when it was no longer in their best interest. Even NE Massachusetts threatened to secede over the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It was Lincoln who had secession taken out of the teachings at Annapolis; and it was during Lincoln’s time that Webster changed the dictionary. Lincoln trashed the Constitution when he called for sister states to invade, kill and destroy another sister state, thus there obviously was no compact in effect and NC, VA and some others joined the Confederacy. Also, Lincoln’s early actions in taking over Maryland, his treatment of Judge Tanney and others who disagreed with him, showed him to be the “Tryant” Booth said he was.

    Interesting that your interpretation of traitor does not jive with the yankee Washington DC lawyers and judges of the day who couldn’t manufacture enough evidence against Jefferson Davis to try him, or there was so much evidence against their takeover war they advised letting Jefferson Davis leave jail after two years of imprisonment as a free man. Pres. Davis never surrendered The Confederate States of America, even though Gen Lee and others surrendered the Army. Pres. Davis never considered being a part of Lincoln’s THE new United States (originally THESE United States) that we co-exist and live under today.

    I realize I am not as experienced as you in rebuttal, but I do own a lot of books that I personally purchased and read during the last 15 years, and there are many more printed every year about Lincoln and his invasion and take over of the Confederate States of America, people never seem to get tired of it, and some of the yanks never quit their spin. Once in awhile though a yank will slip in truths and warm my heart, such a one is “Complicity” by Hartford, CT writers, and “Negrophila” by Eric Rush (don’t start editing until you see that he is a Black Author, but probably not a liberal demoncrat).

    1. Hello again, Ms. Bass. It’s very kind of you to take time out to comment. I do appreciate your thoughts and your effort. Some of what you write about are subjects for future posts, so I must beg your indulgence in my very short responses to those. Support for my position will be forthcoming in the future. Some of what you wrote about I’ve already addressed in past posts, so I’ll direct you to those posts.

      As my series introduction says, I’ll be addressing whether or not Lincoln provoked the attack in a future post; however, in brief the attack was not necessary. It was desired by Jefferson Davis. Please see this post:

      I’ve seen some videos of Mr. Napolitano, and from those videos I’ve determined he either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or he’s lying. Perhaps both. He is certainly allowing his political agenda to dictate what he’s claiming. As to the Kennedy Brothers, I’ve leafed through their book in the bookstore and I’ve dealt with excerpts from their book brought up in internet group discussions. As a result of those experiences, I’ve determined that what I’ve seen of their book is nothing more than propaganda and has no credibility. I’m sure that as time goes on you will probably bring up excerpts, and we can discuss them as they are brought up.

      I’m very sure of my interpretation because it is in line with the Supreme Court of the United States.
      Please see this post:

      I’m quite sure “NE Massachusetts” did not threaten to secede. Some loudmouth politicians did bloviate threats about it; however, there was no threat from the region itself, and if you note the Louisiana Purchase did take place and nobody attempted to secede.

      I believe you may be confused over secession being taught. I’ll need to see additional information from you on this in order to address it completely. I believe you may be referring to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and the use of William Rawle’s textbook there. If so, I can address that. If not, then I’d like some details of what you’re referring to, if you don’t mind.

      What change in dictionary do you refer to?

      Lincoln upheld the Constitution by taking action to enforce the laws of the United States in areas that were in the process of illegally rebelling against legitimate authority.

      Lincoln ignored Taney, so there was no “treatment” of him. Lincoln’s actions in Maryland were supported by the Governor of the State.

      Confederate soldiers were covered by the terms of surrender and then later covered by the blanket pardon issued by Andrew Johnson. Jefferson Davis and the rest of the confederate government were covered by Johnson’s blanket pardon. Please don’t confuse magnanimity with an inability to prove treason. Since unilateral secession was not a legal act, every confederate remained a citizen of the United States owing allegiance to the United States. By engaging in a war against the United States they committed treason. I’ll have more later on the case of US vs. Jefferson Davis.

      There is no longer any such entity as the Confederate States of America. It was an illegal organization when it existed, and it is no longer in existence, just as Murder Incorporated, another illegal organization which existed in the 1930s and 1940s, no longer exists.

      Can you give examples of the “truths” you found in Complicity and Mr. Rush’s book?

  7. josephinesouthern · · Reply

    Mr. Mackey, I am not your student and will not comply with your marching orders. I will post when and if the spirit moves me. There is nothing you have said that I can agree with even when I try real hard. I have seen enough of your blog now and realize the only post on here are going to be spport for you and your opinions. You, Brooks, Kevin, Corey, Hall are all the same. Knock yourself out!

    1. Well, Ms. Bass, the fact that your posts are here shows the inaccuracy of your claim. I’m trying to engage you in conversation and find out more about your views and how you came to them. Here’s your big chance to prove me wrong, yet you appear to want to run away. I hope my impression is wrong. I hope there is some backbone there and that you’ll support your claims. I’ve been nothing but polite and welcoming to you. I hope you can see this is a safe place to discuss things. I will not insult you, and I will not allow anyone else to insult you here. In my viewpoint, I stood up for you today by stating that even though I don’t believe your position is accurate, you sincerely believe them and any claims that you are in any way proslavery would be incorrect. I do hope you’ll change your mind and feel free to discuss and share your sources.

      1. josephinesouthern · · Reply

        Very nice Mr. Al; we will see if a Confederate Southern American can co-exist on this blog. I do not know any neo-confederates, you see, It’s in the genes!

        1. Ms. Bass, all are welcome and I will be polite; however, I will post the truth as I know it regarding history.

  8. George Purvis · · Reply


    ownership is easily proven without all the smoke and mirrows —
    The Statutes at Large of South Carolina (Columbia, South Carolina: A.S. Johnston, 1836), Volume V, page 501.

    III. That, if the United States shall not, within three years from the passing of this act, and notification thereof by the governor of this State to the Executive of the United States, repair the fortifications now existing thereon, or build such other forts or fortifications as may be deemed most expedient by the Executive of the United States on the same, and keep a garrison or garrisons therein, in such case this grant or cession shall be void and of no effect.”

    Pay close attention to or build such other forts or fortifications as may be deemed most expedient by the Executive of the United States on the same,
    George Purvis
    Southern Heritage Advancement Presertvation and Education

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mr. Purvis. Please forgive the edits, but as I’ve explained elsewhere I want readers to believe folks who comment here are ladies and gentlemen.

      As anyone can see, I dealt with this statute in my post, showing conclusively it only dealt with certain areas which did not include Fort Sumter’s location, and that Fort Sumter was covered by a subsequent resolution. All it takes is a plain reading of the entire legislation.

      1. George Purvis · · Reply


        You posted YOPUIR opinion not what the statue actiually says.

        George Purvis
        Southern Heritage Advancement Preservation and Education

        1. Mr. Purvis, I’m not going to go around and around on this with you. The statute is very clear to anyone who wishes to read it in its entirety. Your thinking it applies to Fort Sumter is simply wrong.

          1. George Purvis · ·

            yes it is very clear isn’t it [edit]

            or build such other forts or fortifications as may be deemed most expedient by the Executive of the United States

          2. Mr. Purvis, I allowed this post so everyone can see for themselves where you are coming from. Unless you have something to add beyond this patently incorrect claim of yours, this will be your last post regarding this statute.

  9. John Lindsay · · Reply

    Mr. Mackey, thank you! I’ve been trying to find a copy of the 1805 act for better than a month. Up till now, all I’ve found are inaccurate or out and out false paraphrases posted on Neo-Confederate web sites, and so have had to rely solely on the December 1836 Act. Of course, the 1836 act is sufficient to establish the ownership of Fort Sumter, but by nature I’m not inclined to let people make a stand on a ridge that does not exist, so again, I thank you.

    1. You’re very welcome, sir.

    2. George Purvis · · Reply

      No that is not correct. Why refer to Detzer when the answer is clearly answered in the Statues at Large as i have posted above?

      Why believe a neo-Yankee???

      1. As shown before, George, your claim is false. The statutes actually contradict you. It is unfortunate that you don’t understand that. You will never be able to understand what happened until you can understand the documents.

        Also, your term “neo-Yankee” is rather silly, showing a lack of understanding on your part of the meaning of the prefix “neo-.” You should check it out in a dictionary.

        Hope you have a nice evening and rest of the week.

        1. George Purvis · · Reply

          No the statues are not wrong, you are wrong and refuse to admit it. One thing is for certain I am not wrong simply because you say so. . if there are neo Confederates then there must also be neo-Yankees and Yankee apologist.

          South Carolina’s Fort Sumter:

          “This claim of property “belonging to the Government” rested on a very weak foundation, as a brief history of the terms on which the United States acquired their title to it will make clear.

          The States conferred upon the Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever…over all the places purchased by the consent of the legislatures of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings.” While Mr. Jefferson was Secretary of State, he wrote to the authorities of South Carolina, and advised that her Legislature consent for the Congress to purchase certain lands. This was done, but exclusive jurisdiction was denied.

          The act was passed December 12, 1795 (House Ex. Doc., Number 67, 2nd Session, 23d Congress) “to enable the United States to purchase a quantity of land in this State, not exceeding two thousand acres, for arsenals and magazines.” And it provided, “that the said land, when purchased, and every person and officer residing or employed thereon, whether in the service of the United States or not, shall be subject and liable to the government of this State, and the jurisdiction, laws and authority thereof in the same manner as if this act had never been passed; and that the United States shall exercise no more authority or power within the limits of the said land, than they might have done pervious to the passing of this act, or than may be necessary for the building, repairing, internal government of the arsenals and magazines thereon to be erected, and the regulation and management of the same, and of the officers and persons by them to be employed in or about the same.” But there was a proviso that the land should not be taxed by the State.

          But this act did not transfer from the State her title to the forts and other defensive works in Charleston Harbor, which she built during the Revolution. The transfer was made by an act passed in 1805, to which the following proviso was added: “That, if the United States shall not, within three years from the passing of this act…repair the fortifications as may be deemed most expedient, etc., on the same, and keep a garrison or garrisons therein; in such case this grant or cession shall be void and of no effect.”

          This proviso was disregarded by the United States, the defensive works, including Fort Moultrie, were neglected for years, and Fort Sumter was not commenced till 1829. According to all the laws of justice, therefore, the title to the property reverted to the State, and the repairing and building were carried on solely by the sufferance of the State. Thus it is clear to anybody who respects the laws governing property titles that the United States occupied the defensive works in the harbor of Charleston without any legal rights of ownership; and since the money spent in building came out of the pockets of the people of all the States, it cannot be disputed that whatever equitable rights were acquired belonged to the seceded States as well as to the others. And it is equally clear that South Carolina never surrendered her sovereignty over the sites of the forts and other defensive works.”

          (Note: Neither South Carolina nor any other State was paid anything out of the Federal Treasury to reimburse her for her expenses incurred in erecting defensive works in her harbors during the Revolution, nor for cessions of State lands.—See Act of March 20, 1794)

          (The Case of the South Against the North, B.F. Grady, Edwards & Broughton, 1899, pp. 286-288)

          1. George, nobody said the statute was wrong. What is wrong is your misreading of it. Until you learn how to read for comprehension you will never understand anything about this.

            Quoting from a propaganda piece filled with lies doesn’t help your case at all. The plain language of the legislation proves you wrong. That you don’t understand this says more about you than anything else.

            You’re at the sub-basement of the hole and you’re still digging.

          2. The transfer was made by an act passed in 1805, to which the following proviso was added: “That, if the United States shall not, within three years from the passing of this act…repair the fortifications as may be deemed most expedient, etc., on the same, and keep a garrison or garrisons therein; in such case this grant or cession shall be void and of no effect.”

            This proviso was disregarded by the United States, the defensive works, including Fort Moultrie, were neglected for years, and Fort Sumter was not commenced till 1829. According to all the laws of justice, therefore, the title to the property reverted to the State, and the repairing and building were carried on solely by the sufferance of the State.

            Assuming this is true, did South Carolina ever act between 1808 and 1860 to reclaim legal title to the site? I cannot imagine any court siding with the state in such a dispute, after having essentially abandoned it to the federal government for more than 50 years, only to suddenly realize they want it back, under circumstances utterly unforeseen under the terms of the original agreement. It’s right there in the middle of Charleston Harbor, for Heaven’s sake, it’s not like everyone forgot that it was there.

            If I went to court demanding the return of what I claimed to be my property, after having willingly allowed another person to hold and claim it as his own for over half a century, I’d be laughed out of the courtroom, and rightly so.

        2. Al,

          Id like to know why neo-yankee is a misuse of the prefix neo. I thought neo just meant new or modern version of. Would you be willing to shed some light on the very late to the party response?

          1. There are no real confederates today, only neoconfederates.

            Now, as to “Yankees,” I ask, are there real Yankees today?

      2. John Lindsay · · Reply

        George, Even if your interpretation of the 1805 statute were correct (an interpretation that relies on ignoring the portions of the statute which contradict you) it does not matter. As the 1836 law was passed after the 1805 law, the 1836 law supersedes the 1805 law. Your argument is analogous to fighting a speeding ticket on the basis of the speed limit being 15 MPH higher 30 years earlier. Does not matter what it was then, all that matters is what it is now.
        And your question, “why should I believe a neo-Yankee” (whatever that is) raises another question; why should I believe a neo-Confederate who demonstrably either distorts or fails to grasp the facts? In reality, it is not a matter of believing either you or Al, it is a matter of believing the actual complete statutes.

        1. George Purvis · · Reply

          yes uh huh blah blah blah.

          1. Mr. Purvis, you’ve shown you are incapable of conducting an intellectual discussion with adults. Your contributions will no longer be allowed unless you actually have something to contribute. Have a nice holiday.

  10. […] sure Al Mackey will get a kick out of this one, given the hours of research that went into his Fort Sumter […]

  11. The Constitution nowhere prohibited secession and when the Constitution does not prohibit it, it is allowed by the states; Specifically, under the 10th Amendment. In fact, the South was not the first group of states to threaten secession but they were the first and so far only that followed through on the threat. New England made the threat in 1813 in opposition to the War of 1812.

    As secured by the state, Fort Sumter was no longer “America’s” after secession.

    1. Only idiots who know nothing about the Constitution think secession was legal. I take seriously no one who doesn’t understand secession was illegal.

    2. Jay’s argument is based on a deliberate distortion of the 10th Amendment. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved for the States respectively, OR TO THE PEOPLE” (emphasis mine). That last phrase is vital here. Which powers belong to the people? Well, forming the Union, for one. The PEOPLE of the United States as a whole are the establishing power of the Constitution creating “a more perfect Union,” and only the people as a whole can unmake what they have made. Furthermore, the Union is perpetual — the states agreed to that in the Articles of Confederation, and making the Union “more perfect” does not make it less perpetual. It’s a contradiction in terms to claim that more perfection means less permanence.

      The authors of the Consititution said so. Madison declared that ratification of the Constitution had to be “in toto, and forever.” Washington in his farewell address said that any change had to come from the people as a whole. The people arguing for the legality of secession have to misquote the Constitution in order to pretend that the men who wrote it didn’t understand what it meant. Their position is absurdity piled on absurdity.

      1. John A. Lindsay · · Reply

        Greg, while I do agree that secession is illegal, I don’t think your position on the 10th Amendment, the Preamble, and the Articles of Confederation are particularly sound.
        First of all, you assume that the people referred to in Amendment 10 refers to all the people of the several states as a collective entity but how can it be? Since The people have no direct say in the running of the United States, how do they retain a power over the United States? The people are expressed through the House of Representatives which is limited in power by the Constitution. How can it be limited in one breath then be unlimited in the next? No, The people here are the people of the several states within their state. By acknowledging that the power resides with the states AND the people it ensures that the people retain power to limit their own state rather than give the individual states complete dictatorial powers in their own borders.
        Then there is the Articles of Confederation and the preamble. First of all, the word ‘perpetual’ had a specific meaning in the diplomatic language of the day. It did not mean that a treaty lasted forever, it meant that a treaty lasted until one or both signatories formally withdrew. Without the language of perpetuity a new king, a new parliament, a governor, etc. could choose to ignore treaties signed by their predecessor. With the language of perpetuity the treaty was binding until they chose to take actions to end it; often through a new treaty. Also, does more perfect mean that the goal is to improve everything or does it mean to improve the things that are deficient? If you want a car that is more perfect than your 1990 red Yugo does that mean you want a more red car? There were plenty of things that were deficient in the Articles, lack of perpetuity was not one of them. Also, is less perpetual by definition less perfect? How many government programs were created to meet a specific need but continued on long after the need passed? Sometimes the most perfect thing to do is to let it die when it has passed its usefulness. No, the Articles WERE vastly imperfect in that the Congress was a paper tiger. It could print money but no one had to accept it. It could raise taxes but no state had to pay, it could call out the troops but any state could just stay home. The Constitution fixes this.
        But if you want a good argument against secession, might I suggest Article VI, Section 2 – the supremacy clause? It is this clause that sets the Constitution and laws and treaties passed under it as the supreme law of the land. How can any state – having ratified the Constitution – then declare it to be null and void in that state? How can they deny the authority of the Congress and the President? How they enter into a confederation or attempt to establish diplomatic relations with foreign powers? These are points that cannot be honestly refuted.

        1. “Since The people have no direct say in the running of the United States, how do they retain a power over the United States? The people are expressed through the House of Representatives which is limited in power by the Constitution. How can it be limited in one breath then be unlimited in the next? No, The people here are the people of the several states within their state.”

          The people directly vote for their senators and representatives, who make up the Congress. The people directly vote for the electors who then elect the President and Vice President.

          “It did not mean that a treaty lasted forever, it meant that a treaty lasted until one or both signatories formally withdrew.”

          I don’t see any sources that verify that claim. The etymology of the word shows it’s always meant without end.

          This “Diplomat’s Dictionary” appears to use it in the same manner:

          “if you want a good argument against secession, might I suggest Article VI, Section 2 – the supremacy clause? It is this clause that sets the Constitution and laws and treaties passed under it as the supreme law of the land. How can any state – having ratified the Constitution – then declare it to be null and void in that state? How can they deny the authority of the Congress and the President? How they enter into a confederation or attempt to establish diplomatic relations with foreign powers? These are points that cannot be honestly refuted.”

          I agree.

  12. I just referenced the Constitution. It doesn’t agree with you. Don’t insult people because of that. [edit]

    1. You’re wrong.

      I’ve discussed secession already and see no need to repeat myself. You’re free to search the archives of the blog. Secession is illegal. Claims that it is legal have no credibility and deserve no respect.

      1. Technically, you’re wrong according to the Constitution. [edit]

        1. Apparently you lack the ability to search the archives. I’ve already talked about secession’s illegality and I’m not going to get into it again on other posts.

          1. [edit]

          2. Didn’t take long to run out of the ability to carry on an adult conversation, did it?

        2. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

          If secession was legal then why did the Founders say it was not? Patrick Henry stated this during the Virginia ratification convention. In fact, those ratifications conventions proved that secession was not allowed. The delegates saw the Constitution as a in or out deal. You were either in or you were out. There was no dropping out. That is what the ratification purpose was about. Once in, always in.

          Now as for how it is interpreted today, there was a Supreme Court case in 1869 that settled the issue. Secession is only legal when the federal government gives its consent. I know the 10th Amendment people like to ignore facts that prove them wrong, but that is that.

          Now if you will excuse me, I have to go get tests for my college students ready. We are actually coming up on this issue and I’ve already shown them how the 10th Amendment does not give any state the ability to secede. You are stating your opinion and it does not hold water when compared to SCOTUS rulings and constitutional scholars.

          Have a nice day.

          1. Our troll friend is very much a one-trick pony, and he bumbles that one trick all too frequently.

          2. Jimmy Dick · ·

            I am always disappointed in the Ft. Sumter ownership issue. It is not even worth arguing over. The facts are so one-sided that it isn’t even an open-and-shut case. It was closed even in 1861.

            As for the issue of secession, the usual defense is the old “It isn’t in the Constitution so it must be legal” along with the good old tenth amendment interpretation. If that’s the view those folks have, I want to see them take it to court and try to get it to stand up. I can’t help but notice that the Supreme Court dockets seem to be pretty empty of those cases.

            Bond v. United States was the last one and the Court ruled in 2014 on this matter. It was not a sweeping victory for the Tenth Amendment supporters. In fact, it was as if a million dollar fireworks display fizzled out and failed to go off. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118059/bond-v-us-supreme-court-resists-radical-takeover-foreign-policy

          3. Their argument deserves no respect in this day and age.

  13. Al, check the IP address of “Jay” and get back to me. our old pal Caldwell, Carmichael, Austin, etc. popped up on my blog again yesterday.

    1. Rob, your assumption here is correct.

      1. yea, I added another IP address to the spam file.

  14. bh5496 · · Reply

    If anyone still checks this thread, could someone explain the line, “Provided, That all processes, civil and criminal issued under the authority of this State, or any officer thereof, shall and may be served and executed upon the same.”
    I’m not sure what this means. Does it mean the cession only stands as long as the fort complies with state law? If so, that could be used as an excuse to say that the Confederates were justified in claiming and firing on it since the troops there were “trespassing.”

    1. No. It means the Federal government agrees to allow state law enforcement to serve writs and warrants on the premises.

  15. Walter Jones · · Reply

    Sumter belong to South Carolina. Too much splitting hairs in this diatribe.

    1. Ah, another idiot who can’t read and understand simple English. You heard that right. Anyone who thinks Fort Sumter belonged to South Carolina after reading this post is an idiot. South Carolina formally and legally gave up all claim to the area on which Fort Sumter was built. It was no longer a part of South Carolina. It was owned lock, stock, and barrel by the United States. If you wish to post here again, then do your homework and don’t be an idiot.

      1. jason perez · · Reply

        It didn’t even belong to South Carolina before secession. And of course you don’t provide a salient point, just some meaningless vague remark. /eyeroll

  16. apollonian · · Reply

    Mackey: here’s ur problem, STATES ARE SOVEREIGN as they’re most direct agency of the people, the people being source of sovereignty; this is indisputable. Union had only DELEGATED powers, sucker, which powers were duly withdrawn by state convention. CASE CLOSED. So S. Carolina and all the other states seceded. And Lincoln, the psychopathic mass-murderer, conducted illegal, imperialist invasion, and NOTHING was settled by that, it being mere imperialist war of conquest which such conquests are always only temporary. SOUTH IS STILL SECEDED. So it’s only matter of time before the people of USA figure-out the real facts.

    1. Do you try to be an idiot or does it just come naturally to you? Is there something in the water that makes you so dumb? Or are you some clever Yankee trying to make people think all southerners are stupid inbreds who have no clue about history? Either way, nothing in your claim is right and nothing in it deserves any respect. I hope you enjoyed the only visit here you’re going to get.

    2. Jason P · · Reply

      Apollo you have a ton of problems…one of which is that state sovereignty, even if true, doesnt lead to ownership of ft Sumter.

      You have arguments from Ignorance not facts. The sovereignty of the people is what ratified the Constitution and bound the state sovereignties…I’m basically quoting Marshall from long before the civil war…and Madison said the same thing…long before the civil war.

      The Constitution is a creature of the people…only the people can unmake it. A state or subsection cannot. All you showed was your own Ignorance as you threw the words state and people around whenever convenient but not really understanding what you’re talking about.

  17. The Constitution states its purpose is to create a ‘more perfect union’. Nothing in it allows for, directly or indirectly, said or unsaid, the destruction of that union.

  18. Patrick Degan · · Reply

    Anyone who understands Madison’s Compact Theory of the constitution can understand why the constitution did not need to incorporate specific language prohibiting secession. The prohibition is implicit. A compact is binding upon all the parties joined by it and can only be altered or abolished by all the parties in consent. No one party or small group of parties to the compact can simply break it at will or alter its terms. Madison outlines this very doctrine in his correspondences which are available for public view or reference. As Madison states in his letter to Mr. Nicholas Trist of 23 December, 1832:

    “Dr. Sir, I have received yours of the 19th, inclosing some of the South Carolina papers. There are in one of them some interesting views of the doctrine of secession; one that had occurred to me, and which for the first time I have seen in print; namely that if one State can at will withdraw from the others, the others can at will withdraw from her, and turn her, nolentem, volentem, out of the union. Until of late, there is not a State that would have abhorred such a doctrine more than South Carolina, or more dreaded an application of it to herself. The same may be said of the doctrine of nullification, which she now preaches as the only faith by which the Union can be saved.

    I partake of the wonder that the men you name should view secession in the light mentioned. The essential difference between a free Government and Governments not free, is that the former is founded in compact, the parties to which are mutually and equally bound by it. Neither of them therefore can have a greater fight to break off from the bargain, than the other or others have to hold them to it. And certainly there is nothing in the Virginia resolutions of –98, adverse to this principle, which is that of common sense and common justice. The fallacy which draws a different conclusion from them lies in confounding a single party, with the parties to the Constitutional compact of the United States. The latter having made the compact may do what they will with it. The former as one only of the parties, owes fidelity to it, till released by consent, or absolved by an intolerable abuse of the power created.”


    Madison has stated this argument repeatedly and it was clearly understood by his fellow Founders in drafting the constitution that there could be no such thing as conditional ratification of the compact or any unilateral state right of secession. This over and above the constitution’s Supremacy Clause puts the argument about the legality of secession at an end, as well as any argument regarding the Lincoln government’s authority under the constitution to suppress the southern insurrection and enforce the terms of the constitution.

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