- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Civil War is well known for its divided loyalties. One of the more curious examples involved Maj. Robert Anderson, of Fort Sumter fame.

After several weeks of being under siege, followed by a day and a half of bombardment, Maj. Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861, to the Confederate authorities at Charleston, S.C. This is usually considered the beginning of the Civil War. Afterward, Anderson and his men were allowed to return North.

Anderson’s health had collapsed under weeks of strain, but he was still able to travel about the North, making speeches and attending public dinners, doing what he could to boost Union morale. He was quite popular and received several gifts, such as walking sticks and tableware.

Meanwhile, there was another Maj. Robert Anderson, cousin to the first one. The second Anderson was also in charge of a military installation in the South, which he also gave up - willingly, this time.

The more obscure Anderson commanded the federal arsenal at Fayetteville, N.C. He voluntarily surrendered on April 22, 1861. Unlike Fort Sumter, the Fayetteville arsenal was not surrounded by massive walls, nor was it on an island. The garrison had only 48 soldiers.

In every way, it was less defensible than Fort Sumter. All the same, a loyal commander could have made at least a symbolic resistance in one of the buildings, or tried to destroy the military supplies.

The South struck quite a bonanza when it picked up the Fayetteville arsenal. It may not have been as extensive as Harpers Ferry or Norfolk naval base, but it was still quite a haul. The South gained at least 37,000 “stand of arms,” 6,000 pistols, 3,000 kegs of gunpowder and an undetermined number of cannon, cannon balls and shells.

Although North Carolina would not formally secede until May 20, 1861, everyone knew it was just a matter of time.

As for the Fayetteville Anderson, after he resigned his position, he offered his services to the Confederacy, after which he disappeared from history.

John Lockwood is a Washington writer.

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