In March to early April, 1861, as the Northern economy crumbled and political disgust with the Republican Party surged, Abraham Lincoln worked hard to start a war he thought would solve his problems overnight. On April 12, 1861, he succeeded.
Lincoln and Fort Sumter
by Charles W. Ramsdell
Part 2, Conclusion
We are to have civil war, if at all, because Abraham Lincoln loves a party better than he loves his country. . . . Mr. Lincoln saw an opportunity to inaugurate civil war without appearing in the character of an aggressor.
Providence (R.I.) Daily Post
The day after the commencement of
the bombardment of Fort Sumter,
April 13, 1861
(Lincoln and Fort Sumter is Part III of Slavery Was Not the Cause of the War Between the States, The Irrefutable Argument., and is included in Charles W. Ramsdell, Dean of Southern Historians, Volume One: His Best Work, both available on this website)
Charles W. Ramsdell, "Lincoln and Fort Sumter," The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 3, Issue 3 (August, 1937), 259 - 288. Original copyright 1937, Southern Historical Association. This article, text and notes, comes verbatim from the original article. In Part 1, one footnote, vii, and a comment to footnote xii, were added by Gene Kizer, Jr. Both are so noted.
[Continued from Part 1]
On the same day Seward, intent upon the reinforcement of Fort Pickens, brought Captain M. C. Meigs of the Engineers to Lincoln to discuss an expedition to that place. On March 31 Meigs and Colonel Erasmus D. Keyes, of General Scott's staff, were directed to draw up a plan for the relief of Fort Pickens. They took it to Lincoln who had them take it to Scott to be put into final form and executed. On the next day, April 1, Seward, Meigs, and Lieutenant D. D. Porter of the navy went to the Executive Mansion and after consultation with Lincoln finished the plans for the Pickens expedition. It was to be conducted with such absolute secrecy, lest information leak out to the Confederates, that even the secretaries of War and the Navy were to know nothing of it. The orders were signed by the President himself. It was only because the same ship, the Powhatan, was selected for both expeditions that the Secretary of the Navy learned of the expedition to the Gulf of Mexico.i Energetic preparations began in New York and Brooklyn to collect vessels, men, arms, and provisions for the two expeditions.
In the first days of April came the disquieting returns from the elections in Ohio, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. April 4 proved to be an important day. Early that morning Lincoln seems to have had a mysterious conference with a group of Republican governors, said to be seven or nine in number. Among them were Andrew G. Curtin of Pennsylvania, William Dennison of Ohio, Richard Yates of Illinois, Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, Israel Washburn of Maine, and Austin Blair of Michigan.ii How did all these governors happen to be in Washington at the same time? The newspapers, in so far as they noticed the presence of these gentlemen, assumed that they were looking after patronage; but rumors were soon current that they had gone to demand of the President that he send relief to the garrison at Fort Sumter. This is not improbable since all these men belonged to the aggressive group of Republicans who had been alarmed at the rumors of evacuation and they could hardly have known what Lincoln had already planned. Several questions arise here. If Lincoln was still hesitating, did they bring pressure upon him and force him to a decision? Or did Lincoln allow them to think they were helping him to decide? Or, if the President had not actually summoned them to a conference, did he seize the opportunity to make sure of their powerful support in case the Confederates should show fight? Were mutual pledges of action and support exchanged that morning?
Later that same morning occurred the much-discussed Lincoln-Baldwin interview. On April 2, apparently at the suggestion of Seward, Lincoln had sent Allan B. Magruder, a Virginia Unionist living in Washington, to Richmond to ask G. W. Summers, the leader of the Unionists in the State Convention, to come to see him at once or to send some other representative from that group. Magruder reached Richmond the next day. As Summers could not leave, John B. Baldwin, another leader of the group, was selected; and Baldwin and Magruder were in Washington early on the morning of April 4. They went to Seward who conducted Baldwin to Lincoln at eleven o'clock. Lincoln took Baldwin alone into a bedroom, locked the door and exclaimed "You have come too late!" In the conversation which followed, according to Baldwin's statement, the President asked why the Unionists in the Virginia Convention did not adjourn sine die, as the continuance of the session was a standing menace to him. Baldwin replied that if they should so adjourn without having accomplished anything for the security of the state, another convention would certainly be called and it would be more strongly secessionist. He then urged the President to assure peace to the country and strengthen the border-state Unionists by evacuating both Sumter and Pickens and calling upon the whole people to settle their differences in a national convention. Lincoln replied that his supporters would not permit him to withdraw the garrisons. Baldwin then warned him that if a fight started at Fort Sumter, no matter who started it, war would follow and Virginia would go out of the Union in forty-eight hours. Lincoln became greatly excited and exclaimed, "Why was I not told this a week ago? You have come too late!" This is Baldwin's account;iii but it is substantiated by several other Virginia Unionists, at least to the extent that it was what Baldwin told them when he returned to Richmond the next day.
But John Minor Botts, a violent Virginia Unionist who by invitation talked with Lincoln on the night of April 7, insisted that Lincoln then told him that he had offered to Baldwin to withdraw Anderson's force from Sumter if the Virginia Convention would adjourn sine die, that he would gladly swap a fort for a state; but that Baldwin refused the offer. When Botts offered to take the proposition to Richmond at once Lincoln replied, "Oh, it is too late; the fleet has sailed and I have no means of communicating with it."iv
Baldwin always denied that Lincoln had made any such proposal as Botts reported. Did Baldwin lie? He seems to have had a much better reputation for accuracy than Botts and his account of his journey to Washington is accurate as far as it can be checked, whereas Botts' story is full of minor inaccuracies.v Besides, Baldwin was a sincere Unionist and voted against secession to the last. Why should he have refused Lincoln's offer and failed to report it to his fellow Unionists in Richmond? Did Botts lie about what Lincoln told him? His extreme prejudices and frequently unwarranted statements on other matters would easily bring this conclusion into the range of possibility, were it not for the fact that Lincoln seems to have told much the same story to others. If Lincoln did, then the question whether the President offered to evacuate Sumter at this stage of his plan becomes an issue of veracity between Lincoln and Baldwin, which obviously places the Virginian at a great disadvantage. But let us consider other factors in the situation. Lincoln had just been holding conferences with the militant Republican governors and evidently had come to some agreement with them, else why should he greet his visitor with the exclamation, repeated later in the conversation, "You have come too late"? Certainly he could not have referred to the final orders to Fox, for those orders were given later that day. And why did he refuse on the night of April 7, if the Botts story is correct, to permit Botts to take his proposition to Richmond, alleging that the fleet had sailed, when in fact none of the vessels left New York until the next night? Is there not some basis for suspecting that Lincoln had not actually made the offer to Baldwin to evacuate Sumter because he was already bound by some sort of agreement with the Republican governors to send the expedition forward; and that later, desiring above all things to leave the impression that he had done everything in his power to avoid a collision, he dropped hints about an offer which had been flatly refused?
During the afternoon of April 4 Lincoln saw Captain Fox, who was to have charge of the Sumter expedition, and told him of his final determination to send relief to Anderson and that notification of the relief expedition would be sent to the Governor of South Carolina before Fox could possibly arrive off Charleston Harbor.vi Fox hurried back to New York to push his preparations. At some time that same day Lincoln drafted a letter to Major Anderson, which was copied and signed by the Secretary of War, informing him that relief would be sent him.vii
On the afternoon of April 6 Secretary Welles received a letter from Captain Henry A. Adams of the navy, stationed off Fort Pickens, explaining that he had not landed the artillery company at the fort in accordance with General Scott's order of March 12 because of controlling orders from the former Secretary of the Navy to respect the truce of February 29, but stating that he was now ready to obey if ordered to land the men. Welles consulted the President and then hurried off Lieutenant John L. Worden with verbal orders to Captain Adams to land the men at once.viii This incident gave occasion for a strange statement of Lincoln which deserves notice. In his special message to Congress of July 4, he stated that the expedition for the relief of Sumter was first prepared "to be ultimately used or not according to circumstances," and intimated that, if Pickens had been relieved in March, Sumter would have been evacuated, and that it had not been decided to use the expedition until word came that Fort Pickens had not been reinforced in accordance with the order of March 12.ix The strange thing about this statement is that word was not received from Adams until April 6, while positive orders had been given two days before to Captain Fox to go ahead with his expedition and at the same time Anderson had been notified to expect it. Had Lincoln become confused about the order of these events? It does not seem probable. Or was he, for effect upon public opinion, trying to strengthen the belief that his hand had been forced, that his pacific intentions had been defeated by circumstances?
On April 1 Lincoln had passed the promise through Seward and Justice John A. Campbell to the Confederate Commissioners in Washington that he would notify Governor Pickens if any relief expedition should be sent to Fort Sumter.x When they learned of it, several members of his cabinet objected to such notification, but Lincoln insisted; he had his own reasons for so doing. The formal notice which he drafted with his own hand, dated April 6, is interesting not only for its careful phrasing but for the evident importance which he attached to it. It was embodied in a letter of instruction to R. S. Chew, an official of the state department who was to be accompanied by Captain Theodore Talbot, directing him to proceed to Charleston where, if he found that Fort Sumter had not been evacuated or attacked and that the flag was still over it, he was to seek an interview with Governor Pickens, read to him the statement and give him a copy of it. If he found the fort evacuated or attacked he was to seek no interview but was to return forthwith. The message to Governor Pickens was in these words:
I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you to expect an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such an attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.xi
Was the purpose of this message merely to fulfill a promise? Is there no special significance in the fact that Lincoln entrusted the form of it to no one else, but carefully drafted it himself? It is unnecessary to call attention again to the fact that Lincoln was a rare master of the written word, that he had the skill of an artist in so phrasing a sentence that it conveyed precisely the meaning he wished it to convey. He could do more than that: he could make the same sentence say one thing to one person and something entirely different to another and in each case carry the meaning he intended. It is obvious that the message to be read to Governor Pickens was intended less for that official than for General Beauregard and the Confederate government at Montgomery. But it was intended also for the people of the North and of the border states. To the suspicious and apprehensive Confederates it did not merely give information that provisions would be sent to Anderson's garrison -- which should be enough to bring about an attempt to take the fort -- but it carried a threat that force would be used if the provisions were not allowed to be brought in. It was a direct challenge! How were the Southerners expected to react to this challenge? To Northern readers the same words meant only that the government was taking food to hungry men to whom it was under special obligation. Northern men would see no threat; they would understand only that their government did not propose to use force if it could be avoided. Is it possible that a man of Lincoln's known perspicacity could be blind to the different interpretations which would be placed upon his subtle words in the North and in the South?
The message was not only skillfully phrased, it was most carefully timed. It was read to Governor Pickens in the presence of General Beauregard on the evening of April 8. News of the preparation of some large expedition had been in the newspapers for a week; but as the destination had not been officially divulged, newspaper reporters and correspondents had guessed at many places, chiefly the coast of Texas and revolutionary Santo Domingo. It was not until April 8 that the guessing veered toward Charleston, and not until the next day was any positive information given in the press of the notice to Governor Pickens.xii The Confederate officials had regarded these preparations at New York with suspicion while conflicting reports came to them from Washington concerning Lincoln's designs about Sumter. The first of Captain Fox's vessels were leaving New York Harbor at the very hour that Chew read the notification to Governor Pickens. The Confederates were given ample time, therefore, to act before the fleet could arrive off Charleston. They did not know that a portion of the vessels which had left New York were really destined not for Charleston but for Fort Pickens at Pensacola. The utmost secrecy was maintained about the Pensacola expedition, thus permitting the Confederates to believe that the whole force was to be concentrated at Charleston.
The tables were now completely turned on the Southerners. Lincoln was well out of his dilemma while they, who had heretofore had the tactical advantage of being able to wait until Anderson must evacuate, were suddenly faced with a choice of two evils. They must either take the fort before relief could arrive, thus taking the apparent offensive which they had hoped to avoid, or they must stand by quietly and see the fort provisioned. But to allow the provisioning meant not only an indefinite postponement to their possession of the fort which had become as much a symbol to them as it was to Lincoln; to permit it in the face of the threat of force, after all their preparations, would be to make a ridiculous and disgraceful retreat.xiii Nor could they be sure that, if they yielded now in the matter of "Provisions only," they would not soon be served with the "further notice" as a prelude to throwing in "Men, arms, and ammunition." This, then, was the dilemma which they faced as the result of Lincoln's astute strategy.
Events now hurried to the inevitable climax. As soon as President Lincoln's communication was received General Beauregard telegraphed the news to the Confederate secretary of war, L. P. Walker. Walker at once ordered that the Sumter garrison be isolated by stopping its mails and the purchase of provisions in Charleston. On this same day the Confederate commissioners at Washington had received a copy of a memorandum filed in the state department by Seward, dated March 15, in which the Secretary declined to hold any official intercourse with them. They telegraphed the news to their government and at once, feeling that they had been deceived and knowing that their mission had failed, prepared to leave Washington. Jefferson Davis was thus, on April 8, apprised of two movements by the Federal government which, taken together or singly, looked ominous. On the following day Beauregard seized the mails as they came from Fort Sumter and discovered a letter from Anderson to the war department which disclosed that he had been informed of the coming of Fox's expedition and indicated that the fleet would attempt to force its way into the harbor. This information also was at once communicated to the Montgomery government. On the tenth came the news that the fleet had sailed from New York. Walker then directed Beauregard, if he thought there was no doubt of the authorized character of the notification from Washington (meaning Lincoln's), to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter and, if it should be refused, "to reduce" the fort. The Davis administration had waited two full days after receiving word of Lincoln's notification before deciding what to do. It is said that Robert Toombs, secretary of state, objected vigorously to attacking the fort. "It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal!"xiv If Toombs protested, he was overruled because Davis and the rest believed that Lincoln had already taken the aggressive and they regarded their problem now as a military one. To them it was the simple question whether they should permit the hostile fleet to arrive before they attacked the fort or whether they should take Sumter before they had to fight both fort and fleet.
At two o'clock on the eleventh Beauregard made the demand upon Anderson, who rejected it but added verbally to the officer sent to him that if not battered to pieces, he would be starved out in a few days. When Beauregard reported this remark to Walker, that official informed him that the government did "Not desire needlessly to bombard Fort Sumter" and that if Major Anderson would state when he would evacuate, Beauregard should "avoid the effusion of blood." Evidently the Montgomery officials thought there was still a chance to get the fort peaceably before the fleet could arrive. Had not Lincoln so carefully timed his message with the movement of Fox there might have been no attack. But late in the afternoon of the same day Beauregard received information from a scout boat that the Harriet Lane, one of Fox's ships, had been sighted a few miles out of the harbor. It was expected that all the fleet would be at hand by next day. Nevertheless, Beauregard about midnight sent a second message to Anderson, in accordance with Walker's instructions, saying that if he would state the time at which he would evacuate and would agree not to use "your guns against us unless ours should be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you." To this Anderson replied that he would evacuate by noon on the fifteenth and would in the meantime not open fire upon Beauregard's forces unless compelled to do so by some hostile act "against the fort or the flag it bears, should I not receive prior to that time controlling instructions from my government or additional supplies." This answer was conditional and unsatisfactory for it was clear that, with Fox's fleet arriving, Anderson would not evacuate. Thereupon the two aids who had carried Beauregard's message, in accordance with their instructions from that office, formally notified Anderson -- it was now 3:20 in the morning of the twelfth -- that fire would be opened upon him in one hour's time.
What followed we all know. The bombardment which began at 4:30 on the morning of April 12 ended in the surrender of Anderson and his garrison during the afternoon of the following day. The three vesselsxv of the fleet which lay outside were unable to get into the harbor because of the high seas and the failure of the rest of the fleet -- the tugboats and the Powhatan -- to arrive. Although there were no casualties during the bombardment, the mere news that the attack on the fort had begun swept the entire North into a roaring flame of anger. The "rebels" had fired the first shot; they had chosen to begin war. If there had been any doubt earlier whether the mass of the Northern people would support the administration in suppressing the secessionists, there was none now. Lincoln's strategy had been completely successful. He seized at once the psychological moment for calling out the militia and committing the North to support of the war. This action cost him four of the border slaves states, but he had probably already discounted that loss.
Perhaps the facts thus far enumerated, standing alone, could hardly be conclusive evidence that Lincoln, having decided that there was no other way than war for the salvation of his administration, his party, and the Union, maneuvered the Confederates into firing the first shot in order that they, rather than he, should take the blame of beginning bloodshed. Though subject to that interpretation, they are also subject to the one which he built up so carefully. It there other evidence? No one, surely, would expect to find in any written word of his a confession of the stratagem; for to acknowledge it openly would have been to destroy the very effect he had been at so much pains to produce. There are, it is true, two statements by him to Captain Fox which are at least suggestive. Fox relates that in their conference of April 4 the President told him that he had decided to let the expedition go and that a messenger would be sent to the authorities at Charleston before Fox could possibly get there; and when the Captain reminded the President of the short time in which he must organize the expedition and reach the destined point, Lincoln replied, "You will best fulfill your duty to your country by making the attempt." Then, again, in the letter which Lincoln wrote the chagrined Captain on May 1 to console him for the failure of the fleet to enter Charleston Harbor, he said: "You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."xvi Was this statement merely intended to soothe a disappointed commander, or did it contain a hint that the real objective of the expedition was not at all the relief of Sumter?
Lincoln's two secretaries, John G. Nicolay and John Hay, in their long but not impartial account of the Sumter affair come so close to divulging the essence of the stratagem that one cannot but suspect that they knew of it. In one place they say, with reference to Lincoln's solution of this problem of Sumter, "Abstractly it was enough that the Government was in the right. But to make the issue sure, he determined that in addition the rebellion should be put in the wrong." And again, "President Lincoln in deciding the Sumter question had adopted a simple but effective policy. To use his own words, he determined to 'send bread to Anderson'; if the rebels fired on that, they would not be able to convince the world that he had begun the civil war." And still later, "When he finally gave the order that the fleet should sail he was master of the situation . . . master if the rebels hesitated or repented, because they would thereby forfeit their prestige with the South; master if they persisted, for he would then command a united North."xvii
Perhaps not much weight should be given to the fact that before the expedition reached Charleston his political opponents in the North expressed suspicion of a design to force civil war upon the country in order to save the Republican party from the disaster threatened in the recent elections and that after the fighting began they roundly accused him of having deliberately provoked it by his demonstration against Charleston. And perhaps there is no significance in the further fact that the more aggressive members of his own party had demanded action to save the party and that the administration newspapers began to assert as soon as the fleet sailed that, if war came, the rebels would be the aggressors.xviii
There is evidence much more to the point than any of these things. Stephen A. Douglas, senator from Illinois, died on June 3, 1861. On June 12 the Republican governor of that state, Richard Yates, appointed to the vacancy Orville H. Browning, a prominent lawyer, a former Whig, then an ardent Republican, and for more than twenty years a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Browning was one of the group who from the first had favored vigorous measures and had opposed compromise. He was to become the spokesman of the administration in the Senate. On July 2, 1861, Browning arrived in Washington to take his seat in the Senate for the special session which had been called to meet on July 4. On the evening of the third he called at the White House to see his old acquaintance. Now Browning for many years had kept a diary, a fact that very probably was unknown to Lincoln since diarists usually conceal this pleasant and useful vice. In the entry for July 3 Browning relates the conversation he had with the President that evening, for after reading the new Senator his special message to Congress, Lincoln laid aside the document and talked. The rest of the entry best be given in Browning's own words:
He told me that the very first thing placed in his hands after his inauguration was a letter from Majr Anderson announcing the impossibility of defending or relieving Sumter. That he called the cabinet together and consulted Genl Scott -- that Scott concurred with Anderson, and the cabinet, with the exception of P M Genl Blair were for evacuating the Fort, and all the troubles and anxieties of his life had not equaled those which intervened between this time and the fall of Sumter. He himself conceived the idea, and proposed sending supplies, without an attempt to reinforce giving notice of the fact to Gov Pickens of S.C. The plan succeeded. They attacked Sumter -- it fell, and thus did more service than it otherwise could.xix
This statement, condensed from the words of Lincoln himself by a close friend who wrote them down when he returned that night to his room at "Mrs. Carter's on Capitol Hill," needs no elaboration. It completes the evidence.
It is not difficult to understand how the usually secretive Lincoln, so long surrounded by strangers and criticized by many whom he had expected to be helpful, talking that night for the first time in many months to an old, loyal, and discreet friend, though a friend who had often been somewhat patronizing, for once forgot to be reticent. It must have been an emotional relief to him, with his pride over his consummate strategy bottled up within him for so long, to be able to impress his friend Browning with his success in meeting a perplexing and dangerous situation. He did not suspect that Browning would set it down in a diary.
There is little more to be said. Some of us will be content to find new reason for admiration of Abraham Lincoln in reflecting on this bit of masterful strategy at the very beginning of his long struggle for the preservation of the Union. Some, perhaps, will be reminded of the famous incident of the Ems telegram of which the cynical Bismarck boasted in his memoirs. And some will wonder whether the sense of responsibility for the actual beginning of a frightful war, far more terrible than he could possibly have foreseen in that early April of 1861, may have deepened the melancholy and the charity toward his Southern foemen which that strange man in the White House was to reveal so often before that final tragic April of 1865.
i John T. Morse (ed.), The Diary of Gideon Welles, 3 vols. (Boston and New York, 1911), I, 23-25. Hereafter cited as Welles, Diary. David D. Porter, in Incidents and Anecdotes of the Civil War (New York, 1885), 13-14, tells a lively and rather amusing story of the conference with Lincoln on April 1.
ii New York World, April 5, 1861; New York Herald, April 5, 7, 1861; Philadelphia Enquirer, April 6, 1861; James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States Since the Compromise of 1850, 8 vols. (New York, 1910 edition) III, 346, n. 3. John B. Baldwin, who had an interview with Lincoln later that morning, testified on February 10, 1866, "At the time I was here I saw, and was introduced to, in the President's room, a number of governors of states. It was at the time the nine governors had the talk here with the President." Report of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction (39 Cong., 1 Sess., House Report No. 30), 105. As several of these governors were in Washington for three or four days, it is possible that the conferences extended over several days, from about April 3 to 6.
iii Baldwin's testimony, Report of Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 102-107; J. B. Baldwin, Interview between President Lincoln and John B. Baldwin, April 4, 1861 (Staunton, VA., 1866).
iv Botts' testimony, Report of Joint Committee on Reconstruction, 114-19; John Minor Botts, The Great Rebellion (New York, 1866), 194-202.
v The most recent and also the most judicial summary of all the evidence is by Henry T. Shanks, The Secession Movement in Virginia, 1847-1861 (Richmond, 1934), 192-95.
vi Crawford, Genesis of the Civil War, 404; William E. Smith, The Francis Preston Blair Family in Politics, 2 vols. (New York, 1933), II, 12-13.
vii Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IV, 27-28.
viii Welles, Diary, I, 29-32. Worden reached Captain Adams' ship on April 12 and the men were landed that night, the very day on which the firing began at Sumter.
ix Richardson (comp.), Messages and Papers, VI, 21-22.
x Connor, John Archibald Campbell, 127-28. Lincoln chose to send the notification to the Governor, not the Confederate officers, because he could recognize the former and not the latter.
xi Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IV, 34.
xii New York Times, April 8, 1861; Baltimore Sun, April 8, 1861. The Richmond Examiner asserted as early as April 6 that the expedition was for the purpose of relieving Sumter.
xiii Evidently Lincoln did not expect them to retreat, for on April 8 he wrote Governor Curtin of Pennsylvania, one of the recent conferees, "I think the necessity of being ready increases. Look to it." From "Lincoln Photostats," Library of Congress; also in Paul M. Angle, New Letters and Papers of Lincoln (Boston and New York, 1930), 266. Governor Dennison of Ohio, who was still in Washington, was quoted as promising, on the same date, support to "a vigorous policy." Mt. Vernon (Ohio) Democratic Banner, April 16, 1861.
xiv That Toombs protested against the attack seems to be based wholly upon the statement in Pleasant A. Stovall, The Life of Robert Toombs (New York, 1892), 226. Stovall cites no source and U. B. Phillips in his Life of Robert Toombs (New York, 1913), 234-35, gives no other citation than Stovall. Richard Lathers attributed the same words to Toombs several days before this crisis arose in a letter which he wrote to the New York Journal of Commerce from Montgomery. See Alvan F. Sanborn, Reminiscences of Richard Lathers (New York, 1907), 164-65. Nevertheless, that Toombs was greatly concerned over the dangers in the situation is attested by the Confederate secretary of war, L. P. Walker, who quotes Toombs as saying at the cabinet meeting on April 10, "The firing upon that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen; and I do not feel competent to advise you." Crawford, The Genesis of the Civil War, 421.
xv These were the Baltic, the Harriet Lane, and the Pawnee. The Pocahontas did not arrive until the 13th. It is an interesting question whether the Northern reaction would have been different if the Confederates had ignored Fort Sumter and concentrated their efforts upon trying to keep the fleet from entering the harbor. The fact that their chief naval officer, Captain Henry J. Hartstene, reported on April 10 that the Federals would be able to reach the fort in boats at night and that he had no vessels strong enough to prevent the entrance of the fleet may have determined the Confederates to take the fort first. Official Records, Ser. I, Vol. I, 299.
xvi Crawford, Genesis of the Civil War, 404; Robert Means Thompson and Richard Wainwright (eds.), Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus Vasa Fox, 2 vols. (New York, 1918), I, 43-44; Nicolay and Hay (eds.), Lincoln: Works, II, 41.
xvii Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, IV, 33, 44, 62.
xviii Predictions, on the one hand, that the "rebels" would soon start a war and charges, on the other, that, to save the Republican party, Lincoln was demonstrating against Charleston in order to force the Southerners to attack Sumter are to be found in administration and antiadministration papers, respectively, during the week before the fort was fired upon. See, for instance, the Columbus (Ohio) Crisis, April 4, 1861; New York Times, April 8, 10, 1861; Baltimore Sun, April 10, 1861. When the news came of the bombardment at Charleston, the Providence Daily Post, April 13, 1861, began an editorial entitled "WHY?" with: "We are to have civil war, if at all, because Abraham Lincoln loves a party better than he loves his country." And after commenting on what seemed to be a sudden change of policy with respect to Sumter, "Why? We think the reader will perceive why. Mr. Lincoln saw an opportunity to inaugurate civil war without appearing in the character of an aggressor. There are men in Fort Sumter, he said, who are nearly out of provisions. They ought to be fed. We will attempt to feed them. Certainly nobody can blame us for that. . . . The secessionists, who are both mad and foolish, will resist us. They will commence civil war. Then I will appeal to the North to aid me in putting down rebellion, and the North must respond. How can it do otherwise? And sure enough, how can we do otherwise?" A photostatic copy of this editorial was furnished me through the kindness of Professor E. M. Coulter of the University of Georgia.
One story that seems to have had some currency was related by Alexander Long, a Democratic congressman from Ohio, in an antiadministration speech before the House on April 8, 1864, to the effect that when Lincoln first heard the news that the Confederates had opened fire on Fort Sumter, he exclaimed, "I knew they would do it!" Congressional Globe, 38 Cong., I Sess., 1499 et seq. Long's speech aroused much excitement among the Republicans who attempted to expel him from the House on the ground that he was a sympathizer with the rebellion.
xix Theodore Calvin Pease and James G. Randall (eds.), The Diary of Orville H. Browning, 2 vols. (Springfield, Ill., 1927), I, 475-76.