In the first weeks of 1861, six Southern states began the process of establishing their own government, even as Northerners debated whether to let them leave the Union in peace or use force to stop them. On February 23, two weeks before Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was inaugurated as the sixteenth president of the United States, Texas became the seventh state to leave the Union. After taking office, President Lincoln reacted cautiously to these events. He felt very strongly that the states that had seceded (left the Union) had no right to do so, and he was determined to keep the Union together. But he also did not want to upset the large number of states in the mid-South—sometimes called the border states— that had yet to decide whether to join the Confederacy.
On April 12, 1861, however, South Carolina troops attacked Fort Sumter, a U.S. outpost located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. A day later, the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter were forced to surrender, and Lincoln prepared for war. He promptly proclaimed that the seceding states were in "a state of insurrection" and vowed to drag the states of the newly born Confederacy back into the Union. Lin-
Words to Know
Confederacy eleven Southern states that seceded from the United States in 1860 and 1861
Federal national or central government; also refers to the North or Union, as opposed to the South or Confederacy
Rebel Confederate; often used as a name for Confederate soldiers
Secession the formal withdrawal of eleven Southern states from the Union in 1860-61
States' rights the belief that each state has the right to decide how to handle various issues for itself without interference from the national government
Union Northern states that remained loyal to the United States during the Civil War coin's call to arms was warmly received in the North, but it also convinced four important states—Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas—to leave the United States and join the Confederate States of America.
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