Almost as soon as he took office, Lincoln found out that the situation in Fort Sumter was even more serious than he had previously believed. A day after delivering his inaugural address, he was informed that Major Anderson and his men had only enough food and supplies to remain at the fort until about April 15. If the Union proved unable to resupply Anderson before then, he and his men would have to surrender the fort or face starvation. Moreover, Lincoln was told that on March 3, South Carolina military troops under the command of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (1818-1893) had taken up positions all around the harbor, their cannons poised to fire upon Fort Sumter at any time.
After consulting with his cabinet to review his options, Lincoln decided that he would attempt to resup-ply Anderson's troops at Fort Sumter. He knew that any attempt to send food and other provisions to the fort was risky. The Union had attempted to transport supplies and reinforcements to the fort two months earlier via a ship called the Star of the West, only to be turned away by a hail of artillery fire from South Carolina cannons. Despite that earlier clash, though, Lincoln was unwilling to abandon the fort. He knew that if Federal control of Fort Sumter was relinquished, Northern morale would suffer, and Southern confidence in the Confederacy's ability to break away
^^ President James Buchanan
James Buchanan was president of the United States from 1857 until 1861, when Abraham Lincoln took his place. Born in Pennsylvania, Buchanan established a thriving law practice before turning to politics. He spent ten years (1821-31) as a member of Pennsylvania's U.S. House delegation, then moved over to the Senate, where he represented his home state from 1834 to 1845. A Democrat, he left the Senate in 1845 to serve as secretary of state for President James K. Polk (1795-1849). During his four-year stint in that position, Buchanan helped prosecute the Mexican War (1846-48), which ultimately gave the United States huge expanses of new territory in the West.
After serving as minister to Great Britain in the administration of President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1856, Buchanan won the 1856 presidential election as the nominee of the Democratic Party. Soon after assuming office, however, he found that the slavery issue made it al most impossible for his administration to get anything done. Indeed, he was assuming leadership of the country at a time when Northern and Southern positions on slavery and states' rights were hardening. As these two sides battled in the legislature and the nation's newspapers, the Buchanan administration's fumbling attempts to resolve these issues did little to bridge the widening gap between America's Northern and Southern regions.
Buchanan's personal views of slavery were mixed. On the one hand, he thought that slavery was morally wrong. But he also believed that the South's claims that slavery was not unconstitutional were correct, and that the region would never accept the abolishment of slavery. This conviction, combined with his knowledge that the Democratic Party owed much of its national power to support in the South, made Buchanan fairly sympathetic to Southern demands.
from the Union permanently would increase.
On March 29, 1861, Lincoln ordered the U.S. military to send ships bearing food and supplies to the surrounded outpost, but he declined to send reinforcements to help Anderson defend the fort. He believed that any attempt to increase Federal troop strength at Sumter might be interpreted as an aggressive action by the Confederate military and the remaining slave states in the Union, and that such a step would increase the likelihood of a violent clash between Anderson's troops and the forces under Beauregard's command.
After Lincoln won the November 1860 presidential election and Southern threats of secession exploded, Buchanan was faced with the task of holding the nation together until the Republican formally took office in March 1861. Buchanan refused to support one side or the other dur ing this period, for while Buchanan did not believe that states had the right to secede from the Union, he also did not believe that the Federal government had the right to force them to stay. During his last months of power, Buchanan adopted a cautious position designed to ensure that he would not preside over the beginning of a civil war.
In March 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as America's sixteenth president, and Buchanan left the White House, relieved that he had managed to get out before hostilities exploded between the nation's two angry sections. Within a few weeks of his departure, Buchanan's worst fears were realized, as a battle for control of Fort Sumter in South Carolina ignited the Civil War. For years, Buchanan, who died in 1868, was often viewed as a key reason why the Civil War occurred. In recent years, however, historians have judged Buchanan's policies more kindly.
Determined to avoid a bloody clash if possible, Lincoln notified South Carolina governor Francis Pickens (1805-1869) on April 8 of his plan to send ships carrying food and other supplies to Fort Sumter. Two days later, a small fleet of Union ships headed by Captain Gustavus Fox (1821-1883) set out for the fort from New York to deliver the provisions.
Upon learning of the Union plan to resupply Fort Sumter, Confederate president Jefferson Davis called his cabinet together to discuss their options. The letter that Pickens had received from Lincoln made it clear
that Seward's secret assurances of an impending federal departure from the outpost could no longer be believed. Davis and his cabinet were thus left with two choices: permit Fox's fleet to carry out its mission to Fort Sumter, which would allow Anderson's troops to man the outpost for several more months; or attack the garrison before the supplies could be delivered and risk triggering an all-out war with the Union.
Some Confederate leaders cautioned against launching any attack on Fort Sumter. "The firing on that fort will inaugurate a civil war greater than any the world has yet seen," warned Confederate secretary of state Robert Toombs (1810-1885). "You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death." But Davis and many other leaders believed that the Confederacy needed to take a strong stand. On April 10, Beauregard was ordered to take the fort by force if he could not convince Anderson to surrender willingly.
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