The battle for Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Ameri-
^^ Perspectives on the Battle for Fort Sumter
As the following newspaper accounts show, reaction to the assault on Major Robert Anderson's troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, was far different in the North than it was in the South:
The perspective of the North, as editorialized in the New York Times, April 15, 1861 —
The reverberations from Charleston Harbor have brought about what months of logic would have been impotent to effect—the rapid condensation of public sentiment in the Free States. The North is now [united]. . . . In entering upon this struggle [against the South], the great community of Free States does so, prepared to bring to bear on the vindication [justification] of its national honor inexhaustible material resources. . . . As to moral force, it panoplies [armors] the Republic as with a wall of fire. She enters the contest with that triple arming which justice gives to a cause. The moral conscience of the world is on her side. . . . The [Lincoln] Administration is not brought face to face with a Revolution. This is not the attitude. It has to deal with a plot, a conspiracy. There will be no 'fraternal blood' shed, unless it be the blood of men who are willfully and persistently in the position of traitors. . . . That Treason should be claimed as a right—that anarchy [complete absence of government] should rule—it is this which thrills with indignant amazement. How profound has been the humiliation, how hot the indignation, are shown in the tumultuous surgings of passion that are now baptising with one common sentiment of constitutional unity and patriotic devotion every loyal American heart.
can Civil War. The Confederate attack on Union forces convinced Lincoln and his cabinet—which had previously been deeply divided over how to deal with the secessionist states—that such aggression could not go unpunished, and that the Confederate states could only be brought back into the Union through the use of force. Lincoln subsequently announced to the nation that "combinations too powerful to be suppressed" by peaceful efforts now controlled the Deep South, and he called on the remaining states of the Union to provide the Federal government with seventy-five thou sand soldiers in order to stop the secessionist rebellion.
Lincoln's April 15 announcement was immensely popular in the free states of the North. News of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter had enraged Northerners, and thousands of volunteers eagerly rushed to join the Federal army. Reaction to Lincoln's call to arms was far different in the slave states that sat between the North and the states of the Confederacy, however. Although they had been unwilling to secede over the issue of slavery, these so-called "bor-
The view from the South, as described in Charleston Mercury, April 13, 1861 —
The bombardment of Fort Sumter, so long and anxiously expected, has at length become a fact. . . . [At dawn] the circle of batteries with which the grim fortress of Fort Sumter is beleaguered opened fire. The outline of this great volcanic crater was illuminated with a line of twinkling lights; the clustering shells illuminated the sky above it; the [cannon] balls clattered thick as hail upon its sides; our citizens . . . rushed again to the points of observation; and so, at the break of day, amidst the bursting of bombs, and the roaring of ordnance [artillery], and before thousands of spectators, whose homes, and liberties, and lives were at stake, was enacted this first great scene in the opening drama of what . . . will be a most momentous military act. It may be a drama of but a single act. The madness which inspires it may depart with this single paroxysm [sudden outburst]. It is certain that the people of the North have rankling at their hearts no sense of wrong to be avenged; and exhibiting to those who expect power to reconstruct the shattered Union, its utter inadequacy to accomplish a single step in that direction, the Administration of the old Government may abandon at once and forever its vain and visionary hope of forcible control over the Confederate States. But it may not be so; they may persist still longer in assertions of their power, and if so, they will arouse an independent spirit in the South, which will exact a merciless and fearful retribution [payback].
der" states quickly decided to stand with their Southern neighbors once it became clear that war was imminent. On April 17, the state of Virginia announced that it was leaving the United States to join the Confederacy, and Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the Confederate cause a few weeks later (although much of eastern Tennessee remained loyal to the Union throughout the war). The Confederacy promptly made arrangements to transfer its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, thus creating a situation in which the Union and Confederate capitals sat only one hundred miles from one another.
The defections of these states were a severe blow to Lincoln, who had hoped that they would ultimately fight to keep the Union intact. Conversely, the addition of these four states greatly strengthened the Confederacy. Each possessed large populations of white men who could be added to the still-forming Confederate Army. Southern strategists recognized that factories located in these states could be used to manufacture ammunition, clothing, and other supplies for its military. Finally, military leaders on both sides recognized that Virginia's decision to stand under the Confederate flag posed a great threat to the Union because the state was located right next to Washington, D.C., the Union's capital.
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