-- Final Orders --

Monday April 1, 1861

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Pickens Expedition Ordered

Lincoln hurriedly signed a series of orders to outfit a secret expedition to reinforce Fort Pickens. The orders were drawn up by a small group that included Meigs, a young and energetic navy lieutenant named David D. Porter, General Scott, and Secretary of State Seward. The expedition "to reenforce and hold Fort Pickens" was to "proceed with the least possible delay . . . ."

Meigs's plan called for a transport vessel to land troops and stores at Fort Pickens, while a ship of war simultaneously steamed into Pensacola Harbor to block Confederate forces. The expedition would be placed under the command of Colonel Harvey Brow n. Lincoln's orders gave Porter command of the war steamer Powhatan, then in the New York (Brooklyn) Navy Yard, or any other steamer he chose for entering Pensacola Harbor.

Sometime during these morning activities, Seward handed Lincoln a memorandum, entitled "Some Thoughts for the President's Consideration." Seward's document alleged that the administration was without a policy, either domestic or foreign, and suggested that Lincoln shift the country's attention from the question of slavery to that of union or disunion. To do this, he advised Lincoln to abandon Sumter, but defend and reinforce Pickens and the other Gulf forts. Also, he urged an energetic foreign policy that would demand explanations of European countries, particularly Spain and France, of their recent interference in western hemisphere concerns. If satisfactory explanations were not received, Lincoln should "convene Congress and declare war against" Spain and France. Seward ended the memorandum with a thinly veiled suggestion that he become the actual director of policy in the administration.

Later that day, Lincoln drafted a reply in which he reminded Seward of his inaugural pledge to hold government property. He denied any distinction in principle between defending Sumter and Pickens. Ignoring Seward's warlike posture, Lincoln simply asserted his own supreme position in his administration. When policy was to be made and implemented, the President declared, "I must do it." It is unknown whether Lincoln ever delivered this rebuttal t o Seward.


Commentary

Bibliography: Hoogenboom, "Gustavus Fox and Sumter," p. 391; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 437-39 444-49; ORN, pp. 107-109; Welles, Diary of Gideon Welles, ed. Morse, 1: 17-21; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 88-92; Va n Deusen, Seward, p. 282.


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