-- Hesitation and Decision --

Thursday March 28, 1861

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Scott's Shocking Recommendation

Sometime during this day, General Scott advised Lincoln not only to evacuate Fort Sumter, but also Fort Pickens in order to avert war. In a memorandum, Scott reasoned that if Sumter alone were abandoned, it would be attributed to "necessity," rather than a willingness to conciliate the South. Only "the evacuation of both the forts would instantly soothe and give confidence to the eight remaining slave-holding States, and render their cordial adherence to this Union perpetual." The "liberality of the act," Scott argued, might also induce the seceding states to return.

This same day, Lincoln, still weighing Fox's remarks, requested him to prepare a list of the ships, men, and supplies he would need. Fox immediately returned a list of requirements for both the army and navy.

That evening, following a state dinner, Lincoln gathered his cabinet to inform them of General Scott's new position. They unanimously dissented from Scott's advice to abandon Pickens. Montgomery Blair accused Scott of "pla ying politician," by offering a political rather than military assessment of the situation.

Lincoln then called a formal cabinet meeting for the next day to consider the entire situation.


Commentary

Bibliography: Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 75-78; Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 394-95, 433; Nevins, War for the Union, 1: 54-55; OR, p. 227.


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