Lincoln's Inaugural Address formulated a general statement of policy concerning federal forts and possessions. At the time he composed and delivered it, he understood that no immediate crisis existed at the forts still in the government's hands. He assumed that both Fort Pickens and Fort Sumter were secure and adequately supplied for the foreseeable future. Although the situation at the forts was uneasy, especially at Sumter, which was located in the charged atmosphere of Charleston, there was no immediate need to disturb the status quo. Time was available to try peaceable remedies and, perhaps, smooth the way for reconciliation.
However, Lincoln's assumptions received a jolt at the very outset of his presidency, when he learned that Sumter's troops could not hold out for any substantial period of time without assistance. Lincoln would now have to decide what to do in these new circumstances.