-- Initial Problems at Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens --

March 11-12, 1861

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---

A Confusion of Counsel

During these two days, Lincoln received discordant advice about the situation at Sumter.

General Scott sent two replies in response to Lincoln's inquiries. Scott considered the relief of Sumter unfeasible; it would take up to eight months to authorize and prepare an expedition sufficiently large to relieve the fort. As a military question, the time for assisting Sumter had passed nearly a month before. "Since then a surrender under assault or from starvation has been merely a question of time." He recommended that Anderson be instructed "to evacuate" the fort.

But Lincoln also received contrary advice. On either March 11 or March 12, Francis P. Blair, father of Lincoln's postmaster general, Montgomery Blair, was so disturbed by reports that Scott and others were urging that Sumter be surrendered, that he went to see the President. Blair heatedly contended that the surrender of Sumter was "virtually a surrender of the Union," and, unless done under absolute military necessity, constituted treason. Those fortifications presently in the government's possession were necessary to protect all states against foreign invasion, and so long as they were not used to attack a southern state, the border slave states would accept continued federal occupation.


Bibliography: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3: 381-82; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 50-51, 55-57; OR, pp. 197, 273.

[Main Menu] [Initial Problems Home] [Back] [Next] ... [Calendar] [Notebook]