Saturday March 9, 1861
After consulting with selected cabinet and military officials, Lincoln convened his cabinet this Saturday night and informed them of the situation at Sumter. This was the first cabinet session to discuss the state of the
country and the issue of the forts, particularly Sumter. The general effect of Lincoln's remarks was that of dismay and even consternation.
"I was astonished to be informed that Fort Sumter . . . must be evacuated," Attorney General Edward Bates noted in his diary, "and that General Scott . . . and Major Anderson concur in opinion, that, as the place has but 28 days provision, it must be relieved, if at all, in that time; and that it will take a force of 20,000 men at least, and a bloody battle, to relieve it!"
No decision was required or expected at this meeting. Prior to the cabinet meeting, he asked Scott for a more detailed consideration of the issues presented by Sumter. Specifically, he wanted to know how long Anderson could hold out without resupply, and whether it was possible to supply and reinforce Sumter prior to that time with the resources presently at hand.
Finally, he asked Scott what additional forces would be necessary if present ones were inadequate.
Bibliography: Bates, Diary of Edward Bates, ed. Beale, p.
177; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 49-50; Welles,
Diary of Gideon Welles, ed. Morse, 1:3-7; Lincoln, Collected
Works, ed. Basler, 4: 279.
General P.G.T. Beauregard received orders from Montgomery to prevent the reinforcement of Fort Sumter "at all hazards" by the "use of every conceivable agency." He was informed that Sumter was "silent now only because
of the weakness of the garrison. Should re-enforcements get in, her guns would open fire upon you."
Bibliography: OR, p. 272.