Alternative Responses to Sumter

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#1
A recent thread got me thinking about the administration's response to Fort Sumter, specifically what else could have done differently after Fort Sumter that would have prevented the war. It's left me wondering besides simply turning the other cheek to the bombardment and besides calling up for volunteers as happened can anyone envision other scenarios to avert conflict? Note I'm not necessarily asking for scenarios you think would have been good, ideal, the best, or that you think should have happened instead. I'm just trying to gauge people more knowledgeable on the politics of the day to see what if any other options existed.
 

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WJC

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#2
Great question!
I find it difficult to consider any other outcome given the existing circumstances. Secessionists were convinced that only independence would accomplish their goals; they thought their position so clearly right that it had to be accepted. The 'victory' they achieved in seizing Fort Sumter only further 'stoked the fires of independence'.
At the same time, loyal Americans who might have been open to a negotiated settlement or simply letting the rebel states go were incensed and demanded action.
Difficult to avoid war in that environment.
 
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#3
A recent thread got me thinking about the administration's response to Fort Sumter, specifically what else could have done differently after Fort Sumter that would have prevented the war. It's left me wondering besides simply turning the other cheek to the bombardment and besides calling up for volunteers as happened can anyone envision other scenarios to avert conflict? Note I'm not necessarily asking for scenarios you think would have been good, ideal, the best, or that you think should have happened instead. I'm just trying to gauge people more knowledgeable on the politics of the day to see what if any other options existed.



Theoretically, Yes. There are always options. But, in the context of the history of events leading up the attack, there would have to be load of compromising, to achieve a different result.

First and foremost, I believe the biggest compromise would have to come from the person(persons) least likely to compromise on any necessary point.. Davis and the gov't in Richmond, would have to step back(even, if only temporarily) from its position of secession. Lincoln could, as a matter of forbearance turn the other cheek to the attack on Ft. Sumter,(results to be subject to later negotiation).

As with Slavery being in the indigestible lump in American politics, so secession was the indigestible lump in the causing of the War. If there could be no compromise over Secession, I confess I can see no rational means of reaching a different conclusion, than the issue had to be settled one way or another, and, given the temper of the times(and Lincoln and Davis) there seems to be no space for compromise between the positions between Lincoln and Davis on Secession.
 
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#4
I'm wondering what a tit for tat reprisal would have looked like, if the U.S. navy had shelled a confederate coastal installation as a proportionate response to Sumter and clearly enumerated that it was not beginning a naval campaign if that maybe would have appeased the factions calling for redress in the north but not lured undecided states like Virginia to the confederacy the way that the calling of volunteers did.
 

Carronade

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#6
I'm wondering what a tit for tat reprisal would have looked like, if the U.S. navy had shelled a confederate coastal installation as a proportionate response to Sumter and clearly enumerated that it was not beginning a naval campaign if that maybe would have appeased the factions calling for redress in the north but not lured undecided states like Virginia to the confederacy the way that the calling of volunteers did.
Suppose it goes exactly like that, the Confederates don't re-retaliate, just go about their business, functioning in every respect like a normal nation - the longer it goes on, the more southern independence becomes a fait accompli.

The trouble is, any effective action, anything that comes close to making the rebels reconsider their secession, is likely to at least alienate the border states from the federal government - or worse.
 

wbull1

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#7
William Seward suggested that Lincoln oppose Spain's attempt to reoccupy Santo Domingo and opposed European threats to invade Mexico, he suggested the southern states that had seceded would come back to protect the United States. (From McPherson's Tried by War.) That's about as farfetched as you can get. But it is an alternative.
 

dlofting

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#8
I'm wondering what a tit for tat reprisal would have looked like, if the U.S. navy had shelled a confederate coastal installation as a proportionate response to Sumter and clearly enumerated that it was not beginning a naval campaign if that maybe would have appeased the factions calling for redress in the north but not lured undecided states like Virginia to the confederacy the way that the calling of volunteers did.
I thought about this too. Unfortunately tit for tat reprisals, historically, have more often than not escalated to war, unless one side is a lot stronger than the other.
 
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#9
A recent thread got me thinking about the administration's response to Fort Sumter, specifically what else could have done differently after Fort Sumter that would have prevented the war. It's left me wondering besides simply turning the other cheek to the bombardment and besides calling up for volunteers as happened can anyone envision other scenarios to avert conflict? Note I'm not necessarily asking for scenarios you think would have been good, ideal, the best, or that you think should have happened instead. I'm just trying to gauge people more knowledgeable on the politics of the day to see what if any other options existed.
Theoretically the Union could just put their resources into building a large navy that would blockade the Confederate coast line. The Union could give automatic sanctuary to any escaped slave's.
The above assumes that the Confederate Army does not invade the border states or Union Territory I.e. the New Mexico Territory.
Hypothetically if the Confederacy can not export agricultural crops then it's economy will eventually collapse.
Again all of the above assumes no ground offensive by the Confederacy which did indeed happen.
Leftyhunter
 
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#10
Secretary of state, Robert Toombs of Georgia said and I quote that an attack on Sumter would be "suicide, murder," and would stir a "hornet's nest" of hostility to the South. "It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal,"

https://www.tulane.edu/~sumter/AndTheWarCame/AApr10Comm.html
Makes me wonder how pronounced this faction was and if they could have feasibly treated with by the administration to secure the concessions necessary to prevent a war.
 
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#11
William Seward suggested that Lincoln oppose Spain's attempt to reoccupy Santo Domingo and opposed European threats to invade Mexico, he suggested the southern states that had seceded would come back to protect the United States. (From McPherson's Tried by War.) That's about as farfetched as you can get. But it is an alternative.


Was Seward's suggestion, before, or, after the attack and reduction of Ft. Sumter?
 
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#12
I'm wondering what a tit for tat reprisal would have looked like, if the U.S. navy had shelled a confederate coastal installation as a proportionate response to Sumter and clearly enumerated that it was not beginning a naval campaign if that maybe would have appeased the factions calling for redress in the north but not lured undecided states like Virginia to the confederacy the way that the calling of volunteers did.

Again, in negotiations, almost anything is possible, If, both sides are willing.

In the real world of national politics, The attack and reduction of Ft. Sumter, was an overt and deliberate act of war. Making any Union military response merely a retaliatory act of War.

For successful negotiation, both sides must be sincere, and, willing to negotiate in good faith over negotiable points that would lead to satisfactory results for both sides. As far as I can tell from my studies of the war, I see no real point of negotiation over secession(the cause of the war and the attack on Sumter).

The reality of secession was, as far as I can see, was a non negotiable point, for both Lincoln and Davis. There might be tit for tat for War, but, not for Peace, IMO.
 
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#13
The way I see it it is very much like war today. When Jeffferson Davis pushed the button he set off a missle with a warhead heading for the North. Once that button was pushed, the reaction in the North was almost automatically certain to be immediate retaliation. That unfortunately was the atmosphere in 1861 and that unfortunately was what the South and North were doomed to do. Decades of non-compromise on fundamental issues and differences led to the explosive days in April 1861.
 

thomas aagaard

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#14
A recent thread got me thinking about the administration's response to Fort Sumter, specifically what else could have done differently after Fort Sumter that would have prevented the war. It's left me wondering besides simply turning the other cheek to the bombardment and besides calling up for volunteers as happened can anyone envision other scenarios to avert conflict? Note I'm not necessarily asking for scenarios you think would have been good, ideal, the best, or that you think should have happened instead. I'm just trying to gauge people more knowledgeable on the politics of the day to see what if any other options existed.
Lincoln had no more option to back down than Later presidents have had when the US was directly attacked.

In the eyes of the federal government and clearly much of the population i the north, a US fort on US soil was was attacked by rebels and the president had and have a duty to suppress that rebellion.
Since every single infantry regiment of the army was out west, already captured by the rebels in Texas or trying to get back east he needed to call up the militia to defend Washington and preserve the union.

If you think the unilateral secession of south Carolina was legal then it was a foreign country that bombarded a US fort on US soil...

You can't prevent a war when it have already started...
You can only win it.... Make a peace both sides can live with.... or loose it.
 

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