The Crisis of Sumter

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#1
As I see Lincoln only had two choices with Fort Sumter...

1. He could either evacuate ( and look weak )

2. He could re-supply ( Which could start a war )

Jefferson Davis only had two choices....

1. He could allow Fort Sumter to be re-supplied, which defeats the purpose of a siege ( but by
allowing Fort Sumter to be re-supplied violated the Confederacy's claim to sovereignty and also
cause Davis and the Confederacy to look weak )

2. Or he could refuse to allow it to be re-supplied ( which could lead to war )

So were there any other choices ? Could the Fort Sumter crisis have been handled differently ?

Respectfully,

William
 

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#2
As I see Lincoln only had two choices with Fort Sumter...

1. He could either evacuate ( and look weak )

2. He could re-supply ( Which could start a war )

Jefferson Davis only had two choices....

1. He could allow Fort Sumter to be re-supplied, which defeats the purpose of a siege ( but by
allowing Fort Sumter to be re-supplied violated the Confederacy's claim to sovereignty and also
cause Davis and the Confederacy to look weak )

2. Or he could refuse to allow it to be re-supplied ( which could lead to war )

So were there any other choices ? Could the Fort Sumter crisis have been handled differently ?

Respectfully,

William
3. The fort could have been taken by force. This is distinct from denial of supplies, and is war.

The details about Sumter's title would have allowed it to remain as was indefinitely (a fourth option).

5. JD could have attempted to keep the US busy enough that Sumter's resupply was not feasible, but this would have required the cooperation of NC and VA - not likely without some sort of war.

There are probably a half dozen others. Think of it like chess. In early '61 it was the CSA's move - they could have attempted for any number of positions/responses, but the one chosen was blatantly war.
 
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#3
Lincoln was very cunning and backed Davis into a corner or was lucky that Davis made the step of firing first. I don't see how Davis could have responded without starting a war. Thank you for you post.

Respectfully,

William
 
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#4
As I see Lincoln only had two choices with Fort Sumter...

1. He could either evacuate ( and look weak )

2. He could re-supply ( Which could start a war )

Jefferson Davis only had two choices....

1. He could allow Fort Sumter to be re-supplied, which defeats the purpose of a siege ( but by
allowing Fort Sumter to be re-supplied violated the Confederacy's claim to sovereignty and also
cause Davis and the Confederacy to look weak )

2. Or he could refuse to allow it to be re-supplied ( which could lead to war )

So were there any other choices ? Could the Fort Sumter crisis have been handled differently ?

Respectfully,

William
Davis could have resumed sending supplies to Sumter, thereby giving Lincoln no reason to resupply the fort. Honestly, Davis was in a position where he almost needed a conflict in order to move the border states into his camp. If he waited and nothing happened, the Passion for secession might wane and cause the moderates in the Deep South to push for a reconciliation. Time was not on Davis' side.

R
 
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#5
Davis could have resumed sending supplies to Sumter, thereby giving Lincoln no reason to resupply the fort. Honestly, Davis was in a position where he almost needed a conflict in order to move the border states into his camp. If he waited and nothing happened, the Passion for secession might wane and cause the moderates in the Deep South to push for a reconciliation. Time was not on Davis' side.

R
Yes, very good point, but by re-supplying it would that not defeat the purpose of Laying siege to it ?

Respectfully,

William
 
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#6
Lincoln was very cunning and backed Davis into a corner or was lucky that Davis made the step of firing first. I don't see how Davis could have responded without starting a war. Thank you for you post.

Respectfully,

William
There will be some people chime in pretty soon, no doubt. I seem to recall that Sumter's assault was ordered locally and not from Davis, but I could be wrong on that.

I've posted before that I think, if you look at what it was going to take to bring VA, NC, TN, (and others - MO, KY, and MD) into the CSA, very little other than some sort of war was going to work.

If you've read Tom Sawyer, think about when the boys spent a week or so on the island - they were on the verge of breaking apart and going back home when Tom told them his great secret and plan - keeping them bound together. My point is, that if a little war could have goaded the "upper" southern states into secession, that same little war would be a very effective lever to keep them bound into the CSA. A little war would serve two purposes in that case. And with a less effective US president, it might have done just that.
 
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#7
Lincoln was very cunning and backed Davis into a corner or was lucky that Davis made the step of firing first. I don't see how Davis could have responded without starting a war. Thank you for you post.

Respectfully,

William
I think Davis was backed into a corner because of the circumstances that he found himself, mostly of his (and the fire-eaters) making. Lincoln was basically playing a waiting game because he could whereas Davis could not. Lincoln was shrewd but I think you give him too.much credit for the circumstances in Spring 1861.

R
 
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#8
There will be some people chime in pretty soon, no doubt. I seem to recall that Sumter's assault was ordered locally and not from Davis, but I could be wrong on that.

I've posted before that I think, if you look at what it was going to take to bring VA, NC, TN, (and others - MO, KY, and MD) into the CSA, very little other than some sort of war was going to work.

If you've read Tom Sawyer, think about when the boys spent a week or so on the island - they were on the verge of breaking apart and going back home when Tom told them his great secret and plan - keeping them bound together. My point is, that if the "upper" southern states seceded, a short, sharp, little war would be a very effective lever to keep them bound into the CSA. A little war would serve two purposes in that case. And with a less effective US president, it might have done just that.
Yes, I can agree with that to some point, but didn't Lincoln's call for troops to wage war against the Confederacy after the firing on Fort Sumter actually push NC, VA,TN, and AK to side with the lower South ?

Respectfully,

William
 
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#10
I think Davis was backed into a corner because of the circumstances that he found himself, mostly of his (and the fire-eaters) making. Lincoln was basically playing a waiting game because he could whereas Davis could not. Lincoln was shrewd but I think you give him too.much credit for the circumstances in Spring 1861.

R
I do see your point and possibly I do give him too much credit, but he was a very intelligent and cunning president.

Respectfully,

William
 
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#11
But the question is was besieging Sumter his only choice? If laying siege is his only option, then he's already backed into a corner with no options.

R
I believe outside of attacking it ( which is what occurred ) his only option for taking Fort Sumter would be by siege and for that to work he could not allow it to be re-supplied.

Respectfully,

William
 
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#12
Yes, I can agree with that to some point, but didn't Lincoln's call for troops to wage war against the Confederacy after the firing on Fort Sumter actually push NC, VA,TN, and AK to side with the lower South ?

Respectfully,

William
Of course. SC takes Sumter - the response is very predictable. What would any president be obligated to do if US troops were fired on and a US post taken without a declaration of war?

Once the troops are called up, it's just a matter of jumping up and down and waving one's arms to pull the other S states in.

OK, though, suppose the troops don't get called up, what then? Now knowing that the US will not respond to violent attacks against its soldiers and posts, the obvious call is to go after bigger and richer targets until it either does respond, or it capitulates.

The only real risk is that the northern states will respond in a very serious way (which is what happened). But based on the events up until March of 61, that must have seemed really, really unlikely.
 
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#13
Of course. SC takes Sumter - the response is very predictable. What would any president be obligated to do if US troops were fired on and a US post taken without a declaration of war?

Once the troops are called up, it's just a matter of jumping up and down and waving one's arms to pull the other S states in.

OK, though, suppose the troops don't get called up, what then? Now knowing that the US will not respond to violent attacks against its soldiers and posts, the obvious call is to go after bigger and richer targets until it either does respond, or it capitulates.

The only real risk is that the northern states will respond in a very serious way (which is what happened). But based on the events up until March of 61, that must have seemed really, really unlikely.
Yes I do see your point there and thank you for posting. I do enjoy discussing the Civil War. By doing so we all learn

Respectfully,

William
 
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#14
Yes, I can agree with that to some point, but didn't Lincoln's call for troops to wage war against the Confederacy after the firing on Fort Sumter actually push NC, VA,TN, and AK to side with the lower South ?

Respectfully,

William
Yes, Lincoln's call was the precipitator for their secession but all of those states had been at least discussing secession prior to Sumter (Virginia was even talking about forming a confederacy of the border states) although none had taken that crucial final step; the conflict just forced them to choose one way or the other.

R
 
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#18
Seems to me that it was Davis who backed Lincoln into a corner, not the other way around. Davis had more choices. rpkennedy pointed out one of Davis's other choices -- letting the US to maintain the Ft Sumter position for the short term while looking to negotiate the future; making it clear that the US was 'allowed' to stay by the generosity and patience of Davis would maintain his position of strength. But I think Davis wanted to force the issue.

Lincoln was very cunning and backed Davis into a corner or was lucky that Davis made the step of firing first. I don't see how Davis could have responded without starting a war. Thank you for you post.

Respectfully,

William
 
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#19
Did he have to forceably take Sumter? Was there no other choice?
Yes I do think he could have continued to "starve" them out but that would have meant not allowing a re-supply mission. Lincoln had advised them that he had sent a re-supply mission. For Davis to allow that to happen, he and the newly formed Confederacy would have looked weak, plus by Fort Sumter being re-supplied would have meant a longer amount of time to take it without force, which in turn may have cost the Confederacy it's momentum. A couple of other posters pointed this out to me.

Respectfully,

William
 
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#20
Seems to me that it was Davis who backed Lincoln into a corner, not the other way around. Davis had more choices. rpkennedy pointed out one of Davis's other choices -- letting the US to maintain the Ft Sumter position for the short term while looking to negotiate the future; making it clear that the US was 'allowed' to stay by the generosity and patience of Davis would maintain his position of strength. But I think Davis wanted to force the issue.
I tend to agree with you, Ned. I think Davis had to force the issue because he realized his position was extremely precarious. If Lincoln does nothing, Davis appears to be the stronger politician and if Lincoln retaliates, Davis can get the moderates, who were still very skeptical about secession, to coalesce behind him. To delay was to allow the moderates to really think about secession and potentially change their minds and cause problems.

R
 



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