What's the Fox letter?

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hoosier

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The statement was made in another thread that everyone on this board knows what the Fox letter demonstrated about Lincoln's intentions.

I can state with complete assurance that at least one person on this board has absolutely no idea what the Fox letter demonstrated about anything.

What the heck was the Fox letter?
 

thea_447

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Lincoln's letter to Gustavus Fox on 1 May, 1861, makes it clear that he was pleased by the result of the firing on Ft Sumter... "You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Ft Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."

Brief biography :
Gustavus V. Fox (1821-1883)
Gustavus V. Fox (1821-1883). Assistant Secretary of Navy who was in
charge of rescue fleet for Fort Sumter and a valued administrator ...
www.mrlincolnswhitehouse.org/templates/ display.search.cfm?ID=47 - 10k -
 
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gary

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Over 300 books read and this is the first I hear of it. Too much gore and not enough politics.
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A

aphillbilly

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The Fox letter was the letter from Lincoln to Fox in May of 61 regarding the resupply of Ft Sumter.
S Carolina was given assurances, in fact a promise, no assistance would be given to the Ft beyond supplies. No men etc. Yet turned right around and sent ships full of soldiers and ammunition to reinforce the Fort. Pretty much everyone had advised if Lincoln did this, war could be the only expected result. Which obviously upon these letters, these facts, this time line, shows clearly it was what Lincoln was aiming for all along.


Robert Chew, aide to Secretary of State Seward, stated In a message to Governor Pickens of South Carolina, "I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you that an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort."


For a reaction of the man at the Fort we see Anderson was less than happy about the nature of the help he was to receive.

Major Anderson, in a letter to Colonel Thomas, Adjutant-General, United States Army, expressed his concern. "I had the honor to receive, by yesterday's mail, the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he there states surprises me greatly - following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was "authorized" to make. I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout the country......I ought to have been informed that this expedition [to resupply the fort] was to come. Colonel Lamon's remark convinced me that the idea, merely hinted at to me by Captain Fox, would not be carried out. ...
We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which I see is to be thus commenced." (April 8, 1861)

Anderson wrote the letter on the same day South Carolina's governor was informed about the coming of the “resupply” mission, the day after Anderson himself learned of the mission.


Then the Fox letter itself....Lincoln to Fox
"You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Ft Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."

Hope that helps

YMOS
tommy
 

unionblue

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Tommy,

While having no problem with the fact that the Fox letter exists and is real, are you sure about the circumstances around Secretary of State Seward? Is there not some reason to believe that Seward was playing a game of his own, making promises to the folks at Charleston he could no longer keep after Lincoln and he came to heads on who was really running the government?

I have a source at home I'll try and dig up about this, but I think the water is a little muddy here.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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aphillbilly

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Neil,
While I heartily believe Seward was seriously bent on war with the South. Even as far back as 57 he was wanting war. I just cannot believe that Chew would have acted in his position in connection of Sec of State duties as to say, "I am directed by the President of the United States" without actually have been just that. Directed by the president. To start saying it was otherwise without proof is a bit iffy.

YMOS
tommy
 

unionblue

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Tommy,

Found an interesting read on the above. From the book, Allegiance, Fort Sumter, Charleston, and The Beginning of The Civil War, by David Detzer.

Chapter 15, entitled, That Little Bridge.

"Once across that little bridge the whole issue is with the sword."-- Julius Ceasar, contemplating crossing the Rebicon.

For days Jefferson Davis had been debiliated by blinding headaches. Never a jovial sort, he now looked especially grave. The dispatch he received from Beauregard on April 8 did not surprise him: "Authorized messenger from Lincoln (Robert Chew) just informed Governor Pickens and myself that provisions would be sent to Sumter peaceably, otherwise by force." Davis ordered him to prevent Sumter from getting those provisions. The fort, he said, "must be completely isolated.

The following evening Davis met with his cabinet for some time to consider what to do at long last about Fort Sumter. He spoke wistfully, fondly, of his friend Robert Anderson. But on the issue of Fort Sumter the Confederate president was coldly determined. The meeting grew emotional, even stormy. Robert Toombs of Georgia found himself unable to sit down and so strode about the room. He had arrived late and found the others talking of sending Anderson an ultimatum. Toombs strongly disagreed (at least according to his own recollections--though Toombs would seldom be reluctant to embellish a tale). He said that such an ultimatum would result in a terrible civil war. Taking such a rigid position, he warned, would place them in a position of being aggressors, just the opposite of the stand they had been pursuing. If Lincoln chose "coercion," the Confederacy would appear the innocent victims. This would appeal to the Border States, and it would gain them important sympathy in the North. Worst of all, Toombs told those in the room, being rigid now "was unnecessary." But the majority of them agreed with Davis.

Early the next morning, the 10th, Leroy P. Walker, secretary of war, wired Beauregard: If the general was convinced Lincoln's messengers were not bogus, he must immediately demand Fort Sumter's evacuation. If Anderson refused this demand, "proceed, in such manner as you may determine, to reduce it."


Now, what was the content of Lincoln's letter delivered by State Department clerk, Robert Chew, to Gov. Pickens, before all the above?

Again, from the book, Allegiance, chapter 14 entitled The Yellow Brick Road, page 249.

He (Chew) bowed to Governor Pickens, took the president's note from his pocket, read it aloud, his voice trembling slightly, then handed it to the governor. It was not a typical government message, no flowery introduction, no effusive, insincere closing remarks, not even a signature. But it was definitely clear. Lincoln hereby informed Francis Pickens that Washington was sending supplies to Fort Sumter. They would arrive soon. If there was no attempt at stopping them by anyone--South Carolina, the so-called Confederacy (the letter did not choose to dignify either one by name) --Washington would not send in reinforcements.

Another source on the above is from the book, Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald. In chapter 10 entitled, An Accidental Instrument, page 292, it states:

On April 4, Lincoln decided to send Fox's expedition to Fort Sumter, and he notified Anderson that the fleet would attempt to provision the garrison and, in case it met resistance, to reinforce it. He had taken a decisive step, but not yet an irrevocable one. Since the fleet did not actually leave New York until four or five days later, he had a little more time for maneuver. That was drastically short on April 6, when he learned as he feared, that his order to reinforce Fort Pickens had not been carried out. Meig's expedition could not possibly reach Fort Pickens before Fort Sumter must be reinforced or surrendered.

By this time Seward was almost reconciled to the inevitable, but he made one more attempt to avert hostilities. Because he had given his word to the Confederate commissioners that Sumter would not be reinforced without notice, he wrung from the President a promise to warn South Carolina officials before sending a relief expedition. On April 6, Lincoln sent Robert S. Chew, a clerk in the State Department, to Charleston with orders to inform Governor Francis Pickens that "an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, <u>if such attempt be not resisted</u>, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice." Intended to avoid provoking South Carolina authorities, this message destroyed the slight possibility that Anderson could be secretly reinforced.

The President had little hope of results from Chew's mission: he knew from Hurlbut's report that the South Carolinians would attack any ship, even one known to contain only provisions. But, in addition to giving Seward's schemes a last chance, he was building a historical record to prove his peaceable intent throughout the crisis. By this point he was fairly sure that the Sumter expedition would lead to bloodshed."


I would submit to those on this board that Lincoln did not lie or decive anyone about supplying the fort or that he would reinforce it with troops if he met interference. So lets toss that one out of the mix, shall we?

Now, as to the Fox letter that some would like to see as a sort of 'smoking gun' that Lincoln provoked the South into firing first at Fort Sumter, let's read a bit further in the same chapter above to page 293.

When Gustavus Fox, bitter over the failure of his expedition to relieve Fort Sumter, asked for endorsement from his commander-in-chief, Lincoln responded, "You and I both anticipated the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."

These cryptic utterances did not mean that Lincoln sought to provoke war. His repeated efforts to avoid collision in the months between his inauguration and the firing on Fort Sumter showed that he adhered to his vow not to be the first to shed fraternal blood. But he had also vowed not to surrender the forts. That, he was convinced, would lead to the "actual, and immediate dissolution" of the Union. The only resolution of these contradictory positions was for the Confederates to fire the first shot.


I am of the opinion that those in the Confederate government were not fools or idiots. I am also of the opinion that these men could read between the lines of any act by the Federal Government and President Lincoln. How they could be 'tricked', 'led', 'coereced', 'forced', or any other action verb you can think of, into firing the first shot of the Civil War is beyond me. BOTH sides wanted the other to fire first at the start of any conflict. This is a known, historical fact. For reasons deemed by the officals of the Southern government, the other historical fact is the South fired first.

And Tommy, where do you get the idea that Seward was bent upon having a war with the South when he was doing everything he could to NOT reinforce Pickens and Sumter and instead, start a war with Spain, Europe or anyone else for that matter?

YMOS,
Unionblue

(Message edited by Unionblue on January 23, 2004)

(Message edited by Unionblue on January 23, 2004)
 

nicolo

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Neil is, as usual correct. The Fox Paper proves nothing except that Lincoln anticipated events as they eventually happened.
Lincoln already knew the confederate forces in S.C. would not, under any circumstances allow the Fort to even be resupplied. The supplies were in one ship the reinforcements, in another. Knowing that war was imminent, Lincoln made sure that the first shot to be fired in the war was confederate and that it was fired upon an unarmed ship carrying only supplies. The Gov'ts of S.C. and Jefferson Davis were well aware of the hazards of firing the first shot of a civil war and cooly, with much fore thought and planning they did exactly what Lincoln wanted them to do. If the confederates were bound and determined to have war.
Chance, pride, arrogance, blind confidence had maneuvered the Southern leaders into a position of either starting the civil war or ignominiously retreating in the face of Federal intransigence. OR a naive and bumbling Jefferson Davis was outmaneuvered and outfoxed by the quiet genius of Abraham Lincoln; take your pick.
 
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raywilson

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Good analysis, Nicolo.

A third option may be the case: Lincoln, as commande-in-chief, was intent on supporting his troops at Ft. Sumter by resupplying them. Realizing that danger was imminent, he sent armed troops in case they were needed. Or possibly, the troops were included in the naval convoy as a show of force, which is, of course, an action short of war, not an act of war.
 

hawglips

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Neil, your account here, though heart-warming, bears no resemblance to the historical facts surrounding it.

In case there was any question on what the Southerners could expect from him, Lincoln made his point very clearly and forcefully the day he took office -- he would indeed invade if necessary to collect taxes and occupy the forts.

His ultimatum to the South -- I will give you peace if you give up your declared independence. If you persist, I will force your capitulation at point of the bayonet."

Davis' terms were equally firm -- we want peace, and excepting honor and independence, we will sacrifice anything for it.

Lincoln would not allow their independence. Davis would not give it up without a fight.

Since his attempt at Pickens didn't work, Sumter was where Lincoln chose to make good on his inaugural threat.

Hal
 
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nicolo

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Neil, I am new here, but surely you have informed these people that Lincoln could not turn any Federal property over to anybody, much less a foreign power. Personal convictions aside, even that pathetic dough face President Buchanan stated that only Congress could dispose of Federal property. At the time even if Lincoln deigned to negotiate with the South, it was not an impossibility for him to have been immediately impeached for usurption and depending on the temper of Congress maybe for treason.
Some of the posters on this thread seem to be under the impression that Lincoln could have solved the problem with a simple wave of a pen, even if he had wanted to kow tow to southern arrogance.
 

thea_447

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Nicolo,

Neil doesn't need to "inform people" here of anything. We have all discussed many many elements of the WBTS for quite a while here. I would suggest that you do what Neil suggested the other day: Read the archives. We have reams of information available, enough for several books, of material that we've hashed and re-hashed on these boards.

It will help you and give you new insight to the group as a whole.

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unionblue

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Nicolo,

Thea is quite right, I do not need to inform anyone of the correct, historical fact that you mentioned in your above post concerning Lincoln having the legal responsibility not to turn over federal property to rebels. It's just that in trying to convince my Southern friends of that detail, I run into stubborn resistance!

What you will find here, my new friend, are many different opinions and versions of what board members consider important, fact, fiction, lies and the truth.

The search for your own truth, the journey if you will, is the fun part. Even when you do not agree with your fellow board members and sometimes when you think its their medication talking, these very same opposing views will force you to rethink and review your own highly valued opinions and beliefs and check in on your soul once in a while. Every one has an opinion on the Civil War, but the courage to put that opinion and belief and conviction out there for all to see and to fire at, THAT takes courage and conviction.

Which is why even when Thea, Tommy, Hal, William, Doug, Bill, Shane, Gary, Zou, Michael and all the other friends I have here, drive me absolutely crazy with their theories, plots, renditions, versions and maddening conclusions, I respect the HELL out of them. Ideas and convictions are like your children. You want to keep them close and protect them at all costs. To send them out into the cruel, hostile world of this board takes guts.

Come on in and play, and enjoy your own sessions of soul-searching, Nicolo. You'll be all the better for it and I surely could use the help!

Sincerely,
Unionblue
PS Raymond, if I have not said so before, Welcome to the board! I hope that you and Nicolo have went to the New Members area and introduced yourselves. You can give us a little of your backgrounds and opinions on the late war and let the other members say 'hey!' and 'welcome!'

(Message edited by Unionblue on January 24, 2004)
 
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unionblue

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Hal,

I beg to inform you that my 'heartwarming account' is very much based on historical fact. I also tried very hard to get two sources from respected, award-winning historians.

I do not argue with you or differ on the fact that Lincoln did express his views on keeping the forts and collecting revenue, but these points do not conflict with the information I have presented. Feel free to check out the books at a local library and confirm my entries.

I will admit, the conclusions that I draw from the above historical facts are my own, but it still does not make them any less true.

I also notice you include in your post what, at first glance, appear to be quotes from President Lincoln and President Davis.

Are these direct quotes and if they are, could you please tell me what source you got them from? I admit I cannot remember every Lincoln and Davis quote and I am not familiar with these two.

Again, I agree with you when you state Lincoln would not allow their (the South's) independence, but I beg to differ on the last word and change it to read, for me, rebellion.

And what attempt are you refering to when you speak of Fort Pickens? Another plot to 'force/coerece/provoke/bully/trick' the South into war? Did you know that the South also made the first attempt at force at Pickens also?

And I am of the opinion again, that Lincoln did every thing in his power in his inaugural speech to avoid war. But I am afraid those in control in the South would have none of it.

YMOS,
Unionblue

(Message edited by Unionblue on January 24, 2004)
 

nicolo

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Sorry, if I hurt some feelings. But my point still stands, what could Lincoln have done in his capacity as President, to assuage the hurt feelings of the Southern Gov't without his acting unconstitutionally.
Whatever his personal feelings, his only legal option would have been to order the evacuation of the fort. His only defense at his impeachment could only have been that by doing so he hoped to reassure the South that the U.S. Gov't did not mean the any harm and Thus encourage them to remain in the Union. He had no power or authority to let the South secede.
As already noted, Davis and the Confederate Gov't had already set a firm course for Independence no matter what the Federal Gov't did or did not do. Lincoln would, literally, have sacrificed his political career, if not his life, for nothing.
 

hawglips

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Neil: I also notice you include in your post what, at first glance, appear to be quotes from President Lincoln and President Davis.

Are these direct quotes and if they are, could you please tell me what source you got them from? I admit I cannot remember every Lincoln and Davis quote and I am not familiar with these two.


My above paraphrasing is primarily from these two quotes:

"...we protest solemnly in the face of mankind that we desire peace at any sacrifice save that of honor and independence; we ask no conquest, no aggrandizement, no concession of any kind from the States with which we were lately confederated; all we ask is to be let alone; that those who never held power over us shall not now attempt our subjugation by arms." (President Jefferson Davis, 29 April, 1861)

"The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion -- no using of force against or among the people anywhere." (Lincoln's 1st Inaugural)

I appreciate your "rebellion" request. However, that word denotes a subservient position of one side to the other prior to secession. Therefore, rebellion does not fit what happened in 1860-1861, IMO.

That being said, independence or rebellion -- they are just two sides of the same coin -- the coin declaring that all men are endowed with the rights of self-government -- the rights upon which our country was established.

Hal
 
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unionblue

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Hal,

Thank you for your full quotes listed above.

Except for the phrase 'self-government' which I think should read, 'the right of rebellion' not a bad response.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

wilber6150

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The Fox letter was the letter from Lincoln to Fox in May of 61 regarding the resupply of Ft Sumter.
S Carolina was given assurances, in fact a promise, no assistance would be given to the Ft beyond supplies. No men etc. Yet turned right around and sent ships full of soldiers and ammunition to reinforce the Fort. Pretty much everyone had advised if Lincoln did this, war could be the only expected result. Which obviously upon these letters, these facts, this time line, shows clearly it was what Lincoln was aiming for all along.


Robert Chew, aide to Secretary of State Seward, stated In a message to Governor Pickens of South Carolina, "I am directed by the President of the United States to notify you that an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made, without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort."


For a reaction of the man at the Fort we see Anderson was less than happy about the nature of the help he was to receive.

Major Anderson, in a letter to Colonel Thomas, Adjutant-General, United States Army, expressed his concern. "I had the honor to receive, by yesterday's mail, the letter of the Honorable Secretary of War, dated April 4th, and confess that what he there states surprises me greatly - following, as it does, and contradicting so positively, the assurance Mr. Crawford telegraphed he was "authorized" to make. I trust that this matter will be at once put in a correct light, as a movement made now, when the South has been erroneously informed that none such would be attempted, would produce most disastrous results throughout the country......I ought to have been informed that this expedition [to resupply the fort] was to come. Colonel Lamon's remark convinced me that the idea, merely hinted at to me by Captain Fox, would not be carried out. ...
We shall strive to do our duty, though I frankly say that my heart is not in this war, which I see is to be thus commenced." (April 8, 1861)

Anderson wrote the letter on the same day South Carolina's governor was informed about the coming of the “resupply” mission, the day after Anderson himself learned of the mission.


Then the Fox letter itself....Lincoln to Fox
"You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Ft Sumter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result."

Hope that helps

YMOS
tommy
A little incorrect the Fox expedition was to be supplies only unless contested then reinforcements would be landed..There was never anything saying that no troops would be in the expedition
 
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