Why didn't the South Wait?

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trice

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Taking the offensive, turning the secession crisis into a shooting war, would be a profound political decision, not for Major Anderson to make. AFAIK he was a responsible officer, not given to recklessness or exceeding (violating?) his orders.

As @WJC said, the Carolina/Confederate troops were not very experienced either, but two green forces fumbling in the dark has potential for disaster.
Anderson had no desire to start a war. His occupation of Ft. Sumter seems to have been based on a desire to safeguard his force while gaining time for the politicians to work out the situation. OTOH, he was a very good professional officer who would have done his best to carry out any instructions he received from his superiors.

The point here might be that it is Winfield Scott sitting at the top of the Army and advising Buchanan. Scott had a long record, including diplomatic successes. He was a hero in the War of 1812 and in the Mexican War. Andrew Jackson had put him in charge of operations in Charleston during the Nullification Crisis, so Scott's ideas would be based on real experience along the South Carolina coast and in Charleston harbor.

I would guess that Scott would not want a shooting war in Charleston to start either. His idea was probably to strengthen Anderson as a negotiating point, a show of strength to prevent the loss of Federal positions rather than an offensive move. He had negotiated the US out of potential shooting wars with Britain twice, the last time when George Pickett almost started the Pig War with Britain on the Pacific coast. Most likely, Scott wanted to settle this mess without shooting and he would have trusted Anderson (who he regarded as a man on the same level as Robert E. Lee) to do as he instructed.
 

Rhea Cole

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Some in the South did wait. South Carolina was ready to secede in 1852, but didn't want to secede alone, so they waited.
The South Carolinians had earned their too small for a country, too big for an insane asylum reputation during Jackson's presidency. Jackson stated that he would raise an army, start hanging traitors as he crossed the border & not stop until his horse dipped its feet into salt water. It would have been better for everyone if the SC firebrands had not stepped back. There would not have been a fugitive slave act or a thriving Reverse Underground Railroad to infuriate Northern public opinion... it is more than passing strange that about 3,600 South Carolina slaveholders could have done so much damage. Like the monarchs of Europe in July 1914, they though God had made them superior to other men & they didn't have to play with the same rules as anybody else.
 

Rhea Cole

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The "South" was not waiting for anything. The Carolina South was the only place in a hot fury to secede. The rest of the "South" repeatedly made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with breaking up the Union. Even when it came down to it, the Northern tier of slave states & the entire "South" from Western Virginia right down to Northern Alabama rejected secession. Mountain folk had more reason than anyone to resent the hubristic slaveholder's pretensions of the self anointed ubermench masters of their "South."

In fact, there are numerous newspaper articles, speeches & private communications that excoriated the hot heads for leaving the Union so precipitously. If there had been any kind of a plan, any at all, preparations could have been made. Militias could have been raised & armed. Gunboats could have been built, armed & manned. All manner of sensible preparations could have been made.

As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence. Because the South Carolinians, in their arrogance, precipitated the war before any prudent measures could be taken, secession was was a lame duck right from the start.
 
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trice

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This description is from Eric Foner's Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, pages 11-13. I think it does a good job of showing where the geographical political divide within "the South" really was, which had little to do with State borders.

1574009191188.png
Support for secession was generally tied to areas where slavery was more common. In areas like Eastern Tennessee or Upcountry Alabama, support for secession was generally tied to those who were wealthy or prosperous -- and in "the South" being wealthy or prosperous generally meant ownership of slaves. In Tennessee, East Tennessee had few slaves and was opposed to secession; West Tennessee had many slaves and was overwhelmingly in favor of secession; Middle Tennessee had fewer slaves than the West but more than the East and was mixed in its support for secession, eventually leaning for it when pressured. Mississippi strongly favored it, along with the "Black Belt" in Alabama.
 

trice

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The "South" was not waiting for anything. The Carolina South was the only place in a hot fury to secede. The rest of the "South" repeatedly made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with breaking up the Union. Even when it came down to it, the Northern tier of slave states & the entire "South" from Western Virginia right down to Northern Alabama rejected secession. Mountain folk had more reason than anyone to resent the hubristic slaveholder's pretensions of the self anointed ubermench masters of their "South."

In fact, there are numerous newspaper articles, speeches & private communications that excoriated the hot heads for leaving the Union so precipitously. If there had been any kind of a plan, any at all, preparations could have been made. Militias could have been raised & armed. Gunboats could have been built, armed & manned. All manner of sensible preparations could have been made.

As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence. Because the South Carolinians, in their arrogance, precipitated the war before any prudent measures could be taken, secession was was a lame duck right from the start.
Permission to attack Ft. Sumter was given by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate government, after consultation with his Cabinet (only one member objected). That permission was sent to General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate commander in Charleston in control of all forces there. Beauregard made the demand on Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter, ordered hist guns to open fire, commanded the troops who fired more than 3,000 rounds of heavy artillery at the fort, and accepted the surrender in the name of the Confederate States of America.

Before attacking at Fort Sumter, Davis checked to see if General Bragg down at Pensacola could start the war off instead of Beauregard at Charleston. Bragg said the chances of success were not good.

Here are the people in that command chain:
  • Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, was from Mississippi.
  • Alexander Stephens, Confederate Vice President, was from Georgia.
  • Robert Toombs, Confederate Secretary of State, was from Georgia. (the man who objected)
  • Christopher Memminger, Confederate Secretary Treasury, was from South Carolina.
  • Leroy Pope Walker, Confederate Secretary of War, was from Alabama.
  • Stephen Mallory, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, was from Florida.
  • John H. Reagan, Confederate Postmaster General, was from Texas.
  • Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Attorney General, was from Louisiana.
  • Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, Confederate General, was from Louisiana.
  • Braxton Bragg, Confederate general, was from Louisiana.
How do those people count as these "South Carolina hot heads" you describe as starting the shooting?
 
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Rhea Cole

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Permission to attack Ft. Sumter was given by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate government, after consultation with his Cabinet (only one member objected). That permission was sent to General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate commander in Charleston in control of all forces there. Beauregard made the demand on Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter, ordered hist guns to open fire, commanded the troops who fired more than 3,000 rounds of heavy artillery at the fort, and accepted the surrender in the name of the Confederate States of America.

Before attacking at Fort Sumter, Davis checked to see if General Bragg down at Pensacola could start the war off instead of Beauregard at Charleston. Bragg said the chances of success were not good.

Here are the people in that command chain:
  • Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, was from Mississippi.
  • Alexander Stephens, Confederate Vice President, was from Georgia.
  • Robert Toombs, Confederate Secretary of State, was from Georgia. (the man who objected)
  • Christopher Memminger, Confederate Secretary Treasury, was from South Carolina.
  • Leroy Pope Walker, Confederate Secretary of War, was from Alabama.
  • Stephen Mallory, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, was from Florida.
  • John H. Reagan, Confederate Postmaster General, was from Texas.
  • Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Attorney General, was from Louisiana.
  • Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, Confederate General, was from Louisiana.
  • Braxton Bragg, Confederate general, was from Louisiana.
How do those people count as these "South Carolina hot heads" you describe as starting the shooting?
From the signing of the articles of Confederation to the Constitutional convention to the threatened secession that resulted in the Missouri Compromise to the Nashville Secession Convention in the 1850's to the actual declaration of secession in1860, it was as small very loud cohort of South Corilina men who singlemindedly pursued the goal of seceding. Given that SC was nearly 70 percent slaves, deduct women & children, it comes down to a cohort of about 3,600 slaveholders who wielded political power in the state. It was, literally, that small group of men who brought on the Civil War. This is not my opinion, it is a fact.
 
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trice

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From the signing of the articles of Confederation to the Constitutional convention to the threatened secession that resulted in the Missouri Compromise to the Nashville Secession Convention in the 1850's to the actual declaration of secession in1860, it was as small very loud cohort of South Corilina men who singlemindedly pursued the goal of seceding. Given that SC was nearly 70 percent slaves, deduct women & children, it comes down to a cohort of about 3,600 slaveholders who wielded political power in the state. It was, literally, that small group of men who brought on the Civil War. This is not my opinion, it is a fact.
Could you explain to me how you went from " As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence." to the above?
 

Rhea Cole

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Could you explain to me how you went from " As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence." to the above?
I suppose it is because the timeline is historically accurate. Wasn't it actually one of the most rabid South Carolina secessionists who pulled the lanyard on the first round fired? Tennesee & Virginia had not seceded at that time. I guess you could say that I explain it by using a calendar. The order in which events unfolded is not a matter of opinion.
 

trice

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I suppose it is because the timeline is historically accurate. Wasn't it actually one of the most rabid South Carolina secessionists who pulled the lanyard on the first round fired? Tennesee & Virginia had not seceded at that time. I guess you could say that I explain it by using a calendar. The order in which events unfolded is not a matter of opinion.
If your point is that South Carolina was responsible for pushing Nullification under Calhoun in 1830 and then secession (after Rhett split with Calhoun) after about 1845, sure. But you seem to be skipping the fact that both Alabama and Mississippi were advocating secession in early 1850 and throughout the 1850s. Other states had varying support for secession throughout the ten years before the American Civil War.

Robert Barnwell Rhett and his cronies at the Charleston Mercury were only one branch of the Fire-Eaters; William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama was leader of the other branch with followers across "the South", the man who led the breakup of the Democratic Party at Charleston. John Quitman lived in Mississippi. James D. B. DeBow (publisher of De Bow's Review) lived in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Virginia furnished its' own pack of ardent secessionists, from Edward A. Pollard (pre-war author of Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South; editor for the Richmond Examiner during the Civil War; post-war author of The Lost Cause and The Lost Cause Regained) to Edmund Ruffin (distributing pikes to the governors of the slave states after the John Brown trial, writing a novel about a coming civil war in 1860, committing suicide when "the South" lost) to up-and-coming Fire-Eater Congressman Roger A. Pryor.

I am not saying that South Carolina was unimportant. I am saying that your position that South Carolina was solely responsible for secession and civil war is vastly over-stated.
 
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Rhea Cole

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If your point is that South Carolina was responsible for pushing Nullification under Calhoun in 1830 and then secession (after Rhett split with Calhoun) after about 1845, sure. But you seem to be skipping the fact that both Alabama and Mississippi were advocating secession in early 1850 and throughout the 1850s. Other states had varying support for secession throughout the ten years before the American Civil War.

Robert Barnwell Rhett and his cronies at the Charleston Mercury were only one branch of the Fire-Eaters; William Lowndes Yancey of Alabama was leader of the other branch with followers across "the South", the man who led the breakup of the Democratic Party at Charleston. John Quitman lived in Mississippi. James D. B. DeBow (publisher of De Bow's Review) lived in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Virginia furnished its' own pack of ardent secessionists, from Edward A. Pollard (pre-war author of Black Diamonds Gathered in the Darkey Homes of the South; editor for the Richmond Examiner during the Civil War; post-war author of The Lost Cause and The Lost Cause Regained) to Edmund Ruffin (distributing pikes to the governors of the slave states after the John Brown trial, writing a novel about a coming civil war in 1860, committing suicide when "the South" lost) to up-and-coming Fire-Eater Congressman Roger A. Pryor.

I am not saying that South Carolina was unimportant. I am saying that your position that South Carolina was solely responsible for secession and civil war is vastly over-stated.
Perhaps you have taken my remarks to be something that they are not. There were other proponents of disunion, but the record is clear, for fifty years a hard core of South Carolinians agitated for secession above & beyond any others. That is why Andrew Jackson threatened to hang them all. In plain fact, it was the South Carolinians who seceded on their own & precipitated the destruction of their own culture. That is how it happened.
 

trice

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The "South" was not waiting for anything. The Carolina South was the only place in a hot fury to secede. The rest of the "South" repeatedly made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with breaking up the Union. Even when it came down to it, the Northern tier of slave states & the entire "South" from Western Virginia right down to Northern Alabama rejected secession. Mountain folk had more reason than anyone to resent the hubristic slaveholder's pretensions of the self anointed ubermench masters of their "South."

In fact, there are numerous newspaper articles, speeches & private communications that excoriated the hot heads for leaving the Union so precipitously. If there had been any kind of a plan, any at all, preparations could have been made. Militias could have been raised & armed. Gunboats could have been built, armed & manned. All manner of sensible preparations could have been made.

As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence. Because the South Carolinians, in their arrogance, precipitated the war before any prudent measures could be taken, secession was was a lame duck right from the start.
Permission to attack Ft. Sumter was given by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate government, after consultation with his Cabinet (only one member objected). That permission was sent to General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate commander in Charleston in control of all forces there. Beauregard made the demand on Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter, ordered hist guns to open fire, commanded the troops who fired more than 3,000 rounds of heavy artillery at the fort, and accepted the surrender in the name of the Confederate States of America.

Before attacking at Fort Sumter, Davis checked to see if General Bragg down at Pensacola could start the war off instead of Beauregard at Charleston. Bragg said the chances of success were not good.

Here are the people in that command chain:
  • Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, was from Mississippi.
  • Alexander Stephens, Confederate Vice President, was from Georgia.
  • Robert Toombs, Confederate Secretary of State, was from Georgia. (the man who objected)
  • Christopher Memminger, Confederate Secretary Treasury, was from South Carolina.
  • Leroy Pope Walker, Confederate Secretary of War, was from Alabama.
  • Stephen Mallory, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, was from Florida.
  • John H. Reagan, Confederate Postmaster General, was from Texas.
  • Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Attorney General, was from Louisiana.
  • Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, Confederate General, was from Louisiana.
  • Braxton Bragg, Confederate general, was from Louisiana.
How do those people count as these "South Carolina hot heads" you describe as starting the shooting?
...
Perhaps you have taken my remarks to be something that they are not. There were other proponents of disunion, but the record is clear, for fifty years a hard core of South Carolinians agitated for secession above & beyond any others. That is why Andrew Jackson threatened to hang them all. In plain fact, it was the South Carolinians who seceded on their own & precipitated the destruction of their own culture. That is how it happened.
So, my post was intended to be in reply to this paragraph of yours:

"As it was, the South Carolina hot heads started shooting while Tennessee & other states vital to a Confederate victory were sitting on the fence. Because the South Carolinians, in their arrogance, precipitated the war before any prudent measures could be taken, secession was was a lame duck right from the start."

Here is my text again:
Permission to attack Ft. Sumter was given by Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate government, after consultation with his Cabinet (only one member objected). That permission was sent to General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, the Confederate commander in Charleston in control of all forces there. Beauregard made the demand on Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter, ordered hist guns to open fire, commanded the troops who fired more than 3,000 rounds of heavy artillery at the fort, and accepted the surrender in the name of the Confederate States of America.​
Before attacking at Fort Sumter, Davis checked to see if General Bragg down at Pensacola could start the war off instead of Beauregard at Charleston. Bragg said the chances of success were not good.​
Here are the people in that command chain:​
  • Jefferson Davis, Confederate President, was from Mississippi.
    • Alexander Stephens, Confederate Vice President, was from Georgia.
    • Robert Toombs, Confederate Secretary of State, was from Georgia. (the man who objected)
    • Christopher Memminger, Confederate Secretary Treasury, was from South Carolina.
    • Leroy Pope Walker, Confederate Secretary of War, was from Alabama.
    • Stephen Mallory, Confederate Secretary of the Navy, was from Florida.
    • John H. Reagan, Confederate Postmaster General, was from Texas.
    • Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Attorney General, was from Louisiana.
    • Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, Confederate General, was from Louisiana.
    • Braxton Bragg, Confederate general, was from Louisiana.
How do those people count as these "South Carolina hot heads" you describe as starting the shooting?​
Isn't that you blaming everything up to and including the attack on "South Carolina hot heads"?
 
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Rhea Cole

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In my Opinion, I think they just wanted to have their own rights and wanted to split from the Union.
I think it would be useful to read what the hot heads wrote. Hot Head #1 named his child States Rights Gist, there is a definite statement of intent. When you read what the SC leaders had to say, Chief Justice Tunney (sp?) comes to mind. There was no right that another state could claim that SC had to respect. Nullification is the embodiment of that belief; the fugitive slave act that stated that anyone could be deputized on the spot to assist in the arrest of a runaway slave sum up the SC attitude toward the rights of others. The decades long collection of extreme rhetoric was matched by censorship of the Mail, punitive punishments denying freedom of the press & speech, etc. leave no doubt that actions & words were one & the same. In a state within sight of a 80 percent slave population, something was going to have to give. I actually don't have an opinion, I am merely taking them at their word, their very forceful,word.
 

wausaubob

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There were a number of flash points at which the war might have started. Charleston, Fort Pickens at Pensacola, the shipyards at Norfolk, or at Harper's Ferry.
If the Confederates had waited, the US fleet would have been recalled, the arsenal at Harper's Ferry would have been reinforced and the ships towed out of Norfolk.
There were US soldiers in many places in Texas, but that did not cause shooting. A protocol to allow the troops to evacuate to Indianola resulted instead.
The problem for the Confederacy was in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The cheapest way for the US to win the war was to keep these states from seceding, but any means, fair or foul. And given additional weeks, the US would have figured it out.
 

wausaubob

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The US could have easily organized for separation. The Virginia experience could have been extended to Maryland and Kentucky. The states could have been partitioned with the Confederacy. The US was going to hold Missouri by force, under all circumstances.
 
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wausaubob

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The US experience in mobilizing for the Civil War showed that the US could easily have militarized the border, held the far west, connected a telegraph line to California, admitted Nebraska, eliminated the fugitive slave act, and abolished slavery in the US and co-operated with the British empire to put the southern cotton industry out of business, with silk, wool and south Asian cotton.
 

wausaubob

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The original plans implemented by the US were consistent with possible separation and even a long period of separation. The initial plans concentrated on capturing the five border areas, and that meant complete patience with Kentucky.
The initial plans were based on holding Fortress Monroe, Key West, the fort in the dry Tortugas, and Fort Pickens and adding intermediate enclaves, to create separation between NYC and the Confederacy, and let the lack of credit and the higher prices gradually drive the non slave holding population of the south back to the Union. That entails a long period of separation.
 

wausaubob

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The US was not going to wait much longer in Virginia. But Lincoln did not want the war to start there. He wanted the war to start in SC or FL.
 
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The US was going to mobilize even if it agreed to separation. Separation would have involved a militarized border and constant patrolling in the Atlantic and on the Mississippi.
As soon as foreign immigration recovered to the 300,000 per year level, and British investment increased in a nation 100% committed to abolition, the US would have buried the Confederacy.
 
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