Perhaps no plot of soil and brick is more iconic to the War than that situated in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Ft Sumter, the guardian of the Carolinas, was a pivotal point of defense along the Atlantic coastline and instrumental to protecting the city of Charleston, one of the grandest ports in the Old South. The oft-repeated narrative of the war’s beginning would lead one to believe that the South had, without provocation, fired upon Ft Sumter and the Federal troops therein This would be a mistaken belief.
On the 9th of December, 1860, a delegation from South Carolina met with President Buchanan and secured an agreement from the Federal government not to reinforce the fort. On the 26th of December, the Federal Commander, Major Anderson, relocated his troops from the more disadvantaged Ft Moultrie and secreted them within the mighty Ft Sumter. On the 7th of January, by order of General Winfield Scott, the Federal Star of the West attempted the reinforcement of Ft Sumter with 200 artillerymen. The ship was turned back by a barrage of Carolinian artillery fire. The Federals, however, would not be deterred. Another proposal for reinforcing Ft Sumter was made, but President Buchanan wished to avoid war and smothered it.
With the election of Abraham Lincoln, a man who cooed like a dove but acted like the greatest of war hawks, plans for reinforcing the important fort were once again furthered. He refused to meet with President Jefferson Davis’ peace envoy, but chose the sword over words. On the 9th of March, Lincoln proffered again the reinforcement of FT Sumter. By the 6th of April a new plan was formulated and ordered – Ft Sumter, despite the expectations of the South to the contrary and the certain trouble which entail in committing such an act, would be reinforced. On the 9th of April, learning of something afoot, the Confederate government requested that Major Anderson turn over control of Ft Sumter to the South. Major Anderson agreed that he would do so on the 15th of that month. By the 11th, however, a small war-fleet appeared beyond Charleston’s bay with the intention of reinforcing Ft Sumter. On the 12th, facing both the fleet and the fort, P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of Charleston, alerted Ft Sumter that he would begin bombardment within the hour. The Grand Creole did so, and succeeded in taking the fort.
How are we to interpret Lincoln’s actions? One need look no further than his own words, in communication to the captain of the fleet that attempted the reinforcement of Ft Sumter. Dated the 1st of May, 1861, he says:
“You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort-Sumpter, even if it should fail; and it is no small consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result. Very truly your friend A. LINCOLN”
Much more transpired which indicates the hawkish views of Lincoln. His reinforcement of Ft Pickens in Pensacola, another Ft Sumter of types, his call for troops to invade the Deep South States, and his refusal to entertain any talks of peace all point to his role not as a champion of the Americas, but its despoiler.