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was thus vital. From the beginning, every expression by Lincoln upon the question showed his recognition of this necessity and his determination to act in accord with this conviction.
The question was brought forward in an unexpectedly acute phase by the reception at the war department, March 4, of a report from Anderson of February 28, that he had provisions for only about a month. Accompanying were separate opinions of the officers of the garrison as to the force necessary to relieve the garrison, varying from two thousand men, aided by a naval force, to Anderson's estimate of twenty thousand.1
The startling fact was the shortness of provisions. The inaction of the previous administration and its ineptitude in the case of the Star of the West now bore their fruit. Time had worked for the secessionists both by strengthening their power of attack and by weakening the powers of the defence; not a gun need be fired to attain their object. Yet the situation could not be laid wholly at the door of Mr. Buchanan and his recent cabinet. Anderson himself was largely responsible through his failure to support the Star of the West with his fire, through the establishment of the fatal truce, and through his repeated asseverations of safety. In answer to a private letter written him April 5, Anderson says: Justice . . . compels me . . . to take upon myself the blame of the Government's not having sent to
1 War Records, Serial No. 1, pp. 197, 202.
my rescue. Had I demanded reinforcements while Mr. Holt was in the War Department I know that he would have despatched them at all hazards. I did not ask them, because I knew that the moment it should be known here that additional troops were coming, they would assault me and thus inaugurate civil war. My policy, feeling-thanks be to God!--secure for the present in my stronghold, was to keep still, to preserve peace, to give time for the quieting of the excitement, . in the hope of avoiding bloodshed. There is now a prospect that that hope will be realized, that the separation which has been inevitable for months, will be consummated without the shedding of one drop of blood."'
This letter reveals the fixed belief in Anderson's mind that secession must succeed, and his sense of responsibility for keeping it from selling to the dimensions of war. Able, high-minded, patriotic as he was, he had no true conception of the mighty movement of which for the moment he was the pivot, nor was there any attempt on the part of the authorities at Washington to enlighten him. Nevertheless, the administration had its own means of judging the situation; both Anderson's and Foster's reports as to the batteries were full and accurate, and military men in Washington could forecast the outcome as well as Anderson himself. In reading between the lines it would seem that the authorities at Washington merely salved their consciences for Crawford, Fort Sumter, 290.
inaction with the fact that no official documents had been put before them as to the impossibility of a lengthened resistance. But the thing was selfevident; Black's memorandum to Scott, January 16, covered the situation completely.1
Lincoln's own mind as to the course of action had, as we know from his message early in December to Scott, been long made up, and every utterance thereafter, whether public or private, including his inaugural address, showed that he had not swerved from his early intention. He thus referred the information received March 4 back to General Scott for more thorough investigation, and transmitted to him through the secretary of war, as soon as the latter was in office, a memorandum draughted by himself, as follows: "I am directed by the President to say he desires you to exercise all possible vigilance for the maintenance of all the places within the military department of the United States, and to promptly call upon all the departments of the Government for the means necessary to that end.”” But Lincoln was leaning upon a broken reed. Scott, who was now on terms of intimacy with Seward, to whom he apparently looked as the directive force of the nation, wrote, March 3, a letter which seems inspired by Seward, or at any rate was the outcome of a previous conversation. In it Scott said
1 See above, p. 235.
2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III., 379.
to Seward: "I beg leave to repeat in writing what I have before said to you orally." Leaving untouched the field of military duties, the aged general became the politician advising conciliation; and he ended with, "Say to the seceded StatesWayward Sisters, depart in peace!"1
Scott now gave an emphatic opinion that to relieve Sumter was impracticable. The president, March 9, asked him in substance: "(1) To what point of time can Anderson maintain his position in Sumter? (2) Can you with present means relieve him within that time? (3) What additional means would enable you to do so?" Scott replied that he would need a naval fleet and transports which could not be collected in less than four months, 5000 additional regular troops, and 20,000 volunteers. To raise, organize, and discipline such an army (not to speak of necessary legislation) would require from six to eight months. "As a practical military question, the time for succoring Fort Sumter with any means at hand had passed away nearly a month ago. Since then a surrender under assault or starvation has been merely a question of time." Scott also submitted the draught of an order for the evacuation of the fort.2
Postmaster-General Blair, however, knew of the proposal made by Fox in February, and March 12
1 Scott, Autobiography, II., 625–628. The italics are Scott's. 2 Nicolay and Hay, Abraham Lincoln, III., 379–381; War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 197.
sent the latter a telegram which brought him from New York to Washington the next day. Accompanied by Blair, Fox at once went to the White House to lay his project before the president, whence, after its presentation, adjournment was made to General Scott's office, where a renewed discussion took place, Scott informing the president that, while the plan was practicable in February, the increased number of batteries now made it impossible.1 The outcome was a memorandum from the president to each member of the cabinet: "Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it?" Seward, Cameron, Welles, Smith, and Bates, in lengthy opinions filed March 15, were against it. The first argued the political issue at length. His paper is of great importance, as showing how fully Seward at the time was committed to the policy of non-resistance. Under the influence of the impression made upon him by the great Unionist vote of the South in November, he believed that disunion stood upon an unreasoning popular excitement "arising out of a simple and harmless disappointment in a presidential election"; if it should find no new ailment, it would quickly subside; that everywhere, even in South Carolina, there was a profound and permanent national senti
1 Naval War Records, IV., 246.
2 Lincoln, Works (ed. of 1894), II., 11-22; War Records, Serial No. 1, p. 196.