Lincoln's Ft. Sumter intention

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #15558

    Is there anything concrete indicating that Lincoln was trying to provoke, per se, an attack by the Confederates on Ft. Sumter?

    This article by Professor McClanahan says that he wrote in his diary that his Ft. Sumter decision had the desired effect but I can’t find that anywhere.

    Does anyone know of a source for that?



    See Ludwell Johnson “North Against South,” page 79 for the direct quotes. Lincoln did not write it in his diary. O.H. Browning scribbled what Lincoln told him, but Lincoln did write to G.V. Fox that provisioning Sumter was “justified by the result,” meaning war. Johnson does a nice job on the subject, pages 74-80 in North Against South.

    See also Charles P. Roland, An American Iliad, pages 33-34.


    Thanks! I’ll check those out, just ordered them both!

    Reading the responses to Lincoln’s poll of his cabinet members, I’m struck by Secretary of State Seward’s use of the word “provoke”–thrice!–to describe the consequences of provisioning Ft. Sumter.

    It seems to me that each respondent gave their thoughts as to (1) what would happen as a result, i.e. whether it would start a war and (2) whether then it should be done. In the first round of polling every person had opposite answers to (1) and (2). They were all either “Yes, No” or “No, Yes”.

    What stands out about the second round is the appearance of a third answer of “Yes, Yes”, with two “Yes, No”‘s and one “No, Yes” changing their answers (Bates, Welles, and Chase respectively).

    So no less than three cabinet members said “yes it will start a war, and we should do it anyway!”

    The internet (and academia for that matter) is full of pompous sophistry explaining why it’s ridiculous to say Lincoln was trying to provoke, or that provisioning was an act of aggression. I can only attribute this to blissful/willful ignorance in service of deifying Lincoln and demonizing the South.

    Do you think this is a modern phenomenon? Did most observers at, or around, the time of the War recognize that Lincoln and his cabinet were clearly devising a way to get the South to fire?


    Wow that letter to Fox is really eye-opening, especially in its entirety, thanks again.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.