Lincoln Assembles His Cabinet; Scott Predicts Years of War

Sunday, March 3, 1861 – Eve of Inauguration

Though William Seward asked Lincoln to no longer consider him for the Secretary of State position, Lincoln basically ignored the request. His day was spent mostly alone, working on the Inaugural Address. Seward made an appearance and most likely helped him with it, also possibly ignoring his own request to not be considered.

That evening, Lincoln held a dinner, inviting Seward, Salmon P. Chase, Simon Cameron, Gideon Welles, Montgomery Blair, Caleb B. Smith and Edward Bates. While the rest of the world wondered who would make up the Lincoln cabinet, here they were, all arrayed.1


General Winfield Scott, Commander of United States military forces, wrote to William Seward, like most, fully expecting him to head up Lincoln’s cabinet. He told him that Lincoln would have to choose which course to take after his inauguration:

1) Compromise. Adopt one of the many compromises giving slavery more rights than it had before and, thought Scott, you’ll see the seceded states return.

2) Maintain or close ports. Duties and tariffs should be collected on Southern ports, even if they must be blockaded.

3) Conquer the seceded States by invading armies. This, figured Scott, would take two or three years with 300,000 men. The fallout from such an action would mean devastation for the South for generations to come.

4) Say to the seceded states, “Wayward Sisters, depart in peace!”

Basically, there were but three choices: Convince them to return, let them go, or blockade and invade.

Scott offered no opinions of his own (apart from the particulars of the invasion, which most would think greatly exaggerated or insane).2


Confederate Brigadier-General P.G.T. Beauregard arrived in Charleston to take over military operations for South Carolina. This was being moved from a state affair to a national one. He quickly visited Governor Pickens. Though he would not take formal command until the 6th, he surveyed the Harbor making mental notes of changes that would have to be made. He established headquarters at 37 Meeting Street and would spend the next two days inspecting the defenses.3

  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  2. Letter from Winfield Scott to William Seward, March 3, 1861. []
  3. P.G.T. Beauregard: Napoleon in Gray by T. Harry Williams. []
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Lincoln Assembles His Cabinet; Scott Predicts Years of War by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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