Lincoln’s First Cabinet Meeting; Her Guns Would Fire Upon You

Saturday, March 9, 1861

President Lincoln held a Saturday Night Cabinet meeting to discuss the issue of surrendering or resupplying Fort Sumter. He knew nothing (or at least little) of Seward’s dealings with the Confederate Commissioners. It was at this Cabinet meeting that the rest of the Cabinet first heard about Sumter’s dilemma. The prevailing thought was that Sumter had to be surrendered. There was no other option.

Lincoln also took this time to write out questions to General Scott. He had had meetings with the General several times and knew his opinion on the matter. However, he wanted other options and more details.1

1st To what point of time can Major Anderson maintain his position at Fort Sumpter, without fresh supplies or reinforcement?

2d. Can you, with all the means now in your control, supply or re-inforce Fort Sumpter within that time?

3d If not, what amount of means and of what description, in addition to that already at your control, would enable you to supply and reinforce that fortress within the time?2

__________________

Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard had been writing reports to Montgomery, the Confederate capital, assessing the defenses of Charleston Harbor. Everything was in order and going well. The troops were falling in and the batteries, while not quite ready, would be so shortly.

Confederate Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker commended the General for his work thus far. He also urged Beauregard to “push forward your contemplated works with all possible expedition, especially with the view to prevent the re-enforcement of Fort Sumter.”

“Should re-enforcements get it,” cautions Walker, “her guns would open fire upon you.”

He also told Beauregard of a rumor that he deemed “reliable” of “five or six United States ships” waiting in New York Harbor to assail Charleston. This was somewhat true; Commander James Ward had been at the ready for weeks now. He had arrived in Washington to meet with US Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells.

Walker left the details of the defenses to Beauregard, trusting him every step of the way.3

__________________

Missouri’s Secession Convention decided that their best interests were with the Union. When the vote was taken, the state voted against secession 98-1. While this was the final vote of this convention, the matter was hardly settled.4



  1. The Diary of Edward Bates 1859-1866 edited by Howard K. Beale. []
  2. Lincoln to To Winfield Scott, March 8, 1861. []
  3. Official Records, Vol. 1, p272. []
  4. Encyclopedia of the American Civil War by David Stephen Heidler, W. W. Norton & Company, 2002. []
Creative Commons License
Lincoln’s First Cabinet Meeting; Her Guns Would Fire Upon You by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

About

View all posts by