Stocking Both Davis’s Cabinet As Well As Fort Sumter

Wednesday, March 6, 1861

While Lincoln was just as besieged by office-seekers as Anderson was by Charleston, the Confederate Congress in Montgomery, Alabama was at work ironing out the details of their new government.

Davis finally had his cabinet in order. Mississippi’s Henry Ellett had been offered the Postmaster General position, but had declined. The post then went to John H. Reagan of Texas.1

Since the United States’ official policy was that the South could not secede and that the Confederacy was completely invalid, the United States Postal Service had to continue delivering the mail. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of secession stayed these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

The Confederate Congress, at this point, was actually a Provisional Congress. Their main job, aside from filling Davis’s Cabinet was to forge a Constitution. To make matters slightly more confusing, the Provisional Congress would work under a Provisional Constitution until an official Constitution would be written. At that point, the Provisional Congress would still be the Provisional Congress until the fall elections.

For the time being, however, the Provisional Confederate Congress worked under a Provisional Confederate Constitution while writing an official Constitution. This Congress had one house. Members of the house were divided into “deputies” and “delegates.” The deputies were from the first seven seceded states. The delegates were from whichever states might follow.

Anyway, the Davis Cabinet was stocked thusly (for now):

Secretary of State – Robert Toombs
Secretary of the Treasury – Christopher Memminger
Secretary of War – Leroy P. Walker
Secretary of the Navy – Stephen R. Mallory
Postmaster General – John H. Reagan
Attorney General – Judah P. Benjamin
(The Confederacy did not have a Department of the Interior)


In between seeing office seekers, Lincoln received General Scott’s short letter detailing his opinions on the Fort Sumter situation. “When Major Anderson first threw himself into Fort Sumter, it would have been easy to reinforce him.” Scott then described the harbor’s newly created defenses and caught Lincoln up on how the previous President would not allow Sumter to be resupplied, aside from the Star of the West fiasco. Even three weeks ago Sumter could have been resupplied. But not now.2

Scott was clearly frustrated.

Lincoln wanted General Scott to study this matter more closely, to see if there was another way. Scott then met with Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells, informing him that he had ordered a military force to protect Washington. Very well, but the actual reason Wells was summoned was the condition of things at Sumter.

Wells was shocked. It was widely held that Anderson needed no reinforcements and the basic provisions were coming from Charleston. That he could only hold out for six more weeks unless 20,000 troops were sent to his aide was alarming.

The Naval Secretary wanted to immediately send whatever Anderson needed. Scott related the details of the previous attempt and Wells reconsidered. Scott didn’t call the meeting to come to a conclusion, but to get everybody on the same page. Another meeting was scheduled for the next day.3


President Lincoln’s Inaugural Address was still rankling the Southern newspapers. The New Orleans Daily Delta called it “vulgar,” writing that the “language is mean, involved and inconclusive, evidently such as only persons of very imperfect education would employ.” Other papers echoed this sentiment.

The seceding states should be considered “erring sisters entitled to our sympathies and our aid in an emergency,” wrote the Richmond Whig. They would not consent “for the Federal Government to employ coercive measures.”

The Nashville Republican Banner, however, sided with Lincoln (like the paper’s name might suggest), saying that if a Civil War would come, it would not be Lincoln’s fault.4

However, the fever for secession and war had not yet taken full hold. This would come.

  1. History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography, Volume 1 by Thomas McAdory Owen. []
  2. Letter from Scott to Lincoln via Seward, March 5, 1861. []
  3. The Diary of Gideon Wells, 1911. []
  4. Original sources are stated, but they all come to me via Editors Make War by Donald E. Reynolds. []
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Stocking Both Davis’s Cabinet As Well As Fort Sumter by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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