April 8, 1861: Lincoln notifies Governor Pickens


The New York Times reiterates Lincoln’s position on Sumter. He’s not evacuating, and will send provisions. If the South attacks, Americans and Europeans alike will blame them for starting the war.

Lieut. TALBOT, who returned to Fort Sumpter with instructions to Major ANDERSON, is expected to arrive there to-morrow morning. There certainly is no present purpose to reinforce Sumpter. Nevertheless, an attempt will be made to send it supplies or provisions, via an unarmed vessel. If the Secessionists choose to fire upon her, they will have themselves initiated whatever disasters or trouble shall follow.

While the President sees no necessity for reinforcing Fort Sumpter while Charleston is not threatened with foreign invasion, he is determined to fulfill his constitutional duty, as laid down in his Inaugural. He cannot, therefore, abandon Sumpter, or any other public property, so long as the Government has power to hold it.

In this view of the case he must feed the small force now holding it, and will do so, unless the rebels are strong enough to drive them out. Thus, as you will see, the question or peace or war is entirely in the hands of JEFFERSON DAVIS, who, it is well known, has control of the Charleston troops, whom he has hitherto restrained, notwithstanding Gov. PICKENS’ disposition to yield to the pressure for an immediate bombardment of Sumpter.

The Herald’s story of stipulations having been agreed upon for the evacuation of Sumpter is unfounded, as you probably supposed.

The same day, the Official Records show that Lincoln informed Governor Pickens and Gen. Beauregard of his intentions:

CHARLESTON, April 8, 1861.


Authorized messenger from Lincoln just informed Governor, Pickens and myself that provisions would be sent to Sumter peaceably, otherwise by force.


MONTGOMERY, April 8, 1861.

General BEAUREGARD, Charleston:

Under no circumstances are you to allow provisions to be sent to Fort Sumter.


Lincoln’s message, as reported earlier by Daily Observations on the Civil War, said that “an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only; and that, if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition, will be made, without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the Fort.”

This entry was posted in Abraham Lincoln, Causes of the war, South Carolina. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to April 8, 1861: Lincoln notifies Governor Pickens

  1. Pingback: April 9, 1861: Provisions sent to Sumter | Seven Score and Ten

  2. Creel says:

    IF, Lincoln’s intent was not to provoke the South to fire, THEN WHY did he not carry thru with his orders to re-supply and reeninforce the Fort since he had sent so many warships to do so??

    • Allen Gathman says:

      It doesn’t seem that the fleet was really sufficient to force the issue, despite the threat. From the Wikipedia entry on the battle:

      “Ships from Fox’s relief expedition began to arrive on April 12. Although Fox himself arrived at 3 a.m. on his steamer Baltic, most of the rest of his fleet was delayed until 6 p.m., and one of the two warships, USS Powhatan, never did arrive. Unbeknownst to Fox, it had been ordered to the relief of Fort Pickens in Florida. As landing craft were sent toward the fort with supplies, the artillery fire deterred them and they pulled back. Fox decided to wait until after dark and for the arrival of his warships. The next day, heavy seas made it difficult to load the small boats with men and supplies and Fox was left with the hope that Anderson and his men could hold out until dark on April 13.”

      The bombardment had been going on for over 12 hours before most of the fleet got there, and I don’t think the warships were any match for the shore batteries. Lincoln was aware that the South was likely to fire — they had announced their intentions to attack the fort well in advance. Both sides appear to have been willing for the war to begin at this point, and it was a public relations coup for the North that the South fired the first shots.

  3. Michael Lamb says:

    Try this– The letter explains much, especially when Lincoln refers to the *PLAN* to *ADVANCE* the cause. –Like what cause are they referring to?–

    WASHINGTON, May 1st, 1861.

    Capt. G.V. Fox:

    My Dear Sir, I sincerely regret that the failure of the late attempt to provision Fort Sumter should be the source of any annoyance to you. The practicability of your plan was not, in fact, brought to a test. By reason of a gale, well known in advance to be possible, and not improbable, the tugs, an essential part of the plan, never reached the ground ; while, by an accident, for which you were in nowise responsible,
    and possibly I, to some extent, was, you were deprived of a war-vessel, with her men, which you deemed of great importance to the enterprise.

    From Lincoln

    I most cheerfully and truthfully declare that the failure of the undertaking has not lowered you a particle, while the qualities you developed in the effort have greatly heightened you in my estimation. For a daring and dangerous enterprise of a similar
    character, you would, to-day, be the man of all my acquaintances whom I would select. You and I both anticipated that the cause of the country would be advanced by making the attempt to provision Fort Sumter, even if it should fail ; and it is no small
    consolation now to feel that our anticipation is justified by the result.

    Very truly your friend, A. LINCOLN.

  4. Michael Lamb says:

    Everyone seems to *conveniently* overlook the fact that there was verbal and signed treaties between South Carolina and the US Government, specifically Abraham Lincoln; WHY?

    How about a chronology of events?
    Did Lincoln have a plan?

    US Army Hd Quarters March 12th 1861
    Orders to reinforce Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida were sent to waiting
    warship in direct conflict between the Florida and US Government.
    Orders were directly issued by President Lincoln. Orders were received on
    March 31st. However problems arose within the chain of command
    questioning the validity of such orders.

    US Supreme Court Judge John Campbell on March 15th stated Fort
    Sumter will be evacuated by federal forces within 10 days. That very day
    Cabinet member Montgomery Blair was assigning a force to reinforce Fort
    Sumter, South Carolina. This was in direct violation of the signed treaties.
    The question becomes; who gave Blair the orders to reinforce the fort?

    Remembering that South Carolina seceded on Dec 20th 1860, was
    because of Lincoln’s ambitions to raise, even double the tariff rate
    that would drastically and for all intents and purposes suffocate the
    Southern States abilities to trade with other countries, even to a point
    with Northern States. Lincoln vowed he would not back down as Jackson
    had previously. South Carolina felt it had no choice but to secede, while
    Lincoln actually thought they were bluffing. (Over the preceding years
    South Carolina had threatened secession many times.) The US Congress
    adjourned March 28th. No federally elected officials in the Legislature
    can now rebuff or question what Lincoln does.

    Montgomery Blair had called an aid for service, his name being G.V. Fox.
    Fox was sent to Lincoln for further orders. Lincoln sent him to New York
    to assemble a resupply convoy for Fort Sumter. This was March 30th.
    General Winfield Scott required Lincoln’s hand written signature to carry
    out these orders.

    April 6th. Orders from Lt D.D. Porter on the USS Powhatan. Received
    orders from President Lincoln concerning Pensacola. I will execute them.
    The federal reinforcement at Pensacola is about to begin. All the while
    Lincoln is entertaining a Southern Peace delegation, delaying them, and
    no Federal Legislature to contend with. Lincoln took until July 4th to
    convene congress. Then he admitted to them he committed unconstitutional acts concerning the Southern States.

    Those acts included but NOT limited to his congressional speech:
    –Including launching an invasion of the South without consulting
    Congress, as required by the Constitution;
    –declaring martial law;
    –blockading the Southern ports;
    –suspending the writ of habeas corpus for the duration of his administration;
    –imprisoning without trial thousands of Northern citizens;
    –arresting and imprisoning newspaper publishers who were critical of him;
    (Cite ref.. Presidential War Power Louis Fisher and Spring 1997
    Volume 3, Number 1 + book Lincoln’s War)

    –censoring all telegraph communication;
    –nationalizing the railroads;
    –creating several new states without the consent of the citizens of those states;
    –ordering federal troops to interfere with the elections in the North by
    intimidating Democratic voters;
    –deporting a member of Congress, Clement L. Vallandigham of Ohio,
    for criticizing the administration’s income tax proposal at a Democratic
    Party rally;
    –confiscating private property;
    –confiscating firearms in violation of the Second Amendment;
    –and effectively gutting the ninth and 10th Amendments to the Constitution.

    April 7th, a special envoy directly from President Lincoln tells South
    Carolina Governor Pickens that Fort Sumter will be reinforced
    peaceably or by force, but it will be reinforced very shortly. South
    Carolina mobilizes while it confirms federal reinforcements are
    actually nearing.

    P.G.T. Beauregard fires on Sumter on April 12th.

    In other words, Lincoln purposely incited South Carolina to fire on Sumter.
    Lincoln’s plan worked and the Republic was destroyed…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *