Learning Lincoln On-line

FROM-- SET ONE, CIVIL WAR STUDIES

Topic Fifty:  Abraham Lincoln Commanding the War

 

FIGHTING BEGINS: 1861–1862

After Union troops at Fort Sumter were fired upon and forced to surrender in April 1861, Lincoln called on governors of every state to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and "preserve the Union", which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. Virginia, which had repeatedly warned Lincoln it would not allow an invasion of its territory or join an attack on another state, then seceded, along with North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Nevins argues that Lincoln made three serious mistakes at this point. He at first underestimated the strength of the Confederacy, assuming that 75,000 troops could end the insurrection in 90 days. Second, he overestimated the strength of Unionist sentiment in the South and border states; he assumed he could call the bluff of the insurrectionists and they would fade away. Finally he misunderstood the demands of Unionists in the border states, who warned they would not support an invasion of the Confederacy

The slave states of Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware did not secede, and Lincoln urgently negotiated with state leaders there, promising not to interfere with slavery in loyal states. After the fighting started, he had rebel leaders arrested in all the border areas and held in military prisons without trial; over 18,000 were arrested. None was executed; one — Clement Vallandigham — was exiled; all were released, usually after two or three months


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