President Lincoln Plans Fort Sumter Expedition

Montgomery Meigs

Friday, March 29, 1861

President Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward meet with Captain Montgomery Meigs on relief expedition for Ft. Pickens and Fort Sumter. “The President talked freely with me,” Union Army officer Montgomery Meigs wrote in his diary on March 29, 1861. “I told him that men enough could be found to volunteer to endeavor to relieve Fort Sumter, but that persons of higher position and rank than myself thought it not to be attempted, that this was not the place to make the war, etc. He asked me whether Fort Pickens could be held. I told him certainly if the Navy had done its duty and not lost it already. The President asked whether I could not go down there again and take a general command of these three great fortresses [Pickens at the western end of Santa Rosa Island, off Pensacola; Taylor at Key West; and Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas] and keep them safe. I told him I was only a captain and could not command majors who were there. He must take an officer of higher rank. Mr. Seward roke out with ‘I can understand too how that is, Captain Meigs, you have got to be promoted.’ I said, ‘That cannot be done; I am a captain and there is no vacancy.’ But Mr. Seward told the President that if he wished to have this thing done the proper way was to put it into my charge and it would be done, that I would give him an estimate of the means by 4 P.M. of the next day. He [Seward] complimented me much. Said that when Pitt wished to take Quebec he did not send for an old general but he sent for a young man whom he had noticed in the society of London, named [James] Wolfe, and told him that he had selected him to take Quebec, to ask for the necessary means and do it and it was done. Would the President do this now? He [Lincoln] replied that he would consider on it and would let me know in a day or two.”

After an emergency Cabinet meeting at which Lincoln announces reinforcement of Fort Sumter, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles writes: “I concur in the proposition to send an armed force off Charleston with supplies of provisions and reinforcements for the garrison at for Sumter, and of communicating, at the proper time, the intentions of the government to provision the forts, peaceably if unmolested. There is little probability that this will be permitted, if the opposing forces can prevent it. An attempt to force in provision, without reinforcing the garrison at the same time, might not be advisable. But armed resistance to a peaceable attempt to send provisions to one of our own forts will justify the government in using all the power at its command, to reenforce the garrison and furnish the necessary supplies.
Fort Pickens and other places retained should be strengthened by additional roops, and, if possible made impregnable. The naval force in the gulf and on the southern coast should be increased. Accounts are published that vessels, having on board marketable products for the crews of the Squadron at Pensacola are sized — the inhabitants we know are prohibited from punishing the ships with provisions or water; and the time has arrived, when it is the duty of the government to assess and maintain its authority.

Published in: on March 19, 2011 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Lincoln Cabinet Meeting Held on Fort Sumter

Saturday, March 9, 1861

Cabinet meeting on Fort Sumter at night as concern mounts over its fate. Navy Secretary Gideon Welles maintains that a relief exposition could be successful without first destroying the Charleston forts. General Winfield Scott disagrees.

Attorney General Edward Bates writes in his diary: “I was astonished to be informed that Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor must be evacuated and that gen. Scott, Gen. Totten, and Major Anderson concur in opinion that, as the place has but 28 days provisions, it must be relieved, if at all, in that time; and that it will take a force of 20,000 men, at least, and a bloody battle, to relieve it!’

New England’s Cabinet Nominee

Saturday, January 5, 1861

Leonard Swett reports from Washington to President-elect Lincoln about possible New England nominees for the Cabinet. He begins with the eventual designee: Connecticut editor Gideon Welles:

Gideon Welles

“I have heard no one find fault with Mr Wells[.] Every body seems to think it would be a very good appointment Pitt Fessenden said although he did not know him personally he thought well of him. Of course if you appoint Wells [Charles Francis] Adams’ friends will howl & visa versa. There is not a Congressman here who don’t think you ought to consult him & take him or his friend in the Cabinet. From all I can learn of the Town I think by the time you had been a week you would either be bored to death or in a condition in which you never could sensibly determine any thing. From all I can learn I do think Wells is the best that can be done in New E. although I did not before I came.”
President-elect Lincoln meets with Ohio’s Salmon P. Chase, the future Treasury secretary, and New Hampshire’s Amos Tuck, who is interested in the lucrative position of collector of Boston.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Secession Process Intensifies

Monday, December 10, 1860

In Charleston, Francis W. Pickens takes office as governor of South Carolina which continues to move toward secession.

In Springfield, President-elect Lincoln attempts to stiffen Republican resolve against any compromise that involves the extension of slavery. He writes Illinois Senator Lyman Trumbull a letter – which over the next few days would be replicated in different forms to other Republican congressmen from Illinois: “Let there be no compromise on the question of extending slavery. If there be, all our labor is lost, and, ere long, must be done again. The dangerous ground—that into which some of our friends have a hankering to run—is Pop. Sov. Have none of it. Stand firm. The tug has to come, & better now, than any time hereafter.”

Connecticut editor Gideon Welles, who will become secretary of the Navy in the Lincoln administration, writes him: “I would not intrude uponyou, but to offer my congratulations on the result of the late election, but our friend Gen’l Welch expressed an earnest desire that I would write you on the subject of issugin a document in some form that shoudl appease the discontented and violent portion ofour countrymen who have been defeated. At no time have I entertained an apprehension thatyou would sent out a proclamation or an official paper before you were in office, and your note to Mr. Fogg settles this question, but as it had been asserted so authoritatively and the temper exhibited in certain quarters is so excited, Gen’l W. (who has known my opinions) wishes me to say how cordially I approve of your conclusions. This I do most cheerfully and unqualifiedly…What then is to be done? Must we be maligned and misrepresented for the nextg three months? Shall the present hostile and erroneous feeling go on increasing. I am sorry to believe that the Administration and its partisans wish it. He suggested that Lincoln set forth his political position in a letter to a friend that might be reprinted.