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Waht if the South had Ignored Ft. Sumter? - General Civil War Talk - Civil War Talk - Civil War Interactive Discussion Board
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 Posted: Sat May 19th, 2012 06:24 pm
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grizzly
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As a Civil War hobbyist, as opposed to the very knowledgeable contributors here, I have often wondered what would have happened had the South simply ignored Ft. Sumter, and let time work for them.  Initially, there would have been no blockade, goods would have flowed back and forth and the status quo might have continued until the CSA became stronger every month, resulting in a Fait Accompli.  Then federal property could have been negotiated for.  Was the attack on Ft. Sumter based on an emotional decision led by South Carolina that, by-god, was not going to have a Federal facility in its backyard?  The attack seemed to result in a Pearl Harbor-like reaction across the North, which could have been avoided.  Or would it have just been a matter of time before the North decided it was time to get serious and act?

Any insight on this or suggested reading would be appreciated.



 Posted: Sat May 19th, 2012 07:15 pm
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Texas Defender
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grizzly-

  In March of 1861, the new Confederate Government sent representatives to WDC for the purpose of attempting to buy federal property within the boundaries of the seceded states. They were rebuffed by Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward.

  The last thing that Mr. Lincoln would ever have done would have been to sell federal property to the Confederates. It would have been a de facto recognition of the legitimacy of the Confederate Government. Mr. Lincoln's position was that the states had not in reality left the Union. He had already stated that he would not accept secession.

  Ft. Sumter commanded the entrances and exits of Charleston harbor. That was the purpose for its construction on an artificial island there. As long as the Federals remained there, they controlled the harbor. This the Confederates could not accept on a permanent basis. Still, the decision to attack the fort was the worst thing the Confederates could have done. It gave Mr. Lincoln the incident he needed to mobilize the northern population and call for volunteers to invade the southern states.

  What makes the decision to attack even worse was that it wasn't necessary. Major Anderson had already been kind enough to tell the Confederates that his provisions would run out by 15 April, and he would have to leave.

  The best course of action for the Confederates would have been to wait out Major Anderson. But hotheaded people seldom have the patience to follow their best course of action. Out of anger and belligerence, as well as fear of an all out Federal attempt to resupply the fort, they attacked on 12 April.

  If they had waited, I don't believe that it would have mattered in the end. It would only have postponed the inevitable. Mr. Lincoln would have pursued another incident in another place in order to justify raising a great army to use to reassert Federal control. The bottom line was that the Confederates were determined to leave the Union, and Mr. Lincoln was determined that they would not. Neither side would back down, so in the end, the question could only be resolved by force of arms.

 



 Posted: Sat May 19th, 2012 08:31 pm
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CleburneFan
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Texas Defender wrote:
grizzly-

    If they had waited, I don't believe that it would have mattered in the end. It would only have postponed the inevitable. Mr. Lincoln would have pursued another incident in another place in order to justify raising a great army to use to reassert Federal control. The bottom line was that the Confederates were determined to leave the Union, and Mr. Lincoln was determined that they would not. Neither side would back down, so in the end, the question could only be resolved by force of arms.

 


I agree that events in other places would have most likely moved the war forward if it hadn't begun in South Carolina instead. Just one example would be a similar incident to Fort Sumter at nearly the same time that took place at Florida's Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island at the mouth of Pensacola Bay.

I have read that actually the first shots of what would become the Civil War were fired at Fort Pickens, but I cannot find that information now to offer in evidence, so let it suffice to say shots were fired at nearly the same time in both places.

The fact is that firebrands on both sides were mentally and emotionally gearing up for war once Lincoln was elected so it wouldn't have taken much to get a war started. There were ample opportunities for hotheads to find an excuse to initiate hostilities in 1861.



 Posted: Mon May 21st, 2012 12:28 am
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Hellcat
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By April 12, 1861 seven states had seceeded and formed a seperate nation. Lincoln had said that his goal was to preserve the union, so it seems in 1861 war was inevitable.

Cleburne, this might have a little on what you're refering to. I know I read somewhere else about there actually being shots fired in January, gonna have to look around

Stationed at Fort Barrancas, U.S. Army Lieutenant Adam J. Slemmer realized that if war proved inevitable and Southern forces attacked, his small force of 51 men could not possibly defend all four forts. On January 10, 1861, the same day Florida seceded from the Union, he concentrated all his troops in Fort Pickens, which he believed was the key to the defense of Pensacola’s harbor. Two days later, Slemmer’s men watched as Southern soldiers moved into the other forts across the channel, removing the U.S. flags. Then, on January 15, soldiers from Florida and Alabama demanded the surrender of Fort Pickens. Lieutenant Slemmer refused. On January 28, 1861, a truce was reached that stated that the South would not attack and Fort Pickens would not be reinforced.

http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/38pickens/38facts1.htm



 Posted: Mon May 21st, 2012 12:41 am
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CleburneFan
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Thank you, Hellcat. You are indeed referring to the incident that led to shooting. I am going to have to dig in my books of Florida in the Civil War and find the passages in which references are made to shots being fired that actually predated the shots at Fort Sumter.

Unfortuantely my Civil War books aren't organized, just stacked randomly pretty much as I read them, so it will take awhile to dig out the material.



 Posted: Mon May 21st, 2012 12:56 am
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Hellcat
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CleburneFan wrote:
Unfortuantely my Civil War books aren't organized, just stacked randomly pretty much as I read them, so it will take awhile to dig out the material.

That sounds a little familar. Only instead of as I read them it's more as best suits stability to a stack for me. Really need a bookshelf. But at least I have somewhat of an idea where to look for things.



 Posted: Mon May 21st, 2012 01:17 am
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CleburneFan
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As a shortcut, I did a quick Google search and found two references that say something on the order of "Some historians believe these were the first shots fired by Union forces in the Civil War."

My books have more detail than either of these web sites, but suffice it to say that it is a wonder that the Fort Pickens incident didn't become the actual start of the war, but it was overshadowed by Fort Sumter, perhaps because the South Carolinins were far better organized than Floridians were at that particular point.

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Pickens

http://www.tulane.edu/~latner/Pickens.html



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 Posted: Wed May 23rd, 2012 08:06 pm
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HankC
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as a side nugget, the large masonry forts were the result of policy changes (from the war of 1812!) built over a period of (up to) 40 years and many were obsolete before they were finished (note the effect of rifled rounds on fort sumter later in the war).

their obvious intent is to protect key harbors (never real sure of the need for fort jefferson in the dry tortugas).

the forts themselves were not intended to be occupies until a threat materialized.

rather, the garrisons would be quartered ashore and move to the fort as needed...



 Posted: Thu May 24th, 2012 01:36 am
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Hellcat
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HankC wrote:
(never real sure of the need for fort jefferson in the dry tortugas).

http://www.nps.gov/drto/historyculture/index.htm
Fort Jefferson, the largest all-masonry fort in the United States, was built between 1846 and 1875 to protect the nation's gateway to the Gulf of Mexico.

http://www.nps.gov/drto/historyculture/places.htm
Once Florida was acquisitioned in 1822, the United States began planning the creation of a large fort in the Dry Tortugas. The United States believed the 75-mile-wide straits connecting the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Ocean were critical to protect, as any forces who tried to occupy the area could gain control over Gulf Coast trading.

I read somewhere that a Commodore John Rodgers actually pushed for occupation of the the Dry Tortugas because there was an outer and inner harbor with the inner harbor being deep enough to allow ship-of-the-line ships to drop anchor and if a foreign power should control the Dry Tortugas then nothing short of naval superiority could dislodge them if they wanted to hamper US use of the Gulf Coast. Fort Jefferson was just about control of the straits connecting the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic.



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 Posted: Sat Jun 23rd, 2012 01:22 am
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MildMan
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I agree that firing on Ft Sumpter was a blunder. Sure something was bound to happen sometime, but it was the attack on US soldiers and US property that galvanized the northern citizenry. It was that event that committed ordinary citizens to fight. Better to let the north invade and make the first mistake.

I have read that Ft Sumpter was intended to steer Virginia to secession - so an impetuous act of war was taken to influence politics.

My sense is that the confederacy would have been better off waiting - not only because time would have allowed the them to better prepare but because it would not have created a cause for the north. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Instead confederate leaders believed their own rhetoric.



 Posted: Mon Jun 25th, 2012 01:44 pm
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HankC
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The upper south states (Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia) contain well over half of the eventual CSA population.

Secessionist leaders are leery that the seceded states will drift to a state of conciliation and re-union without some galvanizing, uniting event…



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 Posted: Tue Jun 26th, 2012 07:06 pm
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HankC
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there's not much evidence that CSA leaders were thinking 'internationally' in April 1861.

they were looking to consolidate political power and add states to their fledgling nation...



 Posted: Tue Jun 26th, 2012 09:51 pm
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borderuffian
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Savez wrote: The Confederate leaders were looking to be recognized as a sovereign nation. They couldn't wait and let Sumter be resupplied and reinforced. They would have looked like an international joke. The Union was almost in the same boat. How would they have looked on an international scale if they had gave Sumter up?
Exactly...



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