The U.S. Civil War

Was the South Claim of Right to Secession the Possible Cause of US Civil War?

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The election of Abraham Lincoln as Union President on November 6th prompted Southern Carolina Legislature, acting on instructions from Governor Gist, to pass a law inviting a convention of the State’s people to discuss the situation of remaining as a state in the Federal Union (Donovan, 2002). The State expected to hold the convention in the capital of Columbia on December 17, 1960. However, the outbreak of smallpox scuttled the Convention no sooner had the delegates assembled at First Baptist Church in Columbia. It was later held in Charleston on 20th December, 1860. The Ordinance of secession was passed on this convention (Catton, 2004).

Southern Carolinian citizens made it clear that they were not rebelling from United States of America. Rather, they had pulled themselves out from the Union of States they had voluntarily enlisted after successful American Revolution. To popularize their intention, they issued; “Declaration of Immediate Causes which induced and justified secession of South Carolina from Federal Union” (Catton, 2004).

Significant forts held by the federal government

The Secretary of War had instructed the commander of the Federal garrison major Anderson at the time of secession, not to commit any provocative action and to hold federal forts in the area and to defend them by all means. Among the forts available in the area included: Castle Pinckney, situated on a small Island in the harbour near the city; Fort Moultrie, situated on Sullivan Island; Fort Johnson, situated on James Island; and Fort Sumter, situated on a manmade Island at the entrance to the harbour (Donavan, 2002). Major Anderson and his brigade were stationed in Fort Moultrie. The regiment was large enough to hold more than one of the forts. For that matter, it was agreed upon that Fort Sumter was the most viable to secure. On the night of December 26th, 1860, that is, six day s after secession of Southern Carolina, Major Anderson and his regiment left Fort Moultrie secretly to Fort Sumter. This move was interpreted by South Carolina as an aggression, even though even though Major Anderson’s actions were not intended to be aggressive. As such, Southern Carolina protested to President Buchanan that fort Sumter be evacuated. President Buchanan rebutted complains from Southern Carolinians. With Fort Sumter fully secured by federal troops and South Carolina protesting aggressively, a volatile situation was established (Catton, 2004).

The US government faced a daunting task of resupplying the troops now stationed at Fort Sumter. In this effect, President Buchanan ordered shipment of more men, supplies and arms to Fort Sumter (Catton, 2004). At first, they had contemplated to use a warship to take reinforcements, but were persuaded that unarmed merchant ship would look less threatening to South Carolina. Consequently, the merchant ship loaded with 200 soldiers as well as arms and ammunition, left for Fort Sumter. As the merchant ship approached the Island on January 9, 1862, she was attacked by a group of Citadel Cadets located on Morris Island (Carlisle, 2007). Major Anderson was ready to respond back to the attacks; however, before he could do so, the ship turned around and left the harbour (Catton, 2004).

Was the question of Slavery the Cause of American civil War?

Confederate States of America was later established on February 4th, 1861 in Montgomery, Alabama (Johnson, 2004). At that point, the State of Southern Carolina was longer operating in isolation. Five other South States had joined in the Confederacy, and they included; Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, and Louisiana. Confederacy States strongly agitated for rights of States and rights of States to continue supporting the institution of slavery (Donovan, 2002). The first person to be elected as President of the Confederation States of America was Davis Jefferson of Mississippi and Alexander of Georgia was elected its vice President (Carlisle, 2007).

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The Confederation of States of America (CSA) was later joined by Texas. Sir Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated a month later after formation of CSA. In his inaugural address, Lincoln pledged the power confided in him to hold, occupy and posse property and places belonging to government (Johnson, 2004). According to Catton (2004), the federal government at the time had just two major properties in seceded States: Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida and Fort Sumter. The new President then was in dilemma how he would handle the situation on those Forts. He was not decided on whether to begin war, yet he understood the need to resupply the forts before too long. It was not easy for President Lincoln to reinforce the forts and maintain them in the hands of federal government without provoking hostilities. He even contemplated ways of getting the South to fire on him so that USA could be justified in applying force to reinstating the confederate States back to the fold (Catton, 2004).

Attack on fort of Sumter

Compromise attempts between federal government and seceded states failed completely. While these attempts to solve the issue were being tried, supplies at the forts were running out. At last, President Lincoln was forced to act. He notified Pickens the newly elected Southern Carolina Governor the intended dispatch of a fleet to carry supplies to men at fort Sumter, reiterating only provisions (Johnson, 2004). He promised not to dispatch any men, arms or ammunitions to the fort with a condition that the fleet or the fort is not attacked. In Charleston, the Confederate troops under the command of Beauregard had warned Major Anderson to evacuate the fort on April 11th, 1861. Anderson replied back refusing to comply, but adding that he and his men would be starved out soon if reinforcements were not provided (Catton, 2004).

On realising how close federal supply ships were, Major Beauregard authorized bombing of federal positions on 12th, April 1861 (Donavan, 2002). The first attack was executed from St, Johnson and James Island by soldiers under Captain James of South Carolina Artillery. This caused full blown escalation of American Civil War. The fort was bombarded for 34 hours until Captain Anderson conceded to surrender the fort that shelling was halted (Carlisle, 2007). Overwhelmed by sheer numbers of Confederate army, Major Anderson and his men were forced to lower USA flag from the fort and boarded a ship to New York. He returned back exactly four years later to Charleston and fort Sumter on April 14th 1861 to a gain raise the flag he had lowered in 1861 bringing a symbolic end of the Civil War (Catton, 2004).

Reference List

Carlisle, R. (2007). Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: InfoBase Publishing.

Catton, B., & McPherson, J. (2004). The Civil War. New York: Houghton Muffin Harcourt.

Donovan, T. (2002). The American Civil War. New York: Square One Publisher.

Johnson, R., & Buel, C. (2004). Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. Kentucky: Kissinger Publishing.

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