Lincoln Could He Have Preserved The Union

Essay, Research Paper

From the time the South demanded the return

of Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens, tension had been building in expectation

of Lincoln?s reply. The options available to Lincoln were limited,

and those that were available were further limited by constraints of time

and man-power.

Lincoln?s options were also limited by

his goals. Lincoln had a set agenda, with preserving the Union at

the head of the list. Lincoln also aimed to preserve Fort Sumter

and Fort Pickens. Lincoln?s most pressing goal was to instigate the

war without seeming to be the aggressor. This proved to be the most

difficult goal, because to achieve this, he had to know how far to push

without seeming to push at all. An additional goal was to perhaps

lure the border states onto the northern side. This was an important

goal because it fell in line with Lincoln?s un-hostile attitude. By being

attacked first, he could say he was responding to an act of war on the

United States.

One of Lincoln?s options was to sit by

and do nothing. This was not really an option, however, because abandoning

his soldiers at this fort would not only lower the morale of his entire

army, but could also turn many of his supporters against him. So, needless

to say, Lincoln could not really consider this as an option. Lincoln, for

a time, also entertained the idea of compromise. The southern resolve

was so concrete that this idea was abandoned rather quickly.

Another idea, proposed by Secretary of

State Seward, was to abandon Fort Sumter and concentrate on Fort Pickens.

Lincoln did not accept this idea either, mainly because abandoning a fort

anywhere in the South would recognize the South as an independent nation.

Even so, Seward managed to get a force together, and taking one of the

strongest ships in the United States Navy, went to Pickens anyway.

One idea with similar traits was the idea to abandon both forts, leaving

the South. Though open to consideration, this was not at all in line

with Lincoln?s thinking. Again this would recognize the South as

an independent nation, which would finalize the secession.

For lack of a better idea, some suggested

the reinforcing of the forts, to protect them from bombardment. This

idea was cast aside also, because, first of all, Fort Sumter lies in between

two points of land, both protected by forts. To make this idea work,

those forts would have to be taken, too. Lincoln could not amass

the needed number of soldiers, either. Secondly, the thought of risking

more lives on just a pile of rock in the middle of a harbor was not appealing.

Considering the resolve of the Southern

states, Lincoln for a while considered a military invasion. This,

however, was not feasible. Lincoln?s forces were so scattered, it

would take weeks on end to produce enough soldiers to achieve this goal.

An estimate by General in chief Scott suggested ?5,000 regular troops and

20,000 volunteers.? (Current 50) The time frame for collecting this number

of soldiers was much greater than the supplies in Sumter could last.

Fort Sumter was also reinforced by surrounding forts in Charleston Harbor,

meaning a loss of soldiers could be expected also.

Lincoln?s most favored option, the one

he eventually went with, was to take a non-aggressive force into the harbor,

carrying supplies in to the short-rationed soldiers. Although Lincoln

went in under peaceful pretenses, one could assume that he was attempting

to achieve his goal of appearing to be the tormented, not the tormentor.

His ploy worked, and the South did as predicted and fired upon the re-supply

fleet. By achieving his non-aggressor goal, Lincoln also strengthened

his case for winning the border states.

Lincoln was faced with a dilemma when he

had to decide between peace or unity. The southern resolve eliminated

any chance of compromise, so Lincoln had to chose the route which seemed

the best for the Union. He could not be seen as aggressive, because

if he did he risked losing the support of the border states, which could

reduce the Union to nothing. To reiterate, the southern states? hard

nose attitude encouraged no deliberation, so no compromise could have ever

been achieved. Lincoln, in light of this incident, might not

be seen as your typical image of ?Honest Abe?, but he comes shining through

as a great leader.


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