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Showdown at Fort Sumter by Steve Payne

Author says: what if the Confederacy didn't open fire at Fort Sumter? What is the historical significant of firing the first shot for Pearl Harbor, the Cuban Quarantine... or Iraq - was it fundamentally unamerican as perhaps Lincoln would have thought? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).


In 1861, on April 8th the commander at Charleston Harbor, General P.G.T. Beauregard (pictured, left) was instructed "under no circumstances are you to prevent provisions to be sent to Fort Sumter" in a telegraph from the Confederate Secretary of War, Leroy Pope Walker.

Since his inauguration on March 4th, President Abraham Lincoln (pictured below, right) been under intense pressure to order the evacuation of Major Robert Anderson and his garrison from Fort Sumter. Believing that giving up the Fort meant giving up the Union, the decision to evacuate had been postponed so long that the only option now appeared to be unconditional surrender. But during the last week of March, Northern opinion against evacuation had hardened.

The confrontation appeared to have reached a point of no turn when the Fort ran out of provisions. But in a stroke of genius, acting upon a suggestion from Gustavus V. Fox, Lincoln chose to resupply by sending unarmed tugs carrying provisions instead of using warships to force Charleston Harbour.

The trouble was that Lincoln had only been a Commander-in-Chief for four weeks. His only military service consisted of just thirty days as a captain of volunteers and fifty days as a private entering the fight against Chief Black Hawk's Sac and Fox Indian tribe under General Zachary Taylor. Records show he was an ineffective leader of men, having been reprimanded twice, once for failing to stop his men from stealing Army booze and getting drunk and again for shooting off their weapons in camp. When his thirty-day hitch as an officer was up, he signed over as a private in an Independent Ranger company, and when that was over, in twenty days, he reupped for thirty more in an Independent Spy Corps.

Whereas his adversary, the Confederate President Jefferson Davis (pictured, left) had served with great distinction as the 23rd US Secretary of War. As a result of this superior experience, Davis immediately sensed that it was a trap to fire the first shop by attacking a "mission of humanity" bringing "food for hungry men".

Realising that Lincoln had been outplayed by a master, fears for the preservation of the Union began to grow.

Perhaps there were something worst than a Civil War. Cessation without an armed struggle, or perhaps a belligerent response from the Union might provoke intervention from the other Great Powers.

Author says the idea for this story originated from the source articles original content has been repurposed to celebrate the author's genius McPherson, James M. "1861: showdown at Sumter: only hours after being sworn in, Lincoln faced the most momentous decision in presidential history" published in the Winter 2010 Edition of American Heritage Magazine and also Henshaw: Bits of Lincoln trivia on his 200th
For another interesting scenario for the Battle of Fort Sumter we recommend this page on the Google Discussions Group.
To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Other Contemporary Stories

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Steve Payne

Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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