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"Evacuation of Fort Sumter!"

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When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated president in March, 1861, he faced a serious problem: South Carolina had seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860, the first state to do so. Fort Sumter stood on an island in the middle of Charleston harbor and was a visible symbol of federal authority. Lame-duck president James Buchanan felt that it was unconstitutional to coerce states to stay in the union (although he also felt secession was unconstitutional). As a result he did nothing when an unarmed supply vessel, the Star of the West, was fired upon by Confederate gunners. Consequently, the fort was short of supplies. Abraham Lincoln pledged in his inaugural address delivered March 4 that he would "hold, occupy and possess" any federal installations in the south. This article was printed March 18, just days after the inaugural address. On March 5, Major Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter, sent the president a message saying he had only forty days supply. The dilemma of what to do about the fort consumed the president for weeks, a debate that spilled into the press. At the end of March Lincoln decided, against his cabinet's advise, to attempt to supply the fort and he sent the governor of South Carolina a note informing him. The governor had already been authorized to resist this by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. On April 12, before the ships could arrive, the governor authorized the first guns to fire upon the fort, starting the Civil War.


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