The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

Fort Sumter

Who moved next? Who held the initiative after Fort Sumter?

Lincoln had cleverly maneuvered the Confederates into a bad position. Even though he could summon three times as many soldiers, and perhaps ten times as much industrial power, the Confederates were seen as the aggressors. This allowed Lincoln to issue a proclamation, on April 15, 1861, asking the states of the Union for a total of 75,000 volunteers to serve for three months’ time. The secretary of war sent the specific request to the governors of all the states: the total requested came to ninety-seven regiments with the largest requests being for New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Lincoln played his hand well. When he sent out the proclamation, it went to all the loyal states plus the Border States. By that simple action, Lincoln continued to refuse to admit any loss to the Union, which, in his mind, was perpetual. Nor did he dignify the actions at Fort Sumter with terms such as “war” or even “rebellion.” Lincoln acted as if this would be a police action that would be over in three months’ time.


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