Fort Sumter

Only hours after being sworn in, Lincoln faced the most momentous decision in presidential history

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln’s first day in office, a letter from Maj. Robert Anderson, commander of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, landed on the new president’s desk, informing him the garrison would run out of provisions in a month or six weeks. Read more >>

Every presidential election is exciting when it happens. Then the passing of time usually makes the outcome seem less than crucial. But after more than a century and a quarter, the election of 1860 retains its terrible urgency.

In the crowded months between the beginning of the 1860 presidential campaign and the attack on Fort Sumter, it is easy now to see the emergence of Abraham Lincoln as something preordained, as though the issues had manufactured a figure commensurate with their importance. Read more >>

THE WAY I SEE IT

For an example of the way an incident of the distant past can put a revealing light on a problem of today, you might care to spend a moment considering the case of the Swamp Angel. Read more >>

Was the old South solidly for slavery and secession? An eminent historian disputes a long-cherished view of that region’s history