Showdown At 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. Lincoln had to make his first, and one of his most important, decisions as commander in chief. Would he keep his inaugural vow to “hold, occupy and possess these, and all other property and places belonging to the government” at the risk of starting a war that might drive the rest of the slave states into the Confederacy?Read more »