Fort Sumter For Virginia

In 1861 newly elected President Abraham Lincoln was faced with how to keep the country together, something he earnestly desired. Despite his repeated assurances that he would never bother slavery in the States where it was already in place and his support of a Constitutional amendment that would state that slavery could never be disturbed in those states, seven deep south states had succeeded and eight border states were threatening to. The seven succeeded states had formed themselves into a Confederacy and were demanding that the Federal government abandon Fort Sumter in South Carolina or be forced to do so. Lincoln knew that if he did not abandon the fort Civil War would be inaugurated.

During this time, a peace conference was being held in Washington, D.C. with 131 leading politicians from both North and South gathered to try to come up with a compromise that would keep the border states in the Union. The Peace Conference eventually failed but in the process a delegation from the conference, including three delegates from Virginia, the most important/influential border state, came to Lincoln to discuss possible compromises. Virginia had recently held a secession convention which had voted to stay in the Union. The convention had remained in session however, monitoring events, ready for a potential new vote as the situation developed. Lincoln attempted to negotiate with these Virginia delegates by offering to withdraw troops from Fort Sumter if the Virginia Secession Convention would break up (detailed in “The Approaching Fury”, page 400). The Virginia conference delegates said they had no authority to agree to this and Lincoln never acted on it. However, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has noted in her book, “Team of Rivals”, that one of Lincoln’s friends, Thurlow Weed, insisted that on at least three occasions, Lincoln said if he could keep Virginia in the Union, he would give up Fort Sumter.

Four of the eight border states, including Virginia, eventually succeeded after Fort Sumter was fired upon and Lincoln called for troops, but presumedly Lincoln would have entertained letting the lower Southern states succeed if he could have kept Virginia in the Union which very well might have kept North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas in the Union as well due to Virginia’s influence. It is very interesting to contemplate that succession might have succeeded without a destructive Civil War and we would have had much different countries today, America and the Confederacy.

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