After reading the three opinions below, imagine that you are President Lincoln, faced with making this difficult decision. Would you have chosen to risk war by resupplying the fort, or would you have elected to let Fort Sumter fall in hopes of finding a more diplomatic solution to the mounting secession crisis? Write a response to your cabinet members, explaining and justifying your decision. What consequences, positive and negative, do you anticipate? How might your actions affect relations between the Union and South Carolina? How will the other Southern states considering secession interpret your actions? What steps should be taken next?
Mr. [Gideon] Welles, Secretary of the Navy wrote:
Fort Pickens and other places retained should be strengthened by additional troops, and, if possible, made impregnable.
The naval force in the gulf and on the southern coast should be increased. Accounts are published that vessels having on board marketable products for the crews of the squadron at Pensacola are seized—the inhabitants we know are prohibited from furnishing the ships with provisions or water; and the time has arrived when it is the duty of the government to assert and maintain its authority.
Mr. [William] Seward, Secretary of State, wrote:
The fact of preparation for such an expedition would inevitably transpire, and would therefore precipitate the war, and probably defeat the object. I do not think it wise to provoke a civil war beginning at Charleston, and in rescue of an untenable position.
Therefore I advise against the expedition in every view.
Second. I would call in Captain M. C. Meigs forthwith. Aided by his counsel, I would at once, and at every cost, prepare for a war at Pensacola and Texas: to be taken, however, only as a consequence of maintaining the possessions and authority of the United States.
Third. I would instruct Major Anderson to retire from Sumter forthwith.
Mr. [Montgomery] Blair, Postmaster-General, wrote:
Second. It is acknowledged to be possible to relieve Fort Sumter. It ought to be relieved without reference to Pickens or any other possession. South Carolina is the head and front of this rebellion, and when that State is safely delivered from the authority of the United Stares it will strike a blow against our authority from which it will take us years of bloody strife to recover.
Third. For my own part, I am unwilling to share in the responsibility of such a policy.