BECK index


Civil War Begins

by Sanderson Beck



March 4, 1861

PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN and ABRAHAM LINCOLN arrive in an open carriage between double files of a squadron of the District of Columbia cavalry behind a company of sappers and miners and followed by the DC infantry and riflemen. Riflemen are placed on the roofs and in windows to watch windows on the opposite side, and DC troops are also stationed near the steps of the Capitol. The dome of the Capital is under construction with the top portion missing.


Buchanan and Lincoln are attending with the Senators as CHIEF JUSTICE ROGER TANEY is administering the oath of office to Vice President HANNIBAL HAMLIN.

I, Hannibal Hamlin, do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute the Office of
Vice President of the United States,
and will to the best of my ability,
preserve, protect and defend
the Constitution of the United States.


Buchanan, Lincoln, and other dignitaries come out of the Senate chamber onto the platform constructed beyond the portico. Lincoln cannot find a place to put his hat and is about to put it on the floor when STEPHEN DOUGLAS kindly takes it from him and holds it on his lap during the speech. SENATOR EDWARD BAKER introduces Lincoln, who puts on his glasses and reads his inaugural address.

Fellow citizens, I introduce to you,
Abraham Lincoln,
the President-Elect of the United States.

Fellow citizens of the United States:
In compliance with a custom
as old as the Government itself,
I appear before you to address you briefly
and to take in your presence the oath
prescribed by the Constitution of the United States
to be taken by the President
before he enters on the execution of this office.
I do not consider it necessary at present for me
to discuss those matters of administration
about which there is no
special anxiety or excitement.

Apprehension seems to exist
among the people of the southern states that
by the accession of a Republican administration
their property and their peace
and personal security are to be endangered.
There has never been any reasonable cause
for such apprehension.
Indeed, the most ample evidence to the contrary
has all the while existed
and been open to their inspection.
It is found in nearly all the published speeches
of him who now addresses you.
I do but quote from one of those speeches
when I declare that—
“I have no purpose, directly or indirectly,
to interfere with the institution of slavery
in the states where it exists.”
I believe I have no lawful right to do so,
and I have no inclination to do so.
Those who nominated and elected me
did so with full knowledge that
I had made this and many similar declarations
and had never recanted them;
and more than this,
they placed in the platform for my acceptance,
and as a law to themselves and to me,
the clear and emphatic resolution
which I now read:
“Resolved, that the maintenance inviolate
of the rights of the states,
and especially the right of each state
to order and control its own domestic institutions
according to its own judgment exclusively,
is essential to that balance of power
on which the perfection and endurance
of our political fabric depend;
and we denounce the lawless invasion
by armed force of the soil
of any state or territory,
no matter what pretext,
as among the gravest of crimes.”

I now reiterate these sentiments,
and in doing so I only
press upon the public attention
the most conclusive evidence
of which the case is susceptible
that the property, peace, and security
of no section are to be in any wise endangered
by the now incoming administration.
I add, too, that all the protection which,
consistently with the Constitution and the laws,
can be given will be cheerfully given
to all the states when lawfully demanded,
for whatever cause—
as cheerfully to one section as to another.
There is much controversy
about the delivering up of fugitives
from service or labor.
The clause I now read is
as plainly written in the Constitution
as any other of its provisions:
“No person held to service or labor
in one state, under the laws thereof,
escaping into another, shall in consequence
of any law or regulation therein
be discharged from such service or labor,
but shall be delivered up
on claim of the party to whom
such service or labor may be due.”
It is scarcely questioned that this provision
was intended by those who made it
for the reclaiming of what
we call fugitive slaves;
and the intention of the lawgiver is the law.
All members of Congress swear their support
to the whole Constitution—
to this provision as much as to any other.
To the proposition, then,
that slaves whose cases
come within the terms of this clause
“shall be delivered up”
their oaths are unanimous.
Now, if they would make
the effort in good temper,
could they not with nearly equal unanimity
frame and pass a law by means of which
to keep good that unanimous oath?
There is some difference of opinion
whether this clause should be enforced
by national or by state authority,
but surely that difference
is not a very material one.
If the slave is to be surrendered,
it can be of but little consequence to him
or to others by which authority it is done.
And should anyone in any case
be content that his oath shall go unkept
on a merely unsubstantial controversy
as to how it shall be kept?

Again, in any law upon this subject
ought not all the safeguards of liberty
known in civilized and humane
jurisprudence to be introduced,
so that a free man be not in any case
surrendered as a slave?
And might it not be well
at the same time to provide by law
for the enforcement of that clause
in the Constitution which guarantees that
“the citizens of each state shall be entitled
to all privileges and immunities
of citizens in the several states?”
I take the official oath today
with no mental reservations
and with no purpose to construe
the Constitution or laws
by any hypercritical rules;
and while I do not choose now
to specify particular acts of Congress
as proper to be enforced,
I do suggest that it will be much safer for all,
both in official and private stations,
to conform to and abide by all those acts
which stand unrepealed
than to violate any of them
trusting to find impunity
in having them held to be unconstitutional.

It is seventy-two years
since the first inauguration of a President
under our national Constitution.
During that period fifteen different
and greatly distinguished citizens
have in succession administered
the executive branch of the Government.
They have conducted it through many perils,
and generally with great success.
Yet, with all this scope of precedent,
I now enter upon the same task
for the brief constitutional term of four years
under great and peculiar difficulty.
A disruption of the Federal Union,
heretofore only menaced,
is now formidably attempted.
I hold that in contemplation of
universal law and of the Constitution
the Union of these states is perpetual.
Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed,
in the fundamental law
of all national governments.
It is safe to assert that no government proper
ever had a provision in its organic law
for its own termination.
Continue to execute all the express provisions
of our national Constitution,
and the Union will endure forever,
it being impossible to destroy it
except by some action
not provided for in the instrument itself.
Again, if the United States be
not a government proper,
but an association of states
in the nature of contract merely,
can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade
by less than all the parties who made it?
One party to a contract may violate it—
break it, so to speak—
but does it not require all
to lawfully rescind it?
Descending from these general principles,
we find the proposition that
in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual
confirmed by the history of the Union itself.
The Union is much older than the Constitution.
It was formed, in fact,
by the Articles of Association in 1774.
It was matured and continued
by the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
It was further matured,
and the faith of all the then thirteen states
expressly plighted and engaged
that it should be perpetual,
by the Articles of Confederation in 1778.
And finally, in 1787,
one of the declared objects for ordaining
and establishing the Constitution
was “to form a more perfect Union.”
But if destruction of the Union
by one or by a part only of the states
be lawfully possible,
the Union is less perfect
than before the Constitution,
having lost the vital element of perpetuity.
It follows from these views that
no state upon its own mere motion
can lawfully get out of the Union;
that resolves and ordinances
to that effect are legally void,
and that acts of violence
within any state or states
against the authority of the United States
are insurrectionary or revolutionary,
according to circumstances.
I therefore consider that
in view of the Constitution and the laws
the Union is unbroken,
and to the extent of my ability,
I shall take care,
as the Constitution itself
expressly enjoins upon me,
that the laws of the Union
be faithfully executed in all the states.
Doing this I deem to be
only a simple duty on my part,
and I shall perform it so far as practicable
unless my rightful masters,
the American people,
shall withhold the requisite means
or in some authoritative manner
direct the contrary.
I trust this will not be regarded as a menace,
but only as the declared purpose of the Union
that it will constitutionally
defend and maintain itself.
In doing this there needs to be
no bloodshed or violence,
and there shall be none
unless it be forced upon the national authority.
The power confided to me will be used
to hold, occupy, and possess the property
and places belonging to the Government
and to collect the duties and imposts;
but beyond what may be
necessary for these objects,
there will be no invasion,
no using of force against
or among the people anywhere.
Where hostility to the United States
in any interior locality
shall be so great and universal
as to prevent competent resident citizens
from holding the Federal offices,
there will be no attempt to force
obnoxious strangers among the people
for that object.
While the strict legal right may exist
in the Government to enforce
the exercise of these offices,
the attempt to do so would be so irritating
and so nearly impracticable withal
that I deem it better to forego for the time
the uses of such offices.
The mails, unless repelled, will continue
to be furnished in all parts of the Union.
So far as possible the people everywhere
shall have that sense of perfect security
which is most favorable
to calm thought and reflection.
The course here indicated will be followed
unless current events and experience
shall show a modification
or change to be proper,
and in every case and exigency
my best discretion will be exercised,
according to circumstances actually existing
and with a view and a hope
of a peaceful solution of the national troubles
and the restoration
of fraternal sympathies and affections.

That there are persons in one section or another
who seek to destroy the Union at all events
and are glad of any pretext to do it
I will neither affirm nor deny;
but if there be such,
I need address no word to them.
To those, however, who really love the Union
may I not speak?
Before entering upon so grave a matter
as the destruction of our national fabric,
with all its benefits,
its memories, and its hopes,
would it not be wise to ascertain
precisely why we do it?
Will you hazard so desperate a step
while there is any possibility
that any portion of the ills you fly from
have no real existence?
Will you, while the certain ills you fly to
are greater than all the real ones you fly from,
will you risk the commission
of so fearful a mistake?
All profess to be content in the Union
if all constitutional rights can be maintained.
Is it true, then, that any right plainly written
in the Constitution has been denied?
I think not.
Happily, the human mind is so constituted
that no party can reach
to the audacity of doing this.
Think, if you can, of a single instance
in which a plainly written provision
of the Constitution has ever been denied.
If by the mere force of numbers
a majority should deprive a minority
of any clearly written constitutional right,
it might in a moral point of view
justify revolution;
certainly would if such right were a vital one.
But such is not our case.
All the vital rights of minorities
and of individuals are so plainly assured
to them by affirmations and negations,
guaranties and prohibitions,
in the Constitution
that controversies never arise
concerning them.
But no organic law can ever be framed
with a provision specifically applicable
to every question which may occur
in practical administration.
No foresight can anticipate
nor any document of reasonable length
contain express provisions
for all possible questions.
Shall fugitives from labor be surrendered
by national or by state authority?
The Constitution does not expressly say.
May Congress prohibit slavery
in the territories?
The Constitution does not expressly say.
Must Congress protect slavery
in the territories?
The Constitution does not expressly say.
From questions of this class spring
all our constitutional controversies,
and we divide upon them
into majorities and minorities.
If the minority will not acquiesce,
the majority must,
or the Government must cease.
There is no other alternative,
for continuing the Government
is acquiescence on one side or the other.
If a minority in such case will secede
rather than acquiesce,
they make a precedent which in turn
will divide and ruin them,
for a minority of their own
will secede from them
whenever a majority refuses
to be controlled by such minority.
For instance, why may not any portion
of a new confederacy a year or two hence
arbitrarily secede again,
precisely as portions of the present Union
now claim to secede from it?
All who cherish disunion sentiments
are now being educated
to the exact temper of doing this.
Is there such perfect identity of interests
among the states to compose a new union
as to produce harmony only
and prevent renewed secession?
Plainly the central idea of secession
is the essence of anarchy.
A majority held in restraint
by constitutional checks and limitations,
and always changing easily
with deliberate changes
of popular opinions and sentiments,
is the only true sovereign of a free people.
Whoever rejects it does of necessity
fly to anarchy or to despotism.
Unanimity is impossible.
The rule of a minority,
as a permanent arrangement,
is wholly inadmissible;
so that, rejecting the majority principle,
anarchy or despotism in some form
is all that is left.
I do not forget the position assumed by some
that constitutional questions are
to be decided by the Supreme Court,
nor do I deny that such decisions
must be binding in any case
upon the parties to a suit
as to the object of that suit,
while they are also entitled
to very high respect and consideration
in all parallel cases
by all other departments of the Government.
And while it is obviously possible that
such decision may be erroneous
in any given case,
still the evil effect following it,
being limited to that particular case,
with the chance that it may be overruled
and never become a precedent for other cases,
can better be borne
than could the evils of a different practice.
At the same time,
the candid citizen must confess that
if the policy of the Government
upon vital questions
affecting the whole people
is to be irrevocably fixed
by decisions of the Supreme Court,
the instant they are made
in ordinary litigation
between parties in personal actions
the people will have ceased
to be their own rulers,
having to that extent
practically resigned their Government
into the hands of that eminent tribunal.
Nor is there in this view
any assault upon the court or the judges.
It is a duty from which they may not shrink
to decide cases properly brought before them,
and it is no fault of theirs
if others seek to turn their decisions
to political purposes.
One section of our country believes
slavery is right and ought to be extended,
while the other believes it is wrong
and ought not to be extended.
This is the only substantial dispute.
The fugitive slave clause of the Constitution
and the law for the suppression
of the foreign slave trade
are each as well enforced, perhaps,
as any law can ever be in a community
where the moral sense of the people
imperfectly supports the law itself.
The great body of the people abide by
the dry legal obligation in both cases,
and a few break over in each.
This, I think, can not be perfectly cured,
and it would be worse in both cases
after the separation of the sections
than before.
The foreign slave trade,
now imperfectly suppressed,
would be ultimately revived
without restriction in one section,
while fugitive slaves,
now only partially surrendered,
would not be surrendered at all by the other.
Physically speaking, we can not separate.
We can not remove our respective sections
from each other
nor build an impassable wall between them.
A husband and wife may be divorced
and go out of the presence
and beyond the reach of each other,
but the different parts of our country
can not do this.
They can not but remain face to face,
and intercourse, either amicable or hostile,
must continue between them.
Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse
more advantageous or more satisfactory
after separation than before?
Can aliens make treaties easier
than friends can make laws?
Can treaties be more faithfully enforced
between aliens than laws can among friends?
Suppose you go to war,
you can not fight always;
and when, after much loss on both sides
and no gain on either, you cease fighting,
the identical old questions,
as to terms of intercourse,
are again upon you.

This country, with its institutions,
belongs to the people who inhabit it.
Whenever they shall grow weary
of the existing Government,
they can exercise their constitutional right
of amending it
or their revolutionary right
to dismember or overthrow it.
I can not be ignorant of the fact that
many worthy and patriotic citizens
are desirous of having
the national Constitution amended.
While I make no recommendation
of amendments,
I fully recognize the rightful authority
of the people over the whole subject,
to be exercised in either of the modes
prescribed in the instrument itself;
and I should, under existing circumstances,
favor rather than oppose a fair opportunity
being afforded the people to act upon it.
I will venture to add that to me
the convention mode seems preferable,
in that it allows amendments
to originate with the people themselves,
instead of only permitting them to take
or reject propositions originated by others,
not especially chosen for the purpose,
and which might not be precisely such
as they would wish to either accept or refuse.
I understand a proposed amendment
to the Constitution—which amendment,
however, I have not seen—
has passed Congress, to the effect that
the Federal Government shall never interfere
with the domestic institutions of the states,
including that of persons held to service.
To avoid misconstruction of what I have said,
I depart from my purpose
not to speak of particular amendments
so far as to say that, holding such a provision
to now be implied constitutional law,
I have no objection to its being made
express and irrevocable.

The chief magistrate derives
all his authority from the people,
and they have referred none upon him
to fix terms for the separation of the states.
The people themselves can do this
if also they choose,
but the executive as such
has nothing to do with it.
His duty is to administer
the present Government
as it came to his hands and to transmit it
unimpaired by him to his successor.
Why should there not be a patient confidence
in the ultimate justice of the people?
Is there any better or equal hope in the world?
In our present differences, is either party
without faith of being in the right?
If the Almighty Ruler of Nations,
with his eternal truth and justice,
be on your side of the North,
or on yours of the South,
that truth and that justice will surely prevail
by the judgment of this great tribunal
of the American people.
By the frame of the Government
under which we live
this same people have wisely given
their public servants
but little power for mischief,
and have with equal wisdom
provided for the return of that little
to their own hands at very short intervals.
While the people retain
their virtue and vigilance,
no administration by any extreme
of wickedness or folly
can very seriously injure the Government
in the short space of four years.

My countrymen, one and all, think calmly
and well upon this whole subject.
Nothing valuable can be lost by taking time.
If there be an object to hurry any of you
in hot haste to a step
which you would never take deliberately,
that object will be frustrated by taking time;
but no good object can be frustrated by it.
Such of you as are now dissatisfied
still have the old Constitution unimpaired,
and, on the sensitive point,
the laws of your own framing under it;
while the new administration
will have no immediate power,
if it would, to change either.
If it were admitted that you
who are dissatisfied
hold the right side in the dispute,
there still is no single good reason
for precipitate action.
Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity,
and a firm reliance on him
who has never yet forsaken this favored land
are still competent to adjust in the best way
all our present difficulty.
In your hands,
my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen,
and not in mine,
is the momentous issue of civil war.
The Government will not assail you.
You can have no conflict
without being yourselves the aggressors.
You have no oath registered in heaven
to destroy the Government,
while I shall have the most solemn one
to “preserve, protect, and defend it.”

I am loath to close.
We are not enemies, but friends.
We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained,
it must not break our bonds of affection.
The mystic chords of memory,
stretching from every battlefield
and patriot grave
to every living heart and hearthstone
all over this broad land,
will yet swell the chorus of the Union,
when again touched, as surely they will be,
by the better angels of our nature.


Chief Justice Roger TANEY is administering the oath office to Lincoln.

I, Abraham Lincoln, do solemnly swear
that I will faithfully execute
the Office of President of the United States,
and will to the best of my ability,
preserve, protect and defend
the Constitution of the United States.


Lincoln is not yet moved in, but he is talking with HENRY SEWARD.

I think your speech went well, Mr. President.

Thank you.
Mary and I are just starting to move in,
but I am glad you came to see me.

I have decided to accept the position
of Secretary of State after all.
Republicans must work together
if we are to save the country.

I am so pleased.
I very much need your advice.
My cabinet is now complete,
and I shall send the names to the Senate
for confirmation tomorrow.

As you know,
Jefferson Davis was elected president
of the provisional government
in Montgomery, Alabama.
He has appointed three commissioners
to negotiate, and they have contacted me.

I do not want you to meet with them.
Any direct communication would indicate that
we consider the seceded states legitimate.

Seward has a letter which he consults as he speaks.

Yesterday I received this letter
from General Winfield Scott.
He suggests that four plans are possible.
Number one would have us
throw off the Republican party name
and become the Union party.
By being conciliatory
and accepting compromising measures
he thinks we could prevent
any more states from seceding.
Otherwise the remaining slaveholding states
may join the Montgomery confederacy,
and this city will require
a permanent garrison of 35,000 troops.
Number two is to collect the duties
on foreign goods outside the ports
or close the lost ports by an act of Congress
and blockade them.
Number three is to conquer
the seceding states by invading armies.
This might take three years
and three hundred thousand disciplined men
and would cost the loss of even more men
in sieges, battles, and to southern fevers.
In addition to the waste of human lives
he estimates that this would cost
two-hundred-fifty million dollars
in damage in the devastated provinces.
The conquered states would have to be
heavily garrisoned for generations,
quadrupling duties or taxes
and leading to a protector or emperor.
Finally, number four is very short.
He simply wrote, “Say to the seceded states,
wayward sisters, depart in peace!”

And what do you recommend?

I would agree with numbers one and two,
although I don’t think we have to
change the name of our party.

When all of the appointed cabinet members
have accepted, we shall meet.



March 5

Lincoln’s office has a desk and a large table and also serves as the cabinet room. Lincoln is meeting with the aged GENERAL WINFIELD SCOTT, who is even taller than Lincoln and weighs over three hundred pounds.

General Scott, I direct you to hold all the forts
and make arrangements to reinforce those
that are threatened in the southern states.

Yes, sir.



March 6

Lincoln, Seward, EDWARD BATES, SALMON CHASE, GIDEON WELLES, CALEB SMITH, and MONTGOMERY BLAIR are meeting for the first time as the cabinet.

I don’t think you all have met.
Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War,
is occupied in Pennsylvania
and could not join us this evening.
I would like each of you to state your name
and your new position in our Government.

William Henry Seward, Secretary of State.

Salmon Chase, Secretary of the Treasury.

Edward Bates, Attorney General.

Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Caleb Smith, Secretary of the Interior.

Montgomery Blair, Post-master General.

Thank you.
Yesterday I received a letter
from the former Secretary of War, Mr. Holt.
Major Anderson has reported that Fort Sumter
has bread for only twenty-eight days,
and he believes that his garrison
could not be effectively succored
until the besieging forts and batteries are taken.
Mr. Holt and his chief engineer believe
that Fort Sumter must be evacuated,
and it may be taken at any time.
I have asked General Scott
whether he can relieve Sumter in time,
and I have ordered him
to maintain all military installations.
At our next meeting I would like
to hear your views on this.


Lincoln is meeting with an upset FRANCIS BLAIR SR.

Will you give up the fort?

Nearly all the cabinet favor it.

It would be treason to abandon Sumter, sir!
You would be impeached!

Blair abruptly turns and walks out.



March 15

Seward is meeting with U.S. Supreme Court Justices JOHN CAMPBELL of Alabama and SAMUEL NELSON of New York.

Mr. Seward, I have brought Justice Campbell
to you in order to establish some communication
between the South and this Government.

The commissioners appointed by Davis
have asked me to act as an intermediary.

I cannot receive the commissioners
in any diplomatic capacity or character
or even see them personally.

I understand that.
What shall I write to Jefferson Davis
on the subject of Fort Sumter?

You may say to him
that before that letter reaches him—
how far is it to Montgomery?

Three days.

Before that letter reaches him,
the telegraph will have informed him
that Sumter has been evacuated.

What about the forts on the Gulf of Mexico?

We contemplate no action as to those.


Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet, and SIMON CAMERON is present.

Gentlemen, I put this question to you:
assuming it to be possible
to now provision Fort Sumter,
under all the circumstances
is it wise to attempt it?

I believe this would provoke
combat and open civil war,
the most disastrous of national calamities.
I would not risk that now
when we are trying to prevent
more states from seceding.
However, I would resort to force
to protect the collection of the revenue
because this is a necessary
and legitimate Union object;
but I would employ only a naval force.

If the attempt will so inflame civil war
as to involve an immediate necessity
for the enlistment of armies
and the expenditure of millions,
I cannot advise it.
However, I believe that
a proclamation of reasons
and a kind and liberal
spirit towards the South
will avert such a result,
and therefore I answer in the affirmative.
I think we should consider
the organization of the government
by the seven seceded states
as an accomplished revolution,
which was accomplished through
the complicity of the late administration.
Why not let that confederacy try its experiment?

I support the scheme of Captain Fox.
The Buchanan administration connived
at the rebellion in seven states.
Evacuating Fort Sumter would convince them
that this administration also lacks firmness.
Sumter reinforced will become invulnerable
and will completely demoralize the rebellion.

Captain Fox proposes to supply provisions
for only one or two months.
The abandonment of Fort Sumter is inevitable
and might as well be done
sooner rather than later.

Publicity has reconciled the public mind
to the evacuation of Sumter.
The strength and dignity of the Government
would not be promoted by a successful attempt,
and a failure would be a disaster.

I do not believe that Sumter is essential
to the functioning of this Government,
and there are other more effective ways
to vindicate its honor.

War already exists by the act of South Carolina,
but this Government has thus far
magnanimously forborne to retort the outrage.
I am willing to forbear yet longer
in the hope of a peaceful solution
of our present difficulties.

I think it is prudent
not to proceed at this time,
and the expedition is postponed.
In regard to the collection of revenues,
I have written inquiries
for the Attorney General,
the Secretary of the Treasury,
and the Secretary of the Navy.
Please submit your answers in writing.

Lincoln hands out the inquiries.


Lincoln is talking with his friend WARD LAMON and STEPHEN HURLBUT.

My dear Lamon,
thank you for going to Fort Sumter.
I am eager to hear your report.

Major Anderson said their food supply
will give out on April 15.
He is deeply despondent,
but his garrison is spoiling for a fight.
The Governor of South Carolina
sent you this message.

He hands it to Lincoln.

LINCOLN (Reading)
“Nothing can prevent war except
the acquiescence of the President
of the United States in secession.
Let your President attempt to reinforce Sumter,
and the tocsin of war will be sounded
from every hilltop and valley in the South.”

A mob in Charleston might have hanged me,
but Congressman Keitt rescued me.

I had a long talk with James Petigru,
the distinguished attorney,
who seems to be the only man in Charleston
who still adheres to the Union.
He said that separate nationality is a fixed fact,
and there is no attachment to the Union.
They expect a southern republic with Charleston
as the commercial emporium for the South
as New York is for the North.

This is disappointing news,
but it is good to know
what the conditions are there.
Thank you for undertaking the risky mission.



March 28

Lincoln is conferring with General Scott.

General, I cannot agree with you
that both Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens
should be abandoned.
Major Anderson has played us false,
and your views lack consistency.
If I abandoned those forts,
this administration might fall with them.
This Government has to be saved
before the Union can be rescued.
A more decided policy must be adopted.
If you cannot carry it out,
some other person might.

Sir, I serve under your command.

Mrs. Lincoln has organized
our first formal dinner this evening.
I hope you will attend.

Thank you, sir, but I am unable to join you.


During the dinner party, the hostess MARY LINCOLN is introduced to the attractive KATE CHASE, who is with her father.

I shall be glad to see you any time, Miss Chase.

Mrs. Lincoln, I shall be glad
to have you call on me at any time.


Lincoln and his cabinet are meeting in their formal dress after the party.

Mr. President,
you can now see that General Scott,
in advising the surrender of Fort Sumter,
is playing the part of a politician,
not of a general.

Blair and others look at Seward.

No one pretends there is any military necessity
for the surrender of Fort Pickens,
which he now says
it is equally necessary to surrender.
He is governed by political considerations
in both recommendations.

The cabinet will meet tomorrow
to discuss these issues further.


Lincoln is leading the cabinet meeting.

Regardless of what happens to Fort Sumter,
I believe that Fort Pickens must be reinforced.

I can agree to holding Fort Pickens,
but Fort Sumter must be abandoned.

Let us take a vote.
All in favor of relieving Fort Sumter,
please raise your hands.

Bates, Blair, Welles, Chase, and Lincoln raise their hands.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
As only Mr. Seward and Mr. Smith
are still opposed
to the immediate relief of Fort Sumter,
the plan of Captain Fox will be implemented.
I desire that an expedition
to move by sea be got ready to sail
as early as the sixth of April,
and the order will be sent
to the War Department.
Thank you, gentlemen.


Lincoln is meeting with a California delegation whose LEADER is reading a speech arrogantly.

Therefore we believe that
California deserves all these appointments.

I am sick and tired of arrogant office-seekers.
They have been occupying
ten hours a day of my time
while we are facing the most difficult crisis
in this nation’s history.
Give me that speech.

Lincoln takes the papers and throws them into the flames in the fireplace.

Is that your answer?!

Gentlemen, I must ask you to leave now.

The delegation files out.


Lincoln is walking toward the bed and wearily speaks with Mary, who is following him.

Mother, I have a terrible headache.

He collapses and falls onto the bed.

I’ll get a doctor.

She quickly goes out.



April 1

Lincoln is working with his secretary, JOHN NICOLAY.

This letter from Seward must be
an All Fool’s Day joke.
He begins by saying we have no policy.
He writes that we must change the question
from slavery to union or disunion,
and he thinks the evacuation of Fort Sumter
is a slavery question
but that defending the other forts is not.
What is most outrageous is that he proposes
provoking a war against Spain and France,
having Congress declare war on them.
He even goes so far as to imply that
he should take over my responsibilities.

That is shocking.

This man has been trying
to run this administration,
and it is time that he realizes
he was not nominated in Chicago.
I’ll draft an immediate reply,
letting him know that I must do
what must be done
and that I am entitled
to the advice of the entire cabinet.
I want this matter kept confidential.

Yes, sir.


Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet, but Cameron is absent.

As to Fort Sumter, I think the time has come
to either evacuate it or relieve it.

I would instruct Major Anderson
to retire from Fort Sumter forthwith,
but I would have everyone
prepare for a war at Pensacola and Texas.

I think we should maintain
Fort Pickens at Pensacola
and provision Fort Sumter.

The Navy can make Fort Pickens impregnable,
and I think we would be justified in making
a peaceable attempt to provision Sumter.

I say defend Fort Pickens and evacuate Sumter.

I advise fighting for Sumter
because it is the head and front of the rebellion.

We shall hold both the forts
and send an unarmed ship to provision Sumter.
If it is attacked, other ships may use force.


As an angry Welles enters, Lincoln looks up from the paper he is working on at his desk.

What have I done wrong?

Mr. President, the Navy Department
has received contradictory orders.
One orders the Powhatan to go to Sumter;
the other sends it to Fort Pickens.
Other orders from Mr. Seward
have changed the officers.

I signed those without reading them.
If I can’t trust Seward, who can I trust?
Those orders are now cancelled.



April 4

Lincoln is meeting privately with JOHN BALDWIN.

I come directly from the Virginia convention
in Richmond—

—which has been meeting for nearly two months.
I have offered to withdraw from Fort Sumter
if Virginia will not secede.

That will never do, Mr. President.
If a gun is fired at Fort Sumter,
war is inevitable.
If the Virginia convention dissolved,
they could call another in short order.

I don’t like the sort of unionism
with politicians playing a game of brag.
You are too late, sir!
Why did you not come here four days ago?

You did not ask my advice.
As soon as we received permission,
I came by the first train.

I tell you, you are too late.
This afternoon a fleet is to sail
from the harbor of New York for Charleston.
If your Union party will adjourn
without passing an ordinance of secession,
I will telegraph at once to New York
and take the responsibility
for evacuating Fort Sumter.

Do you mean adjournment sine die?

Of course, I don’t want you to adjourn, and,
after I have evacuated the fort,
meet again to adopt secession.


A BUTLER answers the door, and Seward and Welles come in.

We must see the President.

I’ll see if he is still awake.


Lincoln comes in wearing a robe.

Gentlemen, please sit down.
What is the emergency?

Mr. President, we have learned that
the Powhatan is going to Pensacola
rather than to Fort Sumter
under the officers appointed by Mr. Seward.

There must be some mistake.

Mr. President, I think
the Pickens expedition is more crucial.

That is not your decision to make.
Today I received a report from Major Anderson
stating that his supplies at Sumter
will last only one week more.
They did not go on half rations
because they thought that
they were going to be evacuating.
I sent a special messenger to South Carolina
informing the governor that we intend
to provision Fort Sumter in a peaceable manner,
but we will use force if necessary.
Mr. Seward, please send a telegram immediately
to direct the Powhatan to go to Sumter
under its original officers.
That is the armed ship needed to back up
the ships with provisions if they are attacked.

It may be difficult to get a message through
at this late hour.

I want this done without a moment’s delay.

Yes, sir.



April 12

Lincoln is working at his desk when a wet WAR DEPARTMENT MESSENGER comes in to give him several orange envelopes.

Mr. President, these telegrams
have just arrived from South Carolina.

Lincoln quickly begins opening and reading them.

It has started.
Nicolay! Come in here right away.

Nicolay comes in from his adjacent office.

What is it, sir?

At four thirty this morning
the bombardment of Fort Sumter began.
I told the South that we would not start a war.
Now they have put themselves in the wrong.



Mr. President, the Virginia Convention
has sent us to respectfully ask you
to communicate to the Convention the policy
which the Federal executive intends to pursue
in regard to the Confederate States.

In answer I have to say that my purpose
was marked out in my inaugural address.
I have prepared a formal statement for you.


Lincoln is reading his statement.

“But if, as now appears true,
in pursuit of a purpose to drive
the United States authority from these places
an unprovoked assault
has been made upon Fort Sumter,
I shall hold myself at liberty to re-repossess,
if I can, like places which had been seized
before the Government was devolved upon me.
And in every event I shall
to the extent of my ability repel force by force.
I may cause the mails to be withdrawn
from all the states which claim to have seceded—
believing that the commencement of actual war
against the Government
justifies and possibly demands this.
I consider the military posts and property
situated within the states,
which claim to have seceded
as yet belonging to the Government
of the United States as much as they did
before the supposed secession.
I shall not attempt to collect the duties
and imposts by any armed invasion
of any part of the country—
not meaning by this, however,
that I may not land a force deemed necessary
to relieve a fort upon a border of the country.”



April 14

Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet.

As you know from the newspapers,
Major Anderson has capitulated
and surrendered Fort Sumter.
I have drafted this proclamation
and I ask for your concurrence.

Lincoln reads his proclamation.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
“Whereas the laws of the United States
have been for some time past,
and now are opposed,
and the execution thereof obstructed,
in the states of South Carolina, Georgia,
Alabama, Florida, Mississippi,
Louisiana and Texas
by combinations too powerful to be suppressed
by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,
or by the powers vested in the marshals by law,
now therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln,
President of the United States,
in virtue of the power in me
vested by the Constitution and the laws,
have thought fit to call forth
and hereby do call forth the militia
of the several states of the Union,
to the aggregate number
of seventy-five thousand,
in order to suppress said combinations,
and to cause the laws to be duly executed.
The details, for this object,
will be immediately communicated
to the state authorities
through the War Department.

“I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor,
facilitate and aid this effort
to maintain the honor, the integrity,
and the existence of our national Union
and the perpetuity of popular government
and to redress wrongs
already long enough endured.
I deem it proper to say that
the first service assigned to the forces
hereby called forth will probably be
to re-possess the forts, places, and property
which have been seized from the Union;
and in every event
the utmost care will be observed,
consistently with the objects aforesaid,
to avoid any devastation, any destruction of,
or interference with property
or any disturbance of peaceful citizens
in any part of the country.
And I hereby command the persons
composing the combinations aforesaid
to disperse, and retire peaceably
to their respective abodes
within twenty days from this date.

“Deeming that
the present condition of public affairs
presents an extraordinary occasion,
I do hereby in virtue of the power in me
vested by the Constitution
convene both houses of Congress.
Senators and Representatives are therefore
summoned to assemble
at their respective chambers,
at 12 o’clock noon on Thursday,
the fourth day of July next,
then and there to consider and determine
such measures as in their wisdom
the public safety and interest
may seem to demand.”

Mr. President, you have my support,
and I assume that the rest of the cabinet concurs
in this emergency measure.

The others nod their heads.

Mr. President, the Treasury Department
has been working to secure loans.
May I ask what is the current number of men
we now have in the regular army?

About seventeen thousand.

This call for volunteers will increase that
by about five times.
As soon as my secretary has made a copy,
this shall be sent to the State Department
to be sealed, filed, and copied
for publication in the newspapers.


Stephen Douglas is meeting with Lincoln.

Mr. President, I have been opposing
your policies in the Senate,
but now in this crisis I want you to know
that I shall sustain you all the way
in the exercise of your constitutional functions
to preserve the Union, maintain the Government,
and defend the capital at all costs.
I would not spare any expense in money or men.

Thank you, Stephen.

This is the time for unity
and not for party politics.
I shall go to Illinois to help raise volunteers.
I don’t think you are asking for enough troops;
I would call for two hundred thousand
volunteers right away.
You do not know the dishonest purposes
of those men as well as I do.
You may have difficulty
bringing troops through Baltimore.
I would suggest an alternative route
through Annapolis.


Lincoln is talking with Francis Blair Sr.

General Scott says that Col. Robert E. Lee
is the best soldier he has ever seen in the field.

I would like you to call on Col. Lee
and tell him that I am prepared to offer him
command of the Union army.

He may prefer to serve Virginia.

Well, let’s give him a choice.



April 19

Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet and General Scott.

Virginia seceded on the 17th.
Yesterday the arsenal
at Harper’s Ferry was burned,
and about five hundred unarmed boys
have come from Pennsylvania.

I think the capital must be defended.
I propose that we institute a blockade
of the southern ports at once.
That will enable us to search and seize ships.

It would be a mistake to proclaim a blockade
because that would be acknowledging that
the Union is engaged in a war with the South.
Foreign nations might then extend
belligerent rights to the Confederate states.
I would advise closing the ports
against the insurrection
and using the police to enforce municipal law.

Who agrees with Seward?

Cameron and Caleb Smith raise their hands.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
And who agrees with Welles?

Chase, Blair, and Bates raise their hands.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I agree with Seward
because it is a stronger position.
Tomorrow I will issue
a formal blockade proclamation.

Today the Massachusetts 6th Volunteers
traveling through Baltimore on their way here
were attacked by a mob in a riot
that caused casualties on both sides.

Governor Hicks and Mayor Brown have advised,
and the Board of Police has ordered,
that all the troops on this route
be sent back to Pennsylvania.
The Baltimore and Ohio railroad has refused
to undertake any further transportation.
What are your views?

We are expecting more troops
coming here by way of Baltimore.

Secessionists may cut the telegraph wires
at any time, tear up the railroad track,
or burn bridges.
There are rumors that 1,500 men
are under arms at Alexandria,
only seven miles south of here.
Indications are that we may be attacked tonight.
We have four to five thousand men
under arms in the city,
and they are keeping a vigilant watch
in all the possible directions of approach.

All the public buildings are being guarded,
and I will remain all night
in the War Department.

We have to bring troops through Baltimore.


LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Then we are in agreement that
General Scott shall send the following dispatch
in cipher back to Philadelphia:
“Governor Hicks has neither right nor authority
to stop troops coming to Washington.
Send them on, prepared to fight
their way through, if necessary.”



April 20

General Scott arrives in a carriage, and, suffering from gout, with difficulty starts to get out. Lincoln comes out the front door followed by a BALTIMORE COMMITTEE.

General, these men have brought a message
from Mayor Brown and Governor Hicks,
warning that bringing troops through Baltimore
will cause more violence.

Then we can march them around.

Gentlemen, come into my office,
and I shall write a reply.

They go back into the White House.



April 21

Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet in a secure location.

Mr. President,
yesterday your order was carried out.
United States Marshals seized all telegrams
that had been sent or received
in the last twelve months
in every major telegraph office
in the northern states.

These broader powers are necessary
to keep this government from falling into ruin.
They are authorized by the Constitution
in cases of insurrection.
I have directed an armed revenue cutter to sea
to protect the commercial marine and the ships
bringing gold from California.

By your order I have directed
the commandant at the navy-yard at Boston
to purchase and arm five steamships
for public defense.

I have also authorized the Treasury Department
to send two million dollars of public money
to John Dix, George Opdyke,
and Richard Blatchford in New York
to meet necessary requisitions for the defense
and support of the Government.
Mr. Chase, has that been done?

Yes, sir.
We have not required security,
but they are acting without compensation
and will be reporting their transactions.
We have also seized 25,000 barrels of flour
from the Georgetown mills.



April 22

Lincoln is meeting with a committee led by REV. RICHARD FULLER representing the Young Men’s Christian Association from Baltimore.

Mr. President, we believe
it is your duty as a Christian statesman
to avoid war by recognizing
the independence of the southern states.

You, gentlemen, come here to me
and ask for peace on any terms,
and yet have no word of condemnation
for those who are making war on us.
You express great horror of bloodshed,
and yet would not lay a straw in the way
of those who are organizing in Virginia
and elsewhere to capture this city.
The rebels attack Fort Sumter,
and your citizens attack troops
sent to the defense of the Government,
and the lives and property in Washington,
and yet you would have me break my oath
and surrender the Government without a blow.
There is no Washington in that—
no Jackson in that—
no manhood nor honor in that.
I have no desire to invade the South;
but I must have troops to defend this Capital.
Geographically it lies surrounded
by the soil of Maryland;
and mathematically the necessity exists
that they should come over her territory.
Our men are not moles
and can't dig under the earth;
they are not birds and can't fly through the air.
There is no way but to march across,
and that they must do.
But in doing this there is no need of collision.
Keep your rowdies in Baltimore,
and there will be no bloodshed.
Go home and tell your people
that if they will not attack us,
we will not attack them;
but if they do attack us,
we will return it, and that severely.


Lincoln and Mary are looking down the Potomac.

I don’t see any ships.
Why don’t they come?
Why don’t they come?

How long do we have to wait for protection?

Washington has been cut off
from all communication for several days now.

I don’t trust Seward or Chase
because they both want to be President.
Seward is worse than Chase;
he tries to run the government
from the State department.

Mother, you are mistaken;
your prejudices are so violent
that you do not stop to reason.
Seward is an able man,
and the country as well as myself can trust him.

Father, you are too honest for this world.
You should have been a saint.
You will generally find it a safe rule
to distrust a disappointed, ambitious politician.
It makes me mad to see you sit still
and let that hypocrite Seward
twine you around his finger
as if you were a skein of thread.


Lincoln is meeting with WOUNDED SOLDIERS of the Massachusetts 6th Volunteers. He goes to each soldier and shakes his hand.

I commend the Massachusetts 6th Volunteers
for being the first equipped troops
to make it to the capital.
If you had not arrived in time,
we would have been in the hands of the rebels.


Lincoln is working with his secretary Nicolay.

North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas
are following the example of Virginia
and are in the process of seceding.
The only slave states left are Maryland,
Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware,
and so far they are refusing
your request to send volunteers.

Maryland must stay in the Union.
Otherwise Washington will be surrounded
by states in rebellion.
Send a messenger to Benjamin Butler
that he must hold Annapolis at all costs.
If the state legislature attempts to break away,
he must fight to keep them there
even if he has to bombard their cities
and, in the extremest necessity,
suspend the writ of habeas corpus.



May 3

Nicolay brings Lincoln newspapers.

Good morning, Mr. President.
Newspapers have published your proclamation
calling for 42,000 volunteers for three years,
plus 22,700 more men for the regular army
and 18,000 seamen for blockade service.

Jefferson Davis already has 82,000 soldiers
and has called for 100,000 more.
I have been getting advice
that we will need 300,000 men.
This could be a long war.

We have also been getting millions of dollars
from indirect donations for war purposes.
All the northern states are behind you, sir.


Lincoln is instructing MAJOR ROBERT ANDERSON.

Major Anderson, I commend you
for the way you handled
a very difficult situation at Fort Sumter.

Thank you, sir.

I understand that you are a Kentuckian
and have been welcomed back as a hero.
I was also born in Kentucky.
I am giving you a special commission
to receive into the army of the United States
as many regiments of volunteer troops
from the state of Kentucky
and from the western part of Virginia
as shall be willing to engage
in the service of the United States.
I am sending you to Cincinnati,
and I shall give you a letter of introduction
to my friend Joshua Speed,
another Kentuckian who can assist you there.

Thank you, sir.


Lincoln is talking with his secretaries Nicolay and Hay.

I am starting to work
on a message to the Congress,
and I would like to know
what you think of some ideas.
I think the real question is whether
a free and representative government
has the right and power
to protect and maintain itself.
If we admit the right of a minority to secede,
then the next occasion for such secession
could be any issue other than slavery.

If the election winners are unable to govern,
then I think that democracy may fail.

I consider the central idea
pervading this struggle
is the necessity that is upon us,
of proving that popular government
is not an absurdity.
We must settle this question now,
whether in a free government
the minority have the right
to break up the government if they choose.

If they lose an election,
are they justified in fighting the winners?

Ultimately it comes down to whether
we are going to decide on our policies
by ballots or by bullets.

I like that—ballots, not bullets.


Lincoln and Mary are visiting with COL. ELMER ELLSWORTH, who wears the red uniform of the Fire Zouaves.

Elmer, or should I call you Colonel Ellsworth?
You look grand in your new uniform.
I remember that your Chicago cadets
were an outstanding drill team.

New Yorkers raised $60,000
for our uniforms and arms.
I have recruited fire department men
from New York City.

Your men did a great job putting out that fire
in the hotel next to Willard’s.
My old law clerk and campaign aid
knows how to get things done.
Northern states have raised more volunteers
than I have called for,
but most of them have neither
enough equipment nor adequate training yet.

We would like you to stay for dinner?

Lincoln walks to the window, picks up a telescope, and looks out. He offers the telescope to Ellsworth.

Colonel, see if you can spot that rebel flag
on that tall building in Alexandria.

Yes, sir, I can see it.

I am concerned that Virginia may attack us
with artillery that could reach
here to the White House and to the Capitol.

It could pose a danger, sir.

If I were their commander, General Beauregard,
I think I might take Washington.



May 23

Lincoln is instructing General Scott.

Today the Virginia voters ratified
the ordinance of secession.
General, I want you to move troops
across the Potomac tonight.

Yes, sir; we are ready.


Lincoln is meeting with GUSTAVUS FOX, the Navy Assistant Secretary.

Mr. President, the Union army has taken
the Arlington Heights and Alexandria.

Yes, I received the telegram
at the War Department earlier.
I learned that Col. Ellsworth was killed.
Can you tell me what happened?

Yes, sir.
He saw the Confederate flag on Marshall House
and went on the roof to reconnoiter.
Then he took the flag down himself.
As he was coming down the stairs,
the proprietor of the hotel, James Jackson,
came out of a door and
shot him in the chest from close range.
Then Francis Brownell shot Jackson in the head.
Both men died instantly.
This letter was found in Ellsworth’s pocket.

Fox hands the letter to Lincoln, who looks at it.

It is to his parents and closes with
“My darling and ever loving parents, good bye.”
Excuse me.

Lincoln looks out the window at the Potomac, grieving.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
The body of Col. Ellsworth is to lie in state
here in the East Room.

Yes, sir; I shall arrange it.

Fox goes out as Lincoln begins to cry. SENATOR WILSON and a journalist come in. When Lincoln sees them, he moves toward them and extends his hand.

Excuse me, but I cannot talk.

Lincoln wipes his face with a handkerchief, and they sit down.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
I will make no apology,
gentlemen, for my weakness;
but I knew Ellsworth
and held him in high regard.
Captain Fox has just given me
the painful details of his unfortunate death.
The event was so unexpected
that it quite unmanned me.
It shows the heroic spirit
that animates our soldiers
in this righteous cause of ours.
One fact has reached me
which is a great consolation to my heart
and quite a relief in this melancholy affair.
I learned from several persons
that when the stars and stripes
were raised again in Alexandria,
many of the people in the town
actually wept for joy.
All the South is not secessionist.



June 29

Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet, General Scott, and GENERAL IRVIN MCDOWELL.

I called this meeting to discuss
a campaign against the rebels at Manassas.

Mr. President, I do not believe in
a little war by piecemeal.
I believe in a war of large bodies.
If we were to go down the Mississippi in the fall,
fight all the battles that are necessary,
take all the positions we can find
and garrison them,
fight a battle at New Orleans and win it,
I think we could end this war.

I have heard that proposed before.
General McDowell here has a plan
that I think is more immediate and practical.

The secession forces at Manassas Junction
are estimated at 25,000,
and they could call up reinforcements.
If Johnston’s force in the Shenandoah Valley
is kept engaged by Major-General Patterson,
and Major-General Butler occupies
the force now in his vicinity,
Beauregard will only be able to use 10,000 men.
I propose to move against Manassas
with a force of 30,000 with a reserve of 10,000
and attack their main position,
turning it if possible to cut off
communications by rail with the South.

That could be successful;
but if Johnston joins Beauregard,
he shall have Patterson on his heels.
I have my doubts this will work
because our troops need more training.

I also would like to train my troops more
before we advance.

You are green, but they are green too.
You are all green alike.
The time of the three-month volunteers
is almost expired.
I want you to contact General Patterson
and prepare for this campaign.
Congress will be convening on July 4,
and in my message to them
I am going to ask for
at least four hundred thousand men
and four hundred million dollars.



July 3

Lincoln is meeting with JOHN C. FREMONT.

Mr. Fremont, I am glad to meet you.

Likewise, Mr. President. What can I do?

I am appointing you a major general,
and I am putting you in command
of the Western department at St. Louis.
General McClellan is making progress
in western Virginia.
You are to coordinate with him.

Thank you, sir.
Are there any further instructions.

No, I have given you carte-blanche.
You must use your own judgment
and do the best you can.
I doubt if the states will ever come back.



July 21

As Lincoln comes in the front door, he is met by his secretaries Nicolay and JOHN HAY.

Mr. President, while you were
on your evening carriage drive,
Mr. Seward brought a telegram
saying that the battle is lost
and that General McDowell is in full retreat.

But the last telegram announced victory.

Sir, our army is fleeing.
McDowell wants you to go to General Scott
so that he can save the capital.

I’ll walk over to the War department.

Lincoln turns and walks out the door.


Lincoln, Scott, and Cameron are meeting with Congressmen from Illinois.

… and so the battle at Manassas
or Bull Run, as it is called, became a rout.
Our soldiers behaved like cowards.

Sir, that is not true.
I am the greatest coward in America,
and I will prove it.
I fought that battle against my judgment;
I think the President ought to
remove me today for doing it.
As God is my judge,
after my superiors had determined to fight it,
I did all in my power to make the army efficient.
I deserve removal because I did not stand up
when my army was not
in a condition for fighting.
I should have resisted it to the last.

Your conversation seems to imply
that I forced you to fight this battle.

I have never served a President
who has been kinder to me than you have been.


Nicolay is meeting with Lincoln.

Sir, the Crittenden resolution
has passed both houses of Congress
with overwhelming votes.
May I read it to you?

Please do.

“Resolved, etcetera, that the present deplorable
civil war has been forced upon the country
by the disunionists of the southern states
now in arms against
the constitutional Government
and in arms around the capital;
that in this national emergency
Congress, banishing all feelings
of mere passion or resentment,
will recollect only its duty to the whole country;
that this war is not waged on their part
in any spirit of oppression
or for any purpose of conquest or subjugation
or purpose of overthrowing
or interfering with the rights
or established institutions of those states,
but to defend and maintain
the supremacy of the Constitution
and to preserve the Union
with all the dignity, equality, and rights
of the several states unimpaired;
and that as soon as these objects
are accomplished,
the war ought to cease.”

That is very good.

Senator Trumbull has attached
an amendment to a pending bill that passed
stating that if slaves are used
to aid the rebellion in any way,
they shall be discharged from their masters.

I think I can sign that.
General Butler has been putting to work
a large number of refugee slaves
whom he calls “contraband.”

The Congress has also legalized
most of the war measures you took
in the first few months
while they were not in session.

Good; that makes them more lawful.


Lincoln and Seward are riding in an open carriage toward the camp and see COL. WILLIAM TECUMSEH SHERMAN by the side of the road.

Hello, Mr. President.
Are you going to my camp?

We heard that you had got over the big scare,
and we thought that we would come over
and see the boys.
Why don’t you get in the hack?
Colonel Sherman, this is Mr. Seward.

Sherman climbs into the carriage.

Mr. President,
do you intend to speak to the men?

Yes, I would like to.

Please discourage all the cheering,
noise, or any sort of confusion;
we had enough of it before Bull Run
to spoil any set of men.
What we need is cool, thoughtful,
hard-fighting soldiers—
no more hurrahing, no more humbug.


Lincoln is giving a short speech to some soldiers in the camp.

From what I can tell,
you were winning the battle
when some of the three-month volunteers
decided their time was up and headed home.
Fortunately many rebels had the same idea.
The first combat is the hardest.
You will do better next time.
When I was in the Black Hawk War,
I never saw a hostile Indian.
If I had, I don’t know what I would have done.
We all have our duty to perform.
Our cause is just, and we shall win in the end.

Some soldiers begin to cheer.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Don’t cheer, boys.
I confess I rather like it myself,
but Col. Sherman here says it is not military,
and I guess we had better defer to his opinion.
As Commander-in-Chief I shall make sure
that you have all the support the law allows.
If you are wronged in any way,
you may appeal directly to me.


Lincoln, Sherman, and Seward are touring in the carriage, and a COMPLAINING OFFICER runs after them shouting.

Mr. Lincoln! Mr. Lincoln!

Driver, stop the carriage.

Mr. President, I have a cause of grievance.
This morning I went to speak to Col. Sherman,
and he threatened to shoot me.

Lincoln looks at Sherman and then leaning toward the officer, he whispers loudly in his ear.

Well, if I were you,
and he threatened to shoot,
I would not trust him,
for I believe he would do it.

The officer’s face turns white, and he quickly leaves. Those who heard this, laugh and whoop. As they drive away, Sherman explains.

These minor mutinies are common
among new troops.

I didn’t know anything about it,
but I thought you knew your business best.

Thank you for what you did.
It will bolster discipline.

I am putting General McClellan
in command of the Army of the Potomac.
He is young but smart and confident.
He has won victories in west Virginia.



September 10

While JUDGE EDWARD COLES listens from the doorway, Lincoln meets with JESSIE BENTON FREMONT, whose dress is travel-stained.

Thank you for seeing me so quickly.
I am rather tired from my journey,
but I wanted to let you know as soon as possible
that I have a message from General Fremont.


She hands two letters to Lincoln, who stands under a chandelier and begins reading them as she sits down.

The General wished so much
for you to have your attention to these letters
that he had me bring them
to make sure they would reach you.

Lincoln picks up a chair and sits down near her.

I have written the General,
and he knows what I want done.
Your husband threatened to shoot any person
in northern Missouri caught with a gun.
Now General Jeff Thompson,
the Confederate commander in Missouri,
has proclaimed that for every soldier
in the state guard or southern army
put to death by General Fremont
he will hang, draw, and quarter
a minion of Abraham Lincoln.

The General understands that now
and will not execute anyone
without your permission.
Mr. President, my husband and I don’t think
the South can be conquered by arms alone.
We must appeal to world sentiment
in Britain, France, and Spain
by striking a blow against slavery.
If we can make the issue emancipation,
they will never recognize the Confederacy.

I know your father was a senator,
and you are quite a female politician.
I asked the General to modify his proclamation
because it violates the new confiscation law.
He never would have proclaimed that
if he had consulted first with Frank Blair.
I sent Frank Blair there to advise him
and to keep me advised about the work
and the true condition of things.
This is a war for a great national idea, the Union,
and General Fremont should not have
dragged the Negro into it.

Why did you send Monty Blair to Missouri?
The Blairs are trying to destroy us.
General Fremont could set himself up
as an independent leader in the West.

It is an error to try to
convert this war for the Union
into a war against slavery.
This may please the abolitionists;
but it could lose the border states
of Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri,
and without them we could lose the war.

As its first presidential candidate,
my husband was head of the Republican party
until you were nominated.

That is quite enough, Mrs. Fremont.
Good night.

When shall I return for your reply?

I’ll send for you if I need you.

Sir, the General will try titles with you.
He is a man, and I am his wife.

She flaunts her handkerchief in front of Lincoln and leaves with Judge Coles.


Lincoln is talking with Nicolay.

What is the trouble, sir?

Fremont is ready to rebel,
and Chase is in despair.
Cameron is utterly ignorant, selfish
and openly discourteous to me.
He is also obnoxious to the country
and incapable of organizing details
or conceiving and executing general plans.
Our credit is gone in St. Louis,
Cincinnati and Springfield.
There are immense claims
against the Government
that Congress will have to audit.
Our overdraft today stands at $12 million,
and Chase says the new loan
will be exhausted in eleven days.
Militarily, Kentucky has been
successfully invaded by the rebels,
and Missouri is virtually seized by them.
October is here, and instead of
having a force ready to descend the Mississippi,
the probability is that the Army of the West
will be compelled to defend St. Louis.
Chase, Bates, the Blairs, Meigs, Gower, Gurley,
Browning, and Thomas all testify that
everything in the West, military and financial,
is in hopeless confusion.
And despite odds like these, it is my duty
to keep up the spirits of the country!

Is that all?

They both laugh and cry at the same time.


Lincoln is meeting with a SPOKESMAN and a large delegation from California. Unknown to the delegation, Edward Baker is also there.

Mr. President, we have come from California
to object to Col. Baker’s control
over patronage in our state.

Senator Baker has been my friend
for twenty-five years,
and I know that he is honest.

We would like you to examine these papers
that prove Baker has been dishonest.
I wish you to keep them, sir; they are yours.

He hands the stack of papers to Lincoln.

These are mine to do with as I please?

Yes, sir.

Lincoln throws all the papers into the fire in the fireplace and then turns back toward the delegation.

Good morning, gentlemen.

The men are aghast, but they file out. Lincoln looks at Baker and smiles.

LINCOLN (Cont’d.)
Well, Col. Baker, I think that takes care of that.


Lincoln is sitting, leaning against a tree while talking with his friend Edward Baker, who is laying on the lawn with his hands behind his head. Ten-year-old WILLIE LINCOLN is playing with the autumn leaves.

My dear Baker, I appointed you
a major general one month ago,
but you have not accepted the commission.

You know as a general I can no longer
wear my uniform in the Senate.
General McClellan has finally allowed us
to plan a battle across the Potomac
under General Stone.
I must be going.

As they stand up, Mary Lincoln approaches them and hands Baker a bouquet of flowers.

General Baker, I want you to have these.
We may not see you for a while.

Thank you; they are very beautiful.
These flowers and my memory
will wither together.

Goodbye, my friend.

Lincoln shakes his hand warmly. Baker puts the bouquet on his horse, and Willie runs up to say goodbye.

Goodbye, Uncle Ned.

Baker picks up Willie and gives him a kiss. Then he mounts his horse and rides off.



October 22

A TELEGRAPH OFFICER leads Lincoln into the telegraph room.

Sir, Col. Baker is reported killed.
His aide Francis Young sent this telegram.

He hands Lincoln a telegram which reads, “I have to inform you that Gen Baker was killed this afternoon in an engagement with the enemy near Leesburg. Knowing your great friendship and esteem of Gen Baker I lose no time in apprising you of our loss. He fell while leading his command saying pleasant and cheering words to the men.” Lincoln’s eyes begin to fill with tears, and he puts the telegram on the table.

Colonel Baker is dead.

Ignoring reporters as he walks out the front door, Lincoln nearly falls as he descends the stairs. Some journalists reach out and steady him before he walks off with both hands pressed against his chest in grief.


Lincoln and Mary are reading while TAD plays on the floor. Willie Lincoln shows a paper to his father.

Pa, I have written a poem to honor Uncle Ned.

Please read it to us, Willie.

“There was no patriot like Baker,
So noble and so true;
He fell as a soldier on the field
His face to the sky of blue.
No squeamish notions filled his breast,
The Union was his theme,
‘No surrender and no compromise,’
His day thought and night’s dream.
His country has her part to play,
To’rds those he left behind
His widow and his children all—
She must always keep in mind.”

My boy is a poet.

Lincoln hugs Willie.



October 24

Lincoln is talking with his friend LEONARD SWETT as he hands him two letters and another paper.

My dear Swett, I need to ask you a favor.
Will you take these letters to Missouri?

Anything I can do to help.

You are to give this letter
to Samuel Curtis in St. Louis
along with this order for removing
General Fremont from command.
Tell Curtis to deliver the order immediately
unless Fremont is involved in a battle
or in the immediate presence of the enemy.
After Fremont receives the order removing him,
Curtis is to deliver this letter
to General David Hunter,
whom I am appointing commander in the West.
Can you leave right away?

Yes, sir.



November 3

Lincoln talks with GENERAL GEORGE MCCLELLAN. Cameron, Nicolay and Hay are also present.

As General Scott has retired,
I am commissioning you General in Chief.
I should be perfectly satisfied
if I thought this vast increase of responsibility
would not embarrass you.

It is a great relief, sir.
I feel as if several tons
were taken from my shoulders today.
I am now in contact with you and the Secretary.
I am not embarrassed by intervention.

Very well, draw on me
for all the sense and information I have,
In addition to your present command,
the supreme command of the army
will entail a vast labor upon you.

I can do it all.



November 11

Lincoln is meeting with General McClellan.

General McClellan, that military parade today
was quite an impressive celebration
of your promotion to General-in-Chief.
This might be a good time to feel the enemy.

I have not been unmindful of that.
We shall feel them tomorrow.



Two days later

MCCLELLAN’S SERVANT shows Lincoln, Seward, and Hay into the parlor.

General McClellan is at a wedding.
Would you like to wait here?

Yes, we would.



An hour later

They are waiting and hear McClellan come in.

General, the President is here to see you.

They hear McClellan climbing the stairs.


McClellan’s servant comes into the parlor.

Would you please remind the General
that we are waiting?

The servant goes out and up the stairs.


The servant comes back into the parlor.

General McClellan has gone to bed.

Lincoln, Seward, and Hay get up to leave.

This is inexcusable insolence of epaulettes!

It is better at this time not to be making points
of etiquette and personal dignity.
I would hold McClellan’s horse
if it would help him win battles.
He must not like me coming to his home.
From now on I shall summon him
to the White House.



December 1

Lincoln’s office has a desk and a large table and also serves as the cabinet room. JOHN DEFREES is meeting with Lincoln.

Mr. President, I thought you should know
about this report by Secretary of War Cameron
that is being printed by our office
and by many newspapers.

What is the problem?

He is advocating arming the slaves!
The legal counsel Edwin Stanton revised it
and sent you a copy.

I have not read it yet.

Listen to what it says.
“If it shall be found that the men
who have been held by the rebels as slaves
are capable of bearing arms
and performing military service,
it is the right and may become the duty
of the Government to arm and equip them
and employ their services against the rebels.”
He also wrote that the Government has
as much right to arm slaves as it does
to use gun-powder taken from the enemy.

This will never do!
Secretary Cameron must take
no such responsibility.
This is a question that
belongs exclusively to me.
I order all copies of that report seized
so that those sections can be corrected.

Yes, sir.


SENATOR CHARLES SUMNER is meeting with Lincoln.

Mr. President,
I read your annual message to Congress,
and I am disappointed that
it says nothing about emancipation,
which I believe is your best weapon
in winning this war.

Senator Sumner, I am working on a plan
by which the Congress would set aside money
to buy the freedom of Negroes in those states
that have been persuaded
to give up the institution of slavery.
I propose that Congress also pay for
their colonization in Liberia or Haiti
or in some territory bought for that purpose.

Then why not present your plan at once?

Well, Mr. Sumner, the only difference
between you and me on this subject
is a difference of a month or six weeks.

Mr. President,
if that is the only difference between us,
I will not say another word to you about this
until six weeks have passed.


MAJOR BENJAMIN FRENCH is talking with Lincoln.

Mr. President, as you know,
the Congress appropriated $20,000
to refurnish the White House,
and the First Lady has been
in charge of that work.
Mrs. Lincoln recently summoned me here
in great distress and told me that
she has exceeded that appropriation by $6,700,
and she asked me to tell you how much it costs.

I have offered to pay that out of my own pocket.

Yes, sir, but she says that you cannot afford it
and ought not to do it
and that it is common to overrun expenditures.
She begged me to persuade you to approve the bill
without letting you know that she talked to me.
Will you approve the deficiency appropriation?

No, it never can have my approval.
I’ll pay for it out of my own pocket first.
It would stink in the nostrils
of the American people to have it said that
the President of the United States had approved
a bill overrunning an appropriation of $20,000
for flub dubs for this damned old house,
when the soldiers cannot have blankets.
I suppose Mrs. Lincoln must bear the blame,
but I swear I won’t.
The house was furnished well enough,
better than any one we ever lived in.
If I had not been overwhelmed
with other business, I would not have had
any of the appropriation expended;
but I cannot attend to everything.
I swear I will not approve that bill.


Lincoln and Mary are talking with Willie and Tad.

Tad, have you been going to Sunday school
with Willie and the Taft boys?

Yes, Ma, I have been going to church
because Willie likes to go.

The church that the Tafts go to
is lots livelier than the one you and Pa attend.
When the preacher prays for the President,
the “seceshes” get up and walk out,
letting their pew doors bang.

Pa, why do the preachers always
pray so long for you?

I suppose it’s because
the preachers think I need it,
and I guess I do.



December 25

Senator Sumner is attending a cabinet meeting.

I have invited Senator Sumner to this meeting
because he has been very outspoken
on the capture of the Trent by Captain Wilkes
and the holding of the rebel senators
Mason and Slidell by our Government.
He has advised arbitration,
and I told him that he would be consulted
in our resolution of this crisis.
Mr. Cameron, would you please
explain the saltpeter situation?

Although Mr. Seward, Mr. Welles, and I
celebrated this abduction as a victory
over both the Confederacy and the British,
it is severely damaging our war effort.
Saltpeter is the main ingredient in gunpowder,
and most of the saltpeter
in this country is in the South.
The British were helping us
to import saltpeter from India;
but since this incident caused disruption,
our supplies have run perilously low.

We also face the threat of a war with England
which would also mean a war against France.

Attorney General Bates has been unable
to find cases to bolster his contention
that this holding of the two envoys
to Britain is legal.

I realize that we cannot fight Britain and France
while we are fighting the Confederacy.
Legal opinion in the United States
now does favor their release,
and so I would say that
the political risks are minimal.

I have always held that
Wilkes violated international law
and that Mason and Slidell should be
handed over to the British.

I also urge you to release Mason and Slidell.
I have here letters
from John Bright and Richard Cobden,
two of the most pro-northern liberals in England.
Bright wrote, “Nations drift into wars
often through the want of a resolute hand
at some moment early in the quarrel.
So now, a courageous stroke, not of arms,
but of moral action, may save you and us.”

There will be no war
unless England is bent on having one.
My fear that the traitors would prove
to be white elephants has come to pass.
We must stick to the principles
concerning the rights of neutrals.
We fought Great Britain for their insisting
by theory and practice on the right to do
precisely what Captain Wilkes has done.
Now Great Britain is protesting against that act
and is demanding their release.
I believe that by giving them up
and apologizing for the act
as a violation of our doctrines,
we may forever bind the British over
to keep the peace in relation to neutrals.
Yet I would like to talk to Mr. Seward
some more about this.
This meeting is adjourned
and will reconvene tomorrow morning.

Everyone leaves except Seward and Lincoln.

What can I do, Mr. President?

You will go on, of course, preparing your answer,
which as I understand it, will state the reasons
why they ought to be given up.
Now I have a mind to try my hand
at stating the reasons why
they ought not to be given up.
We will compare the points on each side.


Lincoln is meeting with his cabinet again.

I believe that Captain Wilkes acted lawfully
in searching the Trent,
but the legality of his seizing Mason and Slidell
should have been decided
by an American Prize Court.

Are you not taking the British side
of the dispute against your own country?

Yes, but I am really defending and maintaining,
not an exclusively British interest, but an old,
honored, and cherished American cause.
Six decades ago Secretary of State James Madison
established the principle when the British seized
contraband from American ships.
If we were now to deny
the justice of the British claim,
we would be reversing and forever abandoning
that principle for which the United States
has proudly stood in those earlier disputes.
Therefore I believe our Government
should cheerfully free the prisoners
and hand them over to Lord Lyons.

Does anyone oppose this?
As we are in agreement, I am ordering that
Mason and Slidell be released.
Thank you, gentlemen,
for attending this extra meeting.

They all leave except Seward and Lincoln.

I thought you were going to
frame an argument for the other side.

I found I could not make an argument
that would satisfy my own mind,
and that proved to me
that your ground is the right one.


SENATOR BENJAMIN WADE is leading the Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War that is meeting with Lincoln.

What does the Congressional Committee
on the Conduct of the War have to say?
Senator Wade?

You are murdering your country by inches
in consequence of the inactivity of the military
and want of a distinct policy in regard to slavery.
We think you should remove General McClellan
from command of the Army of the Potomac.

It is my duty to defer to General McClellan.
Who would you have me put in his place?


Wade, anybody will do for you,
but I must have somebody.

The end of Part 5

Copyright © 2008 by Sanderson Beck

Learning Politics and Law
In Congress and Out
Debating Douglas
Becoming President
Civil War Begins
Proclaiming Emancipation
War by Conscription
Getting Re-elected
Victory and Death

How Lincoln Could Have Prevented Civil War
Lincoln Bibliography
Lincoln Chronology

BECK index