Investigating the War of 1861 Endnotes

by Jim Jester

1. There was no formal Declaration of War made by Lincoln, for to do such would mean he had to recognize the legitimacy of the Confederate States of America. Internationally, no other state formally recognized the Confederacy although most were sympathetic to their cause. Only the Vatican recognized them. President Lincoln’s view was that the Southern states were still a part of the Union and that they were in rebellion against the legitimate government and its laws. However, the United States government recognized the CSA as a “belligerent power,” which authorized Confederate warships to visit foreign ports. President Jefferson Davis acknowledged April 15th as a declaration of war because it was the day Lincoln decided to use the Militia Act of 1792 (the only law he had) to call forth 75,000 Militia for suppressing an insurrection against the U.S. The legal beginning of the war (according to the Supreme Court) was when Lincoln signed his proclamation on April 19 for the naval blockade of Southern ports. Another undeclared war, the longest in U.S. history, was against the Apache Nation. Between 1840 and 1886 (a 46-year period), there was never more than 90 days of peace. The Indian Territory (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee {Creek}, and Seminole) and Arizona Territory formally seceded from the Union. Groups of Comanche, Osage, Quapaw, Seneca, Shawnee, and Wichita also signed friendship treaties with the Confederacy. [back to text]

2. The decision of Abraham Lincoln to provision Fort Sumter and the decision of the Confederate government to attack it have been the focus of one of the more persistent controversies of Civil War history. Claims that the South fired the first shot and thus unnecessarily began a bloody conflict have been countered by accusations that the attempt to supply the fort was a hostile act, the spark that really touched off the explosion. The part Lincoln himself played in the Sumter affair has, to say the least, attracted much attention. The most devastating and provocative charge thus far made, one which the late Professor Charles W. Ramsdell (“Lincoln and Fort Sumter”, Journal of Southern History, III, Aug. 1937, 259-88) was the first to put forward in a complete and scholarly manner, is that Lincoln deliberately provoked the Confederates into firing the first shot as the only possible way out of an otherwise insoluble political dilemma. This allegation is especially controversial because it is felt by many to challenge, if not overthrow, the most widely accepted picture of Lincoln’s character. – “Fort Sumter and Confederate Diplomacy”, Ludwell H. Johnson, The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Nov., 1960), pp. 441-477 [back to text]