-- Hesitation and Decision --

Problem 4

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The Cabinet Meets

When the cabinet met on March 29, Lincoln had much to consider. During the past ten days, he had listened to the arguments over Fox's report, Hurlbut's and Lamon's disturbing predictions of war if relief were attempted, Scott's recommendation to abandon both Sumter and Pickens, and Montgomery Blair's scathing indictment of those who relied on the carrot of conciliation instead of the stick of federal enforcement. Meanwhile, the condition of Anderson's troops grew every day more strained, and it was uncertain whether Beauregard would wait much longer before making his move. Tension mounted each day in the hothouse atmosphere of Washington.

During the cabinet meeting, members presented their responses to Lincoln's questions concerning Forts Sumter and Pickens. To see the advice he received, click on the three top pictures of cabinet members. These three positions are representative of the whole cabinet. If you wish to see the advice offered by other members of Lincoln's cabinet, click on the four bottom pictures.

As matters stood, the three likeliest courses of action available to Lincoln were: to abandon both Sumter and Pickens; to abandon Sumter but hold Pickens; and to set in motion expeditions to relieve both Sumter and Pickens.

William H. Seward Montgomery Blair Gideon Welles

Futher Advice

Caleb B. Smith Salmon P. Chase Edward Bates

After you have considered all the information, place yourself in Lincoln's position. What would you do, and why? Would you:

  1. Use the Notebook to write a brief answer explaining your decision, or use a word processing program to write a full response. To see Lincoln's decision, click "What Lincoln Did."
  2. What Lincoln Did.

Bibliography: Nicolay and Hay, Lincoln, 3:429, 4: 33-34; Current, Lincoln and the First Shot, pp. 77-80; Potter, Lincoln and His Party, pp. 371-72; Beale, ed., Diary of Edward Bates, p. 180.

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