Who Started The Civil War?

In most conflicts the moral advantage of being the defender rather than the aggressor holds the higher ground. Then why did the Confederate government permit the bombardment of Fort Sumter? The beginning of the War Between the States is wrapped in Union propaganda justifying the war. The accounts of Fort Sumter is filled with intrigue, secret orders, political deception, and conspiracy.
In the Southern point of view the North had already taken the offensive by the occupation and provision of Fort Sumter. When secession became inevitable the disposition of state arsenals and coastal forts which were for the defense of the states in which they stood reverted back to the states for which they were built.
On December 9, 1861, eleven days before the South Carolina Secession Ordinance, South Carolina Congressmen met with President Buchanan and had an agreement that neither Forts Moultrie and Sumter in Charleston harbor would be attacked by South Carolina forces so long as they were not reinforced and did not act aggressively toward the State. On December 12, seven weeks before he was to become president Lincoln sent Army Chief Winfield Scott instructions to retake or hold the forts after he became president.                                                                  
When South Carolina seceded on December 20, Major Robert Anderson, commanding the Federal forces in Charleston, determined that Fort Moultrie was too vulnerable to attack so on his own initiative secretly moved his eighty-two man garrison from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. Sumter at that time was unoccupied. President Buchanan and several members of his cabinet felt the move violated their earlier agreement with South Carolina. As a matter of fact Secretary of War Floyd, resigned over the matter.
Anderson reported to Army Headquarters that he had four to five months worth of provisions. Charleston authorities also allowed Anderson to continue purchasing provisions in Charleston. The President's cabinet in Washington agreed that reinforcing Fort Sumter was an act of war and would be interpreted that way by the South. Ignoring the armistice that the Federal government had with South Carolina that Fort Sumter would not be attacked unless reinforced or engaged in aggression, Lincoln sent six man-of-war ships to accompany the merchant ship,The Star of the West, loaded with provisions to relieve Fort Sumter. The Charleston batteries fired a warning shot across her bow. She kept coming, but after the Charleston batteries began to fire in earnest, she turned away. This incident was an embarrassment to the Washington administration.
On February 25, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed three high ranking Peace Commissioners, including former President Tyler to go to Washington for the purpose of negotiating the disposition of Fort Sumter. Though Lincoln refused to see them Secretary of War William Seward promised them that Fort Sumter would be evacuated. On March 29, Lincoln persuaded his cabinet to approve his plan to reinforce Fort Sumter, although he knew it meant war.
 During the interval the military authorities in South Carolina intercepted a letter from Major Anderson urging Washington to let him surrender painting a bloody outcome if they would not. On April 4, Anderson was notified by Washington that a reinforcement expedition would arrive by April 15On April 8, Washington sent South Carolina Governor Pickens word that Fort Sumter would be supplied with provisions only and if not resisted Washington promised that no men, arms or ammunition would be brought into the fort. But two days before Lincoln issued orders sending in the Union warships, the Pocahontas, the Pawnee, the Harriet Lane, the Baltic and the Powhatan to sail in support of Fort Sumter.
President Davis knew that Lincoln was maneuvering the South to fire the first shot but Davis knew that legally the aggressor in war and under the rules of law was not the first to use force, but the first to render force necessary. General P. G. T. Beauregard, Confederate commander of Charleston's defenses sent emissaries to Fort Sumter to demand its surrender, knowing it would be difficult to fight both the fort and the arriving armed flotilla. Anderson said he would surrender but not before April 15, knowing that was when the Union naval force would be there to relive him.
 Unfortunately on April 11, Beauregard could see the Union warships within striking distance of Fort Sumter and Charleston. At 3:20 a.m. on April 12, Beauregard sent messengers to announce that the fort would be bombarded within one hour. At 4:30 a.m. the Confederate batteries encircling Fort Sumter commenced its bombardment. During the bombardment the fort caught on fire. Beauregard stopped firing and offered the use of a fire engine to contain the fire, which might threaten the fort's ammunition and powder supplies but Anderson refused the help. After thirty-four hours of shelling Anderson raised the white flag.
 The Confederates had been placed in a position of either firing the first shot or risking the loss of Charleston and the credibility of Confederate resistance to Northern aggression. President Davis told his countrymen: "The order for the sending of the fleet was a declaration of war. The responsibility is on their shoulders, not on ours. The assault has been made. It is on no importance who shall strike the first blow or fire the first gun.
Lincoln's propaganda pitch to the North was that the South fired on the fort to prevent starving men from receiving provisions. Lincoln had achieved his goal. He maneuvered Northern public opinion behind him so he could wage a war to put down Southern secession. For over 150 years the Northern press has  ignored the fact that the fort was well supplied including the fact that Anderson was allowed to purchase supplies in Charleston and that Lincoln broke the armistice by ordering the Union fleet to sail into Charleston harbor and relieve Fort Sumter with men, arms and ammunition.
 Paul R. Paul R. Petersen 2014 © Quantrillsguerrillas.com. "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay."
The Blue and The Gray, Henry Steele Commager, The Fairfax Press, 1982.
The Un-Civil War, Mike Scruggs, The Tribune Papers, Book Division, 2007.

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