Saturday, October 30, 2010

"It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal"

I have long thought that the worst decision made in the Civil War was the first: Jefferson's Davis's directive to open fire on Fort Sumter. According to Pleasant A. Stovall, Confederate Secretary of State Robert A. Toombs of Georgia agreed with me:
Secretary Toombs was one man in the Montgomery Cabinet who was not deceived by Seward's sophistries. He knew the temper of Mr. Lincoln better than Mr. Seward did. He appreciated the feeling at the North, and gave his counsel in the Davis Cabinet against the immediate assault upon Sumter. There was a secret session of the Cabinet in Montgomery. Toombs was pacing the floor during the discussion over Sumter, his hands behind him, and his face wearing that heavy, dreamy look when in repose. Facing about, he turned upon the President and opposed the attack. "Mr. President," he said, "at this time, it is suicide, murder, and will lose us every friend at the North. You will wantonly strike a hornet's nest which extends from mountains to ocean, and legions, now quiet, will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary; it puts us in the wrong; it is fatal." He clung to the idea expressed in his dispatches to the commissioners, that "So long as the United States neither declares war nor establishes peace, the Confederate States have the advantage of both conditions." But just as President Lincoln overruled Secretary Seward, so President Davis overruled Secretary Toombs.

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