The following objection was recently submitted by a reader in response to our entry on the Virginia Convention of 1861. In writing about the machinations of the secession convention in Richmond, we write: “Ominously for the Unionists, the vote came a week after Lincoln ended his vacillation over what to do and resolved to send a naval expedition to relieve Fort Sumter.”
Now our reader:
Lincoln did not send a “naval expedition” to Fort Sumter. He sent food and water to resupply the garrison, and he announced this publicly. He sent no arms or munitions. Your description should be changed. There is no doubt that the immediate cause, the start of war, was the South’s firing on Fort Sumter. The South began the war and abandoned political efforts to avoid war.
I’m not convinced we can’t both be right here. Abraham Lincoln did send a naval expedition to Sumter, and that expedition’s purpose was to resupply the garrison with food and water. However, our language could be clearer, and for that reason, we’ve decided to make a small change. The sentence will now read: “. . . Lincoln ended his vacillation over what to do and resolved to send a naval expedition to resupply Fort Sumter with food and water.”
Thanks as always for the feedback.
IMAGE: Bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Batteries of the Confederate States, April 13, 1861; from Harper’s Weekly, April 27, 1861)