Imagine trying to avoid a civil war and then having to figure out how to fight one—all in one’s first 100 days in office and all without Congress. That was what Abraham Lincoln’s first 100 days as president essentially looked like. From his first full day in office on March 5th, 1861 to his 100th day in the middle of June, Lincoln barely had time to handle the things presidents normally did, never mind relax.
On March 5th, one of the first items on his desk was a letter from Major Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter had been surrounded by Confederate troops since South Carolina seceded in December of 1860, and now the situation was desperate. According to Anderson, they had about six weeks’ worth of provisions left before they would have to surrender. Otherwise, based on Anderson’s estimate, reinforcing the fort was going to take 20,000 men—4,000 more than the entire army—and might trigger fighting. Lincoln’s general-in-chief, General Winfield Scott, recommended surrender. On his first full day in office, Lincoln was facing the possibility of having to break both of his electoral promises regarding war: holding onto government property and waiting for the Confederates to move first. Continue reading “Lincoln’s First 100 Days”