Ready for War?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in April of 1861: “The attack on fort Sumter crystallized the North into a unit…”
So, the Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs was correct about the effect of the bombardment. He had advised President Davis, not to authorize an attack on Fort Sumter , “…it is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal.”
The South did not need to attack the fort when it did. The Union commander there, Major
Anderson told the Confederate military commander in Charleston, General Beauregard, that he would run out of food by April 15. Then, he would have to surrender the fort at noon on that date if not resupplied.
Waiting was not acceptable to President Davis and his cabinet. Beauregard was ordered to ask for the surrender one more time. If refused, he was directed to take the fort by force. Major Anderson refused. So, bombardment on the fort began on April 12, 11861 atr four-thirty in the morning.
Had Confederate leaders been willing to suffer the shame of the Yankees holding Fort Sumter longer, they could have better prepared themselves for the expected conflict with the Union.
By waiting, they could have expedited the export of their cotton to the factories of Europe and the North without having to contend with the Union’s blockade. This export would have given them money to import weapons and military supplies needed to defend their independence.
In addition, by waiting, they could have forced the Union to be the aggressor. Instead, President Davis caused a war which, as predicted by the Confederate Secretary of State Robert Toombs, caused a firestorm of anger in the North against the South. The rash act of President Davis caused a war to begin with the North for which the Confederate States of America was woefully unprepared to fight.
At the very time the attack on Fort Sumter was ordered, the South had no army or navy. It had no steel making facility or factory to make armaments or gunpowder. Its population in 1860, was 9,103,332 pf which 3,523,110 were slaves, compared to 22,339,991 citizens in the Free states of the North. In 1861, there were 128,300 industrial firms in the United States Of this number only 18,206 factories were located in the South producing less than 10% of the total industrial output of the country. In addition, the Union had 22,085 miles of railroad track compared to 8,541 miles of track in the South; and these of various gauges.
At the beginning of the conflict, the South had 1,140,000 men between the fighting ages of 15 and 40 years old. The North had over 4,010,000 men in this same age range. Also, Lincoln chose to increase the number of fighting men available to him by recruiting 180,000 Negros as well.
By any measure, the Confederate States of America were unprepared to begin a war with the North.