This article from the New York Herald of 11 January 1861 gives a feel for what it must have felt like to see the terrible events leading to Civil War in America unfolding to display the bloody outbreak of war. This article focuses on the gravity of the situation when federal troops aboard the The Star of the West were denied landing at Ft Sumter.
Events Leading to Civil War
As this article makes clear, President James Buchanan‘s administration (4 Mar 1857 – 4Mar 1861) was left for hopeless in settling the quarrels between north and south. All hope was pinned on the incoming administration of Abraham Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward. What I find interesting is the last paragraph of the Herald article.
“As the present administration can do no more toward pacification — the Executive having exhausted its constitutional powers, as Mr. Buchanan states in his message — it is the new administration which must accomplish this grand result, by fairly and boldly settling the differences between the southern States, who are contending for their constitutional rights, and that party at the North which, for the sake of a mere abstraction, is disposed to deny them.”
Don’t forget this is a New York newspaper making a point that the south thinks it is fighting for constitutional principles, even if those principles are tied to the abhorrent issue of slavery. I think that we, as modern Americans, have turned the crisis of the Union into a simple dichotomy of all of the north felt one way and all of the south felt another. The American Civil War was much more complicated than is often presented. Why is this important? If we as a people cannot understand how complicated a topic was at the time of our darkest hour, how can we learn the lessons of it? Even if we arrive at the correct conclusions, understanding how we came to those conclusions is important. I hope we never need to face circumstances like those again, but wouldn’t it be good that if we have to, we know how we dealt with those of the past?
Events Leading to Civil War Motorcycle Ride
Try the ride from Myrtle Beach, SC to Ft Sumter National Park along US Highway 17/701 which takes in the length of Francis Marion (the legendary “Swamp Fox” of the Revolutionary War) National Forest.