One hundred and fifty years ago, the country was in the process of splitting in half. Those states that had not left the Union yet, including Arkansas, were standing on the sidelines awaiting news of the crisis that had recently started in the Southern harbor in Charleston, South Carolina. Though Arkansas was on the other end of the known United States, Arkansawyers were every bit interested in the goings on nearly a thousand miles distant.
Lincoln, in the first few days of April, 1861, found himself in a peculiar dilemma: how could he unite the North before invading the South. To further his illusion of maintaining the Union, Lincoln outright refused to acknowledge the Confederate States of America as a legitimate county on the basis of states not having the constitutional right to secede from the United States. He was wrong. Congressional documents show a bill on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1862 that would make secession illegal. So what was Honest Abe up to? And how could he maintain any semblance of order as a new President of a country on the eve of civil war?
The answer would not be as complex if were it true that only Southern states were threatening secession. This could not be further from the truth. While Arkansas was still wavering over the issue of leaving the Union, New Jersey and California both were likewise threatening secession from the United States. As noted Civil War historian Shelby Foote notes, “Oregon was considering the establishment of a new Pacific nation; so, even, was New York City, which beside being southern in sentiment would have much to gain from independence.”
With the threat of his so-called Union crumbling around him, coupled with the fact that supplies were running low at Federal-occupied Ft. Sumter, Lincoln was faced with a dire question: should the troops be resupplied in a fort within the legal boundaries of a state that has seceded from the Union, or should the U.S. troops be evacuated, thus preventing the proverbial, and literal powder keg that would start a revolution? With three other Federal-occupied Southern forts receiving little attention, the focus of the North and the South was Ft. Sumter.