Lincoln Could He Have Preserved the Union Lincoln Could He Have Preserved the Union From the time the South demanded the return of Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens, tension had been building in expectation of Lincolns reply. The options available to Lincoln were limited, and those that were available were further limited by constraints of time and man-power. Lincolns options were also limited by his goals. Lincoln had a set agenda, with preserving the Union at the head of the list. Lincoln also aimed to preserve Fort Sumter and Fort Pickens. Lincolns most pressing goal was to instigate the war without seeming to be the aggressor.
This proved to be the most difficult goal, because to achieve this, he had to know how far to push without seeming to push at all. An additional goal was to perhaps lure the border states onto the northern side. This was an important goal because it fell in line with Lincolns un-hostile attitude. By being attacked first, he could say he was responding to an act of war on the United States. One of Lincolns options was to sit by and do nothing.
This was not really an option, however, because abandoning his soldiers at this fort would not only lower the morale of his entire army, but could also turn many of his supporters against him. So, needless to say, Lincoln could not really consider this as an option. Lincoln, for a time, also entertained the idea of compromise. The southern resolve was so concrete that this idea was abandoned rather quickly. Another idea, proposed by Secretary of State Seward, was to abandon Fort Sumter and concentrate on Fort Pickens.
Lincoln did not accept this idea either, mainly because abandoning a fort anywhere in the South would recognize the South as an independent nation. Even so, Seward managed to get a force together, and taking one of the strongest ships in the United States Navy, went to Pickens anyway. One idea with similar traits was the idea to abandon both forts, leaving the South. Though open to consideration, this was not at all in line with Lincolns thinking. Again this would recognize the South as an independent nation, which would finalize the secession.
For lack of a better idea, some suggested the reinforcing of the forts, to protect them from bombardment. This idea was cast aside also, because, first of all, Fort Sumter lies in between two points of land, both protected by forts. To make this idea work, those forts would have to be taken, too. Lincoln could not amass the needed number of soldiers, either. Secondly, the thought of risking more lives on just a pile of rock in the middle of a harbor was not appealing. Considering the resolve of the Southern states, Lincoln for a while considered a military invasion.
This, however, was not feasible. Lincolns forces were so scattered, it would take weeks on end to produce enough soldiers to achieve this goal. An estimate by General in chief Scott suggested “5,000 regular troops and 20,000 volunteers.” (Current 50) The time frame for collecting this number of soldiers was much greater than the supplies in Sumter could last. Fort Sumter was also reinforced by surrounding forts in Charleston Harbor, meaning a loss of soldiers could be expected also. Lincolns most favored option, the one he eventually went with, was to take a non-aggressive force into the harbor, carrying supplies in to the short-rationed soldiers. Although Lincoln went in under peaceful pretenses, one could assume that he was attempting to achieve his goal of appearing to be the tormented, not the tormentor. His ploy worked, and the South did as predicted and fired upon the re-supply fleet.
By achieving his non-aggressor goal, Lincoln also strengthened his case for winning the border states. Lincoln was faced with a dilemma when he had to decide between peace or unity. The southern resolve eliminated any chance of compromise, so Lincoln had to chose the route which seemed the best for the Union. He could not be seen as aggressive, because if he did he risked losing the support of the border states, which could reduce the Union to nothing. To reiterate, the southern states hard nose attitude encouraged no deliberation, so no compromise could have ever been achieved.
Lincoln, in light of this incident, might not be seen as your typical image of “Honest Abe”, but he comes shining through as a great leader.