Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On This Day: April 15, 1861 - Civil War Begins

The following post was submitted by USHistoryBlog contributor Tom Haynes.

On this day, the Civil War officially began. In response to southern forces firing on Fort Sumter three days prior, President Abraham Lincoln declares a state of insurrection and calls out Union troops.

In the resolution issued this day, Lincoln called 75,000 militia troops from the various states still loyal. At this point, seven states had announced their intention to secede from that Union. South Carolina had been first, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. The militia's first duty, according to Lincoln's statement, would be to secure federal property seized by those states.

At the same time, Lincoln called both houses of Congress into session, scheduled for the 4th of July 1861. This period would be something of a lull in hostilities, but several more states (most notably Virginia) would quickly respond to Lincoln's call for troops by joining the secession movement.

Whereas the laws of the United States have been for some time past, and now are opposed, and the execution thereof obstructed, in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, by combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by law.

Now therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in virtue of the
power in me vested by the Constitution, and the laws, have thought fit to call forth, and hereby do call forth, the militia of the several States of the Union, to the aggregate number of seventy-five thousand, in order to suppress said combinations, and to cause the laws to be duly executed. The details, for this object, will be immediately communicated to the State authorities through the War Department.

I appeal to all loyal citizens to favor, facilitate and aid this effort to maintain the honor, the integrity, and the existence of our National Union, and the perpetuity of popular government; and to redress wrongs already long enough endured.

I deem it proper to say that the first service assigned to the forces hereby called forth will probably be to re-possess the forts, places, and property which have been seized from the Union; and in every event, the utmost care will be observed, consistently with the objects aforesaid, to avoid any devastation, any destruction of, or interference with, property, or any disturbance of peaceful citizens in any part of the country.

And I hereby command the persons composing the combinations aforesaid to disperse, and retire peaceably to their respective abodes within twenty days
from this date. Deeming that the present condition of public affairs presents an extraordinary occasion, I do hereby, in virtue of the power in me vested by the Constitution, convene both Houses of Congress. Senators and Representatives are therefore summoned to assemble at their respective chambers, at 12 o'clock, noon, on Thursday, the fourth day of July, next, then and there to consider and determine, such measures, as, in their wisdom, the public safety, and interest may seem to demand.

In Witness Whereof I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the city of Washington this fifteenth day of April in the year of our Lord One thousand, Eight hundred and Sixtyone, and of the Independence the United States the Eightyfifth.


By the President:
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

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