The Outbreak of the War
There was some dispute about the exact date when the war started and the immediate responsibility for it. Most
Northerners thought of it as beginning with the firing on Fort Sumter which was an overt act which they blamed on
the Southerners and which, for a time at least, unified the sentiment and opinion in the free states. Most
Southerners, especially in the upper and border states, see the date of the beginning of the war with Lincoln’s call
for the militia, and they laid the chief blame for the armed conflict on him.
President Lincoln’s call for state troops was quickly followed on April 19, 1861 by his proclamation of a blockade of
the seven Confederate states which soon extended to the states of Virginia and North Carolina on April 27th.
Later the Supreme Court judged that both these dates began the war, but four of the Justices decided the date of
July 31, 1861 when the Congress recognized a state of war. Early official actions on the Union were presidential,
since Congress was not in session until July 4th and the body had little choice but to validate them.
Many people blamed the President with having exceeded his authority, but by the summer of 1861 the war was on
and there was no doubt. The war was known as the War of the Rebellion by the North and the South preferred the
War of Southern Independence. Later the North called the war the War Between the States. But the name that
most gave to the war is the Civil War.
1. Empire for Liberty, Appleton, 1960.
2. Lincoln the Liberal Statesman, Randall, 1947.