Lincoln Issues Call for 75,000 Men to "Suppress" Confederacy

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Lincoln Issues Call for 75,000 Men to "Suppress" Confederacy

Today in Military History: April 15, 1861

With the attack and subsequent surrender of Fort Sumter on April 14, President Lincoln now had little choice. The seven states of the Confederacy had now made very clear that they were intent on pursuing a course different from their northern brethren. By occupying Federal installations, the Rebels had demonstrated their commitment to splitting the American Union.

Former President James Buchanan had shown a willingness to let the Southern states go their own way, feeling there was little he could do to constitutionally force them back into the fold. Lincoln, however, had shown ā€“ by word at least to this point ā€“ that he would do what was necessary to preserve the Union. He now realized that the only answer to the Confederacy was a military one.

Like most people, Lincoln miscalculated the size of the job, as well as how long it would take to accomplish it. Apparently, he felt that he could limit the scope of military operations to re-taking Federal forts, ports and other installations from the Rebels. Therefore, after receiving word of the fall of Fort Sumter, Lincoln issued a proclamation to the governors of the states who had not seceded. He appealed to the governors to send militia units to various cities in each state, in order for those units to be mustered into Federal service. They were thought to only be needed for the (now-ridiculously short) period of 90 days. Below is the text of Lincoln's proclamation:



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 75,000, in order to suppress said combinations and to cause the laws to be duly executed.

The details of 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 repossess 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 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 twelve 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 sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.


At the same time, a telegram was sent to each state's governor by Simon Cameron, the Secretary of War. Each state was given a quota of the number of regiments and men that were to be mustered into service, as well as a list of cities where they were to gather. [Though they were in the Union, the states of California and Oregon were not included in this first call-to-arms, as they were thought to be too far removed from the action and would take too long to get any mustered troops east to participate.]

This list included the states of Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, who had not yet decided on their participation in secession. However, because of Lincoln's call for volunteers, all four states opted join the Confederacy. Virginia seceded on April 17, and was ratified by the voters on May 23. Arkansas declared for the Confederacy on May 6. Tennessee seceded on May 7, and the voters agreed on June 8. Finally, North Carolina on May 20 joined the rebellion.

Eventually, this first rush of martial ardor to quell the Southern Rebellion would yield 91,000 militiamen. However, after the first major battle of the war at 1st Bull Run (Manassas) in Virginia, all Americans realized that the war was going to be a long, drawn-out affair.

Footnote: When the American Civil War began in April 1861, there were only 16,000 men in the U.S. Army, and of these many Southern officers resigned and joined the Confederate States Army. The U.S. Army consisted of ten regiments of infantry, four of artillery, two of cavalry, two of dragoons, and one of mounted infantry. The regiments were scattered widely. Of the 197 companies in the army, 179 occupied 79 isolated posts in the West, and the remaining 18 manned garrisons east of the Mississippi River, mostly along the Canadian border and on the Atlantic coast. 

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.