Buchanan Initiates War
Though President James Buchanan disagreed with the political remedy of State secession from the Union, he publicly stated that as President he was powerless to oppose it. But it was Buchanan who later began hostilities when he dispatched the Star of West with armed troops aboard from New York harbor and destined for Charleston.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Buchanan’s Initiates War
“Buchanan had firmly endorsed the war policy since the attack on Fort Sumter, and in September, 1861, sent a letter to a Democratic political meeting in Chester County [Pennsylvania]. He emphasized in this message that the war would have to be loyally sustained until the bitter end and urged the Democrats to stop wasting their time on a futile demand for peace proposals. The minute he saw this letter, [Jeremiah] Black wrote:
“Your endorsement of Lincoln’s policy will be a very serious drawback upon the defense of your own. It is vain to think that the two administrations can be made consistent. The fire upon the Star of the West was as bad as the fire on Fort Sumter; and the taking of Fort Moultrie & Pinckney was worse than either. If this war is right and politic and wise and constitutional, I cannot but think you ought to have made it. I am willing to vindicate the last administration . . . but I can’t do it on the ground which you now occupy.”
“. . . Buchanan would not agree with Black that there was anything but a superficial similarity between the threatening incidents at the end of his Administration and the sustained bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12.
He also disagreed with Black’s view that the war itself was unconstitutional, that Lincoln started it, and that it ought to be stopped as soon as possible by a negotiated peace. “. . . [As] to my course since the wicked bombardment of Fort Sumter,” he told Black, “it is but a regular consequence of my whole policy towards the seceding States. They had been informed over and over again by me what would be the consequence of an attack upon it. They chose to commence civil war, & Mr. Lincoln had no alternative but to defend the country against dismemberment. I certainly should have done the same thing had they begun the war in my time, & this they well knew.”
(President James Buchanan, A Biography, Philip S. Klein, American Political Biography Press, 1962, pp. 416-417)