The Civil War, Day by Day

Lincoln-Douglas Debates (detail)

Lincoln Inaugurated 16th President

For the Union, it was a day of both glory and apprehension. One by one, the Southern states were seceding from the Union because of Lincoln, whose anti-slavery position threatened their prosperity. As tensions grew, hostilities at Fort Sumter threatened to explode into a civil war at any moment.

To ensure safety at the inaugural ceremony, Commander in Chief Winfield Scott deployed troops along Lincoln’s procession route, armed with sharpshooters and batteries of artillery. Yet, to everyone’s relief, the atmosphere was peaceful at the Capitol building as Lincoln addressed approximately 30,000 spectators. “No state, upon its own mere notion, can lawfully get out of the Union," Lincoln proclaimed, as he affirmed his intention to “hold, occupy and possess,” the states which had seceded. Lincoln then closed by saying, “in your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war.” Lincoln then took his oath of office from Chief Justice Roger Taney.

That night at Judiciary Square, Lincoln shook hands for more than two hours at his inaugural ball. The First Lady, Mary Todd Lincoln, danced all night long in a stunning blue ball gown. At 11:00, the band struck up “Hail to the Chief” for a grand march. Lincoln led the way, arm-in-arm with Washington, D.C.’s Mayor Berret - followed by Mary and Stephen A. Douglas, Lincoln’s campaign opponent. It was a joyous night, indeed…albeit the deceptive calm before the storm.

March's Archived Features:

Wednesday March 1, 2023
Thursday March 2, 2023
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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.