Did the South Start the War Between the States?
The South is often charged with having started the War Between the States when Confederate forces in South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter. What is not generally known is that South Carolina had freely ceded property in Charleston Harbor to the federal Government in 1805, upon the express condition that "the United States... within three years... repair the fortifications now existing thereon or build such other forts or fortifications as may be deemed most expedient by the Executive of the United States on the same, and keep a garrison or garrisons therein." Failure to comply with this condition on the part of the Government would render "this grant or cession... void and of no effect." The State then appointed commissioners and paid for the land to be surveyed out of its own treasury. Work on Fort Sumter did not begin until 1829 and had still not been completed by 1860. Unfinished and unoccupied for over thirty years, the terms of the cession were clearly not fulfilled. Consequently, the fort was never the property of the United States Government, as Abraham Lincoln claimed in his First Inaugural Address, and, upon secession from the Union, the only duty which South Carolina owed, either legally or morally, to the other States was "adequate compensation... for the value of the works and for any other advantage obtained by the one party, or loss incurred by the other." Such being the case, the occupation of Fort Sumter by U.S. troops was technically an act of invasion and the Confederate forces in Charleston were wholly justified in firing upon them when it became evident that Lincoln intended to use military force against the State.
Was the War Between the States a Civil War?
A civil war is defined as a conflict between two opposing factions within the same country, and thus the term reflects the position of Abraham Lincoln that the Southern States never lawfully seceded from the American Union. The truth of the matter is that secession was never viewed as unlawful or unconstitutional by the majority of Americans until after the war, and there is therefore no valid reason not to consider the Confederate States of America to have been an independent republic from 1861 to 1865. Thus, it is historically inaccurate to refer to the War Between the States as a civil war.