On the morning after the bombardment of Fort Sumter there appeared a Proclamation by the President calling upon the Militia of the several States to furnish 75,000 men for the service of the United States in the suppression of an “unlawful combination.” Their service, however, would expire by law thirty days after the next meeting of Congress, and, in compliance with a further requirement of law upon this subject, the President also summoned Congress to meet in extraordinary session upon July 4. The Army already in the service of the United States consisted of but 16,000 officers and men, and, though the men of this force, being less affected by State ties than their officers, remained, as did the men of the Navy, true almost without exception to their allegiance, all but 3,000 of them were unavailable and scattered in small frontier forts in the West. A few days later, when it became plain that the struggle might long outlast the three months of the Militia, the President called for Volunteers to enlist for three years’ service, and perhaps (for the statements are conflicting) some 300,000 troops of one kind and another had been raised by June.
The affair of Fort Sumter and the President’s Proclamation at once aroused and concentrated the whole public opinion of the free States in the North and, in an opposite sense, of the States which had already seceded. The border slave States had now to declare for the one side or for the other. Virginia as a whole joined the Southern Confederacy forthwith, but several Counties in the mountainous region of the west of that State were strongly for the Union. These eventually succeeded with the support of Northern troops in separating from Virginia and forming the new State of West Virginia. Tennessee also joined the South, though in Eastern Tennessee the bulk of the people held out for the Union without such good fortune as their neighbours in West Virginia. Arkansas beyond the Mississippi followed the same example, though there were some doubt and division in all parts of that State. In Delaware, where the slaves were very few, the Governor did not formally comply with the President’s Proclamation, but the people as a whole responded to it. The attitude of Maryland, which almost surrounds Washington, kept the Government at the capital in suspense and alarm for a while, for both the city of Baltimore and the existing State legislature were inclined to the South. In Kentucky and Missouri the State authorities were also for the South, and it was only after a struggle, and in Missouri much actual fighting, that the Unionist majority of the people in each State had its way. The secession of Virginia had consequences even more important than the loss to the Union of a powerful State. General Robert E. Lee, a Virginian, then in Washington, was esteemed by General Scott to be the ablest officer in the service. Lincoln and his Secretary of War desired to confer on him the command of the Army.