In 1863, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted the president and vice-president of the independent Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, in a day-long celebration.
Confederate Celebrations at Fort SumterIn April 1861 Fort Sumter had been the site of the first armed confrontation between Confederate forces and those of the United States, when a U.S. naval vessel, Star of the West, had been fired upon by CSA ships while attempting to relieve the besieged federal fort. Military conflict had quickly escalated, extending into the diplomatic realm when on November 8 of that year the USS San Jacinto intercepted the British mail packet Trent and seized diplomatic envoys James Mason and John Slidell.
A new story by Eric LippsThe Lincoln administration released the two after several weeks of escalating tension and disavowed the actions of the San Jacinto's captain, Charles Wilkes. President Lincoln's efforts proved fruitless, however, as British public and governmental opinion was inflamed by telegraphic reports that Wilkes was being treated as a hero throughout the USA. When Mason and Slidell were permitted to resume their travels, they found receptive audiences not only in London but in Paris, Slidell's destination, where the Emperor Napoleon III was interested in gaining influence in troubled Mexico and saw the new Confederacy as easier to persuade in the matter than the United States. The result of the two diplomats' mission was overt support of the CSA by both London and Paris.
And with both Britain and France on Richmond's side, the British openly arming the CSA while harassing Union shipping and sending thousands of additional troops to Canada for what looked like a possible land assault while the French intrigued to entice the Mexican Republic into attacking the U.S. with promises of restoration of the territories lost in the U.S.-Mexican war of the 1840s - promises Napoleon had neither the means nor the intention of fulfilling, but that the struggling President Benito Juarez saw as offering a possible way out of national bankruptcy - President Lincoln had been forced to capitulate in April of 1863.
That decision had led to his impeachment, elevating Vice-President Hannibal Hamlin to the U.S. presidency just as that office, in Hamlin's bitter words, seemed to have "shriveled like a corpse in the desert". Civil unrest on a massive scale had followed the end of U.S./CSA hostilities, and on the very day of the Sumter celebration a huge riot was raging in New York City in which hundreds of blacks, whose race was widely blamed for "causing" the war and defeat, would be killed.