Fort Sumter sent Southerners springing to arms as swiftly and as enthusiastically as it did Northerners. There were bonfires and celebrations and speechmaking all across the South, with appeals to the spirit of 1776 that had rid the land of an earlier tyranny. One North Carolina orator predicted that the Yankees would scatter like sheep after just a few shells were fired at them. “On to Washington!” proclaimed dozens of newspapers. Dusty campgrounds were filled with drilling militia companies, their uniforms as varicolored as their Northern counterparts, their acquaintance with close-order drill as limited. Clearly, the fighting would begin as a conflict between raw amateur armies, both of which in their ardor believed it was a certainty that the enemy would fly before them.
For the Confederate States of America, the most important consequence of Lincoln’s call for the suppression of the rebellion was the addition of four more states to its ranks, bringing the total to 11. Within just over a month after Lincoln’s proclamation, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina seceded from the Union. The addition of Virginia, with its manpower, resources and strategic position, was especially important, and in recognition of that fact the Confederate capital was moved from Montgomery to Richmond. President Jefferson Davis well knew how vital it was to gain every possible resource for the coming conflict. The balance sheet heavily favored the North. It had twice the population, most of the capital, nine times the manufacturing capacity, a
far larger and more efficient railroad network and naval superiority. The leaders of the Confederacy were staking their gamble on their ability to trade cotton for foreign arms (and perhaps foreign intervention) and on the fighting quality of men defending their land and their proclaimed independence from the Federal invaders.
Another factor seemingly in the South’s favor was military leadership. Davis himself was a West Pointer, a combat veteran of the Mexican War and a former secretary of war. Four of the most highly regarded soldiers in the regular army had gone South: Joseph E. Johnston, Albert Sidney Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard and Robert E. Lee. Lee, in fact, had been offered command of the primary Federal army; instead, he followed his beloved Virginia into the Confederacy. Scores of their fellows also cast their lot with the South; scenes such as the one shown on the medal, a patrician officer answering the call to duty, were typical in every Southern state.
If spirit could bring victory in war, then the Confederacy stood a chance against its foe. Vice President Alexander H. Stephens added his voice to the many ringing through the Cotton Kingdom that momentous spring. “We can call out a million people, if need be,” he told an Atlanta audience in May; “and when they are cut down we can call out another, and still another... a triumphant victory and independence, with an unparalleled career of glory, prosperity, and independence, await us.”