On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in. In his inaugural address, he argued that the Constitution was a more perfect union than the earlier Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, that it was a binding contract, and called the secession "legally void". He stated he had no intent to invade southern states, but would use force to maintain possession of federal property. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union. The South did send delegations to Washington and offered to pay for the federal properties, but they were turned down. Lincoln refused to negotiate with any Confederate agents because he insisted the Confederacy was not a legitimate government.
On April 12, Confederate soldiers fired upon the Federal troops stationed at Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, until the troops surrendered. Lincoln called for all of the states in the Union to send troops to recapture the forts and preserve the Union. Most Northerners hoped that a quick victory for the Union would crush the nascent rebellion, and so Lincoln only called for volunteers for 90 days. Four states, Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and—most importantly, Virginia—which had repeatedly rejected Confederate overtures now decided that they could not send forces against the seceding states. They seceded and to reward Virginia the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia, a highly vulnerable location at the end of the supply line.
Even though the Southern states had seceded, there was considerable anti-secessionist sentiment in certain scattered localities in the seceding states. Eastern Tennessee, in particular, was a hotbed for pro-Unionism. Winston County, Alabama issued a resolution of secession from the state of Alabama. The Red Strings were a prominent Southern anti-secession group.
Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the U.S. Army, devised the Anaconda Plan to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible. His idea was that a Union blockade of the seacoast would strangle the rebel economy, then capture of the Mississippi would split the South. Lincoln adopted the plan but overruled Scott's warnings against an immediate attack on Richmond.