Prologue narrator: March 1861 was a dark time for the United States. The nation was on the brink of a civil war. Seven Southern states had seceded [separated] from the United States and formed the Confederacy. The Confederates were demanding that the Union abandon Fort Sumter, a U.S. Army base that guarded the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
Abraham Lincoln had just been sworn in as President of the United States. Lincoln appeared to be an unlikely leader. He had served only one term in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Illinois State Legislature. In gaining the Republican nomination for President, Lincoln had upset three better-known candidates: Senator William Seward of New York, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, and Judge Edward Bates of Missouri. Although these men had little respect for the man who defeated them—or for each other—Lincoln chose them for top posts in his Cabinet. Historians would call the group Lincoln’s “team of rivals.”