This is the first of two titles in the Lippincott Periods of Critical History series which gives a fresh perspective on important incidents. It deals with a topic that has enlivened American argument since April, 1861: Did Lincoln, by forcing Jefferson Davis to fire on Fort Sumter, start the Civil War, or did Davis start it by ordering the bombardment without sufficient provocation? Lincoln, newly elected to the presidency, hoped to avoid war with the South, but when the Confederates demanded that he surrender to them Fort Pickens at Pensacola and Fort Sumter at Charleston he refused, having taken his oath as President to ""hold, occupy and possess"" these forts; this refusal the South denounced as an ""act of aggression"". When Major Anderson, the commander at Fort Sumter, reported that unless he received additional supplies he must surrender, Lincoln, against Seward's advice, openly sent an unarmed expedition to Charleston with food but not ammunition for Anderson, notifying Davis of the fact and warning him that if he fired on the flag it was his own responsibility. On April 12, 1861, before the expedition reached Charleston, Davis started the bombardment of Fort Sumter, forcing Anderson to surrender. The author of this carefully documented study contends that as Davis fired before an actual attempt was made to relieve the fort the attack was an ""unprovoked assault"", and that the full responsibility of firing the ""first shot"" is his alone.