By late February, Fort Sumter had become a key symbol of whether the Confederate states exercised sovereignty over their territory. South Carolina demanded that President Buchanan surrender Fort Sumter in exchange for monetary compensation. To the rebels' surprise, he refused. As the following letter from Jefferson Davis makes clear, any decision about forcing the surrender of the fort by force carried profound consequences. Eight slave states in the Upper South remained in the Union. But their stance would clearly depend on the steps that South Carolina and the federal government took toward Fort Sumter.
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