In every survey, James Buchanan ranks at or near the top of the list of worst presidents. Buchanan’s lack of action in the year leading up to the Civil War convinced many that his behavior ranged from incompetence to outright sympathy for the Southern states.

In late January 1861, former Florida Senator Stephen Mallory, who was to become the Confederate navy secretary, sent Buchanan a telegram saying that Confederate forces would not attack Fort Pickens outside Pensacola if Buchanan made no attempt to reinforce it. Within twenty-four hours, Buchanan agreed to the Southern demands, issuing the following order: “Upon receiving satisfactory assurances from Mr. Mallory and Colonel Chase that Fort Pickens will not be attacked, you are instructed not to land the company on board the Brooklyn (U. S. Navy ship), unless said fort shall be attacked, or preparations made for its attack. . . .”

—Presidents in Florida 9781561645336