Fort Sumter

In 1860, the War Between the States began. Where did it begin? Fort Sumter. Where is Fort Sumter located? In the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. Here is some background information on this historic event.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President in November of 1860, and in December a convention of delegates met at Charleston, S.C. and seceded from the Union. Within three months, six more states had joined South Carolina. They were Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, making seven in all.
This was the situation that faced President Lincoln as he was inaugurated in the capital city of Washington, D.C. The issue, pure and simple, was slavery. Lincoln was anti-slavery and was elected on a platform to limit the expansion of slavery to the Western States. However, he assured the South that he would not interfere or try to abolish slavery in the southern states.
In spite of these assurances, the southern states were firm in their resolve to withdraw from the Union. One month before Lincoln was sworn in as President, the seven southern states set up their own government at Montgomery, Alabama, with Jefferson Davis as President and Alexander Stephens as Vice-President.
Now there were two organized governments in our country—the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. The tension in the North and the South was terrific. All that was needed was a spark to set the whole nation on fire. That spark came from Fort Sumter.
The Confederate government had demanded that the United States government turn over all forts, army posts, armories and ammunition within the southern states. Some of these forts had been taken over without difficulty but Major Robert Anderson, Commandant of the small garrison in Fort Sumter refused to give up the Fort. Major Anderson sent word to Washington that he had been under siege for four months and unless he received food and provisions, he would have the surrender the fort. President Lincoln ordered supplies to be sent to the fort.
When the news reached Confederate President Jefferson Davis, he ordered General Beauregard to demand surrender of the fort. Major Anderson refused. Gen. Beauregard’s troops opened fire on the fort on the morning of April 12, 1861. For two days, Major Anderson and his men held out. But without food, water, and ammunition, he had no other choice but to surrender.
The news spread like wildfire across the country. The shooting had begun. The next day President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion—300,000 soldiers responded and enlisted for three months.
The South began preparation for war and soon thousands rallied to the call to arms. With war inevitable, four more states joined the original seven states. They were North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Virginia, eleven in all. A northwestern part of Virginia, 48 counties, refused to join the Confederacy and rained in the Union as West Virginia. Little did the people both North and South realize that the hot heads on both sides were rushing the country into a bloody war that would last for four long years and costs the lives of nearly 800,000 men.
It is impossible to estimate the total cost of the war, but historians have come up with a figure of approximately 25 billion dollars. The economy of the South was totally destroyed, and it took over fifty years for it to recover. What a tragic chain of events followed the storming of a small fort in Charleston Harbor known as Fort Sumter.
Now here are two items that I think worthy of mention:
1. Major Robert Anderson, Commandant of Fort Sumter was a veteran of the Seminole Indian War in Florida. As a First Lieutenant in the United States Army, he was decorated for his part in a battle with the Seminole Indians near Jupiter, Florida, just north of West Palm Beach.
2. The Battle for Fort Sumter was unique in that no soldier on either side was killed or wounded in spite of heavy bombardment. It was a bloodless battle that started one of the fiercest and bloodiest wars in all of our history.
After the war was over, Major General Anderson came back to Fort Sumter for the occasion of raising again the Stars and Stripes over the ruins of the old fort. He said, “I am thankful to be here for this historic occasion.” That same evening, President Lincoln left the White House to attend Ford’s Theater and to meet an assassin’s bullet—the last sad event of this senseless war.

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  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.