Fort Sumter: The Start of The American Civil War

by Shipping Station

With the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln to the office of President of the United States in 1860, the southern states saw little reason to stay in the Union. On December 20, 1860, by a vote of 169-0, the South Carolina Legislature enacted an "ordinance" that "the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'The United States of America,' is hereby dissolved." With South Carolina leading the way, Mississippi (seceded January 9, 1861), Florida (seceded January 10, 1861), Alabama (seceded January 11, 1861), Georgia (seceded January 19, 1861), Louisiana (seceded January 26, 1861) and Texas (seceded February 1, 1861) followed suit calling themselves the “Confederate States of America.” Naturally, sitting President Buchanan and President-elect Lincoln both refused to acknowledge the South's secession, citing it to be illegal. Ignoring the Confederates call for the surrender of federal entities in their borders, Lincoln instead wished to reinforce them. Fort Sumter, which overlooking the port of Charleston, South Carolina, was protected by a force of 85 men under the command of Maj. Robert Anderson. On April 11, 1861, Confederate Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard dispatched aides to Maj. Anderson to demand the fort’s surrender. Anderson promptly refused. At 4:30 a.m. the next day, Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter and continued for another 34 hours. Low on ammunition and supplies, at about 7:00 a.m., Union Capt. Abner Doubleday, the fort's second in command, was afforded the honor of firing the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter. The following day, Anderson surrendered and was allowed to perform a 100-gun salute before he and his men evacuated the fort the next day. The salute began at 2:00 P.M. on April 14 but was cut short tragically to 50 guns after an accidental explosion killed one of the gunners and mortally wounded another. These two casualties were the only ones to stem from the overall battle itself. The Battle at Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the American Civil War. It would not be preoccupied by Union forces for another 4 years. Today, on the anniversary of this historic battle, we remember those who have served and have taken a part in one of America's most tumultuous times.