Friday, April 12, 2013

Fort Sumter - The Outbreak of Civil War

The following was first posted here in 2010. I hope that no-one is bothered by my occasional “re-posts”, but there are new readers who may not have read this before, and of course, I get to have the day “off”.

On April 12, 1861 Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, S.C. triggering the American Civil War. The attack came after months of talks and 2 days of demands by the Confederates that the fort be surrendered. When Major Anderson refused, the Rebels attacked. The photograph shown here was taken on April 14th; one day after Major Anderson was forced to evacuate the Garrison.

The battle was not a ferocious one by any standards. It was a bombardment of over 3,000 enemy cannon balls, which severely damaged the fort. There were no actual casualties inflicted by the enemy. One Union artilleryman was killed and two soldiers were injured when their cannon misfired. This was small change in comparison to the carnage that was yet to come.

Although this engagement is often cited as the beginning of hostilities for the Civil War, that is not quite the truth. In December of 1860 South Carolina became the first state to leave the Union. Within 6 days Major Anderson took his men from the badly situated Fort Moultrie and secretly removed them to Fort Sumter. He did so of his own volition and with no authorization from Washington.

By January the Government of South Carolina, as well as Brigadier General Beauregard, were both calling for the fort to be turned over to the Confederacy. On January 9th, 1861 when the Union attempted to resupply Fort Sumter via a shipment aboard the merchant vessel Star of the West, Southern troops opened fire, resulting in the ship turning about without resupplying the fort.

In Washington, President Lincoln was faced with the first serious test of his Presidency and the challenge to his campaign promise that he would keep the Union whole. Fort Sumter had supplies which would hold it until April 15th. By April 6th, with no diplomatic relief in sight, Lincoln dispatched a fleet of ships to resupply and defend the fort. Under the Command of Gustavas Fox, the Cutter Harriet Lane, with the Sloops of War Pawnee and Powhatan, and Steamers Pocahontas and Baltic along with 3 tugs, set sail for Charleston. They would arrive on April 11th at the sand bar which comprises the natural abutment around which Fort Sumter was built.

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