It Had Begun

Ft. Sumter, commanding the entrance to Charleston harbor South Carolina, had been named after a hero of the American Revolution, General Thomas Sumter. Despite having been started in 1827, by April of 1861 it’s construction was not yet completed and due to military downsizing and budget cuts the fort was also short half of its allotted cannon. Garrisoned only by a lighthouse keeper, and despite being only 90 percent completed, it was still more defensible than neighboring Ft. Moultrie, which Maj. Robert Anderson of the U.S. 1st Artillery and his 127 men abandoned on December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina had seceded from the Union. Maj. Anderson’s father had defended Ft. Moultrie during the American Revolution, the first American decisive victory over the British navy (The palmetto tree has been a symbol of South Carolina since June 28, 1776 because the first Fort Moultrie was built of palmetto logs.), and Anderson himself had served an earlier tour of duty there. The Kentucky native and protege of General Winfield Scott was familiar with the area and it’s inhabitants and was thought more capable of handling the unfolding crisis than his predecessor, the retiring Col. John Gardner.

South Carolina’s secession had been precipitated by the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860. By February of 1861 she had been followed in secession by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas. President Buchanan, while believing that the states had no Constitutional right to seceded, also believed that he had no Constitutional right to prevent it. A series of tense negotiations had failed to reach a solution and the crisis had deepened. South Carolina militiamen and forces in the states of the new Confederate States of America moved to seize all federal property within their borders. Soon only Ft. Sumter, and Forts Pickens (Pensacola Florida), Taylor (Key West, Florida), and Jefferson (Dry Tortugas, Florida) remained in Yankee hands. Knowing that the garrison at Sumter was short on men and supplies, Buchanan had attempted to resupply it on January 9 using the civilian merchant ship Star of the West. Cadets from the Citadel, the only trained artillerists in the fledgling South Carolina militia forces, repulsed the attempt. The first shots of the Civil War had been fired.

In March General P.G.T. Beauregard assumed command of the siege of Sumter. Both the Confederacy and the United States were walking a diplomatic tightrope to avoid hostilities, and failing that, to not be seen as the aggressor. Knowing how critically low on supplies the garrison had become, Lincoln ordered another resupply effort, this time escorted by warships. Trying still to avoid open conflict Lincoln advised South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens that if the relief expedition was unopposed he would only land food and provisions, no arms or men. He also ordered the expeditions commander, Captain Gustavus Fox, that if there were any opposition he was to land men and ammunition as well as supplies.

Wishing to force the fort’s capitulation before the relief expedition arrived, Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered Gen. Beauregard to again entreat for Anderson’s surrender, and failing that, to reduce the fort. On April 11 Gen. Beauregard dispatched three aides, Col. James Chesnut, Col. James A. Chisholm, and Capt. Stephen D. Lee, to Ft. Sumter to issue an ultimatum to Maj. Anderson. “If you will state the time which you will evacuate Fort Sumter, and agree in the meantime that you will not use your guns against us unless heart shall be employed against Fort Sumter, we will abstain from opening fire upon you.”

Maj. Anderson replied that unless he received orders to the contrary, or a resupply, that he would evacuate the fort on April 15. Col. Chestnut felt that the offer bore too many conditions and at 0320 on April 12 gave Maj. Anderson a note which read; “Sir: by authority of Brigadier General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.”

Maj. Anderson escorted the three officers to their boat, shook their hands and said “If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may meet in the next.” The die had been cast.

At 0430 Lt. Henry S. Farley fired a single 10 inch mortar round from Ft. Johnson. The honor had been offered to outspoken and famed Virginia secessionist Roger Pryor, who had declined it, saying “I could not fire the first gun of the war”. The shell burst over Ft. Sumter, the signal to begin the full bombardment and 63 guns shelled the fort from Ft. Moultrie and Ft. Johnson, two other fixed positions and a floating barge for over 34 hours.

During the exchange of artillery Maj. Anderson was forced to conserve his scarce ammunition and fire only from the lower casemated guns. The Rebels knew of the harsh conditions and lack of supplies within Fort Sumter and admired the courage and tenacity of the Yankee defenders. When the Yankees were forced to reduce their rate of fire, or suspend it all together, the Rebels would let out a cheer when they resumed. They also openly jeered the nearby Yankee ships of the relief expedition which failed to come to the fort’s aid.

At 1300 on April 13th the fort’s central flagpole was felled. Sensing that the missing flag meant that the fort was ready to surrender, Col. Louis Wigfall commandeered a small boat and rowed out under a white handkerchief of truce. “You have defended your flag nobly, Sir. You have done all that it is possible to do, and General Beauregard wants to stop this fight. On what terms, Major Anderson, will you evacuate this fort?”

The word “evacuation”, as opposed to “surrender”, convinced Maj. Anderson that he had defended his post with honor. At 1400 a truce was initiated and the fort was abandoned at 1430 the following day, April 14, 1861. He would return exactly four years later and re-hoist the flag that had flown over Ft. Sumter during the bombardment.

Following the capture of Ft. Sumter President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for three months service to “suppress the rebellion”. In response to this act of war against her fellow southerners, Virginia seceded, followed shortly thereafter by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Eleven states were now in open rebellion. The War of Northern Aggression had begun.

Despite over 3000 Confederate shells alone, the first battle of the War Between the States had been bloodless. There were no fatalities on either side, and the South Carolina militia reported only four wounded. However during a salute fired by the evacuating Union forces a powder charge had exploded killing two men, Privates Daniel Hough and Edward Gallway, the only fatalities of the entire Charleston crisis. In sharp contrast, almost exactly four years later 498,332 men would be dead, 214,938 of them killed in action at places whose names would forever ring in the pantheon of American hallowed ground; Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Shiloh. Another 281,881 Union troops would be maimed. The number of Confederate wounded will never be accurately known.

150 years ago today the unstoppable tide of blood had begun.

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Where will our Fort Sumter be? When shall the first shot be fired?

jdog43
jdog43

Wrong. It was stoppable. One man is responsible for the death of 600K soldiers – Abe Lincoln. Their blood is on his head.

Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R
Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R

Response to jdog43 @:
Hmm…we tell the blacks all the time that slavery was a part of our history, that it was wrong, and they need to get over it and move on. Isn’t it time the southerners quit fighting the Civil War and moved on? There’s not a soul alive today who had a dog in that fight.

LC Draco
LC Draco

Since the Civil War WAS about States rights (and anyone who says different is ignorant of history), are we not in that SAME FREAKING BOAT AGAIN? Yes, slavery was an abomination and was a result of greed. (Interesting how the FIRST slave owner was a Black man!) And yes, I, for one, am glad it was ended!! And funny how… Read more »

Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R
Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R

LC Draco says: Since the Civil War WAS about States rights (and anyone who says different is ignorant of history), are we not in that SAME FREAKING BOAT AGAIN? For the most part, yes. We don’t have as clear-cut a divide now as we did then. Today, even some northern states are getting into the act. But, when the time… Read more »

LC Draco
LC Draco

Grammar…come to Texas. We accept all who love freedom and can shoot. Boots and hats ARE, despite stereotypes, optional!! :em02:

And hell, I am married to a Yankee!! :em93:

Shaitana
Shaitana

I am a born again Reb. Born in Vermont, raised in Southern California, I was sent to Georgia for 2 of my 4 yrs of army duty. Then I came to Florida. As time passed and I began to educate myself, I see how mis-educated I really was. Now all 4 of my children can proudly call themselves southerners. And… Read more »

LC Draco
LC Draco

Well, except for your driving, but you Yankees just can’t help that.

:em69: :em69:

Ok, THAT, even tho true, required a spew alert!!

LC Old Dog
LC Old Dog

Don’t worry Czar, damnyankee (and it is one word) is an attitude not a place of birth! Based on your writings you would be welcome in this neck of AZ!

Besides you could not drive worse than some of the Cali exports they have around Tucson and Phoenix! :em01: :em01:

Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R
Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R

Response to LC 0311 Sir Crunchie I.M.H., K.o.E. @: LC 0311 Sir Crunchie I.M.H., K.o.E. says: Well, except for your driving Okay…that needs a qualifier. Midwestern drivers aren’t the terrors that the NE drivers are. Up there, every car seems to be made without blinkers. And you wanna talk about DRIVING???? You should see southerners when they are transferred up… Read more »

Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R
Imperial Grammar Nazi, G.L.O.R

LC 0311 Sir Crunchie I.M.H., K.o.E. says: “The United States is involved in a kinetic humanitarian mission in Libya.” or; “The United States are involved in a kinetic humanitarian mission in Libya.” The answer, both gramatically and socially, tels you what side of the Mason-Dixon you belong. As for the “kinetic humanitarian mission in Libya,” (and other foreign military actions)… Read more »

LC MuscleDaddy
LC MuscleDaddy

Response to Grammar Czar @: Hmm…we tell the blacks all the time that slavery was a part of our history, that it was wrong, and they need to get over it and move on. Isn’t it time the southerners quit fighting the Civil War and moved on? There’s not a soul alive today who had a dog in that fight.… Read more »

LC MuscleDaddy
LC MuscleDaddy

Response to Grammar Czar @:

I’ve considered moving south (the winters in the midwest are getting harder to handle as I get older), but I won’t if I keep banging into “damnyankee” sentiment every time I turn around.

Move to Tampa or West Pasco County – everyone there is pretty much from NY, NJ or Michigan anyway.

– MD

LC MuscleDaddy
LC MuscleDaddy

Response to LC 0311 Sir Crunchie I.M.H., K.o.E. @:

Of course the correct answer should be “are” – It was never, EVER intended to be “is”.

Might as well rename the whole thing New Lichtenstein otherwise.

– MD

LC Patton
LC Patton

One man is responsible for the death of 600K soldiers – Abe Lincoln. Untrue. South Carolina seceded and fired upon the Star of the West, beginning their insurrection, before Lincoln was even inaugurated. They started the violence. Lincoln just acted to suppress an illegal insurrection, just as President Washington had done when he used force against the whiskey rebels. Of… Read more »

LC Spare Parts
LC Spare Parts

Return engagement?

Jaybear, Colonel of Imperial Ancient Artillery
Jaybear, Colonel of Imperial Ancient Artillery

Now you all know how passionate I am about this era in our history. I have three bookcases in my office at home with nothing but books on the Civil War, I know the music, the food, and the manner of speaking. I’m totally convinced that I was born 150 years too late. I’m home sick today and thought it… Read more »

Grammar Czar says:

“damnyankee” sentiment

Just sos ya knows the difference…

A yankee comes South with a suitcase.
A damnyankee brings a U-Haul.

(ducking)

AyUaxe
AyUaxe

The South suffers its penance for slavery; we all suffer for the north’s credulous embrace of emperial national gummint. The freedom that formed the fundamental character that was the U.S. was administered a killing blow at some point between 1861 and 1865–it just took about a 100 years for it to have its final effect. That’s how strong we were.… Read more »

Qoheleth
Qoheleth

@ #17, LC Patton: Untrue. South Carolina seceded and fired upon the Star of the West, beginning their insurrection, before Lincoln was even inaugurated. At the risk of quibbling with LC Patton – whom I respect and with whom I have no quarrel – South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, and the newly independent promptly called upon the occupants… Read more »

Tallulah
Tallulah

I thought Edmund Ruffin (North Carolina planter) had fired the first shot at Sumter?

Tallulah
Tallulah

I agree with General Longstreet:

“We should have freed the slaves, and then fired upon Fort Sumter.”

Tallulah
Tallulah

Jaybear, a beautiful summation. Thank you. Three-fourths of my ancestors fought for the South; one-fourth fought for the North. I do believe that all the states had the constitutional right to secede: that was a precondition for, among others, New York and Rhode Island’s consent to being part of the Union (my history is a bit hazy; it’s been a… Read more »

Tallulah
Tallulah

Yep, I reckon my memory wasn’t so hazy after all! From Jaybear’s link. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any mention of the union of the states being permanent. This was not an oversight by any means. Indeed, when New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia ratified the Constitution, they specifically stated that they reserved the right to resume the governmental… Read more »

Tallulah
Tallulah

Look what I found: this has some shocking history: Violations of the Constitution by American Presidents.

http://www.apatheticvoter.com/ViolationsConstitution.htm

Read it and curse.

VonZorch Imperial Researcher
VonZorch Imperial Researcher

KArnold says: At the risk of quibbling with LC Patton – whom I respect and with whom I have no quarrel – South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, and the newly independent promptly called upon the occupants of Ft. Sumter, now unwelcome guests no longer on U.S. soil, to vacate the premises. Union Maj. Anderson declined that invitation, despite… Read more »

VonZorch Imperial Researcher
VonZorch Imperial Researcher

Tallulah says: Lincoln rode roughshod over the Constitution during that war, suspending the writ of habeas corpus, among other things. Check the Constitution Article I section 9. I am no fan of Lincoln, but suspending Habeas Corpus was not running roughshod over the constitution. Both Union and Confederacy were in the right on some things, and in the wrong on… Read more »

Slightly to the right of Gingis Khan
Slightly to the right of Gingis Khan

Those of my ancestors who were in this country during the Civil War period were poor, rural central Pennsylvania farmers. They identified with the north geographically and were anti-slavery, but from the writings I have many of them would have been more than happy to be rebels. So they became copperheads, and several of them played key parts in the… Read more »

Slightly to the right of Gingis Khan
Slightly to the right of Gingis Khan
LC Xystus
LC Xystus

LC Old Dog:

Don’t worry Czar, damnyankee (and it is one word) is an attitude not a place of birth!

It’s said that in Scotland the despised outsiders are similarly spoken of as “bloodysaxons.” :em93:

This time here I expect the Rebels should win.

LC Subotai Bahadur, Lord Pao An
LC Subotai Bahadur, Lord Pao An

#25 Tallulah Some thoughts about secession. First, up until the 1850’s at least, secession was considered to be part of the system. One of the older books in my collection is a textbook on constitutional law published at and used by Harvard University. It teaches that secession is a right of the states. Given that Massachusetts is part of New… Read more »