“. . . and the War Came.”

April 8, 1861/2011
Volume 2, Issue 16 (26 Issues Since 15 October 2010)

 “. . . and the War Came.”

April 11, 1861. At 2:00 p.m., “Confederate” General Pierre G. T. Beauregard sent a formal request to Major Robert Anderson for the evacuation of Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina harbor.

Anderson replied, calling it “a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor and my obligations to my Government prevent my compliance.”

General Beauregard then sent another emissary urging Major Anderson to evacuate and proposing generous and honorable terms of surrender. But Anderson still held out hope that Washington would send reinforcements, and so he rejected this surrender demand as well.

The next day, at 3:30 a.m., a boat flying a white flag brought this notice to Fort Sumter:

“Major Anderson: By virtue of Brigadier General Beauregard’s command, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the line of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time.”  

At precisely 4:30 a.m. on April 12, a shot burst over Charleston harbor, signaling for the bombardment to begin. War had come.

Edmund Ruffin fired the first shots in the Civil War

Edmund Ruffin fired the first shots in the Civil War

The honor of firing the first shot at Union forces went to Edmund Ruffin, a wealthy plantation owner and one of the most strident secessionists or “fire-eaters” in South Carolina. When the signal shot burst, he fired a gun that sent a shell crashing into the southwest corner of Fort Sumter. Other guns around the harbor then opened fire as well and continued firing all day.

After four hours of shelling, Captain Abner Doubleday, an officer on duty, was relieved by another officer.

“Doubleday,” the officer asked with tongue in cheek, “what is all this uproar about?”

“There is a trifling difference of opinion between us and our neighbors opposite,” Doubleday replied, “and we are trying to settle it.”

SOURCE: Maury Klein, Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Vintage Books. 1997, p. 409, 413.

Bombardment of Fort Sumter

Bombardment of Fort Sumter


Surrender at Fort Sumter . . . Speeches in Charleston

April 13-14, 1861. With no food and virtually out of ammunition, Major Anderson had no alternative but to surrender. He had done nothing to provoke war, he had held out as long as he could, and by doing all he could to defend the federal fort, he had preserved his honor as an officer and that of his country. In spite of more than 40,000 shells having been fired, casualties on both sides were light, with no lives lost.

The next day, during the formal ceremony to lower the US flag at Fort Sumter, two Union soldiers were killed by an accidental explosion. They were the first fatalities of the war.

Later in the day, South Carolina’s Governor Pickens gave an impassioned speech from the balcony of the Charleston Hotel.

“We have met them,” he declared, “. . . let it lead to what it might, even if it leads to blood and ruin. . . . We have defeated their twenty millions, we have met them and conquered them. We have humbled the flag of the United States before the Palmetto [South Carolinian flag] and Confederate . . . today it has been humbled before the glorious little state of South Carolina.”

SOURCE: Maury Klein, Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Vintage Books. 1997, p. 420.

Historian James M. McPherson wrote,

“With the slogan ‘Freedom is not possible without slavery’ ringing in their ears, [South Carolinians] went to war against the Yankees alongside their slave-owning neighbors to ‘perpetuate and diffuse the very liberty for which Washington bled, and which the heroes of the Revolution achieved.’ George Orwell need not have created the fictional world of 1984 to describe Newspeak. He could have found it in the South Carolina of 1861.”

SOURCE: James M. McPherson, Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, pp. 50-51.

The Confederate flag over Fort Sumter, 1861

The Confederate flag over Fort Sumter, 1861

See larger view.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Civil War Book of Days: 1861

5 responses to ““. . . and the War Came.”

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