It began, at this moment, 150 years ago – Ft. Sumter fired upon

Bombardment of Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor:...
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Although, technically, Stonewall Jackson was already winning skirmishes. I may or may not post periodically on this terrible and awesome war. By the way, it wasn’t a Civil War. It was either the War for States’ Rights or the Second American Revolution.

I think that history must always be reexamined, so I hope that you take the time to do so.

Here are some of the dispatches from that day:

Fire Opened on Fort Sumter!

Montgomery, April 12
The Secretary of War (L. Pope Walker) informs me that fire was opened on Fort Sumter this morning, at half past 4 o’clock, by Gen. Beauregard.
(Signed) D.G. Duncan

The above dispatch was transmitted to us, as also to other journals of the city, about half-past nine o’clock this morning. It was also transmitted, in the same form, to Mayor Monroe. We have assurances, moreover, from the telegraph office, that it is authentic and may be implicitly relied upon, and therefore we give it publicity.

The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Georgia) presented the news this way, in its April 13, 1861, issue:

War! War!! War!!!

The Ball Fairly Opened!!!!

We have undoubted reason to believe that firing has commenced on Fort Sumter. The Charleston batteries opened on the Fort at 4 ½ o’clock, this morning.

From Charleston

(We are kindly permitted to copy the following private telegram from Charleston, to a gentleman of this city.—Telegraph)

Charleston, April 12—Commenced bombardment of Fort Sumter this morning at 4 ½ o’clock. A brisk fire has been kept up all day, Anderson fires as if he had more men than we gave him credit for. None of our troops seriously hurt. We are making a breach in the fort. It must be ours. There are three war vessels outside—expect to have warm work tonight.

Anxious readers all around the country picked up their local papers that day to read the news many dreaded but most knew was coming: war had begun. The New York Herald began its war coverage with a front-page article; their correspondent’s opening line said it all: “Civil war has at last begun.” Here are excerpts from that front-page story, from the April 13, 1861, issue of the New York Herald (New York, New York):

The War Begun.

Very Exciting News from Charleston.

Our Special Despatches from Charleston.
Charleston, April 12, 1861

Civil war has at last begun. A terrible fight is at this moment going on between Fort Sumter and the fortifications by which it is surrounded.

In my last despatch I stated that negotiations had been reopened between General Beauregard and Major Anderson. This was done with a view to prevent an unnecessary effusion of blood. The issue was submitted to Major Anderson of surrendering as soon as his supplies were exhausted, or of having a fire opened on him within a certain time.

This he refused to do, and accordingly, at twenty-seven minutes past four o’clock this morning Fort Moultrie began the bombardment by firing two guns. To these Major Anderson replied with three of his barbette guns, after which the batteries on Mount Pleasant, Cummings’ Point, and the Floating Battery, opened a brisk fire of shot and shell.

…The excitement in the community is indescribable. With the very first boom of the gun thousands rushed from their beds to the harbor front, and all day every available place has been thronged by ladies and gentlemen, viewing the solemn spectacle through their glasses. Most of these have relatives in the several fortifications, and many a tearful eye attested the anxious affection of the mother, wife and sister, but not a murmur came from a single individual. The spirit of patriotism is as sincere as it is universal. Five thousand ladies stand ready today to respond to any sacrifice that may be required of them.

…Troops are pouring into the town by hundreds, but are held in reserve for the present, the force already on the island being ample. People are also arriving every moment on horseback, and by every other conveyance. Within an area of fifty miles, where the thunder of the artillery can be heard, the scene is magnificently terrible.

The next day, readers of the New York Herald picked up their papers and learned that Fort Sumter had surrendered–the opening battle of the Civil War had ended with a Confederate victory. A correspondent in Charleston churned out a series of rapid dispatches to keep the newspaper’s readers informed of the battle and the entire scene at the waterfront. Here are excerpts from that front-page Fort Sumter surrender story, as printed in the April 14, 1861, issue of the New York Herald (New York, New York):

The War.

The Conflict at Charleston.
The Bombardment Fiercely Continued.
Fort Sumter on Fire.
The Surrender of Fort Sumter.

Charleston, April 13, 1861, 12 noon

The entire roof of the barracks at Fort Sumter are in a vast sheet of flame. Shells from Cummings’ Point and Fort Moultrie are bursting in and over Fort Sumter in quick succession. The federal flag still waves.

Major Anderson is only occupied in putting out fire. Every shot on Fort Sumter now seems to tell heavily. The people are anxiously looking for Major Anderson to strike his flag.

Charleston, April 13, Later

Two of Major Anderson’s magazines have exploded. Only occasional shots are fired at him from Fort Moultrie. The Morris Island Battery is doing heavy work. It is thought that only the smaller magazines have exploded.

The greatest excitement prevails. The wharves, steeples and every available place are packed with people.

The United States ships are in the offing, but have not aided Major Anderson. It is too late now to come over the bar, as the tide is ebbing.

Charleston, April 13, Evening

Major Anderson has surrendered, after hard fighting, commencing at half past four o’clock yesterday morning, and continuing until five minutes to one today.

The American flag has given place to the palmetto of South Carolina.

Major Anderson stated that he surrendered his sword to General Beauregard as the representative of the Confederate government. General Beauregard said he would not receive it from so brave a man. He says Major Anderson made a staunch fight, and elevated himself in the estimation of every true Carolinian.

During the fire, when Major Anderson’s flagstaff was shot away, a boat put off from Morris Island, carrying another American flag for him to fight under – a noteworthy instance of the honor and chivalry of the South Carolina seceders, and their admiration for a brave man.

The scene in the city after the raising of the flag of truce and the surrender is indescribable – the people were perfectly wild. Men on horseback rode through the streets proclaiming the news, amid the greatest enthusiasm. On the arrival of the officers from the fort they were marched through the streets, followed by an immense crowd, hurrahing, shouting, and yelling with excitement.

Six vessels are reported off the bar, but the utmost indignation is expressed against them for not coming to the assistance of Major Anderson when he made signals of distress. The soldiers on Morris Island jumped on the guns every shot they received from Fort Sumter while thus disabled, and gave three cheers for Major Anderson and groans for the fleet.

The public feeling against the fleet is very strong, it being regarded as cowardly to make not even an attempt to aid a fellow officer.

Had the surrender not taken place, Fort Sumter would have been stormed tonight. The men are crazy for a fight.

The bells have been chiming all day, guns firing, ladies waving handkerchiefs, people cheering, and citizens making themselves generally demonstrative. It is regarded as the greatest day in the history of South Carolina.

There was no newspaper censorship during the Civil War, and it is sometimes startling to see how much information the papers presented to their readers. On April 13, the day the Battle of Fort Sumter ended, secret Confederate messages were already being printed in newspapers. Before the commencement of the attack, Gen Beauregard (the Confederate officer in charge at Charleston) and LeRoy Walker (the Confederate Secretary of War in Montgomery) exchanged a flurry of telegrams discussing the situation. The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), with the help of some clever “surveillance,” obtained and printed the Confederate telegrams in its April 13, 1861, issue

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11 Replies to “It began, at this moment, 150 years ago – Ft. Sumter fired upon”

  1. Living in WV, here is something to think about. The reason WV exists is primarily it was not a slaveholding region. Lots of lower middle class people believed, among other reasons, that it was a rich white man’s war. They had to compete economically against slavery. Just one reason to consider.

    1. Actually, Doug – per capita, the counties of western Virginia gave more troops to the Confederacy than any other Southern State. It was only after the troops had left to fight in other areas taht the counties left Virginia. I note that the first capital was in in Wheeling, the train stop and commerical town between Ohio and PA.

  2. I wasn’t referring to your place of birth. If you could have chosen. My neighbor believes the confederates had more Christians in the war (a contradiction in itself, but that’s for another time 🙂 ) and they were protecting their way of life. The union just wanted to keep its empire.

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