Battle of Fort Sumter

Battle of Fort Sumter

Overview
The Battle of Fort Sumter (April 12–13, 1861) was the bombardment
Bombardment
A bombardment is an attack by artillery fire directed against fortifications, troops or towns and buildings.Prior to World War I the term term was only applied to the bombardment of defenceless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, it was only loosely employed to describe artillery...

 and surrender of Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

, near Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

, that started the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Following declarations of secession by seven Southern states, South Carolina demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. On December 26, 1860, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surreptitiously moved his small command from the indefensible Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Sullivan's Island is a town in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States, on a similarly named island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The population was 1,911 at the 2000 census. It is also the site of a major battle of the American Revolution at Fort Sullivan on June 28, 1776. As...

 to Fort Sumter, a substantial fortress controlling the entrance of Charleston Harbor.
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Encyclopedia
The Battle of Fort Sumter (April 12–13, 1861) was the bombardment
Bombardment
A bombardment is an attack by artillery fire directed against fortifications, troops or towns and buildings.Prior to World War I the term term was only applied to the bombardment of defenceless or undefended objects, houses, public buildings, it was only loosely employed to describe artillery...

 and surrender of Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter is a Third System masonry coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is best known as the site upon which the shots initiating the American Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.- Construction :...

, near Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

, that started the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Following declarations of secession by seven Southern states, South Carolina demanded that the U.S. Army abandon its facilities in Charleston Harbor. On December 26, 1860, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surreptitiously moved his small command from the indefensible Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Sullivan's Island is a town in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States, on a similarly named island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The population was 1,911 at the 2000 census. It is also the site of a major battle of the American Revolution at Fort Sullivan on June 28, 1776. As...

 to Fort Sumter, a substantial fortress controlling the entrance of Charleston Harbor. An attempt by U.S. President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 to reinforce and resupply Anderson, using the unarmed merchant ship Star of the West
Star of the West
The Star of the West was a civilian steamship hired by the United States government to transport military supplies and reinforcements to the garrison of Fort Sumter, but was fired on by Confederates in its effort to do so at the dawning of the American Civil War...

, failed when it was fired upon by shore batteries on January 9, 1861. South Carolina authorities then seized all Federal property in the Charleston area, except for Fort Sumter.

During the early months of 1861, the situation around Fort Sumter increasingly began to resemble a siege. In March, Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, the first general officer
General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 of the newly formed Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

, was placed in command of Confederate forces in Charleston. Beauregard energetically directed the strengthening of batteries around Charleston harbor aimed at Fort Sumter. Conditions in the fort grew dire as the Federals rushed to complete the installation of additional guns. Anderson was short of men, food, and supplies.

The resupply of Fort Sumter became the first crisis of the administration of President Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

. He notified the Governor of South Carolina, Francis W. Pickens, that he was sending supply ships, which resulted in an ultimatum from the Confederate government: evacuate Fort Sumter immediately. Major Anderson refused to surrender. Beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, the Confederates bombarded the fort from artillery batteries surrounding the harbor. Although the Union garrison returned fire, they were significantly outgunned and, after 34 hours, Major Anderson agreed to evacuate. There was no loss of life on either side as a direct result of this engagement, although a gun explosion during the surrender ceremonies on April 14 caused two Union deaths.

Following the battle, there was widespread support from both North and South for further military action. Lincoln's immediate call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion resulted in an additional four states also declaring their secession and joining the Confederacy. The Civil War had begun.

Secession


On December 20, 1860, shortly after Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

's victory in the presidential election of 1860, South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 adopted an ordinance
Ordinance of Secession
The Ordinance of Secession was the document drafted and ratified in 1860 and 1861 by the states officially seceding from the United States of America...

 declaring its secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 from the United States of America and by February 1861, six more Southern states had adopted similar ordinances of secession. On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 and established their temporary capital at Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

. A February peace conference
Peace conference of 1861
The Peace Conference of 1861 was a meeting of more than 100 of the leading politicians of the antebellum United States held in Washington, D.C., in February 1861 that was meant to prevent what ultimately became the Civil War. The success of President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party in the...

 met in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, but failed to resolve the crisis. The remaining eight slave states rejected pleas to join the Confederacy.

The seceding states seized numerous Federal properties within their boundaries, including buildings, arsenals, and fortifications. President James Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 protested but took no military action in response. Buchanan was concerned that an overt action could cause the remaining slave states to leave the Union, and while he acknowledged there was no constitutional authority for a state to secede, he could find no constitutional authority for him to act to prevent it.

The forts of Charleston



Several forts had been constructed in Charleston's harbor, including Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, which were not among the initially seized properties. Fort Moultrie on Sullivan Island
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Sullivan's Island is a town in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States, on a similarly named island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The population was 1,911 at the 2000 census. It is also the site of a major battle of the American Revolution at Fort Sullivan on June 28, 1776. As...

 was the oldest—it was the site of fortifications since 1776—and was the headquarters of the U.S. Army garrison. However, it had been designed as a gun platform for defending the harbor, and its defenses against land-based attacks were feeble; during the crisis, the Charleston newspapers commented that sand dunes had piled up against the walls in such a way that the wall could easily be scaled. When the garrison began clearing away the dunes, the papers objected.

Major
Major (United States)
In the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, major is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel...

 Robert Anderson of the 1st U.S. Artillery regiment had been appointed to command the Charleston garrison that fall because of rising tensions. A native of Kentucky, he was a protégé of Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

, the general in chief
Commanding General of the United States Army
Prior to the institution of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army in 1903, there was generally a single senior-most officer in the army. From 1783, he was known simply as the Senior Officer of the United States Army, but in 1821, the title was changed to Commanding General of the United...

 of the Army, and was thought more capable of handling a crisis than the garrison's previous commander, Col. John L. Gardner, who was nearing retirement. Anderson had served an earlier tour of duty at Fort Moultrie and his father had been a defender of the fort (then called Fort Sullivan) during the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. Throughout the fall, South Carolina authorities considered both secession and the expropriation of Federal property in the harbor to be inevitable. As tensions mounted, the environment around the fort increasingly resembled a siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

, to the point that the South Carolina authorities placed picket ships to observe the movements of the troops and threatened violence when forty rifles were transferred to one of the harbor forts from the U.S. arsenal
Arsenal
An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

 in the city.

In contrast to Moultrie, Fort Sumter dominated the entrance to Charleston Harbor and, though unfinished, was designed to be one of the strongest fortresses in the world. In the fall of 1860 work was nearly done, but the fortress was thus far garrisoned by a single soldier, who functioned as a lighthouse keeper, and a small party of civilian construction workers. Under the cover of darkness on December 26, six days after South Carolina declared its secession, Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie, ordering its guns spiked and its gun carriages burned, and surreptitiously relocated his command by small boats to Sumter.

President Buchanan and the Star of the West


South Carolina authorities considered Anderson's move to be a breach of faith. Governor Francis W. Pickens believed that President Buchanan had made implicit promises to him to keep Sumter unoccupied and suffered political embarrassment as a result of his trust in those promises. Buchanan, a former U.S. Secretary of State and diplomat, had used carefully crafted ambiguous language to Pickens, promising that he would not "immediately" occupy it. From Major Anderson's standpoint, he was merely moving his existing garrison troops from one of the locations under his command to another. He had received instructions from the War Department on December 11, written by Major Don Carlos Buell
Don Carlos Buell
Don Carlos Buell was a career United States Army officer who fought in the Seminole War, the Mexican-American War, and the American Civil War. Buell led Union armies in two great Civil War battles—Shiloh and Perryville. The nation was angry at his failure to defeat the outnumbered...

, Assistant Adjutant General of the Army, approved by Secretary of War John B. Floyd
John B. Floyd
John Buchanan Floyd was the 31st Governor of Virginia, U.S. Secretary of War, and the Confederate general in the American Civil War who lost the crucial Battle of Fort Donelson.-Early life:...

:
Governor Pickens therefore ordered that all remaining Federal positions except Fort Sumter were to be seized. State troops quickly occupied Fort Moultrie (capturing 56 guns), Fort Johnson on James Island
James Island (South Carolina)
James Island is one of South Carolina's most urban Sea Islands. The island is separated from peninsular downtown Charleston by the Ashley River, from the mainland by Wappoo Creek and the Wappoo Cut, and from Johns Island by the Stono River...

, and the battery on Morris Island
Morris Island
Morris Island is an 840 acre uninhabited island in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, accessible only by boat. The island lies in the outer reaches of the harbor and was thus a strategic location in the American Civil War.-History:...

. On December 27, an assault force of 150 men seized the Union-occupied Castle Pinckney
Castle Pinckney
Castle Pinckney was a small masonry fortification constructed by the United States government by 1810 in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina...

 fortification, in the harbor close to downtown Charleston, capturing 24 guns and mortars without bloodshed. On December 30, the Federal arsenal in Charleston was captured, resulting in the acquisition of more than 22,000 weapons by the militia. The Confederates promptly made repairs at Fort Moultrie and dozens of new batteries and defense positions were constructed throughout the Charleston harbor area, including an unusual floating battery
Floating Battery of Charleston Harbor
The Floating Battery of Charleston Harbor was an ironclad vessel that was constructed by the Confederacy in early 1861, a few months before the American Civil War ignited...

, and armed with weapons captured from the arsenal.

President Buchanan was surprised and dismayed at Anderson's move to Sumter, unaware of the authorization Anderson had received. Nevertheless, he refused Pickens's demand to evacuate Charleston harbor. Since the garrison's supplies were limited, Buchanan authorized a relief expedition of supplies, small arms, and 200 soldiers. The original intent was to send the Navy sloop-of-war
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

 USS Brooklyn
USS Brooklyn (1858)
USS Brooklyn was a sloop-of-war authorized by the U.S. Congress and commissioned in 1859. Brooklyn was active in Caribbean operations until the start of the American Civil War at which time she became an active participant in the Union blockade of the Confederate States of America.With her one...

, but it was discovered that Confederates had sunk some derelict ships to block the shipping channel into Charleston and there was concern that Brooklyn had too deep a draft to negotiate the obstacles. Instead, it seemed prudent to send an unarmed civilian merchant ship, Star of the West
Star of the West
The Star of the West was a civilian steamship hired by the United States government to transport military supplies and reinforcements to the garrison of Fort Sumter, but was fired on by Confederates in its effort to do so at the dawning of the American Civil War...

, which might be perceived as less provocative to the Confederates. As she approached the harbor entrance on January 9, 1861, Star of the West was fired upon by a battery on Morris Island, which was staffed by cadets from The Citadel
The Citadel (military college)
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, also known simply as The Citadel, is a state-supported, comprehensive college located in Charleston, South Carolina, USA. It is one of the six senior military colleges in the United States...

, among them William Stewart Simkins
William Stewart Simkins
William Stewart Simkins was a Confederate soldier and professor of law at the University of Texas at Austin. As a military cadet, he quite possibly fired the first shot of the American Civil War.-Early life:...

, who were the only trained artillerists in the service of South Carolina at the time. Batteries from Fort Moultrie joined in and Star of the West was forced to withdraw. Major Anderson prepared his guns at Sumter when he heard the Confederate fire, but the secrecy of the operation had kept him unaware that a relief expedition was in progress and he chose not to start a general engagement.

Preparations for war



Conditions at the fort were difficult during the winter of 1860–61. Rations were short and fuel for heat was limited. The garrison scrambled to complete the defenses as best they could. Fort Sumter was designed to mount 135 guns, operated by 650 officers and men, but construction had met with numerous delays for decades and budget cuts had left it only about 90 percent finished in early 1861. Anderson's garrison consisted of just 85 men, primarily made up of two small artillery companies
Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–225 soldiers and usually commanded by a Captain, Major or Commandant. Most companies are formed of three to five platoons although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure...

: Company E, 1st U.S. Artillery, commanded by Capt. Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his...

, and Company H, commanded by Capt. Truman Seymour
Truman Seymour
Truman Seymour was an a career soldier and an accomplished painter. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, rising to the rank of major general. He commanded the Union troops at the Battle of Olustee, the largest Civil War battle fought in Florida.-Early life and career:Seymour...

. There were six other officers present: Surgeon Samuel W. Crawford
Samuel W. Crawford
Samuel Wylie Crawford was a United States Army surgeon and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

, First Lt. Theodore Talbot of Company H, First Lt. Jefferson C. Davis
Jefferson C. Davis
Jefferson Columbus Davis was an officer in the United States Army who served in the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, and the Modoc War. He was the first commander of the Department of Alaska, from 1868 to 1870...

 of the 1st U.S. Artillery, and Second Lt. Norman J. Hall
Norman J. Hall
Norman Jonathan Hall was an officer in the United States Army during the American Civil War, perhaps most noted for his defense of his sector of the Union line against Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life:...

 of Company H. Capt. John G. Foster
John G. Foster
John Gray Foster was a career military officer in the United States Army and a Union general during the American Civil War whose most distinguished services were in North and South Carolina. A postbellum expert in underwater demolition, he wrote the definitive treatise on the subject.-Early...

 and First Lt. George W. Snyder of the Corps of Engineers
United States Army Corps of Engineers
The United States Army Corps of Engineers is a federal agency and a major Army command made up of some 38,000 civilian and military personnel, making it the world's largest public engineering, design and construction management agency...

 were responsible for construction of the Charleston forts, but they reported to their headquarters in Washington, not directly to Anderson. The remaining personnel were 68 noncommissioned officers and privates, eight musicians, and 43 noncombatant workmen.

By April the Union troops had positioned 60 guns, but they had insufficient men to operate them all. The fort consisted of three levels of enclosed gun positions, or casemate
Casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

s. The second level of casemates was unoccupied. The majority of the guns were on the first level of casemates, on the upper level (the parapet
Parapet
A parapet is a wall-like barrier at the edge of a roof, terrace, balcony or other structure. Where extending above a roof, it may simply be the portion of an exterior wall that continues above the line of the roof surface, or may be a continuation of a vertical feature beneath the roof such as a...

 or barbette
Barbette
A barbette is a protective circular armour feature around a cannon or heavy artillery gun. The name comes from the French phrase en barbette referring to the practice of firing a field gun over a parapet rather than through an opening . The former gives better angles of fire but less protection...

 positions), and on the center parade field. Unfortunately for the defenders, the original mission of the fort—harbor defense—meant that it was designed so that the guns were primarily aimed at the Atlantic, with little capability of protecting from artillery fire from the surrounding land or from infantry conducting an amphibious assault.


In March, Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard took command of South Carolina forces in Charleston; on March 1, President Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Davis
Jefferson Finis Davis , also known as Jeff Davis, was an American statesman and leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, serving as President for its entire history. He was born in Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Davis...

 had appointed him the first general officer in the armed forces of the new Confederacy, specifically to take command of the siege. Beauregard made repeated demands that the Union force either surrender or withdraw and took steps to ensure that no supplies from the city were available to the defenders, whose food was running low. He also increased drills amongst the South Carolina militia, training them to operate the guns they manned. Ironically, Major Anderson had been Beauregard's artillery instructor at West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

; the two had been especially close, and Beauregard had become Anderson's assistant after graduation. Both sides spent March drilling and improving their fortifications to the best of their abilities.

Beauregard, a trained military engineer, built-up overwhelming strength to challenge Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie had three 8-inch Columbiad
Columbiad
The Columbiad was a large caliber, smoothbore, muzzle loading cannon able to fire heavy projectiles at both high and low trajectories. This feature enabled the columbiad to fire solid shot or shell to long ranges, making it an excellent seacoast defense weapon for its day...

s, two 8-inch howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

s, five 32-pound smoothbore
Smoothbore
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a barrel without rifling. Smoothbores range from handheld firearms to powerful tank guns and large artillery mortars.-History of firearms and rifling:...

s, and four 24-pounders. Outside of Moultrie were five 10-inch mortars
Mortar (weapon)
A mortar is an indirect fire weapon that fires explosive projectiles known as bombs at low velocities, short ranges, and high-arcing ballistic trajectories. It is typically muzzle-loading and has a barrel length less than 15 times its caliber....

, two 32-pounders, two 24-pounders, and a 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore. The floating battery next to Fort Moultrie had two 42-pounders and two 32-pounders on a raft protected by iron shielding. Fort Johnson on James Island had one 24-pounder and four 10-inch mortars. At Cummings Point on Morris Island were stationed seven 10-inch mortars, two 42-pounders, an English Blakely rifled
Rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 cannon, and three 8-inch Columbiads, the latter in the so-called Iron Battery, protected by a wooden shield faced with iron bars. About 6,000 men were available to man the artillery and to assault the fort, if necessary, including the local militia, young boys, and older men.

Decisions for war


On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president. He was almost immediately confronted with the surprise information that Major Anderson was reporting that only six weeks of rations remained at Fort Sumter. A crisis similar to the one at Fort Sumter had emerged at Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle and the county seat of Escambia County, Florida, United States of America. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 56,255 and as of 2009, the estimated population was 53,752...

, where Confederates threatened another U.S. fortification—Fort Pickens
Fort Pickens
Fort Pickens is a pentagonal historic United States military fort on Santa Rosa Island in the Pensacola, Florida, area. It is named after American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens. The fort was completed in 1834 and remained in use until 1947...

. Lincoln and his new cabinet struggled with the decisions of whether to reinforce the forts, and how. They were also concerned about whether to take actions that might start open hostilities and which side would be perceived as the aggressor as a result. Similar discussions and concerns were occurring in the Confederacy.

Following the formation of the Confederate States of America in early February, there was some debate among the secessionists whether the capture of the fort was rightly a matter for South Carolina or for the newly declared national government in Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery, Alabama
Montgomery is the capital of the U.S. state of Alabama, and is the county seat of Montgomery County. It is located on the Alabama River southeast of the center of the state, in the Gulf Coastal Plain. As of the 2010 census, Montgomery had a population of 205,764 making it the second-largest city...

. South Carolina Governor Pickens was among the states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

 advocates who felt that all property in Charleston harbor had reverted to South Carolina upon that state's secession as an independent commonwealth. This debate ran alongside another discussion about how aggressively the installations—including Forts Sumter and Pickens—should be obtained. President Davis, like his counterpart in Washington, preferred that his side not be seen as the aggressor. Both sides believed that the first side to use force would lose precious political support in the border states, whose allegiance was undetermined; before Lincoln's inauguration on March 4, five states had voted against secession, including Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

, and Lincoln openly offered to evacuate Fort Sumter if it would guarantee Virginia's loyalty.

The South sent delegations to Washington, D.C., and offered to pay for the Federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation and making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government. However, Secretary of State William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

, who wished to give up Sumter for political reasons—as a gesture of good will—engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed.

On April 4, as the supply situation on Sumter became critical, President Lincoln ordered a relief expedition, to be commanded by former naval captain (and future Assistant Secretary of the Navy) Gustavus V. Fox, who had proposed a plan for nighttime landings of smaller vessels than the Star of the West. Fox's orders were to land at Sumter with supplies only, and if he was opposed by the Confederates, to respond with the U.S. Navy vessels following and to then land both supplies and men. This time, Maj. Anderson was informed of the impending expedition, although the arrival date was not revealed to him. On April 6, Lincoln notified Governor Pickens that "an attempt will be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions only, and that if such attempt be not resisted, no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition will be made without further notice, [except] in case of an attack on the fort."

Lincoln's notification had been made to the governor of South Carolina, not the new Confederate government, which Lincoln did not recognize. Pickens consulted with Beauregard, the local Confederate commander. Soon Jefferson Davis ordered Beauregard to repeat the demand for Sumter's surrender, and if it did not, to reduce the fort before the relief expedition arrived. The Confederate cabinet, meeting in Montgomery, endorsed Davis's order on April 9. Only Secretary of State Robert Toombs
Robert Toombs
Robert Augustus Toombs was an American political leader, United States Senator from Georgia, 1st Secretary of State of the Confederacy, and a Confederate general in the Civil War.-Early life:...

 opposed this decision: he reportedly told Jefferson Davis the attack "will lose us every friend at the North. You will only strike a hornet's nest. ... Legions now quiet will swarm out and sting us to death. It is unnecessary. It puts us in the wrong. It is fatal."

Beauregard dispatched aides—Col. James Chesnut, Col. James A. Chisholm, and Capt. Stephen D. Lee
Stephen D. Lee
Stephen Dill Lee was an American soldier, planter, legislator, and author. He was the youngest Confederate lieutenant general during the American Civil War, and later served as the first president of Mississippi A&M College...

—to Fort Sumter on April 11 to issue the ultimatum. Anderson refused, although he reportedly commented, "I shall await the first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days." The aides returned to Charleston and reported this comment to Beauregard. At 1 a.m. on April 12, the aides brought Anderson a message from Beauregard: "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." After consulting with his senior officers, Maj. Anderson replied that he would evacuate Sumter by noon, April 15, unless he received new orders from his government or additional supplies. Col. Chesnut considered this reply to be too conditional and wrote a reply, which he handed to Anderson at 3:20 a.m.: "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." Anderson escorted the officers back to their boat, shook hands with each one, and said "If we never meet in this world again, God grant that we may meet in the next."

Bombardment



At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, Lt. Henry S. Farley, acting upon the command of Capt. George S. James, fired a single 10-inch mortar round from Fort Johnson. (James had offered the first shot to Roger Pryor, a noted Virginia secessionist, who declined, saying, "I could not fire the first gun of the war.") The shell exploded over Fort Sumter as a signal to open the general bombardment from 43 guns and mortars at Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, the floating battery, and Cummings Point. Under orders from Beauregard, the guns fired in a counterclockwise sequence around the harbor, with 2 minutes between each shot; Beauregard wanted to conserve ammunition, which he calculated would last for only 48 hours. Edmund Ruffin
Edmund Ruffin
Edmund Ruffin was a farmer and slaveholder, a Confederate soldier, and an 1850s political activist. He advocated states' rights, secession, and slavery and was described by opponents as one of the Fire-Eaters. He was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and a longstanding enemy of the North...

, another noted Virginia secessionist, had traveled to Charleston to be present for the beginning of the war, and fired one of the first shots at Sumter after the signal round, a 64-pound shell from the Iron Battery at Cummings Point. The shelling of Fort Sumter from the batteries ringing the harbor awakened Charleston's residents (including diarist Mary Chesnut), who rushed out into the predawn darkness to watch the shells arc over the water and burst inside the fort.

Major Anderson held his fire, awaiting daylight. His troops reported for a call at 6 a.m. and then had breakfast. At 7 a.m., Capt. Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday
Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his...

 fired a shot at the Ironclad Battery at Cummings Point. He missed. Given the available manpower, Anderson could not take advantage of all of his 60 guns. He deliberately avoided using guns that were situated in the fort where casualties were most likely. The fort's best cannons were mounted on the uppermost of its three tiers—the barbette tier—where his troops were most exposed to incoming fire from overhead. The fort had been designed to withstand a naval assault, and naval warships of the time did not mount guns capable of elevating to shoot over the walls of the fort; however, the land-based cannons manned by the Confederates were capable of landing such indirect fire on Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter's garrison could only safely fire the 21 working guns on the lowest level, which themselves, because they were emplaced in stone, were largely incapable of indirect fire that could seriously threaten Fort Moultrie. Moreover, although the Federals had moved as many of their supplies to Fort Sumter as they could manage, the fort was quite low on ammunition, and was nearly out at the end of the 34-hour bombardment. A more immediate problem was the scarcity of cloth gunpowder cartridges or bags; only 700 were available at the beginning of the battle and workmen sewed frantically to create more, in some cases using socks from Anderson's personal wardrobe. Because of the shortages, Anderson reduced his firing to only six guns: two aimed at Cummings Point, two at Fort Moultrie, and two at the Sullivan's Island batteries.

Ships from Fox's relief expedition began to arrive on April 12. Although Fox himself arrived at 3 a.m. on his steamer Baltic, most of the rest of his fleet was delayed until 6 p.m., and one of the two warships, USS Powhatan, never did arrive. Unbeknownst to Fox, it had been ordered to the relief of Fort Pickens in Florida. As landing craft were sent toward the fort with supplies, the artillery fire deterred them and they pulled back. Fox decided to wait until after dark and for the arrival of his warships. The next day, heavy seas made it difficult to load the small boats with men and supplies and Fox was left with the hope that Anderson and his men could hold out until dark on April 13.

Although Sumter was a masonry fort, there were wooden buildings inside for barracks and officer quarters. The Confederates targeted these with "hot shot" rounds (cannonballs that had been heated in ovens), starting fires that could prove more dangerous to the men than the explosive artillery. At 7 p.m. on April 12, a rain shower extinguished the flames and at the same time the Union gunners stopped firing for the night. They slept fitfully, concerned about a potential infantry assault against the fort. During the darkness, the Confederates reduced their fire to four shots each hour. The following morning, the full bombardment resumed and the Confederates continued firing hot shot against the wooden buildings. By noon most of the wooden buildings in the fort and the main gate were on fire. The flames moved toward the main ammunition magazine, where 300 barrels of gunpowder were stored. The Union soldiers frantically tried to move the barrels to safety, but two-thirds were left when Anderson judged it was too dangerous and ordered the magazine doors closed. He ordered the remaining barrels thrown into the sea, but the tide kept floating them back together into groups, some of which were ignited by incoming artillery rounds. He also ordered his crews to redouble their efforts at firing, but the Confederates did the same, firing the hot shots almost exclusively. Many of the Confederate soldiers admired the courage and determination of the Yankees. When the fort had to pause its firing, the Confederates often cheered and applauded after the firing resumed and they shouted epithets at some of the nearby Union ships for failing to come to the fort's aid.

Surrender




The fort's central flagpole was knocked down at 1 p.m. on April 13, raising doubts among the Confederates about whether the fort was ready to surrender. Col. Louis Wigfall
Louis Wigfall
Louis Trezevant Wigfall was an American politician from Texas who served as a member of the Texas Legislature, United States Senate, and Confederate Senate. Wigfall was among a group of leading secessionists known as Fire-Eaters, advocating the preservation and expansion of an aristocratic...

, a former U.S. senator, had been observing the battle and decided that this indicated the fort had had enough punishment. He commandeered a small boat and proceeded from Morris Island, waving a white handkerchief from his sword, dodging incoming rounds from Sullivan's Island. Meeting with Major Anderson, he said, "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?" Anderson was encouraged that Wigfall had said "evacuate," not "surrender." He was low on ammunition, fires were burning out of control, and his men were hungry and exhausted. Satisfied that they had defended their post with honor, enduring over 3,000 Confederate rounds without losing a man, Anderson agreed to a truce at 2 p.m.

Fort Sumter raised Wigfall's white handkerchief on its flagpole as Wigfall departed in his small boat back to Morris Island, where he was hailed as a hero. The handkerchief was spotted in Charleston and a delegation of officers representing Beauregard—Stephen D. Lee, Porcher Miles
William Porcher Miles
William Porcher Miles was among the ardent States' Rights advocates, supporters of slavery, and Southern secessionists who came to be known as the "Fire-Eaters." Born in South Carolina, he showed little early interest in politics and his early career included the study of law and a tenure as a...

, a former mayor of Charleston, and Roger Pryor—sailed to Sumter, unaware of Wigfall's visit. Anderson was outraged when these officers disavowed Wigfall's authority, telling him that the former senator had not spoken with Beauregard for two days, and he threatened to resume firing. Meanwhile, General Beauregard himself had finally seen the handkerchief and sent a second set of officers, offering essentially the same terms that Wigfall had presented, so the agreement was reinstated.

The Union garrison surrendered the fort to Confederate personnel at 2:30 p.m., April 14. No one from either side was killed during the bombardment. During the 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag—Anderson's one condition for withdrawal—a pile of cartridges blew up from a spark, killing Private Daniel Hough instantly and seriously injuring the rest of the gun crew, one mortally (Private Edward Gallway); these were the first fatalities of the war. The salute was stopped at fifty shots. Gallway and another injured crewman were sent to the hospital in Charleston, where Gallway died a few days later. Union troops were placed aboard a Confederate steamer, the Isabel, where they spent the night and were transported the next morning to Fox's relief ship Baltic, resting outside the harbor bar. Anderson carried the Fort Sumter Flag
Fort Sumter Flag
The Fort Sumter Flag is a historic United States flag with a distinctive, diamond-shaped pattern of 33 stars. The flag was lowered by Major Robert Anderson on April 14, 1861 when he surrendered Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, at the outset of the American Civil...

 with him North, where it became a widely known symbol of the battle, and rallying point for supporters of the Union.

Aftermath



The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the first military action of the American Civil War. Following the surrender, Northerners rallied behind Lincoln's call for all states to send troops to recapture the forts and preserve the Union. With the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. Some Northern states filled their quotas quickly. There were so many volunteers in Ohio that within 16 days they could have met the full call for 75,000 men by themselves. Other governors from border states were undiplomatic in their responses. For example, Gov. Claiborne Jackson wrote, "Not one man will the state of Missouri furnish to carry on any such unholy crusade", and Gov. Beriah Magoffin
Beriah Magoffin
Beriah Magoffin was the 21st Governor of Kentucky, serving during the early part of the Civil War. Personally, Magoffin adhered to a states' rights position, including the right of a state to secede from the Union, and he sympathized with the Confederate cause...

 wrote, “Kentucky will furnish no troops for the wicked purpose of subduing her sister Southern states.” The governors of other states still in the Union were equally unsupportive. The call for 75,000 troops triggered the secession of four additional states to join the Confederacy. The ensuing war lasted four years, effectively ending in April 1865, with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

.

Charleston Harbor was completely in Confederate hands for almost the entire four-year duration of the war, leaving a hole in the Union naval blockade
Union blockade
The Union Blockade, or the Blockade of the South, took place between 1861 and 1865, during the American Civil War, when the Union Navy maintained a strenuous effort on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the Confederate States of America designed to prevent the passage of trade goods, supplies, and arms...

. Union forces conducted major operations in 1862 and 1863 to capture Charleston, first overland on James Island (the Battle of Secessionville, June 1862), then by naval assault against Fort Sumter (the First Battle of Charleston Harbor
First Battle of Charleston Harbor
The First Battle of Charleston Harbor was an engagement near Charleston, South Carolina that took place April 7, 1863, during the American Civil War. The striking force was a fleet of nine ironclad warships of the Union Navy, including seven monitors that were improved versions of the original ....

, April 1863), then by seizing the Confederate artillery positions on Morris Island (beginning with the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, July 1863, and followed by a siege until September). After pounding Sumter to rubble with artillery fire, a final amphibious operation attempted to occupy it (the Second Battle of Fort Sumter
Second Battle of Fort Sumter
-References:*...

, September 1863), but was repulsed and no further attempts were made. The Confederates evacuated Fort Sumter and Charleston in February 1865 as Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman outflanked the city in the Carolinas Campaign
Carolinas Campaign
The Carolinas Campaign was the final campaign in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. In January 1865, Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman advanced north from Savannah, Georgia, through the Carolinas, with the intention of linking up with Union forces in Virginia. The defeat of ...

. On April 14, 1865, four years to the day after lowering the Fort Sumter Flag
Fort Sumter Flag
The Fort Sumter Flag is a historic United States flag with a distinctive, diamond-shaped pattern of 33 stars. The flag was lowered by Major Robert Anderson on April 14, 1861 when he surrendered Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, at the outset of the American Civil...

 in surrender, Robert Anderson (by then a major general
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

, although ill and in retired status) returned to the ruined fort to raise the flag he had lowered in 1861.

Two of the cannons used at Fort Sumter were later presented to Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University
Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College, most often referred to as Louisiana State University, or LSU, is a public coeducational university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The University was founded in 1853 in what is now known as Pineville, Louisiana, under the name...

 by General William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War , for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched...

, who was president of the university before the war began.

Further reading

  • Chesnut, Mary, Diary of Mary Chesnut. Fairfax, VA: D. Appleton and Company, 1905. .
  • Doubleday, Abner
    Abner Doubleday
    Abner Doubleday was a career United States Army officer and Union general in the American Civil War. He fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter, the opening battle of the war, and had a pivotal role in the early fighting at the Battle of Gettysburg. Gettysburg was his finest hour, but his...

    . Reminiscences of Forts Sumter and Moultrie in 1860–61. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876. .
  • Hatcher, Richard W. "The Problem in Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter and the Opening Shots of the Civil War." Hallowed Ground Magazine (Civil War Trust), Winter 2010.
  • Hendrickson, Robert. Sumter: The First Day of the Civil War. New York: Promontory Press, 1996. ISBN 0-88394-095-7.
  • Klein, Maury. Days of Defiance: Sumter, Secession, and the Coming of the Civil War: New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997. ISBN 0-679-44747-4.

External links