"FIRE!" Fort Sumter National Monument by goingsolo

Fort Sumter Fired Upon

And so it begins. Following the election of President Lincoln, South Carolina delegates voted to secede from the Union, claiming that the Federal government violated its constitutional rights. Five southern states followed suit and set up a provisional government- the Confederate States of America. The Confederacy began seizing federal forts. But one remained in the hands of the Union.

After the succession, U.S. Major General Robert Anderson transferred his command of men to Fort Sumter, sparking ire from the South. The Union attempted to send supplies to soldiers at Fort Sumter, but its boats were turned back by armed South Carolina vessels. Battle lines had already been drawn, and, now, the wagons were circling. South Carolina had control of all other forts in Charleston harbor.

On April 4, Lincoln ordered supply ships, protected by a convoy of military ships, to be sent to the Fort. Confederate General P.T. Beauregard, in charge of all troops in Charleston and the harbor, was ordered to demand evacuation "and if it is refused, proceed, in such manner as you may determine, to reduce it."

On April 11, Beauregard demanded surrender of Fort Sumter and Anderson refused. On April 12, Beauregard informed Union troops that Confederate batteries would open fire in one hour. One hour and ten minutes later, the then unthinkable happened. The first shot was fired and the nation was at war.

Major Anderson defended the fort for 34 hours before surrendering. There were no casualties in this first battle of the four year war. But damage had been done- to the fort and to the nation.

A condition of war now exists...

between the United States of America and a confederation of states that have elected to withdraw their allegiance to the Union.

- Letter of resignation from General Johnston to U.S. Captain Winfield Hancock

For the next four years, there would be repeated attempts to take Fort Sumter. All of these attempts would fail. Fort Sumter is the most heavily shelled structure in U.S. history. No matter how much firepower, the Confederates held on. It wasn't until 1865, after Sherman completed his March to the Sea and began advancing north towards Charleston, that the Confederates abandoned the fort.

Although Fort Sumter is widely known as the spot where the first shot was fired, the Fort exemplifies much more than the start of the Civil War. It is a symbol of Confederate resistance in the face of overwhelming odds. The tenacity with which the South defended the fort is the same deep rooted resolve that caused the war to begin. The South was fighting for its rights and was firmly entrenched in the belief that it was defending these rights. The wall shown in the photo was once over 50 feet high. The numerous assaults reduced it to rubble. Following numerous attempts at destruction, Confederate soldiers would plug holes in the fort walls with sandbags and other items, time and again, fighting to hold on not only to the Fort but to all that they sought to protect and defend with this war.

Today, Fort Sumter is a popular and heavily toured national monument. But the Fort that exists today is a rebuilt creation bearing little resemblance to the Fort that existed prior to and during the Civil War. Although you can't see the Fort as it once was, a tour of Fort Sumter will allow you to walk through the history of events, see the canons that fired on the fort, the wall where the first shot was fired and some of the destruction this fort withstood.

I toured Fort Sumter as the first stop on a journey through the civil was battles. The journey began, as journeys often do, a little off course with a visit to Stone Mountain which sparked my curiosity about the Confederate cause and the war itself. After having read and seen a few historical accounts of the war, I've decided to follow the path in its proper order. And so it begins with the place where the war began.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:An important piece of history
  • Cons:A place often misunderstood in its meaning
  • In a nutshell:One that every American, and every visitor seeking to understand, should visit.
  • Last visit to Fort Sumter National Monument: Feb 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Comments (2)

  • mtncorg's Profile Photo
    Sep 7, 2006 at 1:03 PM

    And so it began.

  • Apr 9, 2006 at 12:54 PM

    Thanks L, for the kind comments. I enjoyed reading your Fort Sumter NMP. You have a wonderful way with words. Swimming with the dolphins? That must have been amazing! Fondest Regards.


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