Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Fort Sumter, Charleston South Carolina
Taken from Naval History Magazine October, 2006
Charleston’s largest Civil War Relic, of course, lies in the harbor. Fort Sumter became a flash-point after South Carolina, convinced Abraham Lincoln’s election as president would lead to the eradication of slavery, left the Union in December 1860, and the newly formed Confederate States of America claimed the fort. Later that month, Major Robert Anderson, commander of a small Federal force on the opposite side of the harbor mouth at Fort Moultrie, realized he couldn’t defend himself from a land attack, so he surreptitiously moved his command across to Sumter.
Today, Fort Sumter is a national monument administered by the National Park Service. Regularly scheduled boats ferry travelers out to it each day. The fort they see, though, bears little resemblance to the two-level fortress Anderson and his men reached on the night of 26 December 1860. Union guns eventually pounded that imposing structure into rubble, and only the lower brickwork remains. The fort’s interior is dominated by the black presence of Battery Huger, added in 1898. Still, standing on the battery’s windswept surface and watching commercial vessels inch slowly into Charleston Harbor provide a sense of Fort Sumter’s importance in 1861. Ships in the harbor’s main channel had to make a sharp turn in front of the fort, leaving them easy targets for Sumter’s guns.
At 0430 the morning of 12 April 1861 a Confederate mortar shot a flare over the fort, signaling Southern batteries to open fire. After enduring an intense bombardment, Anderson surrendered two days later. He received permission to fire a 100-gun salute when he lowered the U.S. flag, but one cannon fired prematurely and killed Private Daniel Hough – the battle’s only fatality.