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Battle for Fort Sumter – Start of the American Civil War – Part 2

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On April 12, 1861 at 03:20, Anderson was informed that fire would be open in an hour. At 04:30 a mortar shell from Fort Johnson exploded over Fort Sumter, signaling the start of the shelling. The 43 guns of the forts Johnson, Moltrey, were fired from floating batteries at Charleston Harbor and Cummings Point. The famous secessionist Edmund Ruffin personally came to Charleston to be present at the start of the war, and he happened to make the first (after the signal) shot at the fort. Sumter did not respond 2.5 hours.

Apparently, Anderson was waiting for Fox squadron. He went to Charleston just at 03:00, but the ships did not have time to gather at the gathering point, and the flagship did not appear at all. By evening, a storm began and the ships could not enter the harbor.

At 07:00, Captain Ebner Doubleday made the first shot from Fort Sumter at the battery at Cummings Point. But in the fort there were only 60 guns. The fort was protected from shelling from ships (which at the time could only be laid), but was not protected from the coastal batteries of the Confederates. Shooting lasted 34 hours. Squadron Fox still stood at sea, waiting for its flagship, the storm did not stop.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the country on the evening of April 12, the federal army under the command of John Worden captured the Florida fort of Pickens.


The central flagpole of the fort collapsed. A new one had not yet been built, when the Confederate parliamentarians appeared with the question whether the disappearance of the flag means that it is lowered as a sign of surrender. Anderson agreed to a truce. It was 2:00 pm on April 13, 1861.

The terms of surrender were agreed upon in the evening and on April 14, 1861, at 14:30, the garrison surrendered the fort. Not a single soldier died during the shelling, only 5 northerners and 4 southerners were injured. The only condition for the surrender Anderson announced a salute in 100 volleys in honor of the US flag. During this salute, a stack of charges exploded, killing one soldier (Daniel Howe) and seriously injuring a group of gunners. These were the first victims of the Civil War. For this reason, the salute was stopped in the middle, the wounded were sent to Charleston hospital. The rest of the garrison was transported to the steamer “Baltic” from Fox’s squadron.


Events at Fort Sumter served as a signal for the start of the war. On the evening of April 14, President Lincoln prepared a proclamation on the recruitment of 75,000 volunteers , and in the morning of April 15 it was published in the northern state newspapers.

Alexander Stevens, as already mentioned, considered the approach of Fox’s squadron as the main reason for the shelling of the fort. The same opinion is shared by the historian Charles Ramsdel. According to him, sending the fleet to the fort “allegedly to deliver bread to the hungry garrison,” Lincoln forced the Confederation to make the first shot.

There is also an opposite opinion: this opinion was voiced by K. Marx in 1861: “… the secessionists decided to make the Union government abandon its passive position by noisy military action and only for this reason bombed Fort Sumter from Charleston. On April 11, their General Beauregard, during negotiations with the commander of Fort Sumter, Major Anderson, learned that the fort was provided with food for only three days and, therefore, after this period would have to surrender without a fight. To warn this surrender without a fight, the secessionists began an early morning bombing on the very next day (April 12), which in a few hours led to the fall of the fort ”.

The incident made a huge impression on all of America, and not so much because of the actual incident, but because of the psychological significance that was given to them. Some officers sympathizing with the South have drastically changed their sympathies after this “act of aggression”. Lincoln announced the recruitment of a 75-thousand army, which, in turn, pushed away from the North those who sympathized with him earlier (for example, General Jubal Airlie ) and led to the second wave of secession — the separation of Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The federal army returned to the fort a few days after the surrender of the North Virginia army and exactly four years after the surrender of the fort on April 14, 1865.

The incident with Fort Sumter entered into one row with such dubious incidents as the explosion of the cruiser “Maine” , the sinking of the ” Lusitania “, the attack on Pearl Harbor , the Incident in Tonkin Bay and others.


Burin S. N. On the battlefields of the civil war in the United States
Kuropyatnik G.P. Second American Revolution
Ivanov R. F. Abraham Lincoln and the American Civil War
Foote S. The Civil War: A Narrative
Boatner MM The Civil War Dictionary
Nevins A. The War for the Union
Long EB Civil War Day by Day: An Almanac 1861–1865
Davies WC The Imperial Union: 1861-1865 .
McPherson GM Battle Cry of Freedom. The Civil War Era
Mal KM The American Civil War 1861-1865

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