The Battle at Fort Sumter

The United States in the mid-1800’s was divided by philosophy and differing opinions. The southern states had a history of accepting slavery since Revolutionary War times. The northern states believed that slavery was wrong and the practice of owning another human being should be outlawed. This rift continued to grow throughout this time period coming to a conclusion with the Civil War.

In the United States Presidential election of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States, and he would take office in 1861. Lincoln was from the north and was a proponent of the abolition of slavery. His election brought concern to the southern states, and shortly after Lincoln was elected President, South Carolina declared that it was seceding from the United States. In early 1861 Mississippi , Florida , Alabama , Georgia , Louisiana and Texas also seceded from the United States. These seven states formed a government entity called the Confederate States of America (CSA).

One of the United States military outposts was located at Fort Sumter, near Charleston, South Carolina. This fort was occupied by U.S. Army personnel, and when South Carolina seceded from the United States, the CSA refused to allow provisions to be delivered to the fort in an attempt to remove the personnel. After Lincoln became President in March 1861, the CSA tried to negotiate with the US government, but since the CSA was not recognized as a legitimate government entity, the negotiations failed.

On April 11, 1861 the CSA demanded that the US forces leave Fort Sumter , and that if they did not leave, they would be removed by force. US Army Major Robert Anderson was in charge of the Fort and he refused to surrender this position. After several hours of negotiations, at 3AM on April 12, 1861, CSA General P.G.T. Beauregard responded that the fort will be fired upon in one hour's time. At 4:30AM the first round was fired by the CSA on the fort. The CSA with 500 soldiers outnumbered the 80 US soldiers at the fort.

The bombardment of the fort lasted until April 13, 1861, when a truce was called. During the siege, the flagpole with the American flag had been knocked down, and no replacement could be installed. So, the CSA did not know if the US troops had surrendered or not. Therefore, discussions between the two sides were arranged.

The two sides agreed that the US troops low in numbers and in ammunition, would withdraw from the fort. On April 14, 1861, the fort was officially surrendered to the CSA. The soldiers along with family living at the fort were allowed to return to the north under terms of the surrender agreement.

The Battle of Fort Sumter marked the beginning of the Civil War , a war that would mark the first time that the country was torn apart and that fellow countrymen fought each other. It was a unique situation where people that were classmates, such as Anderson and Beauregard were at West Point, would be facing each other. It was a bleak time in American history that would last until 1865. However, it did bring an end to slavery and gave the United States the resolve to move forward with its path as a country.