Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On the 12th of April, 1861...

...the American Civil War began in Charleston harbor. Confederates fired the first shots at the "Star of the West", a Union ship sent to supply and re-inforce the besieged garrison in Ft. Sumter. Confederates demanded the surrender of the fort, while President Lincoln declared it to be property of the US government, and refused any form of surrender of Federal property. Lincoln tested Confederate resolve, and actually (and very tactfully) coerced the Confederates into firing first.

A 34hr bombardment of the fort then commenced at 4;30 am, with Edmund Ruffin supposedly firing the first shot at Ft. Sumter. Later in the day, Captain Abner Doubleday of the Union army returned fire, ineffectively but symbolically, toward the city of Charleston. On April 13, the Union garrison under command of Maj. Robert Anderson, surrendered to Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Beauregard had previously been a student of Anderson's at West Point.

During the siege and shelling of Ft. Sumter, there were no battle casualties, but one Confederate died after having been wounded by a mis-firing cannon. One Union soldier did die, and another was mortally wounded during a 100 gun salute allowed by the Confederates. After this incident, though, the salute was shortened to 50 guns.

The "Star of the West" returned with Ft. Sumter's garrison to New York City, where the garrison received a hero's welcome. Anderson also kept the fort's flag, which is now on display in the museum in Ft. Sumter and is a treasured piece of American history.

Though the initial battle was bloodless, and the resulting casualties were minimal in number, the first battle for Ft. Sumter was the start of four years of a tragic war with casualties and brutality on a scale that no one imagined or saw coming. Even today, the ferocity of both sides in the America Civil War continues to awe and amaze. Though we commemorate it, and celebrate it, we must not glorify it. Most of all, we must all make sure that such an event never happens again!
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