The Battle of Fort Sumter was the first battle of the American Civil War and signaled the start of the war. It took place over two days from April 12–13, 1861.
Where is Fort Sumter?
Fort Sumter is on an island in South Carolina not far from Charleston. Its main purpose was to guard Charleston Harbor.
Who were the leaders in the battle?
The main commander from the North was Major Robert Anderson. Even though he lost the Battle of Fort Sumter he became a national hero following the battle. He was even promoted to Brigadier General.
The leader of the Southern forces was General P. G. T. Beauregard. General Beauregard was actually a student of Major Anderson's at the army school of West Point.
Leading Up to the Battle
The situation around Fort Sumter had become increasingly tense in the previous months. It began with South Carolina seceding from the Union and escalated with the formation of the Confederacy and the Confederate Army. The leader of the Confederate Army, General P.T. Beauregard, began building up his forces around the fort in Charleston Harbor.
Major Anderson, the leader of the Union forces in Charleston, moved his men from Fort Moultrie to the more fortified island fort, Fort Sumter. However, because he was surrounded by the Confederate Army, he began to run out of food and fuel and needed supplies. The Confederation knew this and they were hoping that Major Anderson and his soldiers would leave South Carolina without a fight. He refused to leave, however, hoping that a supply ship could get through to the fort.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter by Currier & Ives
On April 12, 1861 General Beauregard sent Major Anderson a message saying that he would fire in one hour if Anderson didn't surrender. Anderson didn't surrender and the firing began. The South bombarded Fort Sumter from all sides. There were several forts surrounding Charleston Harbor that allowed the Southern forces to easily bombard Sumter. After many hours of bombardment, Anderson realized that he had no chance to win the battle. He was almost out of food and ammunition and his forces were badly outnumbered. He surrendered the fort to the Southern Army.
No one died in the Battle of Fort Sumter. This was largely because Major Anderson did everything he could to keep his men out of harm's way during the bombardment.
The Civil War had Begun
Now that the first shots were fired, the war had begun. Many states that had not picked a side, now choose the North or the South. Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederation. The western regions of Virginia decided to to stay with the Union. They would later form the state of West Virginia.
President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer soldiers for 90 days. At the time he still thought the war would be short and fairly small. It turned out to last for more than 4 years and over 2 million men would fight as part of the Union Army.