(WHTM) — On Dec. 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln as President.
At the time U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson commanded units of the 1st U.S. Artillery at Fort Moultrie, guarding the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. On Dec. 26, Anderson moved his command to Fort Sumter. The Fort, built on an artificial island at the entrance to Charleston harbor, would be much easier to defend if war broke out.
Over the next few months the Governor of South Carolina, Francis Pickens, sent demands to President James Buchanan that the fort be surrendered. On Jan. 9, 1861, a Union attempt to resupply and reinforce the garrison was repulsed — the first shots fired in the Civil War.
By April, the garrison at Fort Sumter was running low on food. President Lincoln ordered a fleet of ships sent to relieve the fort. The ships started arriving on April 11 — the same day the commander of Confederate forces in Charleston, General P.T. Beauregard, sent aides to demand Anderson surrender. Anderson played for time, waiting until 3 a.m. on Friday, April 12, to announce conditions for surrender the Confederates found unacceptable.
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At 4:30 a.m. the Confederates opened fire, starting a bombardment that would last 34 hours. The fort did not return fire for over two hours. This was partly because the fort didn’t have much ammunition, and much of what they had was explosive shells with no fuses to make them explode. The defenders of the fort had to make do with solid shot, which did little damage. (The officer who would fire the first shot for the Union was Captain Abner Doubleday, who served with distinction through the war but is best known for something he didn’t do — invent baseball.)
Finally, on April 13, the garrison at Fort Sumter surrendered. In all, there were only two deaths — one Union, one Confederate, both killed by malfunctioning cannons. Anderson took the fort’s flag with him when the soldiers departed by ship for New York.
Four years of unspeakable horror later, now General Anderson returned to Fort Sumter. On April 14, 1865, in a ceremony to celebrate the end of the war (which actually hadn’t ended, but was in a slow fizzle-out stage that would go on for months). He raised the flag he’d taken with him in 1861.
This ceremony was largely forgotten because Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater that same night.
Information in this story came from: National Park Service, National Park Service-Anderson, National Park Service-Doubleday, National Park Service-Beauregard, Wikipedia-Gov. Pickens, Wikipedia-Flag raising ceremony.