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       When the southern states seceded they seized all federal offices, installations, and forts.  By 1861, the north or the union only controlled three forts in the south.  One of these forts was located in the harbor off the coast of Charleston South Carolina.  The fort was called Fort Sumter. 

(Click here to hear a southerners view of Ft. Sumter)

     Lincoln learned that Fort Sumter was running short of food and supplies.  He informed the governor of South Carolina that he intended to send food to the fort and promised that he would not send weapons. The Confederate forces surrounded the fort and demanded that the fort surrender.  The commander of Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, refused to surrender.  Anderson was from Kentucky and had sympathy for the southern cause.  However, Anderson also believed that the union needed to be preserved at all costs.

     On April 12, 1861, at 4:30 A.M., the Civil War began!  Confederate troops under the command of P.T. Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter with artillery.  In the years prior to this event, Anderson had been an artillery instructor at West Point.  His finest most promising student was none other than P.T. Beauregard.  Now the two found themselves squaring off in Charlestown harbor for what would be the opening battle of the Civil War. 

     The people of Charlestown watched in amazement as the Confederate guns shelled Fort Sumter from all sides for over 36 hours.  Eventually, Major Anderson and the union troops ran out of ammunition and were forced to surrender.  During the battle there were no casualties with the exception of a Confederate horse.  Anderson lowered the Stars and Strips and surrendered to Beauregard.  His men were allowed to march parade style through the streets of Charlestown and were cheerfully sent off by its citizens.  During the farewell salute, one soldier was killed by mistake when a cannon accidentally exploded.

     The bombardment of Fort Sumter caused other states to succeed.  Lincoln blamed the south for starting the conflict and asked for 75,000 volunteers.  At the time no one could have imagined the carnage that would ensue in the years to come.  This bloodless battle marked the beginning of America's bloodiest conflict, for the shelling of Fort Sumter began the Civil War!

Click below to hear a southerners view of the attack on Fort Sumter:

"All the pent up hatred of the past months and years were voiced in the thunder of these cannons.  The people seem almost beside themselves with the exaltation of a freedom they deem already won."