“If you see the President, tell him from me that whatever happens there will be no turning back.” – Ulysses S. Grant

The attack on Fort Sumter

Yesterday was the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. That’s the day Confederate soldiers fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, triggering the start of a four-year-long war between a country split in two.”No one was ready for a war,” Carla Joinson, author of Civil War Doctor: The Story of Mary Walker, writes. “Neither side expected the magnitude of the war that was about to begin.”

Details of what happened on that fateful day are chronicled in Morgan Reynolds’s The Firing on Fort Sumter: A Splintered Nation Goes to War, by author Nancy Colbert. Colbert writes: Major Robert Anderson was in command of the Union militia stationed at Fort Moultrie, nearby Sumter, in 1860. In the past, the army and the locals had been friendly. But Lincoln’s election caused a major rift in this relationship. Charlestonians were outraged, and Anderson knew his soldiers were not safe from their anger. They needed a sturdier fort, and Anderson looked to Sumter for protection of his troops. But he knew re-locating to Sumter would inevitably anger the locals even more.

Colbert further explains in The Firing on Fort Sumter that Anderson was told by Washington not to fan the flame with the people of Charleston, only to act when confronted with hostility. However, “It became clear to Anderson that his superiors in Washington were as confused as to what was the proper course of action as he was.”

In December of 1860, Anderson moved his garrison to Sumter. “Anderson’s move, which was meant to protect the peace, served as a rallying cry for war in the North. In the South the move was called even worse. The Charleston Courier shouted: ‘Maj. Robert Anderson, U.S.A., has achieved the unenviable distinction of opening civil war.’”

Early in the morning of April 12, 1861, Colbert writes,

The sky became like a night of holiday fireworks. People in Charleston trooped up to the rooftops and along the waterfront to watch the show. The rumbling, deadening roar of the Confederate artillery filled the air. But Fort Sumter lay silent. No guns fired. The Confederates wondered if Anderson had decided to quite without a fight. When dawn came, though, the American flag was still flying proudly over the fort.

Thus the American Civil War began. And as Joinson writes, no one expected the four year long saga it would become. “Expecting a short war, few bothered to put the infrastructure in place that would move supplies efficiently, take men where they needed to go, and look to their needs after a battle.”

In the end, both the North and the South were burnt out from war and loss. After General Robert E. Lee’s surrender, General Robert Anderson returned to Sumter exactly four years after those first shots were fired to reclaim the fort, ceremoniously signifying the end of the war. As the United States flag was fastened to the pole, Anderson said, “After four long, long years of bloody war, I restore to its proper place this dear flag which floated here during peace, before the first act of this cruel Rebellion. I thank God that I have lived to see this day and to be here to perform this . . . duty to my country. I thank God who so singly blessed us.”

Adrianne Loggins
Associate Editor

*For more information on the Civil War, check out Morgan Reynolds titles:

Civil War Doctor: The Story of Mary Walker by Carla Joinson

(ISBN: 978-1-59935-028-8)

The Firing on Fort Sumter: A Splintered Nation Goes to War by Nancy Colbert

(ISBN: 978-1-883846-51-0)

Ulysses S. Grant: Defender of the Union by Earle Rice Jr.

(ISBN: 978-1-931798-48-8)

Robert E. Lee: First Soldier of the Confederacy by Earle Rice Jr.

(ISBN: 978-1-931798-47-1)

Published in: on April 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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