BATTLE OF FORT SUMTER
When people think of the largest and most significant battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Fort Sumter is rarely mentioned, and rightfully so. It wasn’t a large battle. There weren’t many long days of hard fighting from dawn until dusk between the two sides with endless amounts of ammunition. But what made this battle significant is that it was the first military engagement between the Federalists and the Rebels, and it would set the tone for the rest of the war.
South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union on December 20, 1860. In doing so, the state demanded that all federal troops be removed from Charleston Harbor. Although the forces stationed in Charleston (commanded by Major Robert Anderson) were small with a mere 85 men, there was no intent of quietly evacuating the city. Six days after the secession, Anderson moved his troops through the night to the island of Fort Sumter, where they would put themselves in a highly defensible position and wait for their incoming support to meet them. Although the Union did send a ship with ample supplies and two hundred soldiers, the ship was turned away by the Confederates, leaving Anderson and his men all alone on the island, where a 4 month siege would begin.
Throughout the beginning portion of 1861, there was very little action and until General P.G.T. Beauregard took over for the Confederates, the Union soldiers were even allowed to leave the island to resupply themselves with food. After Beauregard took command however, all resources to the Sumter were cut off, leading many to believe that a battle was inevitable. After another refusal to surrender on April 12, Anderson was informed by Beauregard that the fighting would commence.
It was inevitable that the Confederate troops were going to outlast Anderson’s ill-supplied men during this fight. A little after 4 A.M. Beauregard order shots to be fired (the first of the Civil War) and over the following 34 hours, 3,000 more shots would be fired by the Confederate side. After the fortresses had been broken and fires started in the Fort, Anderson was forced to surrender. With no deaths occurring during the actual fight (2 soldiers were killed by an explosion during the evacuation phase), and the ability to retain their honor, Anderson felt like the April battle was a success for the Union forces.
The fallout from Fort Sumter was clear, there would be war. Just days after the fighting began at Fort Sumter, things began to escalate quickly. President Abraham Lincoln began to call for volunteers to come and fight for the union as they wanted to squash the rebellion and quick and swift nature. All the while, more southern states began the secession process with Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee joining the Confederacy. With essentially zero casualties, it is no wonder that the Battle of Fort Sumter is often forgotten, but based on the 4 year fallout of the first battle, Sumter should forever be remembered for the role it had.