Saturday, April 12, 2014
The Civil War began on this day in 1861. Abraham Lincoln’s election the previous fall had signaled, for many Southerners, that the time for compromise on the slavery issue was over. Confederate troops fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Fort Sumter was built on a man-made island in Charleston’s harbor, and it was the last Charleston fort still held by Union troops. They had been facing off with South Carolina’s militia since the state had seceded from the Union in December 1860.
Union troops were running out of supplies and in danger of starving, so Lincoln tried to send in ships to relieve them. South Carolina viewed this as an act of aggression, and so, on April 11, they sent a delegation rowing out to the fort to politely demand that Robert Anderson, the Union officer in charge of the garrison, lead an evacuation immediately. Anderson just as politely declined, saying, “It is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor, and of my obligation to my Government, prevent my compliance.” Commander Beauregard opened fire just after 4:30 a.m., beginning a war that would ultimately cost 620,000 American lives.