Battle of Fort Sumter

Which was the first battle of the American Civil War?

And the answer: Battle of Fort Sumter.

Photo credit: public domain. 

The attack on Fort Sumter on the morning of April 12th 1861, marked the official beginning of the American Civil War, which lasted for four years and caused the deaths of over 620,000 Americans.    

Back in 1812, the United States was drawn into the war between Britain and France. When the war ended in 1815, the United States had learned of their need to modernize and fortify their defenses on the vulnerable eastern coastline. As such, Americans began to build many strategically placed costal sea forts, called the Third System Forts. One of these forts was called Fort Sumter, built to guard Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. Although construction began in 1829, it was not completed by the time South Carolina seceded from the union in 1860, due to a lack of funds.

With the creation of the Confederate States of America in February of 1861, the Union garrison at Fort Sumter suddenly found itself inside hostile territory. The 85 soldiers didn't possess enough manpower to operate all of their artillery, and began to experience pressure from surrounding Confederate soldiers to abandon the fort. When President Lincoln took office in March of 1861, vowing to keep the fort supplied, Confederate hostility only grew. In April 1861, hostilities finally came to a head.

The situation for the fort had become critical, as the soldiers realized they would run out of food by the 15th of April. An earlier attempt to resupply the fort in January had failed, having been driven off by gunfire from the local cadets of the Military College of South Carolina. So, on April 12, 1861, Confederate soldiers acted to begin firing on Fort Sumter, effectively marking the start of the Civil War. By the following morning, the Union soldiers surrendered, and no casualties were taken.

Learn more about this important battle below.


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