The Civil War: Crossroads of Our Being Print
Written by Sherry   
Monday, 11 April 2011 15:26

A poignant anniversary will be marked at 4:30 am tomorrow morning, Tuesday, April 12. It was at that hour exactly 150 years ago, that the shelling of Fort Sumter commenced and the Civil War began.

On April 8, Lincoln notified Gov. Francis Pickens of South Carolina that he would attempt to resupply the fort. The Confederate commander at Charleston, Gen.P.G.T. Beauregard, was ordered by the Confederate government to demand the evacuation of the fort and if refused, to force its evacuation.

On April 11, General Beauregard delivered the ultimatum to Anderson, who replied, "Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days." On direction of the Confederate government in Montgomery, Beauregard notified Anderson that if he would state the time of his evacuation, the Southern forces would hold their fire. Anderson replied that he would evacuate by noon on April 15 unless he received other instructions or additional supplies from his government. (The supply ships were expected before that time.)

Told that his answer was unacceptable and that Beauregard would open fire in one hour, Anderson shook the hands of the messengers and said in parting, "If we do not meet again in this world, I hope we may meet in the better one." At 4:30 A.M. on April 12, 1861, 43 Confederate guns in a ring around Fort Sumter began the bombardment that initiated the bloodiest war in American history.

In her Charleston hotel room, diarist Mary Chestnut heard the opening shot. "I sprang out of bed." she wrote. "And on my knees--prostrate--I prayed as I never prayed before." The shelling of Fort Sumter from the batteries ringing the harbor awakened Charleston's residents, who rushed out into the predawn darkness to watch the shells arc over the water and burst inside the fort. Mary Chesnut went to the roof of her hotel, where the men were cheering the batteries and the women were praying and crying.

Fort Sumter fell after 33 hours of bombardment and miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured. The generous terms of surrender allowed Anderson to run up his flag for a hundred-gun salute before he and his men evacuated the fort the next day. The irony is that the only deaths occurred during the hundred gun salute when an accidental explosion killed two defenders.

More than 3 million Americans fought in the Civil War and roughly 620,000 or 2% of the US population died in it. 360,000 died from the north and 258,000 from the south.

Enjoy the following Civil War observations and anecdotes from Shelby Foote, the Mississippi historian of the Civil War.