The Civil War Begins

This Day in History

On this day in 1861, General P.G.T. Beauregard attacked the Union-fortified Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. 

When Abraham Lincoln won the election in late 1860, slave-holding Southern states feared that the newly elected Republican president would interfere with his abolitionist affairs. A few weeks later, South Carolina seceded from the Union in December 1860 in protest of the new leader. To secure the country in the fragile state of the secession crisis, U.S Major Robert Anderson occupied the Charleston Bay Fort Sumter in January of 1861, which only ignited a tense standoff with the state militia. 

Fort Sumter today overlooking Charleston Bay

Months into the occupation, however, Anderson and his men began to run low on food and supplies. President Lincoln believed that if he sent humanitarian relief, without arms, it might prevent the Confederates from firing and also still maintain control over the fort. The Confederates, however, viewed Lincoln’s plan as an aggressive attack against their sovereign claim. 

After the war: raising of the flag at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865

Confederate General P.G.T Beauregard ordered Anderson to the surrender.

After the Union officer refused to surrender, Beauregard launched a 36 hour attack on the ill-prepared fort on this day in 1861. Although no one died during the scrimmage, Anderson eventually was forced to surrender due to lack of supplies. Fort Sumter remained in Confederate control for four years. Two days later, President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to fight against the Southern “insurrection.” 

Attack on Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter today
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