On April 13-14, 1861, newspaper boys on the streets of the northern cities of the USA - the North American United States, gathered an abundant "harvest" - they literally pulled out newspapers with their hands, they did not ask for change. But they too tore their throats and tried with might and main: “Southerners fired at Fort Sumter! Southerners have shelled Fort Sumter near the city of Charleston! A treacherous stab in the back of the Union! " And the people read and did not believe until the morning of the 15th newspaper published a report on President Lincoln's decision to recruit an army of 75,000 men. And then only people realized that all this would not end in peace …
So what kind of fort is this? And why did the southerners shoot him if he was in the harbor of Charleston, a real southern city, as Margaret Mitchell wrote about it in her "Gone with the Wind", and why the same Americans continue to argue about this event? Although, it would seem, there is nothing to argue: the southerners fired at and captured, and the northerners who defended the fort surrendered. And why exactly this event became the formal reason for the beginning of the Civil War in the United States?
The bombing of Fort Sumter. Engraving of the time.
And it so happened that the state of South Carolina announced its withdrawal from the union of states soon after Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860. By February 1861, six more states had followed suit. Then, on February 7, the seven breakaway states announced their decision to merge into a new state - the Confederate States of America. They adopted an interim constitution, and Montgomery, Alabama, became their capital. At the same time in February, at a peace conference in Washington, an attempt was made to resolve the crisis that had arisen peacefully. Other slave states have so far refused to join the Confederation.
Exterior view of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Engraving 1861
In the meantime, Confederate troops occupied, in addition to Fort Sumter, all four forts in Charleston Harbor. Buchanan, who continued to serve as President of the United States, declared an official protest to the Confederates, but did not want to undertake military actions, leaving his successor to “clear out” the situation. Meanwhile, the governors of the states of New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have already begun purchasing weapons, creating and training militia units.
In this engraving, the fort is on fire.
Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president on March 4, 1861. In his inaugural speech, he said that the country's Constitution established the eternity of the Union, and if so, the secession is illegal. At the same time, he promised not to use force against the southern states, and slavery, where it exists, not to abolish. However, he warned the separatists that if they tried to encroach on federal property, force would be used against them.
The fort was shelled, and the citizens of Charleston walked peacefully along the embankment. War - war, and exercise - exercise, and it is interesting to see this!
However, when the Southerners sent their representatives to Washington to agree on the division of property, Lincoln refused to negotiate with the ambassadors of the Confederation, since it (the Confederation), they say, is not legitimate, and if so, negotiating with them would mean its recognition and de facto. and de jure.
This is what Fort Sumter looks like today.
Now, in fact, about the fortifications in Charleston Harbor. There were many of them and of different dignity. First of all, they were Sumter and Moltri. The latter was also the headquarters of the garrison. But Moltri had no protection from land, Fort Sumter was rightly considered at that time … one of the most powerful forts in the world, its construction had just been completed.
“The civil war began here” - the model of the fort at the time of the bombing.
The commander of the local garrison was Major Robert Anderson, which, by the way, was not at all coincidental, because he was from Kentucky, had a wife from the state of Georgia and was even known as a supporter of slavery. And at the same time he was familiar with Abraham Lincoln, because in 1832, with the rank of colonel, he commanded a regiment of Illinois volunteers in the war with the Seminole Indians, while Lincoln himself was a captain of the same volunteers at that time!
Plans for the fortifications of Fort Sumter.
In general, what to expect, the Carolina authorities decided, and ordered the federal property in the harbor to be confiscated. Since Anderson had only 85 soldiers, he evacuated Fort Moltri, riveted the guns on it, and sent all the people to Fort Sumter. But there was no food or fresh water at the fort. Therefore, the steamer "Star of the West" was sent to the fort, which was supposed to bring food and water there, as well as 200 people to replenish the garrison. But … it was here that the southerners fired the first shots at him from Fort Cummings Point. They did not hit, but the steamer left, but Anderson did not support the "Star of the West" with fire from his artillery, since US Secretary of Defense George Floyd advised him to avoid anything that could provoke unnecessary aggression.
Fort Sumter April 14, 1861.
This was all the more important since the next day, January 10, Florida also seceded from the Union. A detachment of the federal army left for Fort Pickens, and the northerners received another analogue of Fort Sumter.
Meanwhile, the southerners who proclaimed the Confederation began to argue: is the problem with Fort Sumter an internal affair of the state of South Carolina or should it be solved by the government in Montgomery? Governor Francis Pickens, once ambassador to Russia, said any federal property in Charleston Harbor should be transferred to the state. But then the question arose: how to take it away without using force? Jefferson Davis, who became president of the Southerners, like Abraham Lincoln, believed that it was necessary to act so that the South was not accused of aggression. Both the one and the other were confident that the side that struck first would lose the support of the states that were still neutral. After all, as many as five states voted against the secession, and among them was the state of Virginia, and then Lincoln proposed to evacuate Fort Sumter, just to maintain its loyalty.
Charleston harbor map.
General Beauregard was appointed to command the southern forces in Charleston. On March 1, President Davis promoted him to the rank of full general, made him commander-in-chief of the Confederate Army in South Carolina, and ordered him to lead the blockade of Fort Sumter. Beauregard cut off all food supplies from Charleston to the fort, because he knew that his own supplies there were running out, and, thus, he would not last long. Then he began to intensively train his gunners. Funnily enough, in the past, it was Anderson who was Beauregard's gunnery instructor at the West Point academy, and he was Anderson's assistant. And now they had to shoot each other, in accordance with the situation inside the country. Thus, the soldiers of the northerners and southerners, the first at the fort, and the second at the coastal batteries that surrounded it, spent the entire March to improve their combat skills.
Fort Sumter cannon.
And then on March 4, President Lincoln was informed that the food supplies at Fort Sumter were significantly less than he had believed. Actually, they were not there at all, and the garrison was threatened with starvation. What to do, the President thought … for almost a month, and only on March 29 decided to send a sea convoy of merchant ships with a cargo of food to the fort under the cover of the US Navy ships. Gustavus Waz Fox was appointed head of the expedition. On April 6, 1861, Lincoln informed Governor Francis Pickens that ships would approach the fort to supply his garrison with food, but no weapons and ammunition would be delivered, and hostilities would not begin unless the squadron or fort was attacked. That is, he announced the purely peaceful nature of this action.
Favorite Confederate flag - Bonnie Blue.
Simultaneously, Lincoln dispatched a secret expedition to occupy Fort Pickens in Florida. John Warden was assigned to command the operation. And since both expeditions (both to Sumter and Pickens) were preparing at the same time, they made a mistake in haste: the steamer Powhatan, which was supposed to sail to Fort Sumter, went to Fort Pickens. However, obviously, both missions were of practically the same character.
A shell stuck in the wall of the fort.
The government of the Confederation did not believe in the peaceful nature of the "expedition". Moreover, when it met on April 9 for a meeting in Montgomery, it was decided to use coastal batteries to force it to surrender before the release of the fleet arrived. Southerner Secretary of State Robert Toombs alone was against it, telling President Davis that such an attack would "turn our friends in the north away from us."
Casemates with guns. Exposition at Fort Sumter.
General Beregar was instructed to solve the problem on the spot. Like, if he sees that the fort is receiving reinforcements, he can open fire. The general thought about it and on April 11 he sent an ultimatum to Fort Sumter. He either had information or guessed about the imminent arrival of Fox's squadron and decided to finish the "case" before its arrival.
This is how the fort looks today from the inside.
Anderson seemed to answer like this: "We will still die here for a few days from hunger." In addition, he knew that there was very little ammunition at the fort - at most for one day. But he, too, was waiting for Fox's squadron. But the squadron was not there.
Finally, on April 12, 1861, at 03:20, Major Anderson received a message that fire on the fort entrusted to him would be opened in exactly one hour. And so it happened: at 04:30 a bomb from Fort Johnson exploded in the air just above Fort Sumter. Forty-three guns from the forts Johnson and Moltri, as well as from floating batteries in the harbor of Charleston and Cummings Point, fired at the fort at once. Such a well-known supporter of the secession of the northern states at the time, as Edmund Ruffin personally arrived in Charleston and fired the first combat shot at the fort. But Sumter was silent and did not answer the fire for 2, 5 hours.
These were the weapons the southerners fired at Fort Sumter.
Meanwhile, Fox's squadron approached Charleston at 03:00, but the ships did not have time to enter the harbor, and the flagship did not appear at all. And since the storm also began in the evening, the ships remained on the outer roadstead.
At 0700 hours, Captain Abner Doubleday fired the first shot from the fort at the battery at Cummings Point. There were 60 guns on the fort, and, in theory, he could have put up strong resistance to the 43 guns of the rebels. However, it was protected only from horizontal shelling, but not from overhead fire. And the Confederates were just shooting at him with mortars. The cannonade lasted 34 hours: first until the evening, then all night and continued in the morning. Well, Fox's squadron continued to stand at sea, waiting for its flagship, and the storm did not stop, preventing the ships of the northerners from entering the harbor.
From this engraving, many mortars were firing at the fort.
But on the evening of April 12, the troops of the northerners, commanded by John Warden, occupied Fort Pickens. Finally, the central flagpole on the fort collapsed. They did not have time to replace it, since the envoys had already arrived at the fort with the question whether the lowered flag or the absence thereof meant that the fort agreed to surrender. Anderson thought about it and at 14:00 on April 13, 1861 agreed to a truce.
But this happened inside the fort, and it's just amazing that no one died there.
The terms of surrender were agreed upon by the evening of the same day, and the next day, April 14, 1861, at 14:30, the fort garrison laid down its arms. Surprisingly, as a result of such a bombing, not a single person on the fort was killed, and five northerners and four southerners were wounded. As a condition for surrender, Anderson demanded a salute of 100 gun salvoes in honor of the US flag and … received it! But during the salute, a stack of charges unexpectedly exploded, one soldier was killed (his name was Daniel Howe, and he became the first victim of the American Civil War), and a group of gunners was seriously wounded, and among them one person was fatally - Edward Galway - who became the second victim of this war. … Therefore, the salute was stopped exactly in the middle, and all the wounded were taken to the Charleston hospital. As for the garrison, no one thought to take him prisoner, although it would have been possible. No, he was sent to the ship Baltic of Fox's squadron, so the war soon continued for him!
The flag of Fort Sumter, riddled with shrapnel, Anderson, like a shrine, took the ship with him.
Well, the events at Fort Sumter became a direct signal for a war between the southerners and the northerners, about which all the newspapers, both in the North and in the South, did not hesitate to report.
Traces in the wall of the fort from shells.
There is an opinion that all this was done on purpose, and that the North simply provoked the South to march in order to present the Southerners as vile aggressors. Many explained the reason for the shelling by fears that Fox's squadron would strengthen the defensive capabilities of the fort, and this, they say, could not be allowed. It is shared by the historian Charles Ramsdell. He believes that by sending ships to the fort, Lincoln forced the Confederation to fire first, that is, presented it as the aggressor.
Want to visit Fort Sumter today? The steamer General Beauregard will take you there.
There is also an opposite opinion: the opinion expressed by K. Marx in 1861. After all, it was possible to wait until the fort, in the absence of food, surrendered without a fight, but the Secessionists began bombing, if only to start a war, in the victorious outcome of which they were sure. Be that as it may, the shelling of the fort caused shock. Some of the officers who sympathized with the South, after such a blatant "act of aggression", went to serve the northerners. Lincoln called in an army of 75,000, but this also alienated many officers from the North, notably General Jubal Earley, and caused states such as Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina to leave the Union.
Cannons at Fort Sumter, captured by the southerners.
The fort fell back into the hands of the northerners a few days after the surrender of the army of Northern Virginia, exactly four years after its surrender - on April 14, 1865.
Well, the shelling of Fort Sumter itself is on a par with such frankly mysterious incidents as the explosion on the cruiser Maine in Havana, the sinking of the Lusitania, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the completely incomprehensible incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, the exact information about which we we will never get it now!