• 55°

Our visit to Fort Sumter

My oldest son, Jake can tell people about the minute details of political elections, World War II, and almost every battle that was fought during the American Civil War.

While he has battles memorized, there is one battleground he wanted to see for himself since he was a boy; Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

As he and his brother sleep in, I am reflecting on our visit to the fort yesterday and what it meant to us. This is how Jake and I described the significance of Fort Sumter:

Nov. 6, 1860 – A tall skinny man with a tall black hat is elected president. As the results spread, the people brace themselves for war.

Nov. 9 – South Carolina passes a “Resolution to Call the Election of Abraham Lincoln as President a Hostile Act” and states its intention to secede from the United States.

On the 17th, South Carolina legislators voted unanimously, 169-0, to secede from the Union. James Buchanan, perhaps the weakest president in history, declares the ordinance illegal, but takes no action.

As expected, Mississippi secedes several weeks after South Carolina. Five other states soon follow.

Dec. 26, 1860 – Major Robert Anderson, commander of the U.S. troops in Charleston, withdraws his men to the island fortress of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. South Carolina militia swarm over the abandoned mainland and mobilize artillery positions.

Sumter is the key position for preventing a naval attack upon Charleston. More importantly, South Carolina’s claim of independence would look empty if U.S. forces controlled its largest harbor.

Jan. 9, 1861 – the U.S. ship Star of the West approaches to resupply the fort. Cadets from The Citadel fire upon the vessel striking the ship three times and causing it to retreat back to New York.

April 1861 – Lincoln advises South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens that ships were sent to resupply the fort, not to reinforce it. At this point, the militia could no longer wait if they hoped to take the fort before the navy arrived.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, after two days of negotiations, with Union ships approaching, militia units begin their barrage. 34 hours later, Anderson’s men raise the white flag and are allowed to leave with colors flying and drums beating, saluting the U.S. flag with a 50 gun salute before taking it down. During this salute, one of the guns exploded, killing a young soldier.

This young soldier was the first casualty of the war and the only person who died in the battle. Over the next four years, 620,000 will suffer the same. This is 215,000 more Americans than in WWII.

Now we have explored where the war began, our next trip will take us through the Shenandoah. We will travel, and I will revisit, a small village with massive oaks overlooking fields where the war ended; Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.