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Fort Sumter
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles
November 23, 1860 Major Robert Anderson reports Fort Sumter is being threatened in Charleston as federal forces begin to improved Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter in the harbor. South Carolina
  Robert Anderson
December 11, 1860 Under orders from Secretary of War John Floyd, General Don Carlos Buell visits Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter. Buell tells Anderson he may occupy any fort that he wants to if he is attacked or feels he is about to be attacked.
  Don Carlos Buell
  Robert Anderson
  Special Memorandum to Robert Anderson, December 11, 1860
  John Floyd
December 12, 1860 Lewis Cass tenders his resignation as Secretary of State over President Buchanan's refusal to reinforce federal troops in Charleston.
  James Buchanan
December 26, 1860 Major Robert Anderson transfers his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter on his own initiative. He felt it was impossible to hold Fort Moultrie against South Carolina militia. South Carolina
  Robert Anderson
December 31, 1860 Charleston is notified by telegraph that a man of war with troops is on the way South Carolina
  Star of the West
January 5, 1861 At the last minute General Winfield Scott substitutes the Star of the West, a New York based merchant marine vessel for the Brooklyn, a heavily armed and reinforced sloop ordered to sail to Fort Sumter to resupply the federal outpost. The Brooklyn, however, is to travel to Fort Sumter with the Star of the West.
  Star of the West
  David Farragut
  Winfield Scott
January 9, 1861 Artillery fires on the Star of the West from Morris Island as it crosses into the main entrance channel to Charleston Harbor. As the ship comes about, Fort Moultrie opens fire, also with cannon shot. A mile and a half from Fort Sumter, the ship withdraws. South Carolina
  Star of the West
  David Farragut
January 10, 1861 Major Anderson at Fort Sumter receives orders telling him to maintain a defensive position but to defend the fort. South Carolina
  Robert Anderson
January 11, 1861 South Carolina demands the surrender of Fort Sumter. Major Anderson refuses. South Carolina
  Robert Anderson
January 12, 1861 Attorney-general I. W. Hayne leaves Charleston with a demand from Governor Pickens that the federal government surrender Fort Sumter South Carolina
February 5, 1861 "Fort Sumter will not be surrendered" came from various people in the Buchanan Administration in response to a demand for surrender from South Carolina
February 15, 1861 Provisional Confederate Congress votes to take Ft. Sumter and Ft. Pickens (FL) by force if necessary
  Convention of Seceding States
March 1, 1861 Jefferson Davis orders General P. G. T. Beauregard to Charleston South Carolina
  Jefferson Davis
March 3, 1861 General P. G. T. Beauregard arrives at Charleston and assumes command of Confederate troops South Carolina
  P. G. T. Beauregard
March 29, 1861 Abraham Lincoln decides to reinforce Fort Sumter.
  Abraham Lincoln
April 6, 1861 Abraham Lincoln sends a message to Governor Pickens informing him that Fort Sumter will be reprovisioned and that if the effort is resisted the fort will be reinforced South Carolina
  Abraham Lincoln
April 7, 1861 P. G. T. Beauregard orders all transports to Fort Sumter cut off. This ended the fort's supply of fresh food South Carolina
  P. G. T. Beauregard
April 11, 1861 Confederates demand the surrender of Fort Sumter South Carolina
  P. G. T. Beauregard
April 12, 1861
April 13, 1861
Beginning at 4:30 am on the 12th and continuing until the morning of the 13th, Confederate batteries along the shore of Charleston Harbor fire on Fort Sumter under the command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson arranges a surrender with Texas Senator Louis Wigfall on the morning of the 13th. South Carolina
  P. G. T. Beauregard
  Edmund Ruffin
  Civil War Firsts
  Robert Anderson
April 14, 1861 During the formal surrender of Fort Sumter Private Daniel Hough dies when the cannon he was loading (for the Union's 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag) discharges prematurely. He is the first man to die in the Civil War. A second man is mortally wounded. South Carolina
  Civil War Firsts
April 7, 1863 A fleet of 9 Union ironclads under the command of Samuel Dupont sailed into Charleston Harbor and attacked Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. Sumter is visibly damaged but the Confederate batteries from the shore heavily damage the 9 ironclads and they are forced to withdraw. Naval occupation of the harbor is ruled out.

South Carolina
  USS New Ironsides
August 17, 1863 In an impressive display of firepower, Federal batteries begin heavy shelling of Confederate positions ringing Charleston Harbor including Fort Sumter. Using Parrott rifled cannon including the 200 pound Swamp Angel, the artillery is deadly accurate and easily breaches Sumter, but no assault is forthcoming. Although the initial attack is the heaviest, Federal assaults continue off and on until September, 1864. South Carolina
  Siege of Charleston

As early as October 1, 1860, the Ordinance Officer in Charleston was expressing concern to Secretary John Floyd of the War Department. The officer’s concern was not about the safety of the forts in Charleston Harbor but with the safety of the ordinance. He reported doubts that civilian contractors working on the forts could be trusted. Pro-Republican elections a week later increased his fears.

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor
Map showing location of Fort Sumter
On November 8, 1860, the commander of Fort Moultrie, Lt. Col. J. C. Gardiner was recommending garrisoning troops at Sumter and Castle Pinckney. The aging Gardiner, from Massachusetts, would be relieved shortly and replaced with Major Robert Anderson from Kentucky. Born a Southerner and wed to a Georgian, Anderson was believed to be a "disunion man" by Secretary of War Floyd. If this is true (there is no documented evidence), Floyd had chosen the wrong man - Anderson was strongly pro-Union.

As he looked across the parapets of Fort Moultrie shortly after his arrival on November 17, Major Anderson was worried. His position at Moultrie was near the mainland and the talk of rebellion in Charleston made him uneasy. A seasoned military officer with more than 35 years experience, Anderson had fought, taught and written about warfare throughout his extensive military career. His reassignment to command Fort Moultrie (Charleston Harbor) on November 15, 1860, put Anderson in a role that would forever would associate his name with the start of the Civil War.

Anderson studied his options in the situation. Moultrie was strong, but its proximity to land made its occupation untenable. Anderson's attention immediately turned to Fort Sumter, built on a shoal in the center of Charleston Harbor. The five-sided fort offered a clear line of both sight and fire on all sides and it would be impossible for a Rebel assault to go undetected. Resupplying either fort would be problematic because of the heavily guarded entrance to Charleston Harbor.

An early initiative of Anderson's was making repairs to Fort Sumter. By mid-December the fort was habitable. Anderson, who had been ordered to communicate only with the Secretary of War Floyd or his adjutant-general, was worried because of Floyd's pro-secession stance. With Floyd's resignation on December 25, Anderson felt the time had come. On December 27 Charleston awoke to an abandoned Fort Moultrie, its cannon spiked, and a force of federal soldiers commanding the harbor at Fort Sumter. The Buchanan Administration decided on a relief mission to Fort Sumter. They prepared a man-of-war (the Brooklyn) with 250 troops and supplies for the fort. At the last minute, Winfield Scott decided to substitute the Star of the West in place of the heavily armored Brooklyn. The Brooklyn was then ordered to travel with the Star to Charleston.

Arriving on January 9, 1861, the Star came under fire from Morris Island as it entered Charleston Harbor. As she came about, Fort Moultrie also opened up cannon fire. The Star left the harbor, unable to unload her cargo. On January 12, South Carolina Governor Pickens sent state attorney-general Hayne to Washington D. C. to demand the surrender of the fort. The trip brought some relief to the situation. Anderson's wife would visit the fort regularly, staying locally in Charleston. Early in February, Hayne found his mission had been a failure. Fort Sumter would not be surrendered. During February the government of the Confederate States was forming, but Pickens still wanted the fort. He was urging that Anderson be attacked before March 4, so the attack occurred before the end of the Buchanan Administration, but politicians felt it would be best to wait for Lincoln to be inaugurated. On March 3, 1861 General P. G. T. Beauregard arrived in Charleston with orders to prepare to take the fort.

Beauregard's arrival seems unusual in many aspects. Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker began by referring to the Creole as Peter G. T. Beauregard and the South Carolina citizens seemed preoccupied with his dark olive-toned skin color. He was popular with the local ladies who kept his second floor office in a home on Meeting Street four blocks from The Battery supplied with flowers. According to tradition, they would ask for a locket of Beauregard's hair.

General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
When Beauregard formally assumed command of Charleston Harbor on March 6 he surveyed the defenses established by the South Carolinians from The Battery. On his left, Sullivan Island had Fort Moultrie, a brick fort with low walls that was the site of a famous battle of the American Revolution where the state militia had installed a major concentration of cannons. A small island held Castle Pinckney, also fortified by the militia. On Beauregard's right Sullivan Island held batteries at Fort Johnson while an artillery base at Cummings Point was under construction.

Old Bory slowly relocated artillery placements so as not to alienate the local militia, who had created the original alignment. He ordered the cannon spread move evenly along the harbor from Fort Morris to Cummings Point, where it had been concentrated.

On April 1, Beauregard was ready. He telegraphed Montgomery (then capitol of the Confederacy) and requested orders. He also cut off all communication with the fort, including visits by Anderson's wife. Beauregard would wait 10 days for Montgomery to respond. On April 8th President Abraham Lincoln informed Governor Pickens that he intended to re-provision Fort Sumter. If the boat, continued Lincoln, was interfered with, the federal government would land troops.

Jefferson Davis wired his Creole general on April 10 to demand the evacuation of the fort and reduce it in case of refusal. Of Davis's cabinet only Georgian Robert Toombs objected. Beauregard could not immediately carry out his orders-he did not have enough powder. The following day, after gunpowder arrived from the arsenal in Augusta, Georgia, Beauregard demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter. Anderson refused. At 4:30am on April 12, 1861 a mortar at Fort Jackson belched a single shot rocketing towards the sky. Clearly visible from the entire harbor, the shell arced and began to fall. The rebellion had begun.

Fort Sumter under fire, April 12 and 13, 1861. Major Robert Anderson commanded the fort while his student, General P. G. T. Beauregard commander the Confederate forces in Charleston Harbor.
Bombardment of Fort Sumter
Beauregard gave Anderson an hour's warning before the start of the attack, hoping for but not expecting a surrender. The city of Charleston knew what was coming. Hushed whispers for the last two days had spread the news and at 4:30 the waterfront was packed with curious onlookers. For thirty-six hours cannon spewed their fire from the shore of Charleston Harbor at the fort on the shoal. 84 U. S. soldiers struggled to defend the fort, returning limited fire from the ramparts of the structure.

On the morning of the 13th, the situation in the fort was bleak. Fires were burning and Confederate gunners had ranged the magazine. About that time former U. S. Senator Louis Wigfall appeared on the island, white flag in hand. The senator had seen the flag of the fort fall and he came over to the island without authorization. Wigfall discussed the possibility of surrender, first with a junior officer, then with Anderson himself. Anderson decided to capitulate, but when Beauregard's men appeared moments later and told the major that Wigfall did not have the authority to negotiate a treaty, he sat down with them and ended the fighting.

Surprisingly, not a single person had been hurt on either the Union or Confederate side during the bombardment. During the surrender of Fort Sumter, Anderson, with Beauregard's agreement, fired a salute to the Union flag. Halfway through the salute a cannon exploded giving the Civil War its first casualties: 1 dead, 5 wounded. The battle for Fort Sumter was over. The Civil War had started.

Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor

Links appearing on this page:

Abraham Lincoln
Jefferson Davis
John Floyd
P. G. T. Beauregard
Robert Anderson
Star of the West
Winfield Scott

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Fort Sumter was last changed on - January 3, 2008
Fort Sumter was added in 2005

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