On This Day – The Sesquicentennial

On this day exactly one hundred and fifty years ago, Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard’s South Carolina militia opened fire on Major Robert Anderson’s Union troops in Charleston harbor.

Just a few hours after the Confederate ultimatum to abandon the post had been declined by Union Commanders stationed at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, the shelling began. From Fort Moultrie and the Floating Battery on Sullivan’s Island across the harbor to the north, Fort Johnson and Cummings Point Battery to the south, and a number of other Confederate artillery installations around the harbor, the Confederates laid a barrage on Sumter in the middle of the channel where it withstood thirty four consecutive hours of bombardment without a single casualty. Two and a half hours after the initial shot was fired, Captain Abner Doubleday, second in command under Major Anderson, was given the honor of firing the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter. The Union ammunition soon ran out but was ineffective anyway being that it was the wrong type of ordnance to adequately defend their position.

After surrendering the fort to the Confederates, the Union defenders where allowed safe transport aboard the steamer Star of the West to New York City, where they received a heroes welcome with a parade down Broadway Avenue.

Spectators and press agents witnessing the siege commented on the fantastic display of fireworks. At the time of the event, neither side knew the magnitude that the impending conflict would develop into, as it eventually became the bloodiest conflict on North American soil, molding the future of American history as well as global conventional warfare.

Steve D.

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