South Carolina Goes to War The Attack and Surrender of Fort Sumter of Charleston
By Paul Brill
Special to The Pilot
The attack of federal-owned Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor by forces of South Carolina was a curious mixture of good planning and luck, as well as comical miscues.
Following is a list of sequential events and actions that lead the United States of America into a civil war. But the loss and sacrifice of the Civil War eventually guided our country to become the world leader of freedom, democracy and industrial might.
Friday, April 12 to Sunday, April 14, 1861:
On Friday, April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m., a mortar battery on James Island fired the first round. Lt. Henry Farley pulled the cord.
Gen. Beauregard ordered 43 guns around the harbor to fire in counterclockwise fashion at two-minute -intervals.
There was no return of fire from -commander Maj. Anderson at Sumter until 6:30 a.m., when Lt. Doubleday directed shot to Cummings Point.
At 9 a.m., the Confederate command at Montgomery received a telegram, "The deed is done."
Union forces at Fort Sumter were short of powder bags for the cannons - only about 500. Another 200 were -prepared by hand.
By noon, several wood buildings were on fire from continuous bombardment.
Union fleet ship reinforcements could not come to Sumter's rescue because of rough seas.
At 7 p.m., Sumter -batteries ceased firing, but Southern forces used two batteries to fire every 15 minutes to harass the fort during the night.
The American people were learning that war had started.
On Saturday, April 13, cannons firing from both sides had slowed to conserve powder and rounds. Food was short at Sumter.
Giant clouds of smoke billowed from Fort Sumter. Fire spread to the main gate and the carriages of cannons on the parapet.
Fire also threatened the magazine - 300 barrels of powder.
A chance shot from a Confederate -cannon hit the magazine copper doors, making them permanently shut. The flag staff was also hit.
The American flag was retrieved, tacked to a spar and nailed to a gun -carriage.
But when the flag fell, Louis Wigfall, a Texas fire-eater, on his own accord rowed out to the fort to request surrender. While rowing, the U.S. flag was raised again and shelling was restarted.
Wigfall climbed through an embrasure and announced to surprised Union soldiers he wanted to see Anderson and talk surrender.
A vessel carrying -authentic messengers from Gen. Beauregard left from Charleston but stopped when the U.S. flag was raised.
This group of men was sent to help fight the fires - not make peace.
Texan politician Wigfall negotiated with Anderson that Union forces could 1.) salute the flag at lowering, 2.) keep their belongings, 3.) have safe transport north, 4.) give the fort to the Confederacy. A cease fire was initiated by Anderson.
While Wigfall rowed back to report to Beauregard, a white flag was raised at Sumter and the U.S. flag lowered.
Finally Beauregard's official messengers arrived at the fort, unaware of Wigfall's visit and return. Things became confused and Maj. Anderson was mad and embarrassed.
Anderson told them of Wigfall's negotiations, but the messengers said Wigfall had not seen Beauregard for any terms.
The messengers first said the Union soldiers could not salute the flag, but later another messenger who rowed back said it was OK.
No one had been killed but approximately 1,000 Union rounds were fired from Fort Sumter while about 3,300 shots were released at the fort by Confederate forces.
On Sunday, April 14, a Union steamer docked at Sumter to load soldiers and their belongings.
On Sunday afternoon at 2:30 p.m., the 100-gun salute and flag lowering was started, but at the 50th round, Pvt. Daniel Hough was ramming a cartridge bag into the cannon muzzle when it exploded, killing him - the first casualty of Civil War.
The exploded cannon ignited a pile of powder bags nearby, injuring more gun crews. No more salute rounds were fired.
The garrison boarded the steamer but low tide held departure until Monday, April 15. The new Confederate flag was raised within the fort.
The Civil War had started, and during the next four years, more than 620,000 soldiers from both sides would die as well as an undetermined number of -civilian casualties.
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