Fort Sumter
Who held the territory?
• Ft. Sumter was federally owned, but located in
South Carolina in Charleston Harbor
• Major Robert Anderson was in control of the
fort with federal (union) troops
• March 5, 1861 Confederate officials
demanded Anderson surrender
Lincoln has one month to respond
• The fort has one month supply of food, with
little way to be resupplied
• Lincoln’s advisors disagree about how to
Secretary of State Seward
Seward’s Advice
• If it were possible to peacefully provision Fort
Sumter, of course I should answer that it would
be both unwise and inhuman not to attempt it.
But the facts of the case are known to be that the
attempt must be made with the employment of
military and marine force, which would provoke
combat, and probably initiate a civil war, which
the government of the United States would be
committed to maintain through all changes to
some definite conclusion.
Lincoln’s Decision
• Abandoning the fort would humiliate the
president and make his administration
• Retreat was no guarantee of peace
• War was inevitable, so the Confederacy must
be seen as the aggressors to unify the North
Jefferson Davis, President of the
Davis showed no weakness and
demanded the surrender of Ft.
Sumter via P.G.T. Beauregard, the
commander of the local
Confederate forces. Anderson
(Sumter’s commander) was
Beauregard’s teacher at West
Point, and Beauregard was a star
4:30 am, April 12th
• Confederate batteries open fire
• Civilians cheered
Mary Chestnut’s diary
• Not by one word or look
can we detect any
change in the demeanor
of these Negro
indifferent. People talk
of them as if they were
chairs and tables. They
make no sign. Are they
solidly stupid? Or wiser
than we are; silent and
strong, biding their
After thirty four hours of shelling,
Major Anderson raised a bedsheet on
the flagstaff as a sign of surrender
• Only one fatality, a Union private killed
accidentally after the surrender
• General Beauregard allowed the Union
soldiers to march out under the Stars and
Stripes, a sign of respect.
• Union soldiers were met in New York as
Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers to
put down the rebellion
Questions to consider
• What does the relationship between
Anderson and Beauregard illustrate about this
war? (Think Beat! Beat! Drums)
• How does the image of civilians observing the
shelling explain expectations before the war
truly begins?
• What does this first battle show about both
sides willingness to engage violently?
• What does Mary Chestnut’s diary reveal?
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