Ft. Sumpter
The Opening Shot of the the Civil War

Charleston, SC

November 15th, 2001

As we round out our week in Charleston, SC, I have to admit that there is much more to this southern seaport than can possibly be seen in seven days. Beautiful old plantations surround a historic center that takes up almost half of the city. From the Revolutionary War to modern days, the city has been a vibrant trade center with Europe and the West Indies. It also presented me with an opportunity to continue my selective review of Civil War Historic sites. A small fort in the middle of Charleston harbor would play a pivotal roll in American History. It was here that the final attempts at diplomacy were abandoned and war was officially started. In setting the stage for such a momentous incident it is necessary to understand that the South did not have the number of deep water seaports so enjoyed in the north. Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Wilmington and Richmond stood out as the linchpins in the south's ability to trade with Europe and the West Indies. The issue of slavery and southern rights had been festering for a decade. Violence was becoming more common and debate less effective. With the election of Abraham Lincoln as President, South Carolina felt its views had been abandoned and just before Christmas the state legislative body, did what just months earlier had been unthinkable. In a unanimous vote, on December 20th, 1860, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union of the United States, as depicted in the headlines of the Charleston paper. Momentarily, they stood alone as an independent country, the only state to take such drastic action. As we wandered through the large National Park's visitor center and museum, we followed the time line of events. Within days many other States would join suit and the Confederate States of America would be born. Back in Charleston, things were shuffling back and forth as each side tried to set up relationships between the existing Union Naval forces occupying the fortifications around the city and the quickly gathering military militia of South Carolina. We boarded the Fort Sumpter Island ferry for the trip out to the fort. This is the only access to the island. The ride is a pleasant 30 minute trip during which time we continued our education with the help of guide. The South demanded a systematic withdrawal of Union forces from the South. The North refused to recognize the right of secession and elected to maintain their position wherever possible. There were four artillery installations in the harbor all manned by Union troops under the command of Major Robert Anderson. As opposition forces increased in the city, Anderson decided to abandon all but one fort, and six days after the secession, with just 85 men, slipped out into the harbor to take up residence at Fort Sumpter. South Carolina wasted no time in taking the abandoned forts around Fort Sumpter and bringing in their own cannons.

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