This Day in History
The Blue and The Gray


The Civil War Begins
April 12, 1861

As early as 1835 that most perspicacious of all observers, Alexis de Tocqueville, predicted, in his Democracy in America, that the Union would not survive: Slavery, he asserted, would divide it. His prediction was vindicated when, on December 20, 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Most of the other slave states followed her out of the Union and, in March of 1861, formed the Confederate States of America. Virginia - the oldest and the most powerful of all the slave states, and the one with the strongest ties to the Union - held aloof.

Meanwhile South Carolina - and the new Confederate government - determined to precipitate the issue and to force Virginia’s hand by insisting on the surrender of all Union forces on Confederate soil or in her waters. In late December 1860 and January 1861, Confederate seized forts and arsenals from Charleston to Florida, and from Baton Rouge to Arkansas and Texas. At this juncture Major Anderson, in command of Fort Moultrie in Charleston harbor, moved his garrison to Fort Sumter. Determined to bring Virginia into the Confederacy by an open break, General Beauregard, in command at Charleston, opened fire on the fort at dawn on April 13. After thirty-four hours of intense, but bloodless, bombardment, Major Anderson surrendered. Lincoln declared that an insurrection existed, and he called for 75,000 volunteers; Virginia seceded, and the war was on.

In retrospect it is clear that whatever the immediate advantages of the reduction of Fort Sumter, the ultimate cost to the Confederacy was high. For while the opening hostilities brought Virginia into the Confederacy, firing on Fort Sumter branded the Confederacy as the aggressor and galvanized the North into defense of the Union and the flag. “There is among us,” wrote Horace Binney of Philadelphia, “but one thought, one object, one end, one symbol - the Stars and Stripes.”





May's Archived Features:

Wednesday May 1, 2019
Thursday May 2, 2019
Friday May 3, 2019
Saturday May 4, 2019
Sunday May 5, 2019
Monday May 6, 2019
Tuesday May 7, 2019
Wednesday May 8, 2019
Thursday May 9, 2019
Friday May 10, 2019
Saturday May 11, 2019
Sunday May 12, 2019
Monday May 13, 2019
Tuesday May 14, 2019
Wednesday May 15, 2019
Thursday May 16, 2019
Friday May 17, 2019
Saturday May 18, 2019
Sunday May 19, 2019
Monday May 20, 2019
Tuesday May 21, 2019
Wednesday May 22, 2019
Thursday May 23, 2019
Friday May 24, 2019

 

 

 
All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.