This month marks the 163rd anniversary of the Battle of Fort Sumter which happened at Charleston, South Carolina. As April is Confederate History month, I wanted to revisit the place where the War Between the States started and go over the reasons why President Lincoln started it.

The first issue is the question, “Why didn't the Union Army pull out of South Carolina after she seceded?” A delegation from the state had gone to Washington, D.C., demanding the surrender of the Federal military installations in the new “independent republic of South Carolina.” President James Buchanan refused to comply. Charleston was the Confederacy's most important port on the Southeast coast. The harbor was defended by three federal forts: Fort Sumter; Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island. The forts allowed the Union to keep an eye on developments in the South.

This situation continued until President Lincoln took office. There is evidence that Lincoln communicated with Major Anderson, the Union Commander of Charleston Harbor, instructing him to abandon Fort Moultrie and fortify Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie, with its guns pointed out to sea, could not stand against an attack from land. On Dec. 26, the citizens of Charleston discovered that Anderson and his tiny garrison of 90 men had slipped away from Fort Moultrie to the more defensible Fort Sumter. For secessionists, Anderson's move is, as one Charlestonian wrote to a friend, “like casting a spark into a magazine.”

The second issue was: Keeping in mind that South Carolina has seceded and now was a foreign port, President Lincoln sent a ship on Jan. 5, 1861, with some 200 reinforcements and provisions for the Sumter garrison. As the ship approached Charleston Harbor on Jan. 9, cadets from the Citadel fire, forcing the crew to abandon its mission. The question is: “Why did Lincoln send that ship, the Star of the West to reinforce Fort Sumter.” Lincoln had to have known it would have started a war with South Carolina. Most honest historians conclude that Lincoln did this to start the War Between the States.

On April 4, 1861, President Lincoln informed southern delegates (who met with him to try for a peaceful resolution) that he intended to attempt to resupply Fort Sumter again, as its garrison is now critically in need. To South Carolinians, any attempt to reinforce Sumter meant war. “Now the issue of battle is to be forced upon us,” declared the Charleston Mercury. “We will meet the invader, and the God of Battles must decide the issue between the hostile hirelings of Abolition hate and Northern tyranny.”

When Lincoln sent the Union Ships to Charleston, he did not inform his Commanding General of the Army or Congress. His aim was to badger the South into starting the War. His Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Wells wrote: “It was very important that the Rebels strike the first blow in the conflict.”

Jefferson Davis wrote after the War: “I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves and so the war came.”

The third and final issue was after Fort Sumter fell, the way that Major Anderson and his troops were treated after they lost the Fort. No troops were killed on either side by the battle. It was when the Fort was about to catch fire and explode that Anderson surrendered.

After the surrender the Union Soldiers were not taken into custody. They were treated cordially and allowed to board the steamer Isabel to be transported to the Union Fleet outside the harbor. As they went, they were allowed to go out with banners flying and drums playing Yankee Doodle Dandy. The Artillerymen that had fired upon them earlier lined up on Cummings Point and took off their hats as a token of respect as the Isabel passed by.

Despite having surrendered, Anderson and his men were greeted as heroes when they disembarked in New York. Capt. Abner Doubleday (of baseball fame,) noted later that “all the passing steamers saluted us with their steam-whistles and bells, and cheer after cheer went up from the ferry boats and vessels in the harbor.”

There will be a local celebration of Confederate Memorial Day statewide on 27 April 2024. For further information or how to attend, please contact the Crusader and they will forward your request to me.