The Battle of Fort Sumter is often cited as being the “bloodless battle” that marked the beginning of the American Civil War, but there is much more to it than that. Here are the top ten facts about the Battle of Fort Sumter. I’ll bet there are some you haven’t heard before…
- Union commander Major Robert Anderson not only knew the Confederate commander at the Battle of Fort Sumter, General P. G. T. Beauregard, the two were friends. The friendship went all the way back to Beauregard’s time at West Point Military Academy, where Anderson was his artillery instructor.
- At 3:20 on the morning of April 12, 1861, General Beauregard informed Major Anderson that he would begin bombardment of Fort Sumter in one hour. The first gun opened fire on the fort at about 4:30.
- The Union second-in-command was Captain Abner Doubleday, from Cooperstown, New York. For many years Doubleday was credited with having invented the game of baseball, but that story has now been debunked.
- There were a number of Union Navy ships just outside of the harbour during part of the first day and all of the second day of the Battle of Fort Sumter, but these ships made no effort to enter the harbour to aid or defend the fort.
- While Southerners generally praised the bravery of the men in the fort (Confederate soldiers and citizens cheered when the Union guns resumed firing after stopping to fight fires in the fort on the second day), they viewed the actions of the Navy ships as cowardly and embarrassing.
- The Union troops ran short of cartridge cases to fill with powder, so they had to improvise. They used Major Anderson’s socks, and tore up all the shirts they could find in order to prepare the powder cartridges to fire the cannons.
- The bombardment of Fort Sumter lasted roughly thirty-four hours, and ended on the afternoon of April 13, 1861, when Anderson and Beauregard agreed to terms for the surrender of the fort.
- Despite the fact that there was no loss of life during the Battle of Fort Sumter, the entire event was not entirely bloodless. On April 14, immediately before they evacuated the fort, Union troops fired a salute to their flag as it was taken down. During this salute, there was an accidental explosion which killed two Union soldiers and injured four more.
- In 1863, the Union Navy tried to retake Fort Sumter, and succeeded in battering it almost to ruin; but they were unable to capture the fort from the Confederates. It did not return to Union control until after Charleston, South Carolina fell in February of 1865.
- On April 14, 1865, a ceremony was held in the newly recaptured Fort Sumter. During this ceremony, Major Anderson (by then a General) re-raised the same flag he had taken down while evacuating the fort exactly four years earlier.
Did you learn anything new? I hope so, and I also hope that these Battle of Fort Sumter facts have given you a new appreciation of this battle and the men who fought in it.