Fort Sumter

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Fort Sumter, fortification, built 1829–60, on a shoal at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, S.C., and named for Gen. Thomas Sumter; scene of the opening engagement of the Civil War. Upon passing the Ordinance of Secession (Dec., 1860), South Carolina demanded all federal property within the state, particularly the forts of Charleston harbor—Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and Castle Pinckney. On Dec. 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson removed his U.S. army command of about 100 men from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, a stronger defensive site. Gov. F. W. Pickens of South Carolina had the other two forts, along with the Charleston arsenal, seized, and upon the refusal of President James Buchanan to order Anderson's evacuation, had guns trained on Fort Sumter. On Jan. 9, 1861, an unarmed merchant ship sent to reinforce the fort's garrison was driven back by the South Carolina forces. Pickens's subsequent formal demand for the fort's surrender was declined, and South Carolina prepared to reduce Anderson's stronghold. Pickens hoped to secure the fort before Abraham Lincoln took office, but in Feb., 1861, the newly organized Confederate government assumed the state's part in the controversy, sending Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard to command Charleston. On Apr. 8, 1861, Pickens received Lincoln's notice that a naval expedition would be sent to provision the beleaguered garrison. On Apr. 11, Beauregard called for Anderson's surrender, but the demand was again refused. After a 34-hour Confederate bombardment, begun at 4:30 descr='[AM]' on Apr. 12, Anderson accepted terms, and on Apr. 14 the garrison departed with the honors of war. Although no one was killed, the action made manifest the belligerent spirit in both the North and the South. In 1863, Union naval attacks on the fort were thoroughly repulsed. After Sherman forced the evacuation of Charleston, the U.S. flag was again raised over the fort by Anderson on Apr. 14, 1865. Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948; Fort Moultrie is part of the monument. See National Parks and Monuments, table.

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SUMTER, FORT, situated on a sandbar, commands the sea approach to Charleston, South Carolina. On the night of 26 December 1860, Maj. Robert Anderson, Union commader at Charleston, removed his garrison from Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, to a better defensive position at Fort Sumter. At 4:30 on the morning of Friday, 12 April, the Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter. On 13 April, after a bombardment of thirty-four hours, Anderson surrendered; the Civil War had begun. In April 1863, Fort Sumter, then garrisoned by Confederates, repelled an attack by a Union fleet. In August, the siege of Fort Sumter by Union forces began and lasted for 567 days; the Confederates never surrendered. The fort was eventually abandoned in February 1865 and later made a national monument.


Current, Richard N. Lincoln and the First Shot. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1963.

Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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See alsoCharleston ; Charleston Harbor, Defense of ; Confederate States of America ; Secession ; South Carolina .

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Fort Sumter Fort in South Carolina, scene of the first hostilities of the American Civil War. In 1861 it was held by Federal forces. The Confederate authorities, having failed to negotiate a peaceful evacuation, felt compelled to take it by force. The Confederate General Beauregard opened fire on April 12, and the fort surrendered the following day.

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