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1861 April 12: WAR! WAR! WAR!

April 12, 2011

The American Civil War is generally considered to have started with the bombardment by Confederate forces of the federally-held Fort Sumter in the Charleston, South Carolina, harbor at 4:30 a.m. on Friday, April 12, 1861.

Although the news will not appear in The Hudson North Star until five days later—April 17, 1861—surely the news was known sooner by telegraph and from daily newspapers arriving from elsewhere, like the Saint Paul (Minn.) Pioneer. Here are the main articles from that April 17th issue.


The Conflict Commenced.



Charleston, April 12.
The ball is opened. War is inaugurated. The batteries of Sullivan Island, Morris’ Island, and other points were opened on Fort Sumter at 4 o’clock this morning. Fort Sumter has returned the fire and a brisk cannonading has been kept up. No information has been received from the seaboard yet. The military are under arms, and the whole of our population are in the street, and every available space facing the harbor is filled with anxious spectators.

New York, April 12.
The Herald’s special correspondent says Fort Moultrie began the bombardment with two guns to which Major Anderson replied with three from his guns, after which the batterries [sic] at Mount Pleasant, Cummings Point and the Floating batterry [sic] opened a brisk fire of shots and shells. Major Anderson replied only at long intervals until between 7 and 8 o’clock, when he opened from two tiers of guns looking towards Moultrie and Stevens battery, and at 3 o’clock failed to produce serious effect. During the greater part of the day Anderson directed his shots principally against Moultrie, Stevens’ and the floating battery and Fort Johnson, they being the only ones operating against him. Fifteen or eighteen shots struck the Floating battery without effect, breaches to all appearance being made in the sides of Sumter, exposed to the fire. Portions of the parterre were destroyed, and several guns shot away. The firing will continue all night. The fort probably will be carried by storm. It is reported that the Harriet Lane1 received a shot through her wheel house in the offing.2 No other government ships are in sight. The troops are pouring into the city by thousands.

Bombardment of Fort Sumter by the Batteries of the Confederate States in "Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War"

Charleston, April 12.
The firing has continued all day without intermission. Two of fort Sumpter’s [sic] guns have been silenced. It is reported that a breach has been made in the south east ward. The answer to General Bauregard’s demand by Major Anderson, was, that he would surrender whenever his supplies were entirely exhausted, tha is, if he was not reinforced—not a casuality has yet happened to any of the forces of the floating battery in position. Several have opened a fire on Fort Sumpter, the remainder held in reserve for the expected fleet. Two thousand men reached this city this morning and embarked for Morris Island and the neighboring Forts.

Charleston, April 12.
The firing has ceased. The fight to be renewed early in the morning. Ample arrangements are made to prevent reinforcements to-night. Special to the Herald says that two were wounded on Sullivan’s Island, and a number struck by spent shot. Three ships were visible in the offing. It is believed an attempt will be made to-night to reinforce Sumpter [sic]. From the regularity of the firing throughout, Major Anderson has a larger force than was supposed. It has rained all day.

LATER.—Bombardment is continuing with mortars and will be kept up all night. It is supposed that Anderson is resting his men for night.

The bombardment continued from the floating battery. Steven’s and other batteries. Sumpter continues to return the fire. It is reported that three war vessels are off the bar.

Vessels cannot get in as a storm is raging and the sea rough, making it impossible to effect a reinforcement to night. The floating battery works well.

1.  The Harriet Lane was a revenue cutter, named for the niece of President James Buchanan.
2. Offing is an old naval expression meaning near at hand; it is the part of the sea that can be seen from the shore, but is beyond the anchoring area.

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