April 12, 1861: And the War Came

 Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

                                                                            Abraham Lincoln

One hundred and fifty years ago, at 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861, the Civil War began with the commencement of the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.  This was the end of months of attempted negotiation regarding the removal of Federal troops from Fort Sumter.  The bombardment was fierce, but casualty free.  The 85 men under Major Robert Anderson defended the fort until April 13, 1861 at 1:00 PM when he agreed to surrender due to his men being hungry and exhausted, fires raging uncontrolled throughout the Fort and the military situation being completely hopeless.  The surrender ceremonies were held the next day, with two Union soldiers being killed when a pile of cartridges exploded during the 100 gun salute to the Stars and Stripes that Major Anderson had insisted upon.  Anderson and his men sailed to the North with Anderson carrying the Fort Sumter flag with him.  Four years later to the day, Major General Robert Anderson raised the same flag over Union controlled Fort Sumter.

The firing on Fort Sumter sent both the North and the South into a war frenzy, leading to the secession of Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas and North Carolina.  The battle lines were now drawn  for the Civil War, a war which would kill some 620,000 Union and Confederate troops, and wound, often maimed for life, approximately an equal number.

How had it come to this?  Why did the conflict over slavery end in war?

1.  Talked out-For over forty years the North and the South had argued about slavery.  I think their was zero appetite on both sides to continue a discussion that was obviously going nowhere.

2.  Failure of compromise-In 1820 and 1850 grand compromises had been reached to resolve the slavery issue.  They failed.  People on both sides had reached the conclusion by the election of 1860 that no satisfactory compromise on the question of slavery was possible. (more…)

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Published in: on April 12, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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