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Fort Sumter and Its Role in the Civil War


Fort Sumter, which was built at around 1827-1860, is a masonry fortification in Charleston harbor at the coastal area in South Carolina which is remarkable in the history of the United States of America and well known for the beginning of fires during the civil wars. It’s name was obtained from Thomas Sumter, a General at the Revolutionary war. It is a building pentagon in shape, 50 feet high with the walls measuring 8-12 feet in thickness. Civil war did not initiate at the fort but instead it began on fort Johnson at the pulling of a Lanyard on a mortar. The battle continued to proceed at the fort up to the surrender of federal garrison with confederate occupation of about 4yrs.

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For a period of two years, naval forces in conjunction with federal land had the fort shelled. In the year 1864, there was no functional canon while few confederate garrisons resisted their stay in the tunnels. When the war ended, the Fort was ruined but the federal government removed the sand and rubble which had been piled by confederates (Hamilton, pg24).

Historical Events during the Civil war at Fort Sumter

April 7th 1863 marked the start of efforts by the union to recapture Charleston harbor attacking the harbor defenses but they were unsuccessful as these defenses engaged effectively in attacks which left the fort sank. Confederate engineers worked on it and some of the fort’s artillery was removed while those guns that weighed heavily were mounted at the highest point of the fort known as the “barbette,” which ensured a wider fire angle and could as well open fire to approaching ships. It was also in a good location in casemates level (J. Mathew, pp.150).

April 11th was the day that Beauregard sent 3 aides demanding the surrender of the Fort but Anderson, refused to adhere to the plea. On hearing this, Beauregard had a discussion with war secretary which led to resending the three aides to the fort asking them whether they wanted force to be applied to capture the fort. Anderson got to weigh the options as the aides waited. Finally, the aides left fort Sumter and went to fort Johnson where the fires opened directed to fort Sumter. The fires were returned though not effectively by fort Sumter garrisons because Anderson had not fired the highest tier mounted guns. On 13th April the evacuation of fort was done. (Gabor, S. Boritt, pp.221)

August 17th 1863, right after attack Gillmore who was a general tried launching a boat assault on the fort which was a collaboration between the navy & army but it ended up failing. Navy assaults included 400 sailors in twenty five boats and less the number of boats landed but the sailors who landed safely could not scale the walls. Confederates fired landing boats and threw masonry & grenades, while the ones who hadn’t landed threw their arms blindly endangering the others who had landed. The parties surrendered as a result of 8 deaths, 105 captured and 19 wounded soldiers, although this assault was unsuccessful.

Lincoln’s Role In the War

It is evident enough that the two rivals were fighting over Fort Sumter. The troops of United States were supposed to leave the fort but Abraham Lincoln declared that the fort belonged to all residents of the United States and not only owned by South Carolina. Residents of South Carolina were ready to battle for the fort and they said they would starve guards stationed there. Lincoln shipped food and other requirements to these guards but South Carolinians had the ship fired. On 13th of April 1861, the bombardment of the fort had the confederate surrender and the success excited many in North Carolina. It was aggrieving to the union due to start of the war. The south though, became ecstatic. Lincoln’s refusal to withdraw the soldiers from the fort was a blow which led to his differing with other leaders from the north who advised him to withdraw but instead he was defiant. He declared blockade on 16th April 1861 which extended to Texas from Virginia but during that time, he could not block the coastline as it measured 4000 miles and had 189 harbors. This civil war lasted for 4yrs though other civil wars followed later (Michael, Burgan, pp.146).


Sumter battle had several people killed and wounded. It was due to the bombardment of fort Sumter that led to the civil war being initiated. The war led to 4 years of blood spill and continuers fight. As the war was proceeding, recapturing of the fort attempts failed and union forces ended up possessing the fort. Anderson became a national hero which made him tour the North & then he returned and hoisted the flag once more at the fort because it had been lowered 4 years earlier. Unique military decorations called Gillmore medals were given to every union member who participated in battle of Fort Sumter. The flag at the fort was popularized as a symbol of patriotism. The End of civil war left the fort in ruins and the army of United States tried to restore and partially rebuild it. The start of Spanish-Americans unrest rekindled the interest of reconstructing it. The fort is now a national monument covering 3 sites one of which is Charleston also known as the original Fort Sumter (Wikipedia).

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Works cited

Mathew, J. Gallaman and Susan, Baker.What the battle did to Borough. Oxford university press,1975.

Michael, Burgan. We the People, Fort Sumter. Compass Point Books, 2006.

Wikipedia. Fort Sumter. The free encyclopedia: Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 2009.

William J. Hamilton. Ft. Sumter. 2009.

Gabor, Boritt. World Book Encyclopedia, S. Fort Sumter.

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