Fort Sumter, located in Charleston, South Carolina harbor, was named after General Thomas Sumter. However, the fort is perhaps best known as the site where, according to tradition, the first shots of the United States Civil War were fired. In fact, Southerners had fired on and driven off US Army reinforcements on their way to Fort Sumter in January.
The fort was guarded by sixty-eight soldiers commanded by Major Robert Anderson, a regular army officer from Kentucky. The Confederate officer was Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. A few years earlier, at West Point, he had been Anderson's student, and Anderson thought very highly of Beauregard's military knowledge; he later appointed him as his assistant. On April 10, 1861, the Union garrison in the fort was told to surrender by Beauregard. This demand was refused and on April 12, 1861, at 4:30 AM, Confederate batteries opened fire, which lasted for 36 hours, on the fort. The open fire command was proudly given by civilian Edmund Ruffin , a farmer from Virginia who had long favored secession. The Union returned fire but was ineffective.
On April 13, the fort was evacuated after surrendering. The only casualties took place after the surrender, when two Union soldiers were killed, and two others wounded during an inadvertent gunpowder explosion during a salute that occurred during the evacuation. Accounts often describe Charleston residents along what is now known as The Battery, sitting on balconies and drinking salutes to the start of the hostilities.
Union batteries and ships bombarded the Confederate-held fort from August 17 - December 31, 1863, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the fort. When General Sherman later forced the evacuation of Charleston, the U.S. flag was raised once again over the fort by Major Anderson on April 14, 1865.
A special military decoration, known as the Gillmore Medal, was later issued to all Union service members who had performed duty in Fort Sumter during the opening battle of the American Civil War.
- Nation Park Service's Official Website for Fort Sumter
- Battle of Fort Sumter Historical Preservation Site
Maps and aerial photos
- Street map from Mapquest
- Topographic map from Topozone
- Aerial photograph from Microsoft Terraserver