The First Battles: April 1861 to February 1862

Fort Sumter

How much lead-up was there to the bombardment?

Almost thirty days. For all that time, the Confederates built up their batteries at different locations, with the guns all trained on Fort Sumter. That the Confederates could bombard and force the fort to surrender was beyond doubt; whether they would choose to do so was another matter. But on April 10, 1861, President Jefferson Davis telegraphed the commander in Charleston, giving him the go-ahead either to accept the fort’s surrender or to compel it with cannon fire.

Brigadier General Pierre T. Beauregard (1818–1893) was a Louisianan, but he had been chosen for this assignment, partly because of his special knowledge in the use of artillery. An irony that escaped no one was that his opposite number, Major Robert Anderson, had been his instructor at West Point and was a specialist in artillery. The two men began by sending polite greetings, and even the occasional bottle of wine, but by the time Jefferson Davis’ order arrived, the “game” had become deadly serious.


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