The Civil War’s Opening Salvos and a Delayed Telegram

Civil War pic
Civil War
Image: thecivil-war.com

Serving patients in the Henderson, Nevada, area, Dr. Kevin Buckwalter runs a private family practice. Dr. Kevin Buckwalter enjoys traveling in his free time and has a passion for Civil War history.

As reported in a recent issue of The Smithsonian, the outbreak of the Civil War was quite different from the way in which conflicts unfold in our real-time, media-connected era. South Carolina’s secession from the United States on April 10, 1861, kicked off a quick escalation of events, with Fort Sumter, a U.S. garrison in Charleston Harbor, coming under siege from the provisional Confederate army. Numbering 10,000, the rebel forces under General Pierre G.T. Beauregard demanded surrender of the fort from a garrison manned by only 68 U.S. soldiers.

U.S. Army Major Robert Anderson rebuffed this demand, and on April 12, the first shots were fired on the fort by 10-inch siege mortars. The garrison responded with shots of its own, but they were not capable of reaching the Confederate forces. Hauling up the white flag the following day amid heavy bombardment, Major Anderson evacuated the fort and fled north. It was only on April 18th, safely aboard the steamship Baltic, that the major was able to send a telegram to the U.S. Secretary of War describing what had occurred. Within hours, President Abraham Lincoln took action, calling Congress into session and ordering the mobilization of 75,000 volunteer troops.

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