Battle of Fort Sumter - the first confrontation in the history of the U.S. Civil War

One of the first confrontations in the history of the U.S. Civil War was the Battle of Fort Sumter, which took place on April 11-13, 1861.

On April 13: At Fort Sumter - the first conflict in the history of the U.S. Civil War. Image: Wikipedia
On April 13: At Fort Sumter - the first conflict in the history of the U.S. Civil War. Image: Wikipedia

In the mid-19th century, the contradictions between the southern and northern states of the United States became more pronounced. Slavery, which was still permitted in the South and was the backbone of the economy of the southern cotton-producing states, was very unpopular in the northern industrialized states, where abolitionism, the movement to abolish slavery, was widespread.

The high import tariffs that were supposed to drive the growth of the northern industry were very disadvantageous to the southern states. The conflict intensified when vast new territories became part of the United States between 1845 and 1848, with former British and Mexican properties in the center of the continent and on the west coast.

The inhabitants of the northern states were the majority who migrated to these lands because they did not want to allow the spread of slavery there. The reason was not so much the enthusiasm for the idea of freeing the black slaves but the reluctance to see the blacks in the West, who would inevitably be brought there by the plantation owners from the South.

In November 1860, Abraham Lincoln became the President of the United States, declaring that one of his goals was to prevent the spread of slavery. Lincoln's election forced several slave states to withdraw from the United States, forming the Confederate of the United States in February 1861.

In his inaugural speech, Lincoln said that he did not intend to abolish slavery in the states where it already existed, but that he would not allow the return of U.S. federal property to the Confederacy. That federal property was also Fort Sumter, built on a small island at the entrance to the port city in Charleston Bay, which blocked a major waterway like a cork.

Fighting at Fort Sumter. Image: Wikipedia
Fighting at Fort Sumter. Image: Wikipedia

The Southerners demanded that the Federal Army leave the fort, but Lincoln sent a flotilla of reinforcements to his garrison. This forced the Southerners to act more vigorously. On April 11, 1861, Colonel Beauregard was ordered by the commander of the Confederate Army in the Charleston area to begin firing on the fort. For a few days, the cannons of Fort Sumter and the batteries of the surrounding fortifications exchanged fire, but without killing anyone.

The people of Charleston took advantage of the balconies of the coastal houses overlooking the fort and watched the cannons as fireworks. However, on April 13, 1861, the Fort Sumter garrison surrendered and was evacuated. This marked the end of the first battle of the American Civil War, followed by many others, far more significant and bloody.