On this day in 1861, the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter – which triggered the Civil War + redefined American freedom.
It was still under construction when U.S. Major Robert Anderson moved his garrison of approximately 85 soldiers from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter in 1860. After South Carolina’s secession from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860, Major Anderson feared that Fort Moultrie faced security issues due to its location on land, and thus moved the troops to Fort Sumter on the night of Dec. 26, 1860.
Shortly thereafter, South Carolina militia forces seized other forts surrounding the harbor – leaving Fort Sumter as the only Federal outpost in Charleston. Between January 9 and February 1, six other states did the same thing.
The Confederacy wanted to stop the resupply of Fort Sumter, as they wanted the Federal troops to leave the fort. The Confederate Secretary of War ordered General P.G.T. Beauregard, Commander of the Confederate forces in Charleston, to demand that Anderson evacuate the fort (or else).
Anderson stood his ground, and the next morning, around 4:30 a.m. on April 12, Beauregard + Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter – kicking off a battle that would last for 34 hours.
On Saturday, April 13, Major Anderson surrendered the fort. Major Anderson and his men boarded a boat which returned to the North. No soldiers were killed in the actual battle.
Today, Fort Sumter is open to visitors and accessible via the park’s concession-operated ferry, which operates out of Liberty Square (340 Concord St.) + Patriots Point (40 Patriots Point Rd., Mt. Pleasant). Tickets and reservations are required.