The causes of the Civil War are usually reduced to slavery and states' rights. However, by 1861 these issues had grown too large for simple diplomacy to settle. In April 1861, Fort Sumter, a military base off the coast of South Carolina, was bombarded by Southern rebels, setting the Civil War in motion.
South Carolina Secedes
After the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, the state of South Carolina seceded from the Union. This touched off a domino effect of secession by other southern states in favor of slavery. Shortly after Lincoln's inauguration in 1861, the country was torn in two and prepared for war.
Prior to Battle
Lincoln ordered the reinforcement of the U.S. military base at Fort Sumter in preparation for hostilities with the South. The Confederacy saw this move as an act of aggression and on April 10, 1861, demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter into Confederate hands. When this notion was rebuffed by Lincoln, the South was prepared to take the fort by force, regardless of the consequences.
Confederates Attack Fort Sumter
Two days after the Union refused to surrender Fort Sumter, Confederate forces under the command of Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard attacked the coastal garrison. For 34 consecutive hours the South continued to bomb Fort Sumter using 43 cannons. The North finally surrendered the fort on April 13, 1861.
The Beginning of the Civil War
Though there were no initial casualties resulting from the battle, the attack on Fort Sumter was the first hostile action of the Civil War. The North immediately summoned a call to arms, and 75,000 volunteers signed up. While the South rejoiced at its opening victory, the North began gearing up for an offensive of its own. The conflict would go on to cause over 700,000 casualties until the Confederates surrendered on April 9,1865, nearly four years to the day of the Battle of Fort Sumter.
- Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images