The first shots of the American Civil War were fired 150 years ago today.
On April 12 and 13, 1861, the bombardment of Fort Sumter by secession forces commenced, forcing the U.S. Army off the island fort after 34 hours of artillery fire. Though these are considered the first shots of the Civil War no one actually died during the battle. Two Union soldiers did die as a result of an accidental canon explosion during the surrender ceremonies however.
The short battle came after months of almost siege-like conditions.
Union soldiers had occupied the fort, which controls the Charleston harbor, under the command of U.S. Major Robert Anderson, in December 1860. For months the 85 soldiers were unable to receive supplies, and the situation became the first crisis under the administration of President Abraham Lincoln.
On April 10, Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, backed by 500 troops, called for the surrender of Union troops, and after they refused, Confederate forces fired. The assault began at 4:30 a.m. on April 12. Although Union forces returned fire, they were heavily outmanned, outgunned, and under-supplied.
After Anderson's surrender support mounted on both sides for a call to war. Lincoln immediately called for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion in the South, officially igniting the Civil War.