Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter, fortification, built 1829–60, on a shoal at the entrance to the harbor of Charleston, S.C., and named for Gen. Thomas Sumter; scene of the opening engagement of the Civil War. Upon passing the Ordinance of Secession (Dec., 1860), South Carolina demanded all federal property within the state, particularly the forts of Charleston harbor—Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and Castle Pinckney. On Dec. 26, 1860, Major Robert Anderson removed his U.S. army command of about 100 men from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, a stronger defensive site. Gov. F. W. Pickens of South Carolina had the other two forts, along with the Charleston arsenal, seized, and upon the refusal of President James Buchanan to order Anderson's evacuation, had guns trained on Fort Sumter. On Jan. 9, 1861, an unarmed merchant ship sent to reinforce the fort's garrison was driven back by the South Carolina forces. Pickens's subsequent formal demand for the fort's surrender was declined, and South Carolina prepared to reduce Anderson's stronghold. Pickens hoped to secure the fort before Abraham Lincoln took office, but in Feb., 1861, the newly organized Confederate government assumed the state's part in the controversy, sending Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard to command Charleston. On Apr. 8, 1861, Pickens received Lincoln's notice that a naval expedition would be sent to provision the beleaguered garrison. On Apr. 11, Beauregard called for Anderson's surrender, but the demand was again refused. After a 34-hour Confederate bombardment, begun at 4:30 a.m. on Apr. 12, Anderson accepted terms, and on Apr. 14 the garrison departed with the honors of war. Although no one was killed, the action made manifest the belligerent spirit in both the North and the South. In 1863, Union naval attacks on the fort were thoroughly repulsed. After Sherman forced the evacuation of Charleston, the U.S. flag was again raised over the fort by Anderson on Apr. 14, 1865. Fort Sumter became a national monument in 1948; Fort Moultrie is part of the monument. See National Parks and Monuments, table.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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