Thank you to everyone who attended the March meeting to hear Curt Fields speak on “Appomattox: The Days before the Surrender”. His appearance and presentation as General Grant was commanding as well as enlightening. Total attendance for the lecture was an even 100. There were sixty-three diners, nine who were non-members. Also attending were an additional thirty-seven members and six who were non-members to hear the presentation. Thank you once again for your support and interest in the Round Table as this is the best attended event of the year.

Remember to make your dinner reservation by 11 a.m. Monday April 10th to hear Scientist, Attorney, Historian and Author Scott Mingus speak on “Extra Billy Smith”. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at the April meeting.

Looking forward to the May 9th dinner meeting, please mark your calendar to hear Bud Robertson’s presentation on “The Four-Legged Soldier”. You will not want to miss Mr. Robertson, who is an outstanding speaker, historian and author.

Fort Sumter

It is 4:30 pre-dawn in Charleston Harbor. The date is April 12, 1861 and a single mortar round is fired at a fort in the middle of the harbor. The shell explodes over Fort Sumter, a Federal Fort. The mortar round is fired by the Confederate States of America under the command of Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard. Major Robert Anderson is the commanding Federal officer of Sumter. The American Civil War has begun.

The battle of Ft. Sumter

Surrounding the harbor, all of the Federal installations and Forts had been surrender to the Confederacy except for Sumter. Strategically and geographically Sumter can control all ships coming and leaving Charleston. The South for the past several months has been demanding that the fort be evacuated and surrendered. On the afternoon of April 11th, Beauregard sent a letter of ultimatum to Anderson demanding its evacuation. Anderson replied “I regret that my sense of honor, and my obligation to my Government, prevent my compliance”.

Beauregard was informed by friends in Washington that an expedition was on route to Charleston to relieve Anderson and a force would be landed to overcome all opposition. On the eve of the 11th, masts of the Federal ships could be observed forming off shore. Anderson sent word to Beauregard that he would evacuate the fort on April 15th. With the expedition force offshore, Beauregard could not wait. At 3:20 a.m. on Friday, April 12th, he sent word to Anderson that he would open fire within one hour.

By 5:00 a.m. gun batteries from Fort Johnson on James Island, Morris Island, Mount Pleasant, and Sullivan Island were firing on Fort Sumter. In Charleston, Mary Chestnut, the wife of Colonel James Chestnut, was awaken suddenly by the bombardment. She wrote, “I sprang out of my bed, and on my knees prostrate, I prayed as never before”. Spectators circled the harbor to watch the shelling of the fort. Concussions of the shells hitting the walls of Fort Sumter could be felt in downtown Charleston and the sound of the guns could be heard more than forty miles away. It most certainly must have been a spectacular site.

The assault on Fort Sumter ended with Colonel Anderson’s surrender at 2:30 p.m. on April 13th. The bombardment lasted for 34 hours with more than 70 Confederate guns and over 4000 shells fired. Although the fort had suffered considerable damage, no one lost their life.

The firing on the fort united a formerly divided North behind President Lincoln’s mission to preserve the Union. On April 15th Lincoln proclaimed a state of insurrection rather than war and issued a call for 75,000 volunteers to quell the rebellion. Officially, the Civil war has begun.

John Stegner, President
The Atlas of the Civil War edited by James M. McPherson The Union Is Dissolved by Douglas W. Bostick
The Everything Civil Book by Donald Vaughn