The beginning of the Civil War

Before New-Year's day, 1861, South Carolina had passed an ordinance of secession and set up as an independent power. Other States followed,--Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The northern range of slave States as yet refused to follow this example, and did not do so until after war had actually broken out.

These acts of secession were quickly followed by the seizure of the United States forts and arsenals in the seceding States, to which action the authorities at Washington manifested no opposition, and indeed, as has been declared, took good care that they should be well supplied with munitions of war. Major Robert Anderson, in charge of the forts in Charleston harbor, promptly evacuated Fort Moultrie, as incapable of defence, and established himself in Fort Sumter with his small garrison of one hundred and twenty-eight men. The remaining forts and the arsenal were at once seized, and volunteers came pouring into the city. Similar seizures were made in the other seceding States, and even in North Carolina, which had not seceded. About thirty forts, mounting over three thousand guns, and having cost the United States twenty million dollars, were thus forcibly taken possession of. A convention was held at Montgomery, Alabama, a Constitution adopted, and Jefferson Davis elected President, with Alexander H. Stephens for Vice-President, of the Confederated Southern States.

On the 11th of February, 1861, Abraham Lincoln left his home in Springfield, Illinois, and began his journey to Washington. On reaching Harrisburg, indications of a purpose violently to oppose his progress became apparent, and his journey from this point was performed secretly. His inaugural address, delivered on the 4th of Marc, was conciliatory in tone, and the envoys from the Confederate government, afterwards sent to Washington, were received with a lack of plain-speaking that gave them hopes of a non-interference policy. It was not until April that any decisive action was taken by the new administration. Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, was beleaguered by a Confederate force. Was it to be given up without a struggle? This was just then the vital question, and the decision of the administration was manifested by secret but rapid preparations to relieve the fort. Early in April a well-appointed fleet sailed southward for this purpose. As soon as the fact came clearly to the knowledge of the leaders at Charleston, hostilities were determined upon, unless Anderson would at once consent to evacuated the fort. On April 12 he offered to evacuate on the 15th if not by that date aided by the government. In reply he was given one hour in which to decide, at the end of which time fire would be opened on the fort.

Punctually at the hour indicated--twenty minutes past four A.M.--the roar of a mortar from Sullivan's Island announced the war begun. A second bomb from the same battery followed; then Fort Moultrie answered with the thunder of a columbiad; Cumming's Point next, and the Floating Battery, dropped in their resonant notes; then a pause, but only for a moment. A roar of fifty guns burst in concert, a chorus to the solemn prelude which must have startled the spirits of the patriotic dead in their slumbers.

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