4 Facts About the Battle of Fort Sumter

The Battle at Fort Sumter is known as the first battle of the Civil War, and is a landmark battle because of it. However, at the time (April 1861), both the South and the North believed the war would be a simple settling of differences. Not until the Battle of First Manassas in July did both sides realize that neither secession nor unity were quite so simple. As a result, this battle was conducted very differently.

Fact #1: The Defense of Fort Sumter was Symbolic for the Federal Army

There were three federal forts in Charleston: Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Moultrie. Castle Pinckney was too lightly defended to be a threat, Fort Moultrie was well-armed but all its guns pointed out to sea. Only Fort Sumter was properly defensible, which is why it became the last federal fort standing in the secessionist South.

President Abraham Lincoln could have given up the Fort, since there was no tactical advantage in holding it. There was no way the Fort could have been re-taken, given where it was. However, the President knew that federal strength needed to be acknowledged in the Union and internationally, which is why supplies and reinforcements were still sent.

Fact #2: The Attack of Fort Sumter was Symbolic for the Confederate Army

If the Confederates were not taking secession seriously, they did not have to make a point of making Fort Sumter surrender, or attacking it at all. They could have taken the longer way of negotiation. However, to succeed as a state, they knew that international recognition was crucial. To prove their sovereignty, taking Fort Sumter as soon as possible was crucial.

Fact #3: No Lives Were Lost On Either Side

An estimated 3,000 cannon shells were loosed from both the besieged and the besieging forces. However, there were only injuries from flying wood and mortar. Few wars have started so positively for both sides. It also maintained Confederate spirits in the face of the beginning of the war.

Fact #4: The Projectile Fired Over Fort Sumter Introduced Rifled-Barrel Cannon

The projectile fired over Fort Sumter came from Fort Johnson, James Island, and it was a Blakely projectile from a rifled-barrel gun. The range, and the accuracy of the projectile at that range, warned both Federal and Confederate troops that they needed more of those. Failing to switch over to rifled-barrel cannon would put them at a defensive disadvantage. However, switching over was also one of the main reasons the death count in the Civil War reached such heights.

Fort Sumter Set the Stage for the War

At the time, no one had any idea how long the war would draw out, and how many lives would be claimed. However, on that night, both sides communicated to the other that they were willing to fight until victory.


The aforementioned was part of an article on whether or not the civil war was inevitable by HankeringforHistory.

4 Facts About the Battle of Fort Sumter

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