The bloodiest four years in American history begin when General PGT Beauregard’s Confederate coastal batteries open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay, South Carolina. Over the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars fired more than 4,000 shells at the ill-supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, US President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 soldiers to volunteer to quell the “insurgency” in the South.
As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between North and South over the issue of slavery had led Southern leaders to discuss a unified separation from the United States. In 1860, the majority of slave states publicly threatened secession if the Republicans, the anti-slavery party, won the presidency. After Republican Abraham Lincoln’s victory over the divided Democratic Party in November 1860, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. On December 20, the South Carolina Legislature passed the “Secession Ordinance,” which declared that “the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved. ” After the declaration, South Carolina set about seizing forts, arsenals and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five other southern states – Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana – had followed South Carolina’s lead.
In February 1861, delegates from these states met to establish a unified government. Jefferson Davis of Mississippi was later elected the first President of the Confederate States of America. When Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, a total of seven states (Texas had joined the platoon) had seceded from the Union, and federal troops held only Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Fort Pickens offshore of Florida and a handful of the minor outposts in the south. Four years after the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, the Confederacy was defeated at the total cost of 620,000 Union troops and dead Confederates.
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