Fort Sumter and the Civil War

The Battle at Fort Sumter was the first battle of the Civil War. It was at this fort that the first shots of the American Civil War were fired- starting the battle between the Union and the Confederates. Fort Sumter is located in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Between April 11 and April 12, 1861, fights broke out when the Confederate forces attacked the Fort–a strategically important, as well as metaphorically important site, for many reasons.

            By 1861, the balance of power in Congress between free and slave states had reached its peak time of conflict. Acts such as the Missouri Compromise, as well as the newly annexed American properties like Texas and California, were used as temporary bargaining chips–the balance between free and slave states was truly only the binding agent for the Union.

            These two separate trains of thought were apparent from the onset of the United States as a country, and perhaps foreshadowing the entire Civil War–simply making the events at Fort Sumter the unavoidable catalyst, or proverbial “spark”. The original document outlining the structure of the US Government, The Articles of Confederation, placed way too much power in the hands of individual states, and not enough in the Federal government. Though the Constitution was eventually ratified, it still left a gray area between the State and Federal Governments, leading to Hamilton’s Federalist’s and Jefferson’s Democratic Republicans. The idea of states’ rights versus power of the federal government was imbedded from the beginning.

            The economy of the South for raw materials, and the North with its manufacturing centers, were codependent. Lincoln was not an abolitionist–in fact, he was a slave owner himself. The Emancipation Proclamation outlawed slavery only in the South–border states such as Maryland, Delaware, and even Southern New Jersey had slavery until the passage of the 13th Amendment, way after the Civil War. Lincoln made the War about slavery to protect the Union, and stunt a British-backed Confederacy.

            Though the Southern attack at Fort Sumter formally started the Civil War between the Union and the Confederacy, the seed was planted many years earlier, virtually at the onset of the United States as a nation, and its overall structure of government.


National Park Service, “Fort Sumter.” Last modified 08 06, 2013. Accessed June 14, 2013.