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Fri, 04.12.1861

The American Civil War Begins

On this date in 1861, the American Civil War began. This war is also referred to as "The War Between the States", "The War of Rebellion", or "The War for Southern Independence."

In February of that year, a newly elected Abraham Lincoln left his home in Springfield, Illinois, for the White House. On reaching Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, security measures were needed to ensure his safety. His inaugural address, delivered on March 4th, was conciliatory in tone, and was unpleasing to the South, though giving them hopes of a non-interference policy with the slavery issue.  In April the first, real military action was taken by Lincoln's administration. Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, was under pressure from a Confederate force. Was it to be given up without a struggle. The answer to this vital question was clear to Lincoln, evacuate the fort.

That month, a Union fleet sailed southward acting on this purpose. As soon as this came to the knowledge of the leaders at Charleston hostilities were stepped up. The South told the Union officer in charge (General Anderson) to evacuate the fort at once. On April 12, he offered to leave on the 15th if he did not receive government aid by that date. The Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard gave him one hour to decide, or they would open fire on the fort. At twenty minutes past four A.M. that morning, the first mortar was fired from Sullivan's Island announcing the Civil War had begun.

The war lasted until May 26, 1865, when the last Confederate army surrendered. The war took more than 600,000 lives, destroyed property valued at 5 billion dollars, brought freedom to more than 4 million Black slaves, and opened emotional and philosophical wounds that have not yet completely healed.


The Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition.
Copyright 1996 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.
ISBN 0-85229-633-0

The World Book Encyclopedia.
Copyright 1996, World Book, Inc.
ISBN 0-7166-0096-X

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