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This Day In History: The American Civil War Began

April 12, 2017

This day in history. April 12, 1861, the American Civil War began when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard opened fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay.

For 33 hours, the shore batteries lobbed 4,000 shells in the direction of the fort. No one on either side had been killed. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

As early as 1858, the ongoing conflict between the North and the South over the issue of slavery led to a discussion of separation from Southern leadership. Several slave states threatened secession if the Republican party won the presidency. When Republican Abraham Lincoln won the presidency, South Carolina immediately initiated secession proceedings. By December, South Carolina declared secession.

South Carolina worked towards seizing forts, arsenals, and other strategic locations within the state. Within six weeks, five more Southern states–Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana–had followed South Carolina’s lead.

In February 1861, a unified government for the Confederate States of America was established with Jefferson Davis as its president.

Roughly 620,000 soldiers died during the Civil War, according to records.