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This Day In History: Union Forces Surrendered Fort Sumter

April 13, 2017

This day in history, April 13, 1861, Union forces surrendered Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor to Confederate forces.

When Abraham Lincoln won the presidential election in 1860, shortly afterwards South Carolina seceded from the Union. In early April, Lincoln said that he would send food to Fort Sumter, the Confederates decided to fire upon the garrison. On April 12 they opened fire and over the course of 33 hours, fired roughly 4,000 rounds.

By the following morning Fort Sumter was badly damaged and by 1 p.m., the fort’s central flagpole was knocked down. Former U.S. senator Louis Wigfall had been observing the battle and decided that the fort had taken enough punishment. He commandeered a small boat to take to Fort Sumter and see if they were going to surrender.

At around 2 p.m., Fort Sumter’s commander, Major Robert Anderson agreed to a truce and raised Wigfall’s white handkerchief on its flagpole. No one was killed in the engagement.

The first battle of the Civil War ended and Union forces were allowed to leave the North. Before leaving the soldiers fired a 100-gun salute but a pile of cartridges blew up from a spark mortally wounding two soldiers.