The Civil War Connections Blog

On the Eve of Sumter

FORT SUMTER, S.C., April 12, 1861, 3:20 A.M. – SIR: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the Provisional Forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time. We have the honor to be very respectfully, Your obedient servants, JAMES CHESNUT, JR., Aide-de-camp. STEPHEN D. LEE, Captain, C.S. Army, Aide-de-camp.

Here we sit, on the eve of the sesquicentennial – waiting for the dull boom of those first shots fired at Fort Sumter some 150 years ago. Like Anderson and his men waiting inside the incomplete walls of what would become the symbolic birthplace of the American Civil War – we have been given ample notice that this observance was coming. You could say that it is a national commemoration 150 years in the making, for this conflict fought by and endured by our great-great-times-however-many grandfathers – and grandmothers – has been etched into the psyche of this nation in ways that we have in turn embraced, denied and struggled to understand. But it has not left us.

There is disagreement on how it started – some people even debate why it started, though there can be no denial that the thread of slavery ran through each and every cause. Reams of paper, gallons of ink, and countless breaths have been used to discuss and debate the conflict. Over the past 150 years, people have even debated upon what to call it. One of our volunteers has been compiling a list. The names he found are many:

  • The War between the States
  • The War for Southern Independence
  • The Second American Revolution
  • The Brother’s War
  • The Late Unpleasantness
  • The War of Northern Aggression
  • The War of Secession
  • The War for States Rights
  • The War Against Slavery
  • The War of the Rebellion
  • And more simply:

    The Civil War

    Shelby Foote said it well – “The American Civil War – April to April, Sumter to Appomattox, 1861 to 1865 – pervades the national conscience. It makes a great story. I know of none since the ILIAD that rivals it either in drama or in pathos.”

    We at The Mariners’ Museum – along with our colleagues across the country and around the world – are now working on the beginning of the remembrance and the retelling of this story.

    May we learn from it and each other.