The Months and Days Leading Up to the Battle of Ft. Sumter

Ever been in our Soldier’s National Museum? If so, then you’ll know that it holds a large number of Dioramas. It is a spectacular sight – all of them, but not everyone is able to visit us or they can’t make it as often as they would like. So, we are going to bring them to you via the world wide web! We’ll be including details surrounding the Dioramas right here on our blog each month. To kick things off we’re going to tell you all about the events that led up to the historic Battle of Fort Sumter.

Trouble was brewing in the United States in 1860. The country was split on the issue of slavery with the north in favor of abolishment and the south holding strongly onto what is now perceived as an old world mentality. Then, on December 20th South Carolina made the drastic step of seceding from the United States much to the dismay of many Americans who only two months earlier elected abolitionist Abraham Lincoln (with very little support from the southern states including South Carolina).

Six days after seceding, Major Robert Anderson, of the Union, moved his small command of men from indefensible Ft. Moultrie to Ft. Sumter per orders received from Secretary of War John B. Floyd unbeknownst to President James Buchanan. This small movement would become the basis for the beginning of the great battle. South Carolina authorities saw it as a breach of faith as Governor Francis W. Pickens believed Buchanan promised to leave Ft. Sumter unoccupied. Meanwhile, when Buchanan learned of the move, he was surprised and dismayed as he was unaware that orders had been issued. However, when approached by Pickens with the demand to evacuate the harbor, Buchanan refused. After experiencing political fallout and embarrassment over the situation, Pickens ordered all other federal positions in his state to be seized.

Fast forward to February of 1861 and six more states had seceded. On the 7th, a total of seven states adopted a provision to become the Confederate States of America. In this same month a peace conferences met in Washington D.C. but failed to resolve the escalating crisis on hand. Following the conference, the seceding states then seized numerous federal properties within their boundaries. While President Buchana protested, he did not respond with military action out of fear that the remaining slave holding states would then choose to leave the Union. He claimed that while there were no constitutional grounds for the states to secede, he didn’t believe he had the authority to prevent it.

On March 4th, 1861 Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. Shortly thereafter the Confederacy sent delegates to Washington DC with the offer to pay for the federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected the offer. One month later Lincoln received word that rations at Ft. Sumter were running low so he informed Governor Pickens that they would be attempting to provide them but would not attack if given room to do so without resistance. What followed was a series of interactions in which Pickens conferred with the Local Confederate Commander, Beauregard who then spoke with Jefferson Davis and was commanded to repeat the demand for Sumter’s surrender. The ultimatum was delivered to Anderson by aides to which he refused stating that he would await the first shot however, they would depart within a few days due to the lack of rations. The aides returned to Beauregard and shared Anderson’s response to which Beauregard decided to allow Anderson a peaceful leave. Anderson’s response? That he would evacuate by noon, April 15, unless he was instructed by the government otherwise. Sadly, this was seen as too conditional and Anderson received a note stating that the Confederate forces would open fire in one hour. And, true to their word, they did which was the beginning of the Battle of Ft. Sumter.

So there you have it. The events that led up to the battle are really quite fascinating, aren’t they? We sure think so! Check back in May for the next story inspired by our Dioramas. In the meantime, check out our Soldier’s National Museum page. Have a question? Want to share a thought about the events leading up to the Battle of Ft. Sumter? Stop by our Facebook Page and tell us.