The American Civil War Overview


       The incident that began the Civil War involved the demand for the surrender of Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina harbor. On April 11, 1861, Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard formally requested that the fort be surrendered. The Federal commander, Major Robert Anderson, refused. At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, Captain George S. James fired the first shot of the war from a Confederate artillery battery. Artillery exchanges continued through April 13, when terms of capitulation were finally agreed to. The fort was evacuated by steamer at noon on April 14. The following day Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 militia to serve for ninety days to put down "combinations too powerful to be suppressed" by the ordinary mechanism of government. The Civil War had begun.
       The proclamation by Lincoln served to polarize the yet uncommitted states into action. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee severed their ties with the Union, unwilling to supply troops to fight against their sister Southern states. The border states of Maryland, Missouri, and Kentucky, while providing soldiers to both armies, were kept under Federal control.
       The "numbers" did not look good for the newly created Confederacy. Eleven states had left the Union; twenty-two remained. The population of the Confederate states was about nine million, almost one-third of whom were slaves. The Union states could count twenty-two million individuals and had a steady stream of immigrants. The South had only two main east-west railroad lines and limited ability to manufacture locomotives or rolling stock. Most of the known deposits of coal, iron ore and copper were in the North, together with about 92% of the country's industrial capacity. The Navy remained loyal to the Union and most of the merchant shipping was Northern-owned. If the South was to achieve victory, it would be against long odds.

This Page last updated 11/20/03


CHAPTER 11, The Eastern Theater: "On To Richmond"