American History Stories—Volume IV - Mara L. Pratt

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


"Fort Sumter"

During the last months of Buchanan's administration, Major Robert Anderson, who held command over the forts in Charleston harbor, had asked over and over again for men and provisions for these forts. He had shown the President plainly that he could not much longer hold them against the "seceding" States, unless help were given; but still no help had come. When Lincoln became President, Anderson asked again. Lincoln replied that help should at once be sent. The leaders of the "Confederates" or "Seceders"—you must remember both these names, for they both mean the Southern people—the leaders of these Southerners, hearing of this, went to Major Anderson and ordered him to surrender the fort to them it once.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


Anderson, of course, refused. He knew only too well that he had no men, guns or powder with which to hold the fort, if the Confederates saw fit to fire upon it; still, loyal Unionist that he was, he determined to hold out to the very last. "It shall not be said that the Stars and Stripes are hauled down without a struggle," said he.

He had only eighty men, but he thought he could hold out as long as the provisions lasted, and so this little band prepared for action.

There were three more forts in the harbor, all in Confederate hands, and beside this, they had built two great rafts upon which they had fixed cannons. These they floated round in front of the fort, and on Friday, April 12, 1861, the Confederates opened fire from these five points, all upon the one little fort with its eighty men. The "Civil War" had begun.

Down came the rain of shot and shell, around the fort, across the fort, into the fort. The wooden barracks inside took fire again and again; and on the second day, they were burned to the ground. It was a hot time for the brave little garrison. The air was so hot, and the smoke was so choking and so blinding, that they could work only with their faces covered with wet cloths. Every hour the fort grew to look more and more like a great ruin.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


It was plain enough that Major Anderson must surrender. All this time, however, the Stars and Stripes had been kept flying from above the fort. Even when they had been torn down by the flying balls from the enemy, some man had always been ready to nail them up again. But now the white flag of surrender had to be shown. The firing ceased, and the Confederates came over to the fort in boats to make terms with Major Anderson. It was agreed, after long discussion, that Anderson and his men should be allowed to march out with flying colors, should be allowed to salute the dear old flag with fifty guns, and then should march away in peace.

This was done; and as soon as they had gone, General Beauregard, the Confederate leader, marched into the ruined fort, tore down the "Stars and Stripes," and ran up the South Carolina State flag in its place.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - IV by Mara L. Pratt


This is a brief story of the bombarding of "Fort Sumter." Not a single life was lost on either side; but if millions upon millions of lives had been lost, there could not have been greater excitement throughout the country. Ask your fathers and your mothers, or your grandfathers and your grandmothers, to tell you about it. It was less than thirty years ago, and anywhere you can find men and women who remember those early times of the Civil War.

They were exciting days indeed! The different political parties of the North, forgetting all differences, all ill feelings, all quarrels, now joined hands and hearts in this terrible time. There was but one cry in the hearts of all—"Save the Union! Save the Union!" Nothing more was to be heard about Democrats or Republicans, tariff or no tariff,—Unionists or Confederates were the words now on every lip. No longer was it Republicans against Democrats, but the North against the South, the South against the North.

And now, President Lincoln sent forth a call for help—for men to go against the South. Seventy-five thousand men, he asked for, to help him "to preserve the Union." From every city, and town, and village, answers came. It seemed as if every man in the country was ready. Rich men and poor men marched away together side by side; willing to bear all the hardships of the soldiers' lot.

The women, too, were as alive as the men. It seemed as if the Revolutionary spirit had revived again in them. No woman was too rich or too poor, too high or too low, too strong or too weak, not to do something for the Union soldier. Little children, too, caught the spirit of the times. When they saw their fathers and their big brothers march away, their little hearts were full of tears, I fear, but they were all the readier to work for the soldiers because their own dear ones had gone away with them.

In the South the same feeling of loyalty to what they believed was right was shown among the men and women there. Remember they loved their States as truly as the Northerners loved the Union.

When the news that Fort Sumter had fallen into their hands was heard throughout the South, men and women were wild with joy. Songs were sung, verses were written, public meetings were held, and the South was boiling over with excitement.

Such was the excitement in the North and in the South after the taking of Fort Sumter by the Confederates. Let us see now what next was done.