Why was Lincoln so quick to blockade all Southern ports after the local Charleston militia fired on Fort Sumter. It wasn't the South that fired on the fort just a bunch of angry local guys who drank too much ale. There is no evidence of the South firing on the fort


On December 20, South Carolina declared that it seceded. Six days later, Union Major Robert Anderson moved his troops into Fort Sumter.

A letter by South Carolina Governor Francis Pickens to President Buchanan on January 31st demanded that the fort be surrendered. It, along with more messages demanding surrender, were ignored.

On April 11, the amazingly named Confederate Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard sent Colonel James Chestnut to demand the surrender of the fort, and to negotiate conditions for surrender. When that failed, on April 12 Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, and the war began.

So, instead of 'a bunch of angry local guys who drank too much ale', it was a Confederate colonel and his troops acting under official orders of a Confederate general, several months after the state declared secession. Thus, it was an official attack by a technically sovereign state(which you call 'The South').

  • 1
    In case anyone is inclined to make the same error a previous (smartly) deleted comment made: The Confederate Army was established by the Confederate Congress on February 28th, P.T. Beauregard joined on March 1st, and arrived in South Carolina to take command of its defenses on March 3rd. On March 6th, 100,000 men were called up. He ordered the attack to commence on April 12th when it became clear his opposite number was not going to surrender the fort without a fight.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 7 '18 at 18:25
  • Minor niggle. While the first shots were in fact fired by the Official forces of South Carolina, that doesn't necessarily mean members those forces weren't angry and hadn't drunk too much ale. No references, or course. Feb 8 '18 at 15:37
  • My point of the question really was the question. Who really fired on FT. S. The next question would be why? Only 7 of the 11 states that joined the Confederacy had seceded by April 11/12-63%. Was it really "The South"? If it was the local militia backed by others, why would they try to take on the Federal Government? Then, why did Lincoln take action to blockade states that had not seceded? Was that not aggression?
    – J Wilson
    Feb 9 '18 at 14:50
  • @JWilson: Lincoln ordered the blockade of all states that had seceded, from South Carolina to Texas. Virginia and North Carolina were only added to the blockade plan after they seceded in May, and obviously they couldn't blockade Arkansas or Tennessee.
    – Giter
    Feb 9 '18 at 15:06

Actually it was the South Carolina militia which fired first. Several levels of the command structure ending in the first cannon shot fired by Lieutenant Henry S. Farley were all from South Carolina.

The battery on the beach, or east, was under the immediate command of Captain James, with Lieutenant Henry S.º Farley as lieutenant, and the battery on the hill, or west, was under the immediate command of Lieutenant Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wade Hampton Gibbes, I think with Lieutenant J. McPherson Washington as next, and the company of infantry, as reserves, was commanded by Lieutenant Theodore B. Hayne, and was stationed near the old Martello Tower, about 400 p143 yards in the woods, to the northwest of the hill, or Gibbes, battery.

Lieutenant Henry S. Farley who fired the first shot was from South Carolina. commanded by Captain George S. James, South Carolina State troops commanded by Lieutenant J. McPherson Washington also from South Carolina

Lieutenant Henry S. Farley, the commander a battery of two 10 inch siege mortars on James Island is credited with firing the first shots at Fort Sumter at 4:30 a.m.

However to support @Giter's conclusion above. Why does the origin of those troops who fired the first shot mean anything? The States had seceded, the Confederate General Beauregard was in charge and had issued a demand to the federal government to surrender the fort. Both sides knew what was about to happen an both sides know the Union fort was facing the unified secessionist states under the overall command of Beauregard.

The fact South Carolina troops fired first probable was an honor accorded to SC being the first state to succeed or Fort Sumter being within the borders of their state, or both. Suggesting South Carolina started a war the South didn't want is not really supported by the facts.

The bombardment of fort Sumter went on for 34 straight hours. That involved a lot more troops, cannons and powder than just the SC batteries.

Lastly all that shooting by the Confederates didn't kill a single Union soldier. So if it was all a mistake, the South certainly had the opportunity to correct the "misunderstanding" afterwards...

No this was the first offensive action of the civil war, perpetrated by the South collectively (the states which had succeeded up to that point) upon the Union forces which they deemed were now unwelcome in their secessionist and independent states.

(*). Two union solders died at fort Sumter, both occurred after the Union had surrendered as the Union troops were giving themselves a 100 gun salute prior to retreating from the field of battle, per terms of surrender. One of their cannons blew up.

  • The South, wasn't the South when the local militia fired. Anderson made the first aggressive move when he moved his troops. Had it been a real military campaign more than some building damage would have been done, as you point out. Why did this skirmish ignite such a severe and rapid response?
    – J Wilson
    Feb 9 '18 at 15:02
  • True the South of April, 1861 wasn't fully baked. Only 7 of the eventual 11 confederate states had suceded. But the South had been formed already. Jefferson Davis was in office for several month. Jefferson Davis had ordered the resupply ships for Fort Sumpter fired upon. Jefferson Davis sent Beauregard to besiege the fort. Jefferson Davis had ordered Anderson to surrender. Anderson's ordering his 86 men (13 of whom were musicians) to more defensible positions at Fort Sumter isn't even referred to by the south as an aggressive action.
    – user27618
    Feb 9 '18 at 16:16
  • Fort Sumpter was the first domino to fall. The South knew war was coming, they were already recruiting and training their army. After Fort Sumpter the Union would augment it's own army with State militia's which would drive the 4 additional southern states into the confederate arms. The South considered Sumpter their fortress because it was within it's state boundaries. The facts are however it had been a federal fortress since 1829 and the soldiers there were not new. Shooting cannons at the federal fortress for 32 hours straight certainly seems like an aggressive action.
    – user27618
    Feb 9 '18 at 16:20
  • I agree that firing on the fort for 32 hrs. was aggression. But, Beauregard didn't get there until March 3. He was not in charge. Who really was? Local militia and some hot heads? Gentlemen and Ladies I am trying to get past the narrative and to the real history. The folks in Charleston saw Anderson's move as aggressive, it seems to me from reading (latest book - Allegiance by David Detzer) VA and NC seceded April 17 and May 20 yet Lincoln blockaded their ports on April 27. Too rapid of an escalation from skirmish to act of war in 10 days. Why?
    – J Wilson
    Feb 10 '18 at 15:11
  • If I was state (NC) and the federal gov. blockaded my ports without cause I would consider it an act of aggressive war by the fed on a state (me).
    – J Wilson
    Feb 10 '18 at 15:14

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