April 1861

As of the end of March, seven states had seceded (South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas), and the focus of attention was Fort Sumter.

On April 1, 1861, Secretary of State Seward advised President Lincoln to abandon Fort Sumter and suggested that he (Seward) take over dealings with the Confederacy; however, President Lincoln rejected both efforts. Lincoln did, however, order the U.S.S. Powhatan to proceed to Florida to aid Fort Pickens, thus effectively removing the ship from any effort to relieve Fort Sumter. On the 3rd, a Federal schooner, the Rhoda H. Shannon, was fired upon by Southern batteries in Charleston Harbor. On April 4, Lincoln wrote Major Anderson, who was in charge at Fort Sumter, and advised him that a relief effort was on the way; however, Anderson had the authority to determine an appropriate response to the situation.

Also on the 4th, a Virginia State Convention voted 89 to 45 against holding a referendum on the succession question.

April 5 saw four Federal vessels (including the Powhatan, which has already left for Florida) ordered to transport provisions to Fort Sumter. On April 6, South Carolina Governor Pickens was informed that the ships heading for Fort Sumter carried provisions only, and no reinforcements. The next day, April 7, General Beauregard (in charge of Confederate forces at Charleston), informed Major Anderson that no further communications between Fort Sumter and the North would be allowed. On April 10, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker ordered Beauregard to require the surrender of Fort Sumter. The next day, three Confederate commissioners left Washington with the knowledge that Lincoln would not recognize their government. That same day, Confederate representatives informed Major Anderson that he would have to evacuate Sumter; Anderson again refused. Walker suggested that Beauregard hold off attacking Sumter in the hope that Anderson would reconsider and voluntarily evacuate. On the 12th, the same representatives again spoke with Anderson and he told them that if Sumter were not reprovisioned by April 15 at 2400 hours, he would be forced to abandon the fort. The representatives knew that relief was on the way, so they gave Anderson a warning that the attack would begin in one hour. Firing on Sumter began at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, upon the order of Captain George S. James. On the same day, Federal forces reached Fort Pickens, effectively stopping Confederate efforts to take the fort. At 1430 on April 13, Major Anderson surrendered, with no food, insufficient men, and no hope to continue the conflict for any gainful purpose. Approximately 40,000 shells were fired, without any loss of life.

On April 14, Lincoln responded to the surrender of Sumter with a call for 75,000 volunteers, and he called Congress into a session to begin July 4, 1861. Lincoln's call for volunteers was announced by public proclamation on the 15th. On April 17, Missouri and Tennessee decided not to respond to Lincoln's call for volunteers and the Virginia State Convention voted 88 to 55 for secession, calling for a public referendum on May 23.

Also on the 17th, President Jefferson Davis announced that his government would accept applications for letters of marque, which would permit privateering. The Star of the West, (the same ship, or its successor in name, was used by the U.S. Cavalry in the summer campaign that culminated in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876), was taken by Confederate forces.

On April 19, President Lincoln took the very strong position of ordering the blockade of all Confederate ports. Also on the 19th, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment was attacked by rioters in Baltimore on its way to Washington. Nine civilians and four soldiers were killed in the melee. The troops reached the capital and were quartered in the Senate Chamber.

On April 20, Commandant Charles S. McCauley ordered the Federal Gosport Naval Yard near Norfolk, Virginia, burned to prevent it from falling into Southern hands. This move was later censured by the United States government. Also on the 20th, the 4th Massachusetts Regiment reached Fort Monroe. The same day, Robert E. Lee resigned his post with the United States Army to side with his beloved Virginia. Rioting continued in Baltimore on the 21st and 22nd. Also on the 21st, anti-seccessionists met in western Virginia.

Throughout this period, Lincoln was very worried about the safety of the capital. The riots in Baltimore were preventing the easy access of troops to the capital. However, on April 25, the 7th New York Regiment arrived, much to Lincoln's relief. On April 27, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the area from Philadelphia to Washington. One primary purpose of this move was to stop the insurrection in Baltimore.

On April 29, the state legislature of Maryland voted against seccession on a vote of 53 to 13. On the last day of the month, Federal forces evacuated Indian Territory forts, which left the Five Civilized Nations under Confederate jurisdiction and control.

The next major battle after April of 1861 was the (First) Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas, according to the South) on July 21, 1861.





CHARLESTON, April 11, 1861.

Hon. L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War:

Major Anderson replies: "I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication demanding the evacuation of this fort, and to say in reply thereto that it is a demand with which I regret that my sense of honor and of my obligations to my Government prevent my compliance." He says verbally: "I will await the first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces we will be starved out in a few days."





CHARLESTON, S.C., April 11, 1861.

ROMAN, CRAWFORD, and FORSYTH, Commissioners Confederate States, Washington, D.C.:

Evacuation of Fort Sumter will be demanded to-day. If refused, hostilities will commence to-night. Answer.




CHARLESTON, April 12, 1861.

Hon. L. P. WALKER:

Heavy firing all day. Several guns dismounted in Sumter. Our batteries all safe. Nobody hurt. Four steamers off the bar. The sea pretty rough.






Charleston, S. C., April 12, 1861.

Lieutenant-Colonel DE SAUSSURE, Morris Island, S. C.:

SIR: In order to economize our mortar ammunition, I desire that at or after 12 m. this day you should double the interval between the firing of the shells; that is, four minutes instead of two during the day, and twenty minutes instead of ten during the night. The action of your mortar batteries in that respect will guide the others elsewhere. Be careful, also, not to fire too fast at your other batteries, and to call in time for additional ammunition when required.


Respectfully, your obedient servant,



Brigadier-General, Commanding.




CHARLESTON, April 13, 1861.


Hon. L. P. WALKER, Secretary of War;


Officers' quarters in Sumter burning. Part of roof supposed to have fallen in. Sumter firing at long intervals. Ours regular and effective. Six vessels outside in signals with Sumter.






CHARLESTON, S.C., April 13, 1861--2 p.m.


President JEFF. DAVIS, Montgomery, Ala.:

Quarters in Sumter all burned down. White flag up. Have sent a boat to receive surrender. But half an hour before had sent a boat to stop our firing and offer assistance.





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