Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Surrender of Fort Sumter

Union or Secession
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  • George William Berlin to Susan Miranda Holt Berlin, April 13 and 14, 1861, Berlin-Martz Family Papers, Acc. 36271, Library of Virginia.,
    "The Secessionists have been wild & devilish"
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Surrender of Fort Sumter

After South Carolina seceded, militia troops, and later provisional Confederate States Army forces, were stationed around Charleston harbor. They prevented the United States Army commander of Fort Sumter from resupplying the fort from shore. President Abraham Lincoln prepared resupply ships but delayed sending them for fear that their presence would provoke violence. By then it was clear that if Lincoln used force to resupply Fort Sumter, civil war would begin; but he repeatedly stated that his oath of office and the promise he had made in his inaugural address on March 4 required him to hold onto federal property in every one of the United States.

Men in South Carolina took the first step toward war, and on April 12, 1861, before the Virginia convention's delegation could confer with Lincoln about his policies toward the seceded states, Confederate artillerists in Charleston opened fire on Fort Sumter after Lincoln attempted to resupply the garrison there. One day later the commander of the fort surrendered, and the U.S. forces evacuated Fort Sumter on April 14.

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