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Posted on Apr 12, 2011 in History News

150th Anniversary of the First Shot of the American Civil War

Gerald D. Swick

Today, April 12, 2011, is the 150th anniversary of the day sections of the United States – South, North and West – crossed their Rubicon. All the fiery rhetoric; the guerilla warfare in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery forces; the Northern mobs who attacked slave hunters and lawmen seeking runaways; the hanging of men in the South who advocated "practical abolition"—all of this was merely prelude, the thunder and lightning preceding the tornado that would tear through America.

On April 12, 1861, a single shell arched above the waters of the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina, fired at Fort Sumter, where a small contingent of U.S. Army troops were holding out against Southern demands to surrender the fort. The war had begun that would result in over 600,000 American deaths, over a million wounded, and the devastation of a large portion of the country.

Nine days of living history programs are planned at Fort Sumter to commemorate the anniversary. Click for information.


On today’s PBS radio program Fresh Air, "historian Adam Goodheart explains how national leaders and ordinary citizens responded to the chaos and uncertainty in the days and months before and after the struggle at Fort Sumter." The program airs at noon and again at 5 p.m. Eastern Time. The audio can be accessed online beginning at 5 p.m. Click here to hear "Looking At The ‘Civil War’ 150 Years Later."

Cilck here to see a gallery of 21 historic photos and illustrations of the Civil War.