Tag Archives: confederacy

The Firebrand

By the time Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as the 16th President, seven Southern slaveholding states had already seceded from the Union and formed a new national government.

One of the new Confederacy’s first acts was to seize most Federal arsenals that were located within their territory.

One such facility that remained in Northern hands was located at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina,  on an island in Charleston harbor.

Lincoln had barely finished taking the oath of office when he was informed that a crisis was imminent at Ft. Sumter, which was badly in need of supplies.

Lincoln chose to resupply the troops rather than to capitulate to Southern demands for surrender of the fort. After an ultimatum was rejected by U.S. Major Robert Anderson, the Union commander at Ft. Sumter, the Confederate bombardment began at 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861 – 150 years ago today.

The war was on.

Just as someone squeezed off “the shot heard ‘round the world” that kicked off the Revolutionary War, somebody also fired the first shot of the Civil War. Who was it?

History credits many people as having had the “honor” of firing the first shot. One such individual was named Edmund Ruffin, a slaveholder and poster child for state’s rights, who was hanging around South Carolina because he was angered that his native Virginia hadn’t yet left the Union. (Something the state would do a few days later.)

When he wasn’t busy preaching secessionism, Ruffian was a noted agronomist who made valuable contributions to agricultural productivity in the South.

The first return shot fired from the fort came from Union Capt. Abner Doubleday – the same guy who somehow got woven into baseball’s creation myth.

The outgunned Union forces were pummeled from artillery batteries located on shore for 34 hours before surrendering. Miraculously, not a single Union life was lost during the shelling. Two soldiers did die later when a cannon exploded firing a volley during the surrender ceremonies. (Within months, formalities like “surrender ceremonies” would be forgotten in the war as chivalry quickly gave way to carnage.)

Four years to the day after Anderson lowered the American flag over Ft. Sumter, he was back to raise it again over the recaptured fort.

The defeat of the Confederacy didn’t sit well with firebrand Ruffin. Two months after Lee’s defeat at Appomattox Court House, Ruffin wrapped himself in a Confederate flag and blew his brains out with a shotgun.


One Nation … Indivisible

Millions of American school children begin each day by reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance,” never questioning why the phrases “one nation” and “indivisible” (which many believe to be “invisible” anyway) are contained within.

These simple words encapsulate the question of secession: whether a state in the “one nation” of the United States of America could constitutionally “divide from” that country. This question led to a civil war in America that claimed over 600,000 lives.

It can be argued that the first shot of that war didn’t come at Ft. Sumter, South Carolina in 1861, but a few months earlier and a hundred-and-fifteen miles away at a church in Columbia, South Carolina. It was there, 150 years ago today, that those assembled unanimously said adios to the United States, leaving the 33-state Union behind.

The vote for secession came about in response to the election a month earlier of Abraham Lincoln, who had promised to limit the spread of slavery during his administration. As the southern state with the highest percentage of slaves, South Carolina led the fight to keep the “peculiar institution” intact. Within two months, lame duck president James Buchanan set on his hands while six other slave states left the Union to join South Carolina in the new Confederate States of America.

The preservation of the horrid institution of African-American slavery was the reason the Confederacy was created, but the restoration of the Union, and not slavery’s abolition, was why most Northerners fought in the Civil War.

South Carolina paid dearly for leading the way on secession. After General Sherman’s Union troops completed their “March to the Sea” in Savannah, Georgia, they turned their vengence towards South Carolina, the state they felt most responsible for starting the war. In early 1865, Sherman’s troops cut a swath of destruction across the state, reducing Columbia, the “cradle of secession,” to ashes.

So, the secessionist question was answered once-and-for-all by the Union armies, right? Not so fast. In recent years, large secessionist movements have grown in states like Alaska and Texas where one poll claimed that 22% of the population believed that secession is a right granted by the Constitution.

And how is South Carolina planning to remember secession; an act intended to allow the state to forever keep blacks in forced servitude?

By having a ball.

That’s right. In an egregious display of bad taste, the “Secessionist Gala” will be held tonight in downtown Charleston, which will include a play, dinner, dancing, and the display of the original “Ordinance of Secession.” The local chapter of the NAACP plans to protest the event, which their president calls “a celebration of slavery.”

Just when you thought the wounds of the Civil War had finally scarred over, some folks just had to come in and rip off the scabs.