Thursday, April 14, 2011

Now we are engaged in a great Civil War - no, it's not about the Budget Repair Bill

The bombardment of Fort Sumter, April 12-13, 1861.

This week is the sesquicentennial of the opening shots of the long and bloody U.S. Civil War.  It is a just a tad bit unsettling to realize that its been 50 years since I sat as a thirteen year old in Johnson Hagood stadium in Charleston watching in awe the centennial celebration pageant.  At the time I didn't like the ending to the pageant, but I eventually outgrew that.

A special Exit 142A prize will go to the reader who is first to correctly identify the person who pulled the lanyard on the first volley fired at Colonel Anderson and his garrison in Charleston harbor at 4:30 AM on April 12, 1861.  A second, lesser, Exit 142A prize will go to the person who identifies the first Union officer to fire back once the sun came up.  Hint:  You hard-core baseball fans have probably heard of him.

The violent events 150 years ago this week may serve to put our own Budget Repair Bill battle in better perspective.  Back then the battle was fought over an evil system that deprived an oppressed group of people from having a say over their lives.  Today's battle is over . . . . . .  Uh, never mind.

During the actual 34 hour siege on Sumter (4000 confederate shells fired, 1000 union shells fired) no Union soldiers were killed or wounded.  Likewise, during the six week siege on the capitol in Madison this winter no one was injured, if you don't count that Fox guy who got nudged in his arm, and Senator Grothman, who was surrounded and had to be rescued from near certain death by Senator Erpenbach.

One other similarity of note between then and now.  When Brigadier General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard ("The Little Creole") ordered the start to hostilities, many southern leaders believed that the Northern states would quickly roll over and let the Southern states break off from the union rather than go to war over the issue of slavery.  The Confederacy's Secretary of War Leroy Walker, who had issued the order to General Beauregard to fire on Sumter, addressed his fellow Alabamans in Montgomery after learning that Anderson had surrendered the fort to the South:

"No man can foretell the events of the war inaugurated, but I will venture to predict that the flag which now floats on the breeze above Fort Sumter will before the first of May float over the dome of the old Capitol at Washington, and if they choose to try Southern chivalry, and test the extent of Southern resources, will eventually float over Faneuil Hall."
It was quite simply a massive miscalculation of the response of the citizens in the north, and of the resolve of Lincoln.

Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,


  1. The late Chris Farley's great-great grandfather Henry.

  2. Sorry, Chris, but there can be no double day winners for this contest. The prize for the Union officer's identity is still available.

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  4. About 7:00 A.M., on April 12, 1861, Capt. Abner Doubleday, Fort Sumter's second in command, was given the honor of firing the first shot in defense of the fort.