Battles during the Civil War

Battle of Gettysburg

The battle of Gettysburg is the most well known battle of the American Civil War. The battle lasted for three days from July 1st to July 3rd 1863. When it was over more than 8,000 soldiers on both sides would be dead.

Why Was the Battle of Gettysburg a Turning Point in the Civil War

The Battle of Gettysburg is considered a turning point in the Civil War because it was the last time the Confederates were able to threaten the North. For almost two years after Gettysburg the south was forced onto the defensive ultimately losing the war.

Why Was the Battle of Gettysburg So Important

Gettysburg is important because it was the high water mark of the Confederacy.

Battle of Gettysburg Facts

  • Location: Adams County Pennsylvania
  • Campaign: Gettysburg Campaign (June-August 1863)
  • Date of Battle: July 1st to July 3rd 1863
  • Commanders: Union Maj. Gen. George G. Meade vs Confederate General Robert E. Lee
  • Forces Engaged: 158,300 total (US 83,289; CS 75,054)
  • Casualties (Killed, Captured and Missing): 51,000 total (US 23,000; CS 28,000)

Who Won the Battle of Gettysburg

The Union army won the battle of Gettysburg defeating Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia.

Can You Visit Gettysburg Battlefield

Yes of course! If you are planning a visit to Gettysburg it is certainly worth the trip. There are tons of things to do and see.

When you arrive at the battlefield the first thing to do is to stop at the visitors center. There is a ton of battlefield information, original Civil War items on display, an amazing 360 degree diorama of the battle, and a really nice gift shop.

The Gettysburg battlefield is huge, so you cannot realistically walk it. If you just want to explore the battlefield on your own be sure to pick up a driving tour map available in the visitor center. The map lists all of the important locations you’ll want to visit. The visitor center also offers guided tours. These are great because you will learn lots of information from the tour guide about each location you visit.

Gettysburg is not only great because of the battlefield but the actual town of Gettysburg offers a lot of things to do and see as well, restaurants, mini-golf, shops etc… I go there all the time and it never disappoints.

How Did the Battle of Gettysburg Start

Arriving at the Gettysburg battlefield on June 30th 1863, Union General John Buford was in command of two brigades of cavalry. These were the first Union troops to arrive at Gettysburg. Buford was never ordered to defend the town he did it on his own.

Dismounting his troops to fight on foot Buford set his men in a defensive position on McPherson’s Ridge. He knew his men were greatly outnumbered and could never repel a Confederate attack so his main goal was simply to buy some time while waiting for the main body of the Union army to arrive. There was no fighting at this point just observation.

If you’d like to learn more about the first day of the battle of Gettysburg check out Gettysburg–The First Day

Gettysburg Day One - General John Buford observed the first Confederate troops from this cupola

General John Buford observed the first Confederate troops from this cupola

Battle of Gettysburg – July 1st 1863

The next morning on July 1, 1863 Confederate General Heth ordered his infantry division to attack the Union cavalry that was defending the town. The Confederates advanced with two brigades led by James Archer and Joseph Davis (nephew of Jefferson Davis).

8th N.Y. 1st Brigade Cavalry Monument

8th N.Y. 1st Brigade Cavalry Monument

The rebels thought the Union troops would be easily defeated but that was not the case, they fought very bravely and held the rebels off for two hours before Union General John Reynolds arrived with his veteran infantry corps.

Davis's Brigade

Davis’s Brigade

Shortly after Reynolds had arrived at the battle of Gettysburg he was shot in the back of the head and killed instantly. There is debate as to who actually killed Reynolds.

Was it a Confederate sharpshooter, regular infantry or even friendly fire? No one knows for sure, however the most widely accepted theory is a Confederate sharpshooter.

Monument marks the location where General John Reynolds was killed

Monument marks the location where General John Reynolds was killed

Despite his death Reynolds’ men fought hard and eventually drove the rebels from McPherson’s ridge inflicting heavy casualties on the Confederates. Davis’s troops were trapped in an unfinished railway cut, which was not a good defensive position. They took many casualties before retreating.

6th N.Y. Cavalry

6th N.Y. Cavalry

As for Archer he led an attack against the famous Union Iron Brigade. His men suffered heavy casualties in this assault and many were taken prisoner including Archer himself who was found hiding in some bushes.

At around two o’clock in the afternoon Confederate General Richard Ewell’s corps suddenly and without orders attacked the Union line in their right flank. This proved to be a great opportunity for the Confederates and Lee immediately seized it and ordered a general attack all along the line.

Gettysburg cannons in position on the first day of battle

Gettysburg cannons in position on the first day of battle

The Union troops were outmatched. They broke from battle fleeing through the town of Gettysburg from the pursuing rebels. Union forces were being defeated all along their line prompting Union General Oliver Howard to order a general retreat to higher ground on Cemetery ridge. Lee realized very quickly that if the Union could establish itself on this ridge it would be in an excellent defensive position, which would be very difficult to dislodge.

Lee suggested to Ewell that Cemetery ridge be taken if it was “practicable” Ewell decided it was not and did not even attempt to take it. Despite the urging of his subordinates Ewell refused. Thus passed one of the greatest opportunities the Confederates had to decide the battle very early on.

Over on the Union side General Winfield Scott Hancock had arrived and taken command from General Howard. He was able to calm everybody down and it was he who determined that they were in an excellent defensive position. They would stay right where they were and fight this battle.

The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg ended with a decisive Confederate victory.

Battle of Gettysburg – July 2nd 1863

On the morning of July 2, 1863 the battle of Gettysburg entered its second day. Union and Confederate armies starred at each other across an open field. During the night both sides received more troops.

Union forces now numbered around 60,000 while the Confederates had about 50,000 troops on the Gettysburg battlefield.

At 11:00 am Lee made his move. He ordered General James Longstreet to attack south up the Emmitsburg road toward Little Round Top and Big Round Top which appeared to be empty of Union troops. An attack here would strike the Union in its left flank.

Since General Meade would be focused on the Confederates at Culp’s Hill which he could clearly see, this maneuver against his left flank would come as a bit of a surprise. This is what Lee had assumed would be the case.

The man in charge of leading the attack, General Longstreet was not at all convinced this was a good idea. He thought it would be better if he and his men snuck around the Union lines and came up behind them, thus forcing the Yankees to attack them.

If you would like to read more about the second day of the battle of Gettysburg check out Gettysburg–The Second Day

Gettysburg Day Two - Off in the distance is Little Round Top and Big Round Top

Off in the distance is Little Round Top and Big Round Top

Longstreet was hoping that Lee would change his mind about this attack and cancel it. He therefore took his time getting to the attack positions ordered by Lee. It took him and his troops several hours in fact to march south to where the attack would begin.

When the southern troops finally reached their attack position they quickly discovered that an entire Union corps was standing in their way. General Daniel Sickles led this corps. Sickles had on his own without orders moved his men well ahead of the rest of the Union line setting up along the Emmitsburg road which offered slightly higher elevation.

By doing this he had separated himself from the rest of the Union army and was in a very exposed position that could easily be attacked and outflanked. Seeing this the Confederates had no choice but to attack this bulge in the Union line.

Union General Warren on Little Round Top

Union General Warren on Little Round Top

It wasn’t until around 4:00 in the afternoon that the Confederates finally launched their attack. General John Bell Hood and Lafayette Mclaws led the two Confederate divisions leading this attack. The Confederate attack would be en echelon, which would start on their right flank and swing left to hopefully outflank and roll up the Federal lines.

Memorial Tablet for the Signal Corps on Little Round Top

Memorial Tablet for the Signal Corps on Little Round Top

At this same time Lee ordered General Ewell to make a “demonstration” against Culp’s Hill to tie up as many Union troops as possible and even make a full fledged attack toward Culp’s Hill if the opportunity presented itself. This “demonstration” would prevent the Union from shifting troops to the south to reinforce their lines.

Meanwhile the main attack in the south began starting with an artillery bombardment of the Union lines. General Hood and his men began the attack. The Confederates entered Devil’s Den, which saw very bloody fighting often hand to hand.

The Confederates fought their way through Devil’s Den and on to Little Round Top. It was here that they met the men of the 20th Maine under the command of Joshua Chamberlain.

Devil's Den as seen from Little Round Top

Devil’s Den as seen from Little Round Top

Closer look at Devil's Den from Little Round Top

Closer look at Devil’s Den from Little Round Top

The Confederates charged the 20th Maine three times but were beaten back each time. After the third attempt they had enough and began moving off of Little Round Top.

General Strong Vincent was mortally wounded on this spot on Little Round Top

General Strong Vincent was mortally wounded on this spot on Little Round Top

Seeing the rebels withdraw Chamberlain ordered his men to fix bayonets and swept the rebels from the hill.

Another view of Devil's Den from Little Round Top

Another view of Devil’s Den from Little Round Top

Chamberlain would go on to great fame for his actions during the battle of Gettysburg. Retreating back to Devil’s Den the Confederates continued to return fire with the 20th Maine though now they were simply trying to hold their ground.

Union defenses on Culp's Hill at Gettysburg

Union defenses on Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg

Meanwhile at around 5:00 pm Mclaws began his attack into the peach orchard easily overwhelming the Union troops defending the area. The rebels pushed the Union troops into a wheat field where the fighting turned into a hand-to-hand melee which was extremely bloody on both sides.

View of Gettysburg from Observation Post on top of Culp's Hill

View of Gettysburg from Observation Post on top of Culp’s Hill

The rebels sustained many casualties in the fighting coupled with more Federal troops being rushed to the area. The attack failed and the rebels were forced to withdraw.

At around 6:00pm Anderson began his attack toward the Union lines. General Hancock was the commander of the Union center at Gettysburg. He had weakened his own lines in order to support General Sickles who was receiving the full force of the Confederate attacks.

Weakening his lines General Hancock took a big risk because it was at this weakened spot that Anderson attacked. The rebels had initial success even reaching the top of Cemetery Ridge, if only briefly staying there. Hancock out of sheer desperation after seeing this ordered the 1st Minnesota regiment who had just arrived in the area to attack the rebels.

They of course did what they were ordered to do and in doing so suffered over 80% casualties. Their bravery was not in vain however because it bought Hancock enough time to reform his defensive position and drive the Confederates back to where they came from.

View from Observation Post on top of Culp's Hill

View from Observation Post on top of Culp’s Hill

Gettysburg day two was not over yet. At around 7:00pm Confederate forces began their attack against the Union right flank. This was the “demonstration” the Lee had ordered Ewell to make.

The attack began with some success. The Confederates took some ground and inflicted many casualties on the Federal troops however the Union was able to reinforce their lines and the rebel attackers received no additional support so their attacks eventually petered out and failed.

Big Round Top as seen from Culp's Hill

Big Round Top as seen from Culp’s Hill

This last attacked ended the brutal second day of fighting at Gettysburg. Lee came very close to breaking the Union lines.

Fortunately for the Union he failed. Casualties were very high on both sides, each losing roughly 10,000 men each. A bit shaken up by this Meade called a meeting that night to take a vote with his corps commanders as to whether they should remain at Gettysburg and fight, or if they should withdraw.

It was a unanimous decision. They would stay and fight.

Battle of Gettysburg – July 3rd 1863

Gettysburg Artillery

Gettysburg Artillery

July 3, 1863 was the third and final day of the Battle of Gettysburg. It was Lee’s last chance to break the Union lines. His plan was to charge right through the center of the Union line and split them in two.

During the night both sides were continually reinforced bringing both of their troop strengths back up to where they had been at the beginning of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Gettysburg Day Three – Pickett’s Charge

Early in the morning the Union struck first. General Slocum attacked Confederate troops at Culp’s Hill to regain territory lost the previous day. This fight lasted for a good 8 hours finally forcing the Confederates to retreat off of Culp’s Hill.

General George Pickett during the Civil War

General George Pickett during the Civil War

While this was taking place Lee was planning the main attack at Gettysburg. This was of course the famous Pickett’s Charge.

General George Pickett and his division had just arrived on the night of July 2nd. Followed by the arrival of Jeb Stuart and his cavalry.

Lee was not happy with Jeb Stuart because of his long absence from the battle of Gettysburg, but quickly overcame his anger and set out the plan for the day’s attack.

General James Longstreet would command Pickett’s division. Pickett would command his three brigades and would also be in command of two brigades from Anderson’s division.

On the left would be four brigades under the command of Pettigrew, followed up by Pender’s brigades under the command of Trimble.

This was a combined force of 12,500 men that stretched for about one mile.

Longstreet and Pickett’s Charge

General Longstreet was very distressed with this attack at Gettysburg. He did not think it would be successful. he even tried to convince Lee to call off the attack.

Longstreet argued that it would require double the amount of men and even then it was questionable whether it would succeed. His effort fell on deaf ears. Lee was determined to make the attack; he believed it had a good chance of success.

To learn more about the third day of the battle of Gettysburg read Amongst Immortals Raging, Gettysburg’s Third Day Begins

Why Did Robert E. Lee Want to Attack

Despite the fact that the attacks of the previous day had all failed and many more troops were used in those attacks. Lee reasoned that those attacks were at different points on the battlefield and were not done at the same time therefore they failed.

Confederate cavalry leader Jeb Stuart

Confederate cavalry leader Jeb Stuart

Essentially the attacks of July 2nd were many small attacks where Pickett’s Charge would be one massive attack aimed at one point in the Union line preceded with a massive artillery bombardment.

Jeb Stuart and his cavalry would also play a critical role in the attack. Stuart was to circle around the Union lines at Gettysburg and while the infantry was attacking the center of the Union forces Stuart and his cavalry would attack the Union center from the rear thus joining with their comrades and splitting the Federal forces in two.

If this attack were to succeed the Confederates would undoubtedly win the battle of Gettysburg. General Lee felt confident it would be successful.

Confederate Artillery Bombardment at Gettysburg

It was 1:00pm when the Confederate artillery began the first phase of the battle plan. Over 150 guns opened fire on the Union center.

The Federals returned fire and the most massive artillery bombardment during the Civil War had begun. The sound was so loud the gunners ears bled. The barrage was so loud it could be heard as far away as Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Confederate Artillery at Gettysburg

Confederate Artillery at Gettysburg looking over the field of Pickett’s Charge

For over an hour the artillery duel continued. At a little past 2:00pm the Union began to slowly stop firing. This was a trick to deceive the Confederates into believing they had knocked out all the Union guns.

The trick worked and at 3:00pm the Rebels stopped firing. They were also dangerously low on ammunition and needed to conserve it as much as possible.

It was at this time the commander of the Confederate artillery Porter Alexander pleaded with Pickett to attack now otherwise we will not be able to support you.

Pickett rushed to Longstreet asking for permission to begin the attack. So despondent over the attack, which he knew would fail, Longstreet could do nothing more than simply nod his head and wave his hand to give the order to Pickett.

Pickett’s Charge Begins

 Pickett's Charge - View from the Confederate Starting Position

Pickett’s Charge – View from the Confederate Starting Position

Now was the moment that over 12,000 rebel troops emerged from the tree line and lined up in formation for the fateful march. Their main focus was a little copse of trees behind the Federal lines, which you can still see today.

Gettysburg Day Three - Copse of Trees

Copse of Trees at Gettysburg

General Pickett was in very high spirits and truly believed his men would be able to break the Union lines. The moral of his men was also high because they also believed the Federals would break.

Pickett shouted to his men that they were all Virginians and to remember what they were fighting for. With this the Confederates started forward.

The long gray line advanced toward those copse of trees at a steady pace. At first all guns were silent including the Federals. The Union troops were in awe seeing this vast force of humanity slowly but steadily approaching them.

Halfway across the field Pickett’s division (which was not personally led by Pickett because he had stayed behind and was watching the battle with the rest of the commanders) performed a left oblique to close the gap between them and the rest of the units.

Pickett’s Charge Comes Under Attack

This was when the Union opened up with their artillery on the advancing rebels. They fired from both Cemetery Hill and Little Round Top, slamming into both flanks.

The Confederates finally reached the Emmitsburg road only to be confronted with a simple fence. This simple fence however turned out to be a very difficult obstacle.

The Confederates were now in rifle range. They had to jump this fence and in doing so made easy targets for Union troops, the fence also broke up the formations and slowed the advance significantly.

Picketts Charge

Picketts Charge – This is what a Union soldier saw. In the center is the fence that runs along the Emittsburg Road.

Many of the Confederates never advanced beyond the Emmitsburg road, pinned down by heavy Union rifle fire. Several hundred of them did keep advancing and bravely pushed forward toward a low stonewall which was just in front of the little copse of trees, the goal of the southern attack. They had finally reached the Union line. This was the moment where the battle would either be won or lost.

Gettysburg Day Three – The Bloody Angle

Bloody Angle Plaque - High Water Mark of the Confederacy

Bloody Angle Plaque – High Water Mark of the Confederacy

The rebels rushed the stonewall and brutal hand-to-hand combat quickly ensued at an angle at the wall. It was now that Confederate General Lewis Armistead famously put his hat on the tip of his sword and urged his men forward. Pushing the Union defenders back the rebels went forward over the stonewall.

Bloody Angle - Confederate Side of Wall

The Confederate View of the Angle as they approached

Bloody Angle - Union Side of Wall

Bloody Angle – Union Side of Wall

Armistead only had about 300 men following him at this point but still they pushed on. Here was an artillery battery commanded by Colonel Alonzo Cushing and while his men were falling back Cushing ran up to one of his guns to “give them one more shot” which turned out to be his last words. He was immediately shot in the chin and killed instantly falling over his gun.

Gettysburg Day Three - Cushing Monument

This is the spot where Cushing was killed

High Water Mark of the Confederacy

At this very moment was the “high water mark of the Confederacy” at the “ bloody angle”. This was the closet point the South ever came to winning the Civil War.

The rebels reached Cushing’s guns and Armistead now with his hat falling to the hilt of his sword urged his men to turn the guns on the Yankees.

Cushing's Guns at Gettysburg

Cushing’s Guns at Gettysburg – The Rebels desperately tried to capture these

Before achieving this however Armistead was shot three times and fell to the ground. His wounds were not believed to be fatal, he was captured and taken to a Union field hospital for treatment. He died on July 5th. The cause of death is not officially known.

Union Army Counterattacks

The Union quickly poured in fresh troops to fix their broken line and counterattacked.

Jeb Stuart and his cavalry attempted to meet the infantry attacking the Federals in the rear of their line. Stuart never showed up. He and his men ran into Federal cavalry commanded by George Armstrong Custer and were defeated forcing them to withdraw.

The remaining men of Pickett’s Charge were overwhelmed by Union troops and forced to retreat. The rebels fled back to their original lines. It was all over. Pickett’s charge had failed.

Why Did Pickett’s Charge Fail

The attack was a disaster, over half of the 12,500 troops that started the attack were gone. They were dead, wounded, or missing. Pickett’s division only had 800 men left out of 5,000.

Gettysburg Day Three - Union and Confederate Dead

Gettysburg Union and Confederate dead

Lee took full blame for this failure and greeted the troops as they returned back to the Confederate lines. He tried to encourage them to pick up rifles and prepare for a Federal counterattack, which he believed, would be forthcoming.

Pickett’s Charge failed for several reasons

  • The preceding artillery bombardment did not inflict many casualties on Union troops and it also did not destroy the Union artillery. This failure led to the Union artillery wrecking havoc on the advancing Confederates.
  • The Confederates did not have enough men for the attack, as General Longstreet warned.
  • The Union army was in a very strong defensive position, and was able to easily send reinforcements to the area.


The next day July 4th the two armies glared at each other across the open field. Lee still thinking General Meade would attack prepared a defensive line and hoped for an attack to come so he could do to the Union what the Union did to his men.

Meade however had other ideas and decided that his troops had done more than enough at Gettysburg and did not launch an attack. With that the battle of Gettysburg ended. Four months after the battle Abraham Lincoln gave one of his most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address.

On the night of July 4th General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia left the Gettysburg battlefield forever. Against President Lincoln’s wishes General Meade did not attack the defeated Confederates and finish the job at Gettysburg.

He essentially let the Confederates retreat, which ultimately led to his replacement as commander of the Army of the Potomac. The Union suffered 23,000 casualties and the Confederates suffered 28,000 casualties.

Battle of Gettysburg2020-07-20T23:48:47-04:00

Civil War Battles

How Many Civil War Battles Were There?

The simple answer is, there were a lot of them. I estimate there were at least 9,620 battles during the Civil War. That’s not an exact number and the vast majority of these battles were skirmishes between small groups.

These were not all Gettysburg size encounters. When the Civil War began in 1861 at Fort Sumter the fighting was continuous the entire time up until the end of the war in 1865.

civil war battles

Almost every single day during the Civil War there was a battle or small skirmish somewhere in the country. The Civil War was the most violent time in American history which led to the deaths of 750,000 Americans.

No other war the United States has fought has seen as many casualties as the American Civil War. The only other war that comes close was World War Two where roughly 420,000 Americans were killed.

Civil War Battles Map

If you want to get a better idea of the sheer scale of the fighting that took place during the Civil War a great resource is the National Geographic: Battles of the Civil War Wall Map

This map shows the battles fought during the war with outstanding detail and quality. It’s good for seeing the overall picture of all of the fighting that occurred during the war.

Below are detailed descriptions of the most well-known Civil War battles during the war. These are the battles you often hear and read about. The results of these battles determined which side was going to win and which side was going to lose the war.

Also listed are the Civil War battles fought in each individual state.

To learn more about these famous battlefields take a look at The Civil War Battlefield Guide

Below is a list of the more famous battles. Also a Civil War timeline with every state in which there was a battle in the order in which they occurred, from Alabama to West Virginia.

Pick a state and see information about the battles that took place there.

Civil War Battles Timeline by State

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Civil War Battle Summaries


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Civil War Battles2019-11-30T16:59:24-05:00


May 25th – July 4th 1863

The battles of the Vicksburg campaign were some of the fiercest and long lasting of the war. This was to be the last of the western fortresses on the Mississippi to be taken at all cost by the Union and General Grant.

The Union had taken almost every available route of escape away from the Confederate army and was poised to strike a crippling blow to the war effort of the Rebels.

The Union Army of Tennessee, under the capable command and brilliant leadership of General Grant.

He gained total control of the Mississippi River by defeating the Rebel forces at Vicksburg. The campaign had many important naval battles in it as well as dynamically choreographed military missions meant to deal the South a knockout punch. Like a stumbling prizefighter, the Confederates were unstable and the North was on a roll.

The battles fought during the campaign numbered 11 and each one was an important stepping- stone to the next. General Grant expertly lead his army into each battle and won the majority of them.

The Union army was strong in every position and the South had no answer for the Union naval operations as they controlled much of all the water outlets in the area. Grant even went so far as to capture another fully intact Confederate army of the campaign.

Shirley's White House at Vicksburg, 1863

Shirley’s White House at Vicksburg, 1863

The summer of 1863 could be defined in one phrase, the summer of the Rebel discontent. Nothing was going right for the Rebels as they were previously still reeling from the devastatingly tragic loss at Gettysburg just months earlier. That epic battle and stuff of legends showcased the best that the Confederates could throw at the Union, Lee, and still they lost. The war was closing in on the South but still a feint sliver of hope prevailed in the city of Richmond.

The most important aspect that came out of campaign for the Union army was that they now controlled all of the Mississippi River. The side that controlled that waterway controlled a direct route through the Confederacy and would eventually dominate the war. The South did not surrender the fight yet, but they were close to being surrounded.

A sign of things to come was the boat trip President Lincoln embarked and completed after the fall of the city. Lincoln would later say of the trip. “The Father of Waters again goes un-vexed to the sea.” what the eloquent Lincoln was alluding to was that the South could not win the war anymore if it could allow the leader of the Union, a leisurely boat trip down the Mississippi River.

General Grant was the undisputed winner of the campaign and all the credit was well deserved.

In as much as it is true that the North, by this juncture of the war, had superior numbers in every category that measured winning a war. The South was done; it just could not admit that one glaringly obvious fact. Pride ran deep in the hearts of even beaten men.


Fort Pickens

Fort Pickens protects Pensacola Bay and the navy yard in the state of Florida. Fort Barrancas, the Barrancas barracks and Fort McRee also protect Pensacola Bay however Fort Pickens is the biggest and strongest fort in the area.

On January 10th 1861 Florida seceded from the United States. All of the forts commanded by the United States in Florida now became the target of Florida state troops. Florida also had one arsenal called Apalachicola near the town of Chattahoochee. The arsenal was seized by Florida state troops on January 6th 1861.

On January 10th the commanding officer in charge of the Pensacola Bay fortifications First Lieutenant, First Artillery Adam Slemmer transferred his command from Fort Barrancas and the Barrancas Barracks to Fort Pickens. He made the decision to transfer his forces after hearing rumors that the people of Florida were going to seize all of the forts around Pensacola harbor and also that all of the forts in Mobile Bay Alabama had already been taken.

Lt. Adam Slemmer

Lt. Adam Slemmer

Fort Pickens was a much stronger fort that commands Pensacola harbor, the other forts, and the navy yard. It was also much easier to send reinforcements to Fort Pickens than to any other fort in the area. The commander of the nearby navy yard Commodore Armstrong sent Lt. Slemmer a supply ship and the steamer Wyandotte

The navy yard just to the north of Fort Pickens was besieged and taken by Florida state troops on January 12th.

Also on January 12th Fort Barrancas and the Barrancas Barracks were taken as well.

Confederate camp at Warrington Navy Yard, Pensacola, FL

Confederate camp at Warrington Navy Yard, Pensacola, FL

After occupying Fort Pickens Lt. Slemmer immediately began improving the defenses of the fort.

Lt. Slemmer had 46 men from Company G. First Artillery and an additional 31 men from the navy. In total Lt. Slemmer had only 82 men including officers to defend Fort Pickens. They had five months worth of provisions.

The armament of Fort Pickens that was mounted and serviceable totaled 54 artillery pieces

  • Fourteen 32-pounders
  • Seven 12-pounders
  • One 8 inch sea coast howitzer
  • One 10-inch Columbiad
  • Six field pieces
  • Twenty-five 24-pounder howitzers

Florida Demands Fort Pickens Surrender

On January 12th Fort Pickens was approached by four men Mr. Abert who was the engineer of the navy yard, Captain Randolph, Major Marks, and Lieutenant Rutledge. They said they were citizens of Florida and Alabama and demanded entrance to the fort. When this was refused they then demanded a surrender of the fort on behalf of the governors of Florida and Alabama. Lt. Slemmer refused saying he was there under orders from the United States government and he did not recognize any right of any governor to demand the fort be surrendered. After this refusal the four men immediately left.

Shot Fired at Fort Pickens

On the rainy and dark night of January 13th ten men were seen outside of the fort. They were apparently scouting the area to find out more information about the fort and it’s defenses. A shot was fired by the group of men, a return shot was fired from a sergeant in the fort. The men outside the fort quickly withdrew. This event is perhaps the first exchange of fire that took place between the United States government and rebel forces, three months prior to the official start of the Civil War.

Second Demand for Fort Pickens to Surrender

On January 15th the commander of all state troops in the state of Florida Colonel William Chase requested a meeting with Lt. Slemmer. On behalf of the governor of Florida he demanded that Fort Pickens surrender. In response to this demand Lt. Slemmer asked Colonel Chase how many men he had? Colonel Chase replied he had between eight and nine hundred troops.

Lt. Slemmer asked Colonel Chase to give him some time to think it over. He did this to buy time to rest his men who were exhausted from constantly standing being on alert in case of attack. The following day January 16th Lt. Slemmer gave Colonel Chase his response. He refused to surrender the fort. He said he would only surrender if he and his men were overcome with overwhelming odds.

Third Demand for Fort Pickens to Surrender

On January 18th Colonel Chase again demanded the surrender of Fort Pickens. Lt. Slemmer again, refused. Stating that he had no reason to change his answer of January 16th.

Reinforcements Are Sent to Fort Pickens

On January 24th Captain Israel Vogdes of Company A First Artillery regiment set sail aboard the sloop of war Brooklyn with his company, supplies and ammunition from Fort Monroe, Virginia. He was ordered to go to Fort Pickens to reinforce the garrison there. Captain Vogdes arrived in Pensacola on February 6th after a brief stop at Fort Taylor in the Florida Keys to drop off some artillery and other supplies. He assumed command of Fort Pickens however he was not permitted to land his troops and reinforce the fort.

When he arrived at Fort Pickens he received a message from the United States Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and the Secretary of the Navy ordering him not to reinforce Fort Pickens. He was instead to only deliver the supplies but to keep his men on board the sloop Brooklyn anchored near the fort. He was only to reinforce the fort if it came under attack, or if it was in danger of being attacked.

Fort Pickens with Confederate controlled Navy Yard in the distance, 1861

Fort Pickens with Confederate controlled Navy Yard in the distance, 1861

A truce had been reached between the Florida government and the United States government. The Florida government agreed not to attack Fort Pickens if it was not reinforced, the United States government agreed not to reinforce the fort. Attempting to reinforce the fort would provoke the Florida troops to immediately attack the fort. At this stage neither side wanted to provoke each other, and they were both trying to avoid any event that may lead to hostilities breaking out.

On March 12th Captain Vogdes received orders to land his troops and reinforce Fort Pickens. However a dispute had arisen between Captin Vogdes and Lt. Slemmer about who was in command of Fort Pickens. Lt. Slemmer claimed that the dispatch ordering Captain Vogdes not to reinforce the fort superseded Captain Vogdes original orders to reinforce the fort and assume command. Captain Vogdes after receiving new orders to reinforce the fort on March 12th protested that he could not send his troops from the steamer Brooklyn into the fort since Lt. Slemmer was disputing Captain Vogdes right to command. Captain Vogdes decided to remain with his men on the Brooklyn.

Second Reinforcement of Fort Pickens

On April 1st General Winfield Scott ordered Colonel Harvey Brown to travel to New York and take command of four companies of troops for an expedition to reinforce and hold Fort Pickens.

He was appointed as the commander of the Department of Florida, which put him in charge off all military forces in Florida and the islands in the Gulf of Mexico, which included Fort Taylor and Fort Jefferson in the Florida Keys.

Colonel Brown set sail from New York on April 7th and arrived first in Key West on April 13th to inspect Fort Taylor and Fort Jefferson and issue orders for their defense.

On April 12th (the same day the bombardment at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor began) Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles ordered Fort Pickens reinforced by the troops of Captain Vogdes still aboard the steamer Brooklyn. However the commander of the naval squadron outside of Fort Pickens Captain Adams still had orders from the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of War not to land any troops unless the fort was under attack or in danger of being attacked.

The Brooklyn chasing Confederate steamer Sumter June 30th 1861

The Brooklyn chasing Confederate steamer Sumter June 30th 1861

These orders were never revoked, and the new orders contradicted them, therefore Captain Adams refused to land Captain Vogdes and his men at the fort. It was only after Lt. Slemmer requested that Captain Adams allow the troops to be landed because he feared an imminent attack by the Confederates that Captain Adams disembarked the reinforcements which were sent to the fort without incident that night.

Lt. Slemmer was wrong about the impending attack. The Confederates had no plans to attack Fort Pickens that night. They were surprised to find out that reinforcements had been landed, which violated the agreement that none would be landed.

Meanwhile Colonel Brown was proceeding to Fort Pickens as well. He arrived at the fort on April 17th. He was very unimpressed with the defenses of the fort. He immediately put his men to work strengthening it’s defenses. The Confederates surrounding the fort numbered around 7,000. Colonel Brown immediately sent a message to Brigadier General Braxton Bragg who had assumed command of all Confederate troops near Pensacola Florida on March 7th.

Alabama troops in Confederate camp Pensacola, FL

Alabama troops in Confederate camp Pensacola, FL

Colonel Brown stated that his arrival at the fort and it’s preparations were purely defensive in nature and he would not do anything to provoke any hostile action against the Confederates.

On April 18th Colonel Brown made Fort Pickens the headquarters for the Department of Florida.

As of April 25th Colonel Brown had 992 men to garrison Fort Pickens and the island of Santa Rosa. On the Union ships anchored near Pensacola Bay there was an additional 1,625 navy crewmen that could be called upon in case there was an attack on the fort. In total Colonel Brown had 2,617 men at his disposal. He was still heavily outnumbered by Confederate forces, which numbered between 5,000 and 7,000 men.

As of May 25th the Confederates had around 8,000 to 10,000 men.

Colonel Brown ordered the construction of several batteries outside of the fort and placed two companies of troops in camps three quarters of a mile from the fort to further protect against a Confederate landing on the beaches.

Third Reinforcement of Fort Pickens

On May 29th Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered that one regiment of New York volunteer troops, many artillery pieces with as much ammunition as possible and provisions be sent to Fort Pickens. The island of Santa Rosa was to be reinforced and batteries built to defend the island from attack.

By July 11th fifteen of Colonel Brown’s officers and his staff who were stationed at Fort Pickens were transferred to other locations and left the fort. He also lost two of his best companies of soldiers when they were also transferred away from Fort Pickens. This left Colonel Brown with an inadequate force to defend the fort. He had at this time only eight officers under his command at Fort Pickens and the batteries on Santa Rosa island. He should have had 28 officers. He also only had half the enlisted men he needed to be able to defend the fort if it were attacked. The volunteer reinforcements he was sent were not sufficient.

Colonel Brown objected strongly to these reinforcements coming to Fort Pickens. Volunteer troops were not trained to handle cannons and could not be taught how to do it properly in a short amount of time. He regarded the volunteers as useless when it came to defending the fort. He instead requested more officers be sent and that four companies of regular troops be sent as reinforcements instead of the volunteers.

Confederate Forces Attack Fort Pickens

At two o’clock in the morning of October 9th 1861 a force of 1,000 Confederate troops led by Brigadier General Richard Anderson landed on Santa Rosa island about four miles from Fort Pickens. This attack was a raid in order to cause as much destruction as they could against any building, batteries, or camps they found. It was not a full scale invasion to take the island. The landing went completely unnoticed by the Union troops on the island.

The Confederates divided their troops into three columns. One column under Colonel Chalmers marched along the north beach of the island, Colonel Anderson with his column marched down the south beach of the island and the third column under Colonel Jackson followed a few hundred yards behind Colonel Chalmers column to eventually head toward the middle of the island.

The columns marched for three to four miles in silence, their goal was to set up their lines between Fort Pickens and the encampment of the Sixth New York Volunteer Zouave regiment.

Union Zouave Soldier

Union Zouave Soldier

The surprise attack was ruined when a Union sentry spotted one of the columns and fired at them. The sentry was killed when the Confederates returned fire. The Union was now aware of the attack. The Confederates began advancing as rapidly as they could. The column under Colonel Jackson raced to the Sixth NY volunteers camp, discovering the camp nearly empty as the troops had fled before them. Colonel Jackson’s men quickly began burning the tents, store houses, and sheds of the camp. The other two columns soon joined them in destroying the camp.

The Confederates were then prepared to proceed against the artillery batteries on the island in order to destroy them as well. It was decided however with dawn fast approaching to leave the island. The Confederates began marching back to their landing areas, however half way back to the boats they were intercepted by two columns of Union troops who had gotten behind them

The Confederates were immediately attacked by two companies of regular soldiers from the fort led by Major Vogdes (promoted from Captain and second in command of Fort Pickens).

Major Vogdes leading the attack in the dark found himself and his men intermingled in a large body of Confederate troops. He was immediately recognized and taken prisoner. His subordinate Captain Hildt took command and was able to separate his men from the Confederates, and opened fire on the rebels. The commander of Fort Pickens Colonel Brown ordered Major Arnold (third in command of Fort Pickens) to take two companies and attack the Confederates to support Major Vogdes men.

The Confederates continued to fall back to their boats eventually reaching them. As the Confederates began embarking on their boats the Union troops poured a heavy fire into the masses of Confederates as they tried to leave the island. The Union troops kept firing until the boats were out of range.

Union Casualties were as follows:

  • 14 killed
  • 29 wounded
  • 24 captured including Major Vogdes

Confederate Casulties:

  • 18 killed
  • 39 wounded
  • 30 captured

Fort Pickens Bombards the Confederates

On November 22nd 1861 Colonel Brown ordered the guns of Fort Pickens to open fire against the Navy Yard and the rebel batteries. The Confederates returned fire, however they were only able to knock out one of Fort Pickens guns. Fort Pickens on the other hand knocked out several of the rebel guns and set fire to the Navy Yard and the town of Warrington causing slight damage.

The bombardment lasted for two days. Colonel Brown wanted to bombard the Confederates in retaliation for their attack on October 9th.

Another bombardment took place on January 1st 1862 when a Confederate steam ship attempted to dock at the Navy Yard. Fort Pickens opened fire on this ship, in return the rebel batteries returned fire. The firing lasted until 2 am on January 2nd. The Navy Yard took some damage but overall damage to both sides was minimal.

Fort Pickens was never taken by the Confederates and remained under Union control for the entire American Civil War.

Fort Pickens2019-06-26T00:29:22-04:00


September 17, 1862

The battle of Antietam took place on September 17, 1862. This was Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the north. Following his recent victories over the Union during the Seven Days battles and Second Manassas, Lee wanted to continue his good fortunes with an attack into Maryland.

The bloodiest day in the Civil War was the Battle of Antietam.

The bloodiest battle of the Civil War was the Battle of Gettysburg.

On September 3, 1862 Robert E. Lee crossed the Potomac with 40,000 troops. Lee had several reasons for taking the war north. First he wanted to liberate Maryland, which was a slave holding border state with many southern sympathizers. If he could win a great victory here he could add another state to the Confederate cause. He also wanted to prove to the great European powers that the Confederacy was a legitimate country.

A detailed look at the battle of Antietam is To Antietam Creek: The Maryland Campaign of September 1862

A big victory on Union soil would surely do just that. If Europe recognized the south as an independent country they would begin to send supplies and weapons, which the Confederacy desperately needed.

Antietam Battlefield

Antietam Battlefield

There would also be a chance that a European power could enter the war on the side of the south thus ensuring their victory and independence. It was of vital importance that the south gain a great victory in Maryland. On the other hand it was just as vital for the north to stop the south from achieving anything other than a defeat in their territory.

Robert E. Lee Divides His Army before Arriving at Antietam

Arriving in Frederick Maryland Lee decided to split his army in half. He sent General Stonewall Jackson south to capture Harpers Ferry. Taking Harpers Ferry would allow supplies to freely flow from the Shenandoah Valley to Lee’s army. After Jackson defeated the 12,000-man garrison at Harpers Ferry he was to join back up with Lee and the rest of the army.

Sending Jackson south Lee continued with the other half of his army north toward Hagerstown Maryland. On September 13th a Union soldier stumbled upon three cigars wrapped around a piece of paper. This was lucky for the soldier because now he had three cigars to enjoy. It was the paper the cigars were wrapped around that was much more interesting.

This lucky soldier had found Lee’s Special Order number 191. This order detailed the plan of dividing the Army of Northern Virginia to attack Harpers Ferry. This piece of paper made it’s way up the ranks and eventually landed in the lap of the commander of the Army of the Potomac General George McClellan

George McClellan and his Staff

George McClellan and his Staff

McClellan exclaimed after seeing it that “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” For all of his confidence and boastfulness McClellan did…nothing. He did not attack he simply did nothing.

It wasn’t long before Lee had found out that his orders were intercepted from a southern sympathizer. He quickly acted and moved his troops into a defensive position near Sharpsburg Maryland with his back against the Potomac River.

George McClellan was on the way to engage Lee. Slowly but surely he was coming with his 80,000 strong army. On September 16th General Thomas Stonewall Jackson had rejoined Lee’s army after defeating the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry. Robert E. Lee now had a force that numbered 40,000.

If you like battlefield maps check out The Maps of Antietam: An Atlas of the Antietam (Sharpsburg) Campaign, including the Battle of South Mountain, September 2 – 20, 1862 (Savas Beatie Military Atlas Series)

Battle of Antietam Begins

At dawn on September 17th George McClellan finally attacked Lee starting the battle of Antietam. He ordered General Joseph Hooker to attack the Confederate left with three divisions of I Corps. Each division had a target, the Dunker Church.

One division attacked the West Woods initially driving the rebels out of the woods and rushing to take Dunker Church. Confederate General John Bell Hood and his Texas veterans quickly counterattacked stopping the advancing Union troops. The fighting in the woods teetered back and forth.

Meanwhile another Union division under General Mansfield attacked through Miller’s Cornfield. This cornfield saw the most bloody and brutal fighting of the entire war. The corn was head high and very thick.

Troops on both sides blindly fought each other in hand-to-hand combat, shot and shell ripped through the corn hitting soldiers from all sides. Confederate General Mansfield was killed in the cornfield and General Hooker was hit.

Despite the brutal fighting Union troops scrambled out of the cornfield and successfully captured Dunker Church. Despite this success the three divisions of I Corps practically ceased to exist after Antietam.

At around mid-morning the 2nd Corps under General Sumner started an attack on Lee’s center. The attack started at Dunker Church attacking D.H. Hill’s division who had taken up defensive positions in a sunken road near the church.

The Bloody Lane at Antietam

The rebels in the sunken road at Antietam were in a very good position to fire on the advancing Federals. The Confederates repulsed attack after attack by the Union troops inflicting extremely heavy casualties.

Union troops eventually were able to get around the road and found a spot where they could fire straight down the lane into the rebels. This created chaos in the sunken road and it quickly filled with rebel dead.

This stretch of road was forever to be remembered as Bloody Lane. At this point the entire confederate line was faltering and ready to collapse under the sheer weight of the Union attack.

If McClellan had sent reinforcements to the center and continued the attack he would have easily defeated Lee in a great victory. He chose however, not to send reinforcements saying that it was not “prudent.”

Burnside Bridge at Antietam

Meanwhile on the Confederate right Union General Ambrose Burnside ordered his men across a bridge over Antietam Creek. Burnside ordered his 12,500 men across the bridge.

The bridge was being defended by two Georgia regiments under the command of General Robert Toombs which numbered around 400 men. The Georgians had taken up defensive positions in a stone quarry overlooking the bridge.

For three hours the Confederates repulsed the Union attempts at crossing the bridge inflicting heavy casualties on the Federals. The Confederates killed or wounded hundreds of men as they tried to run across the bridge. It was only after they began to run out of ammunition that the rebel troops on the hill had to withdraw. Burnside’s men were able to cross the bridge at that point.

Antietam Creek is very shallow and soldiers could have easily walked through it to the other side at many locations. Burnside however wanted to use that bridge. This might be one of the reasons historians consider Burnside one of the worst military leaders of all time.

The bridge has been known as Burnside Bridge ever since.

Confederate Reinforcements arrive at Antietam

At this point victory was in sight for the Union as they smashed into the Confederate right. It was also at this point that the final Confederate division returning from the capture of Harpers Ferry arrived on the scene.

Confederate General A.P. Hill and his three thousand men immediately attacked the flank of the Union troops blunting their advance. Burnside begged McClellan for reinforcements but was refused.

This final clash was the end of the battle of Antietam. In the end the south had lost 2,700 dead 9,024 wounded and 2000 missing. The north had 2,108 dead 9,549 wounded and 753 missing.

This all occurred in a span of 12 hours. There has never been a bloodier day in American history.


Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor South Carolina is where the American Civil War started. Three main forts controlled access to the harbor and the city of Charleston. The forts were commanded by Colonel John Gardner.

On November 15th 1860 Colonel Gardner was relieved of command and sent to a post in Texas. Major Robert Anderson became the commanding officer of the forts.

Charleston Harbor Defenses

Charleston Harbor Defenses

The Union military occupied three forts in Charleston Harbor. The three forts were Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter, and Castle Pinckney.

Fort Moultrie was the principal fort in the area, and the headquarters of Major Anderson and most of his garrison.

Major Anderson had only a very small garrison that was required to occupy all three forts.

On December 20th 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union becoming the first state to do so. The Union military occupied the forts around Charleston Harbor. With the secession of South Carolina they demanded that these forts be evacuated and turned over to state troops.

The United States military would not leave however they only had a very small garrison to occupy the three main forts.

Major Anderson was assigned to Fort Moultrie, he was not impressed with this particular fort. The defenses were weak and he had a very small garrison with which to defend it. It was also understood that the South Carolinians wanted to take over this fort. To them it was a matter of pride that they control Fort Moultrie.

Fort Moultrie

Fort Moultrie

Major Anderson also knew that the citizens of South Carolina were aware of the layout and the weaknesses of this fort, and he knew that with such a small garrison and the weak defenses of the fort that any attempt to attack the fort would be successful.

Garrison to Defend the Forts of Charleston Harbor

In total Major Anderson’s garrison to defend all of the harbor forts as of November 28th 1860 consisted of 7 officers and 75 men, along with 205 workmen assigned to improve the defenses of the forts. The garrison consisted of

  • 7 Commissioned Officers
  • 8 Members of the band
  • 2 Non-Commissioned staff
  • 17 Non-Commissioned Officers
  • 39 Privates
  • 2 Sick Privates
  • 7 Privates who were being confined

Major Anderson urgently requested reinforcements so that he could strongly occupy all three forts. If these reinforcements could not be provided he wanted to move the bulk of his garrison to Fort Sumter which was a much stronger fort, sitting on it’s own island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

The United States government was extremely hesitant about sending more troops to reinforce Major Anderson. The people of South Carolina were on the verge of rebellion and any action on the part of the federal government that the South Carolinians deemed as a hostile act against their territory could immediately lead to an attack against the federal troops presently stationed at these forts.

Even the transfer of muskets from the Charleston arsenal to the forts could not be done for fear of causing an uprising.

On December 26th 1860 Major Anderson ordered that Fort Moultrie be abandoned, it’s guns spiked, flagstaff cut down, and gun carriages burned. He then transferred his command to Fort Sumter.

This move was seen as an act of war by the leaders of South Carolina. They did not see this as a simple transfer of forces from one fort to another, but of a commander who had deliberately abandoned his position in the face of a superior enemy in order to withdraw to a stronger position to be safe from that enemy.

The next day December 27th South Carolinian forces took control of two of the forts in Charleston Harbor, Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie.

The South Carolina Palmetto flag was then hoisted above the city of Charleston, changed to the Confederate flag on March 6th 1861.

Construction work immediately started on all of the forts that were now in Confederate hands. They reinforced the forts, constructed bomb proof shelters to protect their cannons against any fire from Fort Sumter, and moved in many Confederate troops to man the forts.

Work continued daily from January until April 1861 when they were finally ready to attack. The men in Fort Sumter were now completely surrounded and alone.

The people of South Carolina had one more fort to capture. Fort Sumter would not go so peacefully.

Charleston Harbor2019-06-26T00:59:07-04:00

Fort Sumter

The American Civil War officially started with the battle of Fort Sumter in South Carolina on April 12th 1861.

Fort Sumter Facts

  • Location: Charleston County
  • Campaign: Operations in Charleston Harbor (April 1861)
  • Date(s): April 12-14, 1861
  • Principal Commanders: Maj. Robert Anderson [US]; Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard [CS]
  • Forces Engaged: Regiments: 580 total (US 80; CS est. 500)
  • Estimated Casualties: None
  • Result(s): Confederate Victory
Fort Sumter April 13th 1861

Fort Sumter April 13th 1861

The garrison of Fort Sumter was originally stationed in nearby Fort Moultrie under the command of Union Major Robert Anderson.

Fort Moultrie, was a poor fort for defense, and he predicted that his men would only be able to resist a Confederate attack for no more than a couple of days.

Fort Sumter was one of several forts that guarded Charleston Harbor South Carolina.

The other forts were Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Johnson. The strongest of these forts was by far Fort Sumter which was located on an island at the entrance to the harbor.

Meanwhile in the state of Florida a very similar situation was developing in Pensacola Harbor at Fort Pickens.

The two almost identical events had opposite results. South Carolina seceded from the United States on December 20th 1860. This made South Carolina the first state to secede from the Union.

Major Anderson therefore decided to move his garrison from Fort Moultrie over to Fort Sumter on December 26th 1860. He made this move without orders. He deemed the transfer necessary since Fort Sumter was a much stronger fort that could withstand a siege by Confederate troops.

The garrison of Fort Sumter was very small. As of March 24th 1861 it consisted of only 10 officers, 75 enlisted men and 55 laborers who were used to construct and improve the defenses of the fort.

Originally there were 205 laborers, however 150 of them were discharged on December 28th 1860.

Confederate South Carolina troops immediately seized Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney on December 27th after the Union troops had abandoned them.

The Charleston Arsenal was also taken by state troops on December 30th

Union Officers at Fort Sumter

Union Officers at Fort Sumter. In front row: Capt. A. Doubleday, Major R. Anderson, Asst. Secry. S. W. Crawford, Capt. J. S. Foster. From left in back row: Capt. T. Seymour, Lt. G. W. Snyder, Lt. J. C. Davis, Lt. R. K. Meade, Capt. T. Talbot.

Fort Johnson was taken by the rebels on January 2nd 1861. The Union garrison did not resist the Confederate seizure of these forts or the arsenal.

After Major Anderson transferred his men to Fort Sumter they quickly went to work improving it’s defenses.

In December 1860 the garrison at Fort Sumter only had four months supply of provisions.

They would need to be resupplied if they were going to hold out for any length of time in the event of an attack by Confederate forces.

Resupply of Fort Sumter

On December 31st 1860 General Winfield Scott issued an order to Colonel Dimick the commanding officer of Fort Monroe in New York to prepare the sloop of war Brooklyn.

He was ordered to put on board two hundred men with three months worth of supplies. They were to sail to South Carolina and reenforce Fort Sumter as soon as possible.

In order to keep this mission a secret it was decided to use a private passenger ship instead of the Brooklyn or any Union navy ship. The ship to be used was called the Star of the West.

It’s owner agreed to charter his ship to the US government for $1,250 per day. This ship routinely went to New Orleans on it’s regular route so it would not arouse suspicion when it sailed south.

The Star of the West

The Star of the West

On January 5th 1861 First Lieutenant Charles Woods left Governor’s Island New York on the steamer Star of the West with 200 men and supplies for Fort Sumter. Three days later at midnight on January 8th they arrived off of Charleston Harbor.

In the darkness they proceeded to head in the direction of Fort Sumter. Near daybreak they were only three quarters of a mile away from the fort.

As they approached Lt. Woods noticed a red Palmetto flag flying near the areas the Confederate troops were known to be occupying. The steamer immediately came under attack by batteries stationed on the north end of Morris Island.

Confederates Firing on The Star of the West

Confederates Firing on The Star of the West

They could see the American flag flying above Fort Sumter, however they were under a constant attack from the Confederate artillery. Fortunately all of the shells missed the Star of the West except for one shot that ricocheted into the ship but causing no damage.

Under this heavy bombardment by rebel forces Lt. Woods decided he could not safely reach Fort Sumter. He ordered the ship to turn around and leave Charleston Harbor.

The rebel battery continued to fire on the ship until they were out of the harbor. The Star of the West failing to resupply the fort, set sail back to New York arriving there on January 12th.

A Second Attempt to Resupply the Fort

A second expedition was sent to resupply the fort. Leaving New York on April 10th and arriving on April 12th this force was led by Captain Fox on the steamer The Baltic.

The force was originally suppose to consist of the steam tugs Uncle Ben, The Yankee, and the Freeborn, which were to meet up at Charleston Harbor with the steamer Harriet Lane, Pawnee, Powhatan and the Pocahontas.

The Uncle Ben, The Yankee, the Freeborn, Powhatan, and the Pocahontas never arrived at Charleston Harbor. This meant that only the Baltic, the Harriet Lane and the Powhatan were available for the resupply effort for Fort Sumter. The weather was bad with gale force winds and rain. Captain Fox on the Baltic decided to attempt to reach the fort despite the bad weather.

On approaching the fort the Baltic struck and became stuck on Rattlesnake Shoal, however they were quickly able to free the ship. The Baltic withdrew without reaching the fort.

Captain Fox made another relief attempt on the night of April 13th. It failed to reach the fort. The high seas and terrible weather coupled with the failure of the other ships to arrive doomed the expedition from the beginning.

Confederates Offer Terms of Surrender

At 3:45 pm on April 11th the commander of the Confederate forces in Charleston, South Carolina General P.G.T. Beauregard sent an envoy consisting of Colonel Chesnut, Colonel Chisolm and Captain Lee with a letter asking Major Anderson to evacuate the fort.

Major Anderson refused this demand stating that his obligations to his honor and his government prevented him from evacuating the fort.

At 4:40 pm as the envoy left the fort, Major Anderson said “Gentlemen, if you do not batter the fort to pieces about us, we shall be starved out in a few days”.

General Beauregard intrigued by this remark sent another envoy to the fort at 12:45 am on April 12th asking for clarification of the comment made by Major Anderson and again asking him to evacuate the fort and wanting to know when would be a good time for the evacuation?

General Beauregard also assured Major Anderson that the Confederates would not open fire on the fort unless they were fired upon first.

At 3:15 am Major Anderson gave his reply. He agreed to evacuate the fort, and that he would leave by noon on April 15th if transportation could be provided.

However he would stay and fight if he received further instructions from the US government, was resupplied, or if he thought that the Confederates were taking any hostile action against his fort or his government.

These terms did not satisfy the Confederates since Major Anderson was so willing to break the agreement if anything were to change. Therefore the envoy informed Major Anderson that the fort would be fired upon within the hour. They left Fort Sumter at 3:30 am.

The Civil War Begins with the Confederate Attack on Fort Sumter

At 4:30 am a signal shell was fired from the mortar battery on James island. Captain George S. James the commander at Fort Johnson was given the honor of firing the first shot starting the battle of Fort Sumter.

Fort Johnson Guns with Fort Sumter in the Distance

Fort Johnson Guns with Fort Sumter in the Distance

At about 4:45 am the other batteries surrounding Fort Sumter began to open fire as well. In total thirty guns and seventeen mortars fired from all of the batteries surrounding the fort from the north, northeast, southeast, and southwest.

This began the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

At 7:00 am Fort Sumter began to return fire. The first shot being fired under the charge of Captain Abner Doubleday who was second in command of the garrison under Major Anderson.

The soldiers in the fort were put on three shifts of two hours each firing the guns. Even the workmen who’s only job was to build up the defenses of the fort volunteered to act as cannoneers and also help carry ammunition to the guns.

The fort had a total of 78 guns, however there were only 700 rounds of ammunition for all of the guns. Only the guns on the casement tier of the fort were used, and of these only six were used due to the shortage of ammunition.

These guns were a smaller caliber and couldn’t hit many of the targets they were shooting at. They were able to fire on Fort Moultrie inflicting minor damage.

Fort Sumter Interior Damage, 1861

Fort Sumter Interior Damage, 1861

For Sumter received heavy damage from the shelling. This damage was primarily cause by seventeen mortars the Confederates were using. These mortars could shoot vertically over the walls and into the fort.

These mortars hit the fort with great accuracy. It was for this reason that Major Anderson decided not to use the guns on the top tier of the fort, and only use the casement tier guns.

If he put his men on the top tier of the fort the mortar fire they would be exposed to would have caused high casualties among the soldiers.

The brickwork of the fort was only minimally damaged however the interior suffered severe damage.

The Confederates were firing hotshot, which is a cannon ball that is heated to a high temperature with the intention of causing fires when it strikes something.

Fires burned most of the interior which included the barracks, quarters, gun carriages, and stairs.

Negotiations Take Place at Fort Sumter

On the second day of the battle of Fort Sumter April 13th at 12:30pm the flag flying over Fort Sumter had been knocked down by the bombardment. Seeing no flag flying over the fort General Beauregard sent Colonel Chisolm to the Confederate commander on Morris island General James Simons.

Beauregard ordered Simons to offer assistance in extinguishing the fires in Fort Sumter. Colonel Chisolm and Colonel Wigfall volunteered to go to Fort Sumter and offer assistance.

As Colonel Chisolm was preparing his small boat to go to the fort, Colonel Wigfall hoped in a different boat and proceeded to the fort. In the meantime the United States flag was re-raised over the fort. Colonel’s Chisolm and Wigfall were both ordered to return, Wigfall not hearing the order continued to Fort Sumter.

He was carrying a white flag to ascertain whether Major Anderson needed assistance. With fires raging, and the men under great stress, the Confederates wanted to give the garrison an opportunity to surrender the fort.

Fort Sumter April 1861

Fort Sumter April 1861

The now unauthorized offer from Colonel Wigfall even let Major Anderson decide the terms of the evacuation.

Major Anderson agreed only if General Beauregard’s original terms of April 11th would be met.

These terms of evacuation were “to evacuate the fort with his command, taking all arms and all private and company property, saluting the United States flag as it was lowered, and being conveyed, if he desired it, to any northern port”.

Colonel Wigfall agreed to the terms and Major Anderson hoisted a white flag above the fort. Shortly after Colonel Wigfall left the fort three more of General Beauregard’s aides Captain Stephen D. Lee, William Porcher Miles, and Roger A. Pryor arrived at the fort to offer any assistance and aid that they could to Major Anderson. Major Anderson explained that he had just made a deal with Colonel Wigfall.

They were unaware of Colonel Wigfall’s offer of peace with Major Anderson. They told Major Anderson they were not authorized to offer terms of surrender, they were only there to help put out the fort’s fires.

Major Anderson realizing there was a serious miscommunication happening threatened to raise the United States flag once again and resume firing his guns.

General Beauregard also unaware that this negotiation with Colonel Wigfall had just taken place was informed that a white flag had been hoisted above the fort.

He quickly dispatched his chief of staff Major David R. Jones with some other aides to the fort to offer virtually the same terms of surrender Colonel Wigfall had offered. Despite the miscommunication Major Jones’s offer of surrender was accepted by Major Anderson.

On April 13th 1861 Fort Sumter fell to the Confederacy. The bombardment lasted for thirty-three hours. While the fort was damaged none of the soldiers in the fort were killed however some were wounded.

It was only after the battle that upon lowering and saluting the United States flag, (which involves firing cannons) a soldier was killed another was mortally wounded and four were severely wounded when a cannon prematurely fired causing an explosion of a nearby pile of cartridges.

Fort Sumter Occupied by the Confederacy

Fort Sumter Occupied by the Confederacy

On April 14th the Confederates put the garrison on the steamer Isabel which transferred them to the Union ship the Baltic, which was still waiting outside of Charleston Harbor after it’s failed resupply mission.

The garrison sailed for New York on April 15th.

The Confederate flag was hoisted upon the ramparts of Fort Sumter. The nearby forts cheered and fired their guns in salute of their victory.

An Ominous Moment

A curious event occurred on the evening of April 11th shortly before hostilities broke out. The Superintendent of the Citadel Academy Major P.F. Stevens who was in command of the Point and Iron batteries was observing Fort Sumter when he and several others noticed the United States flag above the fort suddenly “split in two distinct parts, dividing from the front edge to the back just along the lower extremity of the “Union”.

The flag flew like this for several minutes before it was hauled down and a new flag replaced it.  Major Stevens asked “I wonder if that is emblematical?”

Several of his fellow onlookers remarked that it appeared to be an ominous sign. They could never have known how right they were.

After the Union Surrender

While the Union may have surrendered and evacuated Fort Sumter, the United States government wanted the fort back. Over the course of the war the Union proceeded to bombard the fort from land and sea.

These attacks crushed Fort Sumter’s walls, but the fort was never taken by the United States. The operations of General William T. Sherman after his march to the sea forced the Confederates to evacuate the fort in 1865.

On April 14th 1865 the same day the fort surrendered in 1861 Major Robert Anderson was given the honor to raise the same flag he was forced to lower four years earlier.

Fort Sumter2019-08-09T21:23:56-04:00


Near Appomattox Courthouse VA on April 7, 1865 at 5 PM Union General Ulysses S. Grant commander of the Army of the Potomac sent a letter to his counterpart Confederate General Robert E. Lee commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.

In his letter Grant said to Lee the results of last week must convince you of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia. Grant further explained that it was his duty to shift away his responsibility of any further fighting and bloodshed and to ask General Lee to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia.

Robert E. Lee at McLean's House, Appomattox, After His Surrender

Robert E. Lee at McLean’s House, Appomattox, After His Surrender

General Robert E. Lee responded by saying the he did not entertain the opinion that General Grant expressed of the hopelessness of further resistance on the part of the Army of Northern Virginia and he refused to surrender.

Robert E. Lee wanted to avoid useless bloodshed so he would be willing to hear Grant’s proposition and ask for the terms that will be offered on condition of his surrender.

After receiving this reply Grant thought that Lee wanted to surrender his army. Grant accepted the surrender on the condition that the men and officers shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the government of the United States.

Lee responded to this letter indicating strongly that he did not wish to surrender his army. He only wanted to hear Grant’s proposition on the terms of a surrender in order to make peace which was the ultimate goal of both sides.

Lee still believed he had a chance and saw no emergency which would call for the surrender of his army.

Robert E. Lee Seated at McLean's House, Appomattox, After His Surrender

Robert E. Lee Seated at McLean’s House, Appomattox, After His Surrender

Army of the Potomac vs the Army of Northern Virginia

These were the two largest armies in both the North and the South so the fate of either one of them would likely determine the outcome of the war.

By April 1865 the Army of the Potomac was far superior to the Army of Northern Virginia in every way.

Robert E Lee With Officers at McLean's House, Appomattox, VA After His Surrender

Robert E Lee With Officers at McLean’s House, Appomattox, VA After His Surrender

The Union army was very well fed and supplied and had no shortage of manpower. The Army of Northern Virginia however, was severely outnumbered, had no supplies, was starving and the men were exhausted, often not sleeping for days.

Lee knew his situation was hopeless, his army was virtually surrounded with no hope of escape. The very last thing Robert E Lee wanted to do was surrender his army.

He understood the dire circumstances his army was in, but after fighting for four long years the thought of surrender was almost too much to accept.

Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse VA April 9, 1865

Ulysses S. Grant knew the battle was over and that Robert E. Lee had no chance of winning and no chance of getting away.

McLean's House Site of Robert E. Lee's Surrender, Appomattox, Va

McLean’s House Site of Robert E. Lee’s Surrender, Appomattox, Va

Grant was not interested in making peace with Robert E. Lee.

Grant said he had no authority to make peace and the only way peace could be accomplished was if the men of the Army of Northern Virginia laid down their