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Civil War Breakouts. Rebels Fire On Fort Sumter. (1861)
Article published April 20, 1861, in the Bay City Press And Times.
  • Transcribed November 2005.
  • Bay City Press And Times -- April 20, 1861.

    The Rebels Attack Fort Sumter!

    Firing Kept up All Day.
    Storm Raging at Sea – Reinforcements Therefore Not Probable.


    Washington, April 12th.

    Dispatches have been received from the south which leave no reasonable doubt that hostilities were commenced at Charleston at an early hour this morning.


    War is commenced. The batteries of Sullivan Island, Morris Island and other points were opened on Fort Sumter at 4 o’clock this morning. Fort Sumter returns the fire, and a brisk cannonading has been kept up. No information has been received from the seaboard yet. The military are under arms, and the whole of our populace are on the streets, and every available space about the harbor is filled with anxious spectators.

    New York, 12th.

    The Herald’s special dispatch says: “Fort Moultrie began the bombardment with two guns, to which Anderson replied with three shots from his barbette guns. After which the batteries at Mount Pleasant, Cummins’ Point and the floating battery opened a brisk fire of shot and shell. Anderson replied only at long intervals until between 7 and 8 o’clock, when he opened from two tiers of guns, looking towards Moultrie and Steven's battery; but at 8 o’clock had failed to produce any serious effect. During the greater part of the day Anderson directed his shots principally against Moultrie the Steven’s and floating battery and Fort Johnson, they being the only ones operating against him. Fifteen or eighteen shots struck the floating battery without effect. Breeches to all appearances have been made in the sides of Sumter exposed to the fires. Portions of the parapet were destroyed, and several guns shot away. The fight will continue all night. The fort will probably be carried by storm. It is through her wheel house. She is in the offing. No other Government ships are in sight.

    Troops are pouring into the city by thousands.


    The firing has continued all day, without intermission. Two of Fort Sumter’s guns have been silenced, and is reported that a breach, has been made in the south-east wall.

    It is reported that the Federal fleet has just arrived off the bar.

    Evening. – The firing has ceased for the night, to be renewed early in the morning.

    Ample arrangements are made to prevent any reinforcements of Anderson to-night.

    A special dispatch to the Herald says that two men are wounded on Sullivan’s Island, and a number have been struck by spent projectiles.

    From the regularity of the firing it is believed that Major Anderson has a larger force than was supposed.


    The bombardment is continuing with mortars, and will be kept up all night.

    It is supposed that Anderson is resting his men for the night.

    The Government vessels cannot get in, as a storm is raging and the sea is rough, making it impossible to reinforce the Fort to-night.

    The floating battery works well.

    New York, 12th.

    Reverdy Johnson, of Maryland, is here, and expresses the warmest approval of the President’s present movement, and emphatically affirms that Maryland will give the administration a cordial support.

    Harrisburg, Pa., 12th.

    A bill has been reported in the Legislature appropriating half a million dollars for arming and equipping the militia of the State. It provides for the appointment of an Adjutant, Commissary and Quarter Master Generals by the Governor.

    Later. – The war bill passed both Houses to-night without amendment, and has been signed by the Governor.

    Montgomery, 12th.

    An extra session of the congress of the seceded States has been called for April 29th.

    Washington, 12th.

    The West Point artillerymen here have received orders to keep their revolvers constantly loaded, and to be ready for immediate action. Part of the volunteers will be stationed at the bridge across the Potomac, so as to defend it from an opposing force.

    Nearly 1,000 men are now enrolled for the regular service from the ranks of the District militia. Those who refused to take the oath of allegiance were marched back to the armory, disarmed, and their names stricken from the rolls. Hisses from the spectators accompanied their disappearance from the parade ground.

    Gov. Hicks, of Maryland, has been in consultation with the President for several hours to-day. He came here with feelings of regret at the course of the administration in its seeming coercive policy, but when the Governor heard the reason for the present course of the President and his advisers, and understood the record by which they had been guided, he modified his opinions to a very-great extent.

    Sumter Bombarded all Night!

    The Fort Said to be on Fire!
    Unconditional Surrender of Maj. Anderson!
    Charleston, April 13.

    The cannonading is going on fiercely from all points, from the vessels outside, and all along our coast,

    It is reported that for Sumter is on fire.

    10:30 A.M.

    At intervals of 20 minutes firing was kept up on Fort Sumter. Major Anderson ceased firing at 6 o’clock in the evening. All night he was engaged in repairing damages and protecting the barbette guns. He commenced to return the fire at seven o’clock this morning. Fort Sumter seems to be greatly disabled. The battery on Cummins’ Point does it great damage. At 9 o’clock this morning a dense smoke poured out from Fort Sumter. The Federal flag is at half mast, signaling distress. The shells from Fort Moultrie and the batteries on Morris’ Island fall into Maj. Anderson’s stronghold thick and fast, and they can be seen in their course from the Charleston battery.

    Montgomery, 13th.

    Gen. Beauregard telegraphed to the Secretary of War, last night that there had been heavy firing all Friday; that four guns on Fort Sumter had been dismounted; the the Confederate batteries were all safe; that nobody was hurt; that four steamers were off the bar, and that the sea was quite rough.

    Nothing of to-day’s date has been received by the War Department from Charleston.

    Charleston, 13th.

    Two of Major Anderson’s magazines have exploded. Only occasional shots are fired at him from Fort Moultrie. The Morris Island battery is doing heavy work. It is reported that only the smaller magazines have exploded. The greatest excitement prevails, the wharves steeples, and every available place is packed with people. United States ships are in the offing, but have not aided Major Anderson, as it is too late now to come over the bar, as the tide is ebbing.

    The ships in the offing appear to be quietly at anchor. They have not fired a gun yet. The entire roof of the barracks at Fort Sumter are in a vast sheet of flames. Shells from Cummings Point and Fort Moultrie, are bursting in and over Fort Sumter in quick succession. The federal flag still waves.

    Major Anderson is only occupied in putting out fire. Every shot on Fort Sumter now seems to tell heavily. The people are anxiously looking for Major Anderson to strike his flag. It is stated from a reliable source that up to 10 o’clock to-day no one at Moultrie was killed. Eleven shots from Fort Sumter penetrated the floating battery below the water line. The few shots fired by Major Anderson early this morning knocked the chimneys from the officer’s quarters at Moultrie like a whirlwind. Major Anderson’s only hope now is to hold out for aid from the ships. Two ships are making it towards Morris’ Island, with a view to land troops and silence the batteries there.

    Fort Sumter is undoubtedly on fire. The flames are raging all around it. Major Anderson has thrown out a raft loaded with men, who are passing up buckets of water to extinguish the fire. The fort is scarcely discernable. The men on the raft are now objects of fire from Morris Island. With glasses balls can be seen skipping over the water, striking the unprotected raft. Great havoc is created among the poor fellows.

    It is surmised that Major Anderson is gradually blowing up the fort. He scarcely fires a gun. At half past 11 o’clock flames were bursting from all the port holes. The destruction of Fort Sumter is inevitable. Four vessels, two of them large steamers, are in sight over the bar. The largest appears to be engaging Morris Island. The flames have nearly subsided in Fort Sumter, but Major Anderson does not fire any guns. Gen. Beauregard left the wharf just now in a boat for Morris Island. The excitement if anything is increasing.

    I have read a letter from S. C. Boylston, dated at Moultrie, 6 o’clock A. M. He says not one man was killed or wounded . The iron battery had been damaged. The rifle cannon of the battery did great execution on Sumter, and were all aimed into Anderson’s portholes. Three of Sumpter’s barbette guns were dismounted, one of width was a 10-inch Columbaid. A corner of Fort Sumter, opposite Moultrie, was knocked off. The steamers Water Witch, Mohawk and Pawnee, it was tho’t were the first vessels seen in the offing.

    Another correspondent says the bombardment has closed. Major Anderson has drawn down the Stars and Stripes and displayed a white flag, which has been answered from the city, and a boat is on the way to Sumter.

    The breeches made in Fort Sumter are on the side opposite to Cummings Point. Two of its port holes are knocked into one, and the wall from the top is crumbling.

    Three vessels, one of them a large size steamer, are over the bar, and seem to be preparing to participate in the conflict.

    The fire of Morris Island and Moultrie is divided between Sumter and the ship-of-war. The ships have not yet opened.

    The batteries of Sullivan’s Island, Cummings’ Point and Stearns’ batter are pouring shot and shell into Fort Sumter. Major Anderson does not return fire.

    Fort Sumter is still on fire.

    There has just been two explosions at Fort Sumter.

    P.M. – The Federal flag was again hoisted over Fort Sumter, when Preacher Miles with a flag of truce went to the fort. In a few minutes the federal flag was again drawn down by Major Anderson, and the white bag again unfurled.

    Related Notes & Pages
    *Bay Co. Civil War History
    People Referenced
    Anderson, Robert Maj.
    Beauregard, P.G.T. Gen.
    Boylston, S.C.
    Hicks, Gov.
    Johnson, Reverdy
    Miles, Preacher
    Subjects Referenced
    Cummings' Point
    Fort Johnson
    Fort Moultrie
    Fort Sumter
    Harrisburg, PA
    Herald newspaper
    Mohawk, vessel
    Morris' Island
    New York
    Pawnee, vessel
    Sullivan Island
    War Department
    Water Witch, vessel
    West Point
    Internet Resources
  • [The Civil War - Harper's Weekly]
  • [Map Charleston Harbor 1861]
  • [Fort Sumter Nat'l Park]
  • [Attack On Fort Sumter]
  • [Major Anderson]
  • [Gen. Beauregard]
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.