The Start of the Civil War
The Start of the War
In April 1861, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, South Carolina. In the months since secession, the Confederates had taken over federal arsenals, forts, and other property throughout the South. Federal troops inside Fort Sumter refused to surrender, appealing to the White House for help when supplies began running low. Lincoln notified the Confederacy that he was sending supplies for the fort, but no troops or weapons. The Con- federates called on the fort’s commander to surrender. When he refused, the Confederates shelled the fort.
On April 15, the Union formally declared war. Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops to put down the rebellion. Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee swiftly seceded from the Union rather than take up arms against the Confederacy. The mountainous region of western Virginia, where there was little support for slavery, soon seceded from Virginia and was granted statehood as West Virginia in 1863.
On July 21, 1861, in the first full-scale battle of the war, Confederate and Union troops faced one another at Bull Run Creek near Manassas, Virginia. The Union Army was winning the battle when southern reinforcements arrived; seeing the fresh troops advancing on them, the Union soldiers began a disorganized, chaotic retreat toward Washington.
The First Battle of Bull Run had opposite effects on the two sides; it made the South complacent, while it humbled and sobered the North. Many Con- federate soldiers were so confident of a quick and easy southern victory that they deserted after the battle, going home to look after their crops. In addition, the South failed to take advantage of the victory by immediately marching on Washington, DC; many historians believe that if this had happened, the war might have ended quickly in a southern victory. The North, on the other hand, realized that the Confederate Army would not be easily defeated and began military training in earnest.
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