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Bombardment at Fort Sumter Launches US Civil War
When Abraham Lincoln took office on March 4, 1861, he feared that civil war was inevitable. Six weeks later, at 4:30AM on April 12, 1861, a mortar shell was fired at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, justifying his fears. On April 14, after a 34-hour bombardment, Fort Sumter surrendered and the War Between the States began.
That first shot was fired after Major Robert Anderson, commander of U.S. troops stationed at the fort, refused an evacuation edict from General Beauregard, commander of Confederate troops in Charleston. Beauregard had been one of Anderson's students at West Point. This would be the first of countless times in the years to follow where former comrades met across battle lines, brothers battled brothers, and friends fought against friends.
Nobody was killed in that first attack, yet it would lead to America's bloodiest war. Photography was a new medium, and for the first time, shocking wartime images could be readily viewed by the public. Before the war, Mathew Brady had already gained fame with his photographic portraits of prominent men and women. In fact, Lincoln is credited with saying, "Make no mistake, gentlemen, Brady made me President!" as Brady's photo of him, was printed on his campaign materials.
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