The One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Firing on Ft. Sumter as Seen by Mary Boykin Chesnut

  Mary Boykin Chesnut in her diary of the 1860’s asked, “Why did that green goose Anderson go into Ft. Sumter in the first place.  Then everything began to go wrong.”  We are still asking that question and others about what caused The War that killed more Americans than all other wars we have been involved in… put together!

  On April 12 we observed the start of the War of Northern Aggression. ” You are kidding, right?” you ask.   From a view of Ft. Sumter on one of the piazzas along High Battery, I explain from primary sources, such as the  diary by Mary Boykin Chesnut, and Charlestonian Emma Holmes, why the South called The War by this name.     There is so much information key to understanding the Southern mindset that has never been put in history books.  It is as if we have grown used to seeing a puzzle with key pieces missing.  As an English major with emphasis in history of the South, I love being put back in that moment in time by the writings of the day, which contain secrets to understanding the otherwise overlooked aspects of the causes.  I do not just tell you about what they wrote, I quote them in their own words, for they said it better than I could. 

 Take note that we are NOT celebrating the start of The War, but we are observing that it started here in Charleston April 12, 1861, and are learning what we can from that event that Mary Boykin Chesnut said “nothing but blood letting would put an end to.” 

The eve of The War, the last ditch efforts were by special envoy Senator James Chesnut, Mary’s husband, to get The Union’s  Major Anderson to surrender Ft. Sumter to avert war.  Anderson had been given four months of warning to leave this foreign fort, having moved there six days AFTER South Carolina seceded.  The lone nation state of South Carolina had asked if any move would be made to Ft. Sumter.  President Buchanan still in office said any move to any Federal fort would be considered an act of aggression.  When on December 26, the night after Christmas, the Union was seen having moved to Ft Sumter with the Union flag flying, the South naturally saw this move as an act of aggression.  The North was preparing for war.  It was only then  that other Southern states started joining South Carolina, which had been the first state to secede December 20, 1860.

Pack that car and start driving now!  Call me for a private tour, 9:30 a.m.  Monday through Friday, 843-577-5896. 

Tell me you have read  my writings, and I will make sure I give you the full quotes from the Diary From Dixie.

–Laura Wichmann Hipp

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