This Week in The Civil War

AP News
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Posted: Apr 07, 2011 3:52 PM
This Week in The Civil War

For use the week of Sunday, April 10:

This Week in The Civil War: First shots at Fort Sumter

Before dawn on April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries unleash artillery fire on federal troops defending Fort Sumter on South Carolina's seacoast.

In a dispatch to The Associated Press, an unnamed correspondent observed the fort's parapets crumbling under the pounding of artillery. He wrote of gun emplacements being "shot away" and shells falling "thick and fast."

"The ball has opened. War is inaugurated ... Fort Sumter has returned the fire and brisk cannonading has been kept up," the correspondent wrote.

The fierce barrage drags on with barely a pause for 34 hours, forcing the garrison's surrender.

No one is killed in the bombardment. But at a ceremony marking the fort's surrender a day later, a cannon explodes during a salute to the Union flag, leaving one dead and several wounded _ the first casualties of what will become the bloodiest conflict in the nation's history. Over the next four years, Union forces will seek to win back the fort until Gen. William T. Sherman's troops retake control on February 17, 1865. By the time the war ends weeks later, more than 600,000 lives will have been lost.

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For use the week of Sunday, April 17:

This Week in The Civil War: Lincoln's proclamation

On April 15, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln issues a proclamation seeking to muster 75,000 volunteer troops and calling a special session of Congress to open July 4th.

Lincoln's war secretary sends dispatches to the governors of several states designating troop quotas for each under the proclamation, but several slaveholding states refuse to comply. Virginia is considered crucial, and a state convention being held when the hostilities at Fort Sumter erupt goes into secret session after the president's call for troops. On April 17, Virginia secedes from the Union and will be followed within weeks by more states in what will emerge as an 11-state Confederacy.

On April 19, 1861, Lincoln issues a proclamation of a blockade against Southern ports, seeking to cripple the South's ability to supply itself in wartime.

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For use week of Sunday, April 24:

This Week in The Civil War: Lee's decision

On April 20, 1861, Robert Edward Lee resigns his commission in the U.S. Army and soon heads to Richmond, Va., emerging capital of the Confederacy, where he will be offered a military command. For Lee, a native son of Virginia who graduated from West Point in 1829 near the top of his class, the war would shape his destiny.

In 1859, Lee as an Army officer had been sent from Washington with troops under his command to Harper's Ferry, now in West Virginia, to capture abolitionist John Brown and his followers after their surprise raid on a U.S. arsenal.

As a U.S. Army officer, Lee never considered the idea of rebellion against the government, but with Virginia's secession his hand would be forced. Offered a command in the Union Army, he declines to accept because of ties to Virginia. Lee left his home in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, never to return there again.

Lee would later become a key military adviser to the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, and enter history as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. He would make his greatest military mistake in the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, a turning point in the Union's favor. Lee would never invade the North again before his surrender of his remaining Confederate forces on April 9, 1865.