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A nation divided

Fort Sumter

Fort Johnson, Charleston; Fort Sumter in the distance.

Stacks of ammunition at Fort Sumter.
While Abraham Lincoln organized his government, the Confederacy prepared for war.

And so, on an April morning in 1861, South Carolinians in Charleston harbor looked out on the horizon at Fort Sumter.

The United States flag flew over the quiet fort, situated in the harbor, protecting the city. But that morning Fort Sumter - and the people guarding it - were not seen as protectors, but invaders. It was a symbol of the Union. It was a symbol of the North. And it was a symbol of the people that would destroy their way of life.

Confederate troops huddled together in nearby Fort Johnson and turned their cannons to take aim at the fort, its flag fluttering above.

The mortar cannons were loaded, the order was given, and after dawn on April 12, the first shot of the Civil War was fired.

After 30 hours of artillery bombardment, Maj. Robert Anderson, surrendered the fort on April 13, 1861. The American Civil War had begun.

You are now ready for the Dividing Issues activity.


The story

1. A Nation Divided

2. Events and Battles

3. Leaders

4. Daily Life

5. Aftermath


North or South?

Match the abolitionist

What would you do?

Name that leader

Study the artifact

Be a columnist

Interactive map


SOL Civil War key word index