April 1861–April 1862
Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina, continued to fly the United States flag, even as Confederate forces surrounded it. Lincoln decided to send provisions but no additional troops or ordnance to the fort unless resistance was met. Unwilling to tolerate a U.S. garrison in Southern territory, Confederates began shelling the fort in the pre-dawn hours of April 12, 1861, and Union guns responded. The Civil War had begun.
As the spring and summer of 1861 wore on, hundreds of thousands of white men, most of them ill-trained and unprepared for war, poured into the armed forces of both sides. Anticipating a day when their services would be accepted, African American men in the North formed military training companies, while women on both sides labored on the home front after their men left for war. Most Americans assumed the war would be over by Christmas, but the bloody battle at Manassas, Virginia, and the Union naval blockade of the Confederate coastline suggested otherwise. As the conflict extended into 1862, the North and South readied their armies for a longer fight.
View all items from April 1861–April 1862 »