Fort Sumter Lesson for Kids: Battle & Facts

Instructor: Laurie Smith
One of the most famous battles of the Civil War ended with no dead soldiers on either side. Do you know which one? Continue on to find out more about the events at Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

Early Years at Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter is located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, on a manmade island. It was built in 1829 after the War of 1812 to help make the United States' defenses stronger. It was named after a Revolutionary War general from South Carolina named General Thomas Sumter. Its placement was very strategic: whoever controlled the fort controlled the only water route into the city of Charleston, one of the largest ports around at the time.

Fort Sumter is best known as the location of the first shots fired in the first battle of the Civil War. The Civil War was a war between the Northern states that wanted to continue to be part of the United States, and the Southern states that wanted to form their own country by seceding, or trying to leave the United States.

Right after South Carolina seceded in 1860, the United States military took over the fort. Led by Major Robert Anderson, the Union (Northern) soldiers held on to the fort, while other U.S. forts in the area were taken over by Confederate (Southern) soldiers. Eventually this led to a standoff between Anderson's Union troops and the South Carolina troops in Charleston.

War at the Fort

In April 1861, President Abraham Lincoln announced that a supply ship would be coming to Fort Sumter. The Confederate leaders had already said that any attempt to resupply the fort would be seen by them as an act of aggression - in other words, trying to start a fight. The Confederates in Charleston were led by General P.G.T. Beauregard, who had been a student of Major Anderson's years earlier at the West Point Military Academy. Beauregard gave Anderson one chance to surrender. He didn't, so Beauregard led an attack the next morning.

The Union soldiers at Fort Sumter didn't have the necessary ammunition or fuses to fight back at full force. After 34 hours of bombing, Anderson and more than 80 soldiers agreed to surrender. Amazingly, no one had died on either side. But tragically, two Union soldiers were killed in an accident as they prepared to leave the fort to surrender.

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