The War For Southern Independence Began Today – 150 years ago.
Fort Sumter Fired On! It’s War!
The predawn darkness of an early spring morning, 150 years ago today, bore witness to the birth of a conflict which would tear this nation apart, bring death and destruction, on a scale never before seen nor even dreamed of in the worst nightmares of the leaders of the two nations who, at this precise moment, committed themselves to a life and death struggle to preserve what each believed was a just cause, a righteous cause, a cause for which Providence had appointed each of them to prosecute and see through to the bitter end.
The result of that conflict finds Southerners, today, brimming with pride while we still wrestle with the sorrow, pain, and tears, that war wrought.
Even though the South lost the war we still hold those southern cavaliers in honor and awe. We respect them, not only for their prowess in battle, but because they are our ancestors, our family. The blood of those “Southern Knights” still flows in our veins to this very day.
In the early morning darkness of April 12th, 1861, at precisely 4:29 AM, the restless waves of the Atlantic lapped gently and peacefully against the sandy shoreline of Charleston Harbor.
The first hint of daylight could be seen at the eastern horizon where the demarcation line between sea and sky could just be made out as the upper half took on a lighter hue of velvety purple. Boats rocked sluggishly in the gently swells as their lines stretched and loosened, stretched and loosened, as the waters surface rose and fell.
An uneasy silence lay like a heavy blanket all along the waterfront and the battery as one of the oldest and most beautiful cities on the continent waited… waited on history.
The long minute hand of the clock in one of the tallest church steeples in the city ratcheted one more notch and then… dropped into it’s notch at the bottom of the clock’s face.
It was 4:30 AM.
For one more second the uneasy silence continued. Then the Angel of Death spread her wings and leapt silently from her perch to glide quietly over the men huddled in clumps of blue and gray in a semi-circle around that beautiful harbor and charming city. It would be 4 years before that beautiful Dark Angel regained her perch.
Suddenly, the quiet was ripped apart by the ‘BOOM’ and ‘CRASH’ and ‘WHISTLE’ of no less than 43 big guns placed in a ring around the harbor.
The hot barrels of those guns were all turned to a single spot just a little darker than the surrounding water. It was a man-made island near the middle of the harbor upon which a fort had been built to provide protection for the harbor and city of Charleston, South Carolina. It was Fort Sumter.
The unfinished fort was named for South Carolina Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Sumter. Eighty-five Union soldiers, and their Commander Major Robert Anderson, held their collective breathes as the cannon balls began their iron hailstorm upon their fortress. With only ten casement guns on the fort they would return fire only occasionally.
The Boom of the big guns soon became a ROAR, and then a RUMBLE, and finally one long unceasing MOAN of shot and shell as the muzzle flashes of the big guns created a “false dawn” around the harbor and vibrated the cobbles in the streets and rattled the glass in the windows of the gracious homes lining the streets of the old city.
Smoke from the spent gunpowder would hang low on the water in the early morning dampness. The stink of the sulfur and saltpeter would burden the air with a rank odor and foul taste. It was the taste, and odor, of Hell.
Those guns would continue to lob destruction onto that fort for 34 hours before the order to “Cease Fire” was given.
The Dogs of War had been loosed, slipping their bonds and snarling into history.
Four years later, 700,000 American men would be dead! Consumed by the scythe of the Grim Reaper, the constant companion of the Dark Angel. Their work would become legend.
Families all over this land would be touched by the agony of that conflict.
The cream of an entire generation of Americans was wiped from the face of the earth. Gone from this world. Gone from their families. Gone from a society, which needed them so much.
Who knows what accomplishments were lost to the shot and shell and cold steel of the bayonet. How can we know that one of these men could not have advanced medicine to find a cure for the diseases that ravage us today? How can we know that one of those young men wouldn’t have written the Great American novel, or preached the sermon that would change the lives of murderous convicts, or painted the next Mona Lisa, or become the greatest President to ever lead this nation, and on and on?
We can’t know. We will never know. Any chance of that happening died with those men on some bloody battlefield as two great nations, the United States of America and the Confederate States of America, tore each other apart.
The firing on Fort Sumter took place only after numerous warnings for Major Anderson to remove his troops under a flag of truce. He chose instead, to notify Washington, and was ordered not to give up the fort and, he was told, that Union reinforcements were on the way.
Before those reinforcements arrived the South’s warning and patience ran out. Lincoln, himself, denied an audience to a peace delegation sent to him from the Southern Government. He would not see them, nor hear them. He would rather, it seems have war. That is what he got.
Beginning today, and for the next four years, the Sons of Confederate Veterans and many of the southern states of America will memorialize the “War for Southern Independence.” We will attempt to correct much of the revisionist history of the war and we will celebrate the men who went to war wearing the southern gray.
We expect much opposition. In fact, it has already begun. But we WILL press forward.
Over the next four years the American public and, indeed, the world, will be afforded an opportunity to learn the truth behind the war that still stokes bitterness, discord, and even rage in the hearts of Americans -- both North and South.
The scars of that war remain sensitive to the southern people who feel their Confederate ancestors have been maligned by historians with an agenda less about the truth and more about political correctness and politics.
It is time the truth was told – past time – and we intend to tell it over the next four years.
J. D. Longstreet