A shell roared out of a 10-inch mortar at Fort Johnson at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, forever changing South Carolina and the United States of America.
Decades of bellicose debate about slavery and federal authority over states, and months of prickly negotiations about the Union troops holed up on a man-made island in the mouth of the Charleston harbor, had come to this — a shell exploding over the 33-star U.S. flag. The explosion was a signal to the 43 Confederate cannons around the harbor to begin firing on Fort Sumter.
It also ignited the Civil War.
Two days later, the U.S. flag came down and Maj. Robert Anderson surrendered the fort to the Confederacy.
Exactly four years and more than 600,000 deaths later, Anderson returned to raise the U.S. flag again over the fort. The Civil War, as far as critical military battles, was over.
But for South Carolina and, especially for the state’s image, it never has ended.
South Carolinians forever will be remembered as the people who started the war — the first to secede, the first to fire on the U.S. flag.
“The state bears that burden, whether it wants to or not, like no other state in the Union,” said Eric Emerson, director of the S.C. Department of Archives and History.
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