On This Day, April 12, 1861 – The Civil War Begins


1861 – Fort Sumter was shelled by Confederacy, starting America’s Civil War.

The Civil War might as easily have erupted at Fort Pickens, outside Pensacola, Florida, as at Fort Sumter but Fort Sumter was positioned in the middle of Charleston Harbor, surrounded by hostile batteries. Sumter, therefore, became a symbol of contested sovereignty.

Neither the new President nor the new Confederacy could afford to lose face by surrendering the Charleston fort. The only question was, who would shoot first?

In early January the South Carolinians had actually done so, turning away the Star of the West, a federal supply ship, with gunfire. But those were more or less warning shots that kicked up plumes of spray but caused no damage.

The Confederate government, knowing that its claims to sovereignty depended on no “foreign” power occupying any of its coastal forts, decided to act before the relief expedition arrived.

Confederate leaders, therefore, ordered Charleston’s chief military officer, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, a flamboyant Louisiana Creole, to demand Fort Sumter’s surrender. Should that be refused, he was to open fire on the stronghold.

James Chesnut, Jr., the former U.S. senator­ who’d pledged to drink the blood of casualties, was one of two emissaries who delivered the ultimatum to an ashen-faced Anderson at 3:25 a.m. on April 12, 1861—150 years ago today.

An hour later a signaling shot curved high in the sky and burst directly over the fort. A cacophonous barrage erupted, as 43 guns and morters assaulted the fort. A cacophonous barrage erupted, as 43 guns and mortars opened up on Sumter.

1833 – Charles Gaylor patented the fireproof safe.

1911 – Pierre Prier completed the first non-stop London-Paris flight in three hours and 56 minutes.

1927 – The British Cabinet came out in favor of women voting rights.

1945U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in Warm Spring, GA. He died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 63. Harry S Truman became president.

1961 – Soviet Yuri Alexeyevich Gagarin became first man to orbit the Earth.

Yuri_Gagarin_1In 1960, after an extensive search and selection process Gagarin was selected with 19 other cosmonauts for the Soviet space program. Along with the other prospective cosmonauts, he was subjected to a rigorous series of experiments designed to test his physical and psychological endurance; he also underwent intensive training for the upcoming flight. Out of the 20 selected, the eventual choices for the first launch were Gagarin and Gherman Titov because of their excellent performance in training, as well as their physical characteristics; space was at a premium in the small Vostok cockpit and both men were rather short.

On April 12, Gagarin became the first human to travel into space in Vostok 3KA-2 (Vostok 1) and return. His call sign in this flight was Kedr (Cedar.) During his flight, Gagarin famously whistled the tune “The Motherland Hears, The Motherland Knows.

1966 – Emmett Ashford became the first African-American major league umpire.

1972 – The Rolling Stones released “Exile on Main Street.

1981 – The space shuttle Columbia blasted off from Cape Canaveral, FL, on its first test flight.

1982 – The British Navy began enforcing a blockade around the Falkland Islands.

1983 – Harold Washington was elected the first black mayor of Chicago.

1984 – Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Challenger made the first satellite repair in orbit by returning the Solar Max satellite to space.

1984 – Israeli troops stormed a bus that had been hijacked the previous evening by four Arab terrorists. All the passengers were rescued and 2 of the hijackers were killed.

1985 – U.S. Senator Jake Garn of Utah became the first senator to fly in space as the shuttle Discovery lifted off from Cape Canaveral, FL.

1987 – Texaco filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy after it failed to settle a legal dispute with Pennzoil Co.

2002 – It was announced that the South African version of “Sesame Street” would be introducing a character that was HIV-positive.

Sources: On-this-day.com; NationalGeographic.com; newworldencyclopedia.org