150 Year Anniversary of the Start of the American Civil War

April 12, 2011

Photo Credit: Library of Congress
Summary Author: Jim Foster; Library of Congress

The first shots fired in the American Civil War were recorded on April 12, 1861 when Fort Sumter, South Carolina, manned by U.S. troops, was besieged by Confederate gunners. Almost exactly four years later and at the cost of more than 600,000 lives (perhaps one out of every five soldiers who entered into battle), the Civil War or War Between the States came to a close.

Tension had existed between the northern and southern states since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, primarily because of festering issues dealing with slavery. Over the ensuing decades, various acts and compromises were stitched together in an effort to stave off conflict. Eventually, though, the divide between the two sides was simply too great and words alone would no longer sooth their differences. Before the nation’s wounds could be begin to be bound, the scourge of a terrible war would drag on and on. The photo above was taken on the grounds of Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865. Here, a large gathering awaits the raising of Old Glory, four years to the day after it was lowered and replaced by the Stars and Bars.

Note that today also marks the 50th anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's first manned flight into "space." He orbited the Earth at altitudes that varied between about 100 and 200 mi (160-320 km) in a Vostok spacecraft on April 12, 1961.

In addition, today is the 30th anniversary of the first space shuttle mission.