On April 10, 1861, Brig. Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard, in command of the provisional Confederate forces at Charleston, SC, demanded the surrender of the U.S. garrison of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Garrison commander Robert Anderson refused. On April 12, Confederate batteries opened fire on the fort, which was unable to reply effectively. At 2:30 p.m., April 13, Major Anderson surrendered Fort Sumter, evacuating the garrison on the following day. The bombardment of Fort Sumter was the opening engagement of the American Civil War. From 1863 to 1865, the Confederates at Fort Sumter withstood a 22-month siege by Union forces. During this time, most of the fort was reduced to brick rubble.

(This information is reproduced from the National Park Service's Fort Sumter National Monument and American Battlefield Protection Program websites.)

For more information, visit the National Archives’ Treasures of Congress Online Exhibit.

Also, see the Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: Letters, Telegrams, and Photographs Illustrating Factors that Affected the Civil War.