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Fort Sumter attacked

Fort Sumter attacked



The Western Reconnaissance

“. . .there is no doubt bitter feeling against all ‘rebels,’ and I do not look for good feeling from northern friends or relatives.”
  —Entry for 13 April 1868, in The Journals of Josiah Gorgas 1857–1878




Although elected president in November 1860, Abraham Lincoln did not take office until March 1861. During the interim, South Carolina seceded from the Union, soon followed by other states of the lower South—Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas.

South Carolina demanded the evacuation of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Lincoln refused and sent fresh supplies. Before they arrived, Confederate batteries ringing the harbor began shelling the fort, which soon surrendered. Lincoln called for volunteers, provoking the secession of Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Choosing sides in the Civil War was an agonizing decision for many West Point graduates. Most remained loyal to their home states. Of 977 graduates of the classes of 1833–1861 alive when war began, 259 joined the Confederacy (including 32 Northerners), while 638 fought for the Union (including 39 Southerners).


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Alfred Mordecai




Key Figures






Alfred Mordecai
Alfred Mordecai
1804–1887
Class of 1823



George Henry Thomas
George Henry Thomas
1816–1870
Class of 1840



John Clifford Pemberton
John Clifford Pemberton
1814–1881
Class of 1837



Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson
1805–1871
Class of 1825



Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
1815–1893
Class of 1838





Smithsonian National Museum of American History


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