Today marks the 150th anniversary of the attack on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, the first battle of the American Civil War. The four year conflict was this country’s deadliest war and claimed more American lives than any other conflict before or since.
Known by many titles including the War of Northern Aggression, the War to Preserve the Union and often The War Between the States, the conflict is deeply ingrained in our American psyche and continues to shape our history even today.
William Faulkner may have described our fascination with the Civil War best when he wrote “The past isn’t dead, it isn’t even past.”
The Civil War commenced with the bombardment of Fort Sumter just before dawn on the morning of April 12, 1861. A re-enactment of the event was conducted this morning as cannons once again boomed across Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.
Around 4:00 a.m. EST this morning, a single beam of light was aimed skyward from Fort Sumter. Approximately 30 minutes later, marking when the first shots of the war were fired, the light beam was split into two beams to signify a nation divided.
The American Civil Was war resulted in more than 600,000 deaths. Due to the chaotic events on the battlefields and poor record keeping of the era the actual number of dead will never be known. However, the only casualty of the Fort Sumter attack was a Confederate officer’s horse.
Union troops holding Fort Sumter surrendered after 36 hours of Confederate shelling.
As the Civil War escalated Virginia often found itself at the center of the conflict. Clarke County’s location at the tip of the Shenandoah Valley and its proximity to Washington DC ensured it a place in Civil War history. During the Civil War Colonel John S. Mosby, “the Gray Ghost” of the Confederacy, raided General Philip Sheridan’s supply train in the summer of 1864 in Berryville near the junction of present day Virginia Route 7 and U.S. Route 340. The Battle of Cool Spring was fought in Clarke County on July 17 and 18th, 1864 at the present day site of Holy Cross Abbey. The Battle of Berryville was fought on September 3, 1864.
Civil War commemoration activities are being planned across the country through 2015 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the war. Much of Clarke County’s participation will be coordinated with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. Clarke County is one of the eight constituent counties in the district determined by Congress to promote and commemorate this important historic milestone.
Do you have tales of the Civil War that have been passed on in your family?
If so, the Clarke Daily News would love to hear from you. Please send along your favorite Civil War stories, along with any photos or other images that you would like to share, to ClarkeDailyNews.com. Once several stories have been received we’ll periodically publish the contributions for others to enjoy.