The telegram announcing the surrender of Fort Sumter, located in the Charleston, South Carolina harbor, let the world know that the American Civil War had begun in earnest. Sent by Fort Sumters commander, Major Robert Anderson, on April 13, 1861, the telegram was addressed to the United States Secretary of War Simon Cameron in Washington. It informed him that, after a 34-hour-long bombardment, Anderson had surrendered the fort to Confederate General Pierre Beauregard.
The Fort Sumter telegram is considered to be historically important because President Abraham Lincoln used the crisis surrounding the forts surrender to rally the North behind the necessity of fighting the Civil War. The crisis over the fort had been building since late 1860 when, after Lincolns election as president, South Carolina made it clear that it would secede from the Union. South Carolinas secession in early 1861 was followed by the secession of six more southern states. A number of federal forts located in what was now the Souths territory were quickly, and for the most part quietly, seized. But because Fort Sumter was located on a small island in Charleston harbor and could not be attacked by land, an effort was made by the North to defend it as a symbol of continuing national authority.
Defending Fort Sumter proved impossible for the North, however, both because of its location deep within Confederate territory and because supplies to the fort needed to be delivered through a harbor controlled by Confederate shore batteries. With food and ammunition running out, the surrender of Fort Sumter was inevitable.
S.S.BALTIC.OFF SANDY HOOK APR.EIGHTEENTH.TEN THIRTY A.M. .VIA NEW YORK. . HON.S.CAMERON. SECY.WAR. WASHN. HAVING DEFENDED FORT SUMTER FOR THIRTY FOUR HOURS UNTIL THE QUARTERS WERE ENTIRELY BURNED THE MAIN GATES DESTROYED BY FIRE.THE GORGE WALLS SERIOUSLY INJURED.THE MAGAZINE SURROUNDED BY FLAMES AND ITS DOOR CLOSED FROM THE EFFECTS OF HEAT .FOUR BARRELLS AND THREE CARTRIDGES OF POWDER ONLY BEING AVAILABLE AND NO PROVISIONS REMAINING BUT PORK.I ACCEPTED TERMS OF EVACUATION OFFERED BY GENERAL BEAUREGARD BEING ON SAME OFFERED BY HIM ON THE ELEVENTH INST. PRIOR TO THE COMMENCEMENT OF HOSTILITIES AND MARCHED OUT OF THE FORT SUNDAY AFTERNOON THE FOURTEENTH INST.WITH COLORS FLYING AND DRUMS BEATING.BRINGING AWAY COMPANY AND PRIVATE PROPERTY AND SALUTING MY FLAG WITH FIFTY GUNS. ROBERT ANDERSON.MAJOR FIRST ARTILLERY.COMMANDING.