Anderson got a similar message and was urged to hold out. But, he was told, if capitulation seemed necessary, he was authorized to surrender.
In light of Lincoln’s ultimatum, the Confederate government ordered Beauregard to demand the fort’s evacuation and, if refused, “reduce” it.
On April 11, Beauregard sent to the fort a delegation headed by Chesnut’s husband, James, a former U.S. senator, to call for its surrender. Anderson declined but added that if not attacked, he would be “starved out” in a few days.
At 12:45 the next morning, April 12, the Confederates returned for a final parley. They wanted to know when, exactly, Anderson planned to leave.
The major was evasive and seemed to be stalling. At 3:20 a.m., James Chesnut, on behalf of Beauregard, informed Anderson that the Confederates would open fire in an hour. It took a little longer.
Capt. James’s shot signaled the general bombardment, which went on for 34 hours. More than 3,300 shells were fired from the ring of enemy batteries, and the fort suffered 600 direct hits.
Its flag was shot down and raised again. Its barracks caught fire. Its walls were cratered.
By 1 p.m. April 13, it was a smoking inferno, and, amid overtures from three Confederate delegations, Anderson gave up.
He and his command left the fort at 4 p.m. the next day after firing a long artillery salute. And on April 15, as a ship bore the garrison out of the harbor, rebels lined the shore, with their hats off.
Already, though, the war’s first fatality had occurred. During the artillery salute, a premature explosion had accidentally killed Union gunner Daniel Hough. He was buried somewhere on the parade ground, where he might still rest.
Today, guides tell visitors who take the sightseeing boat to Fort Sumter that the grave of Hough — the first of the war’s 620,000 fallen — has been lost.
And so has the anguish that once defined the name Sumter.
Charleston’s longtime mayor, Joseph P. Riley Jr., whose great-great-grandfather fought for the Confederacy and walked home from Virginia in 1865, said the fort has long existed at the back of the city’s mind.
Growing up, he said, you knew it was there, off in the distance, a place of tragedy and beauty.
“It was a part of our city’s history,” he said. “Rising out of our beautiful harbor . . . part of our community. You probably took it for granted. . . . You accept it as being there. It was always there.”
A few weeks before Sumter fell, Samuel Wylie Crawford, the fort’s assistant surgeon, had predicted what he believed would happen when it was assaulted.
“The first gun fired at our fort will call the country to arms,” he wrote to his brother in February. “The bugle that sounds that attack . . . will echo along the slopes of the Alleghenies amid the granite hills of the North, along the shores of the Great Lakes, and far away on the rolling prairies of the West — and the earth will shake with the tread of armed men.”