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First shot of Civil War



The first shots of the Civil War occurred when the Star of the West was fired upon by Cadets of the Military College of South Carolina The Citadel (from Battery Greg on Morris Island) on January 9, 1861. This prevented the Star of the West from resupplying Major Robert Anderson's garrison at Fort Sumter. The Star of the West was given a warning bowshot but continued towards Fort Sumter. She was then fired on and hit twice at which point she turned around and headed for home port. Note that this did not start a war even though she was under the Stars and Stripes. Lincoln used the same basic idea with Fort Sumter warning the Confederates that Northern ships were on the way.

The captain of the Star of the West, by name M'Gowan, gives the following account of the event:

"When we arrived about two miles from Fort Moultrie —fort Sumter being about the same distance—a masked battery on Morris Island, where there was a red Palmetto flag flying, opened fire upon us—distance, about five-eighths of a mile. We had the American flag flying at our flag-staff at the time, and, soon after the first shot, hoisted a large American ensign at the fore. We continued on under the fire of the battery for over ten minutes, several of the shots going clean over us. One passed just clear of the pilot-house. Another passed between the smoke-stack and walking-beams of the engine. Another
struck the ship just abaft the fore-rigging, and stove in the planking; and another came within an ace of carrying away the rudder. At the same time there was a movement of two steamers from near Fort Moultrie—one of them towing a schooner (I presume an armed schooner) —with the intention of cutting us off. Our position now became rather critical, as we had to approach Fort Moultrie to within three-fourths of a mile before we could keep away for Fort Sumter. A steamer approaching us with an armed schooner in tow, and the battery on the Island firing at us all the time, and having no cannon to defend ourselves from the attack of the vessels, we concluded that, to avoid certain capture or destruction, we would endeavor to get to sea. Consequently, we wore round and steamed down the channel, the battery firing upon us until their shot fell short


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