Footnote: Civil War Began Today


For those of us in the States, today is the anniversary of one of the more important historical dates on the calendar.

At 4:30 a.m. on April 12 — it was a Friday–in 1861, a shell from a 10-inch rebel militia mortar burst 100 feet over Fort Sumter in the harbor of Charleston, S.C., beginning a bombardment that lasted nearly 34 hours. The Union commander of the fort, Maj. Robert Anderson, surrendered at 4:30 p.m. the next day. No one on either side died during the battle.

That could not be said of what came next.

Between 1861 and 1865, at least 620,000 Americans died in the Civil War. These casualties exceed the nation’s loss in all its other wars combined, from the Revolution through Vietnam. As a percentage of today’s population, the death toll equates to 6.2 million.