Prior to our trip, I had just the merest familiarity with the firing on Ft. Sumter. I knew that Confederate troops fired on Union troops stationed at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, thus igniting the war, but that was about the sum of my knowledge. After my trip, I'm still certainly no expert on the battle, but I do have a little better understanding of it.
Among the foremost things my trip helped me understand about Fort Sumter was its physical location. Prior to my trip, I knew that Fort Sumter was located in Charleston Harbor, but somehow I always imagined it as being very close to shore. Instead, it's a good distance away from Charleston, out in the middle of the harbor. I also did not previously realize that Fort Sumter was just one of several forts that had been built in the harbor years before to defend Charleston from possible foreign attack. (Actually Fort Sumter was not complete at the time it was attacked in April 1861, but it had been started years before.) These other forts were, in fact, the points from which the Confederates launched their bombardment on Ft. Sumter. Major Robert Anderson, who commanded the Union company at Fort Sumter, comprising about 85 men, had previously occupied nearby Ft. Moultrie, but he had abandoned it on Dec. 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina's secession, because of the rising tensions between the North and the South, and moved his men to Ft. Sumter, which he thought could be better defended. Confederate troops under Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard had moved in and taken over Fort Moultrie and other forts located along the shores of the harbor, virtually surrounding Anderson. Prior to the firing on Ft. Sumter, Anderson had refused Beauregard's demands that he surrender peacefully.
One of the tidbits of info I learned during my visit to Ft. Sumter was that Captain Abner Doubleday, who would go on to become a general in the Union Army and who would later be credited with having invented baseball, was Anderson's second-in-command at Ft. Sumter. In fact, the troops stationed at Ft. Sumter supposedly played a form of baseball on the small island.
As I say, even though Fort Sumter is about a thousand miles away from the Ozarks, the events there in mid-April of 1861 affected the entire nation, including our neck of the woods. The History of Greene County, Missouri, for instance, recounted how the news of the firing on Ft. Sumter was received in Springfield. The news was received by telegraph, and the local newspaper published an extra edition announcing it. The news reportedly threw the whole town into a state of intense excitement, and people stood on every street corner discussing the event with anxiety and anticipation.
I am attaching a picture I took of the welcome sign at the entrance to Ft. Sumter, and you can see part of the fort in the left background.