January 9th, 1861 First Shots Fired in American Civil War


On January 9, 1861, the first shots of the American Civil War were fired when a Union merchant ship, the Star of the West, was fired upon as it tried to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The ship was carrying supplies for Major Robert Anderson and his 80 soldiers who were stationed at Fort Sumter.

The Buchanan administration decided to dispatch a civilian ship, the Star of the West, instead of a military transport, in order to keep tensions from flaring.  The ship was fired upon by a South Carolina battery on Morris Island, manned by Citadel Academy cadets, and two cannon shots roared from the battery. The shots represented the opening salvo of the war. More shots were fired, and the ship suffered a minor hit. Anderson watched from Fort Sumter but did not respond in support of the ship. If he had, the war might have started on that day. 

This incident was the first time shots were exchanged between North and South, although it did not trigger the Civil War. The standoff at Fort Sumter continued until the Confederates attacked in April, triggering the Civil War. 

Later in 1864, Confederate General Jubal Early occupied Summit Hall Farm near Gaithersburg, using it as a temporary camp for his 14,000 troops before the Battle of Monocacy.
Image from vintagebooksmd.org 

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