The Battle of Fort Sumter

The Battle of Fort Sumter is perhaps the best battle to start off with as it is first battle of the American Civil War. It all began on April 12 1861 and subsequently ended on April 13 1861. The battle took place at Fort Sumter on the Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. From the beginning this unfortunate battle was lopsided with the confederates engaging the union troops 500 to 80. The two generals to square off during this rousing battle were Generals Robert Anderson and P.G.T Beauregard who ironically enough use to be Anderson’s artillery student at West Point. What caused the row? Anderson it seems was trying to move his men out of Fort Moultrie to more secure islands near the harbor and Governor Pickens of the newly seceded South Carolina wanted to contain the Union troops at Moultrie. Anderson decided to make his move December 26, 1860 and loaded up his troops to move the crew to Fort Sumter. After Pickens caught wind of this Fort Sumter was besieged but endured and didn’t immediately fall. There were attempts made by a merchant steamer to deliver supplies to the beleaguered Anderson on Jan 9th 1861 but unfortunately they were unable to make it pass Picken’s blockade. By Jan 20th the troops of Fort Sumter were experiencing a serious food shortage and the safe evacuation of 45 women and children was negotiated by both parties, however Anderson ever stubborn refused to surrender. By March 1st P.G.T was appointed by Jefferson Davis to resolve the situation in Charleston and his strategy was to first entrench the harbor to prevent and possible escape for Fort Sumter troops. After Lincoln was sworn in on March 4th 1861 he sent out scouts to observe the situation at Fort Sumter while he attempted to negotiate with Confederate government. With the news that Anderson was due to run out of food and supplies by mid April, the union attempted to send a relief force carrying supplies goods. Hearing of this relief force coming to help Anderson, P.G.T demanded Anderson surrender on April 11th or he was going to fire his artillery and seize Fort Sumter from the Union. Anderson sought to buy more time until the supplies came and on April 12 he told confederate envoys that he would surrender by April 15th at noon. The confederates aware that he was potentially trying to wait things out informed him that it was not soon enough and started firing at 4:30 am on April 12th. In order to reduce casualties and conserve supplies Anderson didn’t return fire until 7:00 am that morning and seized fire during the evening. During the battle the barracks of Fort Sumter caught fire twice, leaving most of troops expending most of their energy trying to put out fires at the Fort instead of defending. On April 13th Louis Wigfall of the confederates rows out to Fort Sumter to see if the union troops were ready to surrender and ends up negotiating a surrender for April 14th 1861 at 12:00 pm. After the fall of Fort Sumter the men of the union were evacuated and taken by relief ships to land. Shortly afterwards Abraham Lincoln sought to enlist 75,000 soldiers to begin the American Civil War.

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Battle of Philippi

The Battle of Philippi, though a smaller and less notable battle, was the first in land battles of the civil war. It was fought June 3, 1861 and its estimated that it lasted less than 20 minutes. It also should be mentioned that there were no causalities in this particular battles and each side had fewer than 10 men injured in skirmish.The Union army held the advantage in this particular battle, commanding 3000 troops versus the 800 troop confederate army in the area. Phillipi was small town in Barbour County Virginia and housed less than 500 residence. While the town itself was not important, the town over, Grafton, was very important because it housed a railroad that connected the east to Ohio and to states in the north west part of the country. Representing the confederate Army was Colonel George Porterfield who was dispatched by Robert E Lee to gather troops in Grafton to hold the rail lines there to cut off a transportation way for the North. Representing the Union Major General George B McClellan. Porterfield attempted to gather troops in Grafton but only managed to recruit a handful that had little to no military training. He received very little reinforcements and very old military equipment. Due to anti confederate sediment and general loyalty to the Union, Porterfield was forced to  withdraw this small force some 25 miles south to secession supporting Philippi. In attempt to slow down any potential Union enemies Porterfield burned down a few bridges. Once Virginia officially decided as a whole on succession McClellan decided to step in and send troops and artillery across the Ohio river to protect the pro-union Virginians. McClellan also dispatched Colonel Benjamin Kelley to Grafton by railway where they united with troops from Indiana and Ohio. In attempt to attack Porterfield from two different directions, the Union, on June 2nd to the 3rd, had Colonel Dumont travel southeast toward Philippi. Colonel Kelley also heads towns Philippi with his 1600 troop army from the northeast. Unfortunately for the Union Kelley made a wrong turn and ended up near Dumont’s troops instead of intercepting Porterfield from the other side. This gave the confederate troops the time they needed move to the mountains in Beverly in a grand attempt to escape. However Kelley and Dumont were determined to catch up with Kelley and pushed through the night and caught up to Confederate troops while they were sleeping. Caught off guard, many of Porterfield’s troops fled giving this particular battle the nickname “the Philippi Races”. In the attempt to chase down fleeing confederate troops Kelley was critically wounded by a bullet to his chest. He however lived and ended up eventually becoming brigadier general in the war and in command of the Department of West Virginia. Dumont did not sustain any injures and was eventually elected in congress the follow year.  Porterfield never held field command again but was not court martial-ed  for supporting the confederacy.

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Battle of Big Bethel

The Battle of Big Bethel was a minor civil war battle that had occurred on June 10th 1861. The battle was conducted near the tip of Virginia in the towns of Hampton and Cobb.This minor battle ended up being a Confederate victory despite them only working with 1400 troops in comparison to the Union’s 3500 troops. While this battle was minor it ended up setting important precedents for future civil war battle to come especially in the way runaway slaves were to be treated by Union troops. Major General Benjamin F Butler was the new commander of the recently formed Department of Virginia and sort to aggressive expand the territory for the Union at his base in Fort Monroe. Being an abolitionist, and unwilling to obey Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, the classified runaway slaves as “contraband of war” so that he could justify not returning them to their “owners” and keeping them within in Union territory. Thus a precedence at that point was set which had an indirect effect of helping to end slavery. Butler wasted no time in his expansion and had Colonel J. Wolcott Phelps scour the town of Hampton. He then moved to occupy Newport News Point on May 27th 1861, and created a camp there called Camp Butler. The confederates, noticing the expansion of union forces and power quickly dispatched Colonel John B Magruder aka Prince John ( a dubbed hero of the Mexican War) to handle the threat. Magruder decided to have his primary line of defense established at Mulberry island but want to use Big Bethel as a place to provoke the union forces into attacking them. In order to fortify themselves they built entrenchments at Little Bethel three miles away and also built an earth works structure on a hill across from Brick Kiln Creek. A howitzer was brought in and several artillery pieces. Taking the bait, Union troops marched on to Little Bethel from Camp Monroe and Camp Butler and took control of three confederate pickets in the morning of June 10th. The main Union plan was to also launch a surprise attack at night on Big Bethel but the surprise was uncovered by the confederates when two different union troops ended up firing on each other in the night resulting in 18 friendly fire deaths and alerting the Confederate Army of their plans. Union troops however still marched on even though they lost their element of surprise and unfortunately Magruder’s troops were more than ready for their attack and lost the battle with 60 deaths in comparison to only 8 deaths in Magruder’s party. Even more demoralizing, Major Withrop was killed and action while trying to attack the Confederate’s left flank and his troops fell back across the Brick Kiln Creek. Withrop was however recognized for his death and sacrifice and commended for his bravery in the northern media. Brigadier General Pierce was blamed for the Union loss in the operation and was kicked out the Army. Magruder however was promptly promoted to brigadier general a week later after his victorious battle.

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Battle of Santa Rosa Island

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