York Countians reacted to the bombardment of Fort Sumter 150 years ago
Much has transpired in America since April 13, 1861. It’s a totally different world today, with cars, electricity, the Wii, Kindle, modern medicine, computers, plastics, and Lady Gaga. People from the Civil War era would certainly not recognize today’s society.
However, some landmarks remain.
Among them, nestled in Charleston Harbor in South Carolina, is old Fort Sumter, now a peaceful memorial managed by the National Park Service. However, 150 years ago as I type this post, the skies over Fort Sumter were filled with shells as a lengthy bombardment continued. The first Confederate shot had been fired at 4:30 a.m. on the 12th, and for the next 36 hours Rebel shells hurled at the Union-held bastion. The garrison would surrender and haul down the flag.
Within days, Northern and Southern newspapers relayed word of the momentous, and tragic, event.
One such paper was the York Gazette, edited by long-time Democratic leader David Small.
The electrifying news from Charleston stunned the residents of York County, Pa.
Here is a passage I wrote in the new book from Jim McClure and me, Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign (for sale now on amazon.com).
“The news of the attack upon, and capture of Ft. Sumter, and that the President had called for 75,000 troops, caused a feeling of the most intense excitement, and the pervading topic of the community was, War! War!! War!!!”
Citizens eager for news crowded the telegraph office.
Residents put up flags, and those with sewing skills made even more.
“At the present writing,” the Gazette reported, “flags innumerable are floating beautifully and gracefully at various points. They are so numerous that nothing of the kind was seen in York before, and none can look upon the beautiful sight without a feeling of love and admiration for the flag which has so long protected them, and which has been outrageously insulted, not by a foreign foe, but by those who like ourselves, have grown up and prospered beneath its ‘bright stars and broad stripes.’ ”
Only a handful of other accounts of local reaction to Fort Sumter are known to exist.
Here’s another passage from Civil War Voices.
On April 20, Robert E. Lee resigned from the U.S. Army.
He traveled to Richmond, Virginia, where he accepted command of the state’s military forces.
That same day, the Rev. Francis F. Hagen of York’s Moravian Church sat down to write in a journal, in keeping with the long-held practice of his denomination.
“A day of great excitement. During the week the sad tidings came of civil war begun — thru the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston,” he wrote.
War had come to America.
It’s effects are still being felt 150 years later.
May we pause this week to reflect upon the tragedy, and may we all do our part to make sure that we continue to settle our political differences peacefully. We owe that, at least, to our forefathers whose blood was shed for their respective causes.
Passages are copyrighted 2011, Scott L. Mingus, Sr. and James McClure and are used courtesy of Colecraft Industries of Orrtanna, Pa.