The election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860 brought to a head the issue of slavery in the United States. In direct response to Lincoln's election as president, seven southern states seceded from the Union rather than continue to negotiate and compromise over the issue of slavery, which had been the norm for so many decades.
The first state to secede was South Carolina on December 20, 1860. By February 1861, six more states had joined the new Confederate States of America. With their secession declarations came the demands that all United States property be turned over to those states, including military property, and said installations abandoned by United States soldiers, sailors, and marines. The new Lincoln administration sought not to provoke armed conflict but refused to surrender Federal installations to the Confederates. Instead, Lincoln chose to resupply Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor and other forts when required. No arms, munitions, or troops would be sent to the garrisons. Rather, supply ships with food, fodder, and other necessities of life were sent south.
One attempt to resupply Sumter took place in January but the ship, the Star of the West, was turned away by Rebel guns. Negotiations continued in Charleston between Confederate General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, in command of the Confederate forces there and Maj. Robert Anderson, the Fort Sumter garrison commander. The talks failed to resolve tensions. On April 9, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Confederate cabinet decided to “strike a blow!” The next day, Davis ordered Beauregard to reduce Fort Sumter. Early on the morning of April 12, 1861, Confederate guns around the harbor opened fire on Fort Sumter. At 2:30 pm on April 13th, Major Robert Anderson, garrison commander, surrendered the fort and it was evacuated the next day.
With the firing on Fort Sumter, the American Civil War was officially upon both the North and the South. A war that lasted four years and cost the lives of more than 620,000 Americans and freed 3.9 million people from the bondage of slavery.