During the early months of 1861, the situation around Fort Sumter increasingly began to resemble a siege. In March, General P.G.T. Beauregard, of the newly formed Confederate Army, was placed in command of Confederate forces in Charleston. Beauregard energetically directed the strengthening of batteries around Charleston harbor aimed at Fort Sumter.
The South sent delegations to Washington, D.C., and offered to pay for the Federal properties and enter into a peace treaty with the United States. Lincoln rejected any negotiations with the Confederate agents because he did not consider the Confederacy a legitimate nation and making any treaty with it would be tantamount to recognition of it as a sovereign government. However, Secretary of State William Seward, who wished to give up Sumter for political reasons—as a gesture of good will—engaged in unauthorized and indirect negotiations that failed.
|Fort Sumter Under Fire|
|Charleston Residents Watching Shelling|
Ships from Fox's relief expedition began to arrive on April 12. Although Fox himself arrived at 3 a.m. on his steamer Baltic, most of the rest of his fleet was delayed until 6 p.m. As landing craft were sent toward the fort with supplies, the artillery fire deterred them and they pulled back. Fox decided to wait until after dark and for the arrival of his warships. The next day, heavy seas made it difficult to load the small boats with men and supplies and Fox was left with the hope that Anderson and his men could hold out until dark on April 13.
Although Sumter was a masonry fort, there were wooden buildings inside for barracks and officer quarters. The Confederates targeted these with "hot shot" rounds (cannonballs that had been heated in ovens), starting fires that could prove more dangerous to the men than the explosive artillery.
The fort's central flagpole was knocked down at 1 p.m. on April 13, raising doubts among the Confederates about whether the fort was ready to surrender.
Fort Sumter raised Wigfall's white handkerchief on its flagpole as Wigfall departed in his small boat back to Morris Island, where he was hailed as a hero. The handkerchief was spotted in Charleston and a delegation of officers representing Beauregard—Stephen D. Lee, Porcher Miles, a former mayor of Charleston, and Roger Pryor—sailed to Sumter, unaware of Wigfall's visit.
The Union garrison surrendered the fort to Confederate personnel at 2:30 p.m., April 14.
|Our Banner in the Sky, by Frederic Edwin Church|
Following the battle, there was widespread support from both North and South for further military action. Lincoln's immediate call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the rebellion resulted in an additional four southern slaves states also declaring their secession and joining the Confederacy.