Fort Sumter is a coastal fortification in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. The fort is known as the site from which the shots that started the Civil War were fired, at the Battle of Fort Sumter.

On December 26, 1860, five days after South Carolina declared its secession from the Union, US Army Major Robert Anderson abandoned the indefensible Fort Moultrie and relocated the two companies he commanded to Fort Sumter, without any orders from Washington. The fort was not complete yet at the time. And didn’t have a full battery of guns.

The confederates blockaded the fort, and on April 11 the Confederate commander, General Beauregard, sent a delegation to demand the surrender of the fort. Anderson declined to surrender. Anderson prolonged the negotiations as long as possible, and set conditions for his surrender that the Confederates couldn’t possibly agree to.

The nearby fort Johnson opened fire on Fort Sumter. The guns opened fire at 4:30 in the morning on April 12, 1861, and fired for 33 straight hours. The garrison returned fire, but this return fire was ineffectual, partly because Major Anderson didn’t use the guns mounted on the highest tier of the fort, where the crews would be more exposed to confederate fire.

On April 13, the fort was surrendered and evacuated. During the attack, the Union colors fell. Lt. Norman J. Hall risked his life to put them back up, and his eyebrows were permanently burnt off. No Union soldiers died in the actual battle of Fort Sumter. However, a Confederate soldier bled to death after being wounded by a misfiring cannon. One Union soldier died and another was fatally wounded in the 27th shot of a 100 shot salute.

A special military decoration, known as the Gilmore medal, was later issued to all Union soldiers who had served in Fort Sumter during this, the opening battle of the Civil War.