Here, at the halfway point of the Civil War, we have the luxury of being able to look back and look ahead at the same time.
We don't have to look ahead very far. May 1-5 is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville in Northern Virginia, a battle that would take the lives of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and kill and wound about 29,000. others.
Many battles followed that.
How many people would die as a result of the Civil War? The people alive at the half way point would have no way of knowing. In fact, we living on April 14, 2013 have no true way of knowing, either. For years, the accepted figure was 620,000. In 2012, a demographic historian at Binghamton University in upstate NY, across the river from where I live, suggested a different figure: 750,000.
Yes, it happened, and shaped the country we in the United States live in. That's part of the reason for our fascination, even for people like me who had no ancesters living in the United States at the time of the war. (My ancestors did not come to this country until the first two decades of the 20th century.)
Right now, I'd like to continue a tradition of this blog - repeating part of a blog post from April of 2011, when I visited Ft. Sumter and Charleston, South Carolina just before the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War, with a slightly rewritten end. Next week, we continue with events more connected to April of 2013.
Ft. Sumter - The Beginning
On a building in downtown Charleston is this plaque. The actual building is no longer there but at this site the Ordinance of Secession for South Carolina was passed. South Carolina was the first state to leave the Union, in December of 1860.
Over the next four months, a crisis built at a fort in Charleston Harbor, Ft. Sumter. Actually, not too much of Ft. Sumter from the Civil War exists; much of what is on the site now dates from the Spanish-American War. Nevertheless, there is a lot to see.
This first picture is the boarding of the ferry that takes you to Ft. Sumter. The ferry ride lasts about 1/2 hour each way and you have an hour or so to tour the fort. Boarding, we had a good view of the lovely Ravenel Bridge that spans the Cooper River. Charleston lies between two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper.
A taped narrative plays as the ferry approaches the island Ft. Sumter is located on.
When you embark at the Fort, what you see remaining of the Civil War fought looks like this. It is amazing, given the bombardment this fort suffered, that any of it is still standing.
Inside one of the Spanish-American War buildings, is a museum where the Ft. Sumter Flag is on display....battered but in a place of honor. There are 33 stars (states) on this flag. (It wasn't until later that I was told that flash photography can damage old cloth...but there was no sign prohibiting flash photography that I saw. After the fort was surrendered to the Confederacy the union Major kept the flag. This flag traveled throughout the North and was "auctioned off" to raise funds for the war.
On the way back, you can see the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, that is on display in Patriots Point in Charleston Harbor. A symbol of the more modern United States, that was given birth through the Civil War, and a popular tourist attraction in Mt. Pleasant, on the "other side of the river" from Charleston.
What would the Confederates have thought?