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The First Shot of the Civil War
July 26, 2005 12:24 AM   Subscribe

The First Shot of the Civil War was fired on January 9, 1861, when George Edward Haynesworth, a cadet at The Citadel, fired a handgun at the Star of the West (1861 engraving), which was attempting to reinforce Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor (1861 map, Google map). As Captain John McGowan reported, Confederate troops from Morris Island and Fort Moultrie fired 17 shots at the Star of the West, forcing it to withdraw and return to New York. President Buchanan then "reverted to a policy of inactivity that continued until he left office." Cadet Haynsworth was in the last Civil War battle east of the Mississippi and claimed to have also fired the last shot in the war. The Star of the West was later captured by the Confederates. The Citadel has a Star of the West Monument and scholarship dedicated to the cadets that fired on the ship. Also: Harper's Weekly newspapers fom the Civil War.
posted by kirkaracha (17 comments total)

 
Thanks for posting this. I can't believe that we went to all that trouble and killed/maimed a generation of young men just to let the antagonists come back into political prominence.

Maybe after the second Civil War, we'll remember what happens when we repatriate and turn our backs.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:05 AM on July 26, 2005


Ah, the Citadel. Bravely resisting slaves, freedmen, and women since 1842. Hail the power of pushups.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:00 AM on July 26, 2005


I just love it when you get all fiesty MC.
posted by Necker at 5:24 AM on July 26, 2005


to let the antagonists come back into political prominence

Interrogative, over.
posted by alumshubby at 5:33 AM on July 26, 2005


In the South, the Civil War is called the War of Northern Aggression. But they admit they fired first, and even lionize Mr. Haynesworth for doing so.

I'll be charitable and assume that it's different people in both cases. :)
posted by Malor at 6:21 AM on July 26, 2005


Malor I don't think it's that incongruous. Firing first on an outside invading force is not aggression. The point of the term "War of Northern aggression" is to point out the fact that it was the North that was forcibly trying to unify the country rather than the South that trying to forcibly tear it apart.

From the Southern perspective, the Star of the West constitutes an outside military force that is attempting to reinforce a military outpost of an unfriendly foreign nation. That is the aggression, not defending your country against that threat.

This all obviously predicated on the notion that South Carolina's claims to independence were legitimate, but within that framework, both the firing and the terming of the war make sense.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:45 AM on July 26, 2005


The point of the term "War of Northern aggression" is to point out the fact that it was the North that was forcibly trying to unify the country...

Because the proper way to smooth over your boorish (slave-owning) behavior is to indignantly reply "he started it!"

I think the North needs a transparent, embarassing, "Operation Iraqi Freedom"-style propaganda term for the Civil War. I'm always getting accused of unfair anti-southern predjudice, so I'll leave it up to others to suggest a suitable alternative.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:08 AM on July 26, 2005


Historically, that would be the War For Suppression of Rebellion, Curley.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:19 AM on July 26, 2005


"Civil War" is an oxymoron anyway...

"The War of Reunion" has a nice victors-write-the-history-books ring to it, plus it captures Lincoln's intent. I tend to think of it as "The National Train Wreck" -- it was about as unavoidable and bloody as a rail mishap, scaled up. But at this point, posterity has probably left us stuck with the existing nomenclature.

I lived most of my life in South Carolina and when I heard the phrase "War of Northern Aggression," it was voice sardonically as often as earnestly.
posted by alumshubby at 7:23 AM on July 26, 2005


that would be the War For Suppression of Rebellion, Curley.

See, that's a little too literal-- it describes the situation accurately. The CSA said "We are rebels, and we are having a rebellion." And then Lincoln replied "My ass! I will engage in suppression of your rebellion!" So it's not that loaded a term-- southerners today sometimes refer to the Confederacy's flag as the "Rebel Flag."

I was hoping for terms more along the lines of "Kudzu Storm" or "Operation Negro Freedom" or, dare I say it, "Operation Inbred Justice".
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:39 AM on July 26, 2005


In Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson dwells briefly on how contemporary Southern thought characterized the war as a second American Revolution -- striking a blow for freedom and against tyranny, only this time that of the Northern states.

Mayor Curley: What did you mean by "just to let the antagonists come back into political prominence"? The way Reconstruction was (mis)applied, the Southern states didn't matter much politically for nearly a hundred years after 1865 until the cynical "Southern strategy" -- is that what you're referring to?
posted by alumshubby at 8:06 AM on July 26, 2005


Cadet Haynsworth was in the last Civil War battle east of the Mississippi and claimed to have also fired the last shot in the war.

A friend of mine was the last man shot at Gettysburg. He was at a re-enactment, some idiot had forgotten to load his flintlock with blanks. My friend was shot in the neck.

Apparrently he just lay there in shock for a while, unable to call for help because he couldn't talk. After the smoke had cleared, someone looked closer and - OH! - that's real blood!

I think there's a lancet article on this somewhere, but a quick googling can't find it.
posted by metaculpa at 12:09 PM on July 26, 2005


What/where was the last battle east of the Mississippi, anyhow? The linked article didn't say.

metaculpa: That's what I call realism. Like the guy in Confederates in the Attic would say, "Super hardcore!"
posted by alumshubby at 1:11 PM on July 26, 2005


One of my relatives hoisted the rebel flag at the first naval engagement of the Civil War. So my weird uncle tells it. He could be lying. Who knows.

I have a small, very detailed portrait of this guy's face. He looks like my clone.

Maybe that explains while I'm always whistling "Dixie"......
posted by troutfishing at 1:45 PM on July 26, 2005


Too bad the wrong side won. (i.e. The Federal government.)

Now we're all slaves...
posted by insomnia_lj at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2005


Born and raised Southern and not once have I ever heard the term "War of Northern Aggression" said with out a wry grin and the speaker's tongue firmly planted in his/her cheek.

Also I can't remember a time where, this being said, some Yankee didn't immediately climb up on his/her anti-slavery soapbox.

I have no problem admiting the South left the Union mainly to preserve it's way of life (which was largely based on slavery), but please don't start on the "Northern Liberators of African-Americans" bs.
posted by jcking77 at 6:01 PM on July 26, 2005


What/where was the last battle east of the Mississippi, anyhow? The linked article didn't say.

The "last battle east of the Mississippi" was for all intents and purposes Appomattox. Haynesworth is said to have served under Joe Johnston, but he sought out Sherman to negotiate terms of surrender once he received news that Lee had laid down his arms. I can't find anything that says that Sherman and Johnston's armies met and fought after Lee's surrender. There had been a major confrontation a month earlier at Bentonville; perhaps this is what was meant.

I think the North needs a transparent, embarassing, "Operation Iraqi Freedom"-style propaganda term for the Civil War ... Historically, that would be the War For Suppression of Rebellion....

> During the early years of The War, the Yankee propagandists attempted to drum up support by labeling it "The War to Save the Union" (inadvertently acknowledging that the North, without the South, would be lost).

As the battles drags on and Yankee morale ebbed, they renamed it the "War for Abolition." Finally, after the final surrender, the Union government renamed it again when they published "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies."...

[note: some bias becomes evident]
After all the smoke cleared, and while the South was subjugated, the Northern war-mongers groped to justify their aggression. During the terrible military rule of "Reconstruction" the Northern conquerors popularized the term "Civil War." ... During "Reconstruction," with Southern presses censored and freedom of speech was suppressed, the Southerners took a compromise position. They referred to it as the "War Between The States:" still frequently used today and often shortened to WBTS. If one considers the dispute was between the United States and the Confederate States [i.e. separate nations] then WBTS is an accurate description of the combatants.... On the other hand, if one assumes the "War Between The States" refers to the events between the Northern and the Southern states of the USA, then the implication is a civil war. As noted above, it was not a civil war.

posted by dhartung at 11:29 PM on July 26, 2005


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