What events led to the attack on Fort Sumter?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There were several events that led to the attack on Fort Sumter. In the 1850s, there were several events that pushed the North and the South further apart. Southerners were upset with the book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. They felt it didn’t accurately portray slavery. Northerners were shocked by what they read. The Kansas-Nebraska Act fueled the debate over slavery. Slavery could now spread to areas where it was previously forbidden. This led to deadly fighting in Kansas.

Other events also occurred in the 1850s. The Dred Scott decision made southerners very happy because they could now take their slaves anywhere without affecting their status. Northerners were furious with this decision.  The Lincoln-Douglas debates split the Democratic Party. Southern Democrats couldn’t trust Stephen Douglas after he explained how states could be unfriendly to slaveowners. John Brown’s attempt to start a slave revolt by attacking the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia infuriated the southerners. They couldn’t believe that the northerners viewed him as a martyr.

The election of 1860 was a key event leading to the attack on Fort Sumter. When Abraham Lincoln won the election, the southerners were convinced he was going to end slavery. This led to the secession of some of the southern states. When President Lincoln announced he was sending unarmed ships to resupply Fort Sumter, the South had to decide if they would stop these ships or allow them to go to Fort Sumter. The South decided to attack the ships, leading to the start of the Civil War.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Soon after Abraham Lincoln was elected, South Carolina seceded.  Fort Sumter was in the harbor of Charleston, SC.  South Carolina saw it as a symbol of what they saw as "foreign" oppression so they wanted to take it.  They fired on an unarmed ship that was sent in January of 1861 to bring supplies to the fort.

Two months later, Lincoln was inaugurated.  He decided to try to resupply the fort again and let the governor of South Carolina know the supplies were coming.  At that point Confederate leaders decided that they needed to take the fort instead of allowing it to be resupplied.  It was then, on April 12, 1861 that Fort Sumter was attacked, essentially starting the Civil War.

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