James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 12


By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)

  • On the 12th of April, 1861, Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, garrisoned by United States troops, was bombarded by the Confederate forces, and, after resisting for thirty-four hours, capitulated. This was the first battle of the war.

  • CAME the morning of that day

    When the God to whom we pray

    Gave the soul of Henry Clay

    To the land;

    How we loved him, living, dying!

    But his birthday banners flying

    Saw us asking and replying

    Hand to hand.

    For we knew that far away,

    Round the fort in Charleston Bay,

    Hung the dark impending fray,

    Soon to fall;

    And that Sumter’s brave defender

    Had the summons to surrender

    Seventy loyal hearts and tender—

    (Those were all!)

    And we knew the April sun

    Lit the length of many a gun—

    Hosts of batteries to the one

    Island crag;

    Guns and mortars grimly frowning,

    Johnson, Moultrie, Pinckney, crowning,

    And ten thousand men disowning

    The old flag.

    Oh, the fury of the fight

    Even then was at its height!

    Yet no breath, from noon till night,

    Reached us here;

    We had almost ceased to wonder,

    And the day had faded under,

    When the echo of the thunder

    Filled each ear!

    Then our hearts more fiercely beat,

    As we crowded on the street,

    Hot to gather and repeat

    All the tale;

    All the doubtful chances turning,

    Till our souls with shame were burning,

    As if twice our bitter yearning

    Could avail!

    Who had fired the earliest gun?

    Was the fort by traitors won?

    Was there succor? What was done

    Who could know?

    And once more our thoughts would wander

    To the gallant lone commander,

    On his battered ramparts grander

    Than the foe.

    Not too long the brave shall wait;

    On their own heads be their fate,

    Who against the hallowed State

    Dare begin;

    Flag defied and compact riven!

    In the record of high Heaven

    How shall Southern men be shriven

    For the sin!