Civil War Milestones for April 1861 Begin Sesquicentennial

The early morning hours of April 12, 1861, at Fort Sumter in South Carolina saw the start of the American Civil War. Re-enactment events took place Tuesday marking this 150-year anniversary in Charleston. Confederate batteries fired on Fort Sumter; the bombardment ended with a formal surrender of Union troops stationed there. It all started with those first shots at Fort Sumter in the month of April in 1861.

There were several other milestone events taking place in the Civil War’s first month that would change the course of history and the attitudes of Americans past and present. It was just the beginning for one city that sparked a number of events throughout the war. Secession was brewing in the South, finally starting a domino effect with the creation of one new state and the Confederate States.

Harpers Ferry – April 19

This town was located strategically on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. Many Union and Confederate troops moved through there quite frequently. The start of what would be many more conflicts to come at Harpers Ferry was the cutting of telegraph lines and bridges into Washington, D.C., by Southern sympathizers. When the 6th Massachusetts Regiment was coming through Harpers Ferry, they were attacked. The Union soldiers opened fired on the crowd, killing three soldiers and one civilian. They were the first casualties of the Civil War.

Today, Harpers Ferry is a national historic park. From 2011 to 2015, the park will have significant re-enactments depicting the subsequent events of the burning of the federal arsenal and the Battle of Bolivar Heights.

First Wheeling Convention – April 22

On this date, the Clarksburg (now West Virginia) Convention called for an anti-secessionist convention to be held the following month. There were as many Virginians for the North as there were for the South. While calling for a pro-Union convention, this would eventually lead to the statehood of West Virginia.

Virginia Secession Convention – April 23

One of the most significant events besides Fort Sumter was the start of the secession movement for the state of Virginia. At this convention, delegates ratified a temporary union with the Confederacy by accepting the Southern Constitution. It would then await approval for the ordinance of secession that eventually passed with a referendum vote of 132, 201 to 37,451.

Not only in April 1861 did Fort Sumter become the starting point for the American Civil War, but the initial event at Harpers Ferry as well as two conventions would create a nation divided: one within the Union, one among the Confederacy. This is just the beginning on the Civil War’s four-year sesquicentennial anniversary


Harriet McLeod, “First shots mark 150 years since start of Civil War”,

Civil War Timeline/Chronology for April 1861, Georgia’s Blue and Gray Trail

Harpers Ferry, National Park

Statehood – Born of the Civil War,

Ordinance of Secession of Virginia, The Confederate War