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The 1860s in South Carolina


State capitol at Columbia
State capitol at Columbia

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president as the candidate of the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery. South Carolina had threatened to secede if the Republicans won, and on December 20, 1860, it became the first state to leave the Union. Ten other Southern states followed. In March 1861 the breakaway states organized as the Confederate States of America and got ready for war.

The American Civil War began April 12, 1861, when Confederate artillery, under orders from Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, bombarded federal forces at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor. After 34 hours, the fort surrendered. Aside from this event, little major fighting took place in the state. Charleston harbor was blockaded almost for the duration of the war, and the city was finally occupied by Union forces in February 1865 after a 19-month siege.

Among the Union troops marching into Charleston was the black 54th Massachusetts Infantry, singing “John Brown’s Body.” A few weeks later, 4,000 of the city’s black population staged a massive parade to celebrate their liberation. Black schoolchildren marched with a banner that read “We Know No Master But Ourselves.” Also in February, Union troops under General William T. Sherman burned Columbia in the course of their devastating march northward from Savannah through the Carolinas. All along the way, planters’ homes, smokehouses, and storerooms were plundered. In all, about 63,000 South Carolinians served in the Confederate forces; more than one-fifth of them lost their lives. "South Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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