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Nation remembers Civil War's first shots

Lights shine at Fort Sumter at 4:30 a.m. today to commemorate the moment the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 10:27 am

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Somber music and thudding cannons around Charleston Harbor in South Carolina ushered in the commemoration of the nation’s bloodiest conflict today.

The events re-creating the siege of Fort Sumter began the four-year national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

“We’re very clear we don’t see this as a celebration but rather as a somber time,” Tim Stone, superintendent of the Fort Sumter National Monument, said Monday. “We know that over the course of the four years of the Civil War, 600,000 lives were lost. It’s a very tragic event.”

Around 4 a.m., a single beam of light reached skyward from Fort Sumter. About a half-hour later — about the time of the first shots of the Civil War — there was a second beam signifying a nation torn in two.

Later, an authentic 1847 seacoast mortar fired and was answered by cannons from around the harbor.

A Union re-enactor tossed a wreath into the water, after which re-enactors in gray fired a 21-gun salute in memory of all who died on South Carolina soil. Two buglers then echoed taps.

The war began before dawn April 12, 1861, with the start of the Confederate bombardment of Union-held Fort Sumter. Union troops in the fort surrendered after more than 30 hours of Confederate fire. Historian Rick Hatcher says the bombardment didn’t cause any deaths, but two Union soldiers died of wounds suffered when a salute was fired during the surrender ceremony.

The conflict ended with the surrender of Confederate forces April 9, 1865.