150 years ago today, James Chestnut Jr. and Stephen D. Lee rowed toward Ft Sumter to hand Major Robert Anderson a piece of notepaper. In it, they detailed that in an hour’s time, they would begin to shell the fort. The two men then rowed back across the harbor and awaited for the first batteries to fire.
With that gentleman’s notice and the subsequent mortars, the American Civil War began. Feel free to begin your own conversations about its origin and its impact, but take a moment to remember that some 625,000 Americans were killed as a result of the ACW*. James Garfield, Williams grad and U.S. President, participated in the conflict, as a Chief of Staff for a Union Commander. A number of Ephs left Williams to fight and die for their country in the ACW.
Take today to enjoy the history all around you. The ACW is literally right outside our front doors. I should note, today also kicks off a series of monumental 150th anniversary events throughout battlefields and important ACW towns. Check them out! And donate to your local battlefield as well– a lot of them are suffering financially, as a result of budget constraints and decline in interest as time passes. Hopefully the 150th anniversary will help bring interest to a new generation of Americans.
(Author’s note: I was looking forward to Google’s Doodle today, expecting it to highlight the beginning of the ACW’s 150th anniversary. Instead, it highlighted the first manned space flight. Cue anger. A Williams alum and I chatted about this during work and got into a blind rage over Google’s decision. What would NASA look like if the ACW had turned out differently? What would today’s geo-political landscape look like? Shew, rant over. Somewhere, Professors Dew and Wood are smiling.)
*Figure will always be tentative for many reasons, including poor record keeping.