April 1861. At Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, the first shots are fired. The Civil War begins.
On April 4, the first vote in the Virginia Secessionist Convention results in an almost 2-to-1 margin against leaving the Union.
Two days later, President Lincoln sent a message to the Governor of South Carolina saying that the U.S would provision the fort, and if that effort was resisted, reinforcements would be sent. The next day, April 7th, Confederate General Beauregard cut off all shipping traffic to the fort. And on April 11th, a formal demand of surrender was sent from Beauregard to the Fort’s commander. At 4:30 the next morning, April 12th, Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, a barrage that would continue until the morning of the 13th. On the 14th, the Fort surrendered. Union Private Daniel Hough, while loading his cannon for a 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag, was killed when his cannon exploded. He was the first man killed in the war.
On April 15th, President Lincoln issued a call for 75,000 troops for a three-month term of service. Tennessee Governor Isham Harris rejected the call, ordering a special session of the state legislature to consider secession. On that same day, Confederate General Braxton Bragg, the commander of the Alabama and West Florida Department, arrested Union Lt. John Worden, making him the first POW.
The Confederate Congress passed a Conscription Act on April 16th. On the 17th, the steamer Star of the West was seized by confederates off the coast of Indianola, Texas.
In reaction to the Ft. Sumter attack, the Virginia Secession Convention reconvened in secret session and approved the articles of secession.
On the 18th, Robert E. Lee was offered command of the U.S. Army. Lee declined and two days later resigned his commission, taking command of the Army of Virginia.
Also on the 18th, Federal forces withdrew from the strategically important Harpers Ferry, Virginia.
On the 19th, southern sympathizers in Baltimore cut telegraph lines and bridges to Washington DC. The 5th Massachusetts regiment was attacked while passing through the city. They return fire, killing one civilian. On that same day, President Lincoln ordered a blockade of southern ports. Federal marshals, after seizing telegraph records sent from the north to the south, arrest many southern sympathizers.
On April 20th, Federal troops evacuate Norfolk, Virginia, scuttling several ships in the harbor.
Maryland Governor Thomas H. Hicks called for the Maryland legislature to consider secession on the 22nd. On the 23rd, Federal troops leave Ft. Smith, Arkansas. On that same day, the Virginia secessionist convention ratifies a temporary union with the Confederacy. (Secession was approved by voters in a general election on May 24th). On the 27th, Richmond was offered as the capital city of the Confederacy.
President Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus on the 27th, making it legal for authorities to hold prisoners without charge or cause.
On April 29th, the Maryland legislature voted 53-13 against convening a secessionist convention.