STATE – One hundred and fifty years ago today, an Elizabeth sea captain drew the first shots of the Civil War.
While most of us learned in grade school that the Civil War began on April 12, 1861 when Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina, armed hostilities began more than three months earlier.
Fort Sumter was cut off from resupply when South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union on Dec. 20, 1860. Then President James Buchanan secretly dispatched the unarmed steamer Star of the West under the command of Captain John McGowan to relieve the federal fort.
At sunrise on Jan. 9, 1861, the steamer entered the mouth of Charleston Harbor carrying 200 troops below decks. However, its arrival was not a surprise – southern sympathizers in Washington, D.C. had alerted South Carolina forces.
Troops under the command of Major P.F. Stephens fired warning shots at the ship. History credits Citadel Cadet George Edward Haynsworth for firing the first shot of the conflict.
McGowan still hoped to reach Fort Sumter, but he was forced to turn back when his ship was struck by fire from Fort Moultrie.
McGowan is buried in Hillside in Evergreen Cemetery. The New Jersey Sesquicentennial Committee of the New Jersey Civil War Heritage Association hopes to restore his tombstone.
Connect with NJTODAY.NET
Join NJTODAY.NET's free Email List to receive occasional updates delivered right to your email address!