Fort Sumter and the Impending Crisis: Reason Writers on the Civil War


In the early morning hours of April 12, 1861, Confederate batteries under the command of General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard opened fire on Fort Sumter in the harbor outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Three days later, President Abraham Lincoln began mobilizing the North for war. "If the shot fired at Fort Sumter 'was heard round the world,'" observed Ulysses S. Grant in his 1885 Memoirs, "the call of the President for 75,000 men was heard throughout the Northern States." In addition to requesting those 75,000 state militia volunteers, Lincoln ordered an increase in the size of the regular army, instructed the Navy to erect a blockade of the Confederate coast, and suspended habeas corpus in certain areas—all without seeking the approval of Congress. Meanwhile in Montgomery, Alabama, the provisional capital of the Confederate States of America, Secretary of War LeRoy Pope Walker reportedly bragged, "before the first of May the flag of the Southern Confederacy will wave from the dome of the old Capitol in Washington and within a short time perhaps also from Faneuil Hall in Boston." And so the war came.

A century and a half later the Civil War continues to fascinate and divide Americans, libertarians included. To mark today's 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter and the start of the bloodiest war in American history, Reason presents a selection of our best writing on the Civil War and its legacy:

Southern Nationalism: Exploring the roots of the Civil War. By Charles Oliver.

Blood Money: Gettysburg's status as a national symbol is inseparable from its commercial success. By Damon Root.

The Confederate Leviathan. By Ronald Bailey.

Dred Scott's Revenge: By applying positivism instead of natural law, 19th century courts burdened American racial history to this day. By Judge Andrew Napolitano.

The Outsiders: How D.W. Griffith paved the way for Ed Wood. By Jesse Walker.

Wrong Song of the South: The dangerous fallacies of Confederate multiculturalism. By David Beito and Charles Nuckolls.

'A Glorious Liberty Document': Frederick Douglass' case for an anti-slavery Constitution. By Damon Root

Behind the Jeffersonian Veneer: The author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History is no libertarian. By Cathy Young.

Florida's Forgotten Rebels: Rediscovering the most successful slave revolt in American history. By Amy Sturgis.