President Abraham Lincoln, one hundred and fifty-three years ago, on April 6, 1861, sent Clerk Robert S. Chew of the State Department to Charleston, South Carolina, to deliver to Governor Francis Pickens the message that an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter with provisions, unless there was resistance.

Robert Chew, accompanied by Captain Theodore Talbot, arrived in Charleston two days after leaving Washington D.C. and read to Governor Pickens, Lincoln's message.

Governor Pickens read the message to General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard, military commander of the area forces.

Beauregard immediately alerted all military forces around Charleston and ordered them to their stations.

From Montgomery, Alabama, on Wednesday, April 10, 1861, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy P. Walker telegraphed Beauregard at Charleston that if he were certain of the resupplying of Fort Sumter "you will at once demand its evacuation, and if this is refused proceed in such manner as you determine to reduce it."

A small boat flying a white flag pushed off from a Charleston wharf on Thursday and proceeded to Fort Sumter.

The three men aboard were Colonel James Chestnut, Jr., a former United States Senator from South Carolina, and presently Beauregard's aide-de-camp; Captain Stephen Dill Lee, an 1854 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and another aide-de-camp to Beauregard and Lieutenant Colonel Alexander R. Chisolm, representative of Governor Pickens.

At midafternoon, these officers handed Major Robert Anderson a message from Beauregard.

"I am ordered by the Government of the Confederate States," the message read, "to demand the evacuation of Fort Sumter."

Anderson replied that the demand to evacuate was one "which I regret my sense of honor, and of my obligations to my Government, prevent my compliance."

As the representatives of Beauregard left, Anderson inquired of notification prior to the commencement of firing. He was told that he would be warned.

"I shall await the first shot," Anderson replied, "and if you do not batter us to pieces, we shall be starved out in a few days."

At 11 p.m. on the night of April 11, 1861, Beauregard's messengers, Chestnut, Lee and Chisolm, along with a fourth aide, Roger A. Pryor of Virginia, returned to Fort Sumter to express to Robert Anderson, Confederate Secretary of War Walker's express wish to avoid bombardment.

After a meeting lasting one and one-half hours with his officers, Anderson stated that he would evacuate the Federal fort in three days if he did not receive additional supplies or further orders from his government.

These terms were obviously unsatisfactory to the Confederates, as it was common knowledge that supplies and possibly re-enforcements were on the way.

Colonel Chestnut and Captain Lee at Fort Sumter stated to Anderson: "Sir: By authority of Brigadier-General Beauregard, commanding the provisional forces of the Confederate States, we have the honor to notify you that he will open the fire of his batteries on Fort Sumter in one hour from this time."

It was 3:30 a.m., April 12, 1861!

The boats containing the aide and staff of Beauregard went immediately to Fort Johnson on James Island, and the general ordered George S. James, commanding the battery, to fire the signal gun.

At 4 a.m., Captain James aroused his artillerymen and arranged to carry out the order.

James was a great admirer of Roger Pryor, former U.S. Congressman from Virginia, and said to him, "You are the only man to whom I would I would give up the honor of firing the first gun of the war," and he offered to allow Pryor to fire it.

Pryor, on receiving the offer, was very much agitated.

With a husky voice he said, "I could not fire the first gun of the war."

Captain James would then allow no one else but himself to fire the gun.

The boat with the aides and staff of Beauregard left Fort Johnson before arrangements were complete for the firing of the signal gun.

About one-third of the distance between Fort Johnson and Fort Sumter, the men "laid on their oars" to witness the firing of "the first gun of the war" between the states.

A shell was fired from a ten-inch mortar at 4:30 a.m. and burst immediately over the fort, about one hundred feet above.

Captain Stephen Lee recorded the moment in his diary. He wrote: "From every nook and corner of the harbor, and in this dead of hour of night, before dawn, that shot was a sound of alarm that brought every soldier in the harbor to his feet, and every man, woman and child in the city of Charleston from their beds. A thrill went through the whole city. It was felt the Rubicon was passed..."

One day later, about eight miles southwest of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the county seat of Neshoba County, at the small community of Neshoba Springs, John M. Bradley mustered Captain Alexander Hamilton Franklin and fifty-two other men of the "Neshoba Riflemen" into state service.

Eleven days later, on April 24, 1861, under a very large oak tree, which stood near the courthouse, Franklin enlisted an additional fifty men into the Rifles, a company destined to become Company D of the famous Eleventh Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

Four days after that ceremony, the 100 plus men marched northeast toward Corinth, Mississippi, and for the first time in the county's short history,

Neshoba was at war!

VETERAN MEMORIES

Civil War Veterans

Hunt, John T. - Private; Third Corporal; mustered April 13, 1861, at Neshoba Springs, Mississippi, in the Neshoba Rifles, which became Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age nineteen; farmer; on extra duty as a teamster, September 23, 1861; received $44.00 in pay as a private, September 16, 1862.

Served as third corporal from early 1864 to close of war; wounded slightly in the head at the Weldon Railroad, August 18, 1864; Muster Roll, July-August 1864: "In Mississippi on wounded furlough;" captured at Hatcher's Run, April 2, 1865; imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland; released at Point Lookout, June 27, 1865; described as six feet one and one-half inches tall, dark complexion, brown hair, and grey eyes (right eye hazel).

World War II Veterans

Willis, Everett Byrant -- Apprentice Seaman to Seaman First Class; enlisted on June 18, 1941, at Jackson, Mississippi, in the United States Navy; age twenty-four; laborer; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at the Naval Training Center at San Diego, California, fall of 1941; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations aboard the U.S.S. Holland (submarine) and the U.S.S. Trout (submarine) at Pearl Harbor, Oahu Island, Territory of Hawaii.

Stationed (on patrol) at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked that island, December 7, 1941; participated in covert activities aboard the U.S.S. Holland in Manila Bay, Philippine Islands, February 1942; wounded in action, March 1943; leg amputated at the knee in Australia, April 1943; returned to the United States mainland, May 30, 1943; hospitalized at the Naval Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, October 1943,and at the Naval Hospital at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 1944.

Awarded the American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, Submarine Combat Medal, Purple Heart Medal and the Silver Star; discharged from the Naval Hospital at Philadelphia, March 15, 1946, combat disability.



Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum

Steven H. Stubbs, Curator

303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284

10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;

Tuesday thru Friday