Civil War's Ft. Sumter Was Our First 9/11 Says New Book Author

05-Apr-2011 | News-Press Release

Baltimore MD (April 4, 2011) - On April 12, the day that the Civil War began 150 years ago, historian Adam Goodheart will give a free talk at the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) in Baltimore.  He will focus on the bombardment of Fort Sumter that day in 1861. “Fort Sumter was our nation’s first Pearl Harbor or 9/11 moment,” Goodheart said. “It was a history-changing event for the nation — and a life-changing experience for millions of Americans.”


The 6:00 p.m. talk, based on his new book, 1861: The Civil War Awakening, will be followed by a reception and book signing.  For more information and to make reservations for the free talk at MdHS, 201 W. Monument St., contact, or 410-685-3750 x 337.


Goodheart contends that Lincoln checkmated the South by losing Fort Sumter to the Confederates that day in Charleston’s harbor.  He will discuss how that act may have insured the winning of the war.

During the discussion after the talk he will share the dramatic story of Maryland’s role in the conflict, as it found itself torn between loyalties to North and South, slavery and Union.

 In 2008 Goodheart and a group of his students found a stack of 150-year-old letters in the attic of an Eastern Shore plantation that led him to writing the book. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, it will go on sale April 11th.  It tells the little known stories of how the Civil War began through the eyes of unknown heroes of the day.

1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness, and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.


The book introduces readers to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president.




Goodheart takes his readers from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan; from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada; from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island; vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.


The author is a historian, essayist, and journalist. His articles have appeared in National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, The Atlantic, and The New York Times Magazine, among others, and he is a regular columnist for the Times’ acclaimed Civil War series, “Disunion.” He lives in Washington, D.C., and on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where he is director of Washington College’s C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience.


The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the world’s largest museum and library dedicated to the history of Maryland. Occupying an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore, the Society’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled “Maryland Historical Magazine.” More information about the Maryland Historical Society can be found online at




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