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In Their Own Words

April 12, 1861

Diary Entry on Civil War Beginning

John Banks was a 63-year-old planter, businessman, and former lawyer who lived in Columbus, Ga. In his journal, he recorded the beginning of the Civil War:

“I have neglected my diary for some time and now begin it again. The cotton crop has brought a good price, say 9 to 13 cents. I shipt mine to Liverpool. My factories sold it too soon, averaging me about 10 cents. The war feeling has continued to grow. Seven states have seceded, viz: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida and Texas, and others holding conventions preparing to secede.

“These seven states have met at Montgomery, the temporary capital of the Southern Confederacy. Elected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, President and Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia, vice President. The old government [United States] refuses to recognize the secession and hence a war now seems inevitable.

“The old government keeps possession of Fort Sumter at Charleston, South Carolina, and fort Pickens at Pensacola, while the Southern Confederacy has gotten possession of the most of the forts in the South. Both governments have been concentrating their forces at these two points, where the war will likely be inaugurated. Yesterday we heard news that Fort Sumter would be demanded and if not surrendered to the Southern Army an attack would be made, and the firing of three cannons all through the confederated states would be the signal of the attack and the firing of seven guns, the signal of a surrender of the fort. Great excitement and the signals expected every hour since yesterday, Meridian. 10 o’clock today the guns commenced. When there had been three fired I waited anxiously for another, but it stopt at that. Now the probability and almost certainty that the first blood has been shed, and while I write the battle is raging.”

Source: John Banks, Autobiography of John Banks, 1797 - 1870 (Austell, Ga.: privately printed by Elberta Leonard, 1936), p. 22.