Friday April 12, 1861
Commentary: Edmund Ruffin's "First Shot"
Edmund Ruffin had come to South Carolina to aid the secessionist movement. He intended to provoke war with the North and thereby drive his own state, Virginia, into the Confederacy. In Charleston, he joined the Palmetto Guard stationed on Cummings Point, just south of Fort Sumter.
Ruffin always claimed he was given the ceremonial honor of firing the first shot. Many accounts of the battle credit Ruffin's story.
However, a number of historians are skeptical of Ruffin's account, arguing that there is no conclusive evidence to support it. It seems safer to say, as Allan Nevins puts it, that Ruffin's shot was "among" the first.
Bibliography: Swanberg, First Blood, p. 298; Allmendinger,
Ruffin, pp. 155, 171, 245n; Craven, Ruffin, pp. 216-17,
271n; Nevins, War for the Union, 1: 70; Roland, American
Iliad, p. 33; Long, Civil War, p.