Historical Treasure of the Month: Cannonball that started Civil War

Published 12:05 pm Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fort Sumter, South Carolina, April 12, 1861, about 4:30 a.m. The darkness of the pre-dawn hour was shattered by cannon fire that hurled a cannonball toward the fort. “Almost immediately afterward a ball from Cummings Point lodged in the magazine wall, and by the sound seemed to bury itself in the masonry about a foot from my head, in very unpleasant proximity to my right ear.” That ear belonged to Capt. Abner Doubleday, a Tryon resident, who personally witnessed the first shot of the Civil War.

Capt. Doubleday retrieved the cannonball and then fired the first shot in defense of Fort Sumter. The cannonball was handed down in the Doubleday family for 123 years. In 1986 Betty Doubleday Frost, grand-niece of Abner Doubleday, donated this family treasure to the Polk County Historical Association Museum in Columbus so future generations could see it and perhaps reflect upon the four years of horrific conflict that followed.

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The Civil War ensured the future of the United States as “one Nation under God,” but that future was sealed with the blood of over 620,000 soldiers.

Learn more about Capt. Doubleday and on this 150th anniversary year see the historic cannonball at the Polk County Historical Association Museum in Columbus. The museum is open Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.