As news of the relief expeditionof Fort Sumter percolated through the Confederate government, Beauregard was instructed to demand the fort’s surrender and fire on it if surrender was refused. Beauregard began moving men and artillery into place and on April 11 and sent envoys to Fort Sumter to demand surrender. Anderson, after polling his men, once again refused. Following the refusal, Beauregard was asked to assess how long it would be before Anderson would run out of food and be forced to surrender, so just after midnight on April 12, the envoys arrived back at the Fort. Hoping the relief expedition would arrive before then, Anderson said he would surrender at noon on April 15. He was informed that was not soon enough, firing would began at 4:30 a.m.
After a signal gun was fired, Virginia fire-eater Edmund Ruffin, who had campaigned relentlessly through the 1850s for states’ rights, slavery, and secession, was given the honor of firing the first shot at Fort Sumter. Anderson, to reduce his casualties and conserve ammunition, did not return fire until just before 7:00 a.m. when Captain Abner Doubleday fired the first return shot. Anderson also tried to reduce casualties by only using the guns from his lower casemates, where his men would be less exposed. Later in the morning, the barracks caught fire and many of his men had to be used as a fire crew. In the afternoon, they spotted the three ships flying the US flag just outside the harbor and thought they would be resupplied during the night, not realizing that the ships were actually on their way to Fort Pickens in Pensacola, Florida.
As night fell, Anderson stopped firing and the Confederates reduced their fire but resumed it the next morning. April 13, the barracks again caught fire and threatened the ammunition store, in spite of the rainy day. At about 1 p.m. the flagstaff was shot away and the flag was raised on the ramparts on a makeshift staff. On seeing the flag shot away, Louis Wigfall—aide to Beauregard, fire-eater, and former U.S. senator—rowed out to Fort Sumter on his own initiative, without the knowledge or approval of Beauregard, amid the continuing barrage to see if Anderson was attempting to surrender. Although initially told that Anderson was not surrendering, Wigfall was able to negotiate a surrender. At 1:30 p.m., the flag was replaced with a white sheet. On seeing the flag of surrender, Beauregard ceased firing and sent his envoys to the fort, where they learned of Wigfall’s unofficial mission. After further negotiation, the same terms were eventually agreed to: surrender would occur April 14 at noon.
The people of Charleston came out in boats on April 14 to watch the surrender and evacuation. As part of the surrender terms, Anderson had received permission to fire a 100-gun salute while lowering the American flag before departing. Halfway through, one of the guns discharged prematurely, killing Private Daniel Hough, who had emigrated to the U.S. from Ireland in 1849, and mortally wounding Private Edward Galloway. Reportedly, Hough was buried at the fort, but that has not been proven. The rest of the men were taken by boat to the relief ships just outside the harbor. On April 15, 1861, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the Southern rebellion. The Civil War had begun.