CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP/WCSC) - Cannons boomed at dawn around Charleston Harbor, recreating the bombardment of Fort Sumter that plunged the nation into the Civil War on April 12, 1861.
The South Carolina ceremony Tuesday begins the four-year national commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the nation's bloodiest war.
Around 4 a.m. Tuesday, a single beam of light was aimed skyward from Fort Sumter. Then about half-hour later - around the time of the first shots of the war - the beam split into two beams, signifying a nation torn in two.
The event was commemorated at Fort Johnson where the first shot of the Civil War was fired at Fort Sumter. As part of the ceremony re-enactors fired a ten inch siege mortar. The model is from the 1840's, the same used in the first shot 150 years ago.
The event also included a taps memorial and 21 gun salute honoring the union and confederate soldiers who lost their lives.
The ceremony included a speech by Sen. Glenn McConnell who talked about a divided country 150 years ago but united today.
The war resulted in more than 600,000 deaths, although during the bombardment of Sumter only a Confederate officer's horse was killed.
Union troops in the fort surrendered after absorbing 36 hours of Confederate shells.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press & WCSC. All rights reserved.