Battle of Fort Sumter Online Exhibit

The Prayer at Sumter

Illustration of The Prayer at Sumter

Caption: The Prayer at Sumter, December 27, 1860. [Shows Anderson kneeling at the base of the flagpole.]

Source: Illustration from Harper's Weekly, January 26, 1861, pages 49-50.

Harper's Weekly described this scene as follows:

It is known that, on leaving Fort Moultrie, Major Anderson brought away with him the flag which he had been in the habit of hoisting over that fort. He entered Sumter on the night of 26-27th Dec., and determined to hoist the flag at noon on the 27th. We give the scene in the words of an eyewitness:

"A short time before noon Major Anderson assembled the whole of his little force, with the workmen employed on the fort, around the foot of the flag-staff. The national ensign was attached to the cord, and Major Anderson, holding the end of the lines in his hands, knelt reverently down. The officers, soldiers, and men clustered around, many of them on their knees, all deeply impressed with the solemnity of the scene. The chaplain made an earnest prayer -- such an appeal for support, encouragement, and mercy as one would make who felt that 'Man's extremity is God's opportunity.' As the earnest, solemn words of the speaker ceased, and the men responded Amen with a fervancy that perhaps they had never before experienced, Major Anderson drew the 'Star Spangled Banner' up to the top of the staff, the band broke out with the national air of 'Hail Columbia,' and loud and exultant cheers, repeated again and again, were given by the officers, soldiers, and workmen. 'If,' said the narrator, 'South Carolina had at that moment attacked the fort, there would have been no hesitation upon the part of any man within it about defending that flag.'"

Note: Another illustration of this event appeared in the New York Illustrated News on the same date.

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Last Updated: April 2, 2012