Civil War Sesquicentennial Speakers Recall Lessons of the Past

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CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keynote speakers opened the Civil War Sesquicentennial at Fort Sumter National Monument by calling on America to reflect on the horrific cost of the four-year bloodbath and learn from past mistakes. Speaking today from within the fort's shell-pocked brick walls where the North and South first clashed on April 12, 1861, Robert Stanton recalled the words of Frederick Douglass. "If he were here he would remind us that we differ as the waves, but we are one as the sea," said Stanton, senior advisor to Ken Salazar, secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. "We are one people, one nation, because we are indeed one as the sea." Coastal artillery batteries set up around Charleston by Confederate re-enactors boomed from distant points as federal, state and local officials spoke. An estimated 1,000 re- enactors are in town for the event and have scheduled daylong period military exercises that are open to the public. "Today we contemplate the beginning of the Civil War, but we should also celebrate the fact that more people were freed from slavery than at any time in world history," said Robert Sutton, chief historian for the National Park Service. More than 600,000 Americans died in the four-year conflict which ended slavery for 4 million blacks. It devastated the South for generations and destroyed its antebellum culture. Fort Sumter sits on a sand spit at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, its 50-foot walls reduced to half that from Confederate and Union artillery during the war. It is considered the most bombarded two-and-a-half acres on the North American continent, said Fort Sumter historian Rick Hatcher. More than 42,000 artillery rounds - 7 million tons of projectiles - fell on the fort. Sumter is hallowed ground for both North and South, and several dozen re-enactors camped on the grounds this week to commemorate the besieged garrison led by Major Robert Anderson of the First U.S. Artillery Regiment. Matt Borror, 43, of Kingwood, W.Va., near Morgantown, wore the woolen blue uniform and cap of a Union artillery soldier. Borror said he considered it a privilege to attend such an important historical event. …