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Fort Snelling's role in the start of the US Civil War

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Fort Snelling
View of the south side of the fort showing the Gatehouse and the Shops, Fort Snelling Photographer: W. R. Travis; Photograph Collection, Carte-de-visite 1861-1865
Image Courtesy of the Minnesota History Center

It was 150 years ago today, April 12, 1861, when the United States began unraveling in a civil war that pitted Americans against each other. 

Hostilities started the morning of April 12, when an island stronghold called Fort Sumter, at the mouth of the Charleston South Carolina harbor, came under fire from Confederate forces. 

There were several issues leading to the start of the war. Historians say each can be traced back to tensions formed early in the nation's history with the institution of slavery in the South playing a key role. 

At the start of the Civil War, Minnesota was a young state, but it sent more than its share of young men into battle on behalf of the Union. In 1861, 4,400 Minnesota men were mustered into the Union Army. That was one of the highest per capita rates in the country. 

As historian Annette Atkins tells Minnesota Public Radio's Cathy Wurzer, Fort Snelling was the place most of those men came to before shipping out for long and bloody battles in eastern and southern states. 

Professor Atkins also outlines what was happening in Minnesota at the start of the Civil War.

VIDEO: Cathy Wurzer visit Fort Sumter