Local News

April 10, 2011

Civil War anniversary: Dalton's own fires first shot of Civil War

History remembers the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, as being the first shots that were fired in the Civil War. But three months before this event, a young man who was a cadet at The Citadel, a young men’s military academy in Charleston, was keeping vigil on Morris Island, an outpost overlooking Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. His name was Daniel Joseph Carey. At the age of 13, he had come to America with his father and family from Ireland where they settled in Charleston in 1854. When he turned 18, Carey joined the Citadel where he had been enrolled for a couple of years when hostilities broke out in Charleston. He and the other cadets were placed in positions around the harbor to defend it and to prevent enemy ships from reaching Fort Sumter to reinforce or resupply it.

In the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 9, 1861, Cadet Carey was on sentry duty when he saw the outline of a ship approaching the harbor. At it came closer, it became clear to Carey that the ship was attempting to reach Fort Sumter. Ordered to fire upon any hostile ship by his commander, Maj. Stevens, Carey fired at the strange ship, his shot waking the others of his unit. Carey continued to fire several times until the South Carolina battery at Morris Island began firing at the federal ship at 7:15 a.m. Cadet G. W. Haynesworth pulled the lanyard from the Southern battery gun sending the first artillery round toward the Yankee ship. After several hours of continued bombardment by the Morris Island Battery, the federal ship, the Star of the West, withdrew from the harbor.

After the War, Daniel Carey moved to Dalton, where he lived for the remainder of his life. Carey worked as a train car inspector for the Southern Railway and he was known locally as “Uncle Dan.” Carey loved to retell his experience in the war and of his role in being the first to fire a shot in it. Uncle Dan Carey maintained throughout his post-war life that he in fact had fired the first shot of the Civil War until he died on May 8, 1912.

Carey is buried in West Hill Cemetery in Dalton along with a number of known and 421 unknown Confederate soldiers.

So, the next time someone asks who fired the first shots of the Civil War, most will likely reply that Edmund Ruffin for the South did at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. But, anyone from Dalton should politely explain that it was our very own Uncle Dan Carey who fired the first shots of the War.

Sources: Marvin Sowder, “Moments in Time, Vol. I,” 1989, p. 26; Ruffin, Edmund (1989) [1856-1865] (3 v.). The diary of Edmund Ruffin, edited by William Kauffman Scarborough. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press; Swanberg, W.A., “First Blood The Story of Fort Sumter,” Longmans, 1960.

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