Re-enactors played "Yankee Doodle" as they took away the Union flag and recreated Fort Sumter's surrender to Confederate attackers 150 years ago Thursday, winding down a somber commemoration of America's plunge into the Civil War
Some 100 Union defenders, haggard from the 34 hours of Confederate artillery bombardment, gave up the battle-scarred fort in Charleston Harbor on April 14, 1861, a singular event marking the outset of the nation's bloodiest war.
Hundreds watched a 15-minute surrender reenactment as those playing Union forces marched away with a flag bearing 33 stars, including those of states splintering away in secession. The nationally watched reenactment began before dawn Tuesday with the first shots of mock bombardment as an authentic coastal mortar sounded out and Confederate cannons ringing the harbor joined in.
"These were the first shots of a civil war that would stretch across four years of tremendous sacrifice," President Barack Obama said Tuesday in a proclamation on the start of sesquicentennial events commemorating battles to come. "The meaning of freedom and the very soul of our Nation were contested in the hills of Gettysburg and the roads of Antietam, the fields of Manassas and the woods of the Wilderness."
The war, over four bloody years to follow, claimed more than 600,000 lives.