Artist's depiction of the Civil War's opening bombardment on April 12, 1861, during which Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter for 34 hours from James Island, Sullivan's Island, Mount Pleasant and Morris Island. (Currier and Ives/ Library of Congress)

A solemn and bloody and poignant anniversary comes our way today. For it was 150 years ago that the Civil War’s opening bombardment was launched. As we all learned in school, it was aimed at Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C. But its true target was a unified nation.

We know how that battle and that war ended. But today, enjoy a well-wrought story about the remarkable Sumter, a fortification that sat in the cross-hairs of a harbor–and that remains a central part of American history.

The tale is told by Michael Ruane, of the Washington Post. Near his tale’s opening, he relates:

“The bells of white-steepled St. Michael’s church strike 4 a.m. The minutes pass. At 4:30, there is the distant flash of James’s gun. A delayed boom, like a firework on the Fourth of July.

“And the single shell fired by the fledgling Confederacy is lofted toward the Union garrison holed up in the brick fort. The last few seconds of the old America seem suspended for an instant before the shell explodes, changing the nation forever.”

Read the complete story here.