Who Fired the First Shot of the Civil War?



Cadet William S. Simkins
Just northeast of today's downtown Dallas, Texas is the historic Greenwood Cemetery. Famous for the many icons of history buried within its grounds, it is perhaps even more famous for the numerous cemetery scenes filmed there for the popular TV series Walker, Texas Ranger which starred Chuck Norris and ran from 1993 - 2001. One of the more obscure burials here is that of Confederate veteran William Stewart Simkins.

William was born on August 25, 1842. On January 9, 1861, he was a senior cadet at the Citadel, a South Carolina military academy. At daybreak, he and several other cadets were manning a battery overlooking the Charleston Harbor. Standing watch that morning, he saw a signal from a guard boat and quickly sounded the alarm, waking up his fellow cadets. They spotted the Union ship Star of the West attempting to resupply Fort Sumter. A cannon was loaded, aimed at the supply ship, and William fired. It was the first shot of the Civil War. (see The Civil War Ended in Texas for who fired the last shot.)


William Simkins
William and his classmates were graduated early on April 9th. Just 3 days later on April 12, 1861, he participated in the bombardment of Fort Sumter, the first battle of the Civil War. William served as an artillery officer and then Inspector General throughout the conflict, finally surrendering as a colonel in the army of General Joseph Johnston in North Carolina in 1865.

Simkins moved to Florida after the war, studied law and passed the bar exam in 1870. He move to Texas in 1873 and eventually joined the law faculty of the University of Texas. After a long and successful law career, he passed away in Dallas on February 27, 1929. 68 years after he fired the first shot of the Civil War.


Simkins Family Plot in Greenwood Cemetery

Grave of William Simkins