Books: How It Began

FIRST BLOOD, THE STORY OF FORT SUMTER (373 pp.)—W. A. Swanberg—Scrib-ner ($5.95).

White-maned, Yankee-hating Edmund Ruffin watched the signal shot burst over Charleston harbor, seeming to trace in its flame the palmetto emblem of South Carolina. He had left his Virginia plantation, carrying with him a pike appropriated from John Brown's abolitionist band (its Ruffin-inscribed label: "Sample of the favors designed for us by our Northern brethren"), to see his dream of disunion come true. This—4:30 a.m.. April 12, 1861—was his great moment. Edmund Ruffin stepped proudly forward, pulled the lanyard of a...

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