After several days of sharp debate the House passes the Missouri statehood bill including both parts of the Tallmadge Amendment, marking the first legislation demanding the abolition of slavery. The act is sent to the Senate where the bill is never voted on.
Beginning at 4:30 am on the 12th and continuing until the morning of the 13th, Confederate batteries along the shore of Charleston Harbor fire on Fort Sumter under the command of Major Robert Anderson. Anderson arranges a surrender with Texas Senator Louis Wigfall on the morning of the 13th.
During the formal surrender of Fort Sumter Private Daniel Hough dies when the cannon he was loading (for the Union's 100-gun salute to the U.S. flag) discharges prematurely. He is the first man to die in the Civil War. A second man is mortally wounded.
Southern sympathizers in Baltimore cut telegraph lines and bridges to Washington, D. C. While passing through the city, the 6th Massachusetts Regiment is attacked. They open fire on a crowd. When the dust settles, three soldiers and one civilian were dead, the first casualties during fighting in the Civil War.
Col. Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth of the 11th New York Fire Zouaves is killed in the Marshall House Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, after he and his men removed a Confederate flag. He is generally regarded as the first officer killed while on duty in the American Civil War.
Abraham Lincoln signs a bill creating the Navy Medal of Honor, America's first medal. It is to be presented to sailors or marines who "...distinguish themselves by their gallantry and other seamanlike qualities..."
"Bull" Nelson enters Nashville, Tennessee, first Confederate state capital to fall into Union hands. Don Carlos Buell accepts the city's surrender. Nathan Bedford Forrest provides a rear guard for Hardee's Army of Central Kentucky as it withdraws to Alabama.
The first all-black regiment in United States history is formed in Union-controlled New Orleans from "free Negroes." While their technical name is the First Regiment Louisiana Native Guard they call themselves "Chasseurs d'Afrique". The name translates to "Hunters of Africa."
Most Civil War "firsts" list contain debatable facts. For example, one commonly-cited "first" is the repeating rifle. Technically, the repeating rifle had been around for years, although the design left a lot to be desired. Even the first lever-action repeating rifle, the breach-loading Spencer, was introduced in 1860. What can be said is the Civil War saw the first breach-loading, lever action repeating rifle used on a field of battle. Another is the use of "ironclads." Sorry, but the French were using ironclad vessels five years before the start of the American Civil War, however, the Civil War did feature the first battle of ironclad vessels, between the U. S. S. Monitor and the C. S. S. Virginia (The Merrimack) in March, 1862.
Photographs are also commonly cited as a "Civil War first." Don't believe it. Roger Fenton's photographic exploration of the Crimean War pre-dated any Civil War photographs and the subjects were essentially the same. Even the Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov) agrees. The largest collector of Civil War photographs states on its web site: "Because wet-plate collodion negatives required from 5 to 20 seconds exposure, there are no action photographs of the war." The site later makes the correct "first" statement, saying, "The War Between the States was the first large and prolonged conflict recorded by photography..."
Sometimes the "first" is correct, at least partially. Take the United States Medal of Honor. During the Civil War both the Army and Navy instituted a Medal of Honor, but the Navy's was first by 6 months, so the actual "first" was the Navy Medal of Honor. Now this may seem picky, but it is important to our Navy and Marines, at least.
Medicine made dramatic advances during The Civil War. Ever hear that our Civil War saw the first use of morphine as a pain-killer? Not quite. Morphine had been around since 1803 and doctors were using it as a pain-killer in the War of 1812, but it was taken orally. It wasn't until the invention of the hypodermic needle in 1853 that morphine could be injected and became the addictive medicine it is today.
One enduring argument is which is the first land battle of the Civil War, Philippi or Little and Big Bethel? The question is raised because Philippi's Colonel George Porterfield may have been part of the Virginia Militia rather than the Confederate Army. Porterfield had received instructions from the Confederate government, but the state of Virginia did not officially turn over control of its troops until after the battle.
One first rarely discussed is in the area of weather forecasting. While the science of accurately predicting weather arose before Benjamin Franklin (he thought he discovered it, then found out ship captains had been doing it for years), it evolved in the 1830's and 1840's to become more accurate (although a far cry from what we have today). Before the Civil War Army stations and the Corps of Engineers had been gathering weather data, as well as notable institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute. After the start of the Civil War commanders wanted weather forecasts and the Army responded by gathering data via telegraph and attempting to make regular short-range forecasts. They weren't very good at it, but this group would become the National Weather Bureau (later the National Weather Service).