The First Man Killed In The Civil War Died By Accident
Despite it being the bloodiest war in American history, the first casualty occurred in a freak occurrence
No American war has been as deadly as the Civil War, which counted approximately 620,000 deaths (and possibly more) during the five years (1861–1865) of the conflict. Casualties came in many different forms, including vicious fighting and rampant disease. However, the very first person to die during the war between the states was private Daniel Hough, who was killed in a freak accident during a celebration.
Born around 1825 in Ireland, Hough emigrated to the United States in 1849, immediately enlisting in the Army and serving in the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment. The military proved to be a good fit for him and he made it his career. In the midst of his three tours he was briefly hospitalized at a mental institution in 1857 after being diagnosed as “crazy.” The admitting Army doctor theorized on the admission paperwork that he believed the condition might be hereditary, but later theories speculated he may have just had erratic behavior caused by hearing loss from spending so much time next to firing cannons.
In January, 1861, his unit was stationed at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, a key military point, as talks of secession and political strife swept through the Southern states.
The proverbial match was struck on April 12th, as South Carolina militia forces attacked the fort. This came to be recognized as the initial shots fired in the Civil War. The troops defending the garrison weren’t able to maintain control and surrendered after realizing they were surrounded with no hopes of being re-supplied. Hough made it through the fight unharmed and was present on the 14th after the smoke began clearing as the victorious confederates assembled inside the fort.
The militia decided to give generous concessions to the soldiers in the fort, permitting them to have an honorable surrender as long as they also gave a 100-shot cannon salute to honor the confederate colors. Hough was assigned to load the cannon for the 47th shot. After the ball was loaded and the gun was being prepared to be fired, a spark inside the barrel ignited the charge, causing an explosion. He was…