It’s well known that the US Civil War began when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter (pictured above in 1865). What isn’t often discussed is just how much of a farce the whole thing was. For starters, the Confederates actually opened fire on the fort a month before the war began, then had to row over and apologize for the inexperienced gunner who had accidentally discharged his cannon. The practice apparently didn’t help, since when the war started for real they fired over 3,000 shells at the fort without injuring a single Union soldier.Still, the fort surrendered and a Confederate officer named Richard Pryor rowed out to negotiate the terms. As the discussion progressed, Pryor casually got up, poured himself a glass of whiskey, and downed it in one gulp. Unfortunately, the “whiskey” was actually a bottle of medical iodine that happened to be nearby. Pryor’s Three Stooges moment ended with army doctors frantically pumping his stomach while nervous Union officers wondered how they were going to explain poisoning the negotiator.Fortunately, Pryor survived, but there was still time for one last screw-up. To mark the surrender, the Union commander ordered his gunners to fire a salute. The careless gunners piled cartridges right next to their cannons in a high wind, causing an explosion that killed two of their own men, the only casualties of the siege.In fact, the buildup to the war was generally more farcical than you’d imagine. In 1858, tensions between pro- and anti-slavery factions were so heated that a huge brawl broke out between at least 30 Congressmen on the House floor. The melee only came to an end when Mississippi’s William Barksdale had his wig knocked off. Since Barksdale never admitted to wearing a wig, he quickly snatched it back up and put it on inside out, causing everyone to stop fighting and start laughing instead.