On the Union picket line — relieving pickets. |
A Telegram from General Cooper
, dated Richmond
, September 10th, 1862, reached me on that day in Mobile
and contained the information that, by special orders issued August 29th, I had been assigned to the command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, with headquarters at Charleston
The next day I left for my new scene of action, where I arrived on the 15th of September, relieving General J. C. Pemberton
The work before me was serious; all the more so that it had to be executed without loss of time.
Rumors and threats were afloat, filling the columns of the Northern
journals, to the effect that preparations were being made for such a land and naval attack upon the city of Charleston
as would prove irresistible.
This, at the North
, was deemed all the more easy of accomplishment because the harbor and inner defenses were believed to be insufficient to withstand a well-directed and prolonged assault; and for the further reason that there existed several avenues of approach, by any of which, it was thought, the ulterior object aimed at could be attained.
That there was ample cause for apprehension on our part became apparent to me upon my first conference with General Pemberton
, in which I learned that by his orders a complete abandonment had been made, not only of the
system of coast defense devised by me as early as April, 1861, but also of the one said to have been projected by General R. E. Lee
while in command of the same department from December, 1861, to March, 1862.
For these had been substituted another and an interior system, rendering our lines vulnerable at various points, and necessitating more labor and a greater armament than we could command.
The inspection made by me a few days later confirmed that opinion; for the works in and around Charleston
, most of which had been badly located, were not in a state of completion, nor was their armament by any means adequate to the dimensions of some of them.
The defenses of the harbor existing at that time consisted of: 1. Fort Sumter
, with an armament of 79 guns of diverse caliber, from 32-pounders to 8-inch Columbiads, and seven 10-inch mortars, and manned by 350 effectives of the First South Carolina Artillery (regulars). 2. Fort Moultrie
, with 38 guns, ranging from 24-pounders to 8-inch Columbiads, and having a garrison of 300 effectives belonging to the First South Carolina Infantry (regulars). These works were in very good condition, though repairs were then in progress in the former.
3. Battery Beauregard, across Sullivan's Island
, the location of which I had selected in the spring of 1861, in advance of Fort Moultrie
, with a view to protect the approach from the east.
It was armed with five guns.
4. Four sand batteries, en barbette,
erected at the west end of Sullivan's Island
, and bearing on the floating boom then in process of construction across the Fort Sumter channel
These batteries were not completed, and had at the time only four guns, two of them being 10-inch Columbiads.
No magazines had been constructed for them.
5. The “Neck” battery, on Morris Island
, afterward called Battery Wagner, an open work erected to defend the approach to Fort Sumter
It was intended for eleven guns, and was not entirely finished, even as originally designed.
6. A small work (Fort Ripley
) equidistant from Castle Pinckney and Fort Johnson
, not yet armed, but planned for four heavy guns en barbette
[only two put in.--editors]. 7. Castle Pinckney, armed with nine 24-pounders and one 24-pounder rifled, a work of no value for the defense of the city.
8. Fort Johnson
, near the north-east end of James Island
, with one rifled 32-pounder, likewise of very little importance.
Some batteries had also been arranged and begun for the defense of the city proper, but no heavy guns had been procured for them, and none were disposable.
The floating boom was incomplete, and was destined to remain so. I never looked upon it as a serious barrier to the enemy's fleet.
The defensive line on James Island
from the Wappoo to Secessionville
consisted of “a system of forts, redoubts, redans, and cremailleres,
” very injudiciously located, except Fort Pemberton
on the Stono
and some few of the redoubts.
There were also two batteries on the Ashley River
, for its protection and that of the entrance of Dill's Creek
and the Wappoo.
One of them had no guns; the other, at Lawton
's, was armed with four 32-pounders, but could be of little use. The works at Secessionville
, which were poorly devised and poorly executed, were still unfinished.
Their armament was two 8-inch naval guns, one 18-pounder howitzer, six 32-pounders, one 32-pounder rifle, two 24-pounder rifles, and two 10-inch mortars.
There were four batteries on Sullivan's Island between Battery Beauregard and Fort Marshall, the latter being at the eastern extremity of the island, just outside the limits of the map. Between Battery Bee and Moultrie was Battery Marion, and another work, called Battery Rutledge, was close to Fort Moultrie on the east.
Secessionville, near the center of James Island, will be found on the map of James and Folly islands.
When Cumming's Point was evacuated by the Confederates, Battery Gregg was named Putnam, after Colonel Haldimand S. Putnam, and a work east of Battery Gregg, and facing the main channel, was called Battery Chatfield, after Colonel John L. Chatfield; both lost their lives in the assault on Battery Wagner. |
The line of defenses constructed on the Neck to protect the city from a land attack on the north side, was made up of a continuous “bastion line,” which was not suitable to the site where it had been located.
The total number of troops of all arms in South Carolina
at that time was: infantry, 6,564; artillery in position, 1,787; field artillery, 1,379; cavalry, 2,817,--total, 12,547.
Adding the number of troops then in the State of Georgia
, 7,189, the aggregate force in the whole department amounted on the 24th of September, 1862, to 19,736 men. Before being relieved, General
, at my request, gave an estimate of the minimum force requisite, in his opinion, for the department, namely, 43,650 men of all arms, which I adopted as the basis of my future calculations.
On the 30th of September, and again on the 2d of October, I urgently called on the War Department for an increase of heavy ordnance for the works intended to command the anchorage in the Charleston
harbor and the entrance into the Ashley
and Cooper rivers
I asked for twenty 10-inch Columbiads, five banded rifled 42-pounders, and five banded 32-pounders; or “fifteen of the first quality, ten of the second, and five or more of the third.”
The Secretary of War
, Mr. Randolph
, had used every endeavor to assist me in my efforts to be ready for the impending attack of the enemy; but he had just at this time, unfortunately, tendered his resignation, and had been succeeded in office by Mr. Seddon
From that moment my demands on the War Department seemed to meet with much less favor, and I had to rely, in a great measure, on the scant resources of my command to accomplish the work necessary for the safety of the city of Charleston
The State authorities, and in fact the whole people of South Carolina
, were equally anxious with myself for the rapid completion of my preparations, and afforded me every assistance in their power, though I was never able to procure the necessary amount of slave-labor required for work on the fortifications.
By great exertion, and with no assistance from the Government
, was executed under my orders the rifling and banding of guns otherwise too inferior for the proper armament of our works.
This was done at the rate of one gun in two and a half days, whereas it had required thirty-five days to remodel each gun under the supervision of the War Department.
My anxiety was all the greater since the enemy, before making his final attack upon Charleston
, and with a view, no doubt, to distract attention from it, had been for some time past preparing a descent along the Southern Atlantic
coast, though he afterward appeared to have altered his original purpose and to be directing his course toward Cape Lookout
, on the coast of North Carolina
With the inadequate force under me, my only hope was to endeavor to frustrate any demonstration that might be attempted within the limits of my own extensive command; and yet the War Department, through the new Secretary of War
, was at that very time, and against repeated protests on my part, depleting it of troops to reeforce other points.
The approaches to Charleston
were five in number: 1.
The enemy could land a large force to the northward, at or in the close vicinity of Bull's Bay
, and from thence, marching across the country could take possession of Mount Pleasant
and all the north shore of the inner harbor.
2. A large force of the enemy could also land to the southward, destroy the Charleston and Savannah railroad, and invest Charleston
in the rear.
These two avenues of approach, however, were not likely to be adopted by the enemy, as the strength of his land force would not have justified such an attempt, unaided by his iron-clads and gun-boats.
The cooperation of the Federal fleet was possible for any one of the other three modes of approach, namely: James Island
, Sullivan's Island
, and Morris Island
Of these, the approach by
was unquestionably the one to be most apprehended.
The Confederate troops stationed there were insufficient in number and had to defend “a long, defective, and irregular line of works.”
The enemy, after overpowering them, could have constructed batteries which would have controlled the inner harbor, taken in rear our outer lines of defenses, and opened fire directly against Charleston
itself, thus forcing an almost immediate surrender.
4. By Sullivan's Island
the approach was also a very important one.
In taking it, Fort Sumter
might have been silenced and. the inner harbor thrown open to the enemy's iron-clad fleet.
5. The approach by Morris Island
was, as afterward proved, the least dangerous to us. It involved none of the contingencies threatened by the other modes of attack.
It had always been my opinion, however, that the enemy would elect to make his approach by that route, for the reason that, being already in possession of Folly Island
, which was in close proximity to Morris Island
, he would thereby enjoy certain facilities for the movements of his troops, while close at hand lay the harbor of Edisto
convenient as a shelter for his fleet.
The seizure of Morris Island
would also be a great encouragement to the North
The preparations of the North
were upon a scale of such magnitude — with engines of war “such as the hand of man had never yet put afloat
”--that they had consumed more time than was at first anticipated.
Thus an opportunity was afforded me to perfect our means of resistance.
Weeks and months went by, during which I succeeded in nearly doubling the strength of Sumter
, of Moultrie
, and of all the defensive works of the harbor, including Battery Wagner, which was thus almost entirely rebuilt.
I also established along the coast of South Carolina
, and Florida
a continuous line of signal (flag) stations, by means of which constant information was furnished department headquarters of the exact movement and of the least change that took place in the Federal fleet.
I multiplied the laying out of torpedoes in all navigable streams liable to be ascended by Federal gunboats and other craft, and gave close attention to the rope obstructions dividing the outer and inner harbors.
I likewise used my best endeavors, and importuned the War
and Navy Departments, to have constructed a few “torpedo-rams,” on the model by Captain F. D. Lee
, with which it was my firm conviction more injury could be inflicted upon the Federal fleet than could be hoped for from all such gun-boats as the Government
was then having
built for the protection of Charleston harbor
That this appreciation was not exaggerated has been shown by many results accomplished at a subsequent date by torpedo-boats in our own war and in naval encounters between foreign nations, notably during the late Franco-Chinese
There were two Confederate gun-boats (iron-clad rams) at that time in Charleston
, the Palmetto State
and the Chicora
. Lieutenant-Commander John Rutledge
, C. S. N., commanded the first, and Captain John R. Tucker
, C. S. N., commanded the second.
Besides these there were three small harbor steamers, to be used as tenders for them.
The Palmetto State
and the Chicora
were, unfortunately, of too heavy a draught to be of much practical use in the defense of the harbor.
They were also lacking in motive power, consequently in speed; and their guns, on account of the smallness of the port-holes, could not be sufficiently
ciently elevated, and were of but very short range.
Ably officered and manned as they were known to be, they proved of real service only once during the whole siege of Charleston
While our work of armament and of general preparation was progressing on all points of the department, it occurred to me that our two gunboats, inferior as they were in many respects, could, nevertheless, by a bold night attack on the wooden fleet of the enemy, cause considerable damage and compel it to leave its anchorage outside the bar; and the time to do it, I suggested, was before the threatened arrival of the Federal
monitors.4 Commodore Ingraham5
agreed with me, and immediately ordered the attack.
It took place on the early morning of January 31st.6
The Palmetto State
, on board of which, for the occasion, was Commodore Ingraham
himself, steamed out directly toward the Federal fleet, followed by the Chicora
, and fell upon and fired into the steamer Mercedita
before the latter had fully realized the peril she was in. Disabled and reported to be
sinking, the Mercedita
The Palmetto State
left her and went in pursuit of two other Federal steamers, but was soon distanced.
, meanwhile, set fire to a schooner-rigged propeller, engaged and crippled the Quaker City
, and ran into and fired the Keystone State
, which then.
and there struck her flag.7
The other vessels composing the blockading squadron, seeing the fate of their consorts and fearing the same one for themselves, hurriedly steamed out to sea and entirely disappeared.
The outer harbor remained in the full possession of the two Confederate rams.
Not a Federal sail was visible, even with spyglasses, for over twenty-four hours. It is, therefore, strictly correct to state that the blockade of the port of Charleston
had been raised, for the time being, as was certified to by Commodore Ingraham
, by the foreign consuls then in Charleston
, and by myself.8
It is evident that had the seaworthy qualities of the two Confederate gunboats been greater, and could we have given them the cooperation of the torpedo-rams I had anxiously endeavored to have constructed, the blockade of Charleston
would not have been at that time, and. for months afterward, an impediment to our free and open intercourse with the outer world.
And it is simple history to add that, even as it was, through private enterprise which should have tempted our Government to a bolder course, lines of blockade-running steamers entered and left the port of Charleston
at regular, stated intervals, up to nearly the very close of the war. Almost at the moment of this naval attack on the Federal fleet occurred another incident of note in the operations around Charleston
had caused to be removed from Cole's Island
eleven guns of heavy caliber which served to guard the entrance of the Stono River
This barrier removed, the Federal
gun-boats had free ingress to the river, and as often as they chose to (lo so plied with impunity as near to Fort Pemberton
as safety allowed, harassing our camps on James
and John's islands
, by the fire of their long-range rifled guns.
The Isaac Smith
, carrying nine heavy guns, was one of these.
Desirous of putting a stop to such incursions, I called the commander of the First Military District [General R. S. Ripley
] to a conference at department headquarters, and instructed him at once to organize an expedition and have masked batteries erected at designated points on the banks of the Stono
, near where the Federal
gunboat habitually passed and occasionally remained overnight.
The instructions were to allow her to steam by unmolested as far as she chose to go, then to open fire and cut off her retreat.
The expedition was intrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph A. Yates
, First South Carolina Artillery (regulars), and was most successfully conducted.
On the evening of January 30th
the Isaac Smith
came up the Stono
, and leisurely anchored just above our masked batteries.
Fire was now opened upon her. She endeavored to make her escape, returning our fire as she passed, but was so roughly handled, and at such close range, that she dropped anchor and surrendered.
Her armament consisted of one 30-pounder Parrott
and eight 8-inch heavy Columbiads.
Her crew was of 11 officers and 108 men. Upon examination the damage she had sustained was found to be slight.
She was thoroughly repaired and, under the name of the Stono
, became a guard-boat in the Charleston
harbor, with Captain H. J. Hartstene
, C. S. N., as commander.
As a corollary to this engagement on the morning of February 1st another Federal iron-clad, afterward ascertained to be the single-turreted monitor Montauk
, appeared before Fort McAllister
, at Genesis Point, in the Georgia district, and, accompanied by three gun-boats and a mortar-boat, approached to within a
South-east angle of the Confederate Fort Marshall, on the eastern end of Sullivan's Island.
From a photograph. |
short distance of the work, and opened a heavy fire upon it. The action was very brisk on both sides.
The parapet of the fort was breached, and both guns and gunners were fully exposed.
Nevertheless, after a four-hours' combat the monitor slowly retired, evidently in a damaged condition.
The importance of the success of this engagement lay in the demonstrated fact that iron-clads were not as formidable as they were supposed to be against land-batteries.
As yet, their final test of invulnerability had not been fully ascertained.
Reflecting upon the result of that encounter, I wrote to Brigadier-General Ripley
, February 8th, 1863, minute instructions,9
though he was an able artillery officer, I knew that he possessed but scant knowledge, and no experience, of military engineering.
My best and almost only assistant for planning the construction of batteries and making the selection of the sites on which they were to be erected was Major D. B. Harris
, the chief engineer
of the department, on whom I placed the utmost reliance, and who always thoroughly understood and entered into my views.
It is an error to state, as I am informed one or two writers have done, even in South Carolina
, that the erection of batteries along the shores of the inner harbor, and in the city of Charleston
itself, was due to what has been termed the untiring zeal, forethought, and engineering ability of General Ripley
My letters of instruction and my official orders to General Ripley
, from his arrival in my department up to the time of my leaving it in April, 1864, conclusively show that those batteries were all planned and located by me, and that I passed upon all questions relative not only to their armament, but even to the caliber of the guns that were to be placed in them.
My fear was that an attack upon Sumter
might be attempted at night.
One or two monitors, I thought, during a dark night could approach the fort within easy range, and open fire upon its weakest face with almost certain impunity.
, even at night, could be sufficiently seen by the monitors to be seriously damaged by their fire; whereas the monitors, being very low in the water, could only be visible from the fort by the flash of their guns.
To guard against such an attempt of the enemy, on. the 1st of March I wrote to Commodore Ingraham
I must therefore request that the Confederate steamer Stono should take her position as a guard-boat, in advance of the forts as far as practicable, to-night, and thereafter every night for the present.
I also caused a train of cars to be held in readiness at the Pocotaligo Station
, to bring such reenforcements as might be drawn from the military district [lying between the Ashepoo
and Savannah rivers
] commanded by General W. S. Walker
On the 28th of February the enemy attacked Fort McAllister
iron-clad, three gun-boats, and a mortar-boat, and also, on the 3d of March, with three monitors.
He was evidently trying his hand before his final venture against Fort Sumter
But the result must sorely have disappointed him; for notwithstanding the vigor of these two engagements — the first lasting more than two hours, the second at least seven--the Confederate battery was found, after inspection, to have sustained no material damage.
On the 5th of April the enemy's force had materially increased in the Stono
and the North Edisto
His iron-clads, including the frigate New Ironsides
and eight monitors, had crossed the outer bar and cast anchor in the main channel.
No doubt could be had of their intention.
Two days later,--on the 7th,--a date ever memorable in the annals of the late war, the signal for the attack on Fort Sumter
, so long anticipated and so long delayed, was finally given.
First steamed up, in line, one following the other, the Weehawken
, the Passaic
, the Montauk
, and the Patapsco
, four single-turreted monitors.
The New Ironsides
, the flag-ship of the fleet, came next.
Then came the Catskill
, the Nantucket
, the Nahant
, three other single-turreted monitors.
The double-turreted Keokuk
was the eighth,
and closed the line.
Experienced and gallant officers commanded them all. Rear-Admiral Du Pont
was on board the flag-ship.
Other Federal steamers stood outside the bar, but evidently with no intent to take part in the action.
They were the Canandaigua
, the Houssatonic
, the Wissahickon
, and the Huron
The armament of all the iron-clads that were to take part in the engagement consisted of 33 guns of the heaviest caliber ever used in war up to that time, to wit, 15 and 11 inch Dahlgren
guns and 8-inch rifled pieces.
To oppose this formidable array of new, and it was thought invulnerable, floating batteries, prepared at such heavy cost and with every anticipation of success by the Federal Government
, we had on our side: 1. Fort Sumter
, under Colonel Alfred Rhett
, with a garrison of seven companies of the 1st South Carolina Artillery (regulars); the guns it brought into action on that day being two 7-inch Brookes, two 9-inch Dahlgrens, four 10-inch Columbiads, four 8-inch navy guns, four 8-inch Columbiads, six banded and rifled 42-pounders, eight smooth-bore 32-pounders, and three 10-inch sea-coast mortars,--in all, thirty-three guns and mortars.
2. Fort Moultrie
, under Colonel William Butler
, with five companies of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (regulars); the guns engaged being nine 8-inch Columbiads, five banded and rifled 32-pounders, five smooth-bore 32-pounders, and two 10-inch mortars,--in all, twenty-one guns and mortars.
3. Battery Bee, on Sullivan's Island
Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Simkins
, with three companies of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (regulars) and six guns: five 10-inch and one 8-inch Columbiads.
4. Battery Beauregard, under Captain Julius A. Sitgreaves
, with two companies of regulars--one from Sumter
and one from Moultrie
— and three guns: an 8-inch Columbiad and two 32-pounders, rifled.
5. Battery Wagner, under Major C. K. Huger
, with two companies of regulars from Sumter
There four guns were used: one 32-pbunder, rifled; one 24-pounder, rifled; and two smooth-bore 32-pounders.
's Point Battery, under Lieutenant Henry R. Lesesne
, with a detachment of regulars from Fort Sumter
. Two guns were engaged: one 10-inch Columbiad and one 8-inch Dahlgren
The number of guns actually engaged on our side against the iron-clad fleet, on the 7th of April, was therefore 69, of which five were mortars.
Two companies of infantry had been placed on Sullivan's
and Morris islands
, to guard against a land attack.
had also been cautioned to hold the gun-boats Palmetto State
in readiness to assist our batteries in case of need; but they were not needed.
The approach of the monitors was slow and cautious.
They dreaded the rope obstructions which were known to be connected with heavily charged torpedoes.10
But the report afterward circulated,--to which Mr. Seward
gave the weight of his official name,--that the “rope obstructions in the channel fouled the screws of the iron-clads,” was entirely erroneous.
Not one of the iron-clads ever approached nearer than 600 yards to any of these obstructions, with the exception of the Keokuk
, which dropped in to about 300 yards of them before being able to get under way again.
The first shot was fired at 3 o'clock P. M. It came from Fort Moultrie
, and was aimed at the Weehawken
No heed was taken of it.11
The turreted iron-clad kept on her way until within fourteen. hundred yards of Fort Sumter
, when she paused a moment and opened fire on it. Fully two minutes elapsed, and then Sumter
replied, firing by battery.
The other monitors now steamed up, taking their respective positions, but with apparent hesitation and as far out of range as possible.
The action had become general, Sumter
being the central point of the attack.
An occasional shot was sent at [Moultrie, an occasional one at Batteries Bee and Beauregard.
The spectacle of this singular combat between the fort and what appeared to be nine floating iron turrets — for the hulls of the monitors were almost wholly submerged — was, indeed, an impressive one, not to be easily forgotten.
After a lapse of about three-quarters of an hour, Admiral Du Pont
's flag-ship, the New Ironsides
, advanced to within some seventeen hundred yards of Sumter
, evidently with a view to breach its walls.
But the concentrated fire from our batteries forced her to withdraw hurriedly out of range, as the Passaic
had already done, in an apparently crippled condition.
The fire of Sumter
was so accurate that two other monitors were compelled
At 4 o'clock P. M. the Keokuk
advanced to within nine hundred yards of Sumter
, but with no better success than her consorts.
She soon withdrew, badly worsted.
The whole attacking squadron now slowly withdrew from an engagement which had lasted not more than two hours and twenty-five minutes, but which had been, for the enemy, a most disastrous defeat.12
[See also papers to follow.]
In the communication sent by me to the War Department, dated May 24th, with regard to the attack of April 7th, I made the following statement:
The action lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes, but the chief damage is reported by the enemy to have been done in thirty minutes. The Keokuk did not come nearer than nine hundred yards of Fort Sumter; she was destroyed.
The New Ironsides could not stand the fire at the range of a mile; four of her consorts (monitors) were disabled at the distance of not less than thirteen hundred yards. They had only reached the gorge of the harbor — never within it — and were baffled and driven back before reaching our lines of torpedoes and obstructions, which had been constructed as an ultimate defensive resort as far as they could be provided.
The heaviest batteries had not been employed.
Therefore it may be accepted, as shown, that these vaunted monitor batteries, though formidable engines of war, after all are not invulnerable nor invincible, and may be destroyed or defeated by heavy ordnance properly placed and skillfully handled.
In reality they have not materially altered the military relations of forts and ships.
On this occasion the monitors operated under the most favorable circumstances.
The day was calm, and the water, consequently, was as stable as that of a river; their guns were fired with deliberation, doubtless by trained artillerists.
According to the enemy's statements, the fleet fired 151 shots. . . . Not more than thirty-four shots13 took effect on the walls of Fort Sumter. . . . Fort Moultrie and our other batteries were not touched in a way to be considered, while in return they threw 1399 shots.
At the same time Sumter discharged 810 shots; making the total number of shots fired 2209, of which the enemy reports that 520 struck the different vessels; a most satisfactory accuracy when the smallness of the target is considered.
The repulse had not been looked upon as a thing possible by the North
, and when the news reached that section it engendered a heavy gloom of disappointment and discouragement — a feeling not unlike that which had prevailed there after the Confederate
victory at Manassas
on July 21st, 1861.
It was clear to me, however, that the enemy, whose land forces had not cooperated in this naval attack, would not rest upon his defeat, but would soon make another effort, with renewed vigor, and on a larger scale.
I was therefore
very much concerned when, scarcely a week afterward, the War Department compelled me to send Cooke
's and Clingman
's commands back to North Carolina
, and, early in May, two other brigades [S. R. Gist
's and W. H. T. Walker
's], numbering five thousand men, with two batteries of light artillery, to reenforce General Joseph E. Johnston
at Jackson, Mississippi
The fact is that, on the 10th of May, Mr. Seddon
, the Secretary of War
, had even directed that still another force of five thousand men should be withdrawn from my department to be sent to Vicksburg
to the assistance of General Pemberton
But my protest against so exhaustive a drain upon my command was fortunately heeded, and I was allowed to retain the reduced force I then had under me, amounting on the 1st of June, for the whole State of South Carolina
, to not more than ten thousand men. With these, it was evident, I could not protect every vulnerable point at the same time; and thereafter, whenever the occasion arose, I had to withdraw troops from one quarter of the department to reenforce another.
The fact that a new commander of high engineering repute, General Gillmore
, had been sent to supersede General Hunter14
confirmed me in the opinion that we would not have to wait long before another and more serious attack was made.
A further reason for such a belief was the presence at that time of six Federal regiments on Folly Island
, under Brigadier-General Israel Vogdes
, an officer of merit, perfectly familiar with Charleston
and the surrounding country, having been stationed at Fort Moultrie
before the war.
On the 7th of July four monitors were seen off the Charleston
bar. The fleet had not otherwise increased up to that day. During the night of the 8th the noise, apparently made by extensive chopping with axes, was distinctly heard from the extreme southern end of Morris Island
The sand-hills, so numerous on Little Folly Island, afforded much facility to the enemy for keeping us in the dark as to his ulterior designs, although nothing indicated any effort on his part at concealment.15
It is not true that this attack was a surprise.
The commander of Morris Island
and all the troops on it knew that the enemy was preparing to make one front Little Folly.
I knew it as well.
The real cause of the Federal
success on the 10th of July was the insufficiency of our infantry force on Morris Island
, let alone the fact that I could not, for want of necessary labor, complete the battery already referred to, and which was of no service whatever to us on that occasion.16
Nor should it be forgotten that the enemy, in order to divert our attention from the main object he had in view, was not only landing troops at the southern end of Morris Island
, but was also seriously threatening James Island
, and had made a strong demonstration against it by the Stono River
It is clear to me that, but for my determination not to weaken my force there for the support of Morris Island
, this demonstration would have been converted into a real attack, the results of which might have been far more disastrous; for, as I have already stated, James Island
was the avenue of approach I dreaded the most to see selected, and which on that account I feared the enemy would select.
It was, in reality, the gateway to the avenue which would have almost assuredly led into the heart of Charleston
The enemy had preferred breaking in through the window, and I certainly had no cause to regret it. He was held in check there, and never got in until we finally opened the gate ourselves toward the end of the war.
On the evening of July 10th detachments from various Georgia
regiments which I had called for began to arrive.
I pressed the War Department for Clingman
Part of it came on the 12th.
The day before, at early dawn, the enemy assaulted Battery Wagner, but was repulsed with great loss to him. Two Federal officers and some 95 men were killed within pistol-range of our works.
We captured six officers and about 113 men. Most of them were wounded.
Three monitors and three wooden gun-boats assisted the Federal
land forces on that occasion.
Battery Wagner was again shelled on the 12th by part of the fleet, while the
land forces were engaged in putting up works near the middle of Morris Island
They were very much disturbed by the accurate firing of Fort Sumter
and of Battery Gregg.
On the arrival of the remainder of Clingman
's brigade and of other troops called from the Second and Third Military Districts of my department, I was about — to issue an order for an attempt in force to expel the enemy from Morris Island
But the configuration of that island, its proximity to the Federal
monitors, and the fact, no less important, that fully four thousand men would have been required for that purpose, convinced me that no step of that kind could then have been successful.
Our limited means of transportation was also a great drawback to us. Upon further reflection I came to the conclusion that we could do more toward checking the progress of the enemy by erecting new batteries on James Island
, and by strengthening others already in position there and elsewhere.
I issued orders
to that effect, and they were vigorously carried out. Battery Simkins, in advance of Fort Johnson
, on Shell Point
, was one of these new batteries.
It was armed with one 10-inch Columbiad, one 6.40 Brooke
, and three 10-inch mortars; and guns were taken from Sumter
to increase the armament of Moultrie
The damages in Battery Wagner were soon repaired, and the fire of the monitors and gun-boats was regularly answered.
Three guns, instead of two, were mounted at the Shell Point Battery; and I also caused gun-batteries of 10-inch Columbiads to be substituted for the mortar-batteries at Fort Johnson
I ordered the forces on Morris Island
to be reduced to a number strictly sufficient to hold our works there; and, the enemy's pickets along the Stono
having been increased at that time, I instructed General Johnson Hagood
to advance at once on the position occupied by the Federals
, and thus ascertain what was their real intent as to James Island
This was done with General
's usual promptitude of action, and on the 16th the Federal
forces were driven to the shelter of their gun-boats, our troops occupying the ground they had lost on that occasion.
My order to Major Harris
, Chief Engineer
, was, nevertheless, “to increase the batteries on James Island
bearing on Morris Island
by at least twenty guns on siege-carriages, so as to envelop the enemy with a ‘circle of fire’ whenever he might gain possession of the north-east end of Morris Island
; all works to be pushed on day and night.”
On the 18th the Federal
troops crowded the south end of Morris Island
and took position behind their breastworks.
It was clear that another attempt was about to be made against Wagner
, and it was made with no less vigor than obstinacy.
The New Ironsides
, five monitors, and a large wooden frigate joined in the bombardment.
The firing of the enemy was more rapid on that occasion than it had ever been before.
General W. B. Taliaferro
, of Virginia
, the gallant and efficient officer in command of Battery Wagner at the time, estimated “that nine hundred shot and shell were thrown in and against the battery during the eleven hours that the bombardment lasted.”
answered but slowly to this terrible onslaught.
Not so, however, with Sumter
, which fired with even more rapidity than the enemy, and, as ever, did splendid work.
After dusk on the same evening the Federal fleet, was seen to retire, and the land forces advanced to attack Wagner
They displayed great determination.
A portion of them succeeded in crossing the ditch and actually gained a foot-hold on the southern salient of the battery.
, with Colonel G. P. Harrison
's 32d Georgia, arrived opportunely at that hour, in obedience to my orders, and was of great assistance in precipitating the flight of the enemy, though it had fairly begun before his arrival.
My report says:
The assault was terribly disastrous to the enemy.
His loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, must have been 3000, as 800 bodies were interred in front of Battery Wagner on the following morning. . . . Our own loss during the bombardment and assault was 174, killed and wounded.
From that time up to the evacuation of Morris Island
the enemy scarcely allowed a day to pass without heavily firing upon our works — sometimes with his land forces alone, at other times with these and his fleet combined.
He was also busily engaged on his batteries and trenches, while, on our side, we were straining every nerve to repair the damages done to our works and to strengthen the weakened walls of Sumter
, whose disarmament was carefully carried on at night, in view of the disastrous effects of the enemy's heavy guns, from stationary batteries, which would eventually render it untenable as an artillery post.
That such a result was inevitable no one could possibly doubt, and that the whole of Morris Island
would sooner or later fall into the hands of the enemy, was no less evident.
But, so long as the batteries in process of construction on the mainland were unfinished, I had resolved to hold Wagner
to the last extremity.
Every movement of the enemy was in the meantime watched with the utmost vigilance, while the accurate firing of Sumter
, and Wagner
continued seriously to interfere with the working parties engaged on his lines of gradual approaches.
Charleston under fire — view on Market street. From a War-time sketch. |
Among the most memorable incidents of this period of the siege was the seven days bombardment of Fort Sumter
, which commenced on the 17th of August and lasted up to the 23d.
It appeared to be, on the part of the Federals
, a desperate and final attempt to force the surrender of the fort, and thus effect the reduction of Morris Island
, and even of the city of Charleston
This was evidenced by the peremptory demand which I received from General Gillmore
on the 21st for the “immediate evacuation of Morris Island
and Fort Sumter
by the threat that if, within “four hours” after the delivery of his letter into the hands of the commander of Battery Wagner, no reply was had, he would “open fire on the city of Charleston
from batteries already established within easy range of the heart of the city.”
This communication reached me after the time specified.
[See p. 66.]
I protested against the bombardment of a city filled with old men, women, and children before giving the customary notice of three or four days in which to allow them to escape from danger.
From a work which was called the “Swamp Angel
,” because of the spot where it had been erected, the enemy, with an 8-inch Parrott
rifle-gun, and before receiving my answer, did open fire upon “the heart” of the city.
I have reason to believe, however, that the energy of my protest, which.
in due time reached the headquarters of the Federal
commander, forced him to recede somewhat from the position he had at first taken, for he ultimately ordered the firing upon the city to be suspended for the space of two days. When resumed it was not continued long; the “Swamp Angel
” gun, after 36 rounds, very fortunately burst, and none other was mounted in that locality to take its place.
The result of the seven days bombardment of Sumter
was to convert that historic fort into a confused mass of crumbling debris, but without altogether impairing its capacity of resistance.
The greatest danger threatening the garrison just then, and one no doubt counted upon by the enemy, was the probability of the explosion by shot and shell of its powder magazine, which was, indeed, momentarily apprehended by the gallant men within the work.
In the meanwhile, General Gillmore
's working parties, ever on the increase, were gradually but surely extending their trenches and mining operations nearer and nearer to Battery Wagner.
On the 26th our rifle-pits in front of the work were assailed by an overpowering force and taken, and on the 1st of September the fire on Sumter
was so intense as to effect its virtual destruction.
The following extract from the Engineer
's report, forwarded at that time to the War Department, will give an idea of the condition of the work:
Toward noon the effect of the fire was to carry away at one fall four rampart arches on north-east front, with terre-plein platforms and guns, thus leaving on this front only one arch and a half, which are adjacent to the east spiral stair.
Some of the lower casemate piers of same front have been seriously damaged, rendering unsafe the service of two guns hitherto available in that quarter.
On the exterior, the chief injury done is to be noticed at south-east pan-coupe and two next upper casemates on east front.
From these localities the scarp wall has fallen away completely and left the arches exposed, as well as the sand filling half down to the floor of the second tier.
The next day six monitors, together with the Ironsides
, opened fire on the fort, using the heaviest projectiles, namely, 8-inch Parrotts, rifle-shells, and 11 and 15 inch smooth-bore shot and shell.
It had not one single gun in working order with which to reply.
The following is an extract from my report to the War Department:
The north-east and north-west terre-pleins had fallen in, and the western wall had a crack entirely through from parapet to berme.
The greater portion of the southern wall was down, the upper east magazine penetrated, and lower east magazine wall cracked; the eastern wall itself nearly shot away, and large portions down; ramparts gone, and nearly every casemate breached.
The casemates on the eastern face were still filled with sand, and gave some protection to the garrison from shells.
Not a single gun remained in barbette, and but a single smooth-bore 32-pounder in the west face that could be fired as the morning and evening gun.
had thus been made a mass of crumbling ruins, the enemy, except at short intervals, spared no effort to effect the demolition of Wagner
In spite of the ability and determination of the several commanders — Taliaferro
, A. H. Colquitt
, R. F. Graham
, and L. M. Keitt
— who, in turn, were placed there; in spite of the almost superhuman energy and pluck of its garrison and working parties to repair, at night, the damage done during the day, it became evident, on the 5th of September, that any further attempt to retain possession of it would result in the useless loss of the garrisons of both Wagner
The enemy's sap had reached the moat of the former work.
The heavy Parrott
shells used against its parapets had breached them and knocked away the bomb-proofs.
It had become impossible to repair the damages done.
and his artillery command of regulars had already been transferred to the batteries forming the inner defenses, which were now almost entirely completed, and mostly armed with the very guns of Sumter
Major Stephen Elliott
, with an infantry force taken from various regiments in and around the city, had been put there to hold the ruins of the fort against any storming parties of the enemy, and to give the morning and evening salute to the Confederate
flag, still floating to the breeze.
The first breach in Fort Sumter.
From a photograph.
Major John Johnson writes to the editors that the photograph was taken on September 8th, 1863, during a heavy engagement between the iron-clad fleet and the forts on Sullivan's Island, including Fort Moultrie.
Sumter had been silenced for a week prior to that date.
The picture shows the full height of the wall of the parapet, the first breach, and the fallen casemates of the north-western wall of Fort Sumter. |
had been selected by me with care for that post of honor and danger.
He proved himself worthy of the confidence placed in him; as did, later on, Captain John C. Mitchel
, who relieved him on the 4th of May, 1864, and lost his life while in command there on the 20th of July, 1864; he was succeeded by another brave officer, Captain T. A. Huguenin
, who was fortunate enough to escape uninjured and only left the fort at its final evacuation on the 17th of February, 1865.
Another gallant officer, Major John Johnson
, of the Confederate States
Engineers, was of much assistance in the defense of the ruins, and remained therein while they were held by us.
The instructions for the evacuation of Batteries Wagner and Gregg had been prepared by me with much deliberation and thought.
The withdrawal of the troops began as previously agreed upon, and was conducted in silence, with great coolness and precision.
My orders were carried out almost to the letter.
Owing to some defect in the fuses, however, the powder magazines of neither Wagner
were exploded, although they had been lit, with all due precaution, by able officers.
The wounded and sick had been first removed; then the companies were marched by detachments to the boats prepared to receive them, and embarked under the supervision of the
“The Battery,” Charleston.
From a sketch made in 1873. |
naval officers in command.
Two companies remained in Battery Wagner, as a rear-guard, until all the others were embarked, when they also were withdrawn.
Our loss was slight both in men and materials, and the Federal
victory was barren.17
I have dwelt somewhat at length upon the details of the gradual destruction of Fort Sumter
for the reason that, apart from the high interest of the recital, the matchless spirit and discipline displayed by its commander and garrison reacted upon all the commands in my department, and aroused a feeling of pride and emulation among the troops defending Charleston
, which resulted in the greatest heroism.
And it is history to say that the defense of Sumter
are feats of war unsurpassed in ancient or modern times.
I now propose, before closing, to review a few passages of General Gillmore
's book, published just after the war, and, as appears on its title-page, “by authority.”
Most of its errors have already been refuted in my “Morris Island
report,” which is given, in extenso,
in the second volume of the “Military operations of General Beauregard
& Brothers: pp. 102 et seq.)
It only remains, therefore, to comment briefly upon certain misapprehensions and false conclusions of the author.18
was considered during the war the first engineer officer in the Federal
Such is his standing up to this day. He had evidently been sent in command of the Department of the South, to effect what General Hunter
had failed to do, to wit, the capture of Charleston
's book is valuable in many respects.
It furnishes new and important information to the student of military history.
Its tabular statements are generally accurate; the plates, drawings, and carefully prepared maps annexed to it are interesting and instructive.
The description he gives of the city of Charleston
, and of the fortifications in and around its harbor, is exact.
But the inference to be drawn from the paragraph numbered nineteen in the book [p. 11] is exceptionable.
It reads as follows:
The strength of the James Island works was tested by a bold but unsuccessful assault upon them by our forces under Brigadier-General [H. W.] Benham on the 16th of June, 1862.
I deem it necessary to place the facts of this attack in their proper light, because that is the reason assigned by Gillmore
for not having attacked by James Island
in July, 1863, when he attempted the Morris Island
The truth of the matter is, that the point attacked by Generals Benham
and I. I. Stevens
was the strongest one of the whole line, which was then unfinished and was designed to be some five miles in length.
The two Federal commanders might have overcome the obstacles in their front had they proceeded farther up the Stono
Even as it was, the fight at Secessionville
was lost, in great measure, by lack of tenacity on the part of Generals Benham
Their troops outnumbered ours more than two to one, and fought with considerable dash.
Some of them, in the impetus of the assault, went even inside one of the salients of the work.
It was saved by the skin of our teeth.
's attack was, therefore, hardly a “test” of the possibility or impossibility of carrying the James Island
The failure in June, 1862, was no good reason for not making the attempt over again in July, 1863--1.
Because that point of the attack was the strongest instead of the weakest of the line, other parts of it, further west, being but feebly guarded and poorly armed.
2. Because the forces under me in July, 1863, were much less than those under General Pemberton
in June, 1862. 3.
Because in July, 1863, I had only 1184 infantry on the whole of James Island
; whereas, in order to guard the defensive lines properly, I should have had a force of at least 8000 men there.
says, p. 12:
A land attack upon Charleston was not even discussed at any of the interviews to which I was invited, and was certainly never contemplated by me.
His reasons for not having contemplated such a movement are shown in paragraph 27 of his book, where he asserts, in substance, that beyond the capture of Morris Island
and the demolition of Fort Sumter
he never intended, with an army of only 11,000 men, and with so many difficulties in his way, to undertake any operations against the land defenses of Charleston
, knowing as he did how superior my forces were to his own, and what facilities
I had “for concentrating troops by railroad.”
“The capture of Charleston
” was, after all,--and General Gillmore
admits it,--“the ultimate object in view.”
The possession of Morris Island
and the demolition of Sumter
by the Federal
land and naval forces were mere incidents in the drama.
These did not cause the fall of the much hated and much coveted rebel city; and General Gillmore
, “though he had overcome difficulties almost unknown in modern sieges,” 20
did not achieve “the ultimate object in view.”
The fact is that on or about the 10th of July, 1863, the Confederate forces available for the defense of the exterior lines of Charleston
did not exceed 6500 men, distributed to the best advantage for the protection of James
, and Morris islands
, and of the city proper; whereas General Gillmore
had at that time, according to his own estimate, 11,000 men, whom he might have easily concentrated against any special point.
Supposing that point to have been the James Island
lines, the weak Confederate force there stationed: 1184 infantry, would have had to withstand an overwhelming assault.
Transportation was altogether inadequate, and all effort made to reenforce any of the above-named
localities would have necessarily uncovered some other points equally liable to attack.
exaggerates “the formidable strength of ‘Fort’ Wagner
,” as he persistently calls it, and explains how “its position, trace, armament, and interior arrangements” compelled him to change the plan of operations first adopted against it. He says, p. 43 of his book:
It had an excellent command and a bold relief. . . . It was constructed of compact sand, upon which the heaviest projectiles produce but little effect, and in which damages could be easily and speedily repaired.
It was known to contain a secure and capacious bomb-proof shelter for its entire garrison, and to be armed with between fifteen and twenty guns of various calibers, nearly all bearing upon and completely covering the only approach to it, which was over a shallow and shifting beach, of scarcely half a company front in width in many places, subject to frequent overflow by the tides, and swept by the guns of not only Fort Wagner itself, but of Battery Gregg, Fort Sumter, and several heavily armed batteries on James Island.
“ Battery” Wagner
, as it should be called, for it never was a “fort,” had successfully repulsed two assaults by overpowering numbers, and with such bloody results as to deter the enemy from again attempting the same mode of attack.
It withstood and baffled the combined efforts of the Federal
naval and land forces during fifty-eight consecutive days.
Indisputably General Gillmore
's success on Morris Island
was tardy and barren of the fruit expected and sought.
Battery Wagner was originally an ordinary field-battery, erected, as
already stated, by General Pemberton
to prevent a near approach from the south end of Morris Island
It was pierced for eleven guns, only three of which were heavy pieces.
These were two 10-inch Columbiads and one 32-pounder rifled, which was of but slight service, for it burst after firing a few rounds and was never replaced.
The other guns were 32-pounder carronades and 12-pounder mortars, placed on the “curtain” of the battery, facing the approach from the south.
Most of these had been disabled by the terrible fire opened upon them.
The remaining ones were field-pieces and two 8 and 10 inch mortars, the latter being used as “coehorns” against the enemy's trenches.
The work was strengthened and improved, its plan gradually modified; traverses and merlons, and bomb-proofs capable of sheltering some 750 men (not 1600, as General Gillmore
says, p. 74 of his book), were added to it by my orders, partly before the attack, partly after, and while the enemy was still making his advance.
By the addition of a light parapet which I had caused to be thrown across its gorge, Wagner
had thus become a closed battery, protected from a surprise on the rear.
But it never was a “formidable work” ; and, in fact, it fought the enemy from the 10th of July, 1863, to the 6th of September of the same year, with men, artillery, and with sand.
The defense of Battery Wagner, with the great difficulty of access to it and the paucity of our resources, while those of the enemy were almost unlimited, will bear a favorable comparison with any modern siege on record.
The last bombardment of Wagner
began on the morning of the 5th of September, and lasted 42 hours, during which were thrown by the Federal
land-batteries alone 1663 rifle projectiles and 1553 mortar-shells.
The total number of projectiles thrown by the land-batteries against Fort Sumter
up to September 7th was 6451, and against Battery Wagner, from July 26th to September 7th, 9875, making in all 16,326.
And yet only Wagner
, though a mass of ruins, remained ours to the last, and Charleston
was evacuated by the Confederate
troops near the close of the war, namely, on the 17th of February, 1865, and. then only to furnish additional men to the army in the field.