make their approaches slowly, under conditions that secure to its fire a great superiority over that of the besiegers.
But here were the assailants, in numbers a hundred to one, firing at short range from batteries which had been constructed and mounted in perfect security, one of them covered with iron rails so adjusted as to glance the balls of the fortress harmlessly from its mailed front.
Had Major Anderson
been ordered, in December, to defend his post against all aggressive and threatening demonstrations, he could not have been shelled out of it by a thirty hours bombardment.
But why officers' quarters and barracks of wood should ever have been constructed in the center of such a fort — or rather, why they should have been permitted to stand there after the hostile intentions of the Confederates
had been clearly proclaimed — is not obvious.
That shells and red-hot balls would be rained into this area — that the frail structures which nearly filled it would inevitably take fire, and not only imperil magazines, cartridges, and everything else combustible, but prevent the working of the guns, was palpable from the outset.
To have committed to the surrounding waves every remaining particle of wood that was not essential to the defense, would seem the manifest work of the night which preceded the opening of the bombardment, after the formal demand that the fort be surrendered.
To do this while yet unassailed and unimperiled, instead of rolling barrel after barrel of precious powder into the sea under the fire of a dozen batteries, with the whole center of the fortress a glowing furnace, and even the casemates so hot that their tenants could only escape roasting by lying flat on the floor and drawing their breath through wet blankets, would seem the dictate of the simplest forecast.
So, when we read that “the guns, without tangents or scales, and even destitute of bearing-screws, were to be ranged by the eye, and fired ‘by guess,’ ” we have an ample explanation of the inefficiency of their fire, but none of the causes of this strange and fatal lack of preparation for a contest that had so long been imminent.
It might seem as if Sumter
had been held only that it should be assailed with impunity and easily taken.
It was at 7 o'clock--nearly three hours after the first shot came crashing against her walls — that Sumter
's garrison, having deliberately eaten their breakfast — whereof salt pork constituted the staple — fired their first gun. They had been divided into three squads or reliefs, each in succession to man the guns for four hours, and then be relieved by another.
Capt. Arthur Doubleday
commanded the first on duty, and fired the first gun. Only the casemate guns were commonly fired — those on the parapet being too much exposed to the shot and shell pouring in from every quarter to render their use other than a reckless, bootless waste of life.
The fire of the fort was so weak, when compared to that of its assailants, as to excite derision rather than apprehension on their part.
It was directed at Fort Moultrie
, the Cummings' Point battery, and Sullivan's Island
, from which a masked battery of heavy columbiads, hitherto unsuspected by the garrison, had opened on their walls with fearful effect.
The floating battery, faced