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Charleston, the uncaptured port

Confederate garrison cooking dinner in ruined Sumter--1864


Fort Sumter in 1864.

The story of how these photographs in unconquered Sumter were secured is a romance in itself. No one, North or South, can escape a thrill at the knowledge that several of them were actually taken in the beleaguered port by George S. Cook, the Confederate photographer. This adventurous spirit was one of the enterprising and daring artists who are now and then found ready when and where great events impend. He had risked his life in 1863, taking photographs of the Federal fleet as it was bombarding Sumter. The next year, while the magnificent organization of the Northern armies was closing in day by day; while the stores and homes and public buildings of Charleston were crumbling into pitiful ruins under the bombardment; while shoes and clothing and food were soaring to unheard — of prices in the depreciated Confederate currency, Cook still ingeniously secured his precious chemicals from the New York firm of Anthony & Co., which, curiously enough, was the same that supplied Brady. Cook's method was to smuggle his chemicals through as quinine! It is only the most fortunate of chances that preserved these photographs of the Confederates defending Charleston through the nearly half century which elapsed between their taking and the publication of the photograph History. Editors of the work traveled thousands of miles and wrote thousands of letters in the search for such photographs. Of the priceless examples and specimens, several are here reproduced. How rare such pictures are may be judged by the fact that some of the men prominent and active in the circles of Confederate veterans, together with families of former Confederate generals and leaders, were unable to lay their hands on any such pictures. The natural disappointment in the South at the end of the war was such that photographers were forced to destroy all negatives, just as owners destroyed all the objects that might serve as souvenirs or relics of the terrible struggle, thinking, for the moment at least, that they could not bear longer the strain of brooding over the tragedy. Constant ferreting, following up clues, digging in dusty garrets amid relics buried generations ago, interviews with organizations like the Daughters of the Confederacy (to the Charleston chapter of which acknowledgment must be made for the picture of the Charleston Zouaves)--only after such exertions did it become possible to show on these pages the countenances and bearing and drill of the men who held Charleston against the ever-increasing momentum of the Northern power.

Making sand-bags inside Fort Sumter in 1864

The tottering walls of the Fort shored up


The Confederate Camp Washington. Locked in on the sandy beach near Sullivan inlet where the South Carolina warriors maintained their military post for four years

Charleston's famous Zouave cadets drilling at Castle Pinckney


Grim-Visaged war along the palmetto shore-line of Charleston harbor

“Prodigies of talent, audacity, intrepidity, and perseverance were exhibited in the attack, as in the defense of the city, which will assign to the siege of Charleston an exceptional place in military annals.” Thus spoke the expert of the French Journal of military science in 1865, only a few months after this attack and defense had passed into history. Charleston was never captured. It was evacuated only after Sherman's advance through the heart of South Carolina had done what over five hundred and fifty-seven days of continuous attack and siege by the Federal army and navy could not do — make it untenable. When, on the night of February 17, 1865, Captain H. Huguenin, lantern in hand, made his last silent rounds of the deserted Fort and took the little boat for shore, there ended the four years defense of Fort Sumter, a feat of war unsurpassed in ancient or modern times — eclipsing (says an English military critic) “such famous passages as Sale's defense of Jellalabad against the Afghans and Havelock's obdurate tenure of the residency at Lucknow.” Charleston with its defenses--Forts Sumter, Moultrie, Wagner, and Castle Pinckney from the sea and the many batteries on the land side — was the heart of the Confederacy, and some of the most vigorous efforts of the Federal forces were made to capture it. Though “closed in” upon more than once, it never surrendered. But beleaguered it certainly was, in the sternest sense of the word. It is a marvel how the photographer, Cook, managed to get his supplies past the Federal army on one side and the Federal blockading fleet on the other. Yet there he remained at his post, catching with his lens the ruins of the uncaptured Fort and the untaken city in 1864. How well he made these pictures may be seen on the pages preceding and the lower picture opposite. They furnish a glimpse into American history that most people — least of all the Confederate veterans themselves — never expected to enjoy. Those who actually knew what it was to be besieged in Petersburg, invaded in Georgia, starved in Tennessee, or locked up by a blockading fleet — such veterans have been astonished to find these authenticated photographs of the garrison beleaguered in the most important of Southern ports.

Remains of the circular church and “secession hall,” where South Carolina decided to leave the Union

On “the battery,” Charleston's spacious promenade


Inside Fort Moultrie--looking eastward

Outside Fort Johnson--Sumter in the distance

The desolate interior of Sumter in September, 1863, after the guns of the Federal fleet had been pounding it for many weeks


In Charleston after the bombardment So long as the Confederate flag flew over the ramparts of Sumter, Charleston remained the one stronghold of the South that was firmly held. That flag was never struck. It was lowered for an evacuation, not a surrender. The story of Charleston's determined resistance did not end in triumph for the South, but it did leave behind it a sunset glory, in which the valor and dash of the Federal attack is paralleled by the heroism and self-sacrifice of the Confederate defense, in spite of wreck and ruin.

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