I think it was in the month of February, 1861, that a company (the Moultrie Guard
) of the first regiment of rifles, was sent to garrison Fort Johnson
, or rather to occupy the summer houses of James' Island
, fronting on Charleston harbor
A small earthwork held by a detachment of the German artillery stood near the wharf, and a mortar battery on the beach opposite Sumter
at the time was being put in readiness for the fight.
The defiant attitude of the Federal Government
had rendered it necessary to have little communication with Major Anderson
To this end an order had been issued, permitting a boat from Sumter
to come in a direct line to the wharf at Fort Johnson
, take on such supplies of vegetables, fresh meats and mail, which arrived daily by steamer from Charleston
, (and which considerate clemency kept the enemy in health and comfortable condition, pending the last unsuccessful negotiations for a peaceful settlement) the boat then to return in a direct course to the fort.
This system of daily trips to and from the wharf was made by a crew of four, under an officer whose rank was not defined, wearing as he did always an undress suit.
A member (still living) of the Moultrie Guard
, had studied the position, and that night suggested the following to two of his mess: “To-morrow I'll have the supplies for Sumter
put at the off-side of the wharf.
You,” addressing the writer, “stand in view of the boat and give a signal if the officer gets to be restless; you,” to the other, “sit at the head of the landing and chat with the officer; I will be by the pile of staves, and sound the man who is to lug them to the boat,and see if we can't get up a wholesale desertion of the fort by the garrison.”
It was thought best to confer first with the commander of the State
troops (now dead.) The feasability of the scheme secured his consent, and the originator of it returned in time to put it in effect.
On the next day the supplies from the steamer were placed on the opposite side of the wharf from where the boat landed.
One of the militia trio sat at the head of the steps at the landing place, another stood ready to give a signal if the officer became suspicious, and the third was near the pile of supplies.
The boat came, and the bow rower was sent up to get the meat, &c. A conversation was begun, and the bait took.
Several thousands of dollars were offered by the militiaman to each deserter who reported to him, and the soldier from Sumter
was pledged to report on the next trip.
“We don't care to fight, and will leave if we can; but,” he