Who fired the first gun at Sumter?
The above extract having come to my notice, I desire to give the facts as to the part that Edmund Ruffin
, of Virginia
, took in the firing on Fort Sumter
I have before me his journal, written at that time, and will copy what bears upon the subject:
(1861).—Before 4 A. M. the drums beat for parade, and our company was speedily on the march to the batteries which they were to man. At 4:30 a signal shell
was thrown from a mortar battery at Fort Johnson
, which had been before ordered to be taken as the command for immediate attack, and firing from all the batteries bearing on Fort Sumter
next began in the order arranged, which was that the discharges should be two minutes apart, and the
round of all the pieces and batteries to be completed in thirty-two minutes, and then to begin again.
The night before, when expecting to engage, Captain Cuthbert
had notified me that his company requested of me to discharge the first cannon to be fired, which was their 64-pound Columbiad, loaded with shell.
Of course I was highly gratified by the compliment, and delighted to perform the service—which I did. The shell struck the fort at the northeast angle of the parapet.
By order of General Beauregard
, made known the afternoon of the 11th, the attack was to be commenced by the first shot at the fort being fired by the Palmetto Guard, and from the iron battery.
In accepting and acting upon this highly appreciated compliment, that company had made me its instrument,’ &c.
The above, as written at that very time, would fully establish the fact that the first shot was fired by Edmund Ruffin
, and it will be observed that the signal
shot which he refers to at Fort Johnson
at 4:30 A. M., is the same that S. D. Lee
claims as the first shot at Fort Sumter
at the same time (4:30 A. M.). Now the two might easily be confounded, and to prove that the one from the iron battery, fired by Edmund Ruffin
, was actually the first gun on Fort Sumter
, I will give comments of the press of that date.
The Charleston Courier
said: ‘The venerable Edmund Ruffin
, who as soon as it was known a battle was inevitable, hastened over to Morris Island
, and was elected a member of the Palmetto Guard, fired the first gun from Stevens's iron battery.
All honor to the chivalric Virginian!
May he live many years to wear the fadeless wreath that honor placed upon his brow on our glorious Friday!’
From the Charleston
correspondent of New York Tribune
‘The first shot from Stevens's battery was fired by the venerable Edmund Ruffin
, of Virginia
That ball will do more for the cause of secession in the Old Dominion than volumes of stump speeches.’
The Charleston Mercury
says the first gun fired from the iron battery off Cummings's Point
was discharged by the venerable Edmund Ruffin
He subsequently shot from all the guns and mortars used during the action.
A Mobile paper had the following:
‘A Sublime Spectacle
.—The mother of the Gracchi, when asked for her jewels, pointed to her children and said, “There they are.”
With the same propriety can the ‘Mother of States’ point to her
children as the brightest jewels she possesses.
At the call of patriotism they are not laggard in responding to it, and Virginia
blood has enriched every battle-field upon American soil.
And we thank God the spirit has not departed from her, but burns as brightly in the breasts of her children as in the days of her Washington
and her Henry.
But of the many bright examples that she has furnished of patriotism the most sublime is the conduct of the venerable Edmund Ruffin
, whose head is silvered over by more than eighty winters, who, when the war-cloud lowered over the gallant city of Charleston
, volunteered as a private, and with his knapsack on his back and musket on his shoulder tendered his services to South Carolina
to fight against the aggression upon her rights.
It was his hand that pointed and fired the
first gun at Fort Sumter
. The world has pointed to the conduct of Cincinnatus
, who, when his country was invaded by a hostile foe, left his plow in the furrow to take command of her forces, and after he had driven out the invader and restored his country to peace and prosperity, resigned his position and returned to his plow.
By this one act he embalmed his memory in the breasts of his countrymen and of all patriots throughout the world.
The conduct of Cincinnatus
was not more patriotic than that of Edmund Ruffin
, and side by side in the niche of fame will their names be recorded by every patriotic heart.’
From the New York Post
‘Shot and Hemp
.—A Charleston dispatch states that the “first shot from Stevens's battery was fired by the venerable Edmund Ruffin
, of Virginia
A piece of the first hemp that is stretched in South Carolina
should be kept for the neck of this venerable and bloodthirsty Ruffian
From the above quoted expressions it would indeed be impossible to conclude otherwise than that the first gun on Fort Sumter
was shot by Edmund Ruffin
, and that such should be recorded as an historical fact.
In fact, the above from S. D. Lee
is the first intimation of a doubt on this subject that has ever been brought to the notice of any of the descendants of Edmund Ruffin
To all who knew Edmund Ruffin
it would have been useless to say more than that throughout his manuscript he speaks of it as a fact.
To those to whom he was a stranger I would say that many more comments of the press of that date establish the same fact; those of the South
being loud in his praise, and those of the North
being still more vindictive.