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Letters from Fort Sumter in 1862 and 1863.

By Lieutenant Iredell Jones, First Regiment South Carolina Regulars.
[We have on hand a number of letters written by Lieutenant Jones, while serving in Fort Sumter, to his parents. As vivid descriptions, written at the time, of the events they describe by a gallant participant in the heroic defence of Sumter, they are of interest and historic value worthy of a place in our records.]

Letter no. 1.

Fort Sumter, June 18th, 1862.
You have heard by the papers the particulars of the bloody fight of the 16th, at Secessionville. Though on a small scale, this war furnishes not one instance of a more gallant charge on the part of the enemy, and of a more desperate and determined resistance on the part of our own men. The battery was contested on the ramparts in a hand to hand fight, and a log was rolled from the top to [6] sweep the enemy from the sides of the breastwork. All praise is due to the Charleston battalion and Lamar's two companies of artillery, as well as Smith's battalion, and had it not been for the desperate fighting of these commands, while reinforcements were being sent for, the important point at Secessionville would have been lost. But while we give all credit to our own troops, let us never again disparage our enemy and call them cowards, for nothing was ever more glorious than their three charges in the face of a raking fire of grape and canister, and then at last, as if to do or die, they broke into two columns and rushed against our right and left flanks, which movement would have gained the day, had not our reinforcements arrived. We were emphatically surprised, but it could not have been otherwise expected, when we recollect that the three commands before mentioned, which were at Secessionville, had been under fire of the enemy's battery for the past two weeks, being shelled day and night, and thereby almost exhausted from want of sleep. The lamented Captain Reed had been manning our battery for ten days with his company. Many of our finest men were killed, and all the friends or relations of some of the officers in the Fort, and a general gloom is spread over the countenances of all here now.

And now I will try and tell you something about our situation on James Island, as I have had the chance of learning, having in company with some other officers in the Fort visited the Island, on Sunday last, the day before the battle, and having seen all our outposts, breastworks, batteries, &c., as well as a large portion of the troops. A dense woods separates our army from the enemy, and all along for from 3,000 to 4,000 yards in rear of these woods, i. e., towards our side, is a level, open space, and in most places can only be passed over by the army, on account of marsh-lands, by roads. Now, cutting across the island to the rear of this level space, stretch our breastworks, in which we have a few guns mounted at considerable intervals apart, and behind which infantry and field-batteries will be protected. You see at once the strength of our position. The roads will be thoroughly guarded, and if a column advances across one of these fields, it will be exposed to the fire of artillery as soon as it makes its appearance. It can then be raked when nearer by grape and canister, and as soon as it comes within range nothing protects it from the volleys of our infantry. Secessionville is a very important point on the creek that divides Morris's from James's Island and constitutes our extreme left flank, and if taken the enemy could turn our left. It was for this reason, no doubt, that the attack [7] was made the other day, and for this reason also that our Generals are so determined to hold it. The enemy's gun-boats can come up within shelling distance of it, and to hold their place our troops were obliged to remain there under fire. We have about 8,000, or perhaps as many as 10,000, men on the island, and all, I believe in good condition. The enemy's force is estimated at 9,000, under General Stephens. If this is the true estimate it certainly would seem as if we could hold them in check for any length of time. Fort Sumter is about three miles distant from Secessionville, but it seems to me impossible for the enemy's gunboats ever to come from that quarter to attack us, as the stream is only navigable to very small boats, and that, too, only at very high tides. Their object is to take James's Island and plant mortar batteries.

While on the island we visited our outposts, and I had the pleasure of seeing, from the top of a tree, the Yankee pickets, about six hundred yards distant. It seems strange, but is true, that the pickets of the two armies sit down at this distance apart and look at each other all day. After amusing ourselves looking at Yankees, we went to the breastworks and camps, after which we returned to Colonel Lamar's headquarters, expecting to return to the fort, but on learning that our battery was to commence replying to the enemy's battery, which, together with the gun-boats, had been shelling Secessionville and our battery all the morning, we concluded to walk down and see the duel. We stopped at Secessionville a few moments, and then, led on by curiosity, rather than by wisdom, we went across an open field under fire, to our battery, eight hundred yards distant, and remained there an hour, looking at the mortar practice. The enemy fired very rapidly and with great precision, striking the battery or grazing the top nearly every time. Their shells bursted mostly in rear of us, and only once directly overhead, which wounded two men. There were five of us along together, composing our party. It was very unwise of us to have exposed ourselves thus recklessly, and the more so that we should have done so merely out of curiosity.

Your affectionate son,

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