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The Wee Nee Volunteers of Williamsburg District, South Carolina, in the First (Gregg's) Regiment—Siege and capture of Fort Sumter.

By Colonel J. G. Pressley.
When it became apparent that the Republican party would triumph in the Presidential election of 1860, every person of sufficient age will remember how enthusiastic the whole State of South Carolina became for a Southern Confederacy. Apprehending that the consummation of their hopes would probably not be peacefully attained, [481] the patriotic sons of the State organized military companies in almost every neighborhood, and stood ready for the emergency. None could be found from the mountains to the seaboard who doubted the absolute and unqualified right of the State to assert her sovereignty whenever she deemed it expedient. There were very few who did not believe that the time for such assertion had come. In the month of November many of the young men, and some middle aged ones, of Kingston and the vicinity, assembled in the courthouse, enthusiastically signed the roll, and resolved to call their company ‘The Wee Nee Volunteers.’1 The following officers were elected: Captain, John G. Pressley; First Lieutenant, S. W. Maurice; Second Lieutenant, R. C. Logan; Third Lieutenant, E. C. Keels. One hundred of as brave men as ever confronted a foe constituted the non-commissioned officers and privates. Among the members of the company were two members of the State Convention, both members of the Legislature, the clerk of the court, the ordinary, the sheriff and one magistrate. Williamsburg was left almost without a civil government.

On the night of the 26th of December, 1860, Major Robert Anderson, commanding the Federal forces stationed at Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, abandoned that fort and transferred his whole garrison to Fort Sumter. The excitement caused by this movement was intense. Many persons, who, up to that time, believed that the State would be permitted to withdraw peaceably from the Union, now came to the conclusion that war was inevitable. The services of the Wee Nees were at once tendered to the State, and were accepted by Governor Pickens. Kingston had thus the honor of sending the first company into service that went from Williamsburg, and, except some militia from Charleston, called out temporarily, the third in the State. On the third day of January, 1861, the company was embarked on the cars of the N. E. Railroad Company for Charleston. On the same train were the Hons. R. W. Barnwell, J. H. Adams and James L. Orr, the commissioners sent by South Carolina to treat with the Federal Government at Washington for the transfer to the State of the forts, arsenals and other Federal property within her limits. These gentlemen were returning from their unsuccessful mission. They had no words of assurance that the soldiers who had so promptly come forward in defence of the threatened rights of their [482] State were not hastening to a bloody conflict. But the Wee Nees were composed of men who did not stop to count cost, consider danger, or falter in the path of duty. After their arrival in Charleston they were sent over to Sullivan's Island, and quartered at the Moultrie House. There they were organized with ten other companies into a regiment, of which Maxey Gregg was appointed Colonel. The month of January and a part of February were spent on Sullivan's Island, the officers almost constantly drilling the men and instructing them in their new duties, and the latter submitting to the hardships and privations incidental to the life of soldiers, not without some complaint, but generally with a cheerfulness born of genuine patriotism.

While on the island, the company was sent to the north end, and did duty there for a few days. A battery had been constructed and guns mounted to guard the passage between Sullivan's and the island next north. Both men and officers enjoyed the change, and were sorry when the order came to return to the Moultrie House. That house was a magnificent hotel, which had been built on the front beach to accommodate the summer travel to the delightful village of Moultrieville. The military authorities took possession, and it was used for barracks. It must not, however, be imagined that the soldiers were enjoying the comforts and elegancies for which the house was famous in times of peace; on the contrary, the constant round of drills, dress parades, and guard mountings soon became both arduous and monotonous.

The tedium of garrison life was occasionally relieved by events out of the usual order of occurrences, and sometimes by practical jokes of both a ludicrous and humorous character. A good deal of fun often grew out of mistakes which citizens in a state of transformation to soldiers would naturally make.

One night, a short time after arms were distributed, and before the men had learnt the manual, the long roll was beaten. The Wee Nees were promptly in line. The enemy's ships were reported to be entering the harbor to reinforce Sumter. Every man was in a hurry to get a ball cartridge down his piece, and many were the questions asked the Captain as to how to use the ammunition then in the hands of the men for the first time. ‘Captain,’ sung out a gallant fellow, who afterwards made effective use of many a cartridge, and who came out of the war on one leg, ‘how do you bite this cartridge?’ When the excitement was over, this appeal for information caused much merriment among the men. [483]

It turned out to be a false alarm. The steamer Planter had been outside the bar to one of the islands near the coast for a load of palmetto logs, and in coming in, one of our own batteries, by mistake, opened fire upon her. Fortunately, South Carolina's artillerists were then as green as her infantry soldiers, and no damage was done. The regiment was drawn up near the Moultrie House. The firing from the batteries did not cease till after the line was formed. The moon was about half full, and was shining in an unclouded sky. One shell burst high up in the air between the orb of night and the men. One little fellow on the left of the next company to the Wee Nees, exclaimed, ‘Well, well, they have shot a piece off the moon!’

There was no man in the company more fond of a practical joke or more able to carry one out than Corporal F. J. Lesesne. Once he went through the quarters of the company assuring the men that a night assault had been planned, and was about to be made on Fort Sumter; and that he had been directed by the Captain to call for volunteers. The Corporal had his pencil and paper in his hand taking down the names, as volunteers for the storming party announced themselves. One brave fellow got very much excited, and began to find fault, ‘I came here to fight,’ he said, ‘and I will obey any order, no matter how great the danger, but it is not fair to call for volunteers for so hazardous a service, and I will be——if I will volunteer for anything.’

One afternoon Major Anderson sent an officer with a flag of truce to inquire after something which was left on the island in his hasty evacuation. Corporal Lesesne, who was on guard at the wharf, aided in the reception of the flag, and was a part of the escort of the officer to headquarters. The garrison was full of excitement, and every man anxious to know the purpose of the communication. Lesesne professed to them to know all about it, had heard the communication read, and was fully posted. He gravely informed them that Major Anderson had demanded the evacuation of Fort Moultrie in two hours.

The improbability of so grave a matter being communicated to a Corporal did not occur to the men, who began at once arranging their affairs for battle. After many letters had been written and messages left for family and friends at home, to be delivered in case of death, the Corporal's laugh exposed the sell. Much hilarity was occasioned in discussing the manner in which the belief of an impending battle had affected the different men of the command.

Particular attention was paid to guard duty, and the men instructed [484] according to the forms prescribed by army regulations. Upon one occasion, N——F——was on post on the beach. The Captain carefully instructed him in the duties of a sentinel, and explained particularly to him how he should receive the grand rounds, in case he should be honored with a visit from an officer entitled to make the rounds. After the Captain had repeated the instructions two or three times, he left, and not long after returned with the rounds. Upon their approach, N——F——promptly commanded, ‘halt,’ then a long pause-Captain and the rounds shivering in a cold January breeze—‘What next,’ said the Captain? F——, still thinking, finally came slowly and hesitatingly from him, ‘Stand, rounds, advance Sergeant and give the copper sign.’ The Sergeant advanced, gave the countersign, and the laugh at the expense of N—— F——firmly impressed on his mind the difference between ‘the countersign’ and ‘copper sign.’

Once, Robbins F——was the sentinel at the guard room. The Captain instructed him that when he saw the officer of the day approaching, he must call out, ‘officer of the day, turn out the guard,’ and that the officer of the guard would then form his guard for inspection. The Captain, who was himself the officer of the day on that occasion, after a brief interval, approached to see whether his instructions were remembered. Imagine his surprise to hear Robbins call out, ‘officer of the day, stand out of the way.’

Fort Sumter was closely watched by the sentinels, and every movement that could be tortured into a signal promptly reported to headquarters. The sentinels were particularly directed to look out for signal rockets. One night a brave fellow, who subsequently learnt a great deal more about pyrotechnics than he then knew, was on post on the front beach, and was heard calling lustily for an officer. The Captain went to the sentinel's post, ‘Well, what is it, sentinel?’ ‘Why, Captain, I saw a rocket!’ ‘Where, sentinel?’ ‘Right over yonder, Captain; it went up and up, and came down and stopped over yonder, and yonder it is now,’ pointing to a light on Morris Island.

While we were at the Moultrie House on the 9th of January, 1861, we witnessed the firing of the first hostile shot of the war. One morning about sunrise the ‘Star of West,’ a fine steamer, crossed the bar and came gallantly up the ‘ship channel,’ having supplies and reinforcements on board for Fort Sumter. A shot was thrown across her bows from a battery on Morris Island manned by the Cadets from the Military Academy. She ran up a large United [485] States flag, and continued on her course. Several other shots were promptly fired at her, when she put about, recrossed the bar and was soon out of sight. It was said that Cadet Haynesworth, of Sumter District, pulled the lanyard of the first gun fired. No damage was done the troops on board, but we afterwards heard that two shots struck the vessel, doing very little injury. The repulse of this vessel caused intense excitement among the soldiers and people. Major Anderson sent a communication to Governor Pickens, demanding an explanation, and threatening, if a satisfactory one was not made, to fire on every vessel from Charleston in the service of the State that came within reach of his guns. The Governor sent him a spirited reply, in which he took all of the responsibility, and informed him that no vessel would be allowed to bring him reinforcements or supplies. The battery which thus inaugurated the war was thereafter known as the ‘Star of the West Battery.’

One cold day, about the middle of January, orders were issued transferring the Wee Nees to Morris Island. The march from the Moultrie House was commenced in a pouring rain, and before reaching the boat at the Cove the men were thoroughly soaked. The greater part of the afternoon and all of the night was spent in crossing the harbor. What caused the steamer to move so slowly was never made known to the officers commanding the troops on board. The bay was rough, and the wind ahead and high, but all this is insufficient to account for the extraordinary delay. All who remember that night on that miserable steamboat will say that very little of their war experience was more disagreeable. We were received by the Irish Volunteers, of Charleston, commanded by Captain Edward McCrady, Jr., and breakfasted in handsome style. Never was breakfast more heartily enjoyed, nor hospitality more gratefully appreciated than by these cold, wet, tired, and hungry Wee Nees.

We went into camp near the ‘Star of the West Battery.’ I had the use of the guns of that battery for the purposes of instruction, and rapidly taught the men the heavy artillery drill. I was aided by Major P. F. Stevens, then Superintendent of the Citadel Academy. The company took to this new drill with great alacrity, and it was not long before they became as proficient in artillery as they were in infantry tactics.

Morris Island was then commanded by Colonel J. Johnson Petigrew, of the First Regiment of Rifles, South Carolina Militia. The Wee Nees were much pleased with their new commanding officer. [486] Though this gentleman had not received a military education, he was a man of such rare talents that he soon fitted himself for any position he was called to fill.

On Friday, the 22d of February, news reached the Governor that the Daniel Webster, a Federal steamer, was expected with supplies and reinforcements for Fort Sumter. I was detached with twenty-three non-commissioned officers and privates of the Wee Nees and put in charge of the ‘Star of the West Battery.’ The cadets had been relieved from duty in the field and sent back to the Citadel. The weather was bitter cold, and being entirely without fire (no lights were kept after dark that could aid an incoming ship in finding the channel), we suffered considerably, but the expectation and hope of a fight kept up our circulation, and we endured our discomforts like old soldiers. An artillery company that was to have relieved us did not report till twenty-four hours after it was expected.

Shortly after this time a detachment of the company was put under the command of Captain A. F. Warley, of the Navy, and with that officer took charge of the battery of two Dahlgren guns which was built about three hundred and fifty yards south of the famous ‘Star of the West Battery.’ With the rest of the Wee Nees I was put in charge of a four-gun battery built on Vinegar Hill about three hundred yards still further south. Both these batteries were designed to prevent vessels coming into the harbor through the ship channel; the guns of neither were trained for operations against Fort Sumter.

Our camp was delightfully located. The high sand-hill in front, on the crest of which our battery was located, cut off the rough sea breezes. The rear rested on a bold salt creek affording oysters and crabs in abundance. The men made themselves very comfortable, rations were plenty and of excellent quality. No doubt in the later years and privations of the war many a Wee Nee remembered the camp at Vinegar Hill with longing for the comforts of those halcyon days.

The 4th of March, 1861, so long and anxiously waited for, came at last. President Lincoln was inaugurated, and the all-absorbing question still asked and discussed by the citizens at every fireside and by the soldiers around every camp-fire was, ‘Shall we have war?’ Various were the opinions entertained, but a majority of the people, as well as a large number of the army, had at length reached the conclusion that the separation of the States would be peaceable. The [487] opinion of the arch enemy of the South, who had done more, perhaps, than any other one man to bring about the unhappy condition of the country, ‘that the wayward sisters should be allowed to go in peace,’ seemed to be gaining ground at the North. Almost hourly vessels loaded with supplies and ammunition for the besiegers were allowed to pass unmolested almost within hailing distance of the sentinels on the ramparts of Fort Sumter. Batteries were allowed to be built and guns mounted immediately under control of Anderson's guns. Some of these batteries were so formidable that, as an artillerist and engineer, he must have known that the walls of Sumter could not oppose to them a successful resistance. The same training which had made a soldier of him, had prepared the officers directing the operations of those who were preparing to assail him. All these were facts which seemed unanswerably to indicate that the General Government was preparing to acknowledge the right of South Carolina to resume the full exercise of her sovereignty. Scarcely a man could be found south of Mason and Dixon's line who denied this right. The hesitation and vacillation of the North plainly showed that her people were not clear in their denial of the right, or satisfied that one of the constitutional powers of the Government was to make war on a State. Never was there a people more entirely satisfied or thoroughly convinced of the righteousness of their cause, than were the people of South Carolina. They were very generally of the opinion that the sober second thought of their brethren of the North would and must bring them to see and acknowledge this right. They found it hard to believe that New England could forget that when Carolina was the pet colony of the British crown she willingly gave up all of the advantages of the Union with the mother country, to aid her sisters of the North in the struggle for common independence. The descendants of the patriots who fought at Fort Moultrie could not see why the sons of the heroes of Bunker Hill could desire their conquest, and the subversion of the government guaranted to the Palmetto State. It is not at all surprising that there should have been so many who believed that Anderson and his garrison would be withdrawn.

There were those among us, however, who did not desire a peaceable withdrawal. They said that if South Carolina is permitted to go in peace, the Southern States will not follow her. That she was too small and weak for a separate and independent nation; that in a few years she would be knocking at the door of Congress for readmission into the Federal Union. But that the first blood of a son [488] of South Carolina, drawn by a Federal bullet, would indissolubly cement the Confederacy of the Southern States. There was plausibility in this opinion in the light of the fact that a majority of the delegates elected to the Georgia State Convention were opposed to secession. Virginia was in the same condition. The Union sentiment in North Alabama and parts of North Carolina was overwhelming.

On the 7th of March there was considerable excitement among the troops. A gun in one of the batteries bearing on Sumter, supposed to be charged with a blank cartridge, was ordered to be fired. To the astonishment of the officers in command, it was found to be shotted. The ball struck Fort Sumter. For a while it was thought that Major Anderson would return the compliment in kind. Major P. F. Stevens was dispatched, under flag of truce, to apologize for the accident. The apology was accepted, and the hopes of those who desired a fight, and the fears of those who did not, failed of realization.

On the 21st of March, Captain G. V. Fox, United States Navy, reached Charleston, and was permitted to visit Major Anderson. Captain Hartstein, one of our people who had resigned from the Navy and was in the service of the State, accompanied him. It was generally thought that this visit portended the early removal of Anderson and his garrison. Many of the newspapers, both North and South, confidently expressed the opinion that the troops would be withdrawn. Yet, day after day the flag went up, and no preparations could be seen for an evacuation.

On the 22d, General P. G. T. Beauregard, by the authority of the Confederate States, assumed command of all the troops in South Carolina and established his headquarters in Charleston. His presence greatly encouraged us and raised our spirits. He visited and inspected the works around Charleston and did not slight the Wee Nees at Vinegar Hill. Many of them had the pleasure of making the acquaintance and grasping the hand of their new commander. He fully agreed with the Captain in his views as to strengthening the post so as to prevent the approach of troops that might be landed on the south end of the island.

On the 25th Colonel Ward C. Lamon, the former law-partner of Mr. Lincoln, was sent by the Government at Washington to bear another communication to Major Anderson, Colonel U. S. Duryea, of Governor Pickens's staff, was detailed to accompany him. We began to think it very suspicious that so many messengers came [489] from Washington to Anderson and no apparent results from their visits.

About the 3d of April a vessel attempted to come into the harbor and was fired into by one of our batteries. She proved to be the schooner, R. H. Shannon, loaded with ice, on her way to Savannah, coming into Charleston by mistake. Some flags passed between the Governor and Major Anderson, and the Major sent Lieutenant Theodore Talbot to Washington with a communication to his Government in relation to the matter. The vessel was allowed to proceed on her journey. Lieutenant Talbot returned on the 8th with a message to Governor Pickens that the Government at Washington intended to provision Fort Sumter.

At 3 o'clock on the afternoon of the 10th General Beauregard sent Colonel James Chesnut and Captain Stephen D. Lee to bear a demand to Major Anderson for a surrender of Fort Sumter. The sailing of the fleet from New York was known to both Anderson and Beauregard. Anderson refused to accede to the demand, but stated that his provisions were nearly out. This refusal and the information communicated by Anderson were conveyed to Beauregard. That officer, still anxious to avoid a collision, sent Colonel Chesnut, Colonel Pryor and Captain Lee to inquire of Anderson what day he was willing to evacuate if he was not attacked. They reached the Fort about eleven o'clock P. M. Anderson named the 15th, at noon of that day, provided that he did not receive fresh instructions or was not relieved by that time. In view of the approach of the fleet with supplies and reinforcements, it was plainly out of the question for Beauregard to delay. Anderson was therefore notified on the 11th of April that fire would be opened on Fort Sumter at half-past 4 o'clock A. M. on the 12th.

On the afternoon of the 11th the commanders of batteries were informed, in orders from General Beauregard, of the demand made upon Major Anderson, of his refusal, and of the time at which firing would begin. They were also notified that the first shot would be fired from a battery at Fort Johnson, on James Island, commanded by Major James. Soon after the order was received, the Wee Nees manned both of the batteries in their charge. Though these men afterwards learnt to sleep under fire, it can well be understood that there would not be much sleep that night. We looked anxiously and often towards Fort Johnson, all intending to hear the first shot, and determined not to lose the opportunity of witnessing one of the most notable events in the history of the State. Very [490] near the appointed time, the report of a gun was heard, and a shell was seen coming from the Fort Johnson battery. The firing soon became general. All of the batteries bearing on Sumter on Sullivan's Island, Morris Island, Mount Pleasant, and James Island commenced pounding away. The bombardment was grand. Anderson made no reply till some time after daylight. He then sent his salutations to the iron battery near Cummings Point. Very soon after, all of the casemate guns bearing on any of our works opened, and continued without cessation through the day. There had been much discussion and a good deal of doubt expressed in military circles as to whether he would be able to use his casemates. It was said that in all probability the concussion from his heavy guns would cause the blood to gush from the noses and ears of his men, and that he would be forced to depend on his parapet battery. It soon became very evident that there was nothing in that opinion. The guns on the parapet were not used. All of the firing was done from the casemates. Not a shell was seen to come from the Fort. If any were used they did not burst, and were not, in their flight, distinguishable from solid shot. I have never heard any satisfactory reason for this peculiarity of Major Anderson's defence. It was said at the time that there were no fuses in the magazine of the Fort. It does not seem possible that the able and scientific corps of officers in charge of Sumter could not have manufactured fuses. That there was nobody killed on our side is entirely owing to the fact that nothing but solid shot was used by the enemy. Very few of our batteries afforded much protection to the gunners. In fact, they were safe in none except the iron battery. Any of the Wee Nees who were in Fort Wagner with me in 1863 know that had Anderson used shell as effectively as did Dahlgren and Gilmore, our batteries on Morris Island, and some of them on James Island and Sullivan's Island, would have been almost untenable.

About ten o'clock on the morning of the 12th, the fleet hove in sight. We felt sure that our turn to take a hand in the fray had come. The Wee Nees were anxious for a fight, and were disappointed when the vessels anchored beyond the reach of our guns.

I do not think that any of the guns of Sumter were aimed at us, though some of the balls fired at the batteries nearer to Cummings Point came uncomfortably near to us—so near, indeed, as to interfere with my dinner on that day. When I reprimanded my faithful servant, James, for his delay of the meal, he excused himself because the balls had come so near. When I told him, with a little impatience, [491] that the Yankees were not trying to kill black people, he made use of an expression which sounds very much like one since become famous in the mouths of our late enemies.

‘Why, sir,’ said he, ‘them balls make no distinction on account of color.’

The bombardment continued all day and the following night. Anderson did not reply after nightfall—perhaps because his ammunition was scarce, or more probably because his garrison was tired, and he saw that he was doing no harm. A breeze sprung up on the morning of the 12th, and blew towards Sullivan's Island. The wind was not very high, and I think it was favorable for the coming in of the fleet. At times the sound of the guns on Sullivan's Island could not be heard, though but two and a-half miles off The direction of the wind was from us towards that island. Up in the country they were distinctly heard more than sixty miles away. All day the Wee Nees watched the fleet, but there was no movement among the vessels indicating that we would have the opportunity of pulling a lanyard. We felt sympathy for Anderson and his brave garrison, fighting like veterans, and a corresponding contempt for their friends with the fleet, apparently too cowardly to come to his relief. My subsequent experience convinces me that though none of the ships could have gotten up to the Fort, they might, with their superior armaments, have made it very uncomfortable for many of our batteries. They could have done my company a great deal of damage, and remained beyond the reach of our 24-pounder smooth bores.

A day or two before the fight General James Simons was sent to Morris Island, and had the immediate command of the troops on that island. Colonel Gregg's regiment, except the Wee Nees, was sent towards the southern end of the island. Our battery was supported by the militia regiment of Colonel John Cunningham on our left, and Colonel Johnson Hagood's First South Carolina volunteers on our right. Colonel J. B. Kershaw's Second South Carolina volunteers were not far off.

On the 13th we could discover the fleet as soon as it was light enough to see, but we saw no indications that we would be other than, as yesterday, spectators of the bombardment. Once or twice the officers' quarters in Fort Sumter were set on fire by the shell from Fort Moultrie, and the fire was put out. But about ten o'clock A. M. the shell and hot shot had started the fire so well that it soon became apparent that Anderson could not extinguish the flames. The fire from our batteries quickened, and a shout went up from the [492] troops as it thus became evident that the end was near. We, at Vinegar Hill, thought that now our time had surely come. We felt sure that the officers commanding the fleet would not look on and quietly see Anderson and his garrison roast, or surrender, to prevent such a catastrophe. But they continued quiet spectators of the scene.

The fire from the burning buildings soon silenced the guns of the Fort. Many of the garrison had to come out of the port holes to the stones at the base of the wall. Once they went back and resumed the fight. The men on our side felt like cheering the brave fellows. At length the flag disappeared, and we thought that the fight was over; but not so, it soon reappeared with the staff lashed to a gun-carriage on the parapet. Finally, however, after thirty-two and a-half hours' fighting, the white flag appeared, and firing ceased.

We soon learned that Anderson had agreed to surrender, and afterwards heard that Senator Wigfall, with W. Gourdin Young, of Charleston, had gone over to the Fort and offered to receive Anderson's surrender. It was agreed that he might salute his flag and march his command out with the honors of war, retaining their arms and private baggage. Everything else in the Fort was to be surrendered to the Confederate States. After these terms were agreed upon, the white flag was raised. Wigfall had come before the firing ceased, and had made his way into the Fort through one of the port holes of a casemate.

Beauregard, seeing the white flag, sent Colonel James Chesnut, Captain Lee, Colonel Pryor, and Hon. William Porcher Miles, to communicate with Anderson. These gentlemen were astonished to find Colonel Wigfall in the Fort, and told Major Anderson that he had no authority to treat in Beauregard's name. Anderson threatened to run up his flag and renew the fight, but, after further parley and communication with Beauregard, substantially the same terms were allowed. So ended the battle of Fort Sumter. The Fort was ours without the loss of a man.

While the negotiations with Anderson were pending, we saw from our battery at Vinegar Hill a sailing vessel coming across the bar with all of her canvass spread. We did know the meaning of this manoeuvre, and thought that perhaps the commander of the fleet had concluded to practice a strategem on us, and send reinforcements to Sumter in a vessel that would be taken for a merchantman engaged in trade on her way to Charleston. We did not think that a vessel bearing the United States flag would attempt to [493] pass our batteries without so much as asking permission. When she got within easy range I directed a shot fired across her bows. She continued on her course, and I sent another a little nearer. She then came about and lowered a boat, which came ashore under our guns. The boat contained the captain and some of his sailors. He reported that his vessel was a schooner from Maine loaded with ice. Probably he thought that as things were somewhat warm inside he would find a good market for his cargo. We thought that we had a lawful prize and that we would turn over to the Confederate Government the first property captured since the opening of hostilities. General Simons soon came to my tent, and when he had heard a statement of the affair directed me to release the captain and allow him to proceed with his vessel. We were strongly inclined to the opinion that after a fight of thirty-two and a-half hours, the war had commenced, but as our commanding officer did not seem to be of that opinion, of course we had to acquiesce. I don't yet think that the burnt-out garrison of Major Anderson considered that we had been engaged in a sham battle with them. The commander of the fleet who had witnessed the fight ‘from afar’ must certainly have thought that there was some very rough amusement going on inside the harbor; in fact too rough to suit his refined taste. I never heard any more of the vessel or her ice.

The next morning—Sunday the 14th of April, 1861,—the steamer Isabel went down to the fort, and about 12 o'clock took Major Anderson and his garrison out to the fleet and transferred them to the Baltic.

In saluting his flag, one of Anderson's men was killed and five were wounded. One of the guns went off prematurely, probably not being properly sponged, and killed the gunner. The others were wounded by the explosion of a pile of cartridges near by, which were ignited by the fire from the gun.

There was nobody killed or wounded on either side during the bombardment, though the Northern papers shortly afterwards persisted in stating that the Confederates met with considerable loss.

The first Confederate garrison of Fort Sumter consisted of the Palmetto Guards, Captain George Cuthbert, and Captain Hallonquitt's company of South Carolina Regulars. A splendid silk flag, made by the ladies of Charleston, was run up, instead of the stars and stripes. The name of the member of the Governor's staff who, in behalf of the State of South Carolina, participated in the ceremony, is not worthy of a place in these papers and is omitted. A great [494] many people came down from the city in all kinds of craft to witness the evacuation and occupation.

We who had now been in service nearly four months were looked upon as veterans by the new regiments just called out. We were in a condition to enjoy the fun made by the mistakes and awkwardness of the fresh troops just from the country. The officers were very zealous and the men vied with each other in learning and properly discharging all of the duties of soldiers. The sentinels of one of these new regiments were one night posted on the beach inside of high water mark. It was very natural that an up-countryman should not make proper allowances for the rise and fall of the tide. A sentinel of this regiment was instructed not to allow any person to pass without the countersign, and was particularly instructed not to leave his post on any consideration whatever till regularly relieved or withdrawn by a duly authorized officer. Before the relief guard came the tide had risen and the sentinel was waist-deep in water. Upon the approach of the officer with the relief the sentinel went through with his part of the formula in a manner that would have done credit to one of Napoleon's Old Guard. When it came to the officer's turn to advance and give the countersign, he said:

‘Come out, sentinel, and I will give you the countersign.’

‘Advance and give the countersign,’ said the sentinel.

‘Come out of the water,’ said the officer.

‘Advance and give the countersign,’ said the sentinel, ‘and you had better do it quick; I have orders to fire on everybody attempting to pass my post without the countersign, and I shall be obliged to shoot you.’

The officer seeing that he had ‘a strict constructionist’ to deal with, thought it best to comply with the sentinel's orders, and plunged into the surf regardless of damage to his shining uniform, and gave the countersign. The sentinel was then marched out and relieved in true military style. It is likely that the next time this officer posted a sentinel on the beach, he instructed him that old Neptune, as well as a properly accredited Confederate officer, might require a change of his beat.

The term of service of the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers was for six months. The regiment had been organized under a resolution of the State Convention, and was peculiarly a creation of that body. The siege of Sumter and the defence of South Carolina, pending the formation of the Southern Confederacy, was the emergency for which the regiment had been called together. [495] Believing that, should the war continue, it would be better to give the men who had so promptly tendered their services the opportunity to reorganize with a view to a longer term of service, the Convention, on the 5th of April, 1861; passed a resolution expressing the sense of that body to be, ‘that the sudden call which was gallantly answered by the First Regiment of South Carolina Volunteers now in the service, and the valuable services which that regiment has rendered, give it a just claim to an honorable discharge, as soon as the pressing exigencies of State affairs will, in the judgment of the Governor, permit,’ &c.

After the capture and occupation of Sumter, the Governor, deeming the time arrived for the exercise of the power given him by the Convention, sent his orders, mustering out of service so much of the regiment as remained on Morris Island. The following order was sent to the Captain, and a similar one to each of the other Captains, except as to place:

Adjutant and Inspector General's office, Charleston, S. C., April 26, 1861.
Sir,—You are hereby ordered to conduct the company under your command to Kingston, and there be honorably discharged from the service of the State of South Carolina, as volunteers in the First regiment, under the command of Colonel M. Gregg.

The Quartermaster General is herewith directed to furnish you the necessary transportation for the execution of this order.

By order of the Commander-in-Chief.

S. R. Gist, Adjutant-General of South Carolina.

In obedience to this order, the company returned to Kingston on the afternoon of the 26th of April, 1861. They were warmly received by their fellow-citizens, and were commended for all that they had done. The appreciative gratitude of the people found expression in a public dinner given them a few weeks after their return. The tables were spread under the trees at the old Patterson House, opposite the Methodist Church. Congratulations were extended and thanks returned around the generous board.

The first term of service of the Wee Nee volunteers was now ended. The most of them returned to their homes, not with the intention of remaining, but only to put their business in order for a more prolonged term of service in the great war for State's rights, [496] then fairly beginning. A few young and restless spirits became impatient for the fray, and could not be retained for the reorganization, which followed in a short time, but went to Virginia, and in other commands sealed with their blood their devotion to the cause of the South.

It is true that this had been a bloodless campaign, but the very highest quality of the soldier is necessary to enable him to endure with patience the weary waiting and watching of such campaigns. This company was composed of the material out of which patriots and soldiers are made.

1 Wee Nee is the Indian name of Black River, the stream upon which the town of Kingston is situated.

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