Abner Doubleday, Brevet Major-General, U. S. A., Retired.
View of Charleston from the Rampart of Castle Pinckney.--from a sketch made in 1861.|
As senior captain
of the 1st Regiment of United States Artillery, I had been stationed at Fort Moultrie
, Charleston Harbor
, two or three years previous to the outbreak of 1861.
There were two other forts in the harbor.
Of these, Fort Sumter
was unoccupied, being in an unfinished state, while Castle Pinckney was in charge of a single ordnance sergeant.
The garrison of Fort Moultrie
consisted of 2 companies that had been reduced to 65 men, who with the band raised the number in the post to 73. Fort Moultrie
had no strength; it was merely a sea battery.
No one ever imagined it would be attacked by our own people; and if assailed by foreigners, it was supposed that an army of citizen-soldiery would be there to defend it. It was very low, the walls having about the height of an ordinary room.
It was little more, in fact, than the old fort of Revolutionary time of which the father of Major Robert Anderson
had been a defender.
The sand had drifted from the sea against the wall, so that cows would actually scale the ramparts.
In 1860 we applied to have the fort put in order, but the quartermaster-general
, afterward the famous Joseph E. Johnston
, said the matter did not pertain to his department.
We were then apprehending trouble, for the signs of the times indicated that the South
was drifting toward secession, though the Northern
people could not be made to believe this, and regarded our representation to this effect as nonsense.
I remember that at that time our engineer officer, Captain J. G. Foster
, was alone, of the officers, in thinking there would be no trouble.
We were commanded by a Northern man of advanced age, Colonel John L. Gardner
, who had been wounded in the war of 1812 and had served with credit in Florida
. November 15th, 1860, Mr.
, the Secretary of War
, relieved him and put in command Major Robert Anderson
, who was a regular officer.
thought the new commander could be relied upon to carry out the Southern
programme, but we never believed that Anderson
took command with a knowledge of that programme or a desire that it should succeed.
He simply obeyed orders; he had to obey or leave the army.
was a Union man and, in the incipiency, was perfectly willing to chastise South Carolina
in case she should attempt any revolutionary measures.
His feeling as to coercion changed when he found that all the Southern States
had joined South Carolina
, for he looked upon the conquest of the South
Soon after his arrival, which took place on the 21st of November, Anderson
wanted the sand removed from the walls of Moultrie
, and urged that it be done.
Suddenly the Secretary of War
seemed to adopt this view.
He pretended there was danger of war with England
, with reference to Mexico
, which was absurd; and under this pretext was seized with a sudden zeal to put the
harbor of Charleston
in condition,--to be turned over to the Confederate forces.
He appropriated $150,000 for Moultrie
and $80,000 to finish Sumter
There was not much to be made out of Fort Moultrie
, with all our efforts, because it was hardly defensible; but Major Anderson
strove to strengthen it. He put up heavy gates to prevent Charleston
secessionists from entering, and made a little man-hole through which visitors had to crawl in and out.
We could get no additional ammunition, but Colonel Gardner
had managed to procure a six months supply of food from the North
before the trouble
The Secretary of War
would not let us have a man in the way of reenforcement, the plea being that reenforcements would irritate the people.
The secessionists could hardly be restrained from attacking us, but the leaders kept them back, knowing that our workmen were laboring in their interests, at the expense of the United States
When Captain Truman Seymour
was sent with a party to the United States arsenal in Charleston
to get some friction primers and a little ammunition, a crowd interfered and drove his men back.
It became evident, as I told Anderson
, that we could not defend the fort, because the houses around us on Sullivan's Island
looked down into Moultrie
, and could be occupied by our enemies.
At last it was rumored that two thousand riflemen had been detailed to shoot us down from the tops of those houses.
I proposed to anticipate the enemy and burn the dwellings, but Anderson
would not take so decided a step at a time when the North
did not believe there was going to be war. It was plain that the only thing to be done was to slip over the water to Fort Sumter
, but Anderson
said he had been assigned to Fort Moultrie
, and that he must stay there.
We were then in a very peculiar position.
It was commonly believed that we would not be supported even by the North
, as the Democrats had been bitterly opposed to the election of Lincoln
; that at the first sign of war twenty thousand men in sympathy with the South
would rise in New York.
Moreover, the one to whom we
soldiers always looked up as to a father,--the Secretary of War
, seemed to be devising arrangements to have us made away with.
We believed that in the event of an outbreak from Charleston
few of us would survive; but it did not greatly concern us, since that risk was merely a part of our business, and we intended to make the best fight we could.
The officers, upon talking the matter over, thought they might control any demonstration at Charleston
by throwing shells into the city from Castle Pinckney.
But, with only sixty-four soldiers and a brass band, we could not detach any force in that direction.
Finally, Captain Foster
, who had misapprehended the whole situation, and who had orders to put both Moultrie
in perfect order, brought several hundred workmen from Baltimore
Unfortunately, these were nearly all in sympathy with the Charlestonians, many even wearing secession badges.
Bands of secessionists were
The sea battery of Fort Moultrie.
From a photograph taken before the war.|
now patrolling near us by day now patrolling near us by day and night.
We were so worn out with guard-duty-watching them — that on one occasion my wife and Captain Seymour
's relieved us on guard, all that was needed being some one to give the alarm in case there was an attempt to break in. Foster
thought that out of his several hundred workmen he could get a few Union men to drill at the guns as a garrison in Castle Pinckney, but they rebelled the moment they found they were expected to act as artillerists, and said that they were not there as warriors.
It was said that when the enemy took possession of the castle, some of these workmen were hauled from under beds and from other hiding-places.
The day before Christmas
I asked Major Anderson
for wire to make an entanglement in front of my part of the fort, so that any one who should charge would tumble over the wires and could be shot at our leisure.
I had already caused a sloping picket fence to be projected over the parapet on my side of the works so that scaling-ladders could not be raised against us. The discussion in Charleston
over our proceedings was of an amusing character.
This wooden fraise puzzled the Charleston
militia and editors; one of the latter said, “Make ready your sharpened stakes, but you will not intimidate freemen.”
When I asked Anderson
for the wire, he said I should have a mile of it, with a peculiar smile that puzzled me for the moment.
He then sent for Hall
, the post quartermaster, bound him to secrecy, and told him to take three schooners and some barges which had been chartered for the purpose of taking the women and children and six months supply of provisions to Fort Johnson
, opposite Charleston
He was instructed when the secession patrols should
ask what this meant, to tell them we were sending off the families of the officers and men to the North
because they were in the way. The excuse was plausible, and no one interfered.
We were so closely watched that we could make no movement without demands being made as to the reason of it. On the day we left — the day after Christmas--Anderson
gave up his own mess, and came to live with me as my guest.
In the evening of that day I went to notify the major that tea was ready.
Upon going to the parapet for that purpose, I found all the officers there, and noticed something strange in their manner.
The problem was solved when Anderson
walked up to me and said: “Captain
, in twenty minutes you will leave this fort with your company for Fort Sumter
The order was startling and unexpected, and I thought of the immediate hostilities of which the movement
would be the occasion.
I rushed over to my company quarters and informed my men, so that they might put on their knapsacks and have everything in readiness.
This took about ten minutes. Then I went to my house, told my wife that there might be fighting, and that she must get out of the fort as soon as she could and take refuge behind the sand-hills.
I put her trunks out of the sally-port, and she followed them.
Then I started with my company to join Captain Seymour
and his men. We had to go a quarter of a mile through the little town of Moultrieville to reach the point of embarkation.
It was about sunset, the hour of the siesta, and fortunately the Charleston
militia were taking their afternoon nap. We saw nobody, and soon reached a low line of sea-wall under which were hidden the boats in charge of the three engineers, for Lieutenants Snyder
had been sent by Floyd
to help Captain Foster
do the work on the forts.
The boats had been used in going back and forward in the work of construction, manned by ordinary workmen, who now vacated them for our use. Lieutenant Snyder
said to me in a low tone: “Captain
, those boats are for your men.”
So saying, he started with his own party up the coast.
When my thirty men were embarked I went straight for Fort Sumter
It was getting dusk.
I made slow work in crossing over, for my men were not expert oarsmen.
Soon I saw the lights of the secession guard-boat coming down on us. I told the men to take off their coats and cover up their muskets, and I threw my own coat open to conceal my buttons.
I wished to give the impression that it was an officer in charge of laborers.
The guard-ship stopped its paddles and inspected us in the gathering darkness, but concluded we were all right and passed on. My party was the first to reach Fort Sumter
We went up the steps of the wharf in the face of an excited band of secession workmen, some of whom were armed with pistols.
One or two Union men among them cheered, but some of the others said angrily: “What are these soldiers doing here?
what is the meaning of this?”
Ordering my men to charge bayonets, we drove the workmen into the center of the fort.
I took possession of the guard-room commanding the main entrance and placed sentinels.
Twenty minutes after, Seymour
arrived with the rest of the men. Meantime Anderson
had crossed in one of the engineer boats.
As soon as the troops were all in we fired a cannon, to give notice of our arrival to the quartermaster, who had anchored at Fort Johnson
with the schooners carrying the women and children.
He immediately sailed up to the wharf and landed his passengers and stores.
Then the workmen of secession sympathies were sent aboard the schooners to be taken ashore.
Lieutenant Jefferson C. Davis
of my company had been left with a rearguard at Moultrie
These, with Captain Foster
and Assistant-Surgeon Crawford
, stood at loaded columbiads during our passage, with orders to fire upon the guard-boats and sink them if they tried to run us down.
On withdrawing, the rear-guard spiked the guns of the fort, burned the gun-carriages on the front looking toward Sumter
, and cut down the flag-staff.
first took refuge at the house of the post sutler, and afterward with the family of Chaplain Harris
, with whom she sought shelter behind the sand-hills.
When all was quiet they paced the beach, anxiously watching Fort Sumter
Finding that the South Carolinians were ignorant of what had happened, we sent the boats back to procure additional supplies.1
The next morning Charleston
Messengers were sent out to ring every door-bell and convey the news to every family.
The governor sent two or three of his aides to demand that we return to Moultrie
replied in my hearing that he was a Southern man, but that he had been assigned to the defense of Charleston Harbor
, and intended to defend it.
was a spirited old man. He had lived at Charleston
most of his life and knew the South Carolinians well.
He visited Fort Sumter
on our first day there and made a prayer at the raising of the flag, after which he returned to his home at Moultrieville.
One day he went to the commander of Fort Moultrie
and said to him: “Will any impediment be put in the way of my going over to Fort Sumter
The reply was: “Oh, no, parson; I reckon we'll give you a pass.”
The chaplain answered: “I didn't ask you for a pass, sir. I am a United States
officer, and will go to any United States
fort without your permission.
I asked you a different question: whether you would prevent my going by force.”
He was not allowed to cross, after that.
We had no light and were obliged to procure some if possible, for the winter nights were long.
There was much money due the workmen who had been discharged, and the secessionists sent them over to demand their pay. Mrs. Doubleday
came in the same boat with them, and managed to ship us a box of candles at the same time; she also brought a bandbox full of matches.
At the same time Mrs. Seymour
reached us stealthily in a boat rowed by two little boys.
was already there.
thought there was going to be trouble, so he requested the ladies to return to Moultrieville that night.
The next day they went to a Charleston hotel, where they were obliged to keep very quiet and have their meals served privately in their rooms.
After a day or two they left for the North
, on account of the feeling in the city.
From December 26th until April 12th we busied ourselves in preparing for the expected attack, and our enemies did the same on all sides of us. Anderson
apparently did not want reinforcements, and he shrank from civil war. He endured all kinds of hostile proceedings on the part of the secessionists, in the hope that Congress would make some compromise that would save slavery and the Union
Soon after daylight on the 9th of January, with my glass I saw a large steamer pass the bar and enter the Morris Island Channel
It was the Star of the West
, with reinforcements and supplies for us. When she came near the upper part of the island the secessionists fired a shot at her. I hastened
to Major Anderson
's room, and was ordered by him to have the long roll beaten and to post the men at the barbette guns.
By the time we reached the parapet the transport coming to our relief had approached so near that Moultrie
would not allow us to return the fire, so the transport turned about and steamed seaward.
asked for an explanation of the firing from Governor Pickens
, and announced that he would allow no vessel to pass within range of the guns of Sumter
if the answer was unsatisfactory.
replied that he would renew the firing under like circumstances.
I think Major Anderson
had received an intimation that the Star of the West
was coming, but did not believe it. He thought General Scott
would send a man-of-war instead of a merchant vessel.
Great secrecy was observed in loading her, but the purpose of the expedition got into the newspapers, and, of course, was telegraphed to Charleston
of the Methodist Church stated in a speech made by him on Memorial Day in the Academy of Music, New York, that he aimed the first gun against the Star of the West
I aimed the first gun on our side in reply to the attack on Fort Sumter
Sure that we would all be tasked to the utmost in the coming conflict, and be kept on the alert by day and night, I desired to get all the sleep I could beforehand, and lay down on a cot bedstead in the magazine nearest to Morris Island
,--one of the few places that would be shell-proof when the fire opened.
About 4 A. M. on the 12th, Major Anderson
came to me as his executive officer, and informed me that the enemy would fire upon us as soon as it was light enough to see the fort.
He said he would not return it until it was broad daylight, the idea being that he did not desire to waste his ammunition.
We have not been in the habit of regarding the signal shell fired from Fort Johnson
as the first gun of the conflict, although it was undoubtedly aimed at Fort Sumter
is usually credited with opening the attack by firing the first gun from the iron-clad battery on Morris Island
The ball from that gun struck the wall of the magazine where I was lying, penetrated the masonry, and burst very near my head.
As the smoke from this explosion came in through the ventilators of the magazine, and as the floor was strewn with powder where the flannel cartridges had been filled, I thought for a moment the place was on fire.
When it was fully light we took breakfast leisurely before going to the guns, our food consisting of pork and water.
The first night after the bombardment we expected that the naval vessels outside would take advantage of the darkness to send a fleet of boats with reenforcements of men and supplies of provisions, and as it was altogether probable that the enemy would also improvise a fleet of small boats to meet those of the navy, it became an interesting question, in case parties came to us in this way, to decide whether we were admitting friends or enemies.
However, the night passed quietly away without any demonstration.
, in his paper which follows, has omitted a fact that I will mention.
As the fire against us came from all directions, a shot from
struck near the lock of the magazine, and bent the copper door, so that all access to the few cartridges we had there was cut off. Just previous to this the officers had been engaged, amid a shower of shells, in vigorous efforts to cut away wood-work which was dangerously near the magazine.
After the surrender we were allowed to salute our flag with a hundred guns before marching out, but it was very dangerous and difficult to do so; for, owing to the recent conflagration, there were fire and sparks all around the cannon, and it was not easy to find a safe place of deposit for the cartridges.
It happened that some flakes of fire had entered the muzzle of one of the guns after it was sponged.
Of course, when the gunner attempted to ram the cartridge down it exploded prematurely, killing Private Daniel Hough
instantly, and setting fire to a pile of cartridges underneath, which also exploded, seriously wounding five men. Fifty guns were fired in the salute.
With banners flying, and with drums beating Yankee Doodle,
we marched on board the transport that was to take us to the steamship Baltic
, which drew too much water to pass the bar and was anchored outside.
We were soon on our way to New York.
With the first shot against Sumter
the whole North
Mobs went about New York and made every doubtful newspaper and private house display the Stars and Stripes.
When we reached that city we had a royal reception.
The streets were alive with banners.
Our men and officers were seized and forced to ride on the shoulders of crowds wild with enthusiasm.
When we purchased anything, merchants generally refused all compensation.
, where we were stationed, was besieged with visitors, many of whom were among the most highly distinguished in all walks of life.
The Chamber of Commerce of New York voted a bronze medal to each officer and soldier of the garrison.
We were soon called upon to take an active part in the war, and the two Sumter
companies were sent under my command to reenforce General Patterson
's column, which was to serve in the Shenandoah Valley.
Our march through Pennsylvania
was a continuous ovation.
Flowers, fruits, and delicacies of all kinds were showered upon us, and the hearts of the people seemed overflowing with gratitude for the very little we had been able to accomplish.
was made a brigadier-general in the regular army, and assigned to command in his native State, Kentucky
; but his system had been undermined by his great responsibilities; he was threatened with softening of the brain, and was obliged to retire from active service.
The other officers were engaged in battles and skirmishes in many parts of the field of war. Anderson
, and myself became major-generals of volunteers.
Norman J. Hall
, who rendered brilliant service at Gettysburg
, became a colonel, and would doubtless have risen higher had he not been compelled by ill health to retire.
became an assistant adjutant-general with the rank of captain, but died before the war had fairly begun.
He was not with us during the bombardment, as he had been sent as a special messenger to Washington
of the engineers, a most promising young officer, also died at the very commencement of hostilities.
Only one of our number left us and joined the Confederacy
,--Lieutenant R. K. Meade
of the engineers, a Virginian.
His death occurred soon after.