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Chapter 8: the bombardment of Sumter

On March 3d, President Davis appointed General Beauregard to the command of all the Confederate forces in and around Charleston.

On arriving there, General Beauregard, after examining the fortifications, proceeded to erect formidable batteries of cannon and mortars bearing on the fort.

On April 7th, Lieutenant Talbot, an agent of the Federal Government, conveyed a message to Governor Pickens from President Lincoln, announcing that an attempt would be made to supply Fort Sumter “with provisions only,” and that if the attempt be not resisted no effort to throw in men, arms, or ammunition would be made without further notice, or in case of an attack upon the fort.

“ The ‘ relief squadron,’ as with unconscious irony it was termed, was already under way for Charleston, consisting, according to their own statement, of eight vessels carrying twenty-six guns, and about fourteen hundred [78] men, including the troops sent for reinforcement of the garrison.”

Upon the receipt of General Beauregard's telegram, that provisions would be sent to Fort Sumter, forcibly if need be, he was directed by the Secretary of War to demand its surrender at twelve o'clock, on April 11th. The demand was accordingly made in a note borne by Colonel James Chesnut and Captain Lee, with the offer of permission for Major Anderson to salute the flag he had upheld with so much fortitude.” Major Anderson made answer on the same day, that he regretted that his sense of honor and of obligation to his government would not permit him to accede to the demand of General Beauregard.

Next day at 4.30 A. M. the signal was given from Fort Johnston; the fire was gradually followed by shots from Moultrie, Cummings' Point, and the floating battery.

Fort Sumter did not reply until seven o'clock. The firing continued all day. During the bombardment a portion of the Federal fleet rendezvoused off Charleston, but took no part in the fight.

Early on the morning of the 13th the Confederate batteries renewed the bombardment, concentrating their fire on Fort Sumter, which directed a vigorous fire on Fort Moultrie. [79] About eight o'clock in the morning, smoke was seen issuing from Fort Sumter. The fire of the Confederate batteries was thereupon increased and concentrated on the fort, whose flag still floated. After this time, although Fort Sumter continued to fire from time to time, the shots came at irregular periods, amid thick smoke and bursting shells. The Confederate soldiers, at every discharge from the fort, jumped on the different batteries and cheered the garrison for its gallant defence, while they hooted the fleet that lay alongside the bar, an idle spectator of the fight.

At half-past 1 a shot struck the flagstaff of Sumter and brought down the ensign. By this time the condition of the fort and its defences had become desperate; the parapet had been so badly damaged that few of the guns were in position; the smoke in the casemates rendered it impossible for the men to work the guns; and the incessant toil and excitement had utterly exhausted the garrison.

When the flag went down General Beauregard sent offers of assistance, as the conflagration was apparently on the increase.

Before the General's aids reached the fort the flag was again displayed, but it was soon hauled down and a white flag substituted. Fort Sumter had surrendered. [80]

As an honorable testimony to the gallantry of the garrison, Major Anderson was allowed on leaving the fort to salute his flag with fifty guns.

Notwithstanding the heavy and long cannonading not a man was killed or wounded on either side; a mule was the only thing slain. But, in firing the parting salute, a cannon exploded. Four of the garrison were mortally wounded by this accident.

The victory was celebrated in Charleston by the firing of cannon and the pealing of bells, and by every form of popular demonstration of delight.

When the news reached the President of the Confederacy his first expression was of thankfulness that no blood had been shed; he said “Separation is not yet of necessity final — there has been no blood spilled more precious than that of a mule.” He then spoke of his old friend “Bob Anderson,” of his splendid gallantry, and of his sorrow at being separated from him.

In the North, the news produced a simultaneous burst of execration and excitement. For the first time the people of that section realized that the South was in deadly earnest. The Federal administration promptly availed themselves of the frenzy of the people to arouse fresh hatred of the South, and to incite [81] the young men to enlist in the armies of invasion. Two days after Sumter surrendered President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 troops.

The first effect of this proclamation in the South was the secession of Virginia — an example which was promptly followed by the States of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas.

That the real object of Lincoln's renewed calls for troops was the unconditional subjugation of the South, was soon made manifest; for, by repeated levies, there were soon 200,ooo men under arms in the Northern States.

Maryland was overrun with troops; a garrison of 12,000 men was established at Fortress Monroe; in Maryland and Missouri, the citizens were disarmed, the habeas corpus was denied them, and civil liberty was throttled by the mailed hand of military power.

Maryland, at the inception of secession, resolved, for purposes of pacification and other reasons, to remain neutral. The authorities refused the right of United States troops to pass through her domain with hostile intent toward the South, announced her determination not to send her troops to the soil of any other State, and Governor Hicks officially demanded new guarantees for her rights, and proclaimed her sympathy with the Southern [82] people. On April 19, 1861, a body of troops was brought to the railway dep6t, and the citizens, being unarmed, assailed them with stones. The soldiers fired upon them, and killed a few and wounded many. A few troops passed through the town, and the others were sent back.

The Legislature of Maryland appointed commissioners to the two Governments. The Confederate President, on April 21st, in an answer to those sent to him, expressed his desire for “peace, peace, with all nations and people.” The President of the United States alleged the protection of Washington as his only object for concentrating troops, and protested that none of the troops brought through Maryland were “intended for any purposes hostile to the State, or aggressive against other States.”

The sequence to these pledges was, that, on May 5th, the Relay House, at the junction of the Washington and Baltimore railways, was occupied by Federal troops, and General Butler, on the 13th instant, moved to Baltimore and occupied with the United States troops, Federal Hill. Reinforcements were received the next day, and the General proclaimed his right to discriminate between “well-disposed citizens” and those who did not agree with him, they who he opprobriously [83] characterized. Then followed a demand for the surrender of arms.

“ The mayor, Charles Howard, and police commissioners, W. H. Gatchell, and J. W. Davis,” met and protested against the suspension of their functions by the appointment of a provost-marshal, but resolved to do nothing to obstruct General Banks in his arrangements for the preservation of the peace of the city.

The provost-marshal at once commenced a series of domiciliary visits, ostensibly in search of arms and munitions. On July ist, the before-named citizens were arrested. Of the mayor, Mr. Davis said, “He was of an old Maryland family honored for their public services, and himself adorned by every social virtue.”

A provost-marshal was sent to Frederick, where the Legislature was in session. A cordon of pickets were drawn around the town, out of which no one could go without a permission from General Banks or his staff. Twelve or thirteen members and some officers of the Legislature were arrested. The quorum was destroyed. S. T. Willis, whose report in defence of the constitutional rights of his fellow-citizens was considered cause for imprisonment, and Henry May, a member of Congress, were arrested. [84]

Governor Hicks found himself convinced by these strenuous measures, and came out in sympathy with the successful party.

Mr. Davis said: “Last in order, but first in cordiality, were the tender ministrations of Maryland's noble daughters to the sick and wounded prisoners who were carried through the streets of Baltimore, and it is with shame we remember that brutal guards, on several occasions, inflicted wounds upon gentlewomen who approached these suffering prisoners to offer them the relief of which they stood so ardently in need.” One dear and much honored young friend ruined her eyes painting photographs for sale, after having used to the fullest extent all her own available means to aid the Southern soldiers. Union ladies who had held close relations with those of Confederate sympathies, forced an entrance into the houses of their quondam friends to make a report of disloyalty upon them. In the worst days of the French Revolution there was no more insecurity for the exercise of free opinions than that which prevailed in Baltimore.

The citizens were conveyed to Fortress Monroe and eventually to Fort Lafayette, and turned into a battery-room occupied by twenty — four others, chiefly Marylanders. The Government furnished an iron bed, a [85] pallet of straw, and a thin blanket; but five bags of straw could be found, and the rest of the prisoners slept on the floor in their clothes. The room was sixty-six by twentytwo feet, with a brick floor, occupied by thirty-eight people. It contained also five thirty-two-pound cannon with their cumbersome carriages, occupying fully half the space in the room.

Several of the sick were on the floor without either blankets or pillows. No light was allowed. It is weary work recalling these dreadful experiences, but the deep feeling of hostility it aroused is seen in the appeal of General Bradley T. Johnson in the autumn of the next year:

Rise at once. Remember the cells of Fort McHenry. Remember the dungeons of Fort Lafayette and Fort Warren; the insults to your wives and daughters; the arrests; the midnight searches of your houses.

Remember these your wrongs, and rise at once in arms and strike for Liberty and Right.

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