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Fort Sumter. Who fired the First gun on the Fort?

Roger A. Pryor declined, and Captain James was allowed the distinction.

Since the publication of the claim made by Major W. M. Gibbs, of South Carolina, that he was the man who fired the first shot on Fort Sumter, there has been a great deal of discussion over the subject, says the New York World. Few people know that a distinguished citizen and an official of New York could have had that questionable privilege had he desired. Roger A. Pryor, then a distinguished young Virginian, afterwards a general in the Confederate army, and now a judge of the New York Court of Common Pleas, declined to fire on the flag of his country. [62]

An Associated Press dispatch from New Orleans gives a statement made by General G. T. Beauregard, which would seem to settle the dispute. General Beauregard's statement also discloses that another prominent citizen of New York was concerned in the preliminaries to the bombardment-Banker A. R. Chisholm, of No. 61 Broadway.

General Beauregard denies Major Gibb's claim and points out that Captain George S. James, who was in charge of Fort Johnson, where General Beauregard was in command of the Confederate forces, fired the first shot. The General wrote to Colonel Chisholm about the affair, calling attention to Major Gibb's claim, and Colonel Chisholm sent back a letter, which, he said yesterday, was his recollection of the occurrence. Colonel Chisholm wrote:

Colonel Chisholm's statement.

My recollections of the firing of the first or signal gun on Fort Sumter April 12, 1861, are as follows: First, as my private boat and six negro oarsmen, with myself as your aide-de-camp, were the principal means of communication between you and the forts on the islands around Charleston harbor, it fell to my lot, in company with Senator James Chestnut and Captain Stephen D. Lee, afterwards lieutenant-general, to deliver to Major Robert Anderson, in command of the United forces in Fort Sumter, your final note for the demand of the surrender of that work, and the specific authority for us to notify Major Anderson that your guns would not open on him if he would agree not to fire on our batteries as on a previous visit to Fort Sumter under a flag of truce. He had stated to us that he was about starved out. General Roger A. Pryor, who was on a visit to Charleston, accompanied us. After being detained in the guardroom of the fort, we notified Major Anderson that we could not wait any longer for his reply. He then came from the consultation with his officers to the guard-room, and stated to us that he would not agree not to fire on our battery, that his flag had been fired upon twice, and if this was done again, he would open his batteries. This left us no alternative but to carry out General Beauregard's instructions, which were that his batteries would open on Fort Sumter in an hour.

Captain James the man.

Major Anderson said to us: “Gentlemen, I will await your fire.” With Captain Foster he accompanied us to the outside of the sallyport, [63] when we entered the boat and proceeded to Fort Johnson, then in command of Captain George S. James, who met us on the wharf. We delivered to him, as per your instructions, the order to fire the signal gun. Captain James seeing General Pryor in the boat, said to him: “Mr. Pryor, I have always been a great admirer of yours, and now offer you the honor of firing the first shot at Fort Sumter.”

General Pryor felt flattered, but, with many thanks, declined the honor. I asked him why he did not accept it. His reply was that it would not do for him to fire that shot, as his State had not yet seceded.’

Captain James then said: “ I will not give that privilege to any other man.” ’

When Judge Pryor was asked about the matter yesterday he said:

‘I haven't bothered about the thing; it's too old and the war's been over too long. Since you mention the circumstance, though, I believe the facts are as General Beauregard and Colonel Chisholm state them. However, I am too much engrossed with the present and future to talk about ancient history of that kind.’

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