Xxviii. Fort Sumter.
- Hesitation -- futile negotiations -- attempt to provision -- order to open fire -- bombardment commenced -- fire returned -- Interior of the fort in flames -- Wigfall's volunteer embassy -- Anderson surrenders -- Garrison leaves for New York -- Dixie jubilant.
whether the hesitation of the Executive to reinforce Fort Sumter was real or only apparent, the reserve evinced with regard to his intentions was abundantly justified. The President, in his Inaugural Address, had kindly and explicitly set forth his conception of the duties and responsibilities assumed in taking his oath of office. No man of decent understanding who can read our language had any reason or right to doubt, after hearing or perusing that document, that he fully purposed, to the extent of his ability, to maintain the authority and enforce the laws of the Union on every acre of the geographical area of our country. Hence, secessionists in Washington, as well as South of that city, uniformly denounced that manifesto as a declaration of war, or as rendering war inevitable. The naked dishonesty of professed Unionists inquiring — as even Senator Douglas,1 for two weeks, persisted in doing — whether  Mr. Lincoln intended peace or war, was a sore trial to human patience. A government which cannot uphold and vindicate its authority in the country which it professes to rule is to be pitied; but one which does not even attempt to enforce respect and obedience is a confessed imposture and sham, and deserves to be hooted off the face of the earth. Nay, more: it was impossible for ours to exist on the conditions prescribed by its domestic foes. No government can endure without revenue; and the Federal Constitution (Art. I. § 9) expressly prescribes that
No preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels bound to or from one State be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties, in another.But here were the ports of nearly half our Atlantic and Gulf coasts sealed against the commerce and navigation of the other half, save on payment of duties utterly unknown to our laws; while goods could be entered at those ports at quite other (and generally lower) rates of impost than those established by Congress. Hence, importers, with good reason, refused to pay the established duties at Northern ports until the same should be exacted at Southern as well; so that three months acquiescence by the President in what was untruly commended as the “Peace policy,” would have sunk the country into anarchy and whelmed the Government in hopeless ruin. Still, no one is required to achieve the impossible, though to attempt what to others will seem such may sometimes be accepted by the unselfish and intrepid as a duty; and this practical question confronted the  President on the threshold: “What means have I at command wherewith to compel obedience to the laws?” Now, the War Department had, for nearly eight years prior to the last few weeks, been directed successively by Jefferson Davis and John B. Floyd. The better portion of our little army had been ordered by Floyd to Texas, and there put under the command of Gen. Twiggs, by whom it had already been betrayed into the hands of his fellow-traitors. The arms of the Union had been sedulously transferred by Floyd from the Northern to the Southern arsenals. The most effective portion of the Navy had, in like manner, been dispersed over distant seas. But, so early as the 21st of March, at the close of a long and exciting Cabinet session, it appears to have been definitively settled that Fort Sumter was not to be surrendered without a struggle; and, though Col. G. W. Lay, an Aid of Gen. Scott, had visited Charleston on the 20th, and had a long interview with Gov. Pickens and Gen. Beauregard, with reference, it was said, to the terms2 on which Fort Sumter should be evacuated, if evacuated at all, the 25th brought to Charleston Col. Ward H. Lamon, a confidential agent of the President, who, after an interview with the Confederate authorities, was permitted to visit the fort, and hold unrestricted intercourse with Major Anderson, who apprised the Government through him that their scanty stock of provisions would suffice his little garrison only till the middle of April. Col. Lamon returned immediately to Washington, and was said to have reported there, that, in Major Anderson's opinion as well as in his own, the relief of the fortress was impracticable. By this time, however, very decided activity began to be manifest in the Navy Yards still held by the Union. Such ships of war as were  at hand were rapidly fitted for service and put into commission; while several swift ocean steamers of the largest size were hurriedly loaded with provisions, munitions, and forage. By the 6th or 7th of April, nearly a dozen of these vessels had left New York and other Northern ports, under sealed orders. Lieut. Talbot, who had arrived at Washington on the 6th, from Fort Sumter, bearing a message from Major Anderson that his rigidly restricted supplies of fresh food from Charleston market had been cut off by the Confederate authorities, and that he must soon be starved into surrender, if not relieved, returned to Charleston on the 8th, and gave formal notice to Gov. Pickens that the fort would be provisioned at all hazards. Gen. Beauregard immediately telegraphed the fact to Montgomery; and, on the 10th, received orders from the Confederate Secretary of War to demand the prompt surrender of the fort, and, in case of refusal, to reduce it. The demand was accordingly made in due form at 2 P. M., on the 11th, and courteously declined. But, in consequence of additional instructions from Montgomery — based on a suggestion of Major Anderson to his summoners that he would very soon be starved out, if not relieved--Gen. Beauregard, at 11 P. M., again addressed Major Anderson, asking him to state at what time he would evacuate Fort Sumter, if unmolested; and was answered that he would do so at noon on the 15th, “should I not receive, prior to that time, controlling instructions from my Government, or additional supplies.” This answer was judged unsatisfactory; and, at 3:20 A. M., of the 12th, Major Anderson was duly notified that fire would be opened on Fort Sumter in one hour. Punctual to the appointed moment, the roar of a mortar from Sullivan's Island, quickly followed by the rushing shriek of a shell, gave notice to the world that the era of compromise and diplomacy was ended — that the Slaveholders' Confederacy had appealed from sterile negotiations to the “last argument” of aristocracies as well as kings. Another gun from that island quickly repeated the warning, waking a response from battery after battery, until Sumter appeared the focus of a circle of volcanic fire. Soon, the thunder of fifty heavy breaching cannon, in one grand volley, followed by the crashing and crumbling of brick, stone, and mortar around and above them, apprised the little garrison that their stay in those quarters must necessarily be short. Unless speedily relieved by a large and powerful fleet, such as the Union did not then possess, the defense was, from the outset, utterly hopeless. It is said that the Confederate leaders expected to reduce the fort within a very few hours; it is more certain that the country was disappointed by the inefficiency of its fire and the celerity of its reduction. But it was not then duly considered that Sumter was never intended to withstand a protracted cannonade from batteries solidly constructed on every side of it, but to resist and repel the ingress of fleets from the Ocean — a service for which it has since proved itself admirably adapted. Nor was it sufficiently considered that the defensive strength of a fortress inheres largely in its ability to compel its assailants to commence operations for its reduction at a respectful distance, and to  make their approaches slowly, under conditions that secure to its fire a great superiority over that of the besiegers. But here were the assailants, in numbers a hundred to one, firing at short range from batteries which had been constructed and mounted in perfect security, one of them covered with iron rails so adjusted as to glance the balls of the fortress harmlessly from its mailed front. Had Major Anderson been ordered, in December, to defend his post against all aggressive and threatening demonstrations, he could not have been shelled out of it by a thirty hours bombardment. But why officers' quarters and barracks of wood should ever have been constructed in the center of such a fort — or rather, why they should have been permitted to stand there after the hostile intentions of the Confederates had been clearly proclaimed — is not obvious. That shells and red-hot balls would be rained into this area — that the frail structures which nearly filled it would inevitably take fire, and not only imperil magazines, cartridges, and everything else combustible, but prevent the working of the guns, was palpable from the outset. To have committed to the surrounding waves every remaining particle of wood that was not essential to the defense, would seem the manifest work of the night which preceded the opening of the bombardment, after the formal demand that the fort be surrendered. To do this while yet unassailed and unimperiled, instead of rolling barrel after barrel of precious powder into the sea under the fire of a dozen batteries, with the whole center of the fortress a glowing furnace, and even the casemates so hot that their tenants could only escape roasting by lying flat on the floor and drawing their breath through wet blankets, would seem the dictate of the simplest forecast. So, when we read that “the guns, without tangents or scales, and even destitute of bearing-screws, were to be ranged by the eye, and fired ‘by guess,’ ” we have an ample explanation of the inefficiency of their fire, but none of the causes of this strange and fatal lack of preparation for a contest that had so long been imminent. It might seem as if Sumter had been held only that it should be assailed with impunity and easily taken. It was at 7 o'clock--nearly three hours after the first shot came crashing against her walls — that Sumter's garrison, having deliberately eaten their breakfast — whereof salt pork constituted the staple — fired their first gun. They had been divided into three squads or reliefs, each in succession to man the guns for four hours, and then be relieved by another. Capt. Arthur Doubleday commanded the first on duty, and fired the first gun. Only the casemate guns were commonly fired — those on the parapet being too much exposed to the shot and shell pouring in from every quarter to render their use other than a reckless, bootless waste of life. The fire of the fort was so weak, when compared to that of its assailants, as to excite derision rather than apprehension on their part. It was directed at Fort Moultrie, the Cummings' Point battery, and Sullivan's Island, from which a masked battery of heavy columbiads, hitherto unsuspected by the garrison, had opened on their walls with fearful effect. The floating battery, faced  with railroad bars, though planted very near to Sumter, and seemingly impervious to her balls, was far less effective. A new english gun, employed by the Confederates, was remarked by the garrison as wonderfully accurate and efficient; several of its shots entering their embrasures, and one of them slightly wounding four men. But the casemates were shell-proof; the officers constantly warned their men against needless exposure; so that, though the peril from fire and from their own ammunition was even greater than that from the enemy's guns, not one was seriously hurt. And, though Fort Moultrie was considerably damaged, and the little village of Moultrieville — composed of the Summer residences of certain wealthy citizens of Charleston — was badly riddled, it was claimed, and seems undisputed, that no one was mortally wounded on the
|Charleston harbor and Fort Sumter.|
The workmen [Irish laborers, hired in New York for other than military service] were at first rather reluctant to assist the soldiers in handling the guns; but they gradually took hold and rendered valuable assistance. Few shots were fired before every one of them was desperately engaged in the conflict. We had to abandon one gun on account of the heavy fire made upon it. Hearing the fire renewed, I went to the spot. I there found a party of workmen engaged in serving it. I saw one of them stooping over, with his hands on his knees, convulsed with joy, while the tears rolled down his powder-begrimed cheeks. “What are you doing here with that gun?” I asked. “ Hit it right in the center,” was the reply; the man meaning, that his shot had taken effect in the center of the floating battery.Says another eye-witness:
Shells burst with the greatest rapidity  in every portion of the work, hurling the loose brick and stone in all directions, breaking the windows, and setting fire to whatever wood-work they burst against. The solid-shot firing of the enemy's batteries, and particularly of Fort Moultrie, was directed at the barbette [unsheltered] guns of Fort Sumter, disabling one ten-inch columbiad [they had but two], one eight-inch columbiad, one forty-two pounder, and two eight-inch seacoast howitzers, and also tearing a large portion of the parapet away. The firing from the batteries on Cummings' Point was scattered over the whole of the gorge or rear of the fort, till it looked like a sieve. The explosion of shells, and the quantity of deadly missiles that were hurled in every direction and at every instant of time, made it almost certain death to go out of the lower tier of casemates, and also made the working of the barbette or upper [uncovered] guns, which contained all our heaviest metal, and by which alone we could throw shells, quite impossible. During the first day, there was hardly an instant of time that there was a cessation of the whizzing of balls, which were sometimes coming half a dozen at once. There was not a portion of the work which was not taken in reverse from mortars. On Friday, before dinner, several of the vessels of the fleet, beyond the bar, were seen through the port-holes. They dipped their flag. The commander ordered Sumter's flag to be dipped in return, which was done, while the shells were bursting in every direction. [The flag-staff was located in the parade, which was about the center of the open space within the fort.] Sergeant Hart saw the flag of Fort Sumter half-way down, and, supposing it had been cut by the enemy's shot, rushed out through the fire to assist in getting it up. Shortly after it had been re-raised, a shell burst and cut the halliards, but the rope was so intertwined around the halliards, that the flag would not fall. The cartridges were exhausted by about noon, and a party was sent to the magazines to make more of the blankets and shirts; the sleeves of the latter being readily converted to the use desired. Another great misfortune was, that there was not an instrument in the fort by which they could weigh the powder; which, of course, destroyed all approach to accuracy of firing. Nor had they tangent-screws, breech-slides, or other instruments with which to point a gun. When it became so dark as to render it impossible to see the effect of their shot, the port-holes were closed for the night, while the batteries of the Secessionists continued their fire unceasingly. During Friday, the officers' barracks were three times set on fire by the shells, and three times put out under the most galling and destructive cannonade. This was the only occasion on which Maj. Anderson allowed the men to expose themselves without an absolute necessity. The guns on the parapet — which had been pointed the day before — were fired clandestinely by some of the men slipping up on top. The firing of the rifled guns from the iron battery on Cummings' Point became extremely accurate in the afternoon of Friday, cutting out large quantities of the masonry about the embrasures at every shot, throwing concrete among the cannoneers, and slightly wounding and stunning others. One piece struck Sergeant Kernan, an old Mexican war veteran, hitting him on the head and knocking him down. On being revived, he was asked if he was hurt badly. He replied: “No; I was only knocked down temporarily;” and he went to work again. * * * For the fourth time, the barracks were set on fire early on Saturday morning, and attempts were made to extinguish the flames; but it was soon discovered that red-hot shot were being thrown into the fort with fearful rapidity, and it became evident that it would be impossible to put out the conflagration. The whole garrison was then set to work, or as many as could be spared, to remove the powder from the magazines, which was desperate work, rolling barrels of powder through the fire. Ninety-odd barrels had been rolled out through the flames, when the heat became so intense as to make it impossible to get out any more. The doors were then closed and locked, and the fire spread and became general. The wind so directed the smoke as to fill the fort so full that the men could not see each other; and, with the hot, stifling air, it was as much as a man could do to breathe. Soon, they were obliged to cover their faces with wet cloths in order to get along at all, so dense was the smoke and so scorching the heat. But few cartridges were left, and the guns were fired slowly; nor could more cartridges be made, on account of the sparks falling in every part of the works. A gun was fired every now and then, only to let the fleet and the people in the town know that the fort had not been silenced. The cannoneers could not see to aim, much less where they hit. After the barracks were well on fire, the batteries directed upon Fort Sumter increased their cannonading to a rapidity greater than had been attained before. About this time, the shells and ammunition in the upper service-magazines exploded, scattering the tower and upper portions of  the building in every direction. The crash of the beams, the roar of the flames, and the shower of fragments of the fort, with the blackness of the smoke, made the scene indescribably terrific and grand. This continued for several hours. Meanwhile, the main gates were burned down, the chassis of the barbette guns were burned away on the gorge, and the upper portions of the towers had been demolished by shells. There was not a portion of the fort where a breath of air could be got for hours, except through a wet cloth. The fire spread to the men's quarters on the right hand and on the left, and endangered the powder which had been taken out of the magazines. The men went through the fire and covered the barrels with wet cloths; but the danger of the fort's blowing up became so imminent that they were obliged to heave the barrels out of the embrasures. While the powder was being thrown overboard, all the guns of Moultrie, of the iron floating battery, of the enfilade battery, and of the Dahlgren battery, worked with increasing vigor. All but four barrels were thus disposed of, and those remaining were wrapped in many thicknesses of wet woolen blankets. But three cartridges were left, and these were in the guns. About this time, the flag-staff of Fort Sumter was shot down, some fifty feet from the truck; this being the ninth time that it had been struck by a shot. The man cried out, “The flag is down! It has been shot away!” In an instant, Lieut. Hall rushed forward, and brought the flag away. But the halliards were so inextricably tangled that it could not be righted; it was therefore nailed to the staff, and planted upon the ramparts, while batteries in every direction were playing upon them.The fleet from New York, laden with provisions for the garrison, had appeared off the bar by noon of the day on which fire was opened, but made no effort to fulfill its errand. To have attempted to supply the fort would have, at best, involved a heavy cost of life, probably to no purpose. Its commander communicated by signals with Major Anderson, but remained out of the range of the enemy's fire till after the surrender; when he returned as he came. Meantime, the boom of heavy ordnance and the telegraph had borne far and wide the eagerly awaited tidings that the war for which South Carolina had so long been impatient had actually begun; and from every side thousands flocked to the spectacle as to a long expected holiday. Charleston herself was drunk with excitement and joyous exultation. Her entire white population, and her gay crowds of well-dressed3 visitors, thronged her streets and quays, noting the volume and resonant thunder of the Confederate cannonade, and the contrasted feebleness of that by which it was replied to.4 That seven thousand men, after five months of careful preparation, could overcome seventy, was regarded as an achievement ranking with the most memorable deeds of Alexander or Hannibal, Caesar or Napoleon. Champagne flowed on every hand like water; thousands quaffed, and feasted on the richest viands, who were ere long to regard rancid pork as a dainty, and tea and coffee as faintly remembered luxuries. Beauregard shot up like Jonah's gourd to the altitude of the world's greatest captains; and “Damnation to the Yankees!” was drunk with rapture by enthusiastic crowds whose heads were sure to ache tomorrow with what they had drunk before. Already, in the ardent imagination of her Chivalry, the Confederacy had established its independence  beyond dispute, and was about to conquer and lay waste the degenerate, cowardly North. The credit of putting an end to this most unequal contest is due to Louis T. Wigfall, late a Senator from the State of Texas, now styling himself a Confederate Brigadier. Wigfall — a Carolinian by birth, a Nullifier by training, and a duelist by vocation — had the faults and virtues of his caste; and one of the latter is a repugnance to witnessing a conflict between parties too palpably ill-matched. Seeing that the fire of Sumter was only maintained as a matter of pride — for the fainting garrison had quite enough to do at fighting the flames that had burned their quarters, and in rolling out their powder to prevent its explosion — Wigfall seized a skiff on the afternoon of Saturday (the second day of the bombardment), and made direct toward the almost silenced and thoroughly harmless fortress. He was soon at the side of the fort, and, showing his face at an embrasure, waving a white handkerchief on the point of his sword, he asked to be presented to Maj. Anderson. No objection being made, he crawled through the embrasure into the casemate, and was there met by several officers, to whom he urged the futility of further resistance. “Let us stop this firing,” said he; “you are on fire, and your flag is down. Let us quit.” “No,” replied Lieut. Davis, “our flag is not down. Step out here, and you will see it waving over the ramparts.” Wigfall persisted that the resistance had no longer any justification, and urged one of the officers to wave his white flag toward Moultrie; and, this being declined, proceeded to wave it himself. Finally, a corporal was induced to relieve him in this, but to no purpose. About this time, Maj. Anderson approached, to whom Wigfall announced himself (incorrectly) as a messenger from Gen. Beauregard, sent to inquire on what terms he would evacuate the fortress. Maj. Anderson calmly replied: “Gen. Beauregard is already acquainted with my only terms.” After a few more civil interchanges of words, to no purpose, Wigfall retired, and was soon succeeded by ex-Senator Chesnut, and ex-Representatives Roger A. Pryor and W. Porcher Miles, who assured Maj. A. that Wigfall had acted entirely without authority. Maj. A. thereupon ordered his flag, which had been lowered, to be raised again; but his visitors requested that this be delayed for further conference; and, having reported to Beauregard, returned, two or three hours afterward, with a substantial assent to Maj. Anderson's conditions. The latter was to evacuate the fort, his garrison to retain their arms, with personal and company property, and march out with the honors of war, being conveyed to whatever port in the loyal States they might indicate. Considering his hopeless condition, these terms were highly honorable to Maj. Anderson, and hardly less so to Gen. Beauregard; though it was the manifest interest of the Confederates not only to stop their prodigal expenditure of ammunition at the earliest moment, but to obtain possession of the coveted fortress in as effective a state as possible — each day's additional bombardment subtracting seriously from its strength and efficiency, as a defense of Charleston after it should have fallen into their hands.  While Charleston resumed and intensified her exulting revels,5 and the telegraph invited all “Dixie” to share the rapture of her triumph, the weary garrison extinguished the fire still raging, and lay down to rest for the night. The steamboat Isabel came down next morning to take them off; but delay occurred in their removal by tug to her deck, until it was too late to go out by that day's tide. When the baggage had all been removed, a part of the garrison was told off as gunners to salute their flag with fifty guns; the Stars and Stripes being lowered with cheers at the firing of the last gun. Unhappily, there was at that lire a premature explosion, whereby one of the gunners was killed, and three more or less seriously wounded. The men were then formed and marched out, preceded by their band, playing inspiring airs, and taken on board the Isabel, whereby they were transferred to the Federal steamship Baltic, awaiting them off the bar, which brought them directly to New York, whence Maj. Anderson dispatched to his Government this brief and manly report: