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Chapter 1: separation and reunion

In vain is the strife Holmes

Ruins of Charleston, 1865 from the circular church


Scenes of 1861 that quickly followed
Brother Jonathan
(page 44)

The first photograph shows Confederates on Monday the fifteenth of April, 1861—one day after the momentous event which Holmes dimly prophesied in Brother Jonathan (page 44). The picture below, with the two following, were made on the 16th. As April wore on, North and South alike had been reluctant to strike first. When Major Robert Anderson, on December 26, 1860, removed to Fort Sumter, on an island at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, he placed himself in a position to withstand long attack. But he needed supplies. The Confederates would allow none to be landed. When at length rumors of a powerful naval force to relieve the fort reached Charleston, the Confederates demanded the surrender of the garrison. Anderson promised to evacuate by April 15th if he received no additional supplies. His terms were rejected. At half-past 4 on the morning of April 12th a shell from Fort Johnson ‘rose high in air, and curving in its course, burst almost directly over the fort.’ The mighty war had begun.

Confederates in Sumter the day after Anderson left

A gun trained on Charleston by Anderson


Two days after the bombardment of Sumter, April 16, 1861

Wade Hampton (the tallest figure) and other leading South Carolinians inspecting the effects of the cannonading that had forced Major Anderson to evacuate, and had precipitated the mightiest conflict of modern times—two days before.

Two days after the bombardment of Sumter, April 16, 1861

Two days after the bombardment of Sumter, April 16, 1861


Guns that fired on Sumter.

Below are some of the Confederate guns in the battery near Fort Moultrie that bore upon the Fort pictured above. It was the hot shot from Fort Moultrie itself that set fire to the barracks in Fort Sumter about eight o'clock on the morning of April 13th. When the Confederate commanders saw the black smoke rise from the fort, they doubled the fire of the batteries to keep the flames from being extinguished. Sumter did not cease replying, although the intervals between shots became longer as the garrison dashed from spot to spot checking the flames.

The South Carolinians showed their admiration for their dauntless antagonists by cheering at every shot that replied to them. About half-past 12 of that day the flagstaff on Sumter was shot away. General Beauregard, who was in charge of the operations of Charleston, at once sent three of his aides to inquire if Major Anderson would accept assistance in subduing the flames and to offer terms of surrender. The terms, which allowed the gallant garrison to march out with the honors of war, were at length accepted. The first step in the war had been irrevocably taken.

The stars and bars waving over the captured fort: North-West angle showing casemates.

Confederate guns that fired on Sumter: South-western angle, showing sand-bag defences and columbiads bearing on Fort Sumter, April 16, 1861.


Damage to Fort Sumter.

The damage done by those first guns of the war, ‘the shots heard around the world,’ is shown in these faded photographs of April 16, 1861. By five A. M. of April 12th the Confederate batteries were directing a converging fire on Sumter. The garrison did not immediately reply; it had been subsisting on half rations and on this particular morning made a breakfast off pork and damaged rice. At seven it began to return the fire. During the day the duel was unremitting. The whole city poured out to witness the spectacle. The Battery, the fashionable promenade of Charleston, was thronging with ladies in holiday attire. Early on the next day the officers' quarters in Sumter caught fire from some shells or hot shot. Flames soon spread to the barracks. So fierce was the conflagration that the magazine had to be closed. The men threw themselves on the ground to avoid suffocation. Then Beauregard's terms of evacuation were accepted. On Sunday, April 14th, with colors flying and drums beating, Major Anderson and his little company marched out with a salute to the flag of fifty guns. That day the whole North was steeled to live up to the spirit of Holmes' poem.

The officers' quarters where the fire started

The shattered flagstaff (to the right)



Separation and reunion: brother Jonathan's lament for sister Caroline

Both a record and a prophecy are contained in these lines by the New England poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes. A state convention meeting in Charleston had on December 20, 1860, unanimously passed an ordinance of secession, and during January and February six other States had followed. Early in February the Confederate Government had been organized at Montgomery, Alabama, with Jefferson Davis as President. Holmes dated this poem March 25, 1861. four days later the New President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, ordered relief to be sent to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. On April 12th the attack on Sumter was made, and the war begun. How fully the sentiment of brotherhood here expressed by Holmes has been realized among the American people it has been the purpose of the Introduction to this volume and of the following selections to show.

She has gone,—she has left us in passion and pride,—
Our stormy-browed sister, so long at our side!
She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe!

O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,—
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!

You were always too ready to fire at a touch;
But we said: ‘She is hasty,—she does not mean much.’
We have scowled when you uttered some turbulent threat;
But Friendship still whispered: ‘Forgive and forget!’

Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain
That her petulant children would sever in vain. [45]

The ruins of secession Hall, Charleston—1865 Three months before Holmes' poem, South Carolinians had cast the die of separation in Secession Hall. It appears to the right of the Circular Church, across the narrow graveyard, its walls blasted by the fire of December, 1861. Here the vote was taken on December 20, 1860, declaring that ‘the union now subsisting between South Carolina and the other States under the name of the “United States of America” is hereby dissolved.’ The secession convention was composed of the most experienced men in the State—men who had represented it in the national Congress, judges in the highest courts, eminent divines, and wealthy planters. On the fourth day of its session, at twelve o'clock, the ordinance quoted from above was read with flashing eyes by the venerable judge of chancery, Chancellor Inglis. At a quarter past one it was passed unanimously. The doorkeeper passed the word to the policeman without; he called to another, and so on until the sentinel at the massive iron gate proclaimed it to the impatient populace. The bells in every rocking steeple mingled their notes with the shouts of the excited throngs that filled the streets. There was no dissent in the secession sentiments here.


‘Though darkened with Sulphur’: the Charleston railroad depot, destroyed by explosion in 1865 These ruins form an impressive fulfilment of the prophecy in Oliver Wendell Holmes' poem. But it was not till near the end that the scene here preserved could meet the eye. It resulted from the evacuation of the city by the Confederate forces on February 17, 1865. This step had been taken with great reluctance. The movement of secession had begun at Charleston. The city was dear to every Southern heart. Yet military policy clearly dictated that the scattered troops in the Carolinas be concentrated against Sherman. Indeed, it would have been better policy to evacuate earlier. But sentiment is always powerful. Even Jefferson Davis said, ‘Such full preparation had been made that I had hoped for other and better results, and the disappointment to me is extremely bitter.’ When the Union troops from Morris Island arrived in Charleston the next morning, they found that the commissary depot had been blown up with the loss of two hundred lives, mostly of women and children. An officer reported ‘Public buildings, stores, warehouses, private dwellings, shipping, etc., were burning and being burned by armed Confederates.’ All the Negroes in the city were impressed by the Union officers to work the fire apparatus until all the fires were extinguished. But some of the fairest sections of Charleston were already in ruins.


‘In vain is the strife’ The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar, destroyed by the fire of December, 1861—most of the able bodied citizens were serving as soldiers, and the flames raged unchecked.


They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil,—
Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil,
Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves,
And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves:

In vain is the strife! When its fury is past,
Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last,
As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow
Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.

Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky;
Man breaks not the medal when God cuts the die!
Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,
The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!

O Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
There are battles with Fate that can never be won!
The star-flowering banner must never be furled,
For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!

Go, then, our rash sister! afar and aloof,—
Run wild in the sunshine away from our roof;
But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore,
Remember the pathway that leads to our door!


Henry Timrod.
Probably the most ardent of Southern poets, Henry Timrod, here writes in lofty calm of his native city awaiting the attack of Admiral Samuel F. Dupont on April 7, 1863. the poem forms an interesting contrast with the preceding, written two years previously.

Calm as that second summer which precedes
The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
The city bides the foe. [49]

Charleston, Sc.

The picture of Confederate artillerymen sighting a field-piece in the outskirts of Charleston shows that there were active preparations for the expected attack. The city had, indeed, been put in a thorough state of defense by General Beauregard, who had assumed command on September 15, 1862. The forts at the entrance to the harbor were strengthened or partly rebuilt, and the waters sown with torpedoes and obstructions. The poet therefore had good reason for awaiting so calmly the naval attack of April 7, 1863. In the lower photograph, St. Michael's and the principal street of Charleston are preserved for us by the Confederate photographer Cook, just as they appeared when Timrod wrote his lines. The city was indeed a very busy one, for constant blockade-running had brought in ample munitions of war and many luxuries. It was no idle boast that Summer was brought to her courts, for silks and spices came in with every cargo. Later on, the blockading fleet, though it did not succeed in reducing Charleston, made blockade-running so dangerous that a constantly decreasing number of laden vessels arrived at the piers.

‘The city bides the foe’

‘Through streets still echoing with trade’: Charleston in war time


As yet, behind their ramparts, stern and proud,
Her bolted thunders sleep,—
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
Looms o'er the solemn deep.

No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scaur
To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
Above the level sand.

And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
Unseen, beside the flood,—
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched,
That wait and watch for blood.

Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot's blade
As lightly as the pen.

And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
Whose sword she sadly bound.

Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof and spire and dome,
Across her tranquil bay.

Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
And summer to her courts.

But still, along yon dim Atlantic line,
The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
From some frail floating oak. [51]

‘She waits the triumph or the tomb’: the bombarded graveyard of the central church at Charleston The event awaited by Timrod with faith and resignation is here directly illustrated. A sacred spot in the beautiful city of Charleston has been visited by Federal bombs. The tombs of its honored ancestors lie shattered where the ruins of fair mansions look down upon the scene. The cannonading that wrought this havoc was conducted by the Federal army under General Q. A. Gillmore after the failure of Admiral S. F. Du Pont's attack of April 7, 1863. The bombardment of the city was begun on August 21, 1863, by the famous gun, the ‘Swamp Angel,’ to enforce the evacuation of Fort Sumter. But Sumter, though reduced to a shapeless mass of ruins, did not surrender. On September 7, 1863, however, Gillmore succeeded in capturing Battery Wagner and Battery Gregg, on the northern part of Morris Island. One 30-pounder Parrott gun sent 4,523 shells toward the city, many of them landing within it destructively.


Shall the spring dawn, and she, still clad in smiles,
And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
As fair and free as now?

We know not; in the temple of the Fates
God has inscribed her doom:
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
The triumph or the tomb.

To the South

O subtle, musky, slumbrous clime!
O swart, hot land of pine and palm,
Of fig, peach, guava, orange, lime,
And terebinth and tropic balm!
Land where our Washington was born,
When truth in hearts of gold was worn;
Mother of Marion, Moultrie, Lee,
Widow of fallen chivalry!
No longer sadly look behind,
But turn and face the morning wind,
And feel sweet comfort in the thought:
“With each fierce battle's sacrifice
I sold the wrong at awful price,
And bought the good; but knew it not.”

Cheer up! Reach out! Breathe in new life
Brood not on unsuccessful strife
Against the current of the age;
The Highest is thy heritage!
Leave off this death's-head scowl at Fate,
And into thy true heart sink this:
‘God loves to walk where Freedom is!’

There is no sweet in dregs and lees;
There is no fruit on girdled trees.
Plant new vineyards, sow new fields,
For bread and wine the Future yields;
Out of free soil fresh spathes shall start;
Now is the budding-time of Art! [53]

‘O subtle, Musky, slumberous clime’ Down the lofty nave of this forest cathedral, gleams under the open sky the tomb of some long-honored forefather of Savannah. The gigantic live-oaks of the stately plantation, festooned with the long Spanish moss, shadow the fragrant shrubbery growing at their feet. The whole scene breathes the ‘subtle, musky, slumberous’ atmosphere sung by the poet Thompson. Savannah, situated inland on the Savannah River, was through four years of the war unvisited by hostile armies. But in December, 1864, it fell into the hands of Sherman's troops. Many another lovely spot in the Southland passed through the conflict with its beauties undisturbed, as if to remind its brave people of the unbounded lavishness of nature amid the wreckage of war. Bravely have they answered the mute appeal of such surroundings. To-day the South can point, not only to the charms of its almost tropical clime, but to the material achievements which link it inseparably with the rapidly developing North and West. Its people have even come to feel a thankfulness for the outcome of the war. Typical are the whole-hearted vigorous lines of Maurice Thompson printed opposite.


But hark! O hear! My senses reel!
Some grand presentiment I feel!
A voice of love, bouquet of truth,
The quick sound of the feet of youth!

Lo! from the war-cloud, dull and dense,
Loyal and chaste and brave and strong,
Comes forth the South with frankincense,
And vital freshness in her song.
The weight is fallen from her wings;
To find a purer air she springs
Out of the Night into the Morn,
Fair as cotton, sound as corn.

Hold! Shall a Northman, fierce and grim,
With hoary beard and boreal vim,
Thus fling, from some bleak waste of ice,
Frost-crystals of unsought advice
To those who dwell by Coosa's stream,
Or on dark hummocks plant the cane
Beside the lovely Pontchartrain,
Or in gay sail-boats drift and dream
Where Caribbean breezes stray
On Pensacola's drowsy bay?

Not so! I am a Southerner;
I love the South; I dared for her
To fight from Lookout to the sea,
With her proud banner over me:
But from my lips thanksgiving broke,
As God in battle thunder spoke,
And that Black Idol, breeding drouth
And dearth of human sympathy
Throughout the sweet and sensuous South,
Was, with its chains and human yoke,
Blown hellward from the cannon's mouth,
While Freedom cheered behind the smoke!

1 used by permission of the B. F. Johnson publishing Company, Richmond, Virginia, publishers of the memorial edition of the Poems of Henry Timrod.

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