- General Beauregard orders the Cummings's Point Battery to be strengthened.
-- Citadel Cadets assigned to the New Bridge defences.
-- the ironclads cross the bar on the 5th.
-- Admiral Dupont makes his attack on the 7th.
-- order in which the ships came up.
-- their armament.
-- Admiral Dupont's plan of battle.
-- Fort Sumter the Chief object of attack.
-- its reduction supposed to be inevitable.
-- commanders of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, and the various batteries engaged.
-- how they were armed.
-- number of guns employed by the Confederates.
-- cautious approach of the monitors.
-- Fort Moultrie opens fire on them.
-- Fort Sumter does likewise.
-- description of the fight.
-- Fort Sumter Cripples the New Ironsides.
-- the Passaic Withdraws from the fight.
-- two more ironclads forced to retire.
-- the Keokuk engages Fort Sumter.
-- she is badly damaged.
-- importance of the defeat inflicted on the enemy.
-- the Keokuk sinks near Morris Island on the 8th.
-- on the 12th the monitors steam, and are towed southward.
-- condition of Sumter after the attack.
-- exhibit of shots fired on both sides.
-- fleet keeps outside of line of torpedoes and rope obstructions.
-- General Beauregard's efforts to organize an attack on the monitors with torpedo-boats.
-- his letter to Lieutenant Webb, C. S. N.
-- his plan foiled by the withdrawal of the fleet.
-- letter to General Cooper.
-- failure to complete torpedo-rams and gunboats.
Being still apprehensive that the enemy's monitors might take a position in ‘main ship channel,’ as near the shore as prudence would admit, and attempt to batter down the southeast angle and gorge-wall of Fort Sumter
—for that was its most vulnerable part —General Beauregard
, on the 4th of April, ordered the Commander
of the First Military District to add a 10-inch columbiad, or a 42-pounder rifled gun, to the Cummings
's Point Battery, the object being to keep the Federal
ironclads as far off as possible and, at the same time, increase the efficiency of that important work.
The sequel proved the wisdom of this precaution.
The day following, the Commanders
of the First District and of James Island
were given specific instructions as to the reinforcements, and guns and mortars were called for and received from Georgia
The Citadel Cadets, of Charleston
, were anxious to take part in their country's defence, and their services having been accepted, they were assigned to the works protecting the
,’ on the Ashley River
The 2500 men from Savannah
had arrived, and the Chief of Subsistence
was ordered to make proper provision for them.
The storm was evidently approaching.
Its premonitory signs, as reported by the Signal Corps, were—first, the increase of the enemy's force in the Stono
and the North Edisto
; second, the unusual activity visible among the vessels composing the fleet.
In fact, during the evening of the 5th, the ironclads, including the frigate New Ironsides
and eight monitors, had actually crossed the bar, and anchored in the main ship channel.
Though out of range as yet, they had not before approached so near.
There was but one conclusion to draw: the long-delayed and anxiously expected attack was now about to take place.
At last, on the 7th of April, a little after 2 P M., the monitors advanced for action.
It was with a feeling akin to relief that officers and men stepped into their positions, at the different batteries and pieces assigned them.
The long roll was beaten.
There would have been loud cheering, had not discipline and strict orders prevented.
By order of the Commandant at Sumter
three flags, the garrison, regimental, and Palmetto
flags, were hoisted; the band played ‘Dixie,’ and thirteen guns were fired, to salute the ensigns that floated high in the air, as if to say, ‘We are ready!’
's ships came up in the following order: four monitors—the Weehawken
, the Passaic
, the Montauk
, the Pa-tapsco;
then the New Ironsides
, as flag-ship; then the Catskill
, the Nantucket
, the Nahant
, and, bringing up the rear, the doubleturreted monitor Keokuk
They were commanded by experienced and gallant officers of the United States Navy.
Their armament, including that of the New Ironsides
, consisted of thirtythree guns ‘of the heaviest calibre ever used in war, to wit, 15 and 11 inch Dahlgren
guns, and 8-inch rifled pieces.’
The steam-ers Canandaigua, Housatonic, Unadilla, Wissahickon
, and Huron
constituted the reserve, and were kept outside the bar.
It may be of interest to submit an extract from the plan of attack and order of battle, adopted by the Admiral
and distributed to the various commandants who took part in the engagement:
From the order given above it is manifest that there was not only hope, but a feeling of certainty, on the part of Admiral Dupont
that the fleet would succeed in reducing Port Sumter, and against that work alone was to be hurled the combined fury of his attacking squadron.
This Confederate stronghold was doomed.
was to attack it, necessarily reduce it, and then destroy or capture the other works around the harbor.
How his turreted monitors went about the accomplishment of their object will be farther shown, as we proceed with the narrative of the engagement of the 7th, characterized at the time by a Northern correspondent who witnessed the scene as ‘sublimely terrific.’
Let us flow see what works we had with which to confront the formidable armada, so carefully and expensively prepared by the North
, for the capture of Charleston
We mention only those that were engaged against the fleet.
First among them was Fort Sumter
, under Colonel Alfred Rhett
, with Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. Yates
, commanding the parapet guns, and Major Ormsby Blanding
, in charge of the casemate batteries.
The garrison consisted of seven companies of the First South Carolina Artillery (Regulars), under Captains D. G. Fleming
, F. H. Harleston
, J. C. King
, J. C. Mitchel
, J. R. Macbeth
, W. H. Peronneau
, and C. W. Parker
The guns brought into action were: two 7-inch Brookes, four 10-inch columbiads, two
9-inch Dahlgrens, four 8-inch columbiads, four 8-inch navy guns, seven banded and rifled 42-pounders, one banded and rifled 32-pounder, thirteen smooth-bore 32-pounders, and seven 10-inch sea-coast mortars—in all, forty-four guns and mortars.
Next in importance was Fort Moultrie
, under Colonel William Butler
, assisted by Major T. M. Baker
, with five companies of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (Regulars), commanded by Captains T. A. Huguenin
, R. Press Smith
, B. S. Burnett
, C. H. Rivers
, and Lieutenant E. A. Erwin
The guns engaged were: nine 8-inch columbiads, five rifled and banded 32-pounders, five smooth-bore 32-pounders, and two 10-inch mortars—in all, twenty-one guns and mortars.
Battery Bee, on Sullivan's Island
, was under Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Simkins
, with three companies of the 1st South Carolina Infantry (Regulars), Captains R. de Treville
, Warren Adams
, and W. Tabourn
The guns it used against the fleet were five 10-inch and one 8-inch columbiad—six guns.
Battery Beauregard was under Captain J. A. Sitgreaves
, 1st South Carolina Artillery (Regulars), with two companies, one from Fort Sumter
, the other from Fort Moultrie
The first was commanded by Lieutenant W. E. Erwin
, the second by Captain J. H. Warley
The guns engaged were one 8-inch columbiad and two 32-pounders, rifled.
Battery Wagner was under Major C. K. Huger
, with two companies belonging to the 1st South Carolina Artillery (Regulars). One gun was engaged—a 32-pounder, rifled.
's Point Battery, Lieutenant H. R. Lesesne
commanded, with a detachment of the 1st South Carolina Artillery (Regulars). The guns engaged were one 10-inch columbiad and one 8-inch Dahlgren
Thus, it will appear that sixty-seven guns were actually used in the engagement, and not more than nine mortars, making an aggregate of seventy-six, instead of the three hundred, three hundred and fifty, or four hundred, erroneously reported by Northern correspondents and other writers concerning the events now occupying our attention.
‘There were not three hundred guns mounted in all the defences of Charleston
, and the guns of the second and third circles of fire were not engaged.’
So states an ex-member of Admiral Dahlgren
's staff in a work, well written and, as a whole, remarkably fair, entitled ‘Leaves from a Lawyer's Life,
Afloat and Ashore.’2
A And it is but fair to add that this statement is entirely correct.
Captain P. A. Mitchell
, with a few companies from the 20th South Carolina Infantry, had been placed on Sullivan's Island
, to prevent an assault by land, should any be attempted; and Lieutenant-Colonel Dargan
, of the 21st South Carolina, had been charged with the same duty on Morris Island
had also requested Commodore Ingraham
to join in the movement, with the two gunboat-rams Palmetto State
, should circumstances allow it. The Commodore
and Commanders Tucker
readily prepared to do so, and took up their position accordingly.
Neither vessel, however, participated in the engagement.
, constituting the second subdivision of the First Military District of South Carolina, was, at that time, under Brigadier-General J. H. Trapier
, lately withdrawn from Georgetown
for that purpose by order of General Beauregard
. Colonel Lawrence M. Keitt
was the Commandant of the post, and had stationed himself at Battery Bee, where he remained during the fight.
, the third subdivision, was under Colonel R. F. Graham
. Brigadier-General Gist
had charge of the first subdivision, composed of James Island
and St. Andrew's Parish.
He was at Fort Johnson
, with his staff, in order to be as near as possible to the scene of action, and take part in it, if necessary.
, whose command included the three subdivisions just referred to, had selected the recognized post of danger —Fort Sumter
—for his headquarters during the engagement.
He was in Charleston
, however, at the beginning of the attack; and when, a few minutes later, he hurried off, with the declared intention of going to the fort, the concentration of fire against it was already such as to induce him to change his course and land at Battery Bee, on Sullivan's Island
, where he remained until the fight was over.
Steadily, but slowly and cautiously, did the monitors advance.
Their commanders had been warned that rope obstructions, connected with torpedoes containing heavy charges of powder, were thrown across the channel into which they must steer their way.
It was said by Northern correspondents, and officially repeated by Mr. Seward
, that the Weehawken
, their leading vessel, at the outset ‘fell into these entanglements,’ and that the others, fearing a like mishap, sheered off at once, and did not occupy the position they had been originally ordered to take.
This report is erroneous and needs correction, for, as will be seen, none of the ironclads ever reached the Confederate
line of obstructions.
Another cause must, therefore, be assigned for the slow advance of the Weehawken
, and for the new and safer position selected on that day by the attacking fleet.
The following communication, forwarded, six months later, by General Beauregard
to General Cooper
, relative to the reasons alleged at; Washington
for the failure of this grand expedition against Charleston
, confirms the foregoing statement.
The reader will, no doubt, read it with interest, as a part of the history of this period of the war:
At three o'clock P. M., and as soon as the leading ironclad had apparently come within range, the Commander
, believing that the enemy's object was to run by Sumter
, ordered fire to be opened.
This explains how the first shot on the assaulting squadron came from Fort Moultrie
The vessel fired at kept on her course until she approached to within about fourteen hundred yards of Sumter
, when she opened upon it with two guns, but without any result.
, on the parapet, waited some two or three minutes, and then replied, firing by battery.
and batteries Bee and Beauregard did likewise.
The other monitors steamed up to their respective positions, and the action soon became general.
was evidently the chief object of the attack.
Five turreted ironclads, formed in line of battle, were now pouring a continuous fire upon it, and only sending an occasional shot at Fort Moultrie
and batteries Bee and Beauregard.
It was a grand, an impressive, and at the same time a terrible spectacle.
There seemed to be a hail-storm of shot and shell, ploughing up the waters of the bay, apparently submerging each monitor of the fleet, and shattering the massive walls of the grim fortress that stood sentry over the old city.
About three-quarters of an hour after the report of the first gun was heard the New Ironsides
advanced to within some sevteen hundred yards of Fort Sumter
and opened upon it. This immediately drew on that frigate (Admiral Dupont
's flag-ship) the concentrated fire of Forts Sumter
and of all the batteries.
It was more than she could stand, as became evident
by the hurried manner in which she withdrew out of effective range.
had already left the contest, visibly crippled; and the other monitors, which had ‘slowly passed in front of the fort in an ellipse,’ one of them at a distance of a thousand yards, found themselves exposed to the crushing missiles aimed with deliberate accuracy by our well-trained and intrepid artillerists.
Two of these vessels were now compelled to retire, as the Passaic
and the Ironsides
had previously done.
At five minutes past four o'clock P. M. the double-turreted monitor Keokuk
gallantly advanced, alone, within nine hundred yards of the batteries of Sumter
, and one thousand of those of Moultrie
The fate of her consorts had not deterred her from this attempt, but she soon repented her defiant act; for the guns of our first circle of fire were now directed against her, and she soon abandoned the fight, worsted, and unable to endure the ordeal to which she had been subjected.
thus refers to this incident in his official report:
‘She received our undivided attention, and the effect of our fire was soon apparent.
The wrought-iron bolts from a 7-inch Brooke gun were plainly seen to penetrate her turret and hull, and she retired in forty minutes, riddled and apparently almost disabled.’
After being under the fire of our forts and batteries for two hours and twenty-five minutes, at distances varying from nine hundred to seventeen hundred yards, the whole ironclad fleet finally withdrew, and anchored beyond the range of our guns.
The battle was fought.
The day was ours.
In his report, already referred to, Colonel Rhett
‘The enemy's fire was mostly ricochet, and not very accurate; most of their shot passed over the fort, and several to the right and left.
The greater portion of their shots were from thirteen to fourteen hundred yards distant, which appeared to be the extent of their effective range; some shots were from a greater distance, and did not reach the fort at all. * * * With regard to the conduct of the garrison, it is impossible for me to draw any distinction.
Officers and men were alike animated with the same spirit, and I cannot speak in too high terms of their coolness and gallantry throughout the action.
All acted as though they were engaged in practice, and the minutest particulars of drill and military etiquette were preserved.’
, in his report, says:
‘It is due to the garrison of Fort Moultrie and their soldierly and accomplished commander, Colonel Butler, that I should not close this report without
bearing testimony to the admirable skill, coolness, and deliberation with which they served their guns.
They went—all, men as well as officers—to their work cheerfully and with alacrity, showing that their hearts were in it. There was enthusiasm, but no excitement.
They lost no time in loading their guns, but never fired hastily or without aim.’
Of the other works on Sullivan's Island
engaged with the enemy on that memorable day he says:
‘The reports of Colonel Keitt, Lieutenant-Colonel Simkins, and Captain Sitgreaves give me every reason to believe the garrisons of batteries Bee and Beauregard acquitted themselves equally well, and are equally entitled to the thanks and gratitude of their commander and their country.’
confirmed the above in the following words:
The action was purely of artillery—forts and batteries against the ironclad vessels of the enemy—other means of defence, obstructions and torpedoes, not having come into play.
Fort Sumter was the principal object of the attack, and to that garrison, under its gallant commander, Colonel Alfred Rhett, ably seconded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. A. Yates and Major Ormsby Blanding, and all the officers and men, special credit is due for sustaining the shock, and, with their powerful armament, contributing principally to the repulse.
The garrison of Fort Moultrie, under Colonel William Butler, seconded by Major Baker and the other officers and soldiers, upheld the historic reputation of that fort, and contributed their full share to the result.
The powerful batteries of Battery Bee were commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Simkins, and were served with great effect.
Battery Wagner, under Major C. K. Huger; Cummings's Point Battery, under Lieutenant Lesesne; and Battery Beauregard, under Captain Sitgreaves, all did their duty with devotion and zeal.3
, in his official communication to the War Department, dated Charleston
, May 24th, 1863, recapitulates as follows the salient features of Admiral Dupont
The action lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes; but the chief damage is reported by the enemy to have been done in thirty minutes. The Keokuk did not come nearer than nine hundred yards of Fort Sumter.
She was destroyed.
The New Ironsides could not stand the fire at the range of a mile.
Four of her consorts, monitors, were disabled at the distance of not less than thirteen hundred yards. They had only reached the gorge of the harbor, never within it, and were baffled and driven back before reaching our lines of torpedoes and obstructions, which had been constructed as an ultimate defensive resort, as far as they could be provided.
The heaviest batteries had not been employed; therefore it may be accepted, as shown, that these vaunted
monitor batteries, though formidable engines of war, after all, are not invulnerable or invincible, and may be destroyed or defeated by heavy ordnance, properly placed and skilfully handled; in reality they have not materially altered the military relations of forts and ships.
On this occasion the monitors operated under the most favorable circumstances.
The day was calm; and the water, consequently, was as stable as that of a river.
Their guns were fired with deliberation, doubtless by trained artillerists.
According to the enemy's statements the fleet fired one hundred and fifty-one shots, eight of which were ascribed to the New Ironsides, three to the Keokuk, and but nine to the Passaic, which was so badly damaged.
Not more than thirty-four shots took effect on the walls of Fort Sumter—a broad mark—which, with the number of discharges, suggests that the monitor arrangement, as yet, is not convenient for accuracy or celerity of fire.
Fort Moultrie and other batteries were not touched in a way to be considered, while in return they threw one thousand three hundred and ninetynine shots.
At the same time Fort Sumter discharged eight hundred and ten shots; making the total number of shots fired two thousand two hundred and nine, of which the enemy reports that five hundred and twenty struck the different vessels—a most satisfactory accuracy, when the smallness of the target is considered.
This precision was due, not only to the discipline and practice of the garrisons engaged, but in no slight degree to an invention of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph A. Yates, 1st Regiment South Carolina Artillery, which had been applied to many of our best guns, and which shall, as fast as possible, be arranged for all the heavy ordnance in the Department.
By this felicitous device our guns were easily held trained upon the monitors, although the latter were constantly in movement, and this with but five men at the heaviest pieces.
The reports of the Engineers (herewith) will show the precise extent of the damage inflicted on Fort Sumter.
It is sufficient for me to say, that at the time the enemy quit these waters the work was capable of resisting as formidable an attack as the one we had just foiled.
‘For the casualties of the day (so slight) I must refer you to the reports herewith.
Too much praise cannot be given to the officers and men, in all the works engaged, for their spirit, gallantry, and discipline, which, indeed, I had a right to expect, from the high soldierly condition into which those garrisons had been brought by their officers.
My expectations were fully realized; and the country, as well as the State of South Carolina, may well be proud of the men who first met and vanquished the iron-mailed, terriblyarmed armada, so confidently prepared, and sent forth by the enemy to certain and easy victory.’
This was not the first defeat the enemy had suffered since the opening of the war, but it was undoubtedly one of the most significant, and produced a feeling of most profound depression at the North
The preparations for this naval attack, by means of supposed invulnerable and invincible engines of war, ‘such as the hands of man had never yet put afloat,’ had been made with
no less prodigality than care, and upon them centred the anxious attention of both sections of the country.
It was the conviction of the North
that no opposing force could resist such an expedition.
must inevitably fall, and Charleston
Sharing in this belief, the Federal Government
was convinced that the fears of Mr. Adams
, United States
Minister to England
, to the effect that the current of opinion, in both Houses of Parliament, was then leaning towards ‘recognition of the insurgents,’ would be quieted by such a victory, and the power, authority, and resources of the United States
clearly demonstrated to the world.
Hence the disappointment at the repulse of Admiral Dupont
The Northern press was extremely bitter on the subject; so much so that efforts were made to conceal the extent of the defeat, by speaking of the movement in front of Charleston
as having been a ‘simple reconnoissance
,’ not an attack.
But the facts of the case were soon spread abroad.
It was known that, thirty minutes after the action commenced, Admiral Dupont
became ‘convinced of the utter impracticability of taking the city of Charleston
with the force under his command,’ and that all his officers were of a like opinion.
He had even declared that ‘a renewal of the attack on Charleston
would be attended with disastrous results, involving the loss of this (the South Carolina
The revulsion of feeling in the North
was complete, and exaggerated hope was changed into despondency, openly expressed.
The New York Herald
characterized the repulse of the monitors, ‘though almost bloodless, as one of our most discouraging disasters.’
The Baltimore American
, denounced it as ‘a shameful abandonment of the siege.’
When day dawned on the morning of the 8th, ‘says General Ripley, in his report,’ the enemy's fleet was discovered in the same position as noticed on the previous evening.
About nine o'clock the Keokuk, which had been evidently the most damaged in the action, went down, about three and onehalf miles from Fort Sumter and three-fourths of a mile from Morris Island.
The remainder of the fleet were repairing damages.
Preparations for repulsing a renewed attack were progressed with, in accordance with the instructions of the Commanding General, who visited Fort Sumter on that day. * * * Towards evening of the 9th a raft, apparently for removing torpedoes or
obstructions, was towed inside of the bar. Nothing of importance occurred during the 10th.
‘On the 11th there were indications that the attacking fleet was about to withdraw; and on the 12th, at high-water, the Ironsides crossed the bar and took up her position with the blockading fleet; and the monitors steamed and were towed to the southward, leaving only the sunken Keokuk as a monument of their attack and discomfiture.’
It appeared, on a close examination of Fort Sumter
after the engagement, that the injuries inflicted on it were not of a character to impair its efficiency, though ‘fifty-five missiles—shot, shell, and fragments’5
—as shown by the Engineers
' reports, struck, at divers places, the walls and parapets of the work.
‘The effect of impact of the heavy shot sent by the enemy against the fort * * * was found to have been much less than had been anticipated.’6
The following is an exhibit of the number of rounds fired by the enemy on the 7th of April, and the number of shots received by each ironclad, as copied from United States
, Chief of Staff
This was the real cause—there existed no other—of Admiral Dupont
's failure to carry out his programme against Fort Sumter
and the other defensive works in Charleston Harbor
The ‘torpedoes’ and the ‘rope obstructions,’ so much spoken of, had nothing whatever to do with it; though we readily admit that ‘the enemy's evident and just dread of torpedoes, as evinced in his preparations for their explosion by the Devil
was no insignificant factor in his unwillingness to engage the Confederate batteries at closer quarters.
It only remains to be said, however, that, had all the ironclad vessels of Admiral Dupont
's attacking fleet adopted the course followed by the Keokuk
, and steered nearer to the walls of Sumter
, in all probability they would have shared the ill fate of Commander Rhinds
's double-turreted monitor.
All would have been not merely crippled but destroyed.
The presence of the monitors in the outer harbor after the action, without even a timber guard or fender around them, led General Beauregard
to believe that a fine opportunity was now offered him to test the efficiency of the spar torpedo-boats he had held in readiness for some such purpose.
On the 10th he had a conference on the subject with two of the naval officers then in Charleston
He found them perfectly willing, and even anxious, to carry out his plan.
Accordingly, on the following day he addressed the subjoined letter to Lieutenant Webb
—one of the two officers above referred to—whose gallantry and daring were already established:
But, ‘as ill-luck would have it,’ says General Beauregard
, the very night (April 12th) on which the attack was to have been made some of the monitors were sent to Port Royal
for repairs, and the others to the North Edisto
was still with the blockaders, however, and, as General Beauregard
looked upon her as ‘our most dangerous antagonist,’ he determined to strike her a blow—destroy her, if possible—and so raise the blockade, on that occasion, as to forbid all denial of the fact.
was again ready to execute General Beauregard
's plan, which had assumed much larger proportions than heretofore, when, at the eleventh hour, as it were, a telegram was received from the Navy Department, at Richmond
, ordering back to that city the officers and men of the ‘special expedition’ who had been sent to aid in the defence of Charleston
, and under whose charge—our own ironclad boats joining in—was to lave been placed that hazardous but, at the same time, very tempting enterprise.
did all he could to retain their services, but without success.
He had also, and for the third or fourth time, appealed to the War Department for the completion of the ‘marine torpedoram’ so often referred to in a preceding chapter.
To General Cooper
, on the 22d of April, he wrote as follows:
But all efforts were unavailing.
The War Department, no less than the Navy Department, remained, in appearance, as incredulous as ever.
No reasoning, no inducement, could awaken sufficient interest in either to disturb the ‘masterly inactivity’ which was proverbially the bent of both, from the beginning to the end of the war.