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Fort Sumter. [from the Sunday news, Charleston, S. C., April 17, 1898.]

Report of the bombardment of, as given in the Charleston courier, April 13, 1861, with some account of the beginning of the news Association in the United States.

The first News Association formed in the United States grew out of the demand for news from the war in Mexico, in advance of the regular mails. Never had there been a finer opportunity for the display of newspaper enterprise. It consumed seven days to transmit the mails from New Orleans to New York at the that time (near the close of the year 1846), and Moses Y. Beach, of the New York Sun, conceived the idea of outstripping it and supplying his readers with [102] the latest intelligence from the front a full day in advance of his competitors.

The Charleston Courer was then published by Wm. S. King, a man of rare judgment and journalistic enterprise, and to him Mr. Beach proposed a co-partnership in a pony express that would accomplish what they desired. Mr. King was delighted with the idea, and accepted the proposition at once. Without delay the necessary arrangements were perfected and the line went into effect at once. The first intelligence received in this way was published in Charleston, exclusively, on the 27th of March, 1847. This news, full twenty-four hours in advance of the United States mail, was printed in thousands of extra copies and distributed gratuitously to an eager crowd. From that time until the end of the war the express was operated exclusively by these papers to the great pecuniary advantage of their owners.

The route covered by the pony express was from Mobile to Montgomery, a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, over which the regular mail was carried by stage in thirty-six hours. This ground was covered by contract with J. C. Riddle in twelve hours. A regular system of relays was established, and the riders carrying not less than three or more than five pounds of mail matter rarely ever failed to overtake the previous day's mail. The system was an expensive one, as $750 was paid for every successful trip. Numbers of horses were killed, and one rider lost his life in a manner that has forever remained a mystery.

Leaving Charleston the news was carried to Richmond by the regular route and was sent from that point—then the Southern limit of telegraphic communication—to the Sun in New York by ‘magnetic Telegraph.’

The bombardment of Sumter.

It is interesting in this connection to note the comparison between the way news is handled now and the way it was handled in the sixties. Now no big daily paper would deign to give less than from two to ten pages to the news of a great battle. This would be fully illustrated and embellished with half and quarter page cuts unlimited. When the war broke out the New York Tribune, then the leading ‘hustler’ in America, had a man ready in Charleston to send the first intelligence, and when Fort Sumter was attacked he spread himself to the extent of three columns. This was printed in the third page, under a single column ‘scare head,’ containing twenty-two [103] black lines. While the bombardment was in progress on the 12th of April, he sent seven bulletins of 100 words each by the ‘magnetic telegraph,’ but the Tribune was perfectly satisfied that it had done its best, and the best that could possibly be done, and the public didn't know any better, and was satisfied, too.

But when the battle of Bull Run was fought the Tribune devoted a page to it, and announced it as a ‘Splendid Union Victory!’ which would show that if there was not the enterprise there was at least the talent there to be developed on a later day.

In this connection the account of the attack on Fort Sumter, as reported in the Charteston Courier of the following day, makes interesting reading now, as showing the change that has been wrought both in the ways of newspaperdom and the ways of warfare.

The Courier did not give the story a ‘scare head’ even. A two-line head of comparatively small type was thought sufficient, and no paper was published on Sunday (the day following) to relate the occurrences of Saturday.

Here is the story, word for word, as published Saturday, April 13, 1861, on the second page, next to the editorials:

‘Hostilities commenced. Bombardment of Fort Sumter.’

About 2 o'clock on the afternoon of Thursday, General Beauregard made a demand on Major Anderson for the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter, through his aides, Colonel James Chestnut, Jr., Colonel Chisholm and Captain Lee. Major Anderson replied that such a course would be inconsistent with the duty he owed to his government to perform. The answer was communicated by the general-in-chief to President Davis.

This visit and the refusal of Major Anderson to accede to the demand made by General Beauregard passed from tongue to tongue, and soon the whole city was in possession of the startling intelligence. Rumor, as she is wont to do, shaped the facts to suit her purposes, enlarged their dimensions, and gave them a complexion which they had not worn when fresh from the pure and artless hands of truth.

A half an hour after the return of the orderlies, it was confidently believed that the batteries would open fire at 8 o'clock P. M., and in expectation of seeing the beginning of the conflict, hundreds congregated upon the Battery and the wharves, looking out upon the [104] bay. There they stood, straining their eyes over the dark expanse of water, waiting to see the flash and hear the boom of the first gun. The clock told the hour of 11, and still they gazed and listened; but the eyelids grew weary, and at the noon of the night the larger portion of the disappointed spectators were plodding their way homeward.

About 9 o'clock General Beauregard received a reply from President Davis to the telegram in relation to the surrender of Sumter, by which he was instructed to inform Major Anderson that if he would evacuate the fort he held when his present supply of provisions was exhausted, there would be no appeal to arms. This proposition was borne to Major Anderson by the aides who had delivered the first message, and he refused to accept the condition. The general-in-chief forthwith gave the order that the batteries be opened at half-past 4 o'clock on Friday morning. Major Anderson's reply was decisive of the momentous question, and General Beauregard determined to apply the last argument.

The stout soldier had resolved to make a desperate defence, and the bloody trial of strength must be essayed. The sword must cut asunder the last tie that bound us to a people whom, in spite of wrongs and injustices wantonly inflicted through long years, we have not yet utterly hated and despised. The last expiring spark of affection must be quenched in blood. Some of the most splendid pages in our glorious history must be blurred. A blow must be struck that would make the ears of every Republican fanatic tingle, and whose dreadful effects will be felt by generations yet to come. We must transmit a heritage of rankling and undying hate to our children.

The crisis had arrived and we were fully prepared to meet it. The work that awaited the morrow was of a momentous character, but we had counted the cost, and had resolved to do it or die in the attempt.

At the gray of the morning of Friday the roar of cannon broke upon the ear. The expected sound was answered by thousands. The houses were in a few minutes emptied of their excited occupants, and the living stream poured through all the streets leading to the wharves and battery. On reaching our beautiful promenade we found it lined with ranks of eager spectators, and all the wharves commanding a view of the battle were crowded thickly with human forms. On no gala occasion had we ever seen nearly so large a number [105] of ladies on our battery as graced the breezy walk on this eventful morning. Here they stood with palpitating hearts and palid faces watching the white smoke as it rose in wreaths upon the soft twilight air, and breathing out fervent prayers for their gallant kinfolks at the guns. O! what a conflict raged in these heaving bosoms between love for husbands and sons and love for one common mother whose insulted honor and imperilled safety had called her faithful children to the ensanguined field.

At thirty minutes past 4 o'clock the conflict was opened by the discharge of a shell from the Howitzer Battery on James Island, under the command of Captain Geo. S. James, who followed the riddled palmetto banner on the bloody battlefields of Mexico.

The sending of this harmful message to Major Anderson was followed by a deafening explosion, which was caused by the blowing up of a building which stood in front of the battery.

While the white smoke was melting away into the air another shell, which Lieutenant W. Hampten (Hampton) Gibbes has the honor of having fired, pursued its noiseless way toward the hostile fortification.

The honored missive described its beautiful curve through the balmy air, and, falling within the hostile fortress, scattered its deadly contents in all directions. Fort Moultrie then took up the tale of death, and in a moment the guns from the redoubtable gun battery on Cummings Point, from Captain (John) McCrady's Battery, from Captain James Hamilton's Floating Battery, the enfilade battery and other fortifications spit forth their wrath at the grim fortress, rising so defiantly out of the sea.

Major Anderson received the shot and shell in silence, and some excited lookers on, ignorant of the character of the foe, were fluent with conjectures and predictions that revived the hope fast dying out of their hopeful and tender hearts. But the short lived hope was utterly extinguished when the deepening twilight revealed the Stars and Stripes floating proudly in the breeze. The batteries continued at intervals to belch iron vengeance and still no answer was returned by the foe. About an hour after the booming began, two balls rushed hissing through the air and glanced harmlessly from the stuccoed bricks of Fort Moultrie. The embrasures of the hostile fortress gave forth no sound again till between 6 and 7 o'clock, when, as if wrathful from enforced delay, from casemate and parapet the United States officer poured a storm of iron hail upon Fort Moultrie, Steven's Iron Battery and the Floating Battery. The broadside [106] was returned with spirit by the gallant gunners at the important posts.

The firing now began in good earnest. The curling, white smoke hung above the angry pieces of friend and foe, and the jarring boom rolled at regular intervals upon the anxious ear. The atmosphere was charged with the smell of villanous saltpetre, and, as if in sympathy with the melancholy scene, the sky was covered with heavy clouds and everything wore a sober aspect.

A boat bearing dispatches to General Beauregard from Morris Island reached the city about 9 o'clock, reported that all the batteries were working admirably, that no one was injured and that the men were wild with enthusiasm.

A short time after that happy news was received the schooner Petrel from the Hog Island Channel, reported that the shot from Steven's Iron Battery had told upon the walls of Fort Sumter, and also that Fort Moultrie had sustained no damage.

About half-past 9 o'clock Captain R. S. Parker reported from Sullivan's Island to Mount Pleasant that everything was in fine condition at Fort Moultrie and that the soldiers had escaped unhurt.

The same dispatch stated that the embrasures of the Floating Battery were undamaged by the shock of the shot, and though that formidable structure had been struck eleven times, the balls had not started a single bolt. Anderson had concentrated his fire upon the Floating Battery and the Dahlgren Battery under command of Lieutenant Hamilton.

The following cheering tidings were brought to the city by Colonel Edmund Yates, acting lieutenant to Dozier, of the Confederate States Navy, from Fort Johnson: Stevens's Battery and the Floating Battery are doing important service. Stevens's Battery has made considerable progress in breaching the south and southwest walls of Fort Sumter. The northwest wall is suffering from the well aimed fire of the Floating Battery, whose shot have dismantled several of the guns on the parapet and made it impossible to use the remaining ones. The Howitzer Battery, connected with the impregnable gun battery at Cummings Point, is managed with consumate skill and terrible effect.

Eleven O'clock.—A messenger from Morris Island brings the glorious news that the shot glance from the iron covered battery at Cummings Point like marbles thrown by a child on the back of a turtle. The upper portion of the southwest wall of Fort Sumter [107] shows plainly the effect of the terrible cannonade from the formidable product of the C. H. Stevens's patriotism and ingenuity.

A half hour later the gladsome tidings came that Stevens's Battery was fast damaging the southwest wall of Sumter.

Henry Buist is doing gallant service with the Palmetto Guards, delighting all hearts by assuring us in the city that everything was going on well at the Iron Battery, which is still proof against 68pound-ers, and the men in good spirits.

A boat reached the city from the Floating Battery about half-past 12 o'clock and reported that a shot from Fort Sumter penetrated the top, or shed, of the structure, and three shots struck the sand bags in the rear of the battery.

Another messenger, who arrived a short time after the above was bulletined, confirms the cheerful news.

Twelve o'clock.—We have just learned by an arrival from Cummings Point that the batteries there are doing good service—Stevens's Battery very successful. Not a single casualty has happened. The troops are in the best spirits. Two of the guns at Fort Sumter appear to be disabled. Considerable damage has been done to the roofs of the officers' quarters.

At 1 o'clock the following was received from Morris Island: Two guns in Stevens's Battery temporarily disabled; Anderson's fire having injured the doors of the embrasures. The damage will be repaired speedily. It is thought that Fort Sumter will be breached in two hours: Three steam vessels of war are seen off the Bar, one of them supposed to be the Harriet Lane.

Captain R. S. Parker reached the city from Fort Moultrie at half-past 2 o'clock and makes the following report:

Captain Parker visited Fort Moultrie and the Enfilading Battery nearby, and found all well and in high spirits. He left the Mortar Battery, Lieutenant Hollinquist, at ten minutes past 2. The soldiers stationed there are giving a good account of themselves. The Floating Battery has been struck eighteen times and received no material injury.

The venerable Edmund Ruffin, who, as soon as it was known a battle was inevitable, hastened over to Morris Island, and was elected a member of the Palmetto Guards, fired the first gun from Stevens's Battery. All honor to the chivalric Virginian! May he live many years to wear the fadeless wreath that honor placed upon his brow on our glorious Friday.

Another noble son of the Old Dominion, who rebukingly reminds [108] her of her past glory, was appointed on General Beauregard's staff on Thursday, bore dispatches to the general in command from Brigadier-General James Simons, in command of Morris Island, during the thickest of the fight, and in the face of a murderous fire from Fort Sumter. Colonel Roger A. Pryor, the eloquent young Virginian, in the execution of that dangerous commission, passed within speaking distance of the angry and hostile fortress.

Despite the fierce and concentrated fire from Fort Sumter, the rival fortification on Sullivan's Island received but slight damage. Its merlons stood unmoved, and all this morning in as good a condition as they were before their strength was tested by the rude shocks of the shot.

The Floating Battery came out of the iron storm without losing a plate of its iron cover, or a splinter of its pine.

A brisk fire was kept up by all the batteries until about 7 o'clock in the evening, after which hour the guns boomed at regular intervals of twenty minutes.

All the batteries on Morris Island, bearing upon the channel, kept up a steady fire for some time at the dawn of day. It is reported that they threw their shot into the Harriet Lane, and that steamer, having advanced as far as the renowned Star of the West Battery, was crippled by a well-aimed shot, after which she deemed it prudent to give up the attempt, and turned her sharp bow to the sea.

Stevens” Iron Battery played a conspicuous and important part in the brilliant and, as far as our men are concerned, bloodless conflict, which has placed the 12th of April, 1861, among the memorable days. The calibre of its guns, its nearness to Fort Sumter, its perfect impenetrability, the coolness and skill of its gallant gunners, made this fortification one of the most formidable of Major Anderson's terrible opponents. The effect of its Dahlgrens and sixtyfour-pounders was distinctly visible at an early stage of the conflict. Clouds of mortar and brick dust rose from the southwestern walls of the fort, as the shot hissed on their errands of death. Shot after shot told with terrible effect upon the strong wall, and at about 3 o'clock Major Anderson ceased to return this murderous fire. In the course of the afternoon the joyful tidings that a breach had been effected in that portion of the fortifications was borne to the city.

We dare not close this brief and hurried narrative of the first engagement between the United States and the Confederate States, [109] without returning thanks to Almighty God for the great success that has thus far crowned our arms, and for the extraordinary preservation of our soldiers from casualty and death. In the fifteen hours of almost incessant firing, our enemy one of the most experienced and skilful of artillerists, no injury has been sustained by a single one of our gallant soldiers.

The result of the conflict strengthens and confirms our faith in the justness of the cause for whose achievement we have suffered obloquy and dared perils of vast magnitude. At the outset of the struggle we invoked the sanction and aid of that God whom we serve, and his hand has guided and defended us all through the momentous conflict. His favor was most signally, we almost said miraculously, manifested on this eventful day. We call the roll of those engaged in the battle, and each soldier is here to answer to his name. No tombstone will throw its shadow upon that bright, triumphant day. If so it seemeth good in the eyes of Him in whose hands are the issues of life, we fervently pray that our brave sons may pass unharmed through the perils of the day now dawning.

The Charleston Mercury of the same day published an account of about the same length. But on the following Monday both papers published an exhaustive review of the affair from start to finish, with accounts of the bombardment from different points of view and a superfluity of personal mention. It is interesting to note that the editorial ‘we’ was used throughout the reports in both papers, and that both interjected editorial opinions, as in the last paragraph of the Courier's report. To-day a reporter who would be guilty of writing ‘we’ would be advised to enlist.

But short as it was the Courier's report told the story to thousands waiting anxiously throughout the State, and had about the same effect that a lighted torch would have on a powder magazine.

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