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Full text of "The siege of Charleston and the operations on the south Atlantic coast in the war amoung the states"

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Formerly Major-General C. S. A. 



Copyright, 1911, by 
The Neale Publishing Company 



The following brief historical study is a fragment 
of a work which was intended to cover the opera 
tions against Charleston from their beginning to 
their consummation. The author, General Samuel 
Jones, late of the Army of the Confederate States, 
died before its completion and before he had reached 
the consideration of his own services in the defense 
of Charleston. The work is published from an un 
finished manuscript left among the author s papers, 
and after the lapse of a number of years. It is 
offered now in the belief that it will be found of value 
and interest to the student of military history. 

General Samuel Jones was born December 17, 
1819, at Woodfield, the plantation home of his 
parents, in Powhatan County, Virginia. His father, 
Samuel Jones, was a nephew and ward of Governor 
William Giles, of Virginia, under whose care he was 
brought up, and a graduate of Princeton College. 
General Jones mother was Ann Moseley, daughter 
of Mr. Edward Moseley, of Powhatan County. 
General Jones was appointed a cadet at West Point 
Military Academy from Virginia July i, 1837, and 
was graduated and promoted to brevet second lieu 
tenant July i, 1841, and to be second lieutenant in 



the Second Artillery September 28, 1841. His first 
duty was on the Maine frontier, at Houlton, pending 
the Disputed Territory controversy. He was on 
duty at West Point, 1846-51, as assistant professor 
of mathematics and assistant instructor in artillery 
and infantry tactics. He was appointed assistant to 
the Judge Advocate of the Army at Washington and 
continued in the discharge of the duties of his posi 
tion until he resigned his commission in the Army of 
the United States April 27, 1861. On May i, 1861, 
he was made Major of Artillery in the military 
force of Virginia and later promoted to be Colonel. 
On July 22, 1861, he was made Chief of Artillery 
and Ordnance of the Army of Northern Virginia. 
He served on the staff of General Beauregard at the 
first battle of Manassas, and was promoted to be 
Brigadier General July 22, 1861, and appointed to 
the command of the brigade of General Bartow, 
which had lost its gallant commander on the field of 
Manassas. (The brigade consisted of the Seventh, 
Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Georgia, and the Fourth 
Kentucky Regiments of Infantry and Alberto s Artil 
lery.) On January 22, 1862, General Jones was 
appointed to the command of the department of 
which Pensacola was the headquarters. He was pro 
moted to be Major General May 10, 1862, and on 
September 23, 1862, was assigned to the command 
of the Department of East Tennessee. From April 
to October, 1864, he was in command of the Depart 
ment of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, and 
from January to May, 1865, of the Department of 
Florida and South Georgia. Here he made one of 


the last stands of the Confederacy, and held his 
position until the surrender at Appomattox. 

General Jones was an accomplished soldier and 
gentleman, proficient in the sciences which entered 
into his military education, ardently attached to his 
profession of arms, and true to its highest ideals 
of conduct. In private life he possessed in a high 
degree the qualities which win and keep affection and 


September 2, 1911. 



Ordinance of Secession South Carolina Secedes Fort 
Moultrie dismantled Major Anderson transfers 
command to Fort Sumter South Carolina takes 
possession of Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney 
Star of the West fired on Dissensions in Presi 
dent s Cabinet Virginian Peace Conferences Inau 
guration of Lincoln as President Shall Sumter 
be evacuated? 


Sumter to be reinforced Batteries erected on Morris 
and Sullivan Islands General Beauregard assigned 
to command in Charleston Charleston s defenses 
strengthened Fort Sumter prepares for assault 
Beauregard demands surrender of Sumter Refused 
Sumter fired on War fleet unable to succor 
Anderson Evacuation of Sumter. 


War in earnest South Atlantic Coast invested Ad 
miral DuPont in command Fleet scattered Hilton 
Head s defenses Forts Beauregard and Walker at 
tacked Masterly evolutions of fleet Colonel Wag 
ner disabled Fort Walker taken Fort Beauregard 
evacuated Sherman occupies Hilton Head. 




Port Royal occupied Panic of inhabitants Looting 
Beaufort Tybee Island Gunboat reconnoissance of 
South Carolina waters General Lee in command of 
military department South Carolina s military force 
Want of artillery Scarcity of arms. 


Confederate defense centered on Charleston Military 
districts Sherman s broad opportunities Capture 
of Savannah planned Delays Fernandina occu 
pied Jacksonville and St. Augustine abandoned 
Reduction of Fort Pulaski planned Difficulties of 
approval Fort Pulaski Siege of Pulaski Reduc 
tion and surrender. 


Blockade Lack of Confederate resources Inferiority 
of equipment Charleston s strategic value Invest 
ment of Charleston Charleston and Savannah Rail 
road Denfenses of railroad James Island Unsuc 
cessful assault Vigor of Confederate fire Con 
federate position again assaulted Engagement at 
Secessionville Federal reports of action Federal 
Republic Within the Confederate lines. 


Operations on the South Atlantic Coast General 
Hunter s policy Expedition up the St. John s 
Capture of St. John s Bluff General Hunter is suc 
ceeded by Major General Ormesby Mitchell Ex 
pedition toward Pocotaligo Engagement at Framp- 
ton s plantation and Pocotaligo Negro troops 
General Saxton s activities Contraband. 




Strengthening the blockade Palmetto State and Chicora 
Blockading fleet attacked Result of engagement 
Federal reports Blockade raised Foreign con 
sul s report Diversity of statements Capture of 
the Isaac Smith. 


The Merrimac The monitors Fort McAlister Advance 
on Charleston Fort Sumter again assailed Iron 
clads in action Result of Confederate fire to iron 
clads Report of action Confederate loss Review 
of the engagement Lincoln s dispatch Feeling in 
the North Investment of Charleston postponed. 


Federal lack of co-operation Army and navy at odds 
Hunter and DuPont relieved of commands Gill- 
more in command of army Dahlgren commands 
navy Topography of Charleston harbor and city 
Gillmore s plan of operations Strength of the 
defense Attack on Morris Island Success of move 
ment Confederate loss Assault of Battery Wag 
ner Repulse Loss on both sides. 


Battery Wagner s armament increased Its importance 
in the defense of Charleston Attack on Federal 
position Success Wagner again bombarded Whole 
Confederate defenses engaged Terrific fire Scenes 
in Charleston Suffering of the besieged Bayonet 
assault Repulse Confederate loss Federal loss 
Bombardment continues. 



Assault of Wagner abandoned Its reduction by siege 
planned Fort Sumter again bombarded Siege 
operations Federal defenses Death of Captain 
Wampler Sumter silenced The "Swamp Angel" 
Surrender of Sumter and Morris Island demanded 
Charleston bombarded. 


Resumption of operations against Wagner Siege lines 
tightened Losses and sick list enormous North 
clamors for reduction of Charleston Night attack 
on Wagner Repulse Wagner bombarded Horrors 
of the siege Evacuation of Morris Island Con 
federate loss. 


Dahlgren demands surrender o f Fort Sumter Fort 
Moultrie engaged Assault of Fort Sumter Disas 
trous result Army and navy mutually jealous 
Obstacles in approach to Charleston Can the harbor 
be entered? Second bombardment of Fort Sumter 
Sumter still resists What now? Operations 
against Charleston abandoned. 



Ordinance of Secession South Carolina Secedes Fort Moul- 
trie dismantled Major Anderson transfers command to Fort 
Sumter South Carolina takes possession of Fort Moul- 
trie and Castle Pinckney Star of the West fired on 
Dissensions in President s Cabinet Virginian Peace Con 
ferences Inauguration of Lincoln as President Shall 
Sumter be evacuated? 

When, on the 2Oth of December, 1860, the repre 
sentatives of the people of South Carolina, in con 
vention assembled, passed by a unanimous vote an 
Ordinance of Secession dissolving the connection of 
that State with the Government of the United States, 
Charleston which for a long time had been one of 
the most important seaports on the Atlantic coast 
of America, became a point of increased interest 
and solicitude both in this country and abroad. 

Of the constitutional questions involved in the act 
of secession it is no part of the writer s purpose to 
treat. He proposes to give with the circumstances 
leading to them only a connected narrative of the 
principal military and naval operations against 
Charleston and on the South Atlantic coast which 


followed the secession of South Carolina and ten 
other Southern States. 

Immediately on the withdrawal of South Carolina 
from the Union, indeed for many weeks before the 
passage of the Ordinance of Secession, the condi 
tion of the military defenses of Charleston harbor 
became most naturally a question of grave import 
ance. At that time Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan s 
Island, was the only one of the forts constructed for 
the defense of the harbor that was occupied by 
United States troops. It was garrisoned by Com 
panies E and H of First Regiment United States 
Artillery, Major Robert Anderson, of that regiment, 
commanding, the aggregate force present being less 
than eighty men. 

When Congress met in December it was generally 
understood that the convention of the people of 
South Carolina which had been called to meet at 
Columbia on the iyth would surely and speedily 
pass an Ordinance of Secession. In anticipation of 
that event the representatives in Congress from that 
State called upon the President, Mr. Buchanan, and 
assured him that their State would in no way molest 
the forts until time and opportunity could be had 
for the consideration and amicable adjustment of 
all questions growing out of the altered relations 
between the State and general government, pro 
vided the latter would not in the meantime send 
reinforcements to, or change the military status in, 
the harbor of Charleston. The President declined 
to give any formal pledge in regard to the course 
he would pursue, but it is claimed, on what authority 


need not be stated here, that he approved of the 
suggestions, and that an informal understanding was 
arrived at to the effect that the military status in 
Charleston harbor should remain unchanged pend 
ing negotiations for the amicable adjustment of all 
questions relating to public property, including the 
forts within the limits of the State. And to the end 
that there might be no needless delay in the settle 
ment of those important questions, one of the first 
acts of the convention after passing the Ordinance 
of Secession was to depute Mr. Robert W. Barn- 
well, Mr. James H. Adams, and Hon. James L. 
Orr, eminent citizens of the State, to proceed to the 
city of Washington "to treat with the Government 
of the United States for the delivery of the forts, 
magazines, lighthouses, and other real estate, with 
their appurtenances, within the limits of South Caro 
lina, and also for an apportionment of the public 
debt, and for a division of all other property held 
by the Government of the United States, as agents 
of the Confederated States, of which South Caro 
lina was recently a member; and generally to nego 
tiate as to all other measures and arrangements 
proper to be made and adopted in the existing rela 
tion of the parties, and for the continuance of peace 
and amity between this Commonwealth and the Gov 
ernment at Washington." 

On the nth of December, a few days after the 
interview between the President and the represen 
tatives of South Carolina, instructions were sent 
from the War Department to Major Anderson, in 
accordance with the understanding claimed to have 


been agreed on. They were in substance that he 
should carefully avoid every act which would need 
lessly tend to provoke aggression, and to that end 
he was instructed, not without evident and imminent 
necessity to occupy any position which could be con 
strued into the assumption of a hostile attitude. At 
the same time he was ordered to hold possession of 
the forts in the harbor, and if attacked "to defend 
himself to the last extremity," or, as subsequently 
modified, "as long as any reasonable hope remained 
of saving the fort." His force was obviously too 
small to occupy more than one of the three forts in 
the harbor, but an attack on, or attempt to take pos 
session of, any one he should regard as an act of 
hostility, and in that event he was authorized to 
occupy that one of the forts which in his judgment 
could be most easily defended. He was further 
authorized to take this precautionary measure when 
ever he might have tangible evidence of a design on 
the part of the authorities of South Carolina to pro 
ceed to any hostile act. 

Those instructions are such as are not infrequently 
given by a military superior to an inferior, when 
the former has not, or does not choose to express, a 
clear and distinct purpose as to what is to be done 
by the latter. In such cases the instructions are so 
worded as in any event to shield the one who gives, 
and throw the responsibility of action on the one 
who has to execute them. 

It was as well known at the War Department as 
to Major Anderson, that Fort Sumter could at that 
time be more easily and securely held than could 


Fort Moultrie. If Major Anderson had remained 
at Moultrie, the weaker post, and had he been at 
tacked, and his post captured, he would have been 
liable to censure under his instructions. Under the 
same instructions, if he abandoned the weaker and 
occupied the stronger fort, he thereby became open 
to censure for taking a "position which could be con 
strued into the assumption of a hostile attitude." 

Major Anderson was in the embarrassing posi 
tion which besets a soldier "when the bugle gives an 
uncertain sound." He ardently desired to avoid, if 
possible, a hostile collision, and he believed or 
apprehended that a collision would occur if he re 
mained at Fort Moultrie. He was a well trained 
and tried soldier, and an accomplished gentleman, 
with a high and scrupulous sense of honor. He 
acted as might have been expected of such an officer 
so circumstanced. 

On the morning of the 2yth of December Charles 
ton and Washington and the whole country were 
startled by the announcement that during the preced 
ing night Major Anderson had dismantled Fort 
Moultrie, spiked the guns, burned the carriages, cut 
down the flagstaff, and transferred his little com 
mand to Fort Sumter. An explanation of his course 
was immediately demanded by the Secretary of War, 
and as promptly given. Anderson replied that he 
had reason to believe the authorities of South Caro 
lina designed to proceed to a hostile act. He aban 
doned Fort Moultrie because he was certain that if 
attacked, his garrison would be sacrificed and the 
command of the harbor lost. He had spiked his 


guns and burned their carriages to prevent their 
being used against himself; that if attacked, his gar 
rison would never have surrendered without a fight; 
and he had felt it to be his solemn duty to remove 
his command from a fort which he could not 
probably hold longer than forty-eight or sixty hours, 
to one in which his power of resistance was greatly 
increased. And he might have added, if it would 
have been respectful, that he could hold Sumter long 
enough to give the Administration time to decide 
on the course it would pursue in the critical emer 
gency and assume the responsibility which properly 
belonged to it instead of devolving it on one of its 
subordinate officers. 

This act of Major Anderson produced serious 
complications both in the political and military 
States. The government of South Carolina, regard 
ing it as a violation of the pledge, expressed or 
implied, to maintain the status quo, immediately took 
possession of Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney 
and other public property. And the political excite 
ment throughout the country was greatly heightened. 

As yet South Carolina was the only State which 
had seceded, and it was by no means certain that 
she would not continue to be alone in that move 
ment. The course of Major Anderson and the atti 
tude assumed by the Government in Washington 
went far toward precipitating secession in other 
States. Its effect in Georgia was quickly manifested. 
There was a fort Pulaski at the entrance to the 
Savannah River which was not garrisoned, but in 
the care of an ordnance sergeant. What more prob- 


able, judging by what had just occurred in Charles 
ton harbor, than that the Government of the United 
States would speedily throw a garrison into Fort 
Pulaski and thus close the entrance from the sea to 
Savannah in the event of the secession of Georgia? 
Excitement ran high in the State, especially in Savan 
nah. Governor Brown of that State had in the 
previous November called a convention of the people 
of the State to meet on the i6th of January, but 
long before the convention could meet the fort which 
commanded the approach to the chief city of the 
State would be occupied by United States troops 
unless step? were taken to prevent it. Assurances 
came from trusted representatives in Washington 
that the United States Government would resort to 
coercive measures, and produced the profoundest 
sensation. Notwithstanding that the State was still 
in the Union and its ultimate secession extremely 
doubtful, leading citizens of Savannah had resolved 
to seize Fort Pulaski without waiting for the as 
sembling of the convention and its doubtful action, 
or for the sanction of the Executive of the State. 
Somewhat more moderate counsel, however, pre 
vailed, and it was agreed to await the action of the 
Governor, who, on an urgent request from the 
Mayor of Savannah, hastened to that city, where he 
arrived on the evening of January 2. Late in the 
night, and after mature deliberation, he ordered Col 
onel Alexander R. Lawton, commanding the First 
Georgia Volunteers, to take possession of Fort 
Pulaski, "and to hold it against all persons, to be 


abandoned only under orders from me or under 
compulsion by an overpowering hostile force. " : 

The next day Colonel Lawton, with detachments 
of the Chatham Artillery (Captain Claibourne), the 
Savannah Volunteer Guard (Captain Scrivin), and 
the Oglethorp Light Infantry (Captain Bartow), 2 
numbering about one hundred and twenty-five men, 
took formal possession of the fort without opposi 
tion, in the name of the State of Georgia. 

Fuel was added to the fire by the sailing from 
New York on January 5, under instructions from 
the Headquarters of the Army, of the steamer Star 
of the West, with two hundred men, Lieutenant 
Charles R. Wood, Ninth United States Infantry, 
commanding, to reinforce and provision Fort 
Sumter. The Star of the West arrived off the bar 
of Charleston harbor late in the night of the 8th, 
and early in the morning crossed the bar and pro 
ceeded up the main channel toward Sumter, the 
Union ensign flying from the flagstaff. She was 
warned off by shots fired across her bow from a 
battery at Cumming s Point, but, disregarding the 
warning, she ran up a large United States flag at 
her fore and proceeded on her course, when the fire 
was directed at her, three shots striking her. The 
vessel then came about and steamed away, to New 

The Governor s order was in writing, and is of interest as 
a part of the history of the terms. See Appendix. 
Killed at first battle of Manassas. 


The Cabinet was hopelessly divided in opinion. 
The Secretary of State had resigned because the 
President would not send reinforcements to Charles 
ton, The Secretary of War, regarding Major An 
derson s movement as a breach of faith with the 
representatives of South Carolina, resigned because 
the President would not withdraw the troops from 
Fort Sumter and from the harbor of Charleston. 
Startling events followed one another rapidly. In 
quick succession the States of Mississippi, Florida, 
Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana seceded from the 
Union. A congress of representatives of those States 
assembled at Montgomery, Ala., on February 4 and 
inaugurated a new government, giving to it the name 
of "The Confederate States of America," which 
was soon joined by other Southern States. 

It is difficult at this day to conceive the excitement 
and anxiety that pervaded Washington city during 
that eventful winter and spring. The lobbies of 
the hotels and of the Capitol and the galleries of 
the two houses of Congress were thronged with 
eager crowds discussing, or listening to the discus 
sions of, the all-absorbing question of the day. As 
State after State seceded, and it was known that its 
representatives in Congress would rise in their places 
to announce the fact and withdraw, anxious crowds 
poured into the Capitol, and long before the hour 
of meeting of the houses the galleries were packed 
to the extent that it was difficult to escape from them 
before the adjournment, which was often far into 
the night. 

To no class in the country were the passing events 


of more absorbing and vital interest than to the 
officers of the Army and Navy who were natives 
and citizens of the Southern States. They could but 
watch with feverish anxiety the march of events 
which they were powerless to influence, though so 
nearly concerned in, and which were hastening 
rapidly and inevitably to a result which most of them 
unquestionably deeply deplored. Many of them, 
as their States seceded, resigned their commissions 
and returned to their homes in the South. Their 
resignations were accepted, and they left the old 
service and joined the new, unmolested by the Fede 
ral authorities, no one at that day openly impugning 
their honor and integrity for pursuing the path to 
which, in their judgment, duty and honor prompted. 

Probably the preponderance of opinion at the 
time was that a disruption of the Union was inevi 
table and would be effected without war when a 
Southern and Northern republic would exist side 
by side for a time, but a brief time; that when party 
rancor which then raged so fiercely subsided and it 
should become obvious that the mutual interests of 
the different sections were more potent than the 
questions which unhappily antagonized and divided 
them the two would come together again in a new 
and more satisfactory union under one government 
and one flag. 

In the meantime good and patriotic men in all 
sections of the country, statesmen in the better sense 
of the term, as distinct from mere party politicians, 
were throwing oil on the troubled waters and striv 
ing with all their might to bring about an amicable 


adjustment of all questions in dispute, to avert, if 
possible, the calamities of war, which the course of 
fanatics and party politicians in both sections, who 
prized party ascendancy above the public weal, had 
for years tended to bring upon the country. 

To this end a Peace Conference assembled in 
Washington on February 4. It originated in the 
General Assembly of Virginia, which, deprecating 
secession, invited the other States to send commis 
sioners to meet five of her own most eminent citizens, 
"to consider, and, if practicable, agree upon some 
suitable adjustment of the questions which were then 
rending the Union asunder." Twenty-one States- 
seven slave-holding and fourteen non-slave-holding 
were represented. It was presided over by the 
venerable Ex-President John Tyler, and contained 
many eminent and patriotic citizens of the States 
represented. A plan of adjustment was agreed upon, 
which it was earnestly hoped would prove satisfac 
tory to all concerned. It was reported in both houses 
of Congress, but the withdrawal from that body of 
the representatives of six States had left one party 
largely in the ascendancy, and the plan proposed by 
the Peace Conference was rejected, not without 
manifestations of contempt. 

President Buchanan succeeded in tiding over the 
few remaining days of his administration without 
bringing on a war between the States. 

One of his last acts was to intimate indirectly 
through a distinguished Senator Mr. Hunter of 
Virginia, to Mr. Davis, President of the Southern 
Confederacy that he would be pleased to receive 


in Washington a commissioner or commissioners 
from the Confederate Government, and would lay 
before the Senate any communication that might be 
made through them. On this invitation Mr. Craw 
ford of Georgia, Mr. Forsyth of Alabama, and Mr. 
Roman of Louisiana were appointed special com 
missioners to represent the Confederate States in 

On the 4th of March, just one month after the 
Government of the Confederate States had been 
established and put in operation, Mr. Lincoln was 
inaugurated as President of the United States. All 
eyes were eagerly directed to the new President with 
the most anxious solicitude, as to the course he would 
pursue under the complicated and embarrassing cir 
cumstances that surrounded him. 

The representatives of the Confederacy were not 
formally and officially received by the President, but 
in a few days after the inauguration they were, 
through the agency of two Justices of the Supreme 
Court, Justices Nelson of New York and Campbell 
of Alabama, in communication with Mr. Seward 
and other members of President Lincoln s Cabinet. 

The all-important question, What should be the 
relations between the United States and the Con 
federated States? seemed to depend on the course 
which the former would pursue in regard to Fort 
Sumter. If the troops were withdrawn and amicable 
relations maintained, it was believed that the eight 
remaining slave-holding States would remain in the 
Union, and time and the efforts of lovers of the 
Union throughout the whole country might develop 


some satisfactory solution of the political conflict. 
If, however, an attempt were made to throw rein 
forcements and provisions into Sumter, thus mani 
festing a purpose to coerce the States which had 
seceded, a hostile collision would ensue, and some 
perhaps all of the remaining slave-holding States 
would secede and join the Southern Confederacy. 
Unquestionably a vast majority of intelligent men 
in the Southern States believed, without the shadow 
of a doubt, that any and every State of the Union 
possessed an inherent and reserved right to secede 
for cause, and that it rested with a convention of the 
people of the State, duly convened, to decide abso 
lutely when a cause had arisen. Probably a ma 
jority of the same people believed that no sufficient, 
cause had at that time arisen. An attempt, however, 
to coerce into the Union a State which had seceded, 
thus converting a union of consent into one of force, 
would be generally regarded as so radical and dan 
gerous an infringement of the rights of the States 
as not only to justify, but to demand, secession as 
the only adequate mode and measure of redress. 

Eminent gentlemen high in official position, zeal 
ous in devotion to the Union, whose opinions and 
counsel were entitled to weight, strongly advised the 
evacuation of Fort Sumter. Among them were Lieu 
tenant- General Scott, General-in-Chief of the Army, 
and General Totten, Chief of Engineers. 

The President, in great doubt and perplexity as 
to the best course to pursue in regard to Fort Sum 
ter, addressed the following brief note to the Secre 
tary of War: 


EXECUTIVE MANSION, March 15, 1861. 

Dear Sir: Assuming it to be possible to now provision Fort 
Sumter, under all the circumstances is it wise to attempt it? 
Please give me your opinion in writing on this question. 
Your obedient servant, 


The Secretary replied that he had been most re 
luctantly forced to the conclusion that it would be 
unwise to make such an attempt. His opinion was 
based on those of the army officers who had ex 
pressed themselves on the subject, including the 
General-in-Chief of the Army, the Chief of Engi 
neers, and all of the officers then within Fort Sumter, 
whose written opinions the Secretary embodied in 
his answer. The plan proposed by Mr. G. V. Fox, 
late of the navy, would, he said, be entitled to his 
favorable consideration if he "did not believe that 
the attempt to carry it into effect would initiate a 
bloody and protracted conflict. No practical benefit 
will result to the country or the Government by 
accepting the proposal alluded to, and I am there 
fore of the opinion that the cause of humanity and 
the highest obligation to the public interest would 
be best promoted by adopting the counsels of those 
brainy and experienced men whose suggestions I 
have laid before you." 

General Scott, who six weeks previously had 
strenuously opposed the evacuation of Fort Sumter 
and had urged that it be reinforced, had under the 
altered aspect of affairs changed his opinion. To 
attempt it now would, in his opinion, require, in 


addition to the means already at command, a fleet 
of war vessels, which could not be assembled in 
less than four months, five thousand additional 
regular troops, and twenty thousand volunteers. To 
organize such a force, even if undertaken imme 
diately and without the sanction of Congress, 
which was not then in session, could not in his 
opinion be done in less than six or eight months. 
u As a practical military question," he said, "the time 
for succoring Fort Sumter, with any means at hand, 
had passed away nearly a month ago. Since then 
a surrender under assault or from starvation has 
been merely a question of time." The abandon 
ment of the fort in a few weeks he regarded as a 
sure necessity, and since it must be done "the sooner, 
the more graceful on the part of the government." 
He went further, and advised the abandonment of 
Fort Pickens, at the entrance to the harbor of Pen- 
sacola; and, in addition to the military reasons as 
signed for this course, added the further reason that 
"our Southern friends are clear that the evacuation 
of both the forts would instantly soothe and give 
confidence to the eight remaining slave-holding States 
and render their cordial adherence to this Union 

The same views were most forcibly presented by 
General Totten, Chief of Engineers, in a memo 
randum read by him before the President and Cabi 
net on March 15 in the presence of General Scott, 
Commander Stringham, and Mr. Fox. And again 
on April 3 General Totten, impelled by a profound 
sense of duty and "under the strongest convictions 


on some military questions upon which great political 
events seem about to turn," urged the same views in 
regard to both Forts Sumter and Pickens in a letter 
to the Secretary of War, in which he said: "In ad 
dition to what I have heretofore said as to the 
impracticability of efficiently re-enforcing and sup 
plying this fort [Sumter], I will now say only that 
if the fort was fitted with men and munitions it could 
hold out but a short time. It would be obliged to 
surrender with loss of life, for it would be bravely 
and obstinately defended, and the greater the crowd 
within, the greater the proportionate loss. This issue 
can be averted only by sending a large army and 
navy to capture all the surrounding forts and bat 
teries, and to assemble and apply these there is now 
no time. If we do not evacuate Fort Sumter it will 
be wrested from us by force." He added in con 
clusion: "Having no personal ambition or party 
feeling to lead or mislead me to conclusions, I have 
maturely studied the subject as a soldier bound to 
give all his faculties to his country, which may God 
preserve in peace." 

The Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, the popular leader 
of a large party whose ardent love for the Union 
no one could question, had introduced in the Senate 
a resolution advising the withdrawal of the troops 
from all forts within the Southern Confederacy, 
except those at Key West and the Dry Tortugas; 
and urged its passage in an earnest speech. Deeply 
as he deplored the establishment of the Southern 
Confederacy, its existence de facto he declared could 
not be denied, and it was entitled to the forts within 


its limits. He was the leader of a party, and spoke 
by authority. "I proclaim boldly/ he said, "the 
policy of those with whom I act. We are for 

The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, himself im 
pressed upon the President and commissioners of 
the Southern Confederacy, through the agency of 
Justices Campbell and Nelson of the Supreme Court, 
that no attempt would be made by the United States 
Government to reinforce or revictual Fort Sumter, 
and that the then existing military status in Charles 
ton harbor should not be changed in any way preju 
dicial to the Southern Confederacy. He authorized 
Justice Campbell to write, as he did, to Mr. Davis, 
that before the receipt of his letter he (Mr. Davis) 
would have learned by telegraph that the order for 
the evacaution of Fort Sumter had been given. On 
April 7, no such order having yet been given, and 
certain military and naval preparations which it was 
well known the United States Government was mak 
ing having caused much feverish apprehension, Jus 
tice Campbell addressed a letter to Mr. Seward, 
asking if the assurances the latter had given him 
were well or ill-founded, to which Mr. Seward re 
plied: "Faith as to Sumter fully kept wait and see." 
When that last assurance was given Lieutenant Tal- 
bot, of the army, and Mr. Chew, confidential mes 
sengers for the War and State departments, were 
speeding away to Charleston, bearing to the Gov 
ernor of South Carolina and to Major Anderson 
assurances that Sumter would be speedily revictualed. 

The Peace Conference, and all who were labor- 


ing for peace, had failed to accomplish the purpose 
so ardently desired. Other and more potent influ 
ences were at work, which influences frustrated and 
brought to naught all efforts to attain an amicable 
adjustment of the political complications. 


Sumter to be reinforced Batteries erected on Morris and Sulli 
van Islands General Beauregard assigned to command in 
Charleston Charleston s defenses strengthened Fort Sum 
ter prepares for assault Beauregard demands surrender of 
Sumter Refused Sumter fired on War fleet unable to 
succor Anderson Evacuation of Sumter. 

Pending the informal negotiations for peace, plans 
were devised and preparations made to reinforce 
and revictual Fort Sumter. Captain G. V. Fox, late 
of the United States Navy, and Colonel Lawson, 
both confidential agents of the Government, had at 
different times passed from Washington through 
Charleston to Sumter, and returned, ostensibly for 
the purpose of arranging with Major Anderson the 
details for the evacuation; but really, as subsequently 
appeared, to ascertain by personal observation the 
practicability and expediency of reinforcing and re- 
victualing the fort. Captain Fox intimated to Major 
Anderson the purpose of his visit, but made no 
definite arrangement with him, nor even disclosed to 
him his plans. Finally on the 8th of April Lieu 
tenant Talbot and Mr. Chew, the confidential agents 
of the War and State departments at Washington, 
arrived in Charleston with assurances for Major 
Anderson, which they were not permitted to deliver, 
that if he could hold out until the I2th his garrison 



would be reinforced and supplied; and before leaving 
Charleston, on the same date, they informed Gov 
ernor Pickens and the Confederate general com 
manding that the Government would provision Fort 
Sumter, peaceably, if possible; forcibly, if neces 

The decision of the Government to reinforce and 
revictual Sumter was communicated to Major An 
derson in a letter sent through the mail, and dated 
April 4. Replying through the Adjutant Major, 
Anderson expressed great surprise at the receipt of 
the information, coming as it did so quickly after 
and positively contradicting the assurances which 
Mr. Crawford had telegraphed he was authorized 
to make. It was too late then, he said, to offer any 
advice in regard to Captain Fox s plan then in pro 
cess of execution for the relief of the fort. He 
doubted the practicability of the plan, but whether 
the attempt should succeed or fail, the result he was 
sure would be most deplorable. He ought, he mod 
estly said, to have been informed that the expedition 
was to sail. On the contrary, he had gathered from 
his conversation with the Government s confidential 
messenger, Colonel Lawson, that the plan hinted at 
by Captain Fox would not be attempted, and he con 
cludes: "We shall strive to do our duty, though I 
frankly say that my heart is not in this war which I 
see is to be thus commenced." 

On the 5th and 6th of April the Confederate com 
missioners then in Washington telegraphed Mr. 
Toombs, Secretary of State of the Confederate 
States, that active preparations were in progress to 


dispatch troops and supplies to sea, conveyed by war 
vessels. It was rumored that the expedition was to 
sail for San Domingo, but Charleston was believed 
to be its real destination. The New York Tribune 
of April ii announced that the main object of the 
expedition was the relief of Sumter, and that a force 
would be landed which would overcome all opposi 
tion. That announcement was promptly telegraphed 
to the government at Montgomery and the authori 
ties in Charleston. 

On the loth the Confederate Secretary of War 
instructed the general commanding in South Caro 
lina that if he felt confident that Mr. Chew had been 
properly authorized to announce the purpose of 
the United States Government to provision Fort 
Sumter, he would at once demand the surrender of 
the fort; and, if refused, proceed to reduce it. In 
the meantime the naval expedition which had been 
fitted out in New York had gone to sea and was 
steaming for Charleston harbor. 

Major Anderson had carried with him from 
Moultrie to Sumter only about three months supply 
of food, and the garrison would of necessity capitu 
late when it had consumed that supply, provided it 
were not revictualed. That could only be done by 
vessels passing in through one of the channels. Bat 
teries had been erected along the channel shore of 
Morris Island to guard the main channel, and on 
Sullivan s Island to guard Maffit s Channel. Prepa 
rations had also been made, with all the care and 
dispatch that could be employed, for the reduction 
of Sumter if, unhappily, it should become necessary 


to resort to force. These preparations were of such 
a nature as to leave little doubt of the speedy accom 
plishment of that purpose when the emergency 
should arise. 

Brigadier General Beauregard, assigned to com 
mand of the military forces in and around Charles 
ton, entered on that duty early in the first week of 
March. He made some modifications of and addi 
tions to the works already constructed and in course 
of construction. There were batteries at Fort John 
son, an old dilapidated work on James Island, at 
and near Cumming s Point, the northern extremity 
of Morris Island. Sullivan s Island was further 
strengthened by mortar batteries to the east of Fort 
Moultrie, and its western end by a masked battery 
to enfilade the channel front of Sumter. There was 
also a floating battery of long-range guns off the 
western end of Sullivan s Island, designed by and 
constructed under the direction of Captain John Ran 
dolph Hamilton, late an officer of the United States 
Navy. The guns of Fort Moultrie had been re 
paired and remounted and were in readiness for 
action. There were mortar batteries near Mount 
Pleasant on the mainland to the northward in Christ 
Church parish, and at Castle Pinckney, between 
Sumter and the city. At Cumming s Point, thirteen 
hundred yards from Sumter, was a battery of long- 
range guns, among them the first Blakely rifle gun 
ever used in this country a present to South Caro 
lina from Mr. Charles K. Prioleau, of Charleston, 
which had just arrived from England. Near this 
was an ironclad land battery, devised and constructed 


by Mr. (afterward General) C. H. Stevens, of 
Charleston, a line of ten detached batteries of two 
guns each stretched along the channel front of 
Morris Island. To light up the channel at night 
lest vessels might attempt to enter unperceived, two 
strong Drummond lights were established at suitable 
points one on Morris, the other on Sullivan s 
Island. The lights were purchased in New York 
and arrived in Charleston in the latter part of March 
or early in April. Fort Sumter was thus encircled 
by a line of batteries varying in distance from 1300 
to 2450 yards, and mounting thirty guns and seven 
teen mortars, in readiness for action. The batteries 
were manned mainly by the First South Carolina 
Regular Artillery and detachments of the First 
Regular Infantry and volunteer artillery companies. 
Colonel Maxey Gregg s regiment First South 
Carolina Volunteers was on Morris Island and 
had charge of the channel batteries. Colonel Peta- 
grew s Rifle Regiment and the Charleston Light 
Dragoons guarded the eastern part of Sullivan s 
Island. General James Simons commanded on 
Morris Island, the batteries there being under the 
immediate command of Lieutenant Colonel DeSaus- 
sure. General R. G. M. Dunovant commanded on 
Sullivan s Island, the batteries then being under the 
immediate command of Lieutenant Colonel R. S. 
Ripley, formerly of the United States Artillery, Cap 
tain Ransom Calhoun commanding Fort Moultrie. 
Captain Hollanquist commanded the masked or en 
filading battery near the west end of Sullivan s 
Island. Captain Hamilton commanded the floating 


battery of his own construction, and a Dahlgren gun 
near by. Captain Martin commanded the mortar 
battery near Mount Pleasant, and Captain George 
S. Thomas that at Fort Johnson. 

Probably no more novel military force ever before 
assembled under arms for actual service than that 
assembled for the defense of Charleston at that 
time. The Ordinance of Secession which had been 
passed by a unanimous vote of the representatives 
of the people in convention assembled was sustained 
with great unanimity by the mass of the people in 
person, and by a lavish expenditure of private means. 
Gentlemen of wealth contributed liberally to arm 
and equip the volunteers who were called into the 
service. Some of them placed companies and batta 
lions in the field. A gentleman long past the period 
of life when military service may be exacted of the 
citizen, was seen walking post as a sentinel on 
Morris Island. He had at his own cost armed and 
equipped a company and then given the command of 
it to a younger brother, serving himself as a private 
in the ranks. Gentlemen, the owners of large landed 
estates, served with their sons and nephews as pri 
vates in the ranks, toiled with the pick and shovel 
side by side with their own negro slaves in the con 
struction of earthwork and in the various other 
laborious work incident to life in camp in active 

Fort Sumter, when occupied by Major Anderson, 
was in an unfinished condition, and for many days 
afterwards in the opinion of Captain (now Gen 
eral) Doubleday, an officer of the garrison might 


have been easily captured by escalade. It was not, 
however, the policy of South Carolina, or later of 
the Southern Confederacy, to proceed to any 
hostile act while negotiations were in progress for 
the peaceable possession of the fort. The little gar 
rison labored diligently in mounting guns and put 
ting it in condition to secure it from assault. In a 
short time forty-eight guns of calibers from twenty- 
four pounds to ten-inch columbiads were mounted 
and ready for action. In addition, one ten- and 
four eight-inch columbiads were arranged on the 
parade, to be used as mortars to throw shells into 
Charleston and on Cumming s Point. The garrison 
consisted of six commissioned officers and seventy- 
three enlisted men. There were also three officers 
and forty mechanics and employees of the Corps of 
Engineers. The commissioned officers were Rob 
ert Anderson, Captain Abner Doubleday, Captain 
Truman Seymour, First Lieutenant Jefferson C. 
Davis, Second Lieutenant Norman I. Hall, all of 
the First Regiment of Artillery; Captain J. G. 
Foster and Lieutenants G. W. Snyder and R. K. 
Meade, United States Engineers; and Assistant Sur 
geon S. W. Crawford, United States Army. 

On the afternoon of April 1 1 General Beauregard 
sent to Major Anderson by three of his aides-de-camp 
Captain Stephen D. Lee, Ex-Senator James Ches- 
nut, and Lieutenant A. R. Chisholm a formal de 
mand for the immediate surrender of Fort Sumter, 
with the offer to allow him to take from the fort all 
company arms and property and all private property 
he with his officers and men to be transported to 


any port in the United States that he might desig 
nate, and to salute his flag on lowering it. Major 
Anderson replied in writing, declining in appropriate 
terms to comply with the demand, but said verbally 
to the officers who bore the summons: "I will await 
the first shot, and if you do not batter us to pieces 
we will be starved out in a few days." His reply 
was telegraphed to the Confederate Secretary of 
War, who, seizing upon the last informal verbal 
expression as opening a possible way of escape from 
a resort to force, instructed General Beauregard to 
inform Major Anderson that if he would designate 
a reasonable time when he would evacuate the fort, 
and agree in the meantime not to use his guns against 
Charleston or its defenses, fire would not be opened 
on Sumter,, To this offer Major Anderson replied 
carefully and guardedly as to the terms, that if pro 
vided with suitable means of transportation he 
would evacuate the fort at noon on the I5th "should 
I not receive prior to that time contrary instructions 
from my Government, or additional supplies. " He 
would not in the meantime use his guns against the 
Confederates unless compelled to do so by some 
hostile act against "this fort or the flag of my Gov 
ernment by the Confederate forces or any part of 
them ; or by the commission of some act manifesting 
a hostile purpose against the fort or the flag." The 
reply was equivalent to a refusal of the offer, be 
cause General Beauregard and Major Anderson had 
ample reason for believing that an expedition for 
the relief of Sumter had sailed from New York and 
was then within a few miles of Charleston harbor, 


and would not be allowed to enter if it could be 
prevented. Colonel Chesnut, the bearer of the mes 
sage, therefore formally notified Major Anderson, 
by authority of his chiefs, that fire would be opened 
on Sumter in one hour. It was then twenty minutes 
past three o clock A. M. 

At half-past four o clock on Friday, April 12, 
Captain George S. James, at Fort Johnson, on an 
order from Captain Stephen D. Lee, of General 
Beauregard s staff, aimed and fired the first shell, 
which fell, bursting, on the parade ground of Fort 

It was the initial shot of the war, the first harsh 
note of a reveille which called the gunners to their 
posts, and before five o clock the whole circle of 
batteries was in active play on the majestic fort in 
the center. For nearly two hours Sumter remained 
silent; then about seven o clock opened; the bom 
bardment became general and continued throughout 
the day. The effect of the fire on Sumter was plainly 
visible. The vertical fire from the mortar batteries 
was surprisingly accurate, and so effective that the 
barbet guns, which were of the heaviest caliber, were 
soon abandoned, several having been dismounted by 
the long-range guns, and the fire from the fort was 
confined to the casemate guns. Fire was maintained 
with spirit and effect, and directed mainly against 
Cumming s Point, Fort Moultrie, and the batteries 
near and to the west of it. At night the fire from 
Sumter ceased, only to husband the scant supply of 
ammunition. At the commencement of the action 
there were but seven hundred cartridges in the fort. 


All blankets, company clothing not in use, and hos 
pital bedding were cut up to be converted into car 
tridge bags, and men, when not at the guns, diligently 
stitched through the long day and night with the 
only six needles in the fort in the preparation of 
cartridges. The Confederate fire slackened, but 
continued slowly, and, mingling with the uproar of 
a storm of wind and rain which prevailed, dropped 
shells on the fort at intervals of about fifteen minutes 
through the night. 

There was no bread or flour in the fort, and in the 
gray dawn the garrision breakfasted on salt pork and 
a scant remnant of rice sifted as well as practicable 
from fragments of broken window glass which an 
accident had mingled with it. 

Early in the afternoon of the I2th three war 
vessels had been seen off the bar, where they were 
joined by others early in the morning of the I3th. 
The presence of the fleet bearing, as was well known, 
reinforcements and supplies incited both the assail 
ants and defenders of the fort to increased activity. 
The Confederate fire was resumed at early dawn 
with greater rapidity and accuracy than during the 
previous day. During the morning Lieutenant Alfred 
Rhett had been firing hot shot from thirty-two 
pounders in Moultrie, and with effect, as was soon 
manifested. 3 About eight o clock a small column 
of smoke was seen rising above the fort, and soon 

3 The officers quarters had been set on fire the day before, 
but the upper cisterns having been pierced by shot, the water 
flooded the quarters and extinguished the fire. 


increased to large volume over the officer s quarters, 
the roof of which had been penetrated by hot shot. 
It was impossible to extinguish the flames, which 
spread rapidly. The burning quarters were near the 
main magazine, which it was plain would be so en 
circled with fire as to make it necessary to close the 
doors if even that would prevent an explosion. All 
officers and men not at the guns worked rapidly and 
with a zeal quickened by the imminence of the peril, 
to remove the powder, but the flames spread so 
rapidly that only fifty barrels were taken out and 
distributed through the casemates before the intense 
heat made it necessary to close the doors of the 
magazine and pack earth against them. The Con 
federate fire was quickened, and soon the whole 
range of officers quarters was in flames. The wind 
carried the fire to the roof of the barracks and the 
hot shot dropping on the burning building increased 
the conflagration, which soon spread to both bar 
racks. Dense clouds of smoke and cinders were 
driven by the wind into the casemates, the smoke 
blinding and stifling the men and the sparks setting 
fire to boxes and clothing huddled together. This 
made it perilous to keep the powder which had been 
rescued from the magazine at so much peril, and it 
was tumbled through the embrasure into the bay. 

The fire reached the magazine of grenades ar 
ranged in the stairs, towers, and implement rooms, 
exploding the grenades, destroying the tower at the 
west gorge angle, and nearly destroying the other. 
The effect of the explosion, and the direct fire on the 
towers, was to damage and fill the stairways with 


debris so as to render it almost impossible to reach 
the terre-plein. 

Amid the storm of fire from without and within 
the fire from the fort was most gallantly maintained. 
Filled with admiration of the pluck of the men who 
stood to their guns with such indomitable will when 
it seemed they were in imminent danger of being 
blown skyward by the explosion of thirty thousand 
pounds of powder in the magazines, many Confed 
erates sprang to the parapets, and at every shot from 
the fort waved their hats and loudly cheered its 
brave defenders. About one o clock the flagstaff, 
which had been repeatedly struck, fell. The flag 
was secured by Lieutenant Hall and hoisted on a 
temporary staff by Lieutenant Snyder and two labor 
ers, Hart and Dosie of the Engineers. In the inter 
val between the fall and hoisting of the flag General 
Beauregard dispatched three of his aides to the fort 
with an offer of assistance to extinguish the fire, 
which offer, however, was respectfully declined. 

Seeing the flag down and believing the garrison 
to be in imminent peril, Ex-Senator Wigfall one of 
General Beauregard s aides-de-camp who was with 
the troops on Morris Island with the permission 
of General Simons pulled in a small boat, with one 
man, Private Gourdine Young of the Palmetto 
Guard, to Sumter. Being permitted to enter, he urged 
a suspension of hostilities, with a view to capitula 
tion. He expressed to Major Anderson the high 
admiration his gallant defense had inspired in all 
who witnessed it, and assured him of the most honor 
able and liberal terms. Major Anderson acceded 


to the proposal, naming as his terms the same that 
had been offered him on the I ith, and the white flag 
was hoisted. In the meantime General Beaure- 
gard s aides, who had been dispatched with the 
offer of assistance, had arrived, and ascertaining from 
them that the visit of Senator Wigfall was not au 
thorized by the general commanding, Major An 
derson declared that he would immediately raise his 
flag again and renew the action, but consented to 
delay until General Beauregard could be communi 
cated with. The brief negotiations resulted in the 
capitulation of the fort a little after dark, on the 
same terms which had been offered on the i ith. 

With the exception of burning the quarters of the 
officers and men, a disaster which would not have 
occurred if they had been made originally fire-proof, 
the fort had sustained but little damage. The dis 
tance of the nearest breaching battery was thirteen 
hundred yards, too great for effective work with the 
guns then in use. The main gates had been de 
stroyed, but they could readily have been built up 
with stone and rubbish. The quarters were for com 
fort, not for defensive purposes, and were an element 
of weakness from the beginning. When they had 
been burned without exploding the magazine, with 
sufficient labor the fort could have been made more 
defensible than it was when the action commenced. 
The obstacles in the way of a longer defense were 
the lack of cartridges and men. The men could 
have subsisted many days on the salt pork in store 
and would cheerfully have done so. But with a fleet 
bearing reinforcements and supplies in full view for 


twenty-four hours without making an effort to reach 
the fort, there was no encouragement to the garrison 
to hold out in the hope of possible relief before the 
alternative of starvation would compel a capitulation. 

The war steamers Powhatan, Pawnee, and Poca- 
hontas, the steamer transport Baltic, and three steam 
tugs had been prepared to carry succor to Fort Sum- 
ter, and sailed from New York on the 9th and loth. 
The Baltic, which carried the reinforcements and 
supplies, the Pawnee, and Pocahontas arrived off 
Charleston, w 7 here they found the Harriet Lane early 
on the morning of the I2th. The passage had been 
stormy. One of the tugs was driven into Wilming 
ton by stress of weather and neither of the others, 
nor the Powhatan, arrived. The sea was running 
high off Charleston, and Mr. Fox waited, but in 
vain, for the Powhatan before attempting to enter. 
That steamer was regarded as better constructed and 
equipped for fighting than any other of the expedi 
tion, and carried, besides, the launches which were 
to have been used to throw men and supplies into 
Sumter. But it had been withdrawn from the expe 
dition and its destination changed on the 7th with 
out the knowledge of Mr. Fox, by the President, 
at the instance of the Secretary of State. Captain 
Rowan, of the Pawnee, seized an ice schooner, which 
he placed at the disposal of Mr. Fox, who intended 
to go in it with succor for the fort on the night of 
the I3th, but before night set in the white flag was 
hoisted over Sumter. 

In the public mind some odium attached to the 
commandery of the naval expedition for failing to 


attempt to throw the reinforcements and supplies 
into Sumter. The concurrent opinion, however, of 
the officers within the fort and of others whose 
duties required of them careful study of the situa 
tion, was that any persistent attempt to accomplish 
the proposed object would not only have failed, but 
would have ended disastrously. 

It had been agreed between General Beauregard 
and Major Anderson that the Union garrison should 
evacuate the fort the next day, as soon as the neces 
sary preparations could be made. A steamer would 
carry the garrison to any port in the United States 
that Major Anderson might designate, or transfer 
it to one of the vessels then off the harbor. Major 
Anderson preferred the latter course. 

While saluting the flag one man, Private Daniel 
Hough, was instantly killed, one Private Edward 
Galway mortally, and four severely wounded by the 
premature discharge of a gun and the explosion of 
a pile of cartridges. The Confederate commander 
ordered that the unfortunate man who had been 
killed should be buried with military honors, and the 
wounded properly cared for. At four o clock P. M. 
on Sunday the the Union garrison marched out, 
colors flying and the band playing "Yankee Doodle," 
and, embarking on the steamer Isabel, passed out 
over the bar, where it was transferred to the steamer 
Baltic, and sailed away for New York. As the Isabel 
passed through the channel the Confederate soldiers 
manifested their respect for Major Anderson and 
his gallant command by standing silent and uncov 
ered in front of their batteries. 


Lieutenant Colonel Roswell S. Ripley, command 
ing a battalion consisting of Captain Hollanquist s 
company of the First South Carolina Artillery, and 
the Palmetto Guard, Captain Cuthbert command 
ing, succeeded Major Anderson and the two com 
panies of the First United States Artillery as the 
garrison of the fort. The Confederate and palmetto 
flags were hoisted side by side over Fort Sumter, 
and amid enthusiastic cheers saluted by the bat 
teries around the harbor. 

When the news of the bombardment and reduc 
tion of Sumter was flashed over the telegraphic 
wires the whole country was startled and electrified. 
The question of peace or war which had so long 
trembled in the balance was no longer doubtful. 
Hostilities had commenced. This was the begin 
ning of a war in which before it closed the United 
States alone, in addition to a vast naval force, armed, 
equipped, and brought into the field nearly three 
millions of soldiers, of whom nearly, if not quite, 
four hundred thousand lost their lives in the service. 
How many were brought into the field by the Con 
federate States, and what the loss of life, will prob 
ably never be known. The knowledge has been lost 
with the cause they served. 


War in earnest South Atlantic Coast invested Admiral Du- 
Pont in command Fleet scattered Hilton Head s defenses 
Forts Beauregard and Walker attacked Masterly evolu 
tions of fleet Colonel Wagner disabled Fort Walker taken 
Fort Beauregard evacuated Sherman occupies Hilton 

The theater of the war which had virtually com 
menced in Charleston harbor on the I2th of April, 
1 86 1, was soon transferred to distant fields in other 
States, and, with the exception of a blockading fleet 
off her coast, South Carolina was for many months 
exempt from the presence of a hostile force. Neither 
party to the contest was prepared for war. Indeed, 
for many weeks after the reduction of Fort Sumter 
the country was not fully awake to the fact that war 
on a gigantic scale had commenced. There was a 
breach in the Union, and a hostile collision happily 
without the shedding of blood had occurred in the 
harbor of Charleston. Face to face with actual hos 
tilities, those in the North charged with the conduct 
of affairs might, it was hoped, pause to weigh well 
and count the cost of a war to coerce into the Union 
the States which had seceded and further to reflect 
what would be the worth of a Union of States 
"pinned together by bayonets," as Mr. Greely forci 
bly expressed and deprecated. The first battle of Ma- 



nassas, or Bull Run, went far towards dispelling any 
expectation of an amicable settlement of the difficul 
ties, but even after that event hope was cherished 
that the war would be very brief. Mr. Seward, 
Secretary of State of the United States, labored dili 
gently to impress on the country, and on foreign 
governments through their diplomatic representa 
tives, that the contest would be ended in sixty or 
ninety days. In the meantime preparations for war 
went forward rapidly. Early in August prepara 
tions were commenced for sending a combined land 
and naval expedition to some point on the South At 
lantic coast. Admiral S. F. DuPont was selected to 
command the naval and Brigadier General T. W. 
Sherman the land forces, and the two in concert were 
charged with the organization of their respective 

The troops were furnished by Pennsylvania and 
New York and all of the New England States except 
Vermont. There were thirteen infantry regiments 
organized into three brigades, and of troops not 
brigaded, the First New York Engineers, Colonel 
Edward W. Sewell, Third Rhode Island Artillery 
(heavy), Colonel Nathaniel W. Brown, and Battery 
E, Third United States Artillery, Captain John 
Hamilton. The brigades were commanded respec 
tively by Brigadier General Egbert L. Viele, Briga 
dier General I. I. Stevens and Brigadier General 
Horatio G. Wright. The organization was desig 
nated as "The Expeditionary Corps" and its aggre 
gate strength the day before it sailed was twelve 
thousand six hundred and fifty-three (12,653). 


The land and naval forces had assembled by Oc 
tober 22 in Hampton Roads, Va., where it was 
detained until the 29th by foul weather and the ab 
sence of some of the transports. Great precaution 
had been taken to keep its destination a profound 
secret, and it sailed under sealed orders. Neverthe 
less its destination was known to the Confederate 
Government and to the commanding general in 
South Carolina before it left the Capes of Virginia. 
Indeed, without direct information, it could scarcely 
have been doubted that it was destined for Port 
Royal, S. C., which was not only the best and most 
commodious port on the Atlantic coast south of the 
Capes of Virginia, but best situated as a base of 
operations both by land and water on the coasts of 
South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. 

The expedition, which consisted of fifty vessels, 
sailed on October 29, Flag Officer DuPont s flag fly 
ing over the steam frigate W abash. It was the larg 
est fleet that had ever sailed under the American 
flag. It had been preceded the day before by a fleet 
of twenty-five coal-laden schooners, convoyed by the 
sloop-of-war Vandalia, with orders in the event of 
parting company to rendezvous off the mouth of 
Savannah River. 

When the fleet had cleared the Capes of Virginia, 
much care and time were expended in forming it into 
a double echelon line, and when that was accom 
plished it proceeded majestically on its course. On 
the morning of November 2 only one sail of all the 
vast naval armament was visible from the deck of 


the flagship W abash. During the afternoon of the 
ist rough weather set in, gradually increasing to a 
heavy gale from the southeast, and in the night it 
rose to a hurricane, scattering the fleet. During the 
2d the weather moderated and the vessels began to 
heave in sight. Of the men-of-war the Isaac Smith, 
Lieutenant W. A. Nicholson commanding, one of 
the most efficient and best armed steamers of her 
class, had narrowly escaped foundering in the gale, 
throwing overboard her entire formidable battery. 
Thus relieved, she was enabled to go to the assist 
ance of the steamer Governor, which was in a most 
critical condition, and in imminent peril of founder 
ing. The Governor had on board a fine battalion 
of six hundred marines, Major I. G. Reynolds com 
manding. The most strenuous and heroic efforts of 
the commander and crew of the Isaac Smith to 
rescue the imperiled marines failed, but later the 
steam frigate Sabine, Captain Cadwallader Ringgold, 
commanding, came to the rescue. Every movable 
article on the Governor had been thrown overboard 
to lighten her, and the Sabine succeeded in rescuing 
from the wreck before it went down the crew and all 
of the marines except a corporal and six privates. 
Some of the transport steamers were lost and others 
were saved only by throwing overboard horses and 
cargoes. None of the troop transports were lost. 

On the morning of the 4th the flagship and nearly 
all of the fleet were off the bars of Port Royal har 
bor, when, under Flag-officer DuPont s order, it was 
joined by the frigate Saratoga, Captain Sardoner, 


of the blockading fleet off Charleston. That evening 
and the next morning the war vessels and transports 
passed over the bar and anchored. 

The coast line of Port Royal is such as to make 
it exceedingly difficult of defense by land batteries. 
The headlands on Hilton Head Island to the south 
ward, and Bay Point to the northward, are nearly 
three miles apart. At so great a distance none but 
works of great strength, armed with guns of the 
heaviest caliber and longest range, could make any 
formidable opposition to the entrance of a powerful 
fleet. General Beauregard, relieved about the end 
of May from duty in South Carolina, before leaving 
had examined the coast and designated certain points 
at which defensive works should be constructed. The 
importance of Port Royal and the difficulties in the 
way of defending it were alike obvious. 1 He planned 
the works for the harbor and designated their arma 
ments, which it was essential should be guns of the 
heaviest caliber for the water fronts. Under the 
direction of Major James H. Trapier, of the En 
gineers, and subsequently under the administration 
of Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, who was 
assigned to the command of the Military Depart 
ment of South Carolina on the 2ist of August, the 
works at the designated points were commenced, and 
the construction was pressed forward with all the 
means available. Major Francis D. Lee, of the South 

1 He advised that no attempt be made to construct works 
for its defense, but yielded to the urgent representations of 
the Governor of the State, with the condition that the works 
should be formidable in themselves and heavily armed. 


Carolina Engineers, was charged with the construc 
tion of the work on Hilton Head, called Fort 
Walker, and Captain Gregory of one on Bay Point, 
called Fort Beauregard. They were not commenced 
until late in July, and were incomplete and not armed 
agreeably to the prescribed plan, because suitable 
guns could not be procured. Instead of seven ten- 
inch guns, as had been designated for the water 
front of Fort Walker, there was but one gun of that 
class. The other twenty-three guns mounted were of 
lighter caliber, two of them being twelve-pounders. 
Brigadier General Thomas F. Drayton, a landed 
gentleman whose plantations were in the immediate 
vicinity, commanded the military district in which 
Port Royal was embraced. His brother, Captain 
Percival Drayton, commanded the Union steam 
sloop-of-war Pocahontas. The garrison of Fort 
Walker consisted of Companies A and B of the Ger 
man Artillery, Captains D. Werner and H. Harmes; 
Company C, Ninth (afterwards the Eleventh) South 
Carolina Volunteers, Captain J. Bedon, manning the 
guns on the water front; all under command of 
Major A. M. Huger, First Artillery, South Carolina 
Militia. The flank and rear guns were manned by 
detachments from Captains Bedon s, Canaday s and 
White s companies, Ninth Volunteer Infantry. A 
reserve was commanded by Captain White. The 
entire force in the work numbered two hundred and 
twenty men, the whole commanded by Colonel John 
A. Wagner, First South Carolina Militia Artillery. 
The whole force on the island was 687 men. Across 
the channel and distant 2 5/8 miles from Fort 


Walker, on Bay Point Island, was Fort Beauregard. 
It mounted nineteen guns of about the same class as 
those in Fort Walker, and was manned by two com 
panies, the Beaufort Artillery, Captain Stephen El 
liott, Jr., and Captain Harrison s Company of In 
fantry. Captain Elliott commanded the fort. Com 
modore Tattnall commanded three small river 
steamers which a single broadside from the flagship 
alone could probably have sunk. 

On the 5th, while four of the Union war vessels 
were reconnoitering, a few shots were exchanged 
between them and the forts and Commodore Tatt- 
nall s steamboats, but with little damage to either 
side. On the 6th a heavy westerly wind prevailed, 
making it unadvisable to attack. The morning of 
the 7th was calm and bright, the water of the bay 
smooth, and with not a ripple to disturb the accuracy 
of fire. 

Early in the morning signals from the flagship 
warned the commanders of the different war vessels 
more than four miles outside of a straight line 
connecting the positions of the two forts to form 
line and prepare for action. At the head of the 
main column was the flagship W abash, Commander 
C. R. P. Rodgers, followed in the order named by 
the side-wheel steam frigate Susquehanna, Captain 
I. S. Sardoner; sloops-of-war Mohican, Commander 
S. W. Gordon; Seminole, Commander J. P. Gillis: 
Pawnee, Lieutenant Commander R. H. Wyman; and 
gunboats Unadilla, Lieutenant Commander Napo 
leon Collins; Ottawa, Lieutenant Commander 
Thomas H. Stephens; Pembina, Lieutenant Com- 


mander John P. Bankhead; and the sail sloop-of- 
war Fandalia, Commander Francis S. Haggerty, 
towed by the Isaac Smith, Lieutenant Commander 
J. W. A. Nicholson. The latter vessel, as has been 
stated, had thrown her guns overboard in the gale. 
In the flanking column and little more than a ship s 
length distant, were the Bienville, Commander 
Charles Steadman leading; the gunboats Seneca, 
Lieutenant Commander Daniel Ammen; Penguin, 
Lieutenant Commander P. A. Rudd, and the Au 
gusta, Commander E. G. Parrott. 

Flag-officer DuPont s plan of action, carried out 
with much precision, was to lead his main column 
the different steamers something more than a ship s 
length apart on an elliptical course, passing up the 
main channel at the distance of about eight hundred 
yards from Fort Walker, delivering their fire on that 
fort as long as the guns could be trained upon it; 
then turning seaward and approaching to within 
about six hundred yards, again deliver fire as long 
as the guns could be brought to bear. The operation 
was to be continued until the fort should be silenced. 
The flanking column delivered its fire on Fort Beau- 
regard while passing up, then directed its attention 
to Commodore Tattnall s little river boats, which 
had steamed out of Beaufort River to take part in 
the action. The Flag-officer cautioned the com 
manders of his gunboats that he knew Tattnall well 
as an officer of courage and capacity, and it was 
highly probable that in the heat and smoke of battle 
he would endeavor to pass out and destroy the trans 
ports on which was General Sherman s Expedition- 


ary Corps. If he attempted it, his steamboats must 
be destroyed. Tattnall s puny fleet was soon driven 
off, however, and took shelter in Skull Creek to the 
northwest. The gunboats then took favorable posi 
tions to the northward of Fort Walker, and while 
the main column moved slowly and majestically on 
its prescribed course, delivering a direct fire, the 
gunboats poured in a most destructive flank fire, all 
the more effective because the fort had not been pro 
vided with traverses. Later in the action the Poca- 
hontas, Commander Percival Drayton, which had 
been delayed by injuries received in the gale, steamed 
into the harbor and taking suitable position opened 
on Fort Walker. 

The majestic fleet continued to move on its course 
and deliver its fire with the regularity of machinery, 
and the skill and deliberate coolness of the officers 
and gunners, the weight and excellence of the arma 
ments, and the glossy smoothness of the water, made 
the fire wonderfully accurate and destructive. 

It was a most unequal conflict. The contrast be 
tween the batteries engaged was very marked. The 
fleet carried 150 guns, many of them of the heaviest 
and most approved pattern then in use; the ammuni 
tion and equipments were perfect of their kind, and 
the officers and men who directed and worked them 
were engaged in their legitimate occupation, to which 
they had been thoroughly trained. There were 
twenty guns of much lighter caliber mounted in Fort 
Walker, against which the attack was mainly di 
rected, many of them hastily mounted on impro- 


vised carnages, not adapted to the guns, after the 
fleet appeared off the harbor, and the ammunition 
was defective. The manufacture of heavy ordnance 
and ammunition was almost an unknown industry in 
the South prior to the war. Probably there was not 
a man in Fort Walker who had been trained to the 
use of heavy guns. The commanding officer himself 
aimed and fired the first gun, and owing to defective 
fuse the shell burst near the muzzle. Some ammu 
nition did not fit the guns, the shells could not be 
driven home, but they were nevertheless fired, with 
more risk to those who worked them than to those 
at whom they were aimed. The ten-inch gun, the 
heaviest and only one of the kind in the fort 
bounded from its carriage at the fourth or fifth dis 
charge, and was useless during the remainder of the 
action. The twenty-four-pounder rifle was choked 
while ramming down a shell, and lay idle during the 
engagement. There was no gun on the flank to 
reply to the gunboats near the mouth of Fish Hall 
Creek, the thirty-two pounder on the right flank 
having been shattered by a shot early in the action. 
The inexperienced gunners at these very defective 
batteries were firing at steamers constantly in motion, 
and often beyond effective range of the guns. 

General Drayton crossed over to Hilton Head 
early in the morning of the 5th, and assumed the 
general direction of affairs. Captain Stewart s Com 
pany of the Ninth South Carolina Regiment, which 
occupied a battery at Braddock s Point, the extreme 
southern point of the island, was ordered up to rein 
force Captain Elliott at Battery Beauregard. But 


the order miscarried, the company did not move 
until the 7th, and its passage to Beauregard was 
intercepted by the Union gunboats. Late in the 
afternoon of the 6th 450 men of the Georgia In 
fantry, Captain Berry commanding, and Captain 
Read s Battery of two twelve-pounder howitzers and 
50 men arrived. They had been sent by Brigadier 
General Lawton to reinforce the troops on Hilton 
Head. A little later Colonel DeSaussure s Regi 
ment, the Fifteenth South Carolina Volunteers, 650 
strong, arrived at Seabrook s Wharf on Skull Creek, 
and passed over to within supporting distance of 
Fort Walker. There were therefore on Hilton 
Head on the 7th about 1450 men, 220 of whom were 
in Fort Walker. They were there to defend the 
island against the Union fleet manned by full com 
plements of men, and carrying 150 guns, a battalion 
of 600 marines, and General Sherman s Expedition 
ary Corps of 12,653 aggregate. The action com 
menced about nine o clock in the morning and con 
tinued about four and a half hours. A few minutes 
fire of the fleet convinced the most sanguine in the 
fort that the contest was, for them, hopeless; the 
fight was continued simply as a point of honor. 
About eleven o clock General Drayton carried Cap 
tain Read s artillery company to the assistance of 
the men in the fort, who, from excessive labor for 
several days and during the action, were greatly 
exhausted. Between twelve and one o clock Colonel 
Wagner, commanding the fort, was disabled by a 
fragment of a shell, and was succeeded by Major 
Huger. Soon after one o clock but three guns were 


in serviceable condition on the water-front, and the 
ammunition was nearly exhausted. The order was 
given to stop the hopeless struggle and abandon the 
fort. Captain Harmes, with three gun detachments, 
was left to maintain a show of resistance by a slow 
fire from the three serviceable guns, while the 
wounded were carried to the rear. The garrison 
then abandoned the fort, gained their supports, and 
the whole, including Colonel W. H. Stiles Georgia 
Regiment, which had just arrived, retreated hastily 
from the island. The flight of the garrison was 
seen and reported "from the tops," when the flag- 
officer dispatched Commander John Rodgers on 
shore with a flag of truce. Rodgers, finding that the 
fort had been abandoned, at 2 :2O hoisted the Union 
flag on the deserted fort. A little later Commander 
C. H. P. Rodgers was ordered ashore with a detach 
ment of seamen and marines, and took possession 
of the work. 

General Sherman and his corps from their trans 
ports were spectators of the action, in which they 
took no part. A great part of the General s means 
for disembarking his command had been lost during 
the storm at sea. When the action was over the 
troops commenced landing, and the fort was turned 
over by Commander Rodgers to General H. G. 
Wright, whose brigade was the first to disembark. 
No attempt was made to pursue the retreating Con 
federates, who did not leave the island at Ferry 
Point on Skull Creek until half-past one o clock the 
next morning. Flag-officer Tattnall s steamboats, 


after aiding in ferrying the troops across Skull 
Creek, proceeded to Savannah by the inland passage. 

Comparatively little attention had been given by 
the fleet to Fort Beauregard. It was an easy prey 
after Fort Walker was taken. The inability of the 
forts to protect the harbor against the fleet had been 
made manifest, and any attempt longer to hold Bay 
Point would not only have been futile, but in all 
probability would have resulted in the capture of 
the whole force on the island. Colonel Donovant 
therefore ordered Captain Elliott to evacuate the 
fort, and all of the troops on the island retreated 
during the afternoon and night to Beaufort, by a 
narrow trail known to but few, across Edding s 
Island, which is little more than an impenetrable 
marsh. Nothing but what the men carried on their 
persons could be taken over such a trail. The re 
treat was effected without the knowledge of the 
enemy, or it might have been cut off by gunboats 
passing up Beaufort River and Station Creek to 
Jenkins Landing and White Hall Ferry. The Con 
federate loss on Hilton Head was eleven killed and 
thirty-five seriously wounded, and in Fort Beaure 
gard Captain Elliott and twelve men were badly 
wounded. In the fleet eight were killed and twenty- 
three wounded. 

General Sherman completed the disembarkation 
of his corps on the 8th, the greater part landing on 
Hilton Head, where the construction of an extensive 
intrenched camp was commenced and pressed for 
ward rapidly to completion. Engineer officers made 
reconnoissances of the island for the location of such 


defensive works as might be needed to make it a 
secure base of operations. At Braddock s Point, on 
the southern extremity of the island, one lo-inch 
gun, two 5^ -inch rifles, and two 12-pounder howit 
zers were found, which were designed for a battery 
in the course of construction at that point. 


Port Royal occupied Panic of inhabitants Looting Beaufort 
Tybee Island Gunboat reconnoissance of South Carolina 
waters General Lee in command of military department 
South Carolina s military force Want of artillery Scarcity 
of arms. 

If evidence were needed to show that the States 
which first withdrew from the Union did not con 
template a war of coercion as one of the first conse 
quences of secession, none more conclusive could be 
presented than the defenseless condition of those 
States when the war commenced. For it is inconceiv 
able that intelligent men charged with the conduct 
of public affairs would have plunged their States, so 
unprepared, into so unequal a war. However well 
assured they may have been of the right of a State 
to withdraw from the Union, or however strong may 
have been their convictions that separation from the 
Northern States would contribute greatly to the 
prosperity and happiness of their own States, they 
would surely have deferred the practical assertion 
of the right of secession until they had made some 
adequate preparation for the maintenance of their 
independence. They had no navy, and no means of 
building up one of sufficient strength in time to be of 
any avail in the defense of hundreds of miles of sea- 
coast a seacoast which was undefended by forts 



and therefore was thus at the mercy of a hostile 
naval power. 

The occupation of Port Royal by the land and 
naval forces of the United States was a fatal blow 
to the domestic and social institutions and life of that 
section of country. It at once reduced the planters 
of that region from affluence to poverty, a sudden 
reverse of fortune for which their easy and luxurious 
mode of life for generations had peculiarly unfitted 

For many miles inland the South Atlantic coast is 
penetrated and intersected by innumerable bays, tor 
tuous rivers, creeks, and bayous, which were navi 
gable by steamers of considerable capacity and draft. 
The arable land of the islands formed by those 
water-courses is very fertile, producing various crops 
in abundance, especially the finest sea island cotton 
in the world. These lands were generally owned in 
large plantations by gentlemen to whom they had 
descended from father to son for several genera 
tions, and were cultivated by negroes who had been 
inherited with the land on which they lived. 

Probably no class of people ever lived in greater 
luxury and ease than the proprietors of the sea 
islands and adjoining plantations on the mainland. 
The waters teemed with shell and other fish in great 
variety and excellence, and in season were covered 
with innumerable water fowl. Deer, wild turkeys, 
and other game were abundant on the islands, and 
all requisites for comfortable and luxurious living 
which the land and water did not produce in kind 
were procurable from the proceeds of the cultivated 


crops. The commodious residences of the planters 
were generally surrounded by extensive grounds, 
shaded by stately oaks, magnolias, and other forest 
trees gracefully festooned with the long gray hang 
ing moss, and adorned by a lavish wealth of vines, 
shrubs, and flowers which in that mild climate grow 
in a profuse luxuriance unknown in colder regions. 
Many of the houses were models of comfort and 
luxury, adorned with works of art and well-selected 
libraries, and served by retinues of well-trained ser 
vants in all respects suitable residences for the re 
fined and cultivated proprietors, generally educated 
gentlemen who divided their time between the man 
agement of their estates and the direction of political 
affairs, enlivened by field sports and in dispensing 
the generous hospitality which was characteristic of 
their order. 

The occupation of Port Royal exposed the whole 
of the region of country to the invaders, whose gun 
boats and transports could penetrate through all the 
ramifications of the watercourses to the very doors 
of planters residences. The planters and their sons 
capable of bearing arms were generally in the army, 
their wives and children residing on their estates in 
the accustomed confident security, surrounded by the 
numerous plantation and house servants, fearing 
nothing from them while their moral influence and 
restraint remained undisturbed. The appearance of 
the Union gunboats produced the wildest panic in 
those communities homes were hastily abandoned 
by their white inhabitants, the women, flying from 


perils worse to them than death, left their luxurious 
homes to the pillage of bands of demoralized 

The day after landing at Hilton Head General 
Sherman reports to the Adjutant General: "The 
effect of this victory is startling. Every white inhabi 
tant has left the island. The wealthy islands of 
Saint Helena, Ladies and most of Port Royal are 
abandoned by the whites, and the beautiful estates 
of the planters, with all their immense property, left 
to the pillage of hordes of apparently disaffected 
blacks, and the indications are that the panic has 
extended to the fort on the north end of Reynolds 
Island commanding the fine anchorage of Saint 
Helena Sound." 

The "hordes of blacks" had not a monopoly of 
the pillage of the "immense property left on the fine 
estates"; opportunities and temptations to pillage 
were too many and strong to be resisted. They recall 
the temptation that beset the early British conquerors 
of Bengal when the victory of Plassey placed the 
untold treasures of Moorshedabad at their disposal; 
and Lord dive s famous exclamation when defend 
ing himself in the House of Commons for the share 
he received of the treasures of that magnificent capi 
tal, "By God, Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand 
astonished at my own moderation." In a short time 
there was little of value left on those plantations. 

Three days after landing General Sherman was 
constrained to issue a general order rebuking some 
of his officers and men for their active participation 


in the pillage, and instructing his brigade and other 
commanding officers to suppress all such depreda 

About fifteen miles above Bay Point was the beau 
tiful town of Beaufort a town of private residences 
belonging to the wealthiest planters on the islands. 
The town was noted for the beauty and elegance of 
its private residences and grounds, and nowhere in 
South Carolina, or in any other State, was there a 
more refined, cultivated, and hospitable community. 
On the 8th the gunboats Seneca, Penguin, and Pern- 
bina steamed cautiously up Beaufort River, with 
orders from Flag-officer DuPont, if fired on from 
batteries, as it was supposed they would be, to retire 
out of range and notify the flag-officer, that a proper 
force might be sent to reduce the works. But there 
were no batteries on the river-banks, and when the 
gunboats came in sight of the town a few horsemen 
were seen riding away. There was not a white 
person in the town, which swarmed with negroes 
frantically plundering the luxurious residences and 
carrying away their costly booty in every boat or 
other conveyance they could lay their hands on. 

The negroes left on the islands soon became 
objects of solicitude and embarrassment to the Union 
general commanding. They dearly loved and luxu 
riated in idleness, and when freed from the control 
and direction of their masters freely indulged their 
natural propensity. Comparatively few of them 
came into the military posts, and to the surprise of 
the industrious and thrifty troops from New Eng 
land, they manifested little inclination to work regu- 


larly for wages. So long as they could procure food 
they preferred to remain in idleness at their old and 
often devastated homes. Many of those who came 
into the posts and engaged to work, tired of it and 
escaped back to their old haunts. Proverbially im 
provident and accustomed all their lives to being 
cared for and supplied with the necessaries of life 
by their masters, they naturally looked to the white 
people who had come among them for food and 
clothing. Common humanity required that they 
should not be allowed to starve, and it was plain 
that they would soon be a heavy tax on the commis 
sary and quartermaster s departments. To relieve 
the Government of such a burden and make the 
negroes self-sustaining, General Sherman divided the 
part of the country under his control into districts 
of convenient size for efficient supervision, over each 
of which he purposed to appoint an agent or over 
seer to organize the negroes and direct them in 
working the plantations. All of the horses and 
mules having been carried off, and most of them 
appropriated to the use of the United States Gov 
ernment, it was necessary to procure others, and 
the Secretary of the Treasury, having regard to the 
interest of the government in the cultivation of cot 
ton, called on the Secretary of War to furnish the 
necessary teams. 

While the land forces were engaged in short 
reconnoissances of Hilton Head and other neighbor 
ing islands, and making themselves secure and com 
fortable in their newly acquired positions, most of 
the naval vessels were sent to the various blockading 


stations, and the lighter draft gunboats were sent off 
to reconnoiter the country bordering the inland navi 
gable waters up and down the coast. Commander 
Percival Drayton, a native of that part of the 
country, went northward toward Charleston in the 
Pawnee, accompanied by the Pembina and the 
steamer Vixen of the Coast Survey. His knowledge 
of the country well fitted him for the duty, and he 
was accompanied by Captain Boutelle, whose long 
service in that quarter on coast survey duty had 
given him accurate knowledge of the watercourses 
and the positions of the residences of planters, where 
he had often been a welcome guest. On Otter Island 
at the entrance to Saint Helena Sound they found a 
deserted field-work. This was deemed an important 
point, and Flag-officer DuPont undertook to guard 
it until some of the land forces could occupy it. 
Going up the Coosaw River another abandoned 
field-work was found near the mouth of Bamwell 
Creek. Ascending the Ashepoo about four miles, 
another abandoned earthwork was found. A little 
later the same commander ascended the last men 
tioned river to the mouth of Mosquito Creek, where 
the inland navigation to Charleston commences, and 
landing on Hutchinson Island found, that the barns 
and other outhouses had been burned by the owners 
on the approach of the gunboats. No white person 
only some negroes were found on the island. 

Extending his reconnoissance, he went into North 
Edisto. Quite an extensive line of abandoned earth 
works was found on Edisto Island. Learning from 
some negroes that there was a Confederate camp 


at Rockville, a pretty village on a river bluff on 
Wadmalaw Island, a few miles from Edisto, Com 
mander Drayton approached in the Fixen, followed 
by the gunboats. The camp was occupied by a batta 
lion of 292 men, of Colonel John L. Branch s Rifle 
Regiment, Colonel Branch commanding. On the 
approach of the gunboats Colonel Branch withdrew 
his battalion beyond range. Fifty marines and 
sailors were landed at the wharf, where there was 
no sign of life. The camp, which was about a mile 
distant, had been abandoned, Colonel Branch appre 
hending that if he did not withdraw his command it 
would be cut off from escape to Johns Island, and 

Commander John Rodgers in the Flag, accompa 
nied by the Seneca and Pocahontas, reconnoitered 
Tybee Island at the mouth of the Savannah, and 
receiving no reply to his fire on the earthworks, dis 
covered that they, too, had been dismantled and 
abandoned. This point also that flag-officer deemed 
of sufficient importance to be held by the navy until 
General Sherman could find it convenient to occupy 
the island with a part of his troops. 

Commander C. R. P. Rodgers examined Warsaw 
Sound, Wilmington River, Ossabaw, Ogeechee, and 
Vernon rivers. A fort on Warsaw Island was found 
to have been dismantled and abandoned. A few 
miles up Wilmington River an occupied work was 
found, and another on Green Island, commanding 
Vernon River, the Little Ogeechee, Hell Gate, and 
the passage from Vernon River into the Great 
Ogeechee. This fort indicated that it was occupied, 


by throwing a couple of shells at very long range at 
the gunboats, the first sign of opposition they had 
encountered since the bombardment of Forts Walker 
and Beauregard. 

Before Christmas the inland waters had been ex 
amined by the navy from the Stono to Ossabaw 
Sound, and the only occupied works were at those 
extreme points of that line of coast. The plantations 
visited presented pictures of destruction and desola 
tion. The appearance of Commander Drayton s 
boats in the vicinity of a plantation was generally a 
signal to the master or his agent to apply the torch 
to his cotton houses, to prevent that valuable crop 
from falling into the hands of the enemy. The 
reconnoisances were made in the latter part of No 
vember and late into December. If they had been 
made earlier the armaments of some of the aban 
doned works might have fallen into their hands. 

When it was known in Richmond that the fleet 
and expeditionary corps had arrived at Port Royal, 
an order issued from the War Department, Novem 
ber 5, constituting the coast of South Carolina, 
Georgia, and Florida a military department, and 
assigning General Lee to the command. That officer 
hastened to his new field of duty and assumed com 
mand under most discouraging circumstances. He 
went immediately to Coosawhatchie, the nearest 
point on the Charleston & Savannah Railroad to 
Port Royal Ferry, and on the afternoon of the 7th, 
while riding to Hilton Head, met General Ripley 
and learned from him that the Confederate troops 
were retreating from Forts Walker and Beauregard 


and the enemy in complete possession of that the 
finest harbor on the coast. It was plain that posses 
sion of that important harbor gave the enemy control 
of the inland navigation and all of the islands on the 
coast, and most seriously threatened both Charles 
ton and Savannah. His sloops-of-war and large 
steamers could ascend Broad River to Mackay s 
Point, the mouth of the Pocotaligo, less than ten 
miles from the Charleston & Savannah Railroad; 
his gunboats could ascend some miles up both the 
Coosawhatchie and Pocotaligo rivers, and smaller 
boats could ascend still further toward the road. 
There were no guns in position to resist the power 
ful naval batteries, and there was no recourse left to 
General Lee but to prepare to meet the enemy in 
the field, and if the enemy should move forward 
with the promptness and vigor which the number 
and capacity of the war vessels and transports then 
in Port Royal harbor indicated he was capable of 
throwing into his campaign, the prospects of meet 
ing him successfully in the field were exceedingly dis 

On retreating from Hilton Head General Thomas 
F. Drayton halted his command of less than a thou 
sand men at Bluffton, about eleven miles from Fort 
Walker. The Georgia troops which had joined him 
the day before continued on to Savannah. Colonel 
Donovant, after crossing his command of six or 
seven hundred men to the mainland at Port Royal 
Ferry, was halted at Garden s Corner, a mile or so 
on the road to Pocotaligo. Neither of these com 
mands had brought anything with them except their 


arms from the islands, and were in very destitute 
condition. Colonel Clingman s regiment of North 
Carolina volunteers, six companies of Colonel Ed 
wards infantry, and Colonel Martin s cavalry regi 
ment, the two last of South Carolina volunteers, 
were at and near Coosawhatchie. There was no 
field artillery. The whole force from Charleston to 
the Savannah River was less than four thousand 
men. On November 19, two weeks after the Union 
forces had arrived in Port Royal harbor, the Gov 
ernor of South Carolina reported to General Lee 
that there were 13,100 South Carolina troops in the 
State. That was probably the number down on the 
rolls, and small as it was greatly exceeded the num 
bers present for duty. That force was distributed 
from Georgetown to Hardeeville, S. C., a distance 
of about 175 miles. Over about half of the distance 
only was there railroad communication. A large 
proportion of this force was necessarily held in the 
works for the defense of Charleston. 

On November 10 General A. R. Lawton, com 
manding in Georgia, reported to General Lee that 
he had only about 5500 troops, 2000 of them under 
General Mercer, near Brunswick. The remainder 
were between the Altamaha and Savannah, and all 
but 500 of them within twenty miles of the latter 
city. Of his whole force but 500 were cavalry, and 
there were but three field batteries, very scantily sup 
plied with horses. 

As late as December 24 General Lee, writing to 
Judge Magrath, President of the State Convention 
(about to assemble), in regard to the preparations 


for the defense of the State, says: "I have not been 
able to get an accurate report of the troops under 
my command in the State. I hope it may be as large 
as you state, but I am sure those for duty fall far 
short of it. For instance, DeSaussure s brigade is 
put down at 3420 men. When last in Charleston 
(the day I inquired) I was informed that in one 
regiment there were no men for duty in camp on 
the race course, and in the other about 200. Colonel 
Branch, I am told, had only about 200 men with him 
at Rockville, though I have had no official report of 
his retreat from there. The companies of mounted 
men in the service are very much reduced. The 
Charleston Light Dragoons and Rutledge Mounted 
Rifles have about 45 men each. The companies of 
Colonel Martin s regiment are very small. One of 
them, Captain Fripp s, reports 4 commissioned offi 
cers and 19 privates. It is very expensive to retain 
in service companies of such strength, and I think 
all had better be reorganized. I have only on this 
line [the letter was written at his headquarters at 
Coosawhatchie] for field operations Heyward s, De 
Saussure s, Dunovant s, Jones , and Edwards regi 
ments from South Carolina and Martin s cavalry. 
General Ripley writes that Elford s and Means 
regiments are poorly armed and equipped, and at 
present ineffective, and that the organization of the 
troops thrown forward on James Island is so brittle 
that he fears it will break. The garrisons at 
Moultrie, Sumter, Johnson, and the fixed batteries 
the best and most stable of our forces cannot be 
removed from them; neither can those at George- 


town, and should not be counted among those for 
operations in the field. You must not understand 
that this is written in a complaining spirit. I know 
the difficulties in the way, and wish you to under 
stand them, explain them to the Governor, and, if 
possible, remove them. Our enemy increases in 
strength faster than we do. Where he will strike 
I do not know, but the blow, when it does fall, will 
be hard." 

To General Ripley he writes: "Unless more field 
artillery can be obtained, it will be almost impossible 
to make head against the enemy should he land in 
any force." 

The scarcity of arms which existed from the be 
ginning to the close of the war was manifested by 
the urgent and repeated appeals of the Governors 
of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida to General 
Lee, the Secretary of War and the President, for 
ten thousand Enfield rifles brought by the blockade 
runner Fingal, Major Anderson commanding, which 
succeeded in running into Savannah on November 13. 


Confederate defense centered on Charleston Military districts 
Sherman s broad opportunities Capture of Savannah 
planned Delays Fernandina occupied Jacksonville and 
St. Augustine abandoned Reduction of Fort Pulaski 
planned Difficulties of approval Fort Pulaski Siege of 
Pulaski Reduction and surrender. 

At Port Royal a central position as regards this 
long and insecurely guarded Confederate line 
General Sherman had in hand a compact and thor 
oughly equipped body of about 13,000 men, and 
there was present, besides, a fine battalion of 600 
marines. The co-operating fleet in the harbor could 
cover a landing within five or six mites of Coosaw- 
hatchie, or at almost any other desirable point on 
the coast. Luckily, or unluckily as it may be re 
garded, for the Confederates the Union general 
seems to have regarded his position as one in which 
it behooved him to move with great deliberation and 

After inspecting the batteries and posts from 
Charleston to Fernandina, Fla., General Lee directed 
all guns to be withdrawn from the less important 
points and employed in the defense of Charleston, 
Savannah, and the entrance to Cumberland Sound 
and Brunswick, Ga. The attempt to hold the en 
trance to Cumberland Sound was soon abandoned, 



and the general s plan of defense was restricted to 
holding the two most important points, Charleston 
and Savannah, the line of the railroad between those 
two cities, and the country between it and the sea 
islands. Other points, such as Georgetown, S. C., 
Fernandina, Jacksonville, and Saint Augustine were 
held, but not in force or with any expectation of suc 
cessfully defending them against a formidable and 
persistent attack., For the better administration of 
his extensive department, the coast of South Caro 
lina was divided into five military districts, as fol 

The First, extending from Little River Inlet to 
South Santee River, under command of Colonel 
Arthur Middleton Manigault; headquarters, George 

The Second, from the South Santee to the Stono 
River and up Rantowles Creek, embracing Charles 
ton and its harbor, under command of Brigadier 
General Roswell S. Ripley; headquarters, Charles 

The Third composed the country between the 
Stono and Ashepoo rivers, under command of Briga 
dier General N. G. Evans; headquarters, Adams 

The Fourth extended from the Ashepoo to Port 
Royal entrance, thence through Colliton River and 
Ocala Creek, Ferebeville, under command of Briga 
dier General John C. Pemberton; headquarters, Coo- 

The Fifth embraced the country between the last 
named boundary and the Savannah River, under 


command of Brigadier General Thomas F. Dray- 
ton; headquarters, Hardeeville. 

Brigadier General A. R. Lawton remained in 
command in Georgia, and Brigadier General James 
H. Trapier commanded in middle and east Georgia. 
On Generals Lawton and Ripley devolved the re 
sponsibility of defending Savannah and Charleston, 
and under direction of the department commander 
they pushed forward the several defensive works 
with all possible haste. 

The field for military operations opened to Gen 
eral Sherman was so extensive and its possibilities so 
many that he seems to have been bewildered. He 
could not decide definitely at what point to strike, 
and his perplexity was heightened by the exaggerated 
reports he received, and believed, of the number of 
troops he would have to encounter whenever he 
should move against the enemy. Thus he writes in 
November that the main body of the Confederate 
force was at Pocotaligo, another large body collect 
ing at Grahamville, and still others between the 
latter place and the Savannah River, with their ad 
vance post at Bluffton, whereas, as has been stated, 
there were not more than 4000 troops between 
Charleston and the Savannah River; again that his 
latest news confirmed what he had previously ascer 
tained, that there were 20,000 troops in and about 
Savannah, among them two regiments of cavalry 
and four field batteries; and later he writes to Gen 
eral McClellan that he had information that there 
were "about 65,000 in and about that city, which is 
well fortified both on the land and river sides. They 


are moving heaven and earth for a secure defense." 
His own judgment was that upon the whole it would 
be best to attack and capture Savannah. Recon- 
noissances made by engineer officers had early de 
veloped the fact that it was practicable to pass gun 
boats by inland navigation into the Savannah River 
by the left bank at two points, one being two, and the 
other six miles above Fort Pulaski, and that the 
river might also be entered above the fort from the 
south by Wilmington River and St. Augustine 
Creek. General Sherman desired to utilize these 
inland passages to move a combined land and naval 
force up the river and take the city by a coup-de- 
main. Admiral DuPont was, however, unwilling to 
risk his gunboats through the intricate passages into 
the river without a more thorough examination. 
Then the General proposed to capture the city by 
siege, if necessary, but before he could make any 
aggressive move he needed additional troops and 
transportation. First he asked for a regiment of 
cavalry, one of regular artillery, ten regiments of 
infantry, and a pontoon train; and later asked for 
twenty regiments of infantry. Reinforcements were 
sent to him from time to time, until at the end of 
February he had an aggregate force present of 
17,875 men. The most favorable season for opera 
tions in that locality passed, however, without any 
important move, and in the meantime the Confed 
erates profited by the delay to strengthen their lines 
and increase their force. Every day s delay made 
the capture of Savannah more difficult, until Gen 
eral McClellan, general-in-chtef of the army, wrote 


to General Sherman discouraging a siege of the 
city, and advising that the preparations for the 
reduction of Fort Pulaski be pushed forward to 

"I am forced to the conclusion," he says, "that 
under present circumstances the siege and capture 
of Savannah do not promise results commensurate 
with the sacrifices necessary. I do not consider the 
possession of Savannah worth a siege after Pulaski 
is in our hands. But the possession of Pulaski is of 
the first importance. But, after all, the greatest 
moral effect would be produced by the reduction of 
Charleston and its defenses. There the rebellion 
had its birth; there the unnatural hatred of our 
Government is most intense; there is the center of 
the boasted power and courage of the rebels." 

The capture and occupation of Fernandina, Fla., 
had long been one of the purposes which the Expe 
ditionary Corps should accomplish, but had been 
delayed from time to time awaiting, it would seem, 
naval co-operation. About March i Brigadier 
General H. G. Wright s brigade sailed for that 
place, accompanied by Admiral DuPont and his 
fleet. In the meantime the capture of Fort Donelson 
and retreat southward of General A. S. Johnston s 
army made it necessary to reinforce him with troops 
from other departments, among them the Depart 
ment of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, 
which obliged General Lee to contract his lines. He 
had therefore ordered Fort Clinch and other bat 
teries on Amelia Island to be dismantled and aban 
doned. In consequence General Wright took pos- 


session of Fernandina without opposition. In a 
few days the fleet proceeded up the St. Johns River 
and near the end of the month was followed by 
General Wright, who occupied Jacksonville and St. 
Augustine, which had also been abandoned. Hence 
by the end of March the Union troops held the im 
portant points on the coast from North Edisto Inlet 
to St. Augustine, a distance of about 250 miles, and 
with the exception of the bombardment of the works 
in Port Royal Harbor, all of these points had been 
occupied without opposition. 

Early in December Captain Q. A. Gillmore, 
chief engineer on General Sherman s staff, having 
made under instructions an examination of Tybee 
Island and Fort Pulaski for the purpose of ascer 
taining the practicability of reducing the fort, re 
ported it practicable, and submitted a plan of opera 
tions. His plan, with some slight modifications, 
was approved both by his chief and the War De 
partment, and preparations were promptly com 
menced for carrying it into execution. As a pre 
liminary step the Forty-sixth New York Regiment 
of Volunteers, Colonel R. Rosa, commanding, was 
sent to occupy Big Tybee Island. 

Fort Pulaski was built on Cockspur Island, Ga., 
at the head of Tybee Roads, and commanded both 
channels of the Savannah River. The island was 
simply a deposit of mud about a mile long and half 
mile wide, and was about fourteen miles from Sa 

The river is but little if any more than an average 
of a mile and a quarter in width and between the 


fort and city are several islands similar in formation 
to Cockspur, stretching in the direction of the cur 
rent. The first and most obvious step in proceeding 
to reduce the fort was to cut it off from the city 
by batteries, to be erected on the banks or the 
middle islands. But the islands and banks, if de 
posits of soft mud scarcely above the water level at 
ordinary high tide, and submerged by high spring 
tides or when the wind is in a certain quarter, may 
be called banks, are exceedingly ill adapted to the 
construction of batteries. On both sides of the 
river these deposits of mud extend for many miles 
and are thickly covered with tall reeds and coarse 
grass, giving to the country the appearance sug 
gestive of the appropriate name of the river. They 
are intersected by numerous tortuous bayous, divid 
ing the shore up into islands, making it practicable 
for passage between the fort and city in small row- 
boats when the river itself is closed. 

Captain Gillmore was given the rank of Brigadier 
General of Volunteers, and charged with the task 
of reducing Fort Pulaski. 

With incredible labor a battery of six guns 
(twenty- and thirty-pounder Parrott rifles and an 
eight-inch siege howitzer) was constructed by troops 
of General Viele s Brigade, at Venus Point on 
Jones Island, about five miles above the fort. The 
guns and material were carried from Daufuskie 
Island, four miles distant, the nearest point of firm 
ground on which troops could camp. The guns were 
carried in the night by hand about three-fourths of 
a mile over a marsh of unctuous mud, on a tramway 


of shifting planks, in which the wheels, when they 
slipped, would sink to the hubs and the men nearly 
to the waists. There was a drenching rain during 
the night, and for the greater part of twenty-four 
hours the men at work were up to their waists in 
mud and water. The battery was in condition for 

Three days later a similar battery was constructed 
on Birds Island directly opposite Venus Point. Ad 
miral Tattnall s little fleet of river steamers, which 
had escaped on the morning of February 1 1 from 
Port Royal, steamed down the river and engaged 
the Venus Point battery, but was driven off. Before 
the end of February two companies of the Forty- 
sixth New York Volunteers, with a battery of two 
field pieces and a thirty pounder Parrott gun sta 
tioned first on Decent Island, and subsequently on 
an old hulk in Lazaretto Creek, about 2^ miles 
from Pulaski and a small gunboat in the same 
creek, in conjunction with the batteries on Venus 
Point and Bird Island, effectually isolated Pulaski. 
It would necessarily have had to surrender through 
starvation when the supply of provisions should be 
consumed; nevertheless the work for its bombard 
ment and reduction went on. 

It was not until February 21 that the first vessel 
having the necessary ordnance and ordnance stores 
and engineering supplies arrived off the entrance 
to Savannah River. Tybee, like the other islands 
bordering the lower river, is mainly a deposit of 
mud, but it is somewhat better adapted to siege 
operations than the others, in that there are on it a 


few ridges and hummocks of firm ground, and the 
shore on Tybee Roads, where it was proposed to 
construct the batteries, is particularly skirted by low 
sandbanks. The distance from the landing-place 
on the island to the most advanced batteries was 
about 2^ miles, the last mile presenting the same 
obstacles to the transportation of heavy ordnance as 
had been encountered and surmounted on Jones 
Island, and was, besides, within range of Pulaski s 
guns. A causeway was constructed on fascines and 
brushwood over the marshy ground, which trembled 
like jelly under the tramp and mallets of the labor 
ers, and when the thin upper crust was broken 
through a pole or oar could be thrust ten or twelve 
feet in the soft mud. The herculean labor of trans 
porting thirty-six of the heaviest guns then in use, 
some of them weighting 8^2 tons, with the neces 
sary ammunition and the appliances was performed 
by the soldiers, nearly all of it in the night, often 
in thick darkness and drenching rain, regardless of 
weather and the miasma of the marshes spread out 
for many miles around them. Two hundred and 
fifty men could with difficulty drag a single piece. 

On the evening of April 9 the batteries were com 
pleted and all was in readiness for the bombard 
ment. There were eleven batteries mounting thirty- 
six guns, viz.: twelve 1 3-inch and four lo-inch 
mortars, six lo-inch and four 8-inch columbiads, 
five 3O-pounder Parrott rifles, and five James rifles, 
48-, 64-, and 84-pounders. The breaching batteries 
were at an average distance of 1700 yards from the 
fort; the four lo-inch siege mortars were 1650 


yards distant; the 1 3-inch mortars at distances vary 
ing from 2400 to 3400 yards. 

Fort Pulaski, on which these batteries were in 
readiness to open, was built of brick; was pentago 
nal in shape and casemated on all sides. Its walls 
were ^y 2 feet thick and in height 25 feet above 
high water. It was arranged for one tier of guns 
in embrasure and one in barbette. The gorge was 
covered by an earthen outwork or demi-lune of bold 
relief. The main work and demi-lune were sur 
rounded by wet ditches the one around the main 
work 48 feet and that around the demi-lune 32 feet 
wide. Communication with the exterior was through 
the gorge, over a drawbridge into the demi-lune, 
through a face of which was a passage by another 
drawbridge over the ditch of the demi-lune. A full 
armament for the fort would have been 140 guns. 
At the time of the bombardment it mounted 46 
guns, varying in class from 12-pounder howitzers to 
lo-inch columbiads. Twenty of the heaviest of 
the guns bore on the Tybee Island batteries. The 
fort was garrisoned by five companies of the First 
Georgia Regiment, aggregate strength 385 Col 
onel Charles H. Olmstead commanding. 

At sunrise on the morning of April 10 a summons 
to surrender was sent under flag of truce, Lieutenant 
James H. Wilson of the engineers bearing it to Col 
onel Olmstead. The summons was refused. Fire 
was immediately opened, and soon the thirty-six 
guns on Tybee and those of the fort which could be 
brought to bear on them were in full and active 
play. The bombardment continued without inter- 


ruption for ioJ/2 hours, and till it was too dark to 
see distinctly. It then ceased. Throughout the 
night two heavy mortars and a 3<D-pounder Parrott 
maintained a slow fire, throwing a shell about every 
five minutes, to interrupt any repairs that might be 
attempted. At sunrise on the nth the bombard 
ment was renewed, with greater accuracy than on 
the previous day. The breach which had commenced 
under the first day s fire rapidly extended, and by 
12 M. two casemates had been battered wide open. 
A third was rapidly crumbling under the concen 
trated fire when, at 2 P. M., the white flag was run 
up over the fort, which, with its armament and 
garrison, was surrendered to the Union forces. 

The reduction of Pnlaski reflected great credit 
on the officers and men engaged, especially on Gen 
eral Gillrnore, under whose personal direction it 
was commenced and continued to a successful issue* 
The troops who participated in all of the heavy 
labor of the preparation and bombardment were the 
Seventh Connecticut Volunteer Infanry, Colonel 
Alfred H. Terry, commanding; the Forty-sixth 
New York, Colonel Randolph Rosa; two companies 
of the New York Engineers, Lieutenant Colonel 
James F. Hall; two companies of the Third Rhode 
Island Artillery, and a small detachment of engineer 
troops of the regular army. 

It is worthy of note as illustrative of the readi 
ness with which the volunteers adapted themselves 
to any service demanded of them, that with the 
exception of a detachment of sailors from the frig 
ate Wabash, who served four light siege guns the 


second day, the labor of mounting and serving the 
guns was performed by men who had no experience 
whatever as artillerists. They were directed by 
well-trained officers. 

In the reduction of Fort Pulaski the superior 
capacity of rifled cannon over smooth bores was 
very clearly exemplified, and marks a new era in 
siege operations. Up to that time from five hun 
dred to seven hundred yards was regarded as the 
extreme distances at which an exposed wall of a 
well-constructed fort could be breached. By the 
use of fifty-eight per cent, only of rifled guns a wide 
and practicable breach was made in the walls of 
Pulaski, under 18 hours of continuous fire, at an 
average distance of 1700 yards. 

Extensive as was the territory over which the 
combined land and naval forces under General Sher 
man and Admiral DuPont had hoisted the Union 
flag, the editors of the most influential Northern 
papers had not been slow to discover that all had 
not been accomplished which might, in their judg 
ments, have been expected and demanded of so 
large a force fitted out and maintained at such vast 
cost to the Government. Adverse criticism had 
commenced early, and continued until a change was 
effected in the command of the land force. Gen 
eral Sherman, under whose command the reduction 
of Fort Pulaski had been planned and pressed for 
ward under great difficulties to within a few days 
of its actual accomplishment, was not permitted to 
witness the only triumph in arms of his corps, and 
receive the surrender of the fort. On March 15 


an order from the War Department in Washing 
ton created a new military department, composed of 
the States of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, 
designated as the Department of the South, and 
Major General David Hunter was assigned to the 
command. Brigadier General H. W. Benham was 
assigned to the command of the troops of the Expe 
ditionary Corps, designated as the Northern Divis 
ion of the Department of the South. General 
Hunter assumed command on March 31, and was 
on Tybee Island in time to demand the surrender 
of Fort Pulaski, and report its reduction to his 

On March 2 President Davis had called General 
Lee to Richmond, and Major General John C. 
Pemberton succeeded him in command. 


Blockade Lack of Confederate resources Inferiority of equip 
ment Charleston s strategic value Investment of Charles 
ton Charleston and Savannah Railroad Defenses of rail 
road James Island Unsuccessful Assault Vigor of Con 
federate fire Confederate position again assaulted En 
gagement at Secessionville Federal Reports of Action 
Federal Republic Within the Confederate lines. 

Cotton being the basis of financial credit of the 
Southern Confederacy, it was manifestly of the 
first importance that the government should hold 
some seaports from which the cotton could be 
shipped and into which the return cargoes could be 
entered. Charleston and Savannah were the most 
important ports of entry on the South Atlantic 
coast. These two cities were connected by a rail 
road of about one hundred and fifteen miles in 
length, lying broadside to the coast, which is inter 
sected by numerous bays, inlets, rivers, and creeks, 
forming a network of watercourses navigable to 
within easy striking distance of this railroad at 
several points. 

Before the close of the first year of the war the 
Federal land and naval forces were in secure pos 
session of important points on the coast of South 
Carolina and of the navigable waters that border it 



and extend far into the interior. Wherever their 
fleets could be brought the Confederates could offer 
no effective opposition to the landing of troops, 
except at points within range of fixed batteries, 
which at that early period of the war were few and 
very incomplete. The Confederates had nothing 
to oppose effectively to the heavy guns of the Fed 
eral fleet, which could sweep over the low banks of 
the rivers of that country with irresistible force. 
Skillful engineers had selected with admirable judg 
ment the most important and vital points for the 
defense of the cities and the coast generally, and the 
construction of the necessary earthworks under the 
direction and superintendence of competent engineers 
was a mere question of tools and manual labor. 
But the arming of the works when constructed with 
suitable guns and ammunition was a far more difficult 

The Confederacy labored under far greater dif 
ficulties as to the supply of suitable arms and ammu 
nition than is generally supposed. While some of 
the guns, both of heavy ordnance and small arms, 
that were found in the forts and arsenals within the 
limits of the Confederacy were among the best then 
known to the military profession in this country, 
much the greater part of them were of old and 
antiquated pattern, and even the best of them were 
soon rendered comparatively ineffective when op 
posed to the new and improved arms of all kinds 
that the exigencies of the war and the inventive 
genius of the country soon supplied and brought into 
use. There were no great manufactories of arms, 


ammunition, and the various munitions of war in 
the Confederacy. The South was essentially an agri 
cultural country, and manufacturing generally 
formed but a small part of its productive industry. 
The manufacture of arms, gunpowder, and the vari 
ous munitions of war generally were especially but 
little practiced or known; and the rigid blockade of 
the Southern coast, which was soon established and 
maintained, while it by no means sealed the Southern 
ports, greatly obstructed the introduction into the 
country of all manner of arms and munitions of 
war and the materials necessary for their manu 

In the beginning the Confederate Government se 
lected a most accomplished and efficient officer as 
the head of the Ordnance Department in the person 
of the late General J. Gorgas, who may be said to 
have inaugurated new industries in the country, all 
directed to the production of arms and their various 
accessories absolutely essential to the prosecution of 
war. With efficient aids, such as General George W. 
Raines and Major Garesche, who established 
powder mills, and Captain Brook, who introduced 
an admirable rifled cannon (which bore his name), 
and others in other branches, he very soon had the 
Ordnance Department in wonderfully successful and 
efficient operation. 

But in the first year of the war the government 
was wholly unable to supply suitable siege, garrison, 
and field guns for the various forts and batteries or 
small arms to put into the hands of the volunteers. 
Hence it was that all along the coast and in the inte- 


rior Confederate artillerists manned and used many 
antiquated guns, mounted on clumsy carriages, and 
in the field Southern infantry and cavalry, armed 
with old-pattern muskets, sometimes with flint-locks, 
shot-guns, sporting rifles, and pistols, encountered 
foemen armed with the best weapons of modern 
warfare. And while new and improved arms were 
constantly introduced in the North, this inferiority 
of armament continued in the South throughout the 
war. 1 Generally the best arms in the Confederate 
army were gathered on the battlefield. It is not 
probable that much use was made in the Federal 
army of the Confederate arms gathered in the same 

With land forces securely established on the coast 
and the navy in undisputed possession of the sea, 
and with ample transportation at command, the 
Federal commanders on the Southern coast pos 
sessed a base of operations which threatened at once 
Charleston on their right, Savannah on the left, and 
the connecting railroad and intermediate country. 
The Confederate authorities very naturally appre 
hended that so soon as the Federal forces were thus 
in possession of the coast the commanders would 
avail themselves of their resources to seize upon the 

1 General La Grange, a distinguished Federal cavalry com 
mander, recently told the writer that in the winter cam 
paign in east Tennessee of 1863-64 it seemed to him almost 
unfair and cruel to meet in battle with Spencer repeating 
rifles Confederates generally armed with muzzle-loading arms, 
pne of the former being equivalent in a fight to six or eight 
of the latter. 


Charleston & Savannah Railroad near the head of 
Broad River, sever the connection between those two 
cities, and with the combined land and naval forces 
envelop alternately each of those important places. 
That, it was plainly seen, would be a combination 
difficult to resist successfully. 

The capture of Charleston especially would have 
been disastrous to the Confederacy in every point 
of view commercial, military, and political. The 
city would not only have been lost as a shipping port, 
but the railroad communication with Virginia, North 
Carolina, and eastern Georgia would have been cut 
off and the upper roads by Branchville would have 
been placed in jeopardy by the presence of a hostile 
force so near as Charleston. It is fair, too, to pre 
sume that the capture of Charleston would have 
caused as general satisfaction throughout the North 
as the capture of Richmond, and the political effect 
would have been as encouraging and stimulating 
there as it would have been depressing and discour 
aging in the South. Yet notwithstanding the im 
portance of the two cities mentioned, and their con 
necting railroads, their vulnerability and the ample 
resources both on land and sea at the command of 
the Federal Government, they were defended and 
firmly held for nearly four years against every attack 
made against them, and were only abandoned when 
the march of the great army under General Sherman 
from the west to the sea rendered them no longer 
tenable. It is proposed to sketch here only the prin 
cipal operations against Charleston and to tell how 
they were met and brought to naught. 


In the spring of 1862 Major General David 
Hunter, United States Army, commanded the De 
partment of the South, with headquarters at Hilton 
Head, and Admiral DuPont commanded the South 
Atlantic Squadron. Major General John C. Pem- 
berton, Confederate States Army, commanded the 
Department of South Carolina and Georgia, head 
quarters in Charleston. Soon after the capture of 
Fort Pulaski Brigadier General H. W. Benham, 
commanding a division and second in rank to Gen 
eral Hunter, submitted to the latter and to Admiral 
DuPont a plan for the capture of Charleston. 
Though favorably considered, it was not at once 
adopted. On April 28 Admiral DuPont sent to 
General Hunter reports from Captains Marchand 
and Mullany, of the navy, giving information, which 
they had derived from sources deemed reliable, as 
to the force present for the defense of Charleston. 
The information was to the effect that the force in 
Charleston and within ten miles of it was from 2650 
to 2860. Of this force between 1500 and 1600 
were on James Island, between the mouth of the 
Stono and Charleston, and about 600 at Fort John 

About the middle of May a crew of negroes, who 
escaped from Charleston with the steamer Planter, 
carried to Hilton Head the additional news that the 
Confederate troops and guns had withdrawn from 
Coles and Battery islands, thus leaving the entrance 
to the Stono unguarded. Gunboats sent by Ad 
miral DuPont to reconnoiter entered the river with 
out opposition, and Captain Percival Drayton re- 


ported to the Admiral : "We are in as complete pos 
session of the river [Stono] as of Port Royal and 
can land and protect the army whenever it wants. " 
Finding this gateway to Charleston thrown wide 
open, General Hunter decided to adopt General Ben- 
ham s plan and make a dash to take the city by a 
coup-de-main. Preparations to carry the plan into 
execution were pressed forward rapidly. 

James Island was generally regarded as the key 
to Charleston. It was the opinion of the most com 
petent military engineers that if the Union army 
could once secure footing on that island the fall of 
Charleston would be inevitable and only a question 
of time. The plan of attack, briefly stated, was to 
land a force of 10,000 men of all arms on the lower 
end of James Island and by rapid movement over 
take, engage, and defeat the Confederate force on 
the island before it could be reinforced. That ac 
complished, a securely entrenched camp would be 
established beyond the range of the guns of Fort 
Sumter and in easy shelling range of the city. From 
that position, strengthened by reinforcements which 
were expected, it would require a much larger force 
to dislodge them than the Confederate Government 
could assemble while all of the available force in 
the eastern States of the Confederacy was in front 
of Richmond, to meet General McClellan, then 
marching on that city, and in Mississippi, confront 
ing General Halleck. All these conditions of the 
military problem seemed favorable for the success of 
the proposed plan of operations. 

This plan embraced, first, a preliminary expedi- 


tion to cut the Charleston & Savannah Railroad and 
destroy it from Salkehatchie to Coosawhatchie, a pre 
cautionary measure to prevent the passage of rein 
forcements from the latter to the former city. Briga 
dier General I. J. Stephens, who commanded a divis 
ion at Beaufort, was directed to execute that part 
of the plan. General Stephens ordered Colonel B. 
C. Christ, of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania Infantry, to 
take his own regiment, one company each of the 
Eighth Michigan and Seventy-ninth New York 
Highlanders, a battalion of the First Massachusetts 
Cavalry and one section of Rockwell s light battery 
of Connecticut Artillery, in all about nine hundred 
men, and to proceed to the execution of the plan. 
This force crossed at Port Royal Ferry in the night 
of May 28, was on the mainland by daylight the 
next morning, and marched immediately for Poco- 
taligo, via Garden s Corner and the Shelden Road, 
and was considerably delayed, says Colonel Christ, 
by the Confederate pickets before reaching Old Po- 
cotaligo, about ten miles from Port Royal Ferry. 
General Stephens regarded the force under Colonel 
Christ as ample for the accomplishment of the object 
of the expedition; nevertheless, "out of abundant 
caution," he sent the Eighth Michigan and Seventy- 
ninth Highlanders to Garden s Corner and the One 
Hundredth Pennsylvania to the Ferry as reserves. 

The approach to Old Pocotaligo by the road the 
Federal troops were marching is over a causeway 
partly flanked on either side by a marsh, through 
which runs a narrow stream, spanned by a bridge 
about fifteen feet in length. The flooring of the 


bridge had been torn off, leaving the string-pieces. 
The marsh was bordered by a skirt of woods. In 
the woods, and partly sheltered by the banks of 
ditches, were parts of three companies of Confed 
erate cavalry, viz. : Captain Trenholm s company of 
the Rutledge Mounted Rifles and Companies A and 
D of the First Battalion South Carolina Cavalry. 
Some were armed with rifles, others with shotguns. 
They were all dismounted and numbered only 76 
men. Their horses were about half a mile in the 
rear, where the other two companies of the First 
Battalion and Captain D. B. Haywood s company 
were held in reserve. Many of these men were 
armed only with sabers. They numbered in all no 
and were commanded by Major I. H. Morgan. 
Colonel W. S. Walker commanded the whole. 

At this point the Federal advance was disputed; 
the seventy-six dismounted cavalrymen held their 
position with admirable tenacity, keeping the enemy 
at bay for more than two hours and a half, from 
half-past ten until after one o clock, and until Cap 
tain Parker, of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania, passed 
over the bridge at the head of his company and was 
followed by the remaining companies, which, de 
ploying to the right and left of the road, flanked the 
Confederates, obliging them to fall back to their sup 
port, which they did in good order and with little 
loss. In this affair the gallant Captain Parker was 
killed. The bridge was so repaired as to enable 
the cavalry and artillery to pass, and Colonel Christ 
and his command pressed forward in pursuit and 
continued to advance until they came in full view 


and within a quarter of a mile of the railroad the 
destruction of which was the object of the expedition. 

In the meantime the artillery had come up with 
the infantry and cavalry, not in time, however, to 
take part in the affair at Old Pocotaligo, because 
the officer in command, Lieutenant Cannon, had 
halted two hours on the march to feed and water 
his horses. But the weather was warm, the men 
were fatigued and had expended nearly all of their 
ammunition. Some negroes had told Colonel Christ 
that "the desperate stand by the enemy" at Old Po 
cotaligo was made because they confidently looked 
for reinforcements. As the Colonel says: 

"In view of the positive orders I received to return 
to Port Royal Island during the night, and to avoid, 
if possible, bringing on a general engagement with 
reduced ammunition, I deemed it prudent to retire, 
and accordingly arrived at Port Royal Ferry at n 
o clock P. M." 

Colonel Walker, having been reinforced by two 
companies of infantry and three pieces of field artil 
lery, under Captain Stephen Elliott, followed in 
pursuit to Garden s Corner, where a few shots were 
exchanged. The night was too intensely dark to 
attack, and when morning dawned the Federal force 
had crossed the ferry and was out of reach. General 
Stephens says: 

"In short, the operation was most successful as a 
reconnoissance or demonstration, and it is very cer 
tain that could the original programme have been 
carried out the whole line would have been destroyed 
from Salkehatchie to Coosawhatchie. It proves the 


correctness of the information which I had previ 
ously gained, that the enemy was not in any consid 
erable force at the railroad." 

The expedition which General Stephens reported 
as "most successful," his commanding officer, Gen 
eral Benham, characterized as "a miserable failure." 

The failure of this expedition to destroy the rail 
road did not retard or interfere with the main expe 
dition to James Island. On the morning of June 2 
General Stephens command steamed out of Port 
Royal Harbor, and that evening entered the Stono 
and landed a little above Coles Island, on Legare s 
plantation, on James Island, and brisk skirmishing 
immediately began. A deiachrr-ent occupied Legare- 
ville on the left bank. Brigadier General H. G. 
Wright commanded a division on Edisto Island. At 
that point about seven thousand men of all arms 
had been concentrated. General Wright was or 
dered to pass this force over to Seabrook s Island 
and thence over Haulver Creek to John s Island, 
and from there to march directly to Legareville, on 
the Stono, and cross that river to take part with 
Stephens Division in the coup-de-main. The mass 
of General Wright s command (it was designated 
as the First Division, but a part of General Steph 
ens Division the Second was with him) was on 
John s Island, near the Haulver, the night of the 
2d. The distance from that point to Legareville, on 
the Stono, is about ten miles, and the road good. 
Captain Percival Drayton, of the navy, was in the 
Stono prepared to cross the troops over to James 
Island immediately on their arrival. 


Some delay occurred in the movement of General 
Wright s command, attributed to the lack of trans 
portation and a damaged wharf at Seabrook s 
Island. His command did not reach Legareville 
until the evening of the 5th. This delay, occurring 
after the arrival of Stephens troops had given warn 
ing of the approaching storm, had given General 
Pemberton time, which it was believed he had pro 
fited by, to throw reinforcements on James Island. 
The purpose, therefore, of taking the island by a 
coup-de-main was abandoned and it was determined 
to hold the position already secured, provide a se 
curely entrenched camp and await reinforcements. 
General Wright s division crossed the Stono on the 
9th and took position on Mr. Thomas Grimble s 
plantation, two miles above General Stephens com 
mand. The Confederates immediately opened fire 
of solid shot and shell, which fell into, around, and 
over General Wright s camp and among the gun 
boats in the Stono. General Stephens camp was 
also under fire. This at once convinced General 
Benham that the main camps and landings were un 
tenable while exposed to the Confederate fire, and 
as there was not dry land enough on the island above 
high water for a secure camp out of range of the 
Confederate guns, it seemed evident that he would 
be obliged to abandon the island, the key to 
Charleston, or silence the advanced Confederate 
batteries. On the loth General Hunter, having de 
termined to return to Hilton Head, gave to General 
Benham written instructions, in which he says: 

"In leaving the Stono to return to Hilton Head, 


I desire in any arrangement that you may make for 
the disposition of your forces now in this vicinity, 
you will make no attempt to advance on Charleston 
or attack Fort Johnson until largely reinforced, or 
until you receive specific instructions from these head 
quarters to that effect. You will, however, provide 
for a secure, entrenched encampment, where your 
front can be covered by the fire of our gunboats from 
the Stono on the left and the creek from Folly River 
on the right." 

The fire from the Confederate batteries continued 
to be very annoying on the loth, so much so as to 
induce General Benham to make a move to put an 
end to it. He ordered a reconnoissance in force to 
be made on the Confederate works at the earliest 
dawn of day on the morning of the nth. Picked 
regiments of General Stephens division were to lead 
and "make a rush on the Confederate position," the 
remainder of Stephens division being held close in 
hand to support the advance or follow up closely 
any advantage that might be gained. General 
Wright and Colonel Williams were to support 
Stephens on the left. The whole remaining force 
was to be held in readiness to give such strong and 
prompt support as to change the reconnoissance in 
force into a general engagement, if fortune favored 
and it should be found expedient. In that case Colo 
nel Robert Williams was to lead the assaulting col 
umns. Written instructions were prepared for Gene 
rals Wright and Stephens and Colonel Williams. 

It seems that Generals Hunter and Benham had 
their headquarters temporarily on the same steamer, 


the Delaware, in the Stono. Before issuing his in 
structions for the dash of the next day General Ben- 
ham showed them to General Hunter, impressing 
upon him at the same time the imperative necessity 
of capturing or silencing the batteries at Secession- 
ville. He also pointed out to General Hunter a line 
traced on a map from Secessionville obliquely to 
ward Charleston as the line which the Federal 
troops should occupy to render their hold on James 
Island secure, to all of which Benham says General 
Hunter cordially assented, and on Benham s solicita 
tion Hunter agreed to defer his departure for Hilton 
Head to await the result of the demonstration on 
Secessionville. The line traced out as being the 
proper one for the Union forces to occupy was al 
ready occupied by the Confederates, and it was 
plainly necessary that the Federal troops must first 
capture Secessionville and drive off the Confederates 
before occupying it themselves. This contemplated 
movement for the morning of the nth was, how 
ever, deferred, because General Wright represented 
that his troops were not in condition for action. Gen 
eral Hunter left the field of operations on the even 
ing of the iith, leaving General Benham in com 
mand, with the instructions already quoted. 

Skirmishing had been brisk from the time of the 
landing of the advance troops of the expedition. 
From five to eight gunboats in the Stono and in a 
creek flowing into Folly River had kept up a well- 
sustained fire on the Confederate position. The 
Federal commander had caused a battery of siege 
guns to be constructed in front of General Stephens 1 


__ p .. : ;_j3 

camp, to play upon the Confederate batteries in 
front of Secessionville. The skirmishing and the 
combined fire of the land and naval batteries were 
particularly spirited on Sunday, the I5th, but no 
perceptible effect was produced on the Confederate 
batteries. The enemy were known to be busily at 
work night and day, strengthening their positions, 
and it had been reported to General Benham some 
days before that from the masthead of a naval vessel 
in the Stono several long trains of cars loaded with 
troops had been seen pouring into Charleston over 
the road which Colonel Christ s expedition had failed 
to break. It therefore seemed manifest to General 
Benham that whatever he proposed to do to "pro 
vide a securely entrenched encampment" on James 
Island, as ordered by General Hunter, he should do 
quickly, without longer delay. He therefore deter 
mined to assault the Confederate position at the 
earliest dawn of day the next morning. 

The plan of attack was substantially the same as 
that proposed to be made on the loth, but on a 
larger scale. Generals Wright and Stephens, com 
manding divisions, and Colonel Robert Williams, 
commanding a brigade, were called in to confer with 
General Benham, and Captain Percival Drayton, of 
the navy, was invited to be present at the conference. 
The reports of what occurred in that conference are 
so conflicting that it is impossible to reconcile them. 

This much seems certain, that General Stephens, 
whose division was designated to make the assault, 
strongly objected to the time of making it. He pre 
ferred to make it in the light of day, that his men 


might see where they were required to go and what 
was before them to be done. He advised that fire 
be continued on the Confederate works, keep 
ing the enemy constantly disturbed and uncertain as 
to when and where the attack would be made, thus 
wearying them out with watching, while the Federal 
troops, their officers knowing exactly when the attack 
would be made, could take their usual rest and regu 
lar meals and, when needed for action, would go 
fresh to their work. Whatever objections were 
raised were overruled by General Benham, who 
ordered the assault to be made. 

The consolidated morning reports of June 9 
showed the Federal force in hand on James Island 
to be: Wright s Division, 3232; Stephens Division, 
4313; Williams Headquarters Brigade, 1927 
total, 9472. It was believed that the Confederate 
force defending the works to be attacked was less 
than 500 men. It was proposed to surprise that 
force and capture the works. 

General Stephens was ordered to form his entire 
division before day dawn, secretly and in silence, at 
the advanced picket line, and at day dawn, or about 
four o clock, to move rapidly upon the enemy s 
works at and about Secessionville and carry them by 
a coup-de-main. General Wright s Division, with 
Williams Brigade temporarily attached, was or 
dered to move at the same time from their camp at 
Thomas Grimble s, to support Stephens and protect 
his left and rear from any attack that might be made 
by the Confederates from that direction. This pre 
caution to guard against a flank and rear attack was 


deemed so important that General Wright was or 
dered, in the event of Stephens being repulsed, not to 
renew the assault. 

The Confederate works in front of Secessionville 
occupied the most contracted part of a narrow neck 
of land, with marshes fringed with brushwood on 
both sides. The route from General Stephens camp 
to this position, after passing a causeway, was over 
cultivated fields, bordered with thorny hedges, the 
most advanced hedge being about five hundred yards 
from the Confederate batteries. The field in front 
of this hedge converged rapidly to the Confederate 
works, where the front of attack was about one 
hundred yards in length, flanked on either side by the 
before-mentioned marshes. 

Stephens Division was composed of two brigades 
of infantry, of three regiments each. The First 
Brigade, Colonel Fenton, Eighth Michigan, com 
manding, made up of the Eighth Michigan, Lieu 
tenant Colonel F. Graves; the Seventh Connecticut, 
Lieutenant Colonel J. R. Hawley, and the Twenty- 
eighth Massachusetts, Lieutenant Colonel More, 
led the assault and was closely followed by the 
Second Brigade, Colonel Leasure, of the One Hun 
dredth Pennsylvania, consisting of the Seventy-ninth 
New York Highlanders, Lieutenant Colonel David 
Morrison; the One Hundredth Pennsylvania, Lieu 
tenant Colonel D. A. Lecky, and the Forty-sixth 
New York, Colonel Rudolph Rosa, commanding. 
A storming party, consisting of Companies C and H 
of the Eighth Michigan, Captains Ralph Ely and 
R. N. Doyle, led the assault, conducted by Lieuten- 


ant Lyons, aide-de-camp on General Stephens staff, 
and followed by Captain Sears company of New 
York Engineers. Rockwell s Battery of Connecti 
cut Light Artillery followed the First Brigade and 
Captain Sargent s company of the First Massachu 
setts cavalry followed in the rear. 

About four o clock on a dark cloudy morning 
Stephens whole command was in motion and, press 
ing forward rapidly and in silence, surprised the 
Confederate picket in the house they occupied, cap 
tured two or three of the men and, debouching 
through the advanced hedge, advancing at double- 
quick time, deployed, or attempted to deploy, into* 
line of battle, the Seventh Connecticut, the center 
regiment, following close on the Eighth Michigan, 
to form on its left. It seems that the mistake, or 
blunder, had been made of attempting to charge 
with brigade front over a space scarcely wide enough 
for a regiment in line. While the regiments of the 
leading brigade were forming forward into line in 
double-quick time a storm of grape and canister 
from the Confederate guns crashed through the 
center of the line and continued tearing through the 
ranks with great rapidity, severing the line, one part 
crowding toward the right, the other to the left. 
Says Lieutenant Colonel Graves: 

"Still the regiment moved rapidly on, preserving 
their order and leaving the ground in their rear 
strewn with their dead and wounded, and did not 
stop until they gained the parapet and delivered their 
fire upon the enemy in his works. But they were 
unable to contend against such great odds, and, being 


entirely unsupported for a considerable time, they 
fell back slowly, contesting every inch of ground a 
short distance, where they maintained ground until 
ordered to retreat, which they did in good order, 
although under fire. The regiment, however, had 
become much scattered, owing to the great number 
of officers who had fallen." 

The inevitable result of attempting to advance 
with brigade front over space hardly wide enough 
for a single regiment in line followed. The regi 
ments became somewhat entangled with each other 
and the brushwood-fringed marshes on the flanks. 
When within two or three hundred yards of the Con 
federate works the Seventh Connecticut "came 
obliquely upon an unforeseen ditch and morass," 
crowding and doubling up the regiment toward the 
center. At this moment a terrific fire of grape and 
musketry swept through the ranks. "The line was 
inevitably broken," says Colonel Hawley, "and 
though the men stood bravely to their work the line 
could not be re-formed until the colors were brought 
into the open field. When re-formed it started again 
under a heavy fire toward the earthworks, but had 
proceeded but a little distance when an order came 
from General Stephens, brought by his son, who was 
then receiving his baptism of fire, to call the men 
off, and the regiment fell back to the cover of the 
hedge in front of their hospital. The Twenty-eighth 
Massachusetts had been unavoidably pushed far to 
the left, and as soon as it was formed into line, ad 
vancing, one regiment that was in front fell back 


and broke through our regiment, throwing it into 

"Forward again," he continues, "marched by the 
flank through a dense brush on our left and followed 
the edge of the bushes, which formed one side of a 
marsh to within forty yards of the enemy s work. 
Here our progress was interrupted by a large fallen 
tree, between which and the enemy s work was an 
impassable marsh. On our right was an abattis of 
dense brush and on our left and front marsh. Here 
we lost many of the men who were killed and wound 
ed in the regiment. Seeing that we could be of no 
possible use in this place with less than platoon front 
to retaliate by fire on the enemy, and this position 
being raked by the fire of the gun on the corner of 
the enemy s work nearest the observatory, I ordered 
the regiment to retire, 2 and it, too, found shelter 
behind the hedge." 

While the First Brigade was being thus cut up the 
Seventy-ninth Highlanders, leading the Second Bri 
gade, was ordered by General Stephens to the right 
to assail the work a little to the right of the point 
from which the Eighth Michigan had been driven. 
Lieutenant Colonel Morrison led the right wing of 
his regiment to the parapet. 

"As I mounted the parapet," says the Lieutenant 
Colonel, "I received a wound in the head, which, 
though slight, stunned me for the time being; but 
still I was able to retain command. With me many 
mounted the works, but only to fall or to receive 
"Lieutenant Colonel Moore s report. 


their wounds from the enemy, posted in rifle-pits in 
rear of the fort. . . . From the ramparts I had 
a full view of their works. They were entrenched 
in a position well selected for defensive purposes and 
upon which our artillery seemed to have little effect, 
save driving them into their retreats, and in attempt 
ing to dislodge them we were met with a fierce and 
determined opposition, but with equal if not superior 
determination and courage were they met by our 
forces, and had I been supported could have carried 
their works, . . . for we virtually had it in our 
possession. After remaining in this position some 
considerable time and not being supported by the 
other regiments, I received orders to fall back, which 
I did in good order, leaving behind about forty killed 
or badly wounded, many of whom fell on the ram 
parts, and brought back with me six killed and about 
sixty wounded," while the right companies of the 
regiment "the left having encountered a perfect 
storm of grape and canister were obliged to seek 
shelter either by obliquing to the left, under cover of 
a small ravine, or by dropping among the cotton 
ridges in front of the fort, where they kept up a 
steady fire on the enemy s gunners." 5 

Of the other two regiments of this brigade the 
One Hundredth Pennsylvania was formed in line of 
battle supporting the left of the Seventy-ninth High 
landers, and the Forty-sixth New York the left of 
the One Hundredth Pennsylvania. The brigade was 
thus formed in three lines of battle in echelon. 

"Report of Colonel Leasure, commanding the brigade. 


While the two latter regiments were coming into 
line, Colonel Leasure, the Brigade Commander, with 
his staff, hastened forward to hurry up the left of 
the Seventy-ninth, intending to lead the assault in 
person. When about three hundred yards from the 
Confederate works he reached the storm. He says: 

"We entered the range of a perfect storm of 
grape, canister, nails, broken glass, and pieces of 
chains, fired from three very large pieces on the fort, 
which completely swept every foot of ground within 
the range, and either cut the men down or drove 
them to the shelter of the ravine on the left. I now 
turned to look after and lead up the One Hundredth 
Pennsylvania Regiment and found its center just 
entering the fatal line of fire, which completely cut it 
in two, and the right under Major Lecky obliqued to 
the right and advanced to support the right of the 
Seventy-ninth New York, and many of the men 
reached the foot of the embankment and some suc 
ceeded in mounting it, with a few brave men of the 
Seventy-ninth, who were there with a portion of the 
Eighth Michigan. . . . 

"I may be permitted to report further that at the 
time I arrived in front of the hedge near the fort I 
saw nothing of any part of the supporting regiments 
of the First Brigade , and between the advancing 
Highlanders and the fort only a portion of the 
Eighth Michigan, who led the attack in front of the 
fort, that regiment having already been decimated 
by the murderous fire through which we all had to 

While the Forty-sixth New York was advancing 


to the attack it was run into by parts of the Seventh 
Connecticut and Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, 
which were retreating, and swept along with them 
in their retreat a part of the Forty-sixth New York. 

"During all of this time our own artillery fired 
over our heads from enormous distances and burst 
several shells right over our heads. The fire of our 
gunboats was also very disagreeable until they fin 
ally succeeded in getting a better range." 

The First Brigade having utterly failed and fallen 
back terribly shattered, the Second Brigade was re 
called and the whole division formed in two lines 
near the points from which it had started. "My 
men," says General Stephens, "were at the enemy s 
works about 4:30 o clock and the conflict of twenty- 
five minutes, so dreadful in its casualties, was over 
and the men returned." Rockwell s battery, or a 
part of it, was pushed forward to the advanced 
hedge and kept up a brisk fire on the fort, but the 
assault had been made and failed disastrously. 

General Wright s Division had moved promptly 
at the appointed time and had well performed the 
part assigned it. General Benham had joined 
Wright about the time his division moved forward 
and commanded in person. Receiving an urgent 
request from General Stephens for support, Colonel 
Williams was ordered to hasten forward with his 
brigade and report to Stephens. His brigade ap 
proached the Confederate works to the left of the 
marsh which had so cramped General Stephens Di 
vision. It did not reach the point on which it was 
directed until Stephens attack had failed and his 


division driven, or had fallen back, under cover. 
The Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania joined the left of 
Stephens Division on the line to which it had fallen 
back. The Third New Hampshire and Third 
Rhode Island were pushed well to the front. The 
Third New Hampshire approached to within forty 
yards of the Confederate works and opened fire. 
Colonel Jackson, commanding the regiment, reports 
that he found no artillery on that part of the Con 
federate works and that he could easily have gone 
into the fort. 

"If," he adds, "I could have crossed a stream 
between me and the earthworks about twenty yards 
in width, with apparently four or five feet of water, 
and the mud very soft; the men therefore could not 
cross. The enemy soon opened on me from a bat 
tery about two hundred yards in our rear, throwing 
grape into the ranks, from which we suffered se 
verely. In a short time they opened fire with rifles 
and infantry. At the same time a battery about a 
mile north of us opened on us with shot and shell. 

He seems to have been well enveloped in fire and 
the regiment suffered severely. He saw reinforce 
ments passing into the Confederate works, which he 
was powerless to prevent. A section of Hamilton s 
battery regular artillery succeeded in silencing 
the battery in the rear and a battalion of the Third 
Rhode Island penetrated the brushwood to dislodge 
the Confederate sharpshooters, but did not succeed. 
The assault was already essentially over and it was 
a mere waste of life and limb to keep these troops 
where they were. They were therefore withdrawn. 


General Stephens was holding his division, awaiting 
orders and ready to renew the assault, but no orders 
came and soon the whole Federal force on the island 
had returned to the camps from which they started. 

The aggregate Federal loss was 683. The 
Eighth Michigan had lost most heavily. It lost 
more than a third of the number engaged. Of 
twenty-two commissioned officers who went into 
action thirteen were killed or wounded. The Sev 
enty-ninth Highlanders, Third New Hampshire, and 
Seventh Connecticut had also suffered severely. All 
the regiments actively engaged had lost seriously. 
Among the killed were: Captain Edwin S. Hitch 
cock and Lieutenant Thomas Hooton, Seventh Con 
necticut; Captains Benjamin B. Church and Simon 
Guild, Eighth Michigan; Captain Ralph Carlton, 
Third New Hampshire; Lieutenant Ferdinand Se- 
hert, Forty-sixth New York; Lieutenant James Kin- 
ner, Seventy-ninth New York Highlanders, died on 
the 1 8th of wounds received; Lieutenant Samuel J. 
Moore, One Hundredth Pennsylvania, and Lieuten 
ant Erasmus S. Bartholomew, Third Rhode Island 
Heavy Artillery. 

The assault which had resulted so disastrously 
narrowly missed brilliant success. The works about 
Secessionville were occupied by two companies of 
the First (afterwards Second) South Carolina Ar 
tillery, and two battalions of infantry, the Charles 
ton Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Gaillard, and the 
Pee Dee Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Smith com 
manding, in all less than five hundred men. Colonel 
T. G. Lamar, of the South Carolina Artillerv, com- 


manded the post. From the landing of the Fed 
eral force on the 2d to the morning of the i6th the 
Confederate troops had been subjected, day and 
night, to the most arduous duties. On the I5th 
there had been sharp skirmishing and the combined 
fire from the land and naval batteries had been un 
usually heavy. Notwithstanding the secrecy ob 
served in the Federal camps, Colonel Lamar had 
observed enough to convince him that an attack 
would be made in the night of the I5th or early the 
following morning, and so reported to General 
Evans, commanding on the island, who ordered 
Colonel Johnson Hagood to reinforce Secessionville 
up to 2000 men, but the reinforcements had not 
arrived when the assault was made. Colonel Ha 
good carried the reinforcements without orders 
from General Evans. Colonel Lamar and his men 
had been busily at work all night of the I5th and 
until three o clock in the morning constructing a new 
land battery and transferring guns to it from an 
old gunboat. About three o clock in the morning 
the men, exhausted by the skirmishing of the day 
before and the labor of the night, were allowed to 
lie down to rest. 

It was the first time since Colonel Lamar had 
been in command that his men had been allowed to 
sleep without arms in their hands and at the point 
where they would have to use them in the event of 
an attack. The men had scarcely fallen asleep when 
the storm of battle burst on them. Sending a courier 
to Colonels Gaillard and Smith, to hurry forward 
with their battalions, Colonel Lamar hastened to the 


batteries, where the gunners were found at their 
guns and alert. He was just in time to see in the 
gray light of a cloudy morning the enemy s line ad 
vancing at the double-quick to the assault. 

Mounting the chasee of the ten-inch columbiad, 
he aimed it himself at the center of the advancing 
line, to break and delay it until the infantry support 
could come up. Immediately all of the guns were 
firing, the columbiad and eighteen-pounders firing 
grape and canister, the twenty-four-pounders firing 
solid shot and shells. The fire on the center of the 
line had, as we have seen, the desired effect of break 
ing it and causing a little delay, and when the lead 
ing regiment, the Eighth Michigan, reached the 
ditch and mounted to the parapet it encountered a 
storm of fire from Colonel Smith s Pee Dee Bat 
talion, and after a brief and fierce struggle the 
Eighth Michigan, as has been seen, was driven back, 
badly shattered. The Charleston Battalion, under 
Lieutenant Colonel Gaillard, followed closely on the 
heels of the Pee Dee Battalion and was put into 
action on the right of the battery. When the Michi 
gan regiment fell back Colonel Smith sallied out and 
gathered up the arms (they were better than his 
own) which had fallen from the hands of the killed 
and wounded, and put them in the hands of his own 
men in time to use them in repelling the assault of 
the Seventy-ninth Highlanders. Early in the assault 
a detachment of one hundred men of the Twenty- 
second South Carolina, sent to reinforce the garri 
son, arrived and took an active part in the defense. 
A little later Lieutenant Colonel McEnery arrived 


with his Louisiana Battalion and also took an active 
part in repelling the last assault. 

That night Colonel Stevens, of the Twenty-fourth 
South Carolina Regiment, commanded the picket 
line of Hagood s Brigade. It consisted of seven 
companies of the Twenty-fourth and six of the First 
South Carolina Regiment and one of the Forty- 
seventh Georgia Regiment. The picket line, con 
necting on the left with the picket in front of Se- 
cessionville, covered the whole Confederate front to 
Newtown Cut. As soon as the Federal advance 
was made known to Colonel Hagood he sent Mc- 
Enery s Louisiana Battalion to Secessionville and 
carried the remainder of his brigade not already on 
outpost duty to the picket line, to the felled timber 
near the Battery Island road. One of Captain 
Boyce s six-pounder guns was placed in battery on 
the left of the felled timber, which made good abat- 
tis. About one hundred of Colonel Stevens pickets 
already occupied a thicket extending from the felled 
timber to the morass on the left near the Secession 
ville batteries. The Twenty-fifth South Carolina, 
Colonel Simonton, was in rear of the felled timber 
and to the right of the field piece. 

Lieutenant Colonel Capers commanded the bat 
tery at Clark s House, which, though at a greater 
distance than the other batteries, was most effectively 
served. These were the troops (Hagood s Bri 
gade) that almost enveloped the Third New Hamp 
shire and repulsed a very gallant and determined 
dash made by a battalion of the Third Rhode Island 
Heavy Artillery to dislodge the troops in the felled 


timber and capture the gun which was galling the 
rear of the Third New Hampshire. Colonel Wil 
liams Brigade was plainly seen by Colonel Hagood 
in line of battle about Hill s Houses. He immedi 
ately dispatched an officer to General Evans, com 
manding on the island, asking to be supported in 
making an attack on the flank and rear of Williams 
Brigade. But before permission to attack and as 
surance of support were received Colonel Williams 
Brigade was withdrawn, the whole Federal force 
on the island returned to the camp from which it 
had started before the first dawn of day, and the 
assault of Secessionville was ended. 

The aggregate Confederate loss was 204, nearly 
the whole of it falling on the troops who defended 
the Secessionville batteries. The struggle for the 
parapet had been especially stubborn and fierce. 
Muskets were clubbed and Lieutenant Campbell and 
Mr. Tennant, of the Charleston Battalion, in de 
fault of better weapons, seized handspikes and 
wielded them with effect. Among the killed were 
Captain Samuel T. Reed, First South Carolina Ar 
tillery; Captain Henry C. King and Lieutenant John 
T. Edwards, of the Charleston Battalion; Lieutenant 
B. A. Graham, of the Forty-seventh Georgia, and 
Richard W. Greer, of the Twenty-fifth South Caro 

As soon as the result of the assault was made 
known to General Hunter, then at Hilton Head, he 
relieved General Benham from command and 
ordered him to Washington in arrest, charged with 
disobedience of orders and instructions in making 


the assault. General Wright, who succeeded Gen 
eral Benham in command, was ordered to abandon 
James Island, which was soon done, leisurely and in 
perfect order. The Federal troops returned to the 
points from which they had started on the expe 
dition and the Confederates were left undisturbed 
to complete the strong lines of earthworks on James 
Island from Fort Johnson, on the harbor, to Prin- 
gle, on the Stono, which were never captured. 


Operations on the South Atlantic Coast General Hunter s policy 
Expedition up the St. John s Capture of St. John s 
Bluff General Hunter is succeeded by Major General 
Ormesby Mitchell Expedition toward Pocotaligo Engage 
ment at Frampton s plantation and Pocotaligo Negro 
troops General Saxton s activities Contraband. 

While the Union troops under the command of 
Brigadier General H. G. Wright were withdrawing 
from James Island after the failure of the assault 
of June 1 6 on Secessionville, there was urgent need 
for reinforcements in both the Union and Confed 
erate armies in other quarters. 

In Virginia the battles of Fair Oaks and Seven 
Pines had been followed by the seven days battles 
around Richmond; General McClellan s army had 
been pressed back to Harrison s Landing on the 
James, and General Lee was preparing to throw his 
army against the Army of Northern Virginia, and 
by threatening Washington recall General McClel- 
lan from the prosecution of operations against the 
Confederates, to the defense of the Union capital. 
West of the Mississippi the battle of Pea Ridge had 
been fought, and to the east of it the sanguinary and 
indecisive battle of Shiloh had been followed by the 
slow but steady advance of the army under General 
Halleck toward Corinth, until General Beauregard 



was forced to face back to Tupelo. General Buell, 
commanding the Army of the Ohio, detached from 
General Halleck s army, was marching eastward to 
seize the important strategic point of Chattanooga, 
while General Bragg, who had succeeded General 
Beauregard in command, was preparing to transfer 
his army to the same point, anticipate General Buell 
in its occupation, and to march thence into Ken 
tucky. These military operations had been attended 
with fearfully heavy losses in the various armies 

In response to a call from the War Department 
for reinforcements, General Hunter sent seven regi 
ments of infantry and a few companies of the First 
Massachusetts Cavalry to Virginia, under Brigadier 
General I. I. Stearns. So large a draft on his force 
reduced it to that degree that General Hunter was 
not only unable to renew offensive operations against 
Charleston, but could not make any formidable 
demonstration at any point on the mainland. Opera 
tions along the coast were therefore reduced to 
predatory excursions by small parties and surprises 
and skirmishes between the advanced pickets. 

General Hunter availed himself of this enforced 
lull in active military operations in his own depart 
ment to inaugurate a favorite plan of his, from which 
he anticipated the happiest results. His predecessor, 
General W. T. Sherman, had been embarrassed, 
rather than aided, by the number of negroes who 
had been brought under his care and control by the 
occupation of some, and the exposed condition of 
all of the sea islands and the adjacent mainland. 


General Hunter had, on May 9, without authority 
from his Government, issued a General Order eman 
cipating all of the slaves in the States of South Caro 
lina, Georgia, and Florida, and proceeded to arm, 
equip, and organize into companies and regiments 
the able-bodied negro men under his control, to be 
used in the prosecution of the war in those States. 
His method of recruiting was most arbitrary and 
summary. He ordered all able-bodied negro men 
capable of bearing arms, and within the limits of his 
command, to be sent under guard to his headquar 
ters. The soldiers were employed to enforce the 
order, and marched to different plantations, took 
charge of the negroes, at work in the fields or when 
ever they could be found, and hurried them off to 
headquarters, without giving them time to go to 
their cabins for necessary clothing or to make any 
preparation for their sudden transition from the 
cotton field to the ranks of the army. The order 
produced the wildest consternation and panic among 
the negroes. Many of them fled from their homes 
and concealed themselves in the woods, where they 
were pursued by the soldiers, and those of them 
who could be found were forcibly brought in and 
hurried off to Hilton Head, "sighing for the old 
fetters as being better than the new liberty," says 
Mr. Wells, one of the Northern overseers in charge 
of a plantation. 

The time, however, had not yet arrived for resort 
ing to that measure for crippling the South and swell 
ing the ranks of the Union armies. President Lin 
coln repudiated and revoked General Hunter s 


orders, not, however, until the latter had organized 
one regiment of negroes, the first of some forty- 
eight thousand or fifty thousand of such troops that 
he expected to organize during the summer and 

It was plainly desirable that the negroes left by 
their owners on the abandoned plantations should 
be organized and brought under some control, and 
direction made for the cultivation of those produc 
tive islands. Brigadier General Rufus Saxton, an 
ardent advocate of the plan for giving arms and 
military organization to the slaves, and using them 
in the prosecution of the war in that quarter, had 
been assigned to the special duty of organizing and 
directing the negroes in the cultivation of the aban 
doned plantations. He was clothed with full au 
thority over all the inhabitants who were not in the 
military service of the United States of that part 
of the country within the Union lines, or that might 
be brought within them in the prosecution of the 
war. In ordering courts-martial for the trial of all 
offenders, and taking final action on the cases tried, 
his authority was the same as that vested in generals 
commanding armies or military departments. He 
was further authorized to organize and arm five 
thousand negro men, and muster them in for the 
war for service in the Quartermaster General s De 
partment, and five thousand to be organized into 
companies, regiments, and brigades. They were to 
be officered by white men selected from the regi 
ments then in service, and were to be armed and uni 
formed and received into the service with the same 


pay and allowances as other troops of the line. They 
were to be employed in guarding and protecting 
negroes who were engaged in the cultivation of the 
plantations, to make forays into the country and 
bring away all negroes of what condition soever, 
and to destroy all property which might be useful 
in the prosecution of the war that could not be 
brought within the Union lines. Thus provision was 
made for raising a quasi-army of ten thousand men, 
in addition to the force already in the department, 
and to be under the command of Brigadier General 

On September 5 General Hunter left the depart 
ment on a long leave of absence, and was succeeded 
in command on September 17 by Major General 
Ormesby M. Mitchell, Brigadier General J. M. 
Brannan commanding in the interim. 

During the brief period of his command General 
Mitchell infused some new life and activity into the 
military operations of his department. 

In the preceding May General H. G. Wright, 
whose brigade had occupied St. Augustine and parts 
of Florida bordering on the St. John s River, was 
withdrawn, with his command, to take part in the 
general movements for the capture of Charleston. 
On the withdrawal of the troops the Floridians re 
turned to their homes in Jacksonville and other 
points. Some Confederate troops also occupied that 
part of the country and were engaged in placing it 
in condition of defense. A battery of some strength 
had been constructed in and armed at St. John s 
Bluff, on the river of that name. 


On September 30 General Mitchell dispatched 
General Brannan to the St. John s River with the 
Forty-seventh Pennsylvania and Seventh Connecti 
cut Infantry, a section of the First Connecticut Ar 
tillery, and a detachment of the First Massachusetts 
Cavalry, in all 1568 men. On the way he was joined 
by a fleet of six gunboats, Captain Charles Steed- 
man commanding. The expedition entered the St. 
John s in the afternoon of the next day. Three gun 
boats proceeded to reconnoiter the battery on the 
bluff, and after a brisk engagement retired out of 
range. Under cover of the naval vessels the troops 
landed at Mayport Mills, but ascertaining there 
that, owing to intervening creeks and marshes, it 
would be necessary to march about forty miles to 
reach the rear of St. John s Bluff, General Brannan 
moved his command in boats, furnished from the 
fleet, higher up and landed the infantry at Burkbone 
Creek, between Publo and Mount Pleasant. Early 
on the morning of the 2d Colonel Good of the 
Forty-seventh Pennsylvania moved with the infantry 
of the command and the naval howitzers to the head 
of Mount Pleasant Creek, drove from their camp 
a Confederate picket, and occupied a position about 
two miles from St. John s Bluff, to cover the landing 
of the detachments of artillery and cavalry. Receiv 
ing information which he regarded as reliable, that 
there were 1200 Confederate infantry and cavalry 
between him and the Bluff, General Brannan, after 
consultation with Captain Steedman, called upon 
Colonel Rice, commanding the Ninth Maine at Fer- 
nandina, for reinforcement, and 300 men were 


promptly dispatched to him. Late in the afternoon 
of the 3d Captain Steedman, at General Brannan s 
request, sent three gunboats to feel the battery at 
the Bluff. Finding, to his surprise, that it was not 
occupied, he sent a boat party ashore, which hoisted 
the Union flag over the Confederate battery. 

While General Brannan was waiting within two 
miles of the Bluff for the arrival of reinforcements, 
the battery had been for eighteen or twenty hours 
wide open to receive him. As so often happened 
during the war, each commander had greatly over 
estimated his adversary s force. 

Lieutenant Colonel Charles F. Hopkins had been 
assigned to the command of the Bluff a few days 
(September 26) before the appearances of the 
Union force in the river. In addition to the gunners 
who manned the battery, he had outside for its de 
fense on the land front a mixed force of about 500, 
instead of 1200. Colonel Hopkins, who from his 
position in the battery had watched the landing of a 
part of the force, judging from what he had himself 
seen and from information brought him by the picket 
that had been driven in, estimated the Union land 
force at 3000 men, whereas it was but little more 
than half that number. Feeling his inability to de 
fend his post against a combined attack of the troops 
which he estimated outnumbered him by six to one, 
and the six gunboats in the river in his front, Col 
onel Hopkins, with the concurrence of the officers 
of his command whom he consulted, abandoned the 
battery about nine o clock on the night of the 2d; 
and not having the means of removing his heavy 


guns and ammunition, and fearing that any attempt 
to burst or otherwise disable them would apprise the 
enemy of his intended retreat, left them all unin 
jured. While General Brannan was surprised at his 
good fortune in gaining possession, without striking 
a blow, of a post strong by nature and strengthened 
by well-planned and constructed works, Colonel 
Hopkins congratulated himself on having saved his 
small force from capture. 1 

After moving the guns and ammunition to a trans 
port, blowing up the magazine, and destroying the 
entire work, General Brannan proceeded up the 
river to Jacksonville, which he found deserted, the 
inhabitants, with the exception of a few old men, 
women, and children, having abandoned their homes 
on the approach of the enemy and moved back in 
the interior. While at Jacksonville a small party 
was sent in a transport, escorted by a gunboat, about 
230 miles up the river, and took possession of a 
small abandoned steamer, the Governor Milton. On 
October 13 the whole expedition had returned to 
Hilton Head. The return had been hastened by 
General Mitchell, who proposed himself to lead a 
more extensive expedition against the Charleston 
& Savannah Railroad. 

The force designated for this expedition was parts 
of the First Brigade, Brigadier General J. M. Bran- 
nan s, and of the Second Brigade, Brigadier General 
A. H. Terrie s, augmented by detachments of other 
organizations, making a total land force of 4450 

*A court of inquiry which he demanded exonerated him from 
all blame. 


men. 2 Several boat howitzers manned by officers 
and men of the navy were added to the land force. 

The gunboats and transports of the expedition 
were under command of Captain Charles Steedman, 
United States Navy. 

The organization of the command and all of the 
details as to transportation, supplies, and ammuni 
tion had been made entirely by Major General Mit 
chell, who had intended to command it in person. 
A few hours before it sailed, however, Brigadier 
General Brannan was assigned to the command, 
Colonel Chatfield of the Sixth Connecticut succeed 
ing to the command of his brigade. The object of 
the expedition was to destroy the railroad and 
bridges on the Charleston & Savannah Road, and 
the points of attack were Coosawhatchie and Poco- 

2 The troops composing the expedition were the following: 
Forty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers, 600 men, Colonel 
Tolghman H. Good; Fifty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, 400 
men, Colonel Richard White; Fourth New Hampshire Volun 
teers, 500 men (Colonel Chatfield) Lieutenant Colonel Spidel; 
Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, 500 men, Colonel Joseph R. 
Hawley; Third New Hampshire Volunteers, 480 men, Colonel 
John H. Jackson; Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania Volunteers, 430 
men, Colonel DeWitt C. Strawbridge; Forty-eighth New York 
Volunteers, 200 men, Colonel William B. Barton; First New 
York Mechanics and Engineers, 250 men, Lieutenant Colonel 
James F. Hall; a section of Battery M, First United States 
Artillery, 40 men, Lieutenant Guy V. Henry; a section of Ham 
ilton s Battery E, Second United States Artillery, Lieutenant 
E. Gittings ; detachment of the First Massachussetts Cavalry, 
roo men, Captain L. Richmond. A total force of 4500. Colonel 
Edward W. Serrgie, First New York Engineers, served on 
General Brannan s staff. 


taligo, two stations on the road about ten miles 
apart. Scouts and spies had been sent by General 
Mitchell to the most important points on the line 
of the railroad, from the Savannah to the Salke- 
hatchie rivers, a distance of sixty miles. Small parties 
were also sent in boats up the Coosawhatchie, Tulli- 
finnie, and Pocotaligo, to ascertain and report the 
depth of water and condition of the different land 
ings. A party was sent in advance to cut the tele 
graph wires, and every precaution taken to insure 
success. Mackey s Point, a narrow neck of land be 
tween the Pocotaligo and Broad rivers, was selected 
as the place for landing a judicious selection, as 
gunboats in the two streams could thoroughly sweep 
the ground some miles in front and securely cover 
the landing. 

The expedition started from Hilton Head in the 
night of the 2ist, in fourteen gunboats and armed 
transports, and the leading vessel reached Mackey s 
Point about half-past four o clock the next morning. 
It was eight o clock before the other vessels arrived. 
Colonel Barton, with fifty men of the New York 
Engineers and fifty of the Third Rhode Island Vol 
unteers was immediately sent up the Coosawhatchie 
in the steamer Planter, which had been converted 
into a heavily armed gunboat, accompanied by two 
other gunboats, to destroy the railroad and bridges 
at and near the village of Coosawhatchie. The main 
body, under cover of the batteries of the gunboats, 
landed without opposition at Mackey s Point, seven 
or eight miles from Old Pocotaligo, and marched 
forward over a good road up the narrow neck of 


land between the Tullifinnie and Pocotaligo, which 
securely protected the flanks, while the gunboats 
covered the rear of the column. 

Brigadier General W. S. Walker, C. S. A., 3 com 
manded in the military district invaded, with head 
quarters at McPhersonville, via the railroad about 
ten miles from Coosawhatchie toward Charleston. 
It was not until 9 A. M. that his pickets informed him 
of the landing of the expedition at Mackey s Point 
and the passage of gunboats up the Coosawhatchie. 
His small force was distributed over a distance of 
sixty miles along and near the railroad. The general 
plan for the protection of the road and that part of 
the country was to occupy the most vulnerable points 
by as large detachments as the small available force 
could supply; these detachments to be quickly con 
centrated at the menaced point, and hold the enemy 
in check until reinforcements could arrive from 
Charleston and Savannah, and any other point from 
which they could be spared. General Walker s meas 
ures for defense were taken with the promptness 
which characterized him. The troops nearest Mc 
Phersonville were ordered to Old Pocotaligo, about 
five miles from Coosawhatchie. The Lafayette Ar 
tillery, four pieces; Lieutenant L. F. LeBeau s, and 
a section of the Beaufort Artillery, Lieutenant H. M. 
Stuart commanding, were ordered to Coosawhatchie. 
Captain Wyman s company, Eleventh South Caro 
lina, which was near the village, and five other com 
panies of the same regiment at Hardieville were 

a lie was a colonel at the time, but was promoted a few days 


ordered up to support the artillery. Colonel Col- 
cock s command of five companies of cavalry and 
two of sharpshooters, in front of Grahamville, was 
ordered to Coosawhatchie. Major J. R. Jefford s 
battalion of cavalry (Seventh South Carolina) was 
ordered from Green Pond to the Salkehatchie Bridge, 
and calls were made on Savannah, Charleston, and 
Adams Run for reinforcements ; those from Charles 
ton and Adams Run to stop at Pocotaligo Station, 
those from Savannah at Coosawhatchie. Captain 
W. L. Trenholm, who commanded the outpost near 
est Mackey s Point, was ordered to fall back with 
his command of two mounted companies, his own 
(the Rutledge Mounted Riflemen) and Captain M. 
J. Kirk s company of Partisan Rangers toward Old 

When these dispositions were made General 
Walker had with him to meet the advancing enemy 
two sections of Beaufort Light Artillery and the Nel 
son (Virginia) Light Battery, eight pieces, Captain 
Stephen Elliott commanding; Captain Trenholm s 
two companies; the Charleston Light Dragoons, 
Captain B. H. Rutledge; the First Battalion South 
Carolina Cavalry, Major J. H. Morgan; Captain 
D. B. Heywood s company of cavalry; Captain J. B. 
Allston s company of sharpshooters, and Captain 
A. C. Izard s company of the Eleventh South Caro 
lina Infantry, numbering in all 475 men, and as a 
fourth of the mounted men were horse-holders, his 
effective force was but 405 men. Of this force a 
section of the Beaufort Artillery, supported by two 
companies of cavalry under Major Morgan and All- 


ston s company of sharpshooters, was sent forward 
to Caston s plantation to skirmish with and retard 
the enemy, while the remaining troops took a strong 
position on the Mackey s Point road at a salt marsh 
skirted on both sides by woods traversed by a small 
stream and crossed by a causeway near Dr. Hutson s 
residence on the Frampton plantation. 

Colonel Barton ascended the river in the Planter, 
followed by the gunboats, to within about two miles 
of Coosawhatchie, where he landed and marched 
forward, driving the enemy s pickets before him. 
When within a few hundred yards of the village a 
train of cars was heard approaching, and he quickly 
placed his little command in ambush. It was the 
train which was bringing the troops ordered up from 
Hardeeville for the defense of Coosawhatchie. 
When it came within easy range Colonel Barton s 
command poured into it a destructive fire of mus 
ketry and canister from the boat howitzers, inflicting 
serious loss among the men crowded together on the 
platform cars. Among the killed were the com 
mander of the party, Major J. J. Harrison, and the 
fireman of the train. The engineer was badly 
wounded, but stood to his post and dashed his train 
at full speed through the fire. 

Leaving Captain Eaton of the New York Engi 
neers with a party of his men to tear up the road 
and cut down and destroy the telegraph line, Colonel 
Barton hastened forward to the village to attack 
the troops while in the confusion of leaving the train. 
But when he came in sight of the village he saw the 
artillery advantageously posted and supported by 


a company of infantry on the further side of the 
stream, between the railroad and public bridges, 
their flanks protected on their left by the river and 
right by a swamp. The artillery immediately opened 
fire, to which Colonel Barton replied by a few 
rounds. But night was coming on, the reinforce 
ments in the ambushed train had arrived, and find 
ing himself in front of a much superior force Colonel 
Barton drew off his men and returned to his gun 
boats. Captain Eaton had succeeded in cutting the 
telegraph line in several places and tearing up two 
rails, and while toiling at others some cavalry 
videttes appeared at a little distance, and he too 
drew off, joining the rest of the command, and re 
turned to the gunboats, destroying on the way four 
bridges to retard pursuit. 

Colonel Colcock, who was so prostrated by a pro 
tracted fever that he could not take the field, ordered 
Lieutenant Colonel Johnson to take the command 
with the utmost dispatch to Coosawhatchie. On 
the way Lieutenant Colonel Johnson was deceived 
first by a report that reached him that the enemy 
had landed at Seabrook s Island, indicating that the 
attack was to be made at Grahamville; then by an 
other that they were marching on Bees Creek Hill. 
His movements to meet the altered conditions of 
affairs as indicated by these erroneous reports so 
delayed him that, when he ascertained that the Union 
force was really marching on Coosawhatchie, he was 
obliged to make a detour of five miles to reach that 
place. When he arrived the little party under Colo 
nel Barton had retreated and, the bridges having 


been torn up, Colonel Johnson did not come up with 
them until they were embarking, when a brisk fire 
was exchanged with some effect, Lieutenant J. B. 
Blanding, Third Rhode Island Artillery, who was 
in charge of the Planter, being among the severely 
wounded. But the batteries of the gunboat kept the 
Confederate cavalry at too great a distance for 
effective fire, and Colonel Barton dropped down the 
river to the point from which he had started. 

While Colonel Barton was carrying out his part 
of the general plan, General Brannan s column 
moved forward on the Mackey s Point road, and 
after marching about ^/2 miles and debouching upon 
an open, rolling country, it was fired upon by the 
section of the Beaufort Artillery and its support in 
position, as has been said, at Caston s plantation. 
The First Brigade, in advance, was promptly de 
ployed, the artillery hastened to the front, and after 
a brisk artillery duel, in which Major Morgan, com 
manding the Confederate support, was severely 
wounded, the First Brigade advanced and the Con 
federate advance guard fell back to the position 
occupied by General Walker at the Frampton plan 
tation, closely followed by the Union column. The 
Confederate position was naturally strong. The 
ground was firmer and somewhat more elevated than 
that on the other side that the Union column soon 
reached. Thick woods screened it and concealed the 
Confederate weakness in numbers. The swamp in 
front was broad and deep, traversed by a small 
stream, and passable only by a narrow causeway, as 
the bridge over the little stream had been broken. 


On the Union side the marsh was fringed with timber 
and covered by a dense thicket. The eight Confed 
erate field pieces were in batteries on an arc of a 
curve giving them a concentric fire on the causeway 
and the woods on either side of it. 

When the head of the first brigade came within 
range a rapid artillery fire opened upon it; the two 
sections of United States artillery and the naval bat 
tery were hurried forward into position, and a rapid 
and well directed fire was maintained on both sides, 
until the Union ammunition was nearly exhausted. 
In the meantime the infantry of the first brigade 
struggled with steady courage and determination to 
penetrate the woods and thicket, cross the marsh, 
and reach the Confederate position on the further 
side, but in vain. Twice it was driven out of the 
woods with heavy loss. The Forty-seventh Penn 
sylvania and Sixth Connecticut, which were in ad 
vance, suffered most severely, the former losing 
nearly a fifth of its men. Colonel Chatfield, com 
manding the brigade, and Lieutenant Colonel Spei- 
del, commanding the Sixth Connecticut, were among 
the severely wounded, the command of the brigade 
devolving on Colonel Good of the Forty-seventh 

At the first sound of the artillery fire General 
Terry led his brigade at the double quick to the 
support of the first. The Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania 
of this brigade was thrown into the woods on the 
left of the road to support the left of the first bri 
gade, which was still striving to force its way through 
the marsh. Knowing no way by which the Confed- 


erate position could be turned, General Brannan 
placed Lieutenant Henry s section of the First Artil 
lery, well supported, in a position on the left of the 
causeway, from which a more effective fire could be 
delivered, and again pressed his infantry through 
the woods, so far that the infantry fire was having 
a most destructive effect on the men and horses of 
the Confederate artillery. That arm seems to have 
been General Walker s main reliance, and was al 
ready so badly cut up that he deemed it advisable to 
withdraw to another strong position at the crossing 
of the Pocotaligo, about 2^2 miles in his rear. This 
was done in good order, Captain Allston s company 
of sharpshooters and Lieutenant Campell s, of the 
Eleventh South Carolina, covering the retreat. The 
infantry of Brannan s first brigade promptly plunged 
through the marsh, "up to the men s arm-pits" in 
mud and water, and pressed forward in pursuit. The 
little bridge was quickly so repaired by the engineers 
as to permit the passage of the artillery, when the 
remaining force passed over and followed in pursuit. 
It was all-important to General Walker to hold 
his enemy in check until reinforcements which he 
was expecting could arrive. The object of General 
Brannan s expedition was to reach the railroad and 
destroy as much of it as possible. When he reached 
the juncture of the Mackey s Point with the Coo- 
sawhatchie road, it would seem that if, instead of 
following and attacking General Walker in his new 
position, he had marched directly forward a mile or 
so over a comparatively open and practicable 
country, he could have struck the bridge and trestle 


work about the Tullifinnie, where his engineer troops 
could have accomplished much destruction in a very 
short time. He, however, left a regiment and how 
itzer to guard his flank and rear from that direction, 
and followed the retreating Confederates to their 
new position on the further side of the Pocotaligo, 
where the men were sheltered by the houses and scat 
tered trees of the little hamlet. The bridge over 
the stream, which was approached by a causeway 
over another marsh, was torn up and the artillery, 
now much reduced, was in position to command the 
causeway and crossing. Two pieces of the Beau 
fort artillery had been silenced by the killing and 
wounding of the gunners, and but two of the guns 
were serviceable. The Nelson Battery had suffered 
even more severely in killed and wounded, the two 
Lieutenants, E. E. Jefferson and F. T. Massey, being 
among the wounded; it had but seventeen service 
able horses; one caisson had been broken by the 
running away of the team early in the action at 
Frampton s, and was left on the field. The ammu 
nition happened to fit the naval howitzers, and was 
returned to the Confederates at Pocotaligo from the 
muzzles of those guns. Other pieces had been dis 
abled, and only one could be brought into action in 
the new position. General Walker had scarcely 
made his dispositions for defense when the Union 
column came in sight and the fighting was renewed 
with spirit. 

As at Frampton s, the Union troops endeavored, 
but in vain, to cross the marsh. On a call for vol 
unteers to find a way through, a party of men stepped 


forward, and between the two fires scattered through 
the marsh seeking a practicable passage through it, 
but were unsuccessful. On another call a lieutenant 
and sergeant penetrated to the little river and, re 
turning, reported that, like other streams of the 
country, though narrow, it was deep and the banks 
steep and muddy. 

The Union batteries had exhausted their ammuni 
tion, and the caissons not having accompanied the 
guns, the latter were sent back to Mackey s Point, 
seven or eight miles, to replenish their ammunition 
chests. In the absence of the artillery the Sharps 
breech-loading rifles were used with great rapidity 
and effect. General Walker had been notified by 
telegraph that reinforcements were on the way to 
him from Charleston, Savannah, and Adams Run. 
The Nelson Battalion (Seventh South Carolina) of 
200 men, Captain W. H. Sleigh, commanding, ar 
rived between four and five o clock, but scarcely 
more than filled the gaps already made in the ranks. 
It was the only reinforcements that arrived in time 
to take part in the engagement. Its arrival encour 
aged and in a measure relieved the men who had 
been fighting and retreating for six hours. They 
were received with hearty cheers as they double- 
quicked into position. About the same time the 
Charleston Light Dragoons, which had been held in 
reserve, were ordered up, and came into position 
on the left with an inspiring shout. The cheering 
produced the impression that reinforcements in con 
siderable number were arriving. A piece of the 
Beaufort artillery, with a small support, was moved 


by a concealed route to a position which suggested 
to General Brannan that it was a movement to turn 
his left flank. His ammunition was nearly exhausted, 
and there was none nearer than Mackey s Point, 
and night was coming on. Recognizing the hope 
lessness of attempting anything further against a 
force which he believed (erroneously) was much 
larger than his own, and in a strong position, Gen 
eral Brannan ordered a retreat to Mackey s Point, 
which was made deliberately and in good order. He 
was unprovided with "sufficient transportation to 
remove the wounded, who were lying writhing along 
our entire route," he says. Nevertheless the killed 
were generally buried and the wounded removed on 
improvised stretchers. The bridges which had been 
torn up by the retreating and repaired by the advanc 
ing troops earlier in the day were again destroyed 
to retard pursuit. But the Confederates were in no 
condition for vigorous pursuit. They had lost 163 
of the 475 men present when the fighting began, and 
had received but 200 men as reinforcements. The 
Union loss was 340. The following day the troops 
of the expedition re-embarked at Mackey s Point 
and returned to their respective stations. 

General Brannan was under the impression that 
in these engagements he had encountered superior 
numbers, and two weeks later on, November 6, in a 
General Order complimenting his troops for their 
gallantry and good conduct on the expedition to 
Pocotaligo, he tells them that "though laboring 
under many disadvantages, yet by superior courage 
and determination was a greater force of the rebels 


driven from their strong and well studied positions 
at Caston s and Frampton s, and pursued flying and 
in confusion to their intrenchments on the Poco- 
taligo" ; whereas, as has been seen, from the firing 
of the first to the last shot of the day he had out 
numbered his adversary from nine to ten to one. 

This was the last expedition of any magnitude 
undertaken in the Department of the South until the 
next spring. On October 30 Major General Mitchell 
died of fever at Beaufort, and General Brannan suc 
ceeded by seniority to the command of the depart 
ment. His aggregate force present when he assumed 
command was but 12,838. 

General Saxton, who as superintendent of aban 
doned plantations and director of the negroes within 
the Union lines, exercised an independent command 
within a command, reporting directly to the Secre 
tary of War, seems to have been thoroughly imbued 
with the belief that the heaviest blow against the 
South could be struck by negroes armed and organ 
ized into a military force. And there were officers 
about him who shared that belief. His plan was 
to haul a number of light-draught steamers well 
armed and protected against rifle shots. Each 
steamer was to have on hand a company of one hun 
dred negro soldiers, whom he regarded as better 
fitted for the particular service required of them 
than white soldiers. An abundant supply of muskets 
and ammunition was to be placed in the hands of 
the negroes who might be gathered and found 
capable of bearing arms. These boats should be 
sent up the bays, lagoons, and streams intersecting 


the Southern coast, some of which were navigable 
for more than a hundred miles into the heart of the 
richest part of the Southern country. They should 
land at the various plantations, drive off the owners 
or any pickets that might be found, and bring away 
the negroes. Those who were capable of bearing 
arms were to be placed in the ranks. This species 
of warfare he thought would carry terror to the 
hearts of the Southerners. "In this way," he writes 
to the Secretary of War, "we could very soon have 
complete occupation of the whole country. Indeed, 
I can see no limit to which our success might not be 
pushed up to the entire occupation of States, or 
their occupation by a large portion of the rebel 

The organization of a negro regiment called the 
First South Carolina Union Infantry had been com 
menced, the officers being white men selected from 
the volunteer regiments. With these troops General 
Saxton undertook on a small scale to carry his plan 
into execution. 

On November 3 he dispatched Lieutenant Colonel 
Oliver T. Beard, of the Forty-eighth New York 
Volunteers, in command of a detachment of the 
First South Carolina Regiment on an expedition 
along the coast of Georgia and east Florida, be 
tween Saint Simon s Island and Fernandina; and 
again on November 13 to the Doboy River, Georgia: 
On both expeditions he was accompanied by a naval 
gunboat. Lieutenant Colonel Beard s official reports 
are brief and to the point, and will illustrate the 
species of warfare carried on by General Saxton 


on the Southern coast in the autumn and winter of 

Reporting to General Saxton, Colonel Beard says : 
" . . . On Monday, November 3, with the 
steamer Darlington, having on board Captain Tro- 
bridge s company of colored troops (Sixty-second), 
I proceeded up Bell River, Florida, drove in the 
rebel pickets below Cooper s and destroyed their 
place of rendezvous; thence proceeded and destroyed 
the salt works and all the salt, corn, and wagons 
which we could not carry away, besides killing the 
horses; thence we proceeded to Jolly River and de 
stroyed two salt works, with a large amount of salt 
and corn; thence proceeded to Saint Mary s and 
brought off two families of contrabands, after driv 
ing in the enemy s pickets. 

"On Tuesday, November 4, I proceeded to Kings 
Bay, Georgia, and destroyed a large salt work on 
a creek about a mile from the landing, together with 
all the property on the place. Here we were at 
tacked by about eighty of the enemy, of whom we 
killed two. 

"On Thursday, November 6, landed on Butler 
Island and brought off eighty bushels of rice; also 
landed at Darien and captured three prisoners and 
some arms. 

"Friday, November 7, accompanied by the gun 
boat Potemska, Lieutenant Budd commanding, pro 
ceeded up Sapello River. The gunboat could pro 
ceed no further than Kings. Lieutenant Budd came 
on board the Darlington and proceeded up the river 


with us to Fairhope. At Spauldings we were at 
tacked by eighty or ninety of the enemy, who were 
well posted on a bluff behind trees. At this point 
the channel runs within fifty yards of the bluff. We 
killed two of the enemy and had one colored man 
wounded. At Fairhope we destroyed the salt works, 
some ten vats, corn, and other things that might be 
of use to the enemy. 

u On return past Spaulding s we were again at 
tacked by the enemy in greater force. We effected 
a landing and burned all the buildings on the place 
and captured some arms, etc. Five of the enemy 
were killed; we lost three wounded. We were 
greatly aided here by the Potemska, which from a 
bend below shelled the woods. Under the guns of 
the Potemska we landed at Colonel Brailsford s, 
drove in a company of pickets from his regiment, 
and destroyed all the property on the place, together 
with the most important buildings. 

I started from Saint Simons with sixty-two fighting 
men and returned to Beaufort with 156 fighting men 
(all colored) . . . 

"We destroyed nine large salt works, together 
with twenty thousand dollars worth of horses, salt, 
rice, corn, etc., which we could not carry away." 

Again reporting the result of his expedition to 
Doboy River, Georgia, he says: "I succeeded in 
loading the steamers Ben DeFord and Darlington 
with from 200,000 to 300,000 feet of superior 
boards and planks, besides securing a number of- 


circular and other saws, belting, corn mills, and 
other property which I was directed to obtain for 
your department." 

In the following January Colonel T. W. Higgin- 
son (of Massachusetts), commanding the First South 
Carolina Colored Infantry, carried his regiment on 
a similar expedition up the Saint Mary s River in 
Georgia and Florida, in three steamers, the result 
of which he reported to General Saxton as success 
ful beyond his most sanguine expectations. He dis 
covered and brought away much valuable property, 
and left undisturbed much valuable household fur 
niture, which he forbade his officers and men to take. 
"No wanton destruction was permitted, nor were 
any buildings burned, unless in retaliation for being 
fired upon, according to the usages of war. 

Nothing was taken for public use save articles strictly 
contraband of war." 

Among the articles which he seems to regard as 
belonging to that class, and which he brought away, 
were "40,000 large-sized bricks, four horses, four 
steers, and a quantity of agricultural implements 
suitable for Mr. Helper s operations at this local 
ity." He also found great quantities "of choice 
Southern lumber," and brought away as much of it 
as he could; but he left behind more than 1,000,000 
feet of choice lumber, "for want of transportation," 
the three steamboats under his control being laden 
to their full capacity with other freight. The con 
duct of his negro troops greatly surprised and filled 
him with the most enthusiastic admiration for their 


gallantry and peculiar adaptability to the kind of 
service in which he had employed them, and for 
which he regarded them as far better than the best 
white troops. "It would have been madness," he 
said, "to attempt with the bravest white troops what 
I have successfully accomplished with black ones." 
Their bearing "in battle," especially won his highest 
admiration. Then they exhibited, according to his 
account, a fiery energy beyond anything of which 
he had ever read, except of the French Zouaves. It 
required the strictest discipline to hold them in hand. 
They were ascending the river in steamers so con 
structed as to protect those within from the fire of 
small arms. In the first attack, and before Colonel 
Higginson could get "them all penned below," they 
crowded at the open ends of the steamers, loading 
and firing with unconceivable rapidity, and shouting 
to each other, "Never give it up." When collected 
into the hold they actually fought each other for 
places at the few portholes from which they could 
fire on the enemy. Their conduct generally on the 
expedition thoroughly convinced Colonel Higginson 
and all of his officers "that the key to the successful 
prosecution of this war lies in the unlimited employ 
ment of black troops." 


Strengthening the blockade Palmetto State and Chicora 
Blockading fleet attacked Result of engagement Federal 
Reports Blockade raised Foreign consuls report Diver 
sity of statements Capture of the Isaac Smith. 

At no time from the beginning of the war to the 
spring of 1863 was the naval force of the South 
Atlantic squadron deemed strong enough to encoun 
ter the land batteries defending Charleston harbor. 
The duties of the fleet were therefore restricted so 
far as concerned Charleston to the tedious and mo 
notonous task of blockading the port, enlivened oc 
casionally by a chase, sometimes succesful, of a 
blockade runner. 

More effectually to seal the port than the block 
ading fleet had been able to accomplish, an experi 
ment was made to close it permanently by obstruct 
ing the channel. On December 20, 1861, the first 
anniversary of the secession of South Carolina, a 
fleet of seventeen old merchant vessels laden with 
stone was anchored at regular and short intervals 
in a line across the main channel, and having been 
stripped were scuttled and sunk. On January 20 
following another fleet of similar vessels was sunk 
in like manner, four of them on the western end of 
Rattlesnake Shoals, the others in the track of ves 
sels entering Charleston harbor by Moffitt s Chan- 



nel. The question naturally arose as to whether 
this method of blockading a port by destroying the 
entrance to it was admissible under the laws of na 
tions, and it was thought it might lead to some in 
ternational complications. But the experiment ut 
terly failed. The irresistible waters of the Atlantic 
could not be stayed in their natural ebb and flow; the 
currents edging around the obstructions washed the 
sand from under them, speedily making as good 
a channel as ever by sinking the vessels deeper than 
had been intended; so deep that they offered no ob 
stacle to ingress and egress. 

After the failure of the assault on Secessionville 
and the abandonment by the Federal troops of the 
foothold they had secured on James Island in June, 
more than a year elapsed before any demonstration 
of note was made on Charleston by the land forces. 
In the meantime the operations against that city and 
its harbor were left to the navy, the land forces be 
ing in readiness to co-operate with it when occasion 
offered. Admiral DuPont remained in command of 
the South Atlantic squadron until July, 1863. Gen 
eral Beauregard had been assigned to the important 
and difficult command of the Department of South 
Carolina and Georgia, succeeding General Pember- 
ton in that command on September 24, 1862. 

Early in the morning of January 31, 1863, the 
blockading fleet off Charleston was surprised by a 
raid. There were two ironclad steamers or rams in 
Charleston harbor, which had been built at private 
shipyards in that city, the Palmetto State and Chi- 
cora. They were admirable vessels of their class, 


each armed with four heavy guns and well officered 
and manned. Captain John Rutledge commanded 
the Palmetto State and Captain John R. Tucker the 
Chicora. Commodore Duncan N. Ingraham com 
manded the station, with his flag on the Palmetto 
State. About a quarter past eleven o clock on the 
night of the 3Oth the two steamers left their wharves 
and steamed slowly down to the bar, where they 
awaited the high tide to pass over. About four 
o clock in the morning they crossed the bar and 
made directly for the blockading fleet. The Pal 
metto State went under full steam directly for the 
nearest vessel seen at anchor, which proved to be 
the United States steamer Mercedita, Captain Still- 
wagen commanding. 

The Commodore ordered Captain Rutledge to 
strike with his prow and fire into her. As soon as 
the officer of the deck of the Mercedita saw the 
strange steamer approaching all hands were piped 
to quarters and the guns manned for action. Com 
mander Stillwagen, who had just turned in, quickly 
sprang to his deck and, seeing the stranger close on 
him, hailed: "What steamer is that? Drop your 
anchor or you will be into us," and hearing the 
answer, "The Confederate steamer Palmetto 
State" he immediately ordered, "Fire! fire!" 
These brief and hurried calls and answers, orders to 
quarters and to fire, were scarcely uttered when the 
Palmetto State struck the Mercedita on the quarter 
abaft the aftermost thirty-pounder, and at the same 
time fired a seven-inch shell, which crushed through 
her starboard side diagonally across, passing 


through the Normandy condenser and the steam 
drum, killing the gunner in his room and, exploding 
against the port side of the ship, tore a hole through 
it four or five feet square. 

The vessel was instantly filled and enveloped with 
steam; outcries were heard that the shot had passed 
through both boilers, that the fires were extinguished 
by steam and water, that a number of men were 
killed and others scalded, and that the vessel was 
sinking rapidly. The Confederate commander 
called out: "Surrender or I will sink you. Do you 
surrender?" To which Captain Stillwagen replied: 
"I can make no resistance; my boiler is destroyed." 
"Then do you surrender?" "Yes," replied the cap 
tain of the Mercedita, and quickly sent Lieutenant 
Commander Abbott in a boat to the Palmetto State 
to make known the condition of his vessel and ascer 
tain what the Confederate commander demanded. 
Lieutenant Abbott stated that he came in the name 
of Captain Stillwagen to surrender the United States 
steamer Mercedita, she being then in a sinking and 
perfectly defenseless condition, that she had a crew 
of 158, all told, that her boats were not large 
enough to save the crew, and had besides been low 
ered without the plugs being put in and had filled 
with water. He was informed that the officers and 
crew would be paroled, provided he would pledge 
his word of honor that neither he nor any of the 
officers or crew of the Mercedita would again take 
up arms against the Confederate States during the 
war, unless legally and regularly exchanged as pris 
oners of war. "Believing it to be the proper course 


to pursue at the time, I consented," says Lieutenant 
Abbott. The Merc edit a did not fire a gun, the Pal 
metto State being so low in the water and so near 
that the guns of the former could not be turned 
on her. 

In the meantime the Chicora fired into a schooner- 
rigged propeller and it was believed set her on fire; 
then engaged a large side-wheel steamer at close 
quarters, firing three shots into her with telling effect, 
which then put on all steam and ran off, escaping in 
the dark. She then engaged a schooner-rigged pro 
peller and the Keystone State. The latter was com 
manded by Captain Le Roy, United States Navy. 
The first shot from the Chicora set her on fire in 
her forward hold, when she kept off seaward to 
gain time to extinguish the fire and prepare the ship 
for action. About daylight she made for the Chi 
cora for the purpose, if possible, of running her 
down, exchanging shots with and "striking her re 
peatedly, but making no impression on her, while 
every shot from her struck the Keystone State with 
telling effect." About a quarter past six o clock a 
shell crashed through the Keystone State s port side 
forward guard and destroyed the steam chimneys, 
filling the forward part of the ship with steam. The 
port boiler, emptied of its contents, so lightened her 
on that side that the ship gave a heel to starboard 
nearly down to the guard. The water from the 
boiler, which was rapidly pouring through two 
shot holes under water, produced the impression that 
the ship was filling rapidly and sinking. A foot and 
a half of water was reported in the hold. 


To add to the embarrassment the fire, which it 
was supposed had been extinguished, broke out 
again, while the steam forward prevented the men 
from getting up ammunition, even if the ship and 
crew had been in condition to use it. The signal 
books and some arms were thrown overboard and 
all the boats were made ready for lowering. "The 
ram being so near," says Captain Le Roy, "the ship 
helpless and the men being slaughtered by almost 
every discharge of the enemy s guns, I ordered the 
colors to be hauled down; but finding the enemy 
were still firing upon us directed the colors to be 
rehoisted and returned fire from the after battery." 
In his official report Captain Le Roy makes no men 
tion whatever of having struck his colors. His log 
book, over his own signature, is much fuller in de 
tail than his official report, and has been followed in 
the foregoing narrative. 

Captain Tucker states in his report that when the 
Keystone State struck her colors she was completely 
at his mercy, as the Chicora had a raking position 
astern of her and distant about two hundred yards. 
A large number of the crew were seen rushing to 
the after part of the deck of the Keystone State, ex 
tending their arms towards the Chicora in an im 
ploring manner. He immediately ceased firing upon 
her and ordered First Lieutenant Bier to man a 
boat and take charge of the prize and, if possible, to 
save her. If that were not possible, then to rescue 
the crew. While the lieutenant and men were in the 
act of manning the boat he discovered that the Key 
stone State was endeavoring to make her escape by 


working her starboard wheel, the other being dis 
abled. Her colors being down, he at once started 
in pursuit and renewed the engagement, but owing 
to her superior steaming power she soon widened 
the distance to about two thousand yards, when she 
rehoisted her colors and commenced firing her rifle 
gun. She was soon taken in tow by the United 
States steamer Memphis and carried off to Port 

The Chicora next engaged a brig and a bark- 
rigged propeller. Not having the requisite speed, 
she was unable to bring them to close quarters, but 
pursued them six or seven miles seaward. Toward 
the end of the engagement and in broad daylight she 
was engaged at long range with a large bark-rigged 
steamer. It was doubtless the Housatonic, as no 
other vessel appears to have been within range at 
that time. If so, the reports of the respective cap 
tains differ materially. Captain Tucker says that 
in spite of all his efforts he was unable to bring the 
steamer with which he was exchanging shots at long 
range to close quarters, owing to her superior steam 
ing qualities. 

The report of Captain Taylor, of the Housatonic, 
produces the impression that the Chicora was mak 
ing for the harbor and desirous of avoiding an en 
gagement with her adversary. She and the Pal 
metto State were heading toward the harbor, and 
the captain says he opened fire upon the ram as soon 
as he got within range (which was returned deliber 
ately) , and kept it up "as long as she remained within 
range. At no time did she (the Chicora) deviate 


from the course she was steering when we first saw 
her, except that she turned twice to bring her stern 
gun to bear on us." Admiral DuPont says: "The 
Housatonic, Captain Taylor, gave chase. . . . The 
Confederate vessels then passed to the northward, 
receiving the fire of our ships and took refuge in the 
swash channel behind the shoals." The Admiral 
was at Port Royal at the time and, of course, made 
his report on the faith of those made to him. 

It is difficult to imagine why the commanders of 
the ironclads should have wished to avoid the com 
bat and take shelter anywhere. They knew that all 
of the blockading vessels were of wood and most 
of them merchant steamers armed. They had the 
utmost confidence in the ability of the ironclads to 
destroy any and every one of those wooden steamers 
with which they might come into conflict, if the latter 
did not profit by superior speed to escape. They 
had gone into the midst of the fleet with no other 
purpose than to engage it. They had engaged sev 
eral steamers successfully, crippling them greatly, 
while they (the ironclads) had received no injury, 
and there had not been a casualty in either vessel. 

If, as Captain Taylor s report plainly implies, he 
was anxious to engage the ironclads with his wooden 
ship, why he did not do so seems inexplicable. The 
speed of the Housatonic was probably double that 
of the ironclads, which was but six or seven knots an 
hour. They had been in the midst of his fleet about 
four hours, and if from any cause he was prevented 
from following and engaging them at that time, he 
could have approached them at any time during the 


day, as they lay at anchor in four fathoms of water 
outside of the entrance to Beech Channel for about 
eight hours. They could not have gone inside 
sooner had Commodore Ingraham desired it, as 
there was not water enough on the bar to take them 
over except at high tide. An examination of the 
chart will show that while anchored in four fathoms 
they were very far beyond the range of any land 

Having disposed of the Mercedita, the Palmetto 
State stood to the northward and eastward and soon 
found another steamer getting under way, stood for 
her and fired several shots, but as the ram had to be 
fought in a circle to bring her different guns to bear 
the steamer was soon out of range. Just as day 
dawned a large steamer with a smaller one in com 
pany was seen under way on the starboard bow and 
standing to the southward under full steam. They 
opened their batteries on the Chicora, which was 
some distance astern of the Palmetto State. The 
latter turned and stood to the southward to support 
the Chicora, if necessary, but the two steamers kept 
on their course to the southward. The superior 
speed of the blockading steamers made pursuit of 
them hopeless. Commodore Ingraham therefore 
signaled Captain Tucker to come to anchor and lead 
the way to the entrance to Beech Channel. Captain 
Tucker accordingly stood in shore, "leaving," he 
says, "the partially crippled and fleeing enemy about 
seven miles clear of the bar, standing to the south 
ward and eastward." 

About half past eight o clock the two Confederate 


steamers were at anchor off Beech Channel in four 
fathoms water, where they remained until after four 
o clock in the evening. They were not injured, had 
not even been struck, and there were no casualties. 
The Federal loss in the engagement was four killed 
and three wounded on the Mercedita, and on the 
Keystone State twenty killed and twenty wounded; 
total, forty-seven. The Mercedita had surrendered 
and the Keystone State struck her colors to escape 
destruction, thus virtually surrendering; but both 
escaped to Port Royal. The raid was over and soon 
the nearest of the blockading steamers was hull 
down off to sea, the masts visible to those on the 
Confederate steamers only with the aid of power 
ful glasses. 

As soon as the result, or supposed result, of the 
raid on the blockading squadron was reported to 
General Beauregard, he telegraphed to the Adjutant 
General in Richmond that the Confederate States 
steam rams Palmetto State and Chicora had sunk 
the United States steamer Mercedita of the block 
ading squadron, that Captain Turner had set fire to 
one vessel, which struck her colors, and thought he 
sunk another. "Our loss and damage none. Ene 
my s whole fleet has disappeared north and south. 
I am going to proclaim the blockade raised." He 
and Commodore Ingraham united in issuing a proc 
lamation setting forth that the Confederate States 
naval force had that morning attacked the United 
States blockading fleet off the harbor of Charleston, 
"and sunk, dispersed, or drove off and out of sight 
for the time the entire hostile fleet," and they 


formally declared the blockade raised by force of 

Copies of the proclamation were sent to the for 
eign consuls, and General Beauregard placed a 
steamer at their disposal to see for themselves that 
no blockade existed. The French and Spanish con 
suls accepted the invitation. 1 The Spanish consul, 
Serior Munez de Monceeda, replying to the offer, 
says: "Having gone out in company with the 
French consul and arrived at the point where the 
Confederate naval forces were, we discovered three 
steamers and a pilot boat returning. I must also 
mention that the British consul at this port mani 
fested to me verbally, that some time subsequent 
to this naval combat not a single blockading vessel 
was in sight." That evening or night General 
Beauregard telegraphed the Adjutant General: 
"Some of the enemy s vessels have returned, but for 
several hours (three or four) none were in sight. 
Was blockade raised or not? What says the Attor 
ney General? Shall I publish my proclamation, 
written meanwhile?" 

The truth of the statements contained in the proc 
lamation and made by the foreign consuls and the 
Charleston papers was vehemently denied by Cap 
tain William Rodgers Taylor and Commander J. 

The visit of the Spanish and French consuls was in the 
afternoon. The Charleston papers of about that date stated 
that the British consul, with the commander of the British 
war steamer Petrel, had previously gone five miles beyond the 
usual anchorage of the blockaders and could see nothing of 
them with their glasses. 


H. Strong, James Madison Frailey, E. G. Parrott, 
Pend. G. Watmough and C. J. Van Alstine, all of 
them commanding vessels of the blockading fleet in 
an official joint certificate of February 10, 1863, ad 
dressed to Admiral DuPont. Their denial is ex 
pressed in very emphatic and harsh terms. It hap 
pened also that the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth 
Regiment Pennsylvania Militia was passing 
Charleston harbor that morning in the transport 
steamer Cossack, en route from Morehead City, 
N. C., to Port Royal, S. C. Colonel A. A. Leckler 
and Surgeon W. F. Funderburg, of the One Hun 
dred and Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania, and Captain 
T. C. Newberry, commanding the Cossack, united in 
a letter of February 21, 1863, to Admiral DuPont, 
in which they deny the truth of the foregoing Con 
federate statements in terms quite as strong and 
harsh as did the naval officers. In the very early 
morning they heard some firing, but that was not un 
usual. They arrived off Charleston harbor about 
half past eight o clock and found the blockaciing ves 
sels at their usual stations at an estimated distance 
of from four to five miles from land. Some of the 
vessels were at anchor. They were in the midst of 
the fleet little less than an hour, and communicated 
with the officers, some of whom came on board their 
ship. The weather was a little hazy, but they saw 
land very clearly on both sides of the harbor. They 
denounce the statements from Confederate sources 
and the foreign consuls "as utterly false in every 

Statements so diametrically opposed when made 


by men of high official and social positions ought to 
admit of some satisfactory explanation without the 
imputation of deliberate falsehood. It may be that 
the denial was leveled mainly at the statements of 
the sinking of any vessel and of raising the blockade, 
but was made more sweeping and comprehensive 
than the officers intended. It is true that the Merce- 
dha had not been sunk, nor did the proclamation 
state that it had been. -It simply declared the block 
ade raised in a way recognized as valid under the 
law of nations, namely, that the blockading fleet had 
been "sunk, dispersed, or driven off and out of 
sight" for the time by force of arms. A simple 
statement of the facts as they are set forth in the 
official reports of the Federal officers themselves 
W 7 ill show the grounds on which General Beauregard 
and Commodore Ingraham based the statement. 

Commodore Turner, of the United States steam 
frigate New Ironsides, states that there w r ere nine 
blockading vessels lying off Charleston bar on the 
morning of the attack. It would seem from the 
statements of the Federal reports that the weather 
was thick and hazy, so much so that the Palmetto 
State was nearly upon the Mercedita before she was 
seen by the officer of the deck of the latter, who was 
on the alert. The Mercedita after being fired into 
was surrendered with her crew, because, as her com 
mander and executive officer stated, she was in a 
sinking and perfectly helpless condition. When day 
dawned she was nowhere to be seen, either by the 
Confederate or Federal commanders. The latter, 
Captain Taylor, was apprehensive that she had been 


destroyed. It was therefore very natural that Com 
modore Ingraham and Captain Tucker should have 
believed she had sunk. She had, in fact, started 
about five o clock for Port Royal, and when day 
dawned had been about an hour on that course and 
was out of sight. 

The Keystone State had lost about a fourth of 
her crew and was so badly crippled that she struck 
her colors, and as soon as it was light was taken in 
tow by the Memphis and carried directly off to Port 
Royal. As soon as the raid was over, about eight 
o clock, Captain Taylor dispatched the Augusta, 
Parrott commanding, to Port Royal to carry the 
news of the disaster to Admiral DuPont. Thus four 
of the nine blockading vessels of the fleet reached 
Port Royal after 3 o clock P. M. that day. 
About 8 o clock A. M. Captain Parrott reported 
to Captain Taylor what he had himself observed, 
that the United States steamers Mercedita, Flag, 
Stellin, and Ottawa could nowhere be seen, and 
search was made for them. Between 9 and 10 
o clock A. M., therefore, seven of the nine block- 
aders were out of sight, not only of the Confed 
erate, but of the Federal commanders, leaving only 
two the H ous atonic and Quaker City that could 
by any chance have been seen. Of these two Cap 
tain Taylor says: "The Keystone State was at this 
time in tow of the Memphis and distant (from him) 
two or three miles; the weather was unfavorable for 
signaling and I was steaming toward her when the 
Quaker City came up and expressed a desire to com 
municate. Commander Frailey reported having re- 


ceived a shell in his engine-room and required sev 
eral articles to repair the damage." Between 8 
and 9 o clock A. M., therefore, the Housatonic 
was steaming southward to overtake two other ves 
sels which were two or three miles off, when it fell 
in with the Quaker City in a crippled condition. It 
is not therefore marvelous that at about that time 
Captain Tucker, Confederate States Navy, should 
have reported that he left "the partially crippled 
and fleeing enemy about seven miles clear of the bar 
steaming to the southward and eastward." 

Just where the Housatonic and Quaker City were 
when they came together between 8 and 9 o clock 
A. M. does not appear; but it does appear from 
Captain Taylor s own statement that from day 
dawn to 3 o clock P. M. the weather was so thick 
and hazy that at no time was the land distinctly 
visible, and that he did not start back to pick up his 
anchor, where he had left it when the raid began, 
until about three o clock in the afternoon. The 
Ottawa did not appear on the scene during the en 
gagement, and nothing is said of her in the official 
reports except that she was out of sight, but re 
ported safe. She was probably in Stono River. Her 
station was nearer the Stono Inlet than the other 
vessels, and the morning of the 3ist her commander 
sent word to Captain Taylor that the steamer 
Isaac Smith had been captured and that the Com 
modore McDonough, the only other gunboat in that 
river, was in danger. Early that morning a gunboat 
came into the river, steamed up it and shelled Le- 
gareville and then fell down the river, but returned 


in the evening and resumed fire. As the commander 
knew or had been informed that the gunboat Mc- 
Donough was in danger, and was himself so near 
at hand, it is reasonable to suppose that his was the 
gunboat that came into the river to assist the Me- 
Donongh. If so, she was clearly out of sight of the 
bar, leaving the Housatonic and Quaker City the 
only two of the nine blockading steamers mentioned 
by Commodore Turner as present that morning 
which could by any possibility have been seen. 

Under all of these circumstances it is surely not 
wonderful or improbable that for three or four 
hours during that day the blockading fleet could not 
be seen by the Confederates who were near the bar, 
and that is all the proclamation stated as to its posi 
tion. To everyone who knew General Beaureguard 
and Commodore Ingraham their statement of facts 
will be received as absolutely true, and needs no 
argument to prove them. Whether the facts as they 
existed constituted a technical raising of the block 
ade is a question of law on which there may be hon 
est difference of opinion. 

Again, the six naval officers in their letter above 
mentioned say among other things: "These are the 
facts, and we do not hesitate to state that no vessel 
did come out beyond the bar after the return of 
the rams at between 7 and 8 A. M. to the cover 
of the forts. We believe the statement that any 
vessel came anywhere near the usual anchorage of 
any of the blockaders, or up to the bar after the 
withdrawal of the rams, to be deliberately and 
knowingly false." These statements, so unhesitat- 


ingly made and so harshly expressed, must in the 
case of at least three of those officers have been 
based on other evidence than their own observation. 
They could not have known personally whereof 
they spoke. 

Two of them, Commanders Parrott and Wat- 
mough, started early in the morning for Port Royal 
and arrived there after 3 o clock p. M. They there 
fore could not have had personal knowledge of what 
vessels came up to or over the Charleston harbor 
bar that day. Another, Commander Strong, was 
out of sight of his own commanding officer from 
day dawn until half-past ten o clock, when he came 
up and brought news to Captain Taylor of the safety 
of the Stettin and Ottawa. The Stettin came up 
about eleven o clock; her commander, Van Alstine, 
brought a message from Lieutenant Commander 
Whitney, of the Ottawa, that the United States 
steamer Isaac Smith had been captured in the Stono 
the previous evening and that the Commodore Mc- 
Donough was in danger. Captain Strong was im 
mediately sent into the Stono to assist the McDon- 
ongh. The weather was so hazy all day that Cap 
tain Taylor could scarcely see land anywhere, and 
he was much nearer the bar than Captain Strong. 
How, then, could Captain Strong have spoken with 
such absolute certainty and from personal observa 
tion of what vessels were near the bar? How, in 
deed, could Captain Taylor himself, or the two 
other officers, Commanders Frailey and Van Alstine, 
have known what steamer came over the bar? Their 
vessels, according to the Confederate accounts, were 


hull down out to sea and only their masts could be 
seen by persons outside of the bar, and according to 
his own official report Taylor was so far out to sea 
and the weather so hazy that he could scarcely see 
land anywhere. It seems hopeless to attempt to 
reconcile the statements made by the landsmen of 
the One Hundred and Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania 
Regiment and the captain of the transport steamer 
Cossack with the concurrent official reports both 
Federal and Confederate. 

The report brought to Captain Taylor on the 
morning of the 3ist by Commander Van Alstine, 
of the capture the previous evening of a steamer in 
the Stono, proved true. The United States steamers 
Commodore McDonough and Isaac Smith had been 
in the habit for some time of running up and down 
the Stono reconnoitering and occasionally exchang 
ing shots at long range with the land batteries. Gen 
erals Beauregard and Ripley planned an ambush 
which it was hoped would result in the capture of 
one, and perhaps both, of the steamers. The execu 
tion of the plan was intrusted to Lieutenant Colonel 
J. A. Yates, of the First South Carolina Artillery, a 
gentleman in every way admirably fitted for the suc 
cessful performance of the duty. 

On the night of January 29 two batteries of siege 
and field guns were placed in ambush near the right 
bank of the Stono, one of them at Trimble s place 
on John s Island, and one lower down at Legare 
Point Place. A third battery of three twenty-four 
pounder rifle guns was placed in ambush near 
Thomas Gimble s, higher up on the river and on the 



James Island side. Major J. W. Brown, Second 
South Carolina; Major Charles Alston and Captain 
F. H. Harleston, of the South Carolina siege train, 
commanded the batteries on the John s Island side. 
The battery at Thomas Gimble s was commanded 
by Captain John H. Geary, Fifteenth South Caro 
lina Heavy Artillery. Captain John C. Mitchell, 2 
son of the Irish patriot, John Mitchell, commanded 
a battalion of two companies (Twentieth South 
Carolina Volunteers) of sharpshooters. 

About 4 P. M. on the 3Oth the steamer Isaac Smith, 
Lieutenant Conover commanding, steamed up the 
Stono and anchored off Thomas Gimble s, about five 
hundred yards from Captain Geary s guns. The 
batteries had been so well screened from view that 
they were not seen by anyone on the steamer. Cap 
tain Geary waited about twenty minutes, hoping the 
crew would land, but discovering no signs of landing 
he opened, firing rapidly and with effect. The fire 
was quickly returned with shell, canister, and grape 
from the steamer, which at the same time slipped 
her anchor and started down the river. Then the 
upper battery on John s Island opened, and Lieuten 
ant Connor discovered, as he says, that he was "en 
trapped," and that his only way of escape was to 
get below the batteries. To do that he would have 
to run the gauntlet of the land batteries and sharp 
shooters, fighting his way out. 

2 He was a handsome, gallant young Irish gentleman, and 
while commanding Fort Sumter in the summer of 1864 was 
killed on the parapet by a shell from Cutnming s Point. 


Owing to a bend in the river the steamer, while 
running more than a mile, was exposed to raking 
fires from batteries on both banks of the river, to 
which he could reply only with his pivot gun. As 
soon as he reached a part of the river where his 
broadsides could be brought to bear he opened with 
shell and grape at from two to four hundred yards 
distance. But a shot through the steam chimney 
effectually stopped the engine, and with but little tide 
and no wind to carry him down the river and his 
boats riddled with shots he was entirely at the mercy 
of the enemy. Exposed to the concentrated fire 
from the batteries on both sides and the rifles of 
Captain Mitchell s sharpshooters, "the shot tearing 
through the vessel in every direction and with no 
hope of being able to silence such a fire," Lieutenant 
Conover thought it his duty to surrender, and accord 
ingly hauled down his colors and ran up the white 

"Had it not been for the wounded men," he says, 
"with which the berth deck was covered, I might 
have blown up or sunk the ship, letting the crew 
take the chance of getting on shore by swimming; 
but under the circumstances I had no alternative left 
me." The steamer and entire crew, consisting of 1 1 
officers and 108 men, were surrendered. The loss 
on the steamer was 9 killed and 16 wounded, among 
the latter the lieutenant commanding. The Con 
federate loss was i man mortally wounded and i gun 
disabled. The steamer was armed with one 30- 
pounder Parrot rifle and eight 8-inch columbiads. 


She was but little injured, was soon repaired, and 
passed into the Confederate service under the name 
of the Stono. 

Commander Bacon, of the McDonough, which 
was in Stono Inlet, hearing the firing up the river, 
got under way and steamed up to assist the Smith, 
but soon discovered the white flag flying over her and 
her crew in boats going ashore as prisoners. He con 
tinued to move on up with the intention of towing 
her off or blowing her up. Before getting sufficiently 
near to accomplish anything the guns at Point Place, 
which had taken no part in the fire on the Smith, 
and whose presence then was unknown, opened on 
the McDonough and were followed quickly by other 
guns. The steamer moved back down the river, re 
turning the fire of the land batteries and keeping in 
motion to prevent her range being ascertained until 
dark, when she was beyond effective range. Com 
mander Bacon then turned his guns upon the pretty 
little town of Legareville, throwing shells into it, "in 
the hope," he says, "of setting fire to the place." 


The Merrimac The monitors Fort McAlister Advance on 
Charleston Fort Sumter again assailed Ironclads in ac 
tion Result of Confederate fire to ironclads Report of 
action Confederate loss Review of the engagement Lin 
coln s dispatch Feeling in the North Investment of Char 
leston postponed. 

Among the United States war vessels which were 
destroyed or partially destroyed by the Federal offi 
cers on the eve of their evacuation of Norfolk and 
the Gosport Navy Yard, April 20, 1861, was the 
United States steam frigate Merrimac, which was 
burned to her copper line and berth-deck, scuttled, 
and sunk. Subsequently she was raised by Confed 
erate naval officers, reconstructed on a novel model, 
encased in iron plates, armed with heavy guns and 
an iron prow, and soon became famous as the Con 
federate States steam ram Merrimac. The report 
went abroad that she was invulnerable to any guns 
then in use, and could readily overcome and destroy 
any vessels then in the navy with which she might 
come in collision. 

The knowledge of the existence of this novel 
engine of war caused no little apprehension in the 
North, which was greatly heightened by the ease 
with which she and her consorts sunk the United 
States ship Cumberland and destroyed the Congress 



".--" - - * 
in Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862. Excitable 

and imaginative people even apprehended that New 
York city and Philadelphia would soon be under the 
fire of her guns. It became therefore a grave ques 
tion how the steam ram could be destroyed. 

To that end an ironclad steamer designed by Cap 
tain John Ericsson on a new model was speedily con 
structed, and was the first of the class of war vessels 
since known as monitors. Seven of them were hastily 
constructed, armed with heavier guns than ever 
before used, and sent to Port Royal, S. C., to oper 
ate against Charleston. Early in January, 1863, 
several of them were on their way to Port Royal. 
(The original Monitor foundered at sea off Cape 
Hatteras, and two others, the Montauk and Passaic, 
narrowly escaped the same fate.) 

While awaiting the arrival of the full number, 
Admiral DuPont deemed it prudent to test the power 
of those that had arrived, and selected as the object 
on which to make the experiment Fort McAlister, 
an earthwork at Genesis Point, on the Ogeechee 
River, near Savannah, and if possible destroy or cap 
ture it. On January 27, and again on February i, 
the Montauk, aided by several other less formidable 
vessels, engaged the fort. On March 3 the Mon- 
tauk, having been joined by three other monitors, the 
Passaic, Patapsco, and Nahant, and aided by other 
vessels, again engaged the earthwork. The attack 
and defense of Fort McAlister do not come within 
the proposed limits of this narration. Suffice it to say 
that after a bombardment of eight hours, in which 


the fire of the fort was directed exclusively on the 
Passaic, the monitors withdrew. 

No injury was done to the fort that could not 
readily be repaired during the night, says Admiral 
Ammen, who commanded the Patapsco. The gun 
boats and mortar schooners, which fired at the dis 
tance of about four hundred yards, did neither good 
nor harm. On March 6 the monitors were taken in 
tow to Port Royal. The Passaic had been so dam 
aged in the bombardment that she required three 
weeks of repairs, to be put in serviceable condition 

By April i the whole monitor fleet was in North 
Edisto Inlet an admirable harbor, about twenty 
miles from Charleston bar and as thoroughly pro 
vided as they could be for the attack on Charleston. 
Such a fleet had never before been seen. Its capacity 
for destruction and resistance was unknown. In the 
North it was looked to with confidence, hope, and 
expectation for the accomplishment of an object so 
ardently desired, the reduction of Charleston, 
while in the South it unquestionably excited grave 

Major General Hunter, commanding the Depart 
ment of the South, with an aggregate land force 
present of a little over twenty-three thousand men, 
moved up a large part of his force and occupied 
Folly and Seabrook s islands and other points on or 
near the Stono, and prepared to follow up the ex 
pected success of the fleet and occupy Charleston. 

The concentration of such formidable land and 


naval forces at Port Royal, Hilton Head, and North 
Edisto had warned General Beauregard, then com 
manding the Department of South Carolina and 
Georgia, that the long expected attack on Charleston 
was immediately impending, and he prepared to meet 
it. The troops nearest the city were distributed as 
seemed best to meet the coming storm, and arrange 
ments made to draw reinforcements quickly, if re 
quired, from other points in his department. 

The first military district of the department, which 
embraced the defenses of Charleston, was com 
manded by Brigadier General Roswell S. Ripley, an 
officer of distinguished ability, great energy, and 
fertile in resource; no more accomplished artillery 
officer could have been found in either army. He 
was especially charged with the defenses of the 
harbor, and the completeness of the preparations 
was in a great measure due to his skill and energy. 
Brigadier General James H. Trapier commanded 
the second subdivision of the district, which em 
braced Sullivan s Island. The defensive works on 
that island Fort Moultrie and Batteries Beaure 
gard and Bee were under the general direction of 
Colonel Lawrence M. Keitt. 

Fort Sumter, the chief object of attack, was com 
manded by Colonel Alfred Rhett, of the First South 
Carolina Regular Artillery, and was garrisoned by 
seven companies of that regiment. Lieutenant Colo 
nel J. A. Yates and Major Ormsby Blanding, of the 
same regiment, had general charge, the first of the 
barbette, the latter of the casemate batteries. 

Brigadier General S. R. Gist commanded the first 


subdivision of the district, which embraced James 
Island and St. Andrew s. It was known that General 
Hunter had concentrated the mass of his force on 
Folly Island and its vicinity, and it was supposed 
would co-operate with the fleet by an attack either 
on James or Morris Island. The responsible duty 
of meeting the enemy in that quarter was confided 
to General Gist. 

Colonel R. F. Graham commanded the small force 
on Morris Island, on which were the very important 
works, Batteries Gregg and Wagner. 

On the morning of April 5 Admiral DuPont, on 
his flagship, the New Ironsides, having joined the 
"ironclads," as they were generally called, at South 
Edisto, the whole fleet steamed toward Charleston 
harbor, the monitors in tow of suitable steamers. 
That evening, having sounded and buoyed the bar 
of the main channel, the Keokuk, the Patapsco, and 
Kaatskill passed the bar and anchored within. The 
next morning the Admiral, his flag flying on the New 
Ironsides, crossed the bar, followed by the other 
ironclads. It was his intention to proceed the same 
day to Charleston, attacking Fort Sumter on the 
way, but the weather was unfavorable and the pilots 
refused to proceed further. 

At midday on the yth signal was made for the 
whole fleet to move forward to the attack. The 
order of battle was "line ahead," the vessels moving 
in the following order: The Weehawken, Captain 
John Rodgers; the Passaic, Captain Percival Dray- 
ton; the Montauk, Captain John L. Worden; the 
Patapsco, Commander Daniel Ammen; the New 


Ironsides (flagship), Commodore Thomas Turner; 
the Kaatskill, Commander George W. Rodgers; the 
Nantucket, Commander Donald McN. Fairfax; the 
Nahant, Commander John Downs, and the Keokuk, 
Commander A. C. Rhind. 

The New Ironsides carried fourteen n-inch guns 
and two i5O-pounder Parrott rifles; the Patapsco, 
one 15-inch and one i5O-pounder Parrot rifle. The 
Keokuk, two n-inch guns; the others one 1 5-inch 
and one ii-inch gun each. 

Commanders were ordered to pass the Morris 
Island batteries, Wagner and Gregg, without re 
turning their fire, unless specially signaled to do so 
by the Admiral. They were directed to take posi 
tions to the north and west of Sumter, within about 
eight hundred yards, and open, firing low with great 
care, and aiming at the center embrasures. The Ad 
miral s order of battle adds: "After the reduction 
of Fort Sumter it is probable that the next point of 
attack will be the batteries on Morris Island." A 
squadron of vessels, consisting of the Canandalgua, 
Housatonic, Huron, Unadilla, and Wlssahlckon, 
Captain J. F. Green commanding, was held in re 
serve outside the bar and near the entrance buoy, in 
readiness to support the ironclads in the proposed 
attack on the Morris Island batteries. 

The Weehawken was handicapped and incum- 
bered by a raft attached to its bow to explode tor 
pedoes. 1 In weighing anchor her chain became en- 

*It was called the "Devil" and was cut adrift and floated 
ashore on Morris Island. 


tangled in the grapnels of the raft, delaying the line 
nearly two hours. About 1 115 the whole fleet was 
under way, but the raft attached to the W eehawken 
delayed her and the ironclads that were following, 
causing wild steering along the whole line ; the moni 
tors "sheering every way" when their engines 
stopped, so that it was impossible to preserve the 
ordered interval of one hundred yards between the 

The weather was as calm and the water as 
smooth as could have been desired for naval firing. 
Reports had gone abroad of the extent of the ob 
structions and number of torpedoes in the harbor. 
While moving into action a number of buoys were 
observed, unpleasantly suggestive of the presence of 
torpedoes, one of which exploded near the Wee- 
hawken, lifting her somewhat, but without disabling 

Just before the leading vessel came within range 
the long roll was beat in Fort Sumter, "the garrison, 
regimental and palmetto flags were hoisted and 
saluted by thirteen guns, the band playing the 
national air, Dixie. A few minutes before 3 
o clock P. M., the leading monitor having approached 
to within about two thousand yards of Fort Moultrie, 
the action was opened by a shot from that fort, fired 
by its commander, Colonel William Butler. Three 
minutes later the leading monitor, when about fif 
teen hundred yards from Sumter, fired two guns 
simultaneously. Then Sumter opened, firing by bat 
tery. The action became general and for more than 
two hours nearly a hundred guns on land and water, 


many of them of the heaviest caliber yet ever used, 
were in rapid action. 

It was a calm and balmy day in spring the season 
of greatest natural beauty and luxuriance in that 
mild region. It was the season at which Charleston 
had been wont to present its most attractive phase, 
when the wealthy planters and their families had not 
yet been driven by the heat from their city houses 
and when the hotels were most crowded with visitors 
from the North. In strong contrast to the picture 
of tranquil pleasure and enjoyment, in a mild, deli 
cious climate, which the city had formerly presented 
at this season, was the scene of strained excitement 
and anxiety on this day of the attack on the harbor 
defenses of Charleston. From every point of view 
in the city the eyes of the many thousands of specta 
tors were riveted on the grand and imposing spec 
tacle. The church steeples, roofs, windows, and 
piazzas of houses on the "Battery" were crowded 
with eager, breathless witnesses of this bombard 
ment, the precursor of a siege which was to arouse 
in the people there assembled and those whom they 
represented every high and patriotic hope, every 
reserve of courage and endurance, the sublimest exer 
cise of patience and submission. 

From the blockading fleet and transports off the 
bar this trial of strength and endurance between 
forts and ships, the latter brought to the highest 
point of precision and destructive power, was wit 
nessed by other anxious spectators, who confidently 
anticipated a brilliant victory for the fleet, with feel 
ings scarcely less intense than those of the people in 


the city who fully realized the importance to them of 
the events which hung upon the issue. 

Through the thunder of artillery ran the heavy 
thud of the huge shells as they pounded the brick 
walls of Sumter and the sharp metallic ring and 
crash of the shot and shells as they struck the iron 
turrets and casings of the monitors, tearing away 
the iron plates, crashing through the sides and decks, 
or shivering into fragments by the concussion and 
falling then in showers about the deck or into the 

The ironclads came into action in succession, and 
though the engagement lasted about two hours and 
twenty minutes, from thirty to forty-five minutes 7 
exposure to the fire of the forts and batteries sufficed 
to put the vessels hors de combat. 

The Weehawken fired twenty-six shots and was 
struck fifty-three times. A part of her side armor 
was so shattered that it hung in splintered fragments, 
which could be pulled off with the hand, thus expos 
ing the woodwork. Her deck was pierced, making 
a hole through which the water poured, and her 
turret was so shaken by the pounding to which it 
was subjected that it revolved with difficulty, thus 
greatly retarding her fire. 

The Passaic, Captain Percival Drayton, was even 
more roughly handled than the Weehawken. She 
succeeded in firing only thirteen shots and was struck 
thirty-five times. At the fourth discharge of her 
n-inch gun the turret was struck twice in quick 
succession, bulging in its plates and beams and forc 
ing together the rails on which the gun-carriage 


worked, rendering the gun wholly useless for the re 
mainder of the action. An instant later the turret 
was so jammed that it could not be moved, thus 
effectually ending its fire. The turret was again 
struck by a heavy rifle shot, which shattered all of 
the eleven plates on the upper edge, then glancing 
upward struck the pilot house with such force as to 
mash it in, bend it over, open the plates and press 
them out and, lifting the top, exposing the inside to 
such a degree that another shot would, it was 
thought, knock the top entirely off. Under the ter 
rific fire to which his vessel was exposed Captain 
Drayton could not examine it to ascertain the extent 
of the injury. He could not fire a shot, and signaled 
the Admiral for permission to withdraw; but receiv 
ing no answer, he did not stand on the order of his 
going, but went at once out of range. He could 
not discover then, nor the next morning when he 
had a good view of the exposed face of the fort, 
that it was in the least injured, and he was satisfied 
that under the circumstances then existing, "the moni 
tors were no match for the forts." 

The Montauk suffered less than her predecessors, 
but the brief engagement convinced her commander, 
Captain Worden, "that Charleston cannot be taken 
by the naval force now present, and that had the 
attack continued it could not have failed to result in 

The Patapsco opened fire on Sumter with her 150- 
pounder rifle at fifteen hundred yards, and with her 
15-inch gun at twelve hundred yards. At the fifth 
discharge the i5O-pounder was disabled for the re- 


mainder of the action. The commanders of the 
leading vessels, apprehending entanglement by drift 
ing within the rope obstructions which could be seen 
ahead, turned their prows seaward. The Patapsco, 
endeavoring to follow their lead, refused to obey her 
helm, and was detained sufficiently long to receive the 
concentrated fire of Sumter and the Sullivan Island 
batteries. She was struck forty-seven times and her 
turret was so battered as to prevent or greatly retard 
its turning, thus rendering her only remaining gun 
next to useless, when she retired out of range. 

The turning back of the four leading monitors 
and their moving seaward threw the line into much 
confusion, the vessels becoming somewhat entangled, 
so much so that the flagship came into collision with 
two of the monitors and was obliged to anchor twice 
to prevent running ashore. She could not fire on 
Fort Sumter without great risk of firing into the 
monitors, but was detained at the distance of about 
a mile from Fort Sumter, subjected to a heavy fire, 
all the more galling because it could not be returned. 
She only fired eight shots at Fort Moultrie. 

The Confederate account says she was struck 
sixty-three times at the distance of between seven 
teen hundred and eighteen hundred yards, and then 
moved to the distance of two thousand yards out of 
effective range. She was less injured than the moni 
tors, probably because she was, for want of sufficient 
depth of water, at a greater distance than they. One 
of her port shutters was shot away and Commander 
Turner, in his official report to the Admiral, says: 

"My impression is, had you been able to get this 


ship into close position, where her broadsides would 
have been brought to bear, that not one port shutter 
would have been left under the fire of such enormous 
projectiles as were thrown from the enemy s works 
multiplied on every side of us." 

For several minutes she was in greater peril than 
any on board perhaps knew. She was directly over 
a torpedo, which from some unknown cause failed 
to explode. 

Finding his own ship blocking the way, the Ad 
miral signaled: "Disregard the movements of the 
Commander-in-Chief" ; and the rear vessels passed 
ahead, and coming under fire shared substantially 
the same fate as those that preceded them. Com 
mander Fairfax, of the Nantucket, says that having 
approached close to the obstructions thrown across 
the channel he opened fire on Sumter: 

"We were then under the fire of three forts, and 
most terrible was it for forty-five or fifty minutes. 
Our fire was very slow, necessarily, and not half so 
observable upon the walls of the forts as the rain of 
the rifle shots and heavy shells was upon this vessel. 
. . . Certainly their [the Confederate] firing was 
excellent throughout; fortunately, it was directed to 
some half dozen ironclads at once. . . . Our ves 
sels could not long have withstood the concentrated 
fire of the enemy s batteries. ... I must say that 
I am disappointed beyond measure at this experi 
ment of monitors overcoming strong forts. It was 
a fair trial." 

His fifteen-inch gun fired but three shots when it 


was disabled for the remainder of the action and his 
eleven-inch rifle fired twelve times. 

Commander Downs gives a lamentable account 
of the experience of his monitor, the Nahant, under 
a fire "of one hundred guns," as he erroneously sup 
posed, which he describes as terrific, and he believed 
almost unprecedented. The blows from heavy shot 
very soon so jammed the turret that it could not be 
turned, which effectually stopped his fire. The con 
cussion of a heavy shot on the pilot house forced oft 
on the inside a piece of iron weighing seventy-eight 
pounds, and drove it with such violence that in its 
course to the other side it came in contact with the 
steering-gear, bending and disarranging it so that it 
could not be worked. 

Bolt-heads were forced off and driven in showers 
about the pilot house and turret, one of them mor 
tally wounding the quartermaster, Edward Cobb f 
and others knocking the pilot, Mr. Sofield, senseless, 
leaving the commander himself alone in the pilot 
house. His vessel was struck thirty-six times, the 
iron plating was broken in several places, and in 
some stripped from the wood backing, which was 
broken. He describes the effects of the shot more 
minutely than the other commanders, to draw atten 
tion to the weak points of the monitors for the bene 
fit of future builders of such vessels. After repeated 
and futile efforts to train his guns on the fort and 
renew the action, he abandoned the effort and with 

The Keokuk was the rear vessel of the line. Her 


commander, A. C. Rhind, becoming impatient of the 
long delay, passed not only the Ironsides, but the 
vessels ahead of him and, defiantly directing his prow 
toward Sumter, approached nearer than any other 
vessel had done, firing as he advanced, and drawing 
on the Keokuk the concentrated fire of Sumter, 
Moultrie, Bee, and the battery on Cumming s Point. 
But he was permitted to fire only three shots. Com 
mander Rhind s daring gallantry in carrying his ves 
sel into action was equaled only by the frankness and 
brevity with which he officially reported the result. 
He says : 

"The position taken by the Keokuk was main 
tained for about thirty minutes, during which period 
she was struck ninety times in the hull and turrets. 
Nineteen shots pierced through at and just below 
the water line. The turrets were pierced in many 
places; one of the forward port shutters shot away; 
in short, the vessel was completely riddled. Finding 
it impossible to keep her afloat many minutes more 
under such an extraordinary fire, during which rifle 
projectiles of every species and the largest caliber, 
as also hot shot, were poured into us, I reluctantly 
withdrew from action at 4:40 p. M., with the gun- 
carriage of the forward turret disabled and so many 
of the crews of the after gun wounded as to prevent 
a possibility of remaining under fire. I succeeded 
in getting the Keokuk to an anchor out of range of 
fire and kept her afloat during the night in the smooth 
water, though the water was pouring into her in 
many places." 

In the morning the water becoming a little ruffled, 


she sank, leaving only her smoke-stack out to show 
her position. Her crew, with the killed and wounded, 
were taken off. 

About half-past four Admiral DuPont signaled 
the fleet to withdraw, intending to renew the attack 
the next day. By five o clock the monitors were 
under way, following the flagship seaward, and soon 
anchored out of range, but within the bar, the fire 
of the forts gradually ceasing as the fleet receded. 

The fire of the fleet had been directed mainly 
against Fort Sumter, but little attention being given 
to the other batteries. The flagstaff of Fort Moultrie 
was shot down, killing in its fall Private Lusby, of 
the First South Carolina Infantry. There was no 
other casualty on Sullivan s Island. When the flagstaff 
fell, Captains Wigg and Wardlaw and Lieutenants 
King and Calhoun quickly sprang to the top of a 
traverse and on the parapet and displayed the regi 
mental, garrison, and battle flags in conspicuous 

Fort Sumter, though not seriously damaged, was 
more injured than the Federals seem to have thought, 
but not as much as might have been expected from 
the impact on brick walls of the heaviest shot ever 
yet used in war. The walls were struck by about 
thirty-six of those heavy shot. 2 Two 1 5-inch shells 

2 Admiral Ammen, in his book, says the fort was struck 
fifty-five times, and it appears from the report of the Confed 
erate engineer who examined the fort immediately after the 
action that there were that number of marks or scars on the 
walls, but he says that many of those scars were made by 
fragments of shells that exploded in front of the walls. 


penetrated the eastern face near an embrasure of 
the second tier, one exploding in the casemate, the 
other in the middle of the fort. One i i-inch shot 
also penetrated the wall. The carriage of a lo-inch 
columbiad was demolished and a 42-pounder was 
dismounted, both of which were promptly remounted 
and made ready for action. Five men were wounded 
by fragments of masonry and wood in Fort Sumter; 
three were killed and five wounded in Fort Wagner 
by an accidental explosion of an ammunition chest. 

The Confederates had sixty-nine guns of various 
caliber in action, but only forty-one of them (ex 
clusive of mortars) were above the caliber of thirty- 
two pounders. The armament of the fleet was thirty- 
two guns (eight of which, it seems, were not fired), 
of 8-, II-, and 1 8-inch caliber, which at a single dis 
charge could throw nearly as great a weight of metal 
as could the land batteries. 

The Confederates fired in all 2229 shots and con 
sumed 21,093 pounds of powder. The fleet fired 
142 (the Confederates say 151) shots and consumed 
nearly 5000 pounds of powder. The two combined 
fired upon an average of seventeen shots, varying in 
weight from 30 to 400 pounds (or about 1300 
pounds of iron), and consumed about 185 pounds of 
powder per minute, during 140 consecutive minutes, 
the heaviest fire ever yet delivered in so brief a bom 

The Confederate fire seems to have been much 
more accurate than the Federal. About an equal 
proportion of the shots fired on each side struck the 
objects at which they were aimed, but there was a 


very wide difference in the sizes of those objects. 
A monitor afloat is "in appearance not inaptly lik 
ened to a cheese box on a plank," the "plank" repre 
senting the deck and the "cheese box" the revolving 
turret in which are the guns. Its apparent length is 
200 feet and beam 45 feet. The hull, however, is 
but 159 feet in length. The turret is 21 feet and 
10 inches in diameter and 9 feet high. It is sur 
mounted by a pilot house 9 feet 4 inches in diameter 
and 7 feet high. From bow to stern the deck varies 
from 2^4 to iV 2 feet above the water. An exceed 
ingly small part, therefore, of the hull was exposed 
above water to fire. They were in motion also dur 
ing the action. 

Such an object in motion presented but a small 
mark at which to fire at the distance of from one 
thousand to fifteen hundred yards. Fort Sumter on 
the contrary was a very large and stationary object, 
presenting fronts of three tiers of guns at which to 
aim. The accuracy of the Confederate fire was due 
in a great measure to an ingenious contrivance of 
Lieutenant Colonel Yates, which enabled five men 
to hold the heaviest guns trained on the ironclads 
when in motion. 

The little damage that Fort Sumter suffered was 
promptly repaired during the night and the weak 
points in the walls which the fire had disclosed were 
reinforced by sand-bags. The Confederates confi 
dently expected the engagement to be renewed the 
next day, and the forts and batteries were as well 
prepared to receive an attack on the morning of 
the 8th as they had been on the morning of the yth. 


But it was not renewed. "The enemy was beaten," 
says General Ripley, "before their adversaries 
thought the action had well commenced." 

During the evening of the 7th the commanders 
of the ironclads went on board the flagship and ver 
bally reported to the Admiral the incidents of the 
engagement and the condition of their respective ves 
sels. Their reports decided him not to renew the 
attack, and he promptly forwarded to the Secretary 
of the Navy a dispatch, in which he says: 

"I yesterday moved up with eight ironclads and 
this ship and attacked Fort Sumter, intending to pass 
it and commence action on its northwest face, in 
accordance with my order of battle. The heavy 
fire received from it and Fort Moultrie and the 
nature of the obstructions compelled the attack from 
the outside. It was fierce and obstinate, and the 
gallantry of the officers and men of the vessels en 
gaged was conspicuous. This vessel could not be 
brought into such close action as I endeavored to 
get her. Owing to the narrow channel and rapid 
current she became partly unmanageable, and was 
twice forced to anchor to prevent her going ashore, 
once owing to her having come into collison with 
two of the monitors. She could not get nearer than 
one thousand yards. Owing to the condition of the 
tide and an unavoidable accident, I had been com 
pelled to delay action until in the afternoon, and 
toward evening, finding no impression made upon 
the fort, I made a signal to withdraw the ships, in 
tending to renew the attack this morning. 

"But the commanders of the monitors came on 


board and reported verbally the injuries of their 
vessels, when without hesitation or consultation (for 
I never hold councils of war) I determined not to 
renew the attack, for in my judgment it would have 
converted a failure into a disaster, and I will only 
add that Charleston cannot be taken by a purely 
naval attack, and the army could give me no co 

In reply to a complimentary letter from General 
Hunter, who had witnessed the action in a transport 
steamer, the Admiral says: 

"I feel very comfortable, General, for the reason 
that a merciful Providence permitted me to have a 
failure, instead of a disaster." 

Admiral Ammen, who commanded the Patapsco, 
says in his recently published book, "The Atlantic 
Coast" : 

"The result of the attack was mortifying to all 
of the officers and men engaged in it. Had any loss 
of life been regarded as likely to render another 
attempt successful, there would have been few indeed 
who would not have desired it. The opinion before 
the attack was general, and was fully shared in by 
the writer, that whatever might be the loss in men 
and vessels blown up by torpedoes or otherwise de 
stroyed (and such losses were supposed probable), 
at all events Fort Sumter would be reduced to a 
pile of ruins before the sun went down." 

General Beauregard had confidently expected 
every man of his command to do his duty, and he 
was not disappointed, for their hearts were thor 
oughly in their work. Confederate and Federal 


officers alike bear testimony to the accuracy of the 
Confederate fire, while the monitors themselves 
bore mute but more expressive evidence of its 

All that professional skill and gallantry could do 
had been done by the officers and crews of the vessels 
to achieve success. They had fought the united iron 
clads to their utmost capacity. The result had 
proved that these novel engines of naval warfare on 
which such high hopes were built had not materially 
changed the military relations between forts and 
ships. It had also given another striking proof of 
the fallacy of the belief that, caeteris paribus, ships 
can reduce forts. Just two years previously, less one 
week, Confederate land batteries had opened fire on 
Fort Sumter, newly constructed by United States en 
gineers, at greater distance than that which the moni 
tors had attacked, and with greatly inferior guns had 
compelled its surrender. A few months later Fede 
ral land batteries on Morris Island, at more than 
double the monitors distance, had demolished the 
exposed walls of Fort Sumter. 

This attack also illustrated what was conspicuous 
throughout the war, the great difference in the rela 
tive numbers of killed and wounded in battles on 
land and those between forts and ships. In this en 
gagement between the Federal ironclad fleet and 
the forts and batteries at the entrance to Charleston, 
the casualties on the Confederate side were one killed 
and five wounded. On the Federal, one killed and 
twenty wounded. Little less than a year before in 
a battle on James Island in sight of Fort Sumter 


nearly nine hundred men had been killed or wounded 
in less than half an hour. 

The fleet remained within the bar but out of 
range, repairing and refitting, until high tide on the 
evening of the I2th, when it passed out, the New 
Ironsides taking her place with the blockading fleet, 
and the monitors were towed southward to Port 
Royal for repairs, leaving only the Keokuk sunk with 
her smokestack out of water marking her position. 
In a few days the Confederates dived into her and 
lifted out her heavy guns, flags, swords, and smaller 
articles. Her guns were soon mounted in the Con 
federate batteries. 

When the news of the failure reached Washing 
ton President Lincoln dispatched Admiral DuPont: 

EXECUTIVE MANSION, April 13, 1863. 

Hold your position inside the bar near Charleston, or, if you 
have left it, return to it and hold it until further orders. Do 
not allow the enemy to erect new batteries or defenses on 
Morris Island. If he has begun it, drive him out. I do not 
herein order you to renew the general attack. That is to 
depend on your discretion or further orders. 


The following day, April 14, he dispatched to the 
Admiral and General Hunter jointly: 

This is intended to clear up any inconsistency between the 
recent order to continue operations before Charleston and the 
former one to remove to another point in a certain contin 
gency. No censure upon you, or either of you, is intended; 
we still hope by cordial and judicious co-operation you can 
take the batteries on Morris Island and Sullivan s Island and 
Fort Sumter. But whether you can or not, we wish the demon- 


gtration kept up for a time for a collateral and very important 
object; we wish the attempt to be a real one (though not a 
desperate one) if it affords any considerable chance of success. 
But if prosecuted for a demonstration only, this must not be 
rnade public, or the whole effect will be lost. Once again 
before Charleston, do not leave till further orders from here. 
Of course this is not intended to force you to leave unduly 
exposed Hilton Head or other near points in your charge. 


Replying through the Navy Department, the Ad 
miral assured the Secretary that he would urge for 
ward the repairs of the serious injuries sustained by 
the monitors and return within the bar as soon as 
possible ; he thought, however, that the move would 
be attended with great risk to the monitors from 
gales and the fire of the enemy s batteries, which 
"they could neither silence nor prevent the erection 
of new ones." He would, of course, obey with fidelity 
all orders he might receive, even when entirely at 
variance with his own judgment, such as the order 
to reoccupy the unsafe anchorage off Morris Island, 
"and an intimation that a renewal of the attack on 
Charleston may be ordered, which in my judgment 
would be attended with disastrous results, involving 
the loss of this coast." He was painfully struck by 
the tenor and tone of the President s orders, which, 
he thought, implied censure, and requested the Secre 
tary not to hesitate to relieve him by an officer who 
might be thought "more able to execute that service 
in which I have had the misfortune to fail- -the cap 
ture of Charleston." 

In Washington, and in the North generally, it 
had been confidently believed that the attack would 


result in the fall of Charleston. So confident was 
the Navy Department of a successful result, that on 
the 2d of April orders were issued and dispatched 
to Admiral DuPont to send a number of the iron 
clads, which the fall of Charleston would render 
available, to the Gulf of Mexico for service in that 
quarter and in the Mississippi. The failure was a 
grievous disappointment in the North, while in the 
South the vague but serious apprehension of danger 
from the ironclads was dispelled, and in Charleston 
especially it was felt that the city had nothing to 
apprehend from the fleet alone. 

Of course the failure was sharply criticised in the 
Northern press. Whoever relies on the newspapers 
of the period for correct information in regard to 
the battles of that war will inevitably be led into 
grave errors. In regard to this naval attack, some 
of the papers severely censured the Administration 
for ordering or permitting it without providing 
ample means to insure success, and the causes of 
the failure were fully explained. The ironclads, it 
was said, while moving up to the attack had become 
entangled in the rope obstructions which were well 
known to be in the channel and, while so hampered, 
had been exposed to the fire of three hundred guns, 
many of them supplied from England and of the 
heaviest caliber ever used in war, and at short range, 
in some instances three hundred yards. 

The Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, seems to 
have obtained some of his information on the subject 
from the newspapers rather than from the official 
reports. In a printed circular letter signed by him 


and addressed to the diplomatic agents of the gov 
ernment abroad he says: 

"An attack by the fleet on the yth of April last 
upon the forts and batteries which defend the harbor 
of Charleston failed, because the rope obstructions 
in the channel fouled the screws of the ironclads 
and compelled them to return, after passing through 
the fire of the batteries. These bore the fire of the 
forts, although some defects of construction were 
revealed by the injuries they received. The crews 
passed through the unexampled cannonade with 
singular impunity. Not a life was lost on board a 

None of the ironclads approached the rope ob 
structions nearer than six hundred yards, except the 
Keokuk, which, after being disabled, drifted within 
about three hundred yards of them before she 
could be got under way again. The rope obstruc 
tions were therefore not encountered by any of the 
vessels. They had not passed through the fire of 
the forts, for some of the heaviest batteries had not 
been brought into action. The Keokuk, as has been 
stated, was not nearer Fort Sumter than nine hun 
dred yards, and none of the other vessels was so 
near any of the forts or the batteries. The ranges 
varied from nine hundred to about two thousand 

Instead of three hundred, there were but seventy- 
six Confederate guns of all kinds in action. Some 
of these were mortars, the fire of which on so small 
a target as a monitor and at such long range is so 
inaccurate as to be practically ineffective. Of the 


other guns only forty-one were above the caliber of 
32-pounders, and guns of this latter caliber were of 
little avail against the ironclads. The most effective 
fire was from ten lo-inch and nineteen 8-inch colum- 
biads, three 9-inch Dahlgrens and two y-inch Brook 
guns, and they were American, not English guns, 
judging by the effects of the fire from the guns ac 
tually engaged, and at such long range, it is hardly 
extravagant to suppose that if, during the two hours 
and twenty-five minutes the action lasted, the iron 
clads had been exposed to the fire of three hundred 
guns, at distances of from three to nine hundred 
yards, every one of them would have been sunk or 
irreparably disabled. 

General Hunter had held his troops on Folly, 
Cole s, and Seabrook s islands in readiness to follow 
up the expected naval success. On the morning after 
the attack all was in readiness to cross Lighthouse 
Inlet to Morris Island u where," says the General, 
u once established, the fall of Sumter would have 
been as certain as the demonstration of a problem in 
mathematics." But the active co-operation of the 
navy was deemed necessary to insure the success of 
the movement. The crossing, however, was sus 
pended because of the announcement of the Admiral 
that he had resolved to retire. The General sent an 
officer of his staff to represent to the Admiral his 
readiness to make the movement, the great impor 
tance of making it promptly when the enemy was 
unprepared to dispute it successfully, and to urge 
him to co-operate actively with the fire of his fleet. 
But to all of these considerations, says the General, 


"earnestly and elaborately urged, the Admiral s 
answer was that he would not fire another shot. 
The intended movement was therefore abandoned 
or indefinitely suspended. The land as well as the 
naval expedition had come to naught and further 
movements for the capture of Charleston were de 
ferred. 3 

s ln this narrative I have followed substantially the official 
reports of the commanders of the ironclads, especially on all 
points of which their knowledge may reasonably be supposed 
more accurate than that of the Confederate officers. The only 
material differences between the Federal and Confederate 
reports are as to the distances of the vessels from the forts, 
batteries, and obstructions. As to them, I have followed the 
Confederate reports, because the officers making them had 
been on duty in the harbor defenses for many months some 
of them for two years. They had made the harbor a military 
study, had placed obstructions, planted torpedoes, anchored 
buoys, and carefully measured the distances that it was de 
sirable to know. They therefore of necessity had more accu 
rate knowledge on those points than the naval officers could 
have gathered in the brief period of the action, when they 
were in strange waters, under a terrific fire, their attention 
riveted to the work in hand, with such limited view of the 
harbor as they could catch through the small circular holes in 
the pilot-houses and the two port-holes in the revolving tur 
rets, while the smoke was so dense that as Commodore Turner 
says, often he could not see distinctly fifty yards ahead. Under 
such circumstances they could scarcely be expected to judge 
distances accurately. Colonel Rhett, the commander of Sum- 
ter, had waited deliberately until the leading monitor had 
reached a buoy the distance of which was well known, and on 
which his guns were trained, before opening fire. Both Col 
onel Rhett and his adjutant made careful observations during 
the whole action. 


Federal lack of co-operation Army and navy at odds Hunter 
and DuPont relieved of commands Gillmore in command 
of army Dahlgren commands navy Topography of Char 
leston harbor and city Gillmore s plan of operations 
Strength of the defense Attack on Morris Island Success 
of movement Confederate loss Assault of Battery Wag 
ner Repulse Loss on both sides. 

In order to reap all the advantages the combined 
Federal land and naval forces could gain on the 
South Atlantic coast, it was obviously necessary that 
there should be very earnest and hearty co-operation 
between those arms of service, and instructions to 
that effect were given to the respective commanders 
by their superior. It does not appear, however, 
that there was uniformly such co-operation. 

While the ironclad fleet on April 7, 1863, was 
attacking the forts and batteries which defended 
Charleston harbor, General Hunter, commanding 
the Department of the South, who witnessed that 
memorable bombardment from the deck of a trans 
port steamer off the bar, on which he had his head 
quarters, held all of his available force in close prox 
imity, but made no aggressive movement with it. 

Admiral DuPont, commanding the South Atlantic 
squadron, in his reports to the Secretary of the Navy 
of the ironclad attack and its failure on April 7, 



admits very frankly that the result had convinced 
him that Charleston could not be taken by a purely 
naval attack, and he adds : "The army could give no 

On May 22 General Hunter wrote a long letter 
directly to President Lincoln and sent it by the hands 
of one of his staff officers, reminding the President 
that six weeks had elapsed since the naval attack on 
Charleston, an attack of which he says: "From the 
nature of the Admiral s plans the army could take 
no active part" ; that he had himself been extremely 
anxious to take advantage of the manifest weakness 
of the Confederates on Morris Island, to seize that 
important point, which he was very sure could have 
been done with great ease; that his troops, which 
were, he says, "unquestionably the best drilled sol 
diers in the country," were in readiness and eager 
to cross Lighthouse Inlet, which was only a few hun 
dred yards wide, and make a descent on Morris 
Island, and that a foothold secured on that strategic 
point would make the fall of Fort Sumter as certain 
as the demonstration of a problem in mathematics. 
An attempt, however, to seize that island without the 
co-operation of the navy would be wholly futile and 
only result in a useless sacrifice of life. He had 
therefore on the day after the naval attack urged 
the Admiral to co-operate with him in making that 
important move. He had sent an officer of his staff 
to lay his views before Admiral DuPont, but not 
withstanding the clearly and elaborately urged ad 
vantages of the proposed move the Admiral laconi 
cally replied that he "would not fire another shot." 


Since then, says General Hunter to the President, 
he had exercised patience with the Admiral, until 
he had become "painfully but finally convinced that 
no aid could be expected from the navy." He feared 
that Admiral DuPont distrusted the ironclads so 
much that he was resolved to do nothing with them 
during the summer. General Hunter therefore 
urgently begged the President to liberate him from 
the orders to co-operate with the navy, "which now 
tie me down to the Admiral s inactivity." And he 
goes on to develop a plan of operations which he was 
exceedingly anxious to undertake, if only released 
from co-operation with the navy, which plan, though 
interesting, need not be here detailed. 

President Lincoln seems to have manifested his 
disapproval of the proposed plan of campaign, and 
settled, as he supposed, the question of co-operation 
between the land and naval forces by relieving both 
General Hunter and Admiral DuPont from their 
respective commands. 

The selection of a new commander of the Depart 
ment of the South was indicative of the campaign the 
Federal Government proposed to make in that de 

General Hunter, in his published report of his 
own services in the war, says Mr. Lincoln told him 
that his "temporary suspension" from the command 
"was due in a great measure to the influence of the 
Hon. Horace Greeley," who, it seems, as Mr. Lin 
coln expressed it, "had found the man to do the job" 
meaning the capture of Charleston. Moved by 
this information, General Hunter addressed an angry 


letter to the distinguished editor, in which he ex 
pressed ironically the hope that since Mr. Greeley 
had taken it upon himself to direct the attack on 
Charleston, he would be more successful than in his 
first advance on Richmond, "in which you wasted 
much ink and other men shed some blood." 

But it is not difficult to find other considerations 
which no doubt had weight in the selection of the 
new commander. The General-in-Chief of the Army, 
Halleck, had been an officer of the United States 
Engineer Corps; so also was his chief of staff, Gen 
eral George W. Cullum. There was naturally and 
most justly great esprit de corps among the officers 
of that distinguished branch of the military service. 
The General-in-Chief and his chief of staff, no doubt, 
believed that an officer of the Engineer Corps was 
better qualified than an officer of any other arm of 
the service to direct the operations for the reduction 
of Charleston, a task requiring military engineering 
skill of a high order. Under those circumstances, 
perhaps the following letter from the officer whom 
Mr. Greeley had found "to do the job" had its 
weight in the selection of General Hunter s succes 
sor, and is given in full as indicative of the plan of 
campaign to be followed in the Department of the 

NEW YORK, May 23, 1863. 

GENERAL G. W. CULLUM, Chief of Staff to the General-in-Chief, 

General: It has come to my knowledge that my name has 

been mentioned to the Secretary of War in connection with 

the reduction of the forts in Charleston harbor, and it has 


been urgently suggested to place me in a position where I 
could direct and control the operations of the land forces 
against that place. Two or three communications from promi 
nent men here have been sent to the Secretary. 

It is not necessary to inform you, who are so well acquainted 
with me, that I am not in the habit of pushing myself forward 
or thrusting my professional opinion unasked upon the notice 
of those in authority. In my daily intercourse with gentlemen 
of my acquaintance I am, however, always free to answer 
questions, and I have at sundry times and in sundry places 
expressed the opinion that the forts in Charleston harbor could 
be reduced by the means (naval and military combined) now 
available in the Department of the South, increased by a suit 
able number of the best heavy rifled guns, provided these have 
not been sent there since I left the department one year ago. 

I have also said that I am willing to risk my own reputation 
upon an attempt, as I did at Pulaski, provided I could be 
allowed the untrammeled execution of my own plans (as at 
Pulaski), except so far as they iim^ve co-operation from the 

You are at liberty to show this letter to the General-in-Chief 
or anyone else. 

I expect to remain here until the evening of the 27th instant 
and then go directly to Cincinnati. 

Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

Q. A. GILL MORE, Brigadier General. 

- General Gillmore, of the Volunteers, had served 
with distinction as a captain of Engineers in the 
Regular army under Generals Hunter and Benham 
in the reduction of Fort Pulaski, Georgia, in April, 
1862. A few days after the date of the foregoing 
letter he was ordered to Washington for consulta 
tion with the Secretary of War, the General-in-Chief 
of the Army, and the Assistant Secretary of the 


Navy, on the plan of operations for the reduction of 
Charleston. He seems to have reiterated the opin 
ions already expressed in his letter and to have fully 
developed his plan of operations. 

He urged that there should be cordial and ener 
getic co-operation between the land and naval forces. 
The part which the latter would be called on to per 
form in the execution of the proposed plan was 
represented as one in which "audacity should enter 
as an important element of success." The com 
mander of the fleet, therefore, should be an officer 
who had sufficient confidence in the efficiency of the 
turret ironclads to be "willing to risk his reputation 
in the development of their new and comparatively 
untried powers against the harbor defenses of 
Charleston." Admiral DuPont and his officers com 
manding the ironclads seem to have been under the 
impression that the powers of the ironclads had been 
subjected to very fair and severe test in the attack 
on the harbor defenses of Charleston on April 7, 
and the result had not been encouraging. 

On June 3 General Gillmore was ordered to relieve 
General Hunter in command of the Department of 
the South, and a few days later Admiral Foote, who 
had distinguished himself in command of gunboats 
on the Western water, especially in the operations 
against Fort Donelson, was ordered to relieve Ad 
miral DuPont. Admiral Foote, however, died a 
few days later, and Admiral Dahlgren was assigned 
to the command of the South Atlantic squadron. 

The Confederate Government still retained Gen- 


eral Beauregard in the important command of the 
Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and 
Florida, to which he had been assigned in September 
of the previous year. With the exception of the 
ironclad attack of April 7 and the concentration of 
the land forces on that occasion to follow up the 
expected naval success, no demonstration of moment 
was made against Charleston from the unsuccessful 
assault on Secessionville on June 16, 1862, to July 
10, 1863. General Beauregard and his predecessor, 
General Pembertori, had therefore something more 
than a year in which to complete and enlarge the 
defensive works which had been planned, and in 
great measure completed, and to construct others 
which close examination suggested and the progress 
of the war had made necessary for the defense of the 

An important change in the original plan of de 
fense had been made by General Pemberton, in the 
abandonment of Cole s Island at the southwestern 
extremity of James Island, an important strategic 
point of the outer defenses commanding the entrance 
to the Stono River. General Beauregard regarded 
the abandonment of Cole s Island as a fatal mistake; 
so did General Ripley, to whom, perhaps, more than 
to any other officer, Charleston was indebted for 
the system of defensive works which, together with 
the works which had been constructed before the 
war, enabled a comparatively small force to hold the 
enemy at bay and keep them away from the city dur 
ing the war. The abandonment of Cole s Island 


had made necessary the construction of a long line 
of works for the defense of James Island, which was 
justly regarded as the key by land to Charleston. 

More than a year had elapsed during which, with 
the exception of April 7, the active war which was 
devastating other parts of the country had not come 
nigh Charleston. The time had now arrived, and 
was to continue for about twenty months, when the 
thunder of artillery the sound, which no words can 
describe, of the heavy rifle shots as they flew through 
the air, day and night, bursting over and in their 
city and crashing through their houses was to be 
come as familiar to her inhabitants as are the noises 
of passing vehicles over the streets to the dwellers 
in more fortunate cities. History may perhaps record 
the military skill, steadfast fidelity, and gallantry 
with which the city was defended, but the heroic for 
titude, cheerful courage, and patient endurance with 
which her non-combatant population bore the hard 
ships of the siege and the adversity of the more try 
ing period which followed it will probably never be 
fully told. 

It is as difficult to follow understandingly a nar 
rative of military operations without the aid of a 
good map as it is to comprehend the demonstration 
of a complicated proposition in geometry without 
the aid of a diagram. No description of the country 
will adequately supply the place of a good map. A 
brief description, however, of the limited scene of 
the impending operations may aid those not familiar 
with the locality to a better understanding of them, 


The city of Charleston is at the extremity of the 
narrow peninsula between the Cooper and Ashley 
rivers. James Island, to the south and east, is sepa 
rated from the city by Ashley River, and from St. 
John s Island, to the south and west, by the Stono 
River. In greatest extent from north to south it is 
about 9 miles and from east to west about 7 miles. 
On its sea front it is bordered by a narrow sandbank 
extending from the entrance to Charleston harbor to 
Stono Inlet, about n miles in length. About 3% 
miles from the northern extremity this bank has been 
cut through by the waters of the ocean, thus dividing 
it into two islands. The northern part is Morris 
Island, the southern Folly Island. The channel be 
tween them is called Lighthouse Inlet. These islands 
are separated from the firm land of James Island 
by Folly River and Creek, Vincent s Creek, and im 
passable marshes which are subject to overflow by 
very high tides and are intersected by numerous, tor 
tuous, narrow, but deep, streams. 

The northern extremity of Morris Island, which 
is called Cumming s Point, and Sullivan s Island to 
the northeast, border the entrance to Charleston 
harbor. Fort Moultrie is near the western end of 
Sullivan s Island and distant 2700 yards from Cum 
ming s Point, on which the Confederates had con 
structed a work called Battery Gregg. Fort Sumter 
was a brick work of three tiers of guns, built on an 
artificial island or foundation south of the channel, 
nearly midway between Sullivan s and James islands, 
about 1760 yards from Fort Moultrie on the former, 


1980 yards from Fort Johnson on the latter, 1390 
yards from Cumming s Point and 3^ miles from 
the city of Charleston. 

About 1300 yards from Cumming s Point, at a 
very narrow part of Morris Island, was an earth 
work of considerable development and strength 
called Battery Wagner, which extended from the 
beach on the east to Vincent Creek on the west, pre 
senting to the southwest a front of about 275 yards. 

The island is wider in its southern than in its 
northern part, the southern extremity on Lighthouse 
Inlet being about 1000 yards in width. Its surface 
is irregular and broken by sand ridges, forming at 
many points secure shelter for troops. It has an area 
of about 400 acres, its middle point is 5^ of a mile 
from the nearest point of Charleston, and the main 
channel into the harbor is parallel to and at about 
an average distance of 1200 yards from it. 

This small sand island has been thus minutely and 
tediously described because it was destined to be the 
camp home for nearly two years of many thousands 
of men; it was to become famous as the scene of a 
siege which will be memorable in military history 
and one of the most formidable bombardments of 
which there is any record, the scene of great labor 
and exposure, much desperate fighting, of sickness 
and death in all the frightful forms incident to war 
and to wasting fevers. 

General Gillmore assumed command of the depart 
ment on June 12, 1863, with his headquarters at 
Hilton Head. His troops held the coast from Light- 


house Inlet to St. Augustine, a distance of about 250 
miles, but the great mass of the force was in South 
Carolina and near Charleston. He had ample steam 
boat transportation at his command and could read 
ily and rapidly concentrate his forces whenever and 
wherever on the coast he desired to have them. He 
entered on the duty assigned him untrammeled by 
instructions, free to carry out his own plans, assured 
of the liberal support of his government in supply 
ing him with all requisite material for the successful, 
accomplishment of the plan he had proposed, and 
which had been approved after full and free discus 
sion by a mixed board of officers of the army and 

Of the several plans of operation against Charles 
ton which naturally suggest themselves, that by way 
of James Island, which it was generally believed 
offered the surest and speediest avenue to success, 
had been attempted and abandoned after the unsuc 
cessful assault on Secessionville in June, 1862. So, 
too, the plan of a forcible entrance of the fleet into 
the harbor had been attempted and failed on April 7. 

Of all the plans that by way of Morris Island 
was regarded as the easiest of accomplishment in its 
first steps. The land force was already in posses 
sion of Folly Island. To cross over the narrow 
channel of Lighthouse Inlet and secure a foothold 
on Morris Island with the aid of the navy would be 
very easily accomplished, and in the succeeding 
operations on that island the navy could render ready 
and efficient aid, having always close at hand in 
North Edisto Inlet a secure harbor of refuge in the 


event of stormy weather; an important considera 
tion, because the monitors were not suitable to ride 
in safety in stormy waters. 

But possession of Morris Island would be very 
far from decisive of the fate of Charleston. Secure 
possession of James Island, the forces remaining 
relatively the same, would, it was believed, dead 
inevitably to the reduction of Charleston, whereas 
possession of Morris Island would be only a means 
to the probable but remote accomplishment of the 
same end. 

Fort Sumter was regarded as the chief obstacle in 
the way of the navy in any attempt which it might 
make to enter the harbor. If that fort could be re 
duced, or its defensive power destroyed, the fleet, it 
was argued, could readily remove the obstructions, 
force an entrance into the harbor, and compel the 
surrender of the city, when the evacuation of the 
harbor defenses would necessarily follow. It was 
admitted that the navy alone could not capture 
Sumter, or even so cripple it as to render it harm 
less. That must be done by the combined land and 
naval forces, and General Gillmore had been selected 
to command the Department of the South and Ad 
miral Dahlgren the South Atlantic squadron, for the 
express purpose of carrying into execution the plan 
of operations which the former had proposed for 
the reduction of Fort Sumter and then the capture 
of Charleston. 

General Gillmore s plan of operations briefly 
stated was: 


First. Make a descent upon and take possession 
of the south end of Morris Island. 

Second. To lay siege to and reduce Battery Wag 
ner, a strong earthwork near the north end of the 
island and about twenty-six hundred yards from Fort 
Sumter. The reduction of Battery Wagner would 
necessitate the fall of Battery Gregg on Cumming s 

Third. From the positions thus secured to demol 
ish Fort Sumter and co-operate with the navy in a 
heavy artillery fire when it should be ready to move 

Fourth. The ironclad fleet to remove the chan 
nel obstructions, run by the batteries on Sullivan s 
and James islands, reach the city and compel its sur 

The army was to take the lead in all but the fourth 
of these distinct operations. Admiral Dahlgren says 
there had been no understanding between him and 
General Gillmore as to the fourth of these distinct 

When General Gillmore assumed command of the 
department preparations for entering on the execu 
tion of his plan of operations were already well 
advanced. Early in the preceding April General 
Vogdes had been assigned to the command of the 
troops on Folly Island. His aggregate force for the 
three months of April, May, and June varied from 
about 4700 to 6000, or an average of about 5350. 
It was actively employed in preparing the island as a 


land base of operations against Charleston, for 
which it possessed many advantages. 

The woods and dense undergrowth, chiefly of pal 
metto, together with the sand hills, screened the 
General s operations from view and shielded his 
troops from fire. It had, besides this, further ad 
vantage in that it served as a base of operations 
either by way of James or Morris Island. By the 
3d of July, under the immediate direction of the 
accomplished officers, Lieutenants Suter and Michie, 
of the United States Engineers, not only had the 
necessary defensive batteries been constructed for 
the security of the islands, but others for the special 
purpose of covering the descent on Morris Island. 
These last mentioned batteries were constructed on 
the northern end of the island called Little Folly 
Island. The thick growth and sand hills of that 
locality thoroughly screened the workmen from view. 

The movements of troops were made and the 
labor performed mainly in the night and every pre 
caution was taken to conceal the operations from the 
Confederates. So important was secrecy in the matter 
regarded, that a blockade-runner, the Dart, which 
to escape pursuit had been run ashore a little south 
of Lighthouse Inlet, was permitted to be wrecked by 
the Confederates and the cargo carried off, when it 
could easily have been prevented by guns already in 
position. The troops did not even return the brisk 
Confederate fire which was kept on that end of the 
island while the wrecking of the Dart was in prog 
ress, though several men who were at work on the 
batteries were killed and wounded. 


In this way batteries were carefully constructed, 
renetted, and embrasured, magazines and splinter- 
proofs made, thirty-two rifled guns, varying from 
10- to 30-pounders, twelve lo-inch and four 8-inch 
mortars were mounted, and under the energetic man 
agement of the ordnance officer, Captain Mordecai, 
each gun was supplied with two hundred rounds of 
ammunition. All this was done within from six hun 
dred to eight hundred yards of the Confederate 
pickets on the south end of Morris Island. 

General Vogdes claims, as does General Gillmore, 
that the existence of the batteries was not known to 
the Confederates until they were unmasked and had 
opened fire. General Beauregard says "the attack 
was not a surprise, neither was the erection of the 
enemy s works on Little Folly Island unknown to the 
local commanders or these headquarters." That the 
enemy was in large force and very busily at work on 
the island was unquestionably known to the local 
commanders, and to General Beauregard, but they 
could scarcely have known the positions and extent 
of the works constructed against them. General 
Ripley, in whose district Morris Island was, says in 
his official report to General Beauregard: "On the 
morning of the loth the enemy opened a heavy fire 
upon our positions from Little Folly with from 
twenty to thirty long-range guns, which he had placed 
in position during the night," whereas the fire had 
been from forty-seven guns in batteries, which had 
been in course of construction nearly a month, and 
had been ready for action a week before they were 
unmasked and opened. 


On the other side of Lighthouse Inlet, on the south 
end of Morris Island, the Confederates had partially 
constructed eight one-gun batteries and two mortar 
batteries, one for two, the other for one mortar. All 
were detached and stretched along the sand ridge, 
designed to protect the beach, and they were very 
incomplete. Rifle-pits or infantry epaulments were 
also made, extending westward toward Oyster 

While General Beauregard knew perfectly well 
that Folly Island was occupied in large force and 
was in course of preparation for both defensive and 
offensive operations, and was confident that a blow 
from it was impending, he could not know with cer 
tainty where it would be directed. Regarding James 
Island as unquestionably the vital point in the land 
defenses of Charleston, and not having sufficient 
force, labor, and heavy guns for the thorough 
defense of both James and Morris islands, he had 
employed his inadequate force and means chiefly in 
putting the former (James Island) in a secure de 
fensive state. Hence the comparatively defenseless 
state of the south end of Morris Island. 

On July 6 Admiral Dahlgren assumed command 
of the South Atlantic squadron at Port Royal. A 
day or two later, after a conference between the 
commanders of the land and naval forces, General 
Gillmore transferred his headquarters from Hilton 
Head to Folly Island, and about* the same time 
Brigadier General Truman Seymour was assigned 
to the command of a division embracing the troops 
serving on that island. 


On entering upon the execution of his plan of 
operations, General Gillmore assumed erroneously 
that his adversary greatly outnumbered him. His 
tri-monthly report for July 10 shows his aggregate 
force present in the department, exclusive of the 
sick, to have been 20,837. ^ n h* s official report he 
states his effective force to have been at that time 
17,463. He was untrammeled with instructions, and 
it was therefore left to his own discretion to employ 
such part of his force as he thought proper in the 
execution of the plans on which he was about to 

At that time General Beauregard s force had been 
reduced by detachments sent to other armies. The 
battle of Gettysburg had been fought and lost by the 
Confederates, and General Lee was calmly and defi 
antly confronting his victorious enemy, with his back 
to the flooded Potomac, waiting for it to fall suffi 
ciently for him to cross and continue his march into 
Virginia ; Vicksburg and Port Hudson had fallen, 
and General Rosecrans, by skillful maneuvering, had 
pressed General Bragg s army across the Tennessee. 
General Beauregard therefore, like other depart 
ment commanders, had been called on to detach 
troops and send them to Virginia and the West. On 
July 10 the "grand total" of his force of all arms in 
South Carolina and Georgia was 15,318, being 
28,000 less than he had estimated as necessary when 
he assumed command. 

Of that force 5841 were in the First Military Di 
vision, which embraced James, Morris, and Sulli 
van s islands and the city of Charleston, Brigadier 


General Ripley commanding. There were but 2906 
men on James Island and 927 on Morris Island, in 
cluding the garrisons of Batteries Wagner and 
Gregg. 1 

No plan of operations by land against Charleston 
seems to have been regarded as complete which did 
not embrace an expedition to cut the Charleston & 
Savannah Railroad. On this occasion the execution 
of that part of the plan was entrusted to Colonel 
Higginson, who on the 9th started from Beaufort 
with a regiment in two armed steamboats,, accom 
panied by a small gunboat, the object being to go up 
the Edisto River to Jacksborough, and destroy the 
railroad bridge and as much of the road as practi 
cable. Under cover of a dense fog the party reached 
Willstown Bluff unperceived and moved up toward 
the village. 

The line of railroad had been nearly stripped of 
troops for the defense of Charleston. A section of 
the Chestnut field artillery, Lieutenant T. G. White, 
and a few cavalrymen, under Colonel Aiken, near 
Willstown, not being in condition to offer effective 
resistance, fell back after some skirmishing. The 
Federal troops delayed there long enough to plunder 
the place, burn Mr. Morris mill and barns, and 
carry off about one hundred and thirty negroes, 
chiefly women and children. 

The expedition then proceeded up the river, but 

General Beauregard s report shows that on July 10 he had 
in South Carolina 3461 infantry, 3664 artillery, and 2651 cav 
alry. Total, 9776. In Georgia, 1745 infantry, 2130 artillery, 
and 1667 cavalry. Total, 5542. 


the delay at Willstown had given time for a section 
of the Washington Artillery, of Charleston, Lieu 
tenant I. R. Horsey commanding, supported by a 
platoon of cavalry, under Lieutenant John Banskett, 
to reach the river; when the steamers were within 
three miles of Jacksborough, opposite Dr. Glov 
er s plantation, the field guns opened upon them; the 
boats stopped, hesitated, and turned back, followed 
by the section of the Washington Artillery and also 
a section of the Marion Artillery, Lieutenant Robert 
Murdoch commanding, which kept up the fire until 
one steamer was so crippled as to become unmanage 
able and ran aground, when it was set on fire and 
burned. The other two steamed out of range and 
returned to Beaufort. 

The two field guns of the steamer were taken un 
injured from the burned vessel and were soon in 
Confederate service. General Gillmore in his official 
report dismisses this expedition with the brief re 
mark: "It signally failed, with a loss to us of two 
pieces of field artillery and a small steamer, which 
was burned to prevent its falling into the hands of 
the enemy." 

Colonel H. K. Aiken, commanding the Confeder 
ates, claims that it was burned by the fire of the Con 
federate field guns of the Macon Artillery. But for 
the delay at Willstown Colonel Higginson might 
have destroyed the bridge and damaged the road, 
or at least have retarded the reinforcements which 
soon passed over from Savannah. 

To draw attention, and perhaps troops, from Mor 
ris to James Island and produce the impression that the 


latter was to be the point of attack, General Gillmore 
sent General A. H. Terry, with 3800 men in armed 
transports, up the Stono, conveyed by the gunboats 
Pawnee, Marblehead, and McDonough, Captain 
Balch commanding. Under cover of the naval guns 
from the steamers in the Stono and Little Folly 
rivers, which thoroughly swept the ground in front, 
the troops landed on Battery Island and Grimble s 
place, moved forward in a threatening manner and 
brisk skirmishing commenced between the pickets. 
General Terry s force outnumbered by several hun 
dred men all the infantry General Beauregard had 
in South Carolina and by more than a thousand all 
the infantry and artillery combined on James Island. 

General Gillmore believed that his feint on James 
Island had produced at least one of the effects de 
sired, in drawing troops from Morris Island; but 
he was mistaken. In truth, there were no troops 
that could have been drawn from that island with 
out abandoning at least the south end and leaving 
the whole island in great jeopardy. 

It had been General Gillmore s intention to make 
the descent on Morris Island about midnight be 
tween the 8th and Qth. He had given detailed in 
structions to that effect, which were so far carried 
out that obstructions in Little Folly Creek were re 
moved by a party of the First New York Engineer 
Regiment and the batteries were so far unmasked 
as to disclose their presence to the Confederates. 
That same night Captain Charles T. Haskell, of the 
First South Carolina Infantry, visited Little Folly 
Island with a scouting party, and discovered the 


company s barges or launches collected in the creeks 
approaching the inlet. During the whole of the 
9th, therefore, there were abundant indications that 
an attack was immediately impending. 

General George C. Strong was selected to lead 
in the attack with his brigade. He was a young 
officer of the Ordnance Corps, who had graduated 
with high honors at West Point in the class of 1858 
and had distinguished himself in the war both in 
Virginia and Louisiana. His brigade was com 
posed of the Sixth Connecticut Regiment, Colonel 
John L. Chatfield; Forty-eighth New York, Colonel 
Barton; Third New Hampshire, Colonel Jackson; 
Ninth Maine, Colonel Emory; Seventy-sixth Penn 
sylvania, Colonel Strawbridge; battalion of four 
companies Seventh Connecticut, Lieutenant Colonel 
Rodman; Company C, Third Rhode Island 
Artillery; detachment Third United States Artillery; 
detachment First New York Engineers. 

A battalion of the Forty-eighth New York, the 
colonel commanding, and the detachments of 
artillery were left on the island with General Vogdes. 

The brigade was embarked on launches near the 
south end of Folly Island early in the night of the 
9th, and, conveyed four naval howitzer launches, 
Lieutenant Bunce commanding, moved up Folly 
River and Creek and halted near the entrance to 
Lighthouse Inlet, where they were screened from 
view by tall marsh grass, and there awaited the 
signal to advance. 

The remaining force on Folly Island was held 
in reserve under General Vogdes. The Sixty- 


second Ohio, Colonel Pond; Sixty-seventh Ohio, 
Colonel Voorhees, and Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania, 
Colonel Howell, were near the signal station. The 
Seventh New Hampshire, Colonel H. S. Putnam; 
One Hundredth New York, Colonel Dandy; a bat 
talion of six companies of the Forty-eighth New 
York, Colonel Barker, and Battery B, First United 
States Artillery, Captain G. V. Henry commanding, 
were at the northern end of Little Folly Island, in 
readiness to follow General Strong s Brigade. The 
formidable batteries which were to perform so im 
portant a part were commanded by Lieutenant 
Colonel Jackson and Major L. L. Langton, First 
United States Artillery. 

Just across Lighthouse Inlet and within easy 
range were the detached Confederate battery of 
eight guns and three mortars, manned by two com 
panies of the First South Carolina Artillery, Cap 
tains J. C. Mitchell and J. R. Macbeth commanding, 
supported by the Twenty-first South Carolina In 
fantry, about four hundred men, Major Mclver 
commanding, and a detachment of the First South 
Carolina Infantry, under Captain Charles T. Has- 
kell (in all about seven hundred). The garrison of 
Battery Wagner, about three miles distant on the 
island, was two companies of artillery, Captains C. 
E. Chichester and J. R. Mathews commanding, and 
of Battery Gregg, Captain Henry R. Lesesne s com 
pany of artillery. All of the artillery on the island 
was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel J. A. Yates, 
First South Carolina Artillery. The whole force 


was commanded by Colonel R. F. Graham, Twenty- 
first South Carolina Infantry. 

As the sun rose on the morning of July 10 the 
Federal batteries were unmasked and thirty-two 
guns and fifteen mortars opened fire, to which the 
Confederates promptly replied. A few minutes 
later four monitors, the Weehawken ) Commander 
E. R. Calhoun, the Nahant, Commander John 
Downs, the Kaatskill, Commander George H. 
Rodgers, and the Montauk, Commander D. McN. 
Fairfax, which had crossed the bar and taken posi 
tions from which some of the Confederate batteries 
could be enfiladed and others taken in reverse, 
opened fire with fifteen- and eleven-inch guns on 
the Confederate left; the four howitzer launches 
pulled into position and opened on the right, and 
for nearly three hours about sixty guns, some of 
them of the heaviest caliber, concentrated a rapid 
and accurate fire on the Confederate position, to 
which the Confederates as rapidly replied. 

A little after seven o clock the signal was given to 
General Strong to cross the inlet, land, and assail 
the batteries, and he pulled with the greater part of 
his brigade directly and rapidly for Oyster Point, 
the extreme left of the Confederate position. As 
soon as the launches came into view some of the 
Confederate guns were turned on them with effect, 
destroying one of them, while the infantry hastened 
to the Point to dispute the landing. 

Colonel Chatfield, with his regiment, the Sixth 
Connecticut, had pulled rapidly to the right, or 


southeastern, extremity of the island, and the tide 
being low the bank sheltered him from the fire of 
the guns on the sand hills, which were about thirty 
feet high so high that the guns could not be trained 
on the boats. 

Both parties landed successfully and with little 
loss. The battalion of four companies of the 
Seventh Connecticut, Lieutenant Colonel Rodman, 
was the first to land at Oyster Point, quickly fol 
lowed by the battalions of the Forty-eighth New 
York, Ninth Maine, Third New Hampshire, and 
Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania. 

The launches immediately crossed to Little Folly 
Island, and in twenty minutes from the time they 
touched the beach the Seventh New Hampshire, One 
Hundredth New York, the battalion of the Forty- 
eighth New York, and Captain Henry s battery of 
the First Artillery were transported to and landed 
on the south end of Morris Island. 

In the meantime the main column at Oyster Point 
had formed in line and advanced against the Twenty- 
first South Carolina, while Colonel Chatfield ad 
vanced directly against the batteries, throwing out 
strong skirmishing parties on the right and left, 
which soon flanked the batteries, taking them in re 
verse. After an obstinate resistance, what was left 
of the artillery had to abandon their guns and retire. 
In truth, the batteries had been for nearly three 
hours enveloped in fire and overwhelmed by the 
weight of metal thrown on them. 

Colonel Graham, finding his little band of in 
fantry, which had lost heavily, in danger of being 


cut off by Colonel Chatfield s column and captured 
by General Strong s, ordered it to fall back to Bat 
tery Wagner. 

The two Federal columns, converging upon the 
batteries, captured them all, one after the other, 
and pursued the retreating Confederates, while the 
monitors, steaming slowly parallel to the beach, con 
tinued their fire upon the shattered Confederates. 

The Seventh Battalion South Carolina Infantry, 
Lieutenant Colonel Nelson, had been ordered to 
reinforce Morris Island, but did not arrive in time 
to take part in the battle. Two companies of it, 
which arrived first, had been ordered forward to 
support the batteries, but met the retreating Con 
federates and were warmly engaged in endeavoring 
to cover the retreat. 

The Federals continued the pursuit until they 
came within range of the guns of Battery Wagner, 
which opened rapidly and the pursuit ceased. 

The weather was excessively hot, so, too, was the 
fire from Wagner, say the Federal reports, "rid 
dling" the colors of the Sixth Connecticut. The 
men were too much exhausted to storm Battery 
Wagner. They were therefore halted a few hun 
dred yards from it, where the sand hills sheltered 
them from its fire, and threw up breastworks for 
better protection. 

The monitors took position abreast of Wagner 
and kept up a brisk fire on it for the remainder of 
the day, except (and this appears to have been a 
custom in the navy which seems strange to soldiers) 
that "at noon we hauled out of fire to give the men 


dinner and about two o clock went back and resumed 
work," says the Admiral. Wagner returned the 
fire with spirit from a ten-inch columbiad, her only 
effective gun against the monitors. The Kaatskill, 
against which the fire was mainly directed, was 
struck sixty times, her deck crashed through and 
pierced in several places, letting in water very freely. 

By nine o clock in the morning the affair on land 
was over and two-thirds of Morris Island was in pos 
session of the Federal troops. The descent had 
been made with complete success and little loss 
(General Strong reports fifteen killed and ninety-two 
wounded). Among the killed was Captain Lent, 
of the Forty-eighth New York. They had captured 
three 8-inch navy shell guns, two 8-inch seacoast 
howitzers, one rifled 24-pounder, one 3O-pounder, 
one i2-pounder Whitworth and three lo-inch sea- 
coast mortars in all eleven pieces the camp 
equipage, and 127 prisoners. 

The little band of Confederates had made a 
gallant stand for three hours against great odds, 
and had not retreated until it was absolutely 
necessary to escape capture and until, out of a total 
force not exceeding 700, they had lost 294 killed, 
wounded, and missing, u among whom," says Gen 
eral Ripley, "I mention with especial regret the fol 
lowing officers: Captains John R. Chevers and Has- 
kell and Lieutenant J. S. Bee, who had rendered im 
portant service previous to and behaved with dis 
tinguished gallantry in the engagement." 

General Seymour commended very highly the con 
duct of his troops on the occasion: 


"For the brilliant vigor," he says, "with which the 
movements of his brigade were conducted the great 
est credit is due to Brigadier General Strong, whose 
personal example was heroism itself. His report 
justly praises his subordinate commanders, and to 
those I must refer, but I must mention particularly 
the excellent conduct of Colonel Chatfield, Sixth 
Connecticut, who led his regiment in the advance up 
Morris Island until its colors were riddled by the 
close fire from Battery Wagner. But to the hearty 
devotion and the cheerful courage of the soldiers of 
this division, in the patient labors in preparing for 
the battle and the ready courage with which they 
fought it, must, after all, be given the highest honors, 
and their gallant conduct in this brilliant action will 
always be to their commanders and their country the 
source of just pride." 

The assault of Battery Wagner, which the troops 
were too much exhausted to attempt on the loth, 
was made about day dawn the next morning by 
General Strong. 

The garrison of Wagner at that time consisted of 
the shattered remainder of the troops which had 
contested the landing the previous morning, namely, 
the Twenty-first South Carolina Regiment, about 
two hundred men, under Major J. G. W. Mclver; 
twenty men of Company D, First South Carolina 
Infantry, Lieutenant Horlbeck commanding, and 
seventy men of Companies E, H, and I, First South 
Carolina Artillery, under Captain John C. Mitchell; 
also the Gist Guard, Captain C. E. Chichester; 
Mathews Artillery, Captain J. R. Mathews, which 


had occupied the battery on the loth; the Seventh 
South Carolina Battalion, about three hundred men, 
Major J. H. Rion commanding; four companies 
each of the First Georgia Regiment, Colonel C. H. 
Olmstead; the Twelfth Georgia Battalion, Lieu 
tenant Colonel H. D. Capers, and three companies 
of the Eighteenth Georgia Battalion, Major W. S. 
Basinger; in all about five hundred men, Colonel 
Olmstead commanding. The aggregate force was 
about twelve hundred men. 

The South Carolinians manned the guns and the 
right and right center of the ramparts. The 
Georgians, who arrived in the night of the loth, 
guarded the left and left center of the work. The 
Eighteenth Battalion occupied the southeast bastion, 
the First Georgia along the sea front to the left, the 
Twelfth Georgia Battalion to the right, connecting 
with the Carolinians. Lieutenant Colonel Yates 
commanded the artillery and Colonel R. F. Graham 
(Twenty-first South Carolina) the whole. 

General Strong formed his brigade before day- 
dawn. The assaulting column consisted of the bat 
talion of the Seventh Connecticut, the Seventy-sixth 
Pennsylvania, and the Ninth Maine. As on the 
previous morning, the Seventh Connecticut led the 
advance, Lieutenant Colonel Rodman commanding. 
The Third and Seventh New Hampshire were held 
in reserve. The battalion of the Seventh Con 
necticut was deployed in line in front, followed 
closely in the order named by the Seventy-sixth 
Pennsylvania and Ninth Maine, each formed in 
close divisions. They were ordered to carefully 


preserve their intervals and when the Confederates 
should open fire to rush forward with a cheer, 
mount the parapet and carry the battery by storm. 

General Strong commanded in person. His in 
structions were most faithfully carried out by Lieu 
tenant Colonel Rodman, who led his Seventh Con 
necticut men under a brisk fire of cannon and 
musketry to the ditch and some of them to the top 
of the parapet, where, it is reported, they bayoneted 
two Confederate gunners. 

"But unfortunately," says General Strong in his 
report, "when the enemy opened fire simultaneously 
along the whole line, and with a range of two hun 
dred yards, the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania halted 
and lay down upon the ground. Though they re 
mained in this position but a few moments and after 
wards moved gallantly forward, some of them even 
to the ditch, that halt lost the battle, for the interval 
was lost and the Seventh Connecticut, unsupported, 
were driven from the parapet. The whole column, 
including the Ninth Maine, which had reached the 
ditch on the left, gave way and retreated from the 

The garrison of Wagner had of course expected 
an attack and was on the alert all night. When 
the column was seen advancing in the dim light of 
early dawn Colonel Graham deliberately held his 
fire until his enemy was within close range, then 
opened simultaneously along his whole line, firing 
rapidly and continuously until the last man of the 
fast retreating column was under cover of the sand 


The Seventh Connecticut was particularly dis 
tinguished on this occasion. Unsupported and 
when there seemed no hope of success, some of the 
men persisted with great daring in their efforts to 
force an entrance into the work. One brave man 
sprang to the parapet in front of a thirty-two- 
pounder, double-charged with grape shot. Lieu 
tenant Gilchrist, of South Carolina, in command of 
the gun, struck by the man s fearless bearing, called 
to him to come in before the gun was fired. As 
quick as thought the man s rifle was leveled and a 
ball whizzed by Gilchrist s head. The discharge 
of the gun followed and the man was hurled across 
the ditch a mangled corpse. This regiment had 
been the first to enter Fort Pulaski when it was 
captured the year before and the officers and men 
had behaved with much kindness toward Colonel 
Olmstead and his men who were captured on that 
occasion. Among the prisoners captured at this 
time were many of this regiment, who recognized 
their former prisoners, calling them by name, and 
were received by them with as much kind considera 
tion as the circumstances permitted. 

General Strong in his official report to General 
Gillmore, made on the day of the assault, states 
that his loss that morning was 8 officers and 322 non 
commissioned officers and privates. Among the 
severely wounded was Lieutenant Colonel Rodman 
of the Seventh Connecticut. Captain Gray, who 
succeeded to the command of the battalion of the 
Seventh Connecticut, reports that 191 men of the 
battalion went to the assault and that 103 of them 


were killed, woui.Jed, and missing, and he adds that 
their mess contained 1 1 officers that morning before 
the assault and but 4 after it. 

The Confederate loss in the assault was i officer 
and 5 enlisted men killed and i officer and 5 enlisted 
men wounded. Captain Werner, First Georgia, 
and Edward Postelle, of the Eighteenth Georgia, 
were killed, Lieutenant Frederick Tupper, 
Eighteenth Georgia Battalion, severely wounded. 
Colonel Graham reports that he captured 130 and 
buried over 100 of the Federal troops. 

The Federal losses on the mornings of the loth 
and nth, as officially reported by General Strong, 
who commanded in person on both occasions, aggre 
gated 436. In an official letter from General Gill- 
more to General Halleck reporting the success of his 
descent on Morris Island, he says, speaking of the 
assault on the morning of the iith: "The parapet 
was gained, but the support recoiled under the fire 
to which they were exposed and could not be got 
up. Our loss in both actions (the mornings of the 
loth and i ith) will not vary much from 150." 

A more substantial and obvious reason for the 
failure of the assault will naturally suggest itself to 
the most causal reader than that assigned by Gen 
eral Strong, namely, the brief halt of the Seventy- 
sixth Pennsylvania. The probable cause of the fail 
ure was that the assaulting column was too weak 
numerically. It scarcely outnumbered the garrison, 
which had all the advantages of position within a 
strong field work. 

There seems to have been some difference of 


opinion between Generals Gillmore and Seymour as 
to this point on which of them did the responsibil 
ity of the assault, as it was made, rest. The former 
commanded the department, the latter a division of 
the troops on the island, and the assault was made 
by a part only of one of his brigades. General Gill- 
more, in an elaborate report of his operations, makes 
but brief mention of the assault, saying merely: 
General Seymour was ordered to carry Fort 
Wagner by assault by daybreak on the following 
morning. The attempt failed." 

General Seymour says: "Before daylight on the 
i ith an assault had been made by Brigadier General 
Strong, with his brigade, in accordance with instruc 
tions given to him directly by Brigadier General Gill- 
more, which attack failed from the complete prepa 
ration of the enemy, due to his pickets having been 
driven in an hour before the attempted surprise." 
General Strong reports officially that the assault was 
made "pursuant to instructions from department 

Immediately after the assault, in a conference be 
tween General Gillmore and Admiral Dahlgren, it 
was decided that the parapets of Wagner should be 
battered down and its guns silenced by a combined 
fire from land and naval batteries before making 
the next assault. 


Battery Wagner s armament increased Its importance in the 
defense of Charleston Attack on Federal position Suc 
cess Wagner again bombarded Whole Confederate de 
fenses engaged Terrific fire Scenes in Charleston Suf 
fering of the besieged Bayonet assault Repulse Con 
federate loss Federal loss Bombardment continues. 

The failure of the Federal assault on Battery 
Wagner on the morning of July n, 1863, convinced 
General Gillmore that before making another at 
tempt to carry that work by storm it would be ex 
pedient, at least, if not absolutely necessary, to 
silence its guns and cut down its parapets, scarp and 
counterscarp, by a combined and heavy artillery fire 
from the land and naval batteries. 

Admiral Dahlgren concurred in this opinion and 
was quite ready to perform his part of the bombard 
ment. The naval batteries were ready and could 
be placed in and taken out of position at pleasure. 
The mortar vessels, at a secure distance beyond the 
range of the Confederate guns, having ascertained 
the range, could drop their shells into Battery Wag 
ner without danger from the return fire, while the 
monitors, with their batteries securely encased within 
iron plating of eleven inches thickness, could steam 
into position and maintain their fire as long as it 
suited the Admiral, steaming out of range again 



with great regularity at stated intervals, that the 
men might take their meals and accustomed rest un 
disturbed by the Confederate guns, and return to 
their work with the regularity of gangs of laborers 
engaged in other and more productive industry. 

But it was not so with the land batteries. It was 
necessary to construct and arm them under the fires 
of several Confederate batteries on Morris and 
James islands and Fort Sumter. The daily fire of 
the ironclads generally suppressed in a great meas 
ure the fire of Wagner while the land forces were 
contructing their batteries. But this daily firing of 
the ironclads was not always made with impunity. 
Though there was but one gun in Wagner that 
could reach them with much effect, a ro-inch colum- 
biad, that one gun under the cool and skillful 
management of Captain Frazer Matthews was fired 
with accuracy, doing much damage to the monitors, 
one of which was seen on the evening of the I2th 
going southward without a smokestack and ap 
parently much crippled. But in spite of the Con 
federate fire the work on the land batteries was 
pressed forward rapidly night and day and com 
pleted in the course of a week. 

In the meantime the Confederates were making 
every possible exertion to strengthen and increase 
the armament of works already constructed, and to 
construct others which the Federal operations on 
Morris Island and the safety of Charleston sug 
gested as necessary. The armament of Wagner 
was increased by four 12-pounder howitzers and 
two 32-pounder carronades. In response to Gen- 


eral Beauregard s earnest call for reinforcements, 
General Clingman had been sent to him with his 
brigade from North Carolina, and General A. H. 
Colquitt had arrived with two regiments of his 
Georgia brigade. The Eleventh South Carolina 
Regiment and Marion Light Artillery had been 
brought to Charleston from the line of the Charles 
ton & Savannah Railroad, but the importance of 
guarding that road very soon made it necessary to 
return them to that duty. 

The arrival of these reinforcements naturally sug 
gested the question whether or not it was practicable 
to drive the Federal force from Morris Island. In 
a consultation with his general officers, Ripley, 
Taliaferro, Hagood, and Jordan (chief of staff), 
and Colonel E. B. Harris, chief of engineers, Gen 
eral Beauregard presented that question for con 
sideration. The number of troops deemed neces 
sary to attack the enemy on Morris Island with 
reasonable prospect of success was estimated at 
four thousand, the area and the general shape of 
the island making it impracticable to employ a 
larger force to advantage. To carry out this plan 
it would be necessary to throw the four thousand 
troops on the island during the night and attack and 
defeat the enemy before daylight. To make the 
movement and attack in daylight would expose the 
Confederates to the flank fire of the naval guns. 
Seeing that the Federal force was about seven thou 
sand, covered by defensive works, to attack it in 
front and in the light of day, with the ironclads 
pouring in a destructive fire on the flank, could 


scarcely be hoped to prove successful. With the 
very insufficient means of transportation at General 
Beauregard s command, it was deemed impracticable 
to throw a sufficient force on the island, move upon 
the enemy, and make the attack during a single 
night. The idea was therefore abandoned and a 
purely defensive plan of operations was then deter 
mined on. 

The presence of General Terry at Legare s and 
Grimble s, on James Island, with a larger force than 
the Confederates had on the same island was a 
standing menace to the latter, which it was im 
portant to suppress. General Johnson Hagood 
commanded the Confederates on that island, and 
General Colquitt, having arrived on the I4th with 
two regiments o his Georgia brigade, was sent to 
reinforce him. Early on the morning of the i6th 
a reconnoissance in force was made on the enemy, 
Generals Hagood and Colquitt commanding in per 
son. The enemy occupied Battery Island and parts 
of Legare s and Grimble s plantations. The naval 
gunboats were in the Stono and other armed 
steamers were in Folly River, giving a cross fire 
which could sweep the ground in front as far as the 
Confederate pickets. The object of the movement 
was limited to driving in the pickets on the left, 
making a reconnoissance of that part of their posi 
tion, capturing or destroying the part of the force 
nearest Grimble s, and driving off and, if possible, 
crippling the gunboats Pawnee and Marblehead, 
which were anchored highest up the Stono. 

General Colquitt, with the Twenty-fifth South 


Carolina, Lieutenant Colonel J. G. Presley com 
manding; Sixth Georgia, Colonel J. T. Lofton com 
manding; Nineteenth Georgia, Colonel A. J. 
Hutchins; four companies of the Thirty-second 
Georgia, Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Pruden com 
manding, and Captain E. L. Parker s Battery of 
Artillery, in all about fourteen hundred men, were 
ordered to cross the marsh dividing Legare s from 
Grimble s plantation at the crossing nearest Seces- 
sionville, driving the enemy as far as the lower 
crossing near the Stono, recross the marsh by a flank 
movement and cut off and capture the force at 
Grimble s. Colonel C. H. Way, of the Fifty- 
fourth Georgia, with about eight hundred infantry 
of his own and the Thirty-first North Carolina Regi 
ment, followed in echelon on the Grimble side of 
the marsh to co-operate with Colquitt. A reserve 
of a section of artillery, supported by a company 
of infantry and a squadron of cavalry, under Lieu 
tenant Colonel R. J. Jeffords, Fifth South Carolina 
Cavalry, was held in hand near Rivers house. On 
the right Lieutenant Colonel Del. Kemper, with 
four rifled 12-pounders and four Napoleon guns, 
supported by Colonel James D. Radcliffe, of the 
Sixty-first North Carolina, with about four hun 
dred men of his own regiment, was ordered to at 
tack the gunboats in the Stono. 

The movement was made at day dawn. Six com 
panies of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina deployed 
as skirmishers on the right and left of the road 
leading from Secessionville to Legare s house, 
pressed forward, rapidly crossed Rivers causeway, 


where the Federal picket line (Fifty-fourth Massa 
chusetts) was encountered and driven back hastily 
on the main line, which retired to Battery Island, 
"leaving their camp strewn with muskets, accouter- 
ments, blankets, overcoats, prisoners/ etc., says 
Colonel Way. As soon as the picket firing com 
menced the party at Grimble s, which was smaller 
than had been supposed, fled to Battery Island and so 
escaped capture. There was some brisk firing of 
field guns on both sides. A company of the Nine 
teenth Georgia pursued a party of the Fifty-fourth 
Massachusetts, which had been cut off by the left of 
the advancing skirmish line, killing and wounding a 
number of them, the others escaping through the 

Colonel Radcliffe and Lieutenant Colonel Kem- 
per surprised the Pawnee, (Captain Balch com 
manding), and Marblehead at early dawn by a 
rapid and accurate fire, striking the Pawnee forty- 
two times with considerable effect. From the na 
ture of their position in the Stono the gunboats could 
not bring their guns to bear with effect on the troops, 
but fell down the river out of range of the field 
guns and in positions where their own batteries 
could be used, and in response to a signal from 
General Terry the gunboats swept the ground in the 
Federal front, rendering valuable service, for which 
General Terry was quick to acknowledge his in 
debtedness to the naval commander. 

The object of the reconnoissance having been ac 
complished, the Confederates retired, and that night 
General Terry abandoned the island, carrying his 


force to Folly Island, and the Confederates occupied 
the positions from which the Federals had retired. 
The loss in the affair had been slight about fifty on 
the Federal and eighteen on the Confederate side. 
The desired result was accomplished when the 
Federal force withdrew from the island. 

Service in Battery Wagner was necessarily one 
of ceaseless vigilance, entailing on officers and men 
such continued mental and physical strain that it was 
necessary to relieve the garrison by fresh troops at 
short intervals. It was General Beauregard s wish 
that it should be relieved every forty-eight hours, 
but the change had to be made in boats during the 
night and soon became so difficult that the tour of 
duty was extended. Brigadier General William B. 
Taliaferro, who was on duty at Savannah when the 
descent was made on Morris Island, hastened to 
Charleston on leave of absence for a few hours and 
solicited service in the defense of the city. His 
offer was accepted and he was assigned to the com 
mand of Battery Wagner on the I3th. 

To guard against surprise a line of rifle-pits was 
made across the island, about two hundred yards in 
front of the work. The Federal advance picket line 
was about three-quarters of a mile distant and could 
be seen from the parapet of Wagner. Beyond that 
point the enemy was concealed by sand hills and 
neither their numbers nor the extent of the prepara 
tions they were making were known. 

To gain information on those points, cover the 
men who were digging the rifle-pits, and inspirit the 
garrison by an aggressive movement, General Talia- 


ferro ordered a sortie to be made on the night ot 
the I4th, with one hundred and fifty men detailed 
from the infantry of the garrison, namely, the Fifty- 
first North Carolina, Twelfth and Eighteenth 
Georgia Battalions, Twentieth Regiment and 
Seventh Battalion South Carolina, Major James H. 
Rion commanding. The sortie was made about 
midnight, driving in the advance picket to the first 
trench, from which the enemy was drawn; but a 
heavy fire from a much larger force a hundred or 
two hundreds yards further on arrested the advance 
of the assailants, and it was believed killed and 
wounded a number of the Federal soldiers who 
were retreating. From prisoners taken it was as 
certained that batteries were in course of construc 
tion and many guns already mounted. The Con 
federates lost eleven wounded, one mortally, and 
three missing. Major Rion estimated the Federal 
loss at not less than forty. 

Battery Wagner was a field work made of sand 
and riveted with turf and palmetto logs. It extended 
across the islands from the beach on the east to 
Vincent s Creek on the west, and presented toward 
the south a bastioned front of about 275 yards. 
The parapets were very thick and the ditch of mod 
erate depth. The space within the work was from 
east to west about 200 yards and from north to 
south varied from 20 to 75 yards. On this space 
to the west were quarters for officers and men, built 
of wood, a bomb-proof (capable of sheltering from 
eight hundred to a thousand men), bomb-proof 
magazines and heavy traverses. 


On July 1 8 the armament was one lo-inch colum- 
biad, one 32-pounder rifle, one 42-pounder, and two 
32-pounder carronades, two naval shell guns and 
one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, four smooth-bore 32- 
pounders and one lo-inch sea-coast mortar in all 
thirteen and one light battery. Of those guns only, 
the single lo-inch columbiad was of much effect 
against the monitors. The Federal land batteries 
were beyond the range of nearly all of the other 
guns in Wagner. 

On the morning of the iSth the infantry of the 
garrison consisted of the Thirty-first North Caro 
lina, Lieutenant Colonel C. W. Knight command 
ing; Fifty-first North Carolina, Colonel McKethen; 
and the Charleston Battalion, Lieutenant Colonel 
P. C. Gaillard. The artillery was Captains W. T. 
Tatam s and Warren Adams companies of the 
First South Carolina regular infantry, acting as 
artillery; Captains J. T. Buckner s and W. J- 
Dixon s companies of the Sixty-third Georgia Heavy 
Artillery, and Captain De Pass Light Battery in 
all an aggregate of about seventeen hundred men. 
The Charleston Battalion and Fifty-first North 
Carolina were assigned to the defense of the parapet 
in the order named from the right along the south 
front to the gun chamber opposite the door of the 
bomb-proof, which was on the left or sea front. The 
Thirty-first North Carolina extended along the sea 
face from the left of the Fifty-first to the sallyport 
toward Battery Gregg. A part of this regiment 
(the Thirty-first) was held in reserve on the parade. 

Two companies of the Charleston Battalion, Cap- 


tain Julius A. Blake commanding, were outside of 
the work guarding the left gorge and sallyport. Two 
of Captain De Pass field pieces were also outside 
of the work on the traverse near the sallyport. 
Colonel E. B. Harris, chief of engineers, had that 
day placed a howitzer on the right of the sallyport, 
outside of the beach, to co-operate with the guns on 
the left. To avoid the delay, which in a sudden as 
sault might prove fatal, of assembling the men and 
marching them in military order to their respective 
posts, every man was instructed individually as to the 
exact point which he should occupy, and which, on 
an order to man the parapets, he would be required 
to gain and hold. All of the artillery was undpr the 
general command of Lieutenant Colonel J. C. Sim- 
kins, Chief of Artillery. 

On the 1 6th General Gillmore had completed his 
preparations and was in readiness for the bombard 
ment and assault, but heavy rains deluged his bat 
teries, damaging the ammunition, and obliged him 
to defer it until the iSth. He had constructed four 
batteries, and the long list of officers killed in the 
then recent battle of Gettysburg furnished names 
for three of them Reynolds, Weed, and O Rorke; 
the other was Battery Hays. They were at dis 
tances from Wagner ranging from 1330 to 1920 
yards, and mounted thirty-one rifled guns, varying in 
caliber from lo-pounders to 3O-pounders, nine 10- 
inch and four 8-inch mortars, in all forty-four pieces. 
Lieutenant Colonel R. W. Jackson, First United 
States Artillery, commanded Batteries Hays and 


O Rorke; Captain L. L. Langon, of the same regi 
ment, commanded Batteries Reynolds and Weed. 

The naval vessels in readiness to take part in 
the bombardment were the New Ironsides, Cap 
tain Rowan, and five monitors, namely the Kaats- 
kill, Captain G. W. Rodgers; Montauk, Captain 
D. McN. Fairfax; Nantucket, Captain Beaumont; 
Weehawken, Captain Colhoun, and Patapsco, Cap 
tain Badger. The Ironsides carried fourteen and 
the monitors two guns each, all of 1 5-inch and n- 
inch caliber the heaviest guns in use. There were 
besides five gunboats, the Paul Jones, Commander 
Rhind; Ottawa, Commander Whiting; Seneca, Com 
mander Gibson; Chippewa, Commander Harris, 
and Wissahickon, Commander Davis. 

General Gillmore had ordered the firing to com 
mence at day dawn on the i8th, but another heavy 
rain on the night of the iyth delayed it a few hours. 
About 8 130 A. M. fire was opened, which, until mid 
day, Gillmore says, was merely to obtain the proper 
range, but the Confederate generals represent it as 
rapid and heavy from the commencement. About 
mid-day the land and naval batteries, about ninety 
guns, were in rapid action and were replied to from 
batteries on Morris, James, and Sullivan s island and 
Fort Sumter. The bombardment rarely, if ever, 
exceeded in the history of war for the number and 
caliber of the guns and the rapidity and accuracy of 
fire continued until nearly eight o clock. 

Words fail to convey an adequate idea of that 
bombardment when u the whole island smoked like 


a furnace and trembled as from an earthquake." 
None but those who witnessed can appreciate it. To 
those who directed the storm "the spectacle pre 
sented was of surpassing sublimity and grandeur," 
as described by General Gillmore. But only the 
men who were in Wagner on that memorable day 
can form an idea of its diabolical power as it ap 
peared to them, which seemed capable of blasting 
and destroying everything before it save the in 
domitable will and resolution of those who defended 
the work. 

For eleven hours the air seemed filled with every 
description of shot and shell that the magazines of 
war could supply. Huge clouds of sand were blown 
into the air from the craters formed by the bursting 
shells; the water of the bay was lashed into foam 
and thrown high in jets of spray by the ricocheting 
shots from the ironclads bounding from the water 
over the parapets and bursting within the work, 
while a dense cloud of sulphurous smoke hung like a 
pall over the scene. Of the garrison only the gun 
detachments and a few sentinels were at their posts. 
The troops generally were ordered to shelter them 
selves in the bomb-proofs and behind the para 
pets, traverses, and sand hills. The Charleston 
battalion preferred the open air to the stifling heat 
and vitiated. atmosphere of the bomb-proof, and 
during the whole of that terrible day sheltered them 
selves as they best could outside. It was necessary 
to husband their strength to repel the expected as 
sault. In the meantime their strength was to sit 


The lo-inch columbiad, the only gun which could 
reach the ironclads with effect, and several other 
guns were soon dismounted and the 32-pounder rifle 
was rendered useless by bursting. In truth, the 
armament of Wagner was so inferior to those which 
opposed it that it was inappreciable. The field and 
shell guns were dismounted and protected by sand 
bags until they should be needed to repel the assault. 
Comparatively passive endurance alone remained 
for the garrison while the storm continued. Since 
the assault of the nth Wagner had been much 
strengthened under the skillful direction of the Chief 
Engineer, Colonel D. B. Harris, and his able as 
sistant, Captain Barnwell, and had stood the severe 
test of the heavy fire to which it had been subjected 
so well as to inspire the troops with confidence in 
the efficacy of sand batteries. 

Charleston was wild with excitement. From 
church steeples, house-tops, and the wharves, from 
boats in the harbor and the parapets of the sur 
rounding forts and batteries, thousands of eager 
spectators gazed anxiously on the work which held 
its gallant defenders, whom they were powerless to 
assist. Wagner itself exhibited scarcely any sign 
of life. 

The Confederate flag floated defiantly over it, 
and when the halyards were cut by a shot and the 
flag was blown into the fort Captain Barnwell, of the 
Engineers, instantly sprang to the ramparts with a 
battle-flag and drove the staff into the sand, while 
others of the garrison leaped forward in a race 
through the storm of shot and shell for the garrison 


flag Major Ramsey, Sergeant Shelton, and Pro 
vost Flinn, of the Charleston Battalion, and Lieu 
tenant Riddic, of the Sixty-third Georgia, dividing 
the honor of flying it again from its staff. It was 
again shot away and again restored to its place, this 
time by Private Gaillard, of the Charleston Bat 
talion. "These intrepid actions," says Genera] 
Taliaferro, "emulating in a higher degree the con 
duct of Sergeant Jasper at Moultrie, during the 
Revolution, were loudly cheered by the command 
and inspired them with renewed courage." 

While the bombardment was at its height the 
Chief of Engineers, Colonel D. B. Harris, a grad 
uate of West Point, of the class of 1833, landed at 
Cumming s Point, passed through the tempest of 
shot to Wagner to inspect its condition and to give 
his personal attention to whatever might be done to 
repair the ravages of the bombardment. The per 
fectly cool courage which characterized him and was 
the admiration of all who saw him under the 
heaviest fire inspirited the garrison and gave con 
fidence in its capacity to withstand the terrible fire it 
was undergoing. 

A little more than a year later General Harris 
died at Summerville of yellow fever, contracted 
while inspecting the defenses of Charleston, leaving 
an enviable reputation for skill, patriotism, and in 
trepid bravery, tempered by a kindly, gentle, and 
modest bearing. 

The long midsummer day seemed endless and 
the storm of fire increased as the hours wore on. 
The fierce July sun seemed to stand still. Would 


it never set? Water was scarce and men slaked 
their thirst from the temporary wells opened by ex 
ploding shells into which water oozed. Men were 
found dead without wounds from the concussion of 
bursting shells. A staff officer, Captain Tuiggs, in 
the execution of an order was knocked down by an 
exploding shell and found apparently lifeless, with 
no wound. He was with difficulty restored. Men 
were half buried in sand thrown up by bursting 
shells; the commanding general himself was buried 
knee deep and dug out with spades. 

Much anxiety was felt for the safety of the mag 
azine. The works might be battered out of shape, 
the parapet, traverses, scarp, and counterscarp 
might be cut down, but the sand could not be 
wholly removed and would still afford some shelter; 
but if the covering of the magazine were swept 
away, a shell bursting would blow the whole garri 
son skyward. The closest watch was kept upon it 
and its condition reported at short intervals during 
the day. 

Later in the day General Gillmore signaled Ad 
miral Dahlgren to redouble his fire and cease a little 
after sunset, when the assault would be made. 
Colonel Olmstead, of the First Georgia, who had 
been relieved from duty in Wagner in the night of 
the 1 7th and witnessed the bombardment from Fort 
Johnson, says the General s signal to the Admiral 
was intercepted by a Confederate signal officer, who 
knew the Federal signals, and that the dispatch was 
known by General Beauregard almost as soon as by 
the Admiral; but General Taliaferro has no recollec- 


tion that it was communicated to him. No signal 
was needed to warn him of the approaching as 
sault. When the storm of fire culminated about 
sunset and gradually subsided, it was evident that 
the supreme hour of the day had come and that the 
assault was at hand. Orders were given to man the 
ramparts; the field guns and howitzers were un 
earthed and mounted, and all preparations made to 
meet and repel the assault. 

General Gillmore had selected the time between 
sunset and dark to make the assault, in order that 
there might be light enough for his troops to see 
their way, but not enough to enable the gunners in 
the distant Confederate batteries to see distinctly the 
advancing column. General Seymour commanded 
in person the division of troops available for the 
assault. It had been suggested to him he does not 
say by whom that one brigade would be sufficient 
for the work in hand, but Seymour thought dif 
ferently. On close personal observation of Wagner 
he could not discover that it had been materially 
damaged by the unprecedentedly heavy bombard 
ment to which it had been subjected, but he pre 
sumed that so heavy a fire must have in a great 
measure demoralized the garrison. 

The First Brigade General G. C. Strong s 
was selected to lead the assault. It was composed 
of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment, 
Colonel Shaw; the Sixth Connecticut, Colonel Chat- 
field; a battalion of the Seventh Connecticut, Cap 
tain Gray; the Forty-eighth New York, Colonel 
Barton; the Third New Hampshire, Colonel Jack- 


son; Ninth Maine, Colonel Emery, and Seventy- 
sixth Pennsylvania, Captain J. S. Little command 
ing. It was supported by Colonel H. S. Putnam s 
Brigade, composed of his own regiment, the Seventh 
New Hampshire, Lieutenant Colonel Abbott; One 
Hundredth New York, Colonel Dandy; Sixty- 
second Ohio, Colonel Pond, and Sixty-seventh Ohio, 
Colonel Voris. General Stevenson s Brigade of 
four excellent regiments was held in reserve. 

The First Brigade was formed in column by 
regiments, except the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, 
which being much larger than the others, number 
ing nearly a thousand men, was in column by bat 
talion. It was a negro regiment, recruited in 
Massachusetts, and was regarded as an admirable 
and reliable body of men. Half the ground to be 
traversed before reaching Wagner was undulating 
with sand hills, which afforded some shelter, but 
not so much as to prevent free and easy movement; 
the other half smooth and unobstructed up to the 
ditch. Within easy range of Wagner the marsh 
encroached so much on the firm sand of the island 
as to leave but a narrow way between it and the 
water. A few stirring words were addressed by the 
officers to their troops and the men responded with 

About half-past seven the assaulting column was 
hurled against Wagner, with orders to use the 
bayonet only, the Federal artillery continuing their 
fire over their heads as long as it could be done 
without risk to their own men. The Confederates 
at their posts were straining their eyes to catch 


through the deepening twilight the first glimpse of 
the enemy. When the head of the column came in 
view a rapid fire of grape and canister was opened, 
and the fire from James Island batteries was poured 
in on the flank. Sumter and Gregg, firing over 
Wagner, plunged their shot into the advancing 
column and the parapets of Wagner were lit up by a 
line of infantry fire. 

The advancing column pressed defiantly forward, 
breasting the storm of iron and lead which was 
rapidly thinning their ranks. The leading regi 
ment, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, was soon 
thrown into a state of disorder, which reacted in 
juriously on those which followed. The wounded 
"and many unhurt" were hastening in crowds from 
the front along the beach. So heavy was the fire 
and so great the disorder that General Seymour saw 
the necessity of immediate support, and accordingly 
dispatched his Assistant Inspector General, Major 
Plympton, of the Third New Hampshire, to order 
up Colonel Putnam with his supporting brigade. To 
his amazement Colonel Putnam positively refused 
to advance, because, as he explained, he had been 
ordered by General Gillmore to remain where he 

In the meantime the First Brigade was urged on 
with admirable spirit and gallantry by General 
Strong, who had been assured of prompt support. 
But the destructive fire from Wagner was more than 
his men could stand. The Fifty-fourth Massa 
chusetts broke and fled, large bodies of it falling 
upon and with violence forcing their way through 


the ranks of the advancing column, greatly heighten 
ing the general confusion. The First Brigade had, 
indeed, ceased for the time to be an organized body 
and came surging back to the rear in confusion. 

General Strong had urged his command on with 
great spirit and gallantry, but his losses had been so 
severe that his regiments were much shaken, and 
the consequent confusion was much heightened by 
the yielding of the leading regiment, portions of 
which fell harshly upon those in the rear. Frag 
ments of each regiment, however, brave men bravely 
led, went eagerly over the ditch, mounted the para 
pet, and struggled with the foe inside. But their 
efforts were too feeble to affect the contest ma 

The storm of fire from Wagner had strewn the 
ditch and glacis with killed and wounded. A few 
of the bravest of the different regiments, notably 
the Forty-eighth New York and Sixth Connecticut, 
continued to press forward, bearing their colors and 
striving to reach the ditch and mount the parapet; 
but the brigade had been hopelessly repulsed, its gal 
lant commander, General Strong, was mortally 
wounded, as was Colonel Chatfield. Colonel Shaw, 
of the Fifty-fourth Massachusettes, was killed, and 
many other officers killed and wounded. The mass 
of the brigade was hastening in disorder to the 
shelter of the sand hills and trenches. 

What were Colonel Putnam s feelings in the 
meantime perhaps will never be known, but may 
with much certainty be conjectured. He was a gal 
lant young officer and could not stand idly by at the 


head of a fine brigade and see the command of his 
classmates and intimate friends cut to pieces. 
u After a disastrous delay and without orders," 
says General Seymour, "he led his brigade forward 
and pressed on to the assault of the southeast angle 
through a destructive fire, for, the first brigade hav 
ing been repulsed, the fire from the center and both 
flanks of Wagner were crossed in front of that 
angle, sweeping the glacis and ditch with fatal 

It seems that the terrible bombardment of eleven 
hours had demoralized the Thirty-first North Caro 
lina Regiment. It did not respond to the call to 
man the ramparts. The southeast bastion and sea 
front, to the defense of which it had been assigned, 
was therefore unguarded. Colonel Putnam and a 
part of his brigade crossed the ditch, which had been 
nearly filled with sand by the long bombardment, 
mounted the parapet, and a hundred or more men 
gained possession of the southeast bastion. 

Seeing the advantage gained by Colonel Putnam, 
General Seymour had just dispatched an order by 
Major Plympton to General Stevenson to advance 
with his brigade to Colonel Putnam s support, when 
he, too, was severely wounded. Before he was 
carried from the field he repeated the order to Gen 
eral Stevenson to advance, but the order was not 
obeyed. Why does not appear. 

Colonel Putnam, surrounded by his chief officers 
Colonel Dandy, One Hundredth New York; 
Major Butler, Sixty-seventh Ohio; Major Coan, 
Forty-eighth New York; Captain Klein, Sixth Con- 


necticut, and others was encouraging his men to 
hold the ground they had gained, assuring them that 
they would soon be reinforced, when he was shot 
dead, "as brave a soldier, as courteous a gentleman, 
as true a man as ever walked beneath the Stars and 
Stripes," says his division commander. An officer 
of his staff Lieutenant Gate, Seventh New Hamp 
shire seeing the Colonel fall, sprang to his side to 
aid him, when he, too, was struck by a shot and fell 
dead across the body of his chief. 

The Federal loss had been heavy, especially in 
officers of rank. When General Seymour was taken 
from the field wounded, General Gillmore sent for 
ward his chief of staff, General Turner, to assume 
command and draw off the troops. Those not al 
ready within the work, despairing of support, re 
treated as rapidly as they could through a destruc 
tive fire until they gained the shelter of the sand hills 
and trenches. 

Those who had effected an entrance could not 
escape through the cross fire in their rear and would 
not surrender. The assailants had become the as 
sailed. Volunteers were called for from the gar 
rison to overcome and capture them. Major Mc 
Donald, of the Fifty-first North Carolina, and 
Captain Ryan, of the Charleston Battalion, quickly 
sprang forward for the service. The latter with 
his company was selected; the captain was shot dead 
at the moment of the charge, his men faltered and 
the opportunity was lost. 

The desperate men inside seemed resolved to sell 
their lives dearly rather than surrender. General 


Hagood had arrived with Colonel Harrison s regi 
ment, the Thirty-second Georgia, to reinforce the 
garrison. That regiment was sent along the para 
pet to the left and on the top of the magazine and 
approached the rear of the imprisoned Federals, 
who, seeing themselves so greatly outnumbered and 
with no hope of escape, laid down their arms. 1 

The repulse was complete and disastrous. Gen 
eral Seymour attributes the failure of the assault 
"solely to the unfortunate delay that hindered 
Colonel Putnam from moving promptly in obedience 
to my orders, and to his not being supported after 
he had essentially succeeded in the assault. * The 
heavy losses of the assailants attest their daring and 
determined resolution, and their division commander 
awards them the highest praise for the gallantry 
with which they "did their full duty that night." 

The light of the next morning disclosed a ghastly 
scene of slaughter. The ditch and ground in front 
of Wagner were thickly strewn with killed and 

The Confederate loss was only 174; surprisingly 

Lewis Butler, of the Sixty-seventh Ohio, who was by 
the side of Colonel Putman when the latter was killed, says : 
"It is but just that I notice a special order of General Beaure- 
gard, under date of July 27, 1863 (if I am correct as to date), 
directing that special care be taken of the wounded captured 
at Wagner, as men who were brave enough to go in there de 
served the respect of their enemies. Another act of courtesy : 
The effects, money, and papers belonging to members of the 
Sixty-seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry who died in Charleston 
Hospital were sent through the lines by flag of truce." 


small, thanks to the sheltering capacity of sand 
works. The loss on both sides had been unusually 
heavy in commissioned officers. Among the Con 
federate killed were Lieutenant Colonel J. C. Sim- 
kins, First South Carolina Infantry; Captain W. H. 
Ryan, of the Charleston Battalion; Captain W. T. 
Tatam, First South Carolina Infantry, and Lieu 
tenant G. W. Thompson, commanding company, 
Fifty-first North Carolina. Major David Ramsay, 
of the Charleston Battalion, was severely wounded. 
Lieutenant Colonel Simkins, as Chief of Artillery, 
had directed the operations of that arm with ad 
mirable skill and daring, and when the assault com 
menced mounted the parapet to aid and encourage 
the infantry. "There on the ramparts in the front 
this admirable soldier and accomplished gentleman 
sealed his devotion to our cause by an early but 
most heroic death." 

The Federal loss has never been officially ascer 
tained. General Taliaferro estimated it at not less 
than 2000, perhaps much more. General Beaure- 
gard in his official report says their loss must have 
been 3000, as 800 bodies were interred in front of 
Battery Wagner on the following morning. 

In a letter of the 2Oth to Admiral Dahlgren Gen 
eral Gillmore tells that during the ten days from 
the beginning of his operations he had lost thirty- 
three per cent, of his troops in killed, wounded, 
missing, and sick. He had commenced with 
somewhat more than 13,000 on Morris and Folly 
islands, and his tri-monthly report for the 2Oth of 


July shows an aggregate sick on those two islands 
of 1241. It w r ould seem therefore that General 
Beauregard s estimate was not excessive. 

General Hagood relieved General Taliaferro in 
command of Wagner on the mon ing of the I9th. 
The latter had been in command since the I3th, and 
he and the officers and men of his command received 
the highest encomiums from Generals Beauregard 
and Ripley for skill and gallantry in the defense of 
this important post. The Fifty-first North Caro 
lina had brilliantly sustained the honor of their State, 
and was highly commended, especially the field 
officers, Colonel McKethen, Lieutenant Colonel C. 
B. Hobson, and Major McDonald. The next year 
in the operations around Petersburg the Thirty-first 
North Carolina wiped out the reproach it had in 
curred in a terrible moment of weakness. Sunday, 
July 19, passed quietly and was devoted under a 
flag of truce to burying the dead and caring for the 

The next day the bombardment was renewed from 
both land and naval batteries. The Admiral sug 
gested to the General to advance his batteries and 
renew the assault by columns advancing simultane 
ously on the southern and northern fronts. Gen 
eral Gillmore demurred, because the attempt would 
involve too heavy a loss of life for his already 
greatly reduced force. He agreed, however, to 
make another assault, provided the Admiral would 
furnish from his fleet the column to assail the work 
from the north, a proposal which the Admiral 


promptly declined. The policy of carrying Wagner 
by assault was therefore abandoned and the science 
of engineering resorted to. The object which the 
assaulting columns had failed to effect it was de 
cided to attain by the slower process of a regular 


Assault of Wagner abandoned Its reduction by siege planned 
Fort Sumter again bombarded Siege operations Federal 
defenses Death of Captain Wampler Sumter silenced 
The "Swamp Angel" Surrender of Sumter and Morris 
Island demanded Charleston bombarded. 

Referring to Battery Wagner, Major General 
Gillmore says in the official report of his operations 
on Morris Island: "The nature of its construction 
demanded and enticed an actual attempt upon the 
works to make manifest its real and concealed ele 
ments of strength." He had on two occasions yielded 
to its enticements to attack first on the morning of 
the nth and again on the evening of the i8th of 
July, 1863, and the results had been disastrous on 
both occasions, especially on the evening of July 18, 
when the assault had signally failed with a loss in 
his command variously estimated at from 1600 to 
3000 men, among their killed being General G. C. 
Strong and Colonel H. S. Putnam, commanding the 
two brigades which made the assault, and Colonels 
J. L. Chatfield and R. G. Shaw, commanding regi 

Battery Wagner had exhibited such formidable 
strength in itself, and its gallant commanders on 
both occasions, General William B. Taliaferro and 
Colonel Graham, and the officers and men under 



their command such skill and resolution in utilizing 
that strength to its utmost, as convinced General Gill- 
more that the work could not be carried by assault, 
even with the aid of the most powerful land and 
naval batteries ever brought to bear upon so small 
an object without a greater sacrifice of men than 
he was disposed to make. He did indeed assent 
to a suggestion made by Admiral Dahlgren to renew 
the assault with columns advancing simultaneously 
on the north and south fronts of the battery, but 
only on the condition that the Admiral should fur 
nish from his fleet the column to assault the northern 
front. He had, he said, lost one-third of his com 
mand in killed, wounded, captured and sick during 
the ten days operations on Morris Island. Another 
assault would involve a heavier loss of life than his 
already greatly reduced force alone could bear. The 
Admiral declined to furnish an assaulting column 
from his fleet, which had also a fearfully large sick 

The plan, therefore, of carrying Battery Wagner 
by assault was abandoned and the longer and more 
tedious process of reducing it scientifically by regular 
approaches was adopted. The contest for the pos 
session of Morris Island lapsed therefore into one 
of engineering skill and steady endurance. With 
sufficient labor, long-range guns, and other necessary 
material the prospect of a successful defense would 
have been encouraging without them it was hope 
less. The wealth of material and all manner of 
necessary appliances for siege operations on the 
Federal so greatly exceeded that of the Confederate 


side that the ultimate result was never for a moment 
doubtful. From the moment that General Gillmore 
secured so firm a foothold on Morris Island that 
General Beauregard felt and acknowledged his in 
ability to dislodge him, the ultimate occupation of 
the whole island was only a question of time. 

Charleston was General Gillmore s objective 
point, which he proposed to gain by way of Morris 
Island and the subsequent action of the fleet. For 
the complete success of his plan it w r as exceedingly 
important that he should, with the least possible 
delay, demolish Fort Sumter and silence Fort Moul- 
trie and other batteries on the west of Sullivan s 
Island, the accomplishment of which formed a part 
of his plan, and thus open the gate to Charleston for 
the entrance of the fleet before his adversary could 
prepare other works to bar his approach to the city. 
Every hour s delay was important to the Confeder 
ates, which gave them time to prepare interior works 
of defense. 

In that view of the case it would seem that in an 
affair of so much moment, instead of relying upon 
two brigades, or one, as General Seymour intimates 
that General Gillmore did, to carry Battery Wagner 
by assault on the evening of July 18, it would have 
been better in a humane, as well as a military point 
of view, if General Gillmore had on that occasion 
hurled his whole available force against it, or even 
to have renewed the assault as soon as his shattered 
columns could have been re-formed and brought up 
to the work and before reinforcements could arrive. 
That course might, perhaps, have resulted in the 


capture of Wagner. The loss would probably not 
have been greater than that which resulted from the 
daily tale of killed and wounded in the trenches and 
the heavier loss by disease attending the fifty days 
siege which followed, and the physical suffering 
would have been less. 

It had been deemed essential to the success of 
General Gillmore s plan of operations that his force 
should occupy the whole of Morris Island before 
proceeding to demolish Fort Sumter and silence the 
Sullivan s Island works. To gain possession of the 
island involved the necessity of capturing Batteries 
Wagner and Gregg. Ten days experience on the 
island had demonstrated that the reduction of the 
two batteries would require a much longer time than 
had been supposed. 

General Gillmore was amply supplied with means, 
and though untrammeled by instructions from his 
government he was under a strong pressure of public 
opinion and expectation to hasten forward his opera 
tions. He had been selected by President Lincoln 
for this important service, on which he had entered 
on the urgent recommendation of the most distin 
guished and influential journalist of that day in this 
country, and had staked his professional reputation 
on the accomplishment of the task he had under 
taken. There were, besides, newspaper correspond 
ents with his command to prick him on to action, if 
necessary, and to keep the public informed of the 
progress of the operations for the capture of 
Charleston. To gain time, therefore, he somewhat 
modified his original plan of operations and decided 


to attempt the demolition of Fort Sumter with bat 
teries, to be established on ground already in his 
possession, firing over Wagner and Gregg. 

The conception and execution of this plan of 
operations strikingly illustrates the marvelous pro 
gress that had been made in a year or so in the 
manufacture of heavy ordnance. About fifteen 
months earlier it had been thought wonderful that 
breaching batteries at the distance of a mile had 
reduced Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the Savannah 
River. Now at more than double the distance it was 
proposed to reduce Fort Sumter. Nothing in siege 
operations approaching it had ever been known. 

Immediately after the repulse of the assaulting 
columns on the evening of July 18, and while hun 
dreds of his killed and wounded were lying on the 
ground where they had fallen in front of Wagner, 
General Gillmore gave orders for converting the 
positions occupied by his most advanced batteries 
into a strong defensive line capable of withstanding 
the most formidable attack his adversary could prob 
ably make against it, and for the erection of breach 
ing batteries against Fort Sumter. 

Probably no besieging army was ever better 
equipped for the work to be done than was that 
which General Gillmore commanded. In addition 
to a corps of skillful engineer and artillery officers, 
there was in his command an admirable and most 
useful engineer regiment the First New York En 
gineers. The Colonel, E. W. Serrell, and many of 
the officers were practical engineers. The enlisted 
men were picked and many of them skilled mechan- 


ics, who were of incalculable service, not only for 
the actual labor they performed, but for their ca 
pacity to instruct and direct others in all the mechani 
cal work incident to a siege. And although the 
ground was in many respects exceedingly unfavor 
able for offensive engineering operations, presenting 
as it did much too narrow a front, and being in some 
places subject to overflow in stormy weather, these 
drawbacks were more than counterbalanced by the 
presence of a powerful fleet immediately on the right 
flank, within easy and effective range, and always 
ready to aid and sustain the operations on land by 
its heavy and accurate fire. Unquestionably Admiral 
Dahlgren s fleet contributed greatly to the success 
of the operations on land. Indeed, it is not probable 
that the plan of operations by way of Morris Island 
would ever have been undertaken without the cer 
tainty of the naval co-operation, or if undertaken 
without such co-operation they would probably have 
failed, General Gillmore s opinion to the contrary 

Anticipating the damaging effect on Fort Sumter 
of the enemy s heavy rifled guns firing from station 
ary batteries on Morris Island, General Beauregard 
had early commenced and continued nightly a partial 
disarmament of that fort, removing all long-range 
guns that could be spared to be mounted elsewhere 
on interior lines. He instructed General Ripley, who 
commanded the military district embracing the scene 
of operations, to strengthen the gorge wall south 
face of Sumter on the interior by bales of cotton 
kept damp, the space between them to be filled in 


with sand-bags, and also to place a covering of 
sand-bags on the scarp wall of the same face from 
bottom to top, if possible, and to protect the guns 
remaining in the fort by traverse and merlons. 

The armament of Battery Wagner was slightly 
increased; so was that of Fort Johnson. Fort 
Moultrie and Battery Bee were to be connected by 
a covered way, and orders were given to press rapidly 
to completion the new works on Shell Point (called 
Battery Simkins in honor of the gallant Colonel of 
that name who fell on the parapet of Wagner during 
the assault of July 18), and Batteries Chevers and 
Haskel in close proximity to it. General Beaure- 
gard s plan, briefly stated, was to establish a circle 
of batteries from Legare s Point on Schooner Creek, 
James Island, to Battery Beauregard, on Sullivan s 
Island, so as to concentrate their fire, including that 
of Sumter and Moultrie, on the northern half of 
Morris Island, to retard the siege operations and to 
overwhelm or harass the enemy so soon as he should 
gain full possession of that island. 

The attack and defense were both conducted with 
admirable and determined courage. It was a 
species of warfare most trying to the patience and 
endurance of the troops engaged, and for which it 
might have been supposed new troops were least 
adapted. Many consecutive days and nights the 
monotonous work went on, exposing the men to the 
perils without the excitement of battle. While the 
heavy guns on each side were actively employed to 
retard and demolish the works of the other, skillful 
marksmen, armed with the longest range rifles, were 


employed in efforts to pick off the gunners, and the 
daily reports of the progress of the works were as 
regularly accompanied by the reports of the killed 
and wounded in accomplishing it. Whenever the 
Confederate fire became so galling as it often did 
that work on the trenches and batteries could not 
be continued without too heavy a sacrifice of life 
and limb, a signal from the General to the Admiral 
would send a monitor or so abreast of Wagner, and 
a storm of iron and lead would be thrown into the 
work, which generally ended in driving the garrison, 
with the exception of the necessary gunners and 
sentinels, to the cover of the bomb-proof until the 
fire from the ironclads should cease. But the 
heaviest fire could not wholly suppress the fire of 
the sharpshooters, who had become exceedingly ex 
pert in covering themselves in the sand hills and with 

The greater part of the work was done under 
cover of the darkness of night, interrupted oc 
casionally when the bright harvest moon would light 
up the scene. A most unpleasant and revolting part 
of the work in the trenches was the removal of the 
dead bodies sometimes as many as ten in a night 
of those who had been killed by the sharpshooters, 
which the sappers, while prosecuting their work, dis 
turbed in their graves. At first these bodies were 
moved and reburied out of the way, as was sup 
posed, but the exigencies of the engineering opera 
tions demanded all the space not covered by marsh, 
and it soon became necessary to disturb again and 
again their dead comrades, until the attempt to re- 


bury them beyond reach was abandoned, and in 
future when the graves were encountered the bodies 
were built with mother earth into the parapets and 
there left. 

By the evening of August 16 the third parallel 
had been completed and twelve batteries erected and 
made ready for action. Those especially intended 
for the bombardment of Sumter were at an average 
distance from that fort of 3917 yards the nearest 
being 3428 and the most remote 4290 yards. The 
twelve batteries mounted twenty-eight heavy rifles of 
calibers from 32- to 3OO-pounders, and twelve 10- 
inch mortars; in all forty pieces. One of them, 
called the "Naval Battery," mounting two 8-inch 
Parrott rifles and two So-pounder Whitworth rifles, 
was manned by sailors from the United States 
frigate W abash and commanded by Captain Foxhall 
A. Parker, United States Navy. The others were 
manned by the Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery 
and detachments from the One Hundredth and One 
Hundred and Seventy-eighth New York, the Seventh 
Connecticut, and Eleventh Maine Infantry, and 
Company C, First United States Artillery. 

The positions occupied by the Federal troops 
were thoroughly protected by defensive works and 
covered by inclined palisading and wire entanglements 
stretching entirely across the island. Provision was 
made for sweeping the fronts of the defensive works 
by the fire of eight field guns and several Requa 
batteries. The latter were novelties in warfare, 
and consisted each of twenty-five rifle barrels, so ad 
justed on a frame as to deliver a diffused fan-shaped 


fire of 175 shots a minute, and it was claimed were 
effective at the distance of a mile or more. The 
Federal position on Morris Island was thus made as 
secure against an assault as was Battery Wagner 

Fort Sumter, against which these powerful breach 
ing and mortar batteries were to be directed, was at 
that time commanded by the same officer, Colonel 
Alfred Rhett, of the First South Carolina Artillery, 
aided by Major Ormsby Blanding, of the same 
regiment, who had so gallantly and successfully de 
fended it on April 7 against the ironclad attack 
and the fort was garrisoned as then by men of his 
own regiment. About day dawn on the morning of 
August 17 the land batteries opened on Sumter, 
directing the fire of the rifles or breaching guns 
against the gorge wall, the mortars dropping shells 
into the fort. The ironclads and gunboats soon 
took up their prescribed positions and joined in the 
general fire. 

Batteries Wagner and Gregg replied with spirit, 
but for several hours Sumter gave no sign of life, 
the only object visible about it being the flag which 
floated over it in the summer breeze. Wagner and 
Gregg continued the fire, while the fifteen- and eleven- 
inch shells from the ironclads hurled the sand in 
cartloads from their parapets. About midday these 
two batteries ceased firing, and Fort Sumter opened, 
and so the thunder of heavy guns went on, gradually 
ceasing as if from exhaustion as the long summer 
day passed, and the first day s bombardment ended. 
Nine hundred and forty-eight shots had been fired at 


Sumter, and, the fire being surprisingly accurate for 
the great distance at which it was delivered, the fort 
was much damaged. The gorge wall had been 
deeply cut into and other walls badly shaken. One 
man of the garrison had been killed and Lieutenants 
John Johnson, of the Engineers, and John Middle- 
ton and Julius Rhett, of the First South Carolina 
Artillery, and ten men wounded. 

Usually the monitors performed their part in the 
bombardments with immunity to life and limb, the 
officers and men being shielded by an eleven-inch 
thickness of iron. On this day, however, soon atter 
they had gone into action, the Kaatskill was seen 
steaming away, going southward, a signal from her 
announcing that her commander, Captain G. W. 
Rodgers, had been killed. He was the Admiral s 
chief of staff, and usually accompanied him into 
action, but on this occasion he had asked to be al 
lowed to command his monitor, the Kaatskill. The 
action had scarcely commenced when a shot struck 
the pilot house, forcing off a large piece of iron on 
the inside, which struck and killed Captain Rodgers 
and Paymaster John G. Woodbury, who was stand-* 
ing by him, and wounding the pilot and quarter 
master. The Admiral speaks in the most compli 
mentary terms of Captains Rodgers great merit. 

Battery Wagner had suffered but little except in 
the death of its engineer, Captain Wampler. In 
the midst of the heaviest fire, which had driven the 
garrison, with the exception of the gunners, sentries, 
and sharpshooters to the shelter of the bomb-proof, 
it was discovered that the heavy bombardment had 


slipped the covering of sand from the principal 
magazine to such an extent as greatly to endanger 
the whole garrison. Captain Wampler, with a 
party of men, hastened to repair the injury, under 
the destructive fire. In the evening, when it was 
supposed the firing had ceased for the night, he was 
sitting with the commanding officer, Colonel Keitt, 
and Lieutenant Charles S. Hill, ordnance officer, 
when a shell from the Ironsides fell in the midst of 
them and, bursting, crushed the gallant young officer. 

The fire from the breaching batteries continued 
for seven consecutive days and was incessant from 
daylight until dark. At the close of the seventh 
day of the bombardment, the twenty-third day, the 
destruction of the offensive powers of Fort Sumter 
seemed complete. 

The heavy firing ceased, and though a slow fire 
was maintained, the bombardment was regarded 
as having successfully accomplished its purpose. 
Sumter seemed a shapeless mass of ruins. There 
was but one gun in the fort that could be fired, and 
that was a thirty-two pounder smooth-bore, whose 
only use was to fire the usual evening gun. Within 
the fort the debris of masonry, broken guns and 
carriages, cotton bales and sand-bags, ripped and 
torn to pieces, were mingled in inextricable confusion. 
General Gillmore reported officially that Fort 
Sumter was demolished, its offensive powers de 
stroyed, and that it was reduced to the condition of 
a mere infantry outpost, incapable of retarding the 
approaches to Battery Wagner or of inflicting injury 
upon the ironclads. Nevertheless the Confederate 


flag still floated over the ruins, and the usual evening 
gun announced that the fort was still occupied. 

Now that its batteries were effectually silenced, 
it had ceased to be an artillery post, and the gar 
rison which had so long and gallantly defended it 
was withdrawn on the night of September 4, and as 
signed to other duty, the Charleston Battalion of in 
fantry, Major Julius A. Blake, succeeding the 
artillery as the garrison of the ruined fort. Major 
Stephen Elliott succeeded Colonel Rhett in command 
of Fort Sumter. The latter gentleman had com 
manded longer than any other officer, and his name, 
together with that of his regiment, the First South 
Carolina Regular Artillery, is indissolubly linked 
with the famous fort they had so long defended with 
admirable skill and comspicuous gallantry. 

General Gillmore regarded his part in the general 
plan for the capture of Charleston as virtually ac 
complished when he had succeeded in destroying the 
offensive power of Fort Sumter, and thus opened the 
gate to Charleston for the entrance of the ironclad 
fleet. But during the month of August his com 
mand had been reinforced by General George H. 
Gordon s Division of two brigades (Schimmel- 
fennig s and Ames ) and three other brigades, 
Wild s Foster s, and Alford s, and with the force 
and material at his command something more than 
the silencing of Sumter was expected of him. The 
possession of the whole of Morris Island, includ 
ing Batteries Wagner and Gregg, he did not re 
gard as essential to the entrance of the fleet into 
the harbor. Wagner and Gregg were mere out- 



works auxiliary to the defense of Sumter; the 
latter having been silenced, the possession of the 
iormer was important only as facilitating a stricter 
blockade of the port. It only remained, so General 
Gillmore thought and said, for Admiral Dahlgren 
to perform his part of the general plan, to enter the 
harbor with his fleet and take possession of the city 
of Charleston. 

The Admiral, however, did not so regard it; in 
deed, he did not admit that he was a consenting 
party to any such general plan. He was ready and 
anxious to enter the harbor when the obstructions in 
the way should have been removed; but they were 
not yet removed. There stood Sumter, an obstacle 
in itself, and protecting other obstacles which the 
Confederates had placed in the way. 

While approaching Wagner and preparing to 
demolish Sumter, General Gillmore had made other 
preparations, by which he seems to have supposed 
that he might gain possession not only of Sumter, 
but of the whole of Morris Island, without striking 
another blow. He had with great difficulty and at 
much cost constructed a battery known as the 
"Swamp Angel," in the marsh between Morris 
Island and the Confederate works on James Island, 
from which Charleston could be bombarded. On 
August 21 he addressed a letter to General Beaure- 
gard demanding the surrender of Fort Sumter and 
the whole of Morris Island. There was some de 
lay in the delivery of this letter, and when opened 
it was found to be without signature, and was re 
turned to General Gillmore s headquarters. Of 


course General Beauregard declined to comply with 
the extraordinary demand, and a little after mid 
night the bombardment of Charleston commenced 
and, it may be added, was continued with varying 
violence for nearly eighteen months. Fifteen in 
cendiary shells were fired into the city that night 
from an eight-inch Parrott rifle, destroying some 
medical stores, but doing little damage to the city. 

The indignant refusal of General Beauregard to 
surrender Fort Sumter and Morris Island, coupled 
with a reminder that "after two years of trial you 
have failed to capture this city or its defenses," 
prompted General Gillmore to attempt at once to 
seize Sumter by assault. The assaulting party was 
to consist of six hundred men to be selected by 
colonels of regiments, and General Ames, command 
ing a brigade of General Gordon s Division, was 
selected to command it. He did not purpose to 
hold Sumter after seizing it, but to blow it up. He 
was dissuaded, however, from making the assault, 
the more readily because he had received informa 
tion which he regarded as reliable, that the Con 
federates themselves intended to blow up the fort 
when it should be rendered untenable. 


Resumption of operations against Wagner Siege lines tightened 
Losses and sick list enormous North clamors for reduc 
tion of Charleston Night attack on Wagner Repulse 
Wagner bombarded Horrors of the siege Evacuation of 
Morris Island Confederate loss. 

Operations against Wagner, which had been 
somewhat delayed by the bombardment of Sum- 
ter, were resumed with redoubled vigor when the 
latter work was apparently demolished. Between 
two and three hundred yards in front of Wagner 
was a sand ridge occupied by Confederate sharp 
shooters, who greatly annoyed the sappers engaged 
in pushing forward the trenches. In conjunction 
with the fire from James Island, Wagner, and Gregg 
they occasionally interrupted entirely the work in 
the trenches. On the evening of August 21 the One 
Hundredth New York, Colonel Dandy, made a 
dash to drive them off, but was repulsed. All of 
the lighter mortars were then moved up to the 
front to dislodge them by a vertical fire, but that 
attempt also failed. The Union engineer officers in 
charge reported that while the efficiency of the Con 
federate sharpshooters was daily increasing, their 
own was falling off, and that for the further prose 
cution of the work it was absolutely essential that 



the Confederates should be driven off or captured 
and the ridge occupied by Union troops. 

On the 26th General Gillmore placed the re 
sources of the command at the disposal of General 
Terry, who was in immediate command, with orders 
to dislodge those sharpshooters at the point of the 
bayonet and hold the ridge. Between six and seven 
that evening the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Lieu 
tenant Colonel F. A. Osborne, supported by the 
Third New Hampshire, Captain I. F. Randlett, 
were thrown upon the ridge and readily occupied it, 
capturing seventy-six of the eighty-nine men of the 
Sixty-first North Carolina Regiment, which con 
stituted the whole picket line. The fourth parallel 
was immediately marked out and constructed on that 
ridge within two hundred and fifty yards of Wagner. 

The darkest and gloomiest days of the siege were 
now at hand. The exceedingly narrow front of ap 
proach, in one place scarcely more than twenty-five 
yards at high tide, gave great effect to the direct and 
flank fire on the head of the sap. The way was over 
ground defended by torpedoes, which were designed 
to explode by the tread of persons passing over 
them, or by the chance strokes of the picks and 
shovels in the hands of the sappers. "Here is a 
log in my way," said a sapper to the officer who was 
directing the work.. "Never mind, dig around it," 
was the reply, and the next instant the supposed log 
exploded, blowing the sapper to pieces. 

The losses in the trenches were increasing from 
day to day and the progress was discouragingly slow 
and uncertain. The sick list was fearfully large; so 


large that it is said the chief surgeon had advised 
that the work be again assaulted and the siege ended 
at the point of the bayonet, as involving a probable 
less loss of life than the slow process of regular ap 
proaches was inflicting on the command. The re 
turns of the Union forces for August show a sick list 
of 4661 in an aggregate force present of 29,405, 
and for September of 5269 in an aggregate of 
28,981. About the middle of August the sick list 
was nearly one-fourth of the aggregate force present. 

"Matters indeed seemed at a standstill," says 
General Gillmore, "and a feeling of despondency 
began to pervade the rank and file of the command. 
There seemed, indeed, no adequate return to ac 
complished results for the daily losses which we 
suffered and no means of relief cheering and en 
couraging to the soldiers appeared near at hand." 

No wonder that there was gloom and despon 
dency among the rank and file, when it had long 
since begun to dawn upon officers high in rank, and 
had strengthened into conviction, that possession of 
the whole of the little sandbank would be but a 
lamentably inadequate return for the expenditure of 
so much labor, treasure, health, and life. Public 
sentiment at the North clamored for the destruction 
of Sumter and the capture of Charleston. The 
sentiment which demanded the destruction of Sumter 
had been gratified when General Gillmore reported 
that the fort had been demolished and reduced to a 
mere infantry outpost, but the Union forces were 
practically no nearer to Charleston than when the 
campaign opened. The question naturally sug- 


gested itself, Would the possession of Wagner really 
bring them any nearer to the objective point? And 
with many the answer was emphatically No ! It 
seemed that the siege must be abandoned or new life 
and vigor thrown into it. 

General Gillmore determined to pursue the latter 
course. Wagner should be overwhelmed by the 
heaviest fire from land and naval batteries, driving 
the men to the shelter of the bomb-proofs and keep 
ing them there, while the heaviest rifle guns should 
pound and demolish the bomb-proofs and so un 
cover and expose the garrison to the heaviest fire 
that had yet been thrown against it. In the mean 
time the sap should be pressed forward to the 
ditch and the fort stormed and carried at the point 
of the bayonet, if the stubborn garrison would not 
surrender before that last resort became necessary. 

As preliminary to the complete success of these 
final operations, General Gillmore proposed to sur 
prise and seize Battery Gregg, thus at once cutting 
off reinforcements for Wagner and the escape of 
the garrison. 

The attempt was made on the night of the 4th 
by troops in barges, supported by naval boats, 
armed with howitzers. All was in readiness soon 
after dark except one boat, which, having pulled out 
further toward Sumter than the others, discovered 
a small Confederate boat, which happened just at 
that time to be carrying to Charleston Major W. F. 
Waley, of the Second South Carolina Artillery, who 
had been badly wounded that day. The officer in 
charge of the Union boat could not resist the temp- 


tation to capture the Confederate, gave chase, and 
fired upon it. He succeeded in capturing the boat 
and the wounded officer, but the firing had aroused 
the garrison of Gregg, disclosed the surprise party, 
and defeated the expedition. It was attempted 
again the next night, but it could scarcely have 
been expected that a garrison which had so nar 
rowly escaped a formidable surprise attack on the 
preceding night would not be on the alert. If there 
was any such expectation General Gillmore effec 
tually defeated it himself. In the afternoon of the 
5th he signaled Admiral Dahlgren: "I shall try 
Cummings Point to-night and want the sailors again 
early. Will you please send in two or three moni 
tors just by dark to open fire on Moultrie as a diver 
sion? The last time they were in they stopped rein 
forcements and may do it to-night. Don t want any 
fire in the rear from reinforcements. The signal 
for assault will be the hauling down of the red light 
on the Ironsides. I shall display skirmishers be 
hind Wagner and Gregg. Don t fire into them; let 
the Ironsides engage by nine o clock." 

This dispatch was intercepted by a Confederate 
signal officer and forwarded to General Ripley, who 
communicated it to Colonel Keitt, commanding 
Wagner, with instructions to him to prepare to repel 
the attack. 

Major James Gardner, commanding the Twenty 
seventh Georgia Infantry, already supporting 
Gregg, was warned of the impending attack and re 
inforced after dark by seventy men of the Twenty- 
fifth South Carolina Infantry and two field how- 


itzers, manned from Kanapaux s Light Artillery, 
Lieutenant Macbeth commanding, and directed to 
prepare to repel the attack. The beach between 
Wagner and Gregg was picketed by 50 men of the 
Twenty-eighth Georgia. At ten o clock Major 
Gardner reported that his whole force numbered 
only 234 men too small for the work required of 
it, but added: "I shall hold the place if it is pos 

The monitors were promptly in position and 
swept with their fire the ground between the two 
forts; but there was confusion in assembling the 
barges in position and so much delay that it was 
past midnight before the assault was attempted, 
when Captain Lesesne, commanding Battery Gregg, 
discovered fifteen or twenty barges approaching 
from the junction of Vincent and Schooner creeks 
with muffled oars. He waited until they approached 
to within about one hundred and seventy yards, 
when he opened upon them with ten-inch canister. 
Fort Moultrie also opened fire, sweeping the water 
on both sides of Cummings Point. 

The fire produced a panic among the assaliants, 
who had expected to surprise the post. Some of 
the boats were turned back and pulled rapidly away; 
others were pulled toward the beach, some men in 
them crying out not to fire, that they were friends, 
but they were answered by a fire from the infantry 
and the field howitzers. All these turned and were 
pulled rapidly back through the creeks and marshes 
with serious loss in killed and wounded, the troops 
generally dispirited by the failure of the expedition. 


In this affair Captain J. R. Haines, of the Twenty- 
eighth Georgia, and Lieutenant R. A. Blum, of the 
Twenty-fifth South Carolina, were killed by a shell 
from a monitor. 

At dawn on the 5th the final bombardment of 
Wagner commenced, and for forty-two consecutive 
hours seventeen mortars and twenty-four rifled guns 
one hundred-, two hundred-, and three hundred- 
pounders and the guns of the New Ironsides 
poured an incessant fire of shot and shell night and 
day on the battery. The heavy rifle fire was directed 
against the southeast angle of the bomb-proof for 
the purpose of demolishing it and exposing the gar 
rison to the vertical fire of the mortars and the Iron 
sides. The ricochet fire of the ironclads was 
especially effective. Long practice had given the 
gunners great accuracy of aim and their eleven-inch 
shells, bounding gracefully from the water, leaped 
over the parapet and, bursting within, searched the 
doomed work in every part. At Wagner night was 
turned into day. Calcium lights thrown on the fort 
brilliantly lighted it, bringing out every object in 
vivid and sharp relief, while the besiegers were 
shrouded in impenetrable darkness. 

Under this overpowering fire the trenches were 
pressed forward rapidly and almost with impu 
nity, for the sappers were so near Wagner that the 
distant batteries on James and Sullivan s islands could 
not fire upon them without risk of dropping their 
shot into the fort. With the exception of an oc 
casional telling fire from the sharpshooters, Wagner 
itself was almost as silent as the grave. At the 


first shot from the Ironsides nearly all of the in 
fantry not already in the sandhills between Wagner 
and Gregg were ordered into the bomb-proof, leav 
ing a few sentinels and sharpshooters at the parapet. 
Full detachments of artillerymen were kept at the 
guns on the land front. It would have been a use 
less waste of life to keep men exposed to that 
storm of shot and shell. The best that could be 
done was to husband all resources to repel the as 
sault which was anticipated. 

Life in the bomb-proof during the forty-two hours 
of the bombardment had become almost unen 
durable. The men were crowded together in the 
dark place, where the surgeons were occasionally 
obliged to operate on the wounded by the dim light 
of a candle. Some men fainted and others were 
exhausted by breathing the hot, vitiated atmosphere; 
if a man stepped out for an instant to catch a breath 
of fresh air he did so at the peril of his life. The 
men who had been killed in the two assaults had been 
buried, the Federals in front and the Confederates 
in rear of Wagner. The graves were necessarily 
shallow and in shifting sand. The besiegers had 
been burrowing through the graves, removing the 
bodies. The ground had been torn up in every 
direction by nearly two months firing and the wind 
had blown off the sand, exposing corpses to the 
fierce summer sun, tainting and poisoning the air. 
Even the water in the shallow wells within the fort 
was so tainted as to be unfit for use, and the gar 
rison had to rely upon the precarious supply that 
could be brought from Charleston. 


The effect of the heavy rifle fire was exceedingly 
destructive to the southeast angle and bomb-proof, 
scattering the covering of sand and blocking up 
the passageways. The engineer officer, Captain T. 
B. Lee, was powerless to arrest the destruction or 
repair the damages. Early in the afternoon of the 
second day of the bombardment the chief engineer, 
Colonel D. B. Harris, made his way through the 
terrific fire to Wagner to inspect the work and 
directed some alterations and repairs, leaving Cap 
tain F. D. Lee to relieve Captain T. B. Lee. But 
so destructive was the fire that it was found imprac 
ticable to work under it. Heroic endurance was all 
that remained for the besieged. 

Soon after dark the sappers had pushed beyond 
and to the right of the south front, following the 
direction of the east or sea front and crowning the 
crest of the counterscarp near the flank of that 
front, completely masking the guns of the fort. A 
row of long pikes, which were planted at the foot of 
the counterscarp as an obstacle to an assault, were 
removed by the sappers early in the night. The 
long and heavy bombardment had so torn and cut 
down both scarp and counterscarp as to render the 
mounting of the parapets by a storming party com 
paratively easy. The sappers by spade and shovel 
had facilitated the ascent and only the light of 
another day was awaited for making the final as 
sault of the work. 

General Gillmore gave minute orders for the as 
sault to be made at nine o clock the next morning, 
that being the time of low tide, when the beach 


could be used for the movements of troops. 
Brigadier General A. H. Terry was ordered to com 
mand the assault in person. 

On the 4th General Beauregard had called about 
him his general officers and chief engineer in con 
sultation to determine how much longer it would be 
advisable to hold Wagner. The questions pre 
sented for consideration were, How long could it 
be held with regard to the safety of the garrison? 
How long without regard to the safety of the gar 
rison? How long with reasonable prospect of 
ultimately withdrawing the troops? How long 
after the fall of Wagner could Battery Gregg be 
held? Could the heavy guns (two in Wagner and 
three in Gregg) be withdrawn without endangering 
the safety of the works and garrison, and, lastly, 
could the offensive be taken with fair prospect of 
success by throwing three thousand men on the 
north end of Morris Island in the night, which, with 
the garrisons of Wagner and Gregg, would make 
an effective force of about four thousand men, with 
the certainty that no more reinforcements could be 
sent them until the next night and probably not 

The result of the deliberations was that the heavy 
guns were necessary for the defense of the posts to 
the last extremity; that there were, besides, insur 
mountable obstacles in the way of removing them, 
and that they should be ultimately disabled and left 
when it became necessary, as it was evident it soon 


would be, to abandon the batteries, which, how 
ever, should be held as long as communication with 
them by rowboats by night could be maintained. 

Colonel Keitt kept the general commanding fully 
informed of the progress of the enemy s sap and 
the destructive effects of the fire. During the 6th 
he wrote : "The enemy will to-night advance their 
parallel to the moat of this battery (Wagner). The 
garrison must be taken away immediately after dark, 
as it will be destroyed or captured. It is idle to 
deny that the heavy Parrott shells have breached the 
walls and are knocking away the bomb-proofs. Pray 
have boats immediately after dark at Cummings 
Point to take away the men. I say, deliberately, 
that this must be done or the garrison will be sacri 
ficed. I am sending the wounded and sick now to 
Cumming s Point, and will continue to do so, if pos 
sible, until all are gone. I have not in the garrison 
four hundred effective men, excluding artillery. 
The engineers agree in opinion with me, or rather 
shape my opinion." 

And again later: "The enemy s sap has reached 
the moat and his bombardment has shattered large 
parts of the parapet. The retention of the post 
after to-night involves the sacrifice of the garrison. 
If the necessities of the service make this advisable 
the men will cheerfully make it, and I will cheer 
fully lead them. I prefer to assault the enemy to 
await the assault and I will at four o clock in the 
morning assail his works." 

General Beauregard, accepting the situation, gave 


minute instructions for the evacuation of Morris 
Island. Between 4 and 5 P. M. General Ripley 
signaled the information to Colonel Keitt, and at 
dark Captain McCabe, of General Ripley s staff, 
delivered to the Colonel the General s instructions 
for the evacuation. 

On the morning of the 6th there were about nine 
hundred Confederates on the island, only about two- 
thirds of them effective, the others being wounded 
or sick. There were about nine thousand Union 
soldiers on the island exclusive of the sick, and 
the most advanced of them were abreast of Wag 
ner, only across the street, as it were, from the 
Confederates. The space about three-quarters of 
a mile between Wagner and Cumming s Point 
where the garrison was to embark was swept by 
the fire of the monitors, and there were armed 
guard boats on the other side, in Vincent s Creek, to 
give warning of any attempt to escape. 

Anticipating pursuit, Lieutenant Robert M. 
Stiles, engineering officer at Gregg, had constructed 
after dark a rifle-pit across the island at a narrow 
point a quarter of a mile in front of Gregg, from 
which to cover the embarkation. Two Confederate 
ironclads, the Charleston and Palmetto State, under 
Captain John R. Tucker, had taken position near 
Fort Sumter, their guns bearing on Cumming s Point 
and to the eastward of it, and the land batteries were 
in readiness to sweep the water face of Battery 
Gregg. Transport steamers were as near Cum 
ming s Point as prudence would permit, to receive 


the men from the small boats in which they were to 
leave the island. 

During the two days bombardment the sick and 
wounded had been sent to Cumming s Point as 
promptly as transportation between that point and 
Wagner could be provided, and they were first cared 
for and left the island in the first boats. Im 
mediately after dark the movement from Wagner 
commenced; four companies (one hundred men) of 
the Twenty-fifth South Carolina Regiment, and a 
field piece taken from Wagner, moved first and 
embarked. Half an hour later Captain W. P. 
Crawford, with the Twenty-eighth Georgia Regi 
ment and a howitzer, moved out, occupied the rifle- 
pits in front of Gregg and embarked by company as 
transportation could be in readiness. Major James 
Gardner, with the Twenty-seventh Georgia, suc 
ceeded the Twenty-eighth Georgia in the rifle-pits, 
and in turn was followed by the remainder of the 
Twenty-fifth South Carolina, Lieutenant Colonel J. 
G. Pressly commanding, and artillery. 

The movement was made quietly and in admirable 
order, the majority of the men being under the im 
pression that they were about to be relieved as usual, 
having served their tour of duty in Wagner. At 
eleven o clock Colonel Keitt proceeded to Cum 
ming s Point, leaving Captain Thomas A. Huguenin 
in Wagner commanding the rear guard, consisting 
of a few gunners and twenty-five men of the First 
and ten of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina, under 
Lieutenants F. B. Brown and B. M. Taft. As soon 


as the infantry had left Cumming s Point Captain 
H. R. Lesesne, who had for a long time commanded 
Battery Gregg, and Captain Kanapaux, commanding 
the three remaining howitzers, which he had just 
brought up from Wagner, spiked their guns and 
embarked their men. 

Left in Wagner with about thirty-five men, Cap 
tain Huguenin kept up a slow fire, chiefly of sharp 
shooters, with an occasional mortar fire to deceive, if 
possible, his enemy as to his real purpose, and was 
busy with his final preparations. About midnight 
the rear guard was sent off, leaving Captain Hu 
guenin, with Captain C. C. Pinckney and Lieutenant 
Mazyek, of the Ordnance; Lieutenant James A. 
Ross, of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers, 
and Ordnance Sergeant Leath in Wagner to spike 
guns, destroy such property as they could, and lay 
the train to burst the only useful ten-inch gun in 
the work and to blow up the magazine. 

In the meantime the Federal guard boats in Vin 
cent Creek had discovered the passage of boats 
carrying away troops and opened fire upon them. 
Colonel Keitt dispatched a messenger to Captain 
Huguenin to say that boats were in readiness and 
that he must at once abandon the battery, which he 
did, reaching Cumming s Point about half-past one 
o clock, under a rapid fire from the Union guard 

The safety fuse for blowing up the magazine of 
Battery Gregg was laid by the commissary of the 
post, Captain Holcumb, and was burning brightly 
when the last officer stepped into the boat, but from 


some cause, probably defective fuse, neither mag 
azine was blown up. 

The steam transportation was under the manage 
ment of Major Matt. A. Pringle, the embarkation 
of the troops was superintended by Colonel Daut- 
zler, Twentieth South Carolina Infantry, and the 
small boats employed in moving the troops were 
under the control of Captain W. H. Webb, of the 
ironclad Palmetto State. The whole was conducted 
systematically and with great success, only two 
boats crews of nineteen men and twenty-seven 
soldiers falling into the hands of the enemy. Under 
the circumstances of difficulty and peril which at 
tended the movement in the face of an overwhelming 
numerical force, it was marked by a degree of cool 
ness and discipline worthy of the best tried veterans. 

The different organizations in the military district 
served there by turn, and were commanded succes 
sively by Brigadier Generals Taliaferro, Johnson 
Hagood, A. H. Colquitt, and T. L. Clingman, and 
Colonels George P. Harrison and Lawrence M. 
Keitt. The Confederate loss on the island during 
the whole fifty-eight days operations was but 641 
killed and wounded, and it is illustrative of the 
sheltering capacity of sand that, deducting the loss 
due to the descent on the island on July 10 and the 
assaults of the nth and i8th, the loss in killed and 
wounded during the whole of the terrible bombard 
ment was but 296 men. It is still more remarkable 
that during the same period in the fire which de 
molished Sumter only 3 men were killed and 49 
wounded. Before dawn on the 7th the Union 


troops occupied both Wagner and Gregg, and were 
thus at last in possession of the little sand island of 
four hundred acres for which they had so persever- 
ingly contended for nearly two months. 

General Gillmore was rewarded by his govern 
ment with a major general s commission, and there 
was naturally great exultation in the Union camp 
over the success of the operations on Morris Island. 
Salutes were fired and patriotic speeches delivered, 
but it was all too plain to intelligent men that they 
had at best achieved but a barren victory. The 
blow which had been aimed and delivered against 
Charleston with so much care had, as it were, 
glanced and exhausted its force on the end of a 
barren sandbank nearly four miles distant from the 
objective point of the campaign. From Cummings 
Point the Union troops, still under Confederate fire, 
looked over a wide sheet of water bordered with 
heavy batteries and defended by torpedoes and 
other obstructions over which they must pass to 
reach Charleston. 


Dahlgren demands surrender of Fort Sumter Fort Moultrie 
engaged Assault of Fort Sumter Disastrous result 
Army and navy mutually jealous Obstacles in approach to 
Charleston Can the harbor be entered? Second bombard 
ment of Fort Sumter Sumter still resists What now? 
Operations against Charleston abandoned. 

Having silenced Fort Sumter, reduced Battery 
Wagner, and occupied the whole of Morris Island, 
General Gillmore conceived that the land force had 
accomplished all that could be reasonably expected 
of it in the prosecution of the general plan of opera 
tions. To make the campaign a complete success it 
only remained, in his opinion, for the naval force to 
perform its part, namely, to remove, if necessary, 
any obstructions that might be in its way, proceed 
to within easy range of Charleston and compel its 
surrender. That he thought could and should have 
been done at any time from August 23, when Sumter 
was apparently demolished, to September 7, when 
Battery Wagner was evacuated by the Confederate 
force and the island occupied by the Union troops; 
and he was exceedingly impatient at what he re 
garded as the culpable delay of the Admiral. 

Admiral Dahlgren, however, did not think the 
time had yet arrived for making the attempt to enter 
the harbor with his ironclads. The Union flag 



should float over Sumter before, in his opinion, he 
could, with due consideration for the safety of his 
monitors, venture to carry them into the inner har 
bor. Early on September 7, when he learned that 
the Confederate troops had evacuated Morris Island, 
he sent, under flag of truce, to Major Stephen El 
liott, commanding Fort Sumter, a demand for the 
surrender of that fort. Major Elliott refused to 
surrender his post, and forwarded the demand to 
General Beauregard, who replied that the Admiral 
could have Fort Sumter only when he could take and 
hold it. Preparatory to enforcing his demand, the 
New Ironsides and five monitors steamed up, and 
at about 6 P. M. took position between Cumming s 
Point and Fort Moultrie and opened fire on that 
fort, throwing an occasional shot into Sumter. The 
Sullivan s Island batteries replied, and until after 
dark a fierce cannonade was maintained, the Iron 
sides continuing the fire until nine o clock. 

During the night one of the monitors, the Wee- 
hawken, ran aground on Morris Island beach within 
range of Fort Moultrie. When it was discovered 
the next morning, Colonel William Butler, com 
manding Moultrie, opened fire on it, which was 
promptly returned, both firing with accuracy and 
effect. About nine o clock five other monitors and 
the Ironsides came up and, taking positions varying 
from nine hundred to fifteen hundred yards from 
Moultrie, opened fire, and a furious cannonade was 
maintained for about five hours, when the fleet with 
drew, leaving the Weehawken aground, and one 
monitor badly crippled. Usually in affairs between 


the forts and monitors the former had the advantage 
of being able to fire more rapidly than the latter. 
On this occasion a scant supply of ammunition in 
the land batteries made their fire slower than that 
of the ironclads. Early in the action a shell from 
the Weehavcken struck the muzzle of a columbiad in 
Moultrie, and, glancing and bursting among some 
ammunition, caused an explosion which instantly 
killed sixteen and wounded twelve men of Captain 
R. P. Smith s company of the First South Carolina 
Infantry (Third Artillery). Captain B. S. Burnet s 
company of the same regiment was quickly brought 
up from Battery Beauregard to supply the place of 
Captain Smith s. The fire had been mainly directed 
against Moultrie, in which, in addition to the loss by 
the explosion, three men were killed and two officers 
(Captain G. A. Wardlaw and Lieutenant D. B. De- 
Saussure) and fourteen men were wounded. Lieu 
tenant Edward W. Macbeth was wounded in Bat 
tery Beauregard and one officer and one man in Bat 
tery Bee. 

While the affair between the ironclads and forts 
was in progress, both the Admiral and General were 
preparing to carry Fort Sumter by assault. Strangely 
enough, both commanders were without concert pre 
paring to assault the same work on the same night. 
Whatever cordiality of feeling there may have been 
between them seems to have ceased. Each was con 
fident of his ability to seize the work without the 
aid of the other, and each ambitious of the honor of 
capturing the fort which had so long resisted and 
defied them. Needing some additional boats for the 


expedition, the Admiral sent to borrow them from 
the General. The latter replied that he could not 
spare them because he proposed to storm Sumter 
himself that night. Learning the General s inten 
tion, the Admiral seems to have desired co-operation, 
but declined the former s suggestion that the army 
officer commanding his storming party should also 
control the naval party. Each therefore proceeded 
independently of the other, the only agreement be 
tween them being that, to prevent accident of colli 
sion, of the two storming parties the first which 
entered the fort should display a red light from the 
battered walls. 

The naval storming party consisted of 450 picked 
men, sailors and marines. Captain Thomas H. 
Stephens was selected to command it. The several 
divisions of boats were commanded by Lieutenants 
E. P. Williams, G. C. Raney, S. W. Preston, F. J. 
Higginson, T. M. Bunce, E. T. Brewer, and En 
signs James, Wallace, Porter, and Crane of the 
navy, and Captain C. G. McCawley, First Lieutenr 
ants Charles H. Bradford and John C. Harris, and 
Second Lieutenants R. L. Meade, Lyman P. Wal 
lace, and L. E. Fagan, of the Marine Corps. Lieu 
tenant Morean Forest was adjutant of the expedi 

The party assembled at the flagship Philadelphia, 
and left it in tow of the steam tug Daffodil about ten 
o clock at night. When within about eight hundred 
yards of Sumter the tug stopped, the final instruc 
tions were given to the officers commanding the dif- 


ferent divisions, the boats were cast off and pulled 
toward Sumter. 

Lieutenant Higginson had been ordered to pull up 
to the northwestern front, for the purpose of draw 
ing the attention of the garrison from the real point 
of attack. The remaining divisions were ordered to 
close up and await orders to advance upon the south 
front, where it was intended to make the assault. 
Captain Stephens purpose for delaying the advance 
of the main body was to profit by all the advantage 
he hoped to derive from Lieutenant Higginson s 
diversion. The latter s movement, however, seems 
to have been mistaken by some of the boat com 
manders, for a general advance, "and, in that spirit 
of gallantry and emulation which characterize the 
service," says Captain Stephens, "they pulled for the 
fort." It was too late to stop the movement, and 
Stephens gave the signal for all to advance. 

The demand for the surrender of Sumter had 
given significant warning that an assault was im 
pending. Two Confederate ironclads were in posi 
tion to sweep with their fire the exposed faces of 
Sumter. Forts Moultrie and Johnson were in readi 
ness on a signal from Sumter to open fire. 

Major Stephen Elliott, Jr., commanded the fort, 
which was garrisoned by the First South Carolina 
Battalion of Infantry, 205 men, under Major Julius 
A. Blake. A boat attack had been expected for sev 
eral nights past, and one-third of the garrison was 
kept constantly under arms on the parapet, the re 
mainder close at hand. 


At one o clock Major Elliott saw the fleet of 
barges approaching from the east. He immediately 
ordered up three companies, and reserved his fire 
until the boats had deployed and the men began to 
land, then opened fire. The outer boats returned 
the fire rapidly for a few minutes. The crews of 
those that had effected a landing rushed to the south 
wall, where they expected to find a practicable ramp 
formed by the debris of the wall, up which they 
might charge into the fort. They found indeed a 
ramp, but at the top of it a wall from fifteen to 
twenty feet high, and the storming party was not 
provided with scaling ladders. Unable to get in or 
away, they sought shelter under the projecting 
masses of the wall. Immediately on the signal of 
fire from Sumter, the ironclad Chicora, lying a short 
distance to the north, the Sullivan s Island batteries 
to the northeast, and Fort Johnson to the westward 
opened and encircled Sumter with their fire, effec 
tually assisting to prevent the more distant boats 
from coming up. Some that had come nearest were 
disabled by hand grenades and masses of loose 
masonry hurled from the parapet. The men who 
had landed and sought shelter from fire under pro 
jecting masses of masonry were dislodged by hand 
grenades and fire balls. Cut off from reinforcements 
and escape, they called for quarter, and were ordered 
to make their way, by detachments, to the gorge of 
the fort, where they were taken within. 

The boats which had, on a signal from Captain 
Stephens, not landed, turned and fled. "All who had 
landed," says Captain Stephens, "were killed or 


taken prisoners, and serious casualties occurred in 
the boats nearest the fort." Only eleven officers and 
116 men had landed, of whom 6 were killed, 15 
wounded, and 106 made prisoners. Five barges 
and as many colors were also captured. The affair 
ended in complete failure in about twenty minutes. 
Admiral Dahlgren, who was on a monitor about a 
quarter of a mile off, says: "Moultrie fired like a 
devil, the shells breaking around me and screaming 
in chorus. It did not look like a vigorous assault. 
Some of the boats crews jumped overboard at the 
first fire, and I fell in with two boats a mile from 
Sumter. I came away without being able to see how 
the matter ended, and after a weary pull got on 
board the Lodona" He adds later in his journal: 
"Thus this attack on a fort which General Gillmore 
assumes he had demolished, necessarily failed." 

General Gillmore s storming party consisted of 
six or seven hundred infantry. It was delayed some 
what by the state of the tide, but presently proceeded 
in barges, toward Sumter. When the firing of the 
naval party commenced, the barges halted, and when 
it was apparent that the naval attack had failed, 
they pulled back to Morris Island. Why the failure 
of the naval assaulting party should have induced the 
larger land force to abandon the assault which it 
had started, it is not easy to conceive. It would 
seem that the chances of success would have been 
enhanced if the two parties had assaulted simulta 
neously. And if made separately, the troops had 
a better prospect of success than the naval party, 
because the latter attempted the assault on a front 


where the breach was not practicable, whereas on 
the gorge front which troops would have assaulted 
there was and had been for some weeks a practicable 

"The result," says General Gordon, "did not dis 
sipate the growing feeling of ill humor that had been 
for some time manifest between the land and naval 
forces. With no single head to devise and execute 
operations looking to the same end, there must needs 
be clashing and inefficiency and bad blood. In the 
meantime Sumter grew daily in strength." 

For several weeks after gaining possession of 
Morris Island the Federal force was diligently at 
work altering and enlarging Batteries Wagner and 
Gregg to adapt them to the changed purposes for 
which they were designed, and in constructing new 
and formidable batteries between the two. A rather 
slow fire was maintained on the working parties by 
the batteries on James and Sullivan s islands, enough 
to retard but not to prevent the construction of the 
work. If it had been possible under the most favor 
able circumstances, with the Confederate guns in po 
sition at so great a distance, to have prevented the 
construction of the Federal works, there was not 
ammunition enough in the Confederate batteries to 
have maintained an effective fire; nor was it practi 
cable to procure a sufficient supply. Twenty tons 
of shot and shell per day would not have sufficed, 
and that could not be supplied. Late in September 
a slow fire was maintained from day to day on Sum 
ter, enough as it was supposed, but erroneously, to 
prevent repairs and the remounting of guns. 


The most favorable time for the ironclad fleet to 
attempt to force an entrance into the inner harbor 
was passing rapidly away; for while the Federals 
were busily at work on Morris Island the Confed 
erates were not idle. They were strengthening the 
inner line of defensive works, arming them with guns 
taken from Sumter, and five or six were remounted 
in Sumter itself. Still the ironclad fleet made no 
attempt to enter, and to General Gillmore it seemed 
that the fruits of his success on Morris Island were 
passing away in consequence of the Admiral s delay. 
Newspaper correspondents near the General s head 
quarters sent to New York papers the most glowing 
accounts of the achievements of the army, giving 
little notice and no commendation to the part per 
formed by the navy. On the contrary, the general 
tenor of the letters from the special correspondents 
at the seat of war in the Department of the South 
produced the impression that the delay of the naval 
commander alone prevented the complete fruition 
of all the hopes and expectations based on the cam 
paign for the capture of Charleston. 

Admiral Dahlgren was keenly alive to the deli 
cacy and responsibility of his high position in the 
government service. He knew and shared the in 
tensely hostile feeling pervading the North which 
demanded the reduction and occupation of Charles 
ton, which was looked upon as the hotbed of seces 
sion and the initial point of the war. At the same 
time he fully appreciated the injury that would result 
to the cause he served with great zeal if any serious 
disaster should befall the ironclad fleet he com- 


manded and which he deemed essential to the mainte 
nance of the blockade of the port, a measure he 
regarded as even more important than the occupa 
tion of the city itself. 

One of his officers, Captain Daniel Ammen, recon- 
noitered and examined the obstructions stretching 
from near Sumter across toward the northwestern 
extremity of Sullivan s Island, and reported that 
they could be removed, and that he, with volunteers 
from the fleet, would make the attempt to remove 
them. The Admiral seems to have entertained the 
offer and given it serious thought. It is a significant 
manifestation of the estimate he placed on the zeal 
for the naval service of the men under his command, 
that he suggested as a suitable and tempting reward 
for gallant service to announce that those who sur 
vived the attempt should be honorably discharged 
from the service. But the attempt was not made. 
It was recognized that within the harbor were more 
formidable obstacles to encounter than the rope and 
timber and torpedo obstructions at its entrance. 

Before leaving Washington to enter on the cam 
paign, General Gillmore had expressed to the Sec 
retary of the Navy his conviction that when he had 
gained possession of Morris Island and had demol 
ished Fort Sumter he could, with batteries erected 
on Cumming s Point, silence the batteries on Sulli 
van s Island, thus completely opening the gate to 
Charleston. His experience before Wagner had 
long since demonstrated the utter hopelessness of 
attempting to silence the Sullivan s Island batteries, 


a mile and a half distant, across the channel. Those 
batteries were still intact. 

The Admiral perhaps had that fact in mind when 
at this time he addressed a formal letter to Gen 
eral Gillmore, reminding him that the obstacles 
which barred the entrance to Charleston harbor had 
not yet been removed or destroyed. Sumter he re 
garded as still a serious obstacle in itself, and as 
guarding other obstructions. "The only fort you 
have attempted Sumter you have not reduced," 
and he asked that it be occupied by the Union troops. 
The General replied sharply, that from the concur 
rent testimony of the Confederates themselves, and 
the Admiral s own admission, Sumter was no longer 
regarded as capable of any harm to anyone. If, 
however, the Admiral thought, after only one abor 
tive attempt on the part of the navy to capture the 
fort, that the few infantry soldiers who held it could 
offer any serious impediment to the removal of the 
obstructions between the fort and Sullivan s Island, 
he, the General, would remove them with his own 
troops. The Admiral replied, if the obstructions 
were to be removed, it was properly his province to 
remove them, and he did not need the services of the 
troops for that purpose. All he desired was that the 
Union troops should occupy the fort. 

If the removal of the obstructions was regarded 
as an important preliminary to the entrance of the 
fleet, it was surely an excess of punctilio to stand 
on the order of their removal, whether by the land 
or naval force. 


But in truth the obstructions were by no means 
so formidable as was supposed. There was no doubt 
risk to be encountered from submerged torpedoes, 
as was subsequently discovered by the explosion of 
one under the monitor Patapsco while covering an 
attempt to remove obstructions, instantly sinking 
the monitor and more than half of her crew, and 
like experiences elsewhere. But risks are inevitable, 
and these were such as the officers and men of the 
navy expected and were perfectly ready to encounter 
for the accomplishment of commensurate results. 
The difficulty was not so much to get into, as to get 
out of the inner harbor; and it was a question for 
grave consideration whether the results which might 
reasonably be expected to follow a successful en 
trance into the inner harbor would be at all com 
mensurate with the risk to the ironclads. A glance 
at the map of the harbor will show that, leaving out 
of consideration Sumter and the formidable batteries 
on Sullivan s Island, there were seventeen batteries 
mounting fifty-eight guns covering the waters of the 
inner harbor. Long experience in the bombardment 
of Wagner and Moultrie had most clearly demon 
strated that the combined land and naval batteries, 
throwing a weight of metal such as had never before 
been thrown on any work, could not permanently 
silence these land forts, or silence them any longer 
than they were immediately under fire. It would 
have been idle to suppose that the naval batteries 
alone could accomplish on the works within the har 
bor what the combined land and naval batteries had 
failed, under much more favorable circumstances, to 


effect on those without. There were, besides, two 
new and formidable Confederate ironclads within 
the harbor, which would have played a conspicuous 
part in any engagement in those waters. "The truth 
is," says Admiral Dahlgren, "that the entrance of 
ironclads could only make sure of the destruction of 
the city, and not this without undue risk, if these 
were only monitors. The act itself could not be ob 
jected to by the Rebels, for it was understood to 
be their intent to destroy the place themselves rather 
than that we should occupy it. If so, it was quite as 
logical that we should destroy it rather than they 
should occupy it." 

All arguments in favor of the entrance of the iron 
clads proceeded on the assumption that they were in 
good condition for action, which was far from being 
the case. They had all been under steam for six or 
seven months; their bottoms were so foul as mate 
rially to impair their speed; they had been repeatedly 
in action and were much damaged by the battering 
they had received, and two of the twenty-six guns 
they carried had been disabled and needed repairs 
before going again into action. 

But public sentiment in the North clamored for 
the reduction of Charleston, and the "special cor 
respondents at the seat of war" continued to lay the 
blame of the failure to accomplish that so eagerly 
desired consummation, to the navy. 

At the instance of the Secretary of the Navy, Ad 
miral Dahlgren, on October 24 convened a council 
of the ironclad captains, and in a session of six hours 
duration the whole subject was discussed fully and 


without restraint. It was decided by a vote of six 
to four, the senior officers being in the majority, that 
an attempt to enter the harbor and proceed to the 
city would be attended with extreme risk without 
adequate results. To the question, Should the Iron 
sides enter with the monitors? there was no decision, 
four for, four against, and two undecided; there 
was but one dissenting voice to the question, Would 
it be advisable to co-operate with the army in an 
attack on Sullivan s Island? and to the question, Can 
Forts Johnson and Moultrie be reduced by the pres 
ent force of ironclads, unsupported by the army? 
the answer was unanimously No. The matter was 
briefly and forcibly stated by Commodore Rodgers 
in reply to an inquiry by a committee of the United 
States Senate, as follows: 

"Ordinarily and popularly, to take a place means 
to take its defenses. General Gillmore was forty- 
eight 2 days on Morris Island, acting against Fort 
Wagner, with some ten or twelve thousand men 
against a garrison of about 1500 men or less, assisted 
by the monitors and by artillery which excited the 
wonder of Europe. After forty-eight days he took 
the place, not by his artillery nor by monitors, but 
by making military approaches and threatening to 
cut off their means of escape and take the place by 
assault; and when he took it, it was not so greatly 
damaged as to be untenable. Now, if General Gill- 
more, on the same island, assisted by his artillery 
and the whole force of the monitors, in forty-eight 

2 He was so engaged from July 10 to September 7. 


days could not capture Fort Wagner alone by them, 
it is perfectly certain that the monitors alone never 
can take the much stronger defenses which line 
James Island and Sullivan s Island. In going up to 
Charleston, therefore, he would have to run by the 
defenses, and leave the harbor, so far as they con 
stitute the command of it, in the power of the enemy; 
and when he got up to the city he could not spare a 
single man from his monitors, even if they should 
consent to receive him; and if he burned the town 
he would burn it over the heads of non-combatant 
women and children, while the men who defend it 
are away in the forts. I should be reluctant to burn 
a house over a woman s and child s head because her 
husband defied me. Dahlgren, if he burns Charles 
ton, will be called a savage by all Europe, and after 
the heat of combat is over he will be called a savage 
by our own people. But there are obstructions in the 
way which render it doubtful whether he can get 
there. And if he goes up under the guns of those 
fortifications, sticks upon the obstructions, and is 
finally driven off by any cause, leaving one or two 
of his monitors there within their power, they will 
get them off, repair them, and send them out to what 
part of the coast they please and give a new character 
to the war. The wooden blockade will be mainly at 
an end, unlimited cotton going out and unlimited 
supplies coming in. I see no good to compensate 
for that risk, except it be in satisfying the national 
mind that retributive justice has been done against 
the city of Charleston, the nursery of the Rebellion. 
He might possibly go up there and burn the town, 


in which there are no combatants, and a place which, 
in a purely military point of view, as far as I know, 
possesses no value. To do that he risks losing 
vessels upon the obstructions, and if they should be 
so lost, and fall into the enemy s hands, a new phase 
will be given to the war. In a word, I do not think 
the game is worth the candle. Whether these reasons 
operate with him, I do not know; they would with 


Admiral Dahlgren decided to make no attempt 
to enter the inner harbor until the monitors should 
be repaired, cleaned, and put in fighting trim, which 
would not be sooner than about the middle of No 
vember. He was, however, ready to co-operate with 
the land force in any operation it might undertake 
against Sullivan s Island or elsewhere. But General 
Gillmore, believing that he had accomplished his 
part of the general plan, was not disposed to enter 
on any new operations without reinforcements. His 
batteries at and near Cumming s Point being ready 
for action on October 26, he commenced what he 
calls the second bombardment of Sumter, in which 
the ironclads as usual bore a conspicuous part, their 
1 1- and 15-inch guns being especially effective. This 
bombardment was maintained with great violence 
for about ten days, until many of the guns in the land 
batteries were worn out. The second bombardment 
had resulted in rendering the southeast face a more 
complete ruin than the gorge wall, and other faces 
were greatly shaken. What further to do to bring 
the compaign to a successful end was a most per 
plexing problem. Various projects were suggested 


and discussed in frequent conferences between the 
commanders of the land and naval forces. One was 
to attempt to capture Fort Johnson, but General 
Gillmore was unwilling to attempt to hold the ground 
west of Johnson or co-operate with the navy within 
the harbor, without an addition to his force of 
15,000 men, and that he could not get. Another 
plan was to operate against Sullivan s Island by 
way of Bull s Bay. Since it seemed that Charleston 
could not then be taken, it was suggested that the 
combined force be turned upon Savannah and cap 
ture that city, and this project was discussed until it 
became known in Savannah, when preparations were 
in progress to meet it. Pending the consideration 
of these projects it was deemed advisable to divert 
public attention and let it be understood that further 
operations against Charleston were abandoned. 
General Gillmore undertook to have that report 
spread abroad by the special newspaper correspon 

Meanwhile no explicit instructions came from 
Washington, and it was understood that the Secre 
tary of War and the General-in-Chief of the army 
were averse to any further active operations at that 
time by the army against Charleston, the occupation 
of which they would have regarded as an "elephant 
on their hands." 

Indeed, the purpose of the Administration in 
Washington in regard to Charleston is shrouded in 
some doubt, not withstanding the efforts made to cap 
ture that city. 

In a letter from Colonel A. B. Ely, who had been 


General Benham s chief of staff, to Major General 
G. W. Cullum, he says, referring to the failure of 
the assault on Secessionville June 16, 1862 : "I could 
give you the reason of the want of success, but 1 
need not now disparage anybody in that regard, nor 
is it needful that I should speak of the weak and 
wicked considerations which interfered to prevent 
any further action of General Benham in that direc 
tion, particularly when I was assured by the Presi 
dent himself that he did not want we should take 

Eighteen months after the assault on Secession 
ville, in December, 1863, General Gillmore, in con 
ference with Admiral Dahlgren in regard to their 
future operations, said that the War Department 
had "never entertained an idea beyond the occupation 
of the exterior islands." 

The exterior islands Morris and Folly were 
securely held, and a slow fire was maintained on the 
city and Forts Sumter and Moultrie; but whatever 
may have been the wishes of the Administration, 
General Gillmore s campaign of four months dura 
tion virtually ended with the second bombardment of 
Fort Sumter. 

The letter is dated Boston, Mass., June 12, 1867. 


Due two weeks after date. 

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