Fort Moultrie's rear facade

Fort Moultrie 1809-1898

A General Timeline

Clearance and New Design (1804-1807)

September 7, 1804

A major hurricane skirts the Georgia coastline, then roars ashore next day near Beaufort, South Carolina. The city of Charleston and its outlying communities suffer numerous fatalities and extensive damage from the howling rains and prodigious water-surge produced by this storm. Flood-tides rise ten feet above normal and swamp city streets, before this hurricane finally moves back out to sea and vanishes northeastward on September 9th.

Among the huge amount of material losses left behind in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, are the three Revolutionary War-era defenses positioned around Charleston Harbor — Forts Moultrie, Pinckney, and Johnson — which have all been reduced to ruins.

December 10, 1805

In order to facilitate the reconstruction of Charleston’s defenses, the South Carolina legislature passes an act granting the Federal government “all the right, title, and claim of the State” to various properties around its harbor shorelines, so as to allow Washington to undertake and underwrite this large-scale rebuilding project.

Early July 1806

Lt.-Col. Jonathan Williams, Chief of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, orders one of his newest subordinates — 24-year-old Capt. Alexander Macomb, who is superintending the construction of a new Federal depot at Rocky Mount, near the confluence of Rocky Creek on the Catawba River south of present-day Great Falls, South Carolina — to visit Charleston and prepare a study of its various military sites.

July 21, 1806

Having completed his initial survey of Charleston Harbor, Macomb submits a report to the U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Dearborn, before returning to his labors on the Rocky Mount arsenal.

November 1806

Macomb is ordered back to Charleston, this time to begin contracting for local materials “necessary for repairing old and erecting some new works.”

January 8, 1807

Macomb returns into Charleston, but more than two months of bureaucratic delays will ensue, stalling all his efforts to begin reconstruction of its harbor defenses.

March 12, 1807

Colonel Williams, Chief of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, disembarks at Charleston on a regional inspection-tour, and is disappointed to find that no progress has been made on reconstituting this city’s harbor defenses. Five days later, he personally visits the ruins of old Forts Moultrie and Johnson, dismissing both remnants as “only heaps of rubbish.”

April 23, 1807

In the official summary of his inspection-tour presented to U.S. Secretary of War Dearborn, Williams describes how the southern portions of old Fort Moultrie [later to be remembered as “Fort Moultrie No. 2”] have been swamped by the sea, to such an extent that its hot-shot furnace lies half-buried in sand and is being lapped by the surf at high-tide. Yet because this destroyed fort’s shoreline position so admirably commands the Main Ship-Channel leading into the harbor, Williams recommends that materials be salvaged from the old redoubt and be used to construct an entirely new, double- or tripled-tiered stronghold a short distance behind its ruins.

June 22, 1807

In an unexpected confrontation off the Virginia coast, the British frigate H.M.S. Leopard fires into the neutral U.S. warship Chesapeake, killing three crewmen and wounding eighteen, before Leopard’s Captain sends across a boarding-party to further press four of its seamen into the Royal Navy. This bloody incident provokes an angry outcry throughout the United States, and spurs efforts at strengthening America’s coastal defenses — including those at Charleston.

Mid-August, 1807

Amid escalating war-tensions, Macomb is welcomed back into Charleston from Rocky Mount, having been detached once again from his engineering duties at that depot to supervise a temporary reinforcement of old Fort Moultrie with palmetto logs and sand, until sturdier materials can be gathered for the erection of a proper new structure behind it.

U.S. Army artillery and infantry uniforms from the period of 1802-1810, as painted decades later by Henry A. Ogden

He is nonetheless disappointed when the mustered South Carolina militiamen refuse to perform any kind of manual labor, instead insisting that all such work be done by slaves hired out by their masters — an expenditure for which Macomb has not been allotted any funds. Since plans for the newly-designed Fort Moultrie have also not yet arrived from Washington, he returns to Rocky Mount by mid-September 1807 to continue his on-going project there.

November 24, 1807

After a month-long debate in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Congress votes to fund construction of a major new nationwide chain of coastal defenses, which will become collectively known as the “Second System” fortifications.

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Construction (1808-1809)

January 28, 1808

Secretary of War Dearborn orders Macomb to return into Charleston once more and commence rebuilding its defenses, this time suitably provided with a budget for the required expenditures.

February 18, 1808

Macomb as he appeared while in Charleston during the winter of 1808-1809; an engraving by the visiting French-born portraitist Charles de Saint-Mémin

Macomb, promoted to Major only fifteen days previously, reaches Charleston and launches into a series of labors intended to strengthen all of its seaside defenses. As part of this broad effort, old Fort Moultrie will be stripped of as many salvageable materials as possible — such as its original masonry bricks — which will then be used to start a new enclosure a short distance behind the old redoubt’s wave-battered remnants.

Meanwhile in the national capital, Colonel Williams — in his capacity as Chief Engineer — has reconsidered his original notion of having a multi-tiered fort built on this new site, instead opting for a single-level brick structure with three sides facing out onto Charleston’s ship-channels, and armed with guns mounted en barbette [a French expression meaning with only their gun-barrels protruding above its parapets, like whiskers bristling from a chin or barbe].

June, 1808

Macomb completes a design for a new single-tiered Fort Moultrie, and his work-gangs make rapid progress in initiating its construction over the next couple of months.

August 10, 1808

In a progress-report to his superiors in Washington, Macomb mentions how the “whole of the interior and exterior revetment” of the new Fort Moultrie’s ramparts have been completed “up to the three principal faces toward the sea,” and are “ready to receive the parapet.”

November 1, 1808

After absenting himself briefly from Charleston, Macomb returns to the harbor to find Fort Johnson on James Island and Fort Mechanic along the city waterfront (modern East Battery) both finished, while Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island only lacks the completion of its gateway, scheduled to be installed by year’s end. The young engineering officer proudly writes this same day to Secretary Dearborn in Washington:

This fort will be little inferior to any other work in the United States in point of magnitude and importance. It will mount on the sea-side twenty pieces of heavy metal, and contain a garrison of 300 men.

January 6, 1809

A week after its gateway has been installed, the new Fort Moultrie is declared fully enclosed and thus ready to receive its first garrison of troops.

March 4, 1809

James Madison is inaugurated as fourth President of the United States, appointing Dr. William Eustis of Massachusetts as his new Secretary of War. When the first session of the 11th Congress convenes a month-and-a-half later, Madison’s incoming administration will furthermore request and receive an increased appropriation toward a nation-wide program of even greater military construction.

December 19, 1809

1809 Moultrie plan cutaway x Macomb & Wms.jpg

Macomb officially turns over completed Fort Moultrie to Lt.-Col. John Smith of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, who has come to Charleston from Rocky Mount with two companies of regulars under Capt. Joseph Woodruff and Lt. Benjamin Herriott, plus Capt. Louis Laval’s Troop of Light Dragoons. All of these soldiers are embarked from Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston aboard boats, to be shuttled across the harbor to Sullivan’s Island and installed as Moultrie’s first garrison. (For a more detailed account of Macomb’s 1811 diagram of his finished work, see its separate entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”)

This same day in Washington D.C., Secretary Eustis forwards a report on Charleston’s harbor-defenses to the House of Representatives, in which this new Fort Moultrie No. 3 is described as “an enclosed work defended by bastions and batteries of masonry, and designed for 30 guns, seven of which were [already] mounted, with a brick magazine and barracks for two companies.”

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Alterations and Gradual Deterioration (1810-1832)

March, 1810

On orders from his superiors in Washington, D. C., Macomb lays off his labor force and ceases all work on Charleston’s defenses.

December 10, 1811

Secretary Eustis informs the House Committee on Fortifications that two-year-old Moultrie is an irregular fort built of brick, presenting “a battery of three sides on the sea front, and the whole is enclosed with ramparts, parapet, &c., mounting 40 guns.” He adds that its magazine is designed to hold 500 barrels of powder, while its barracks and officers’ quarters can accommodate up to 500 men — both exaggerated figures.

June 1, 1812

Idealized depiction of U.S. Army uniforms from the War of 1812, as painted decades later by Henry A. Ogden

Amid mounting pressure from “war hawks” in the U.S. government (including the newly-elected Congressman for South Carolina’s 6th District, John C. Calhoun), President Madison requests a declaration of war against Great Britain from Congress. This resolution is based upon American complaints regarding:

  • forced impressments of sailors by Royal Navy warships;
  • interference with legitimate neutral merchant-traffic bound in and out of Napoleon’s blockaded French dominions;
  • and covert British backing for the Indian tribes resisting movements of U.S. settlers into the Great Lakes region and southern borderlands around Florida and Alabama.

June 4, 1812

Despite vocal opposition from New England and some mid-Atlantic states, the declaration of war against Great Britain passes the U.S. House of Representatives by a vote of 79-49.

June 18, 1812

After two weeks of debate in the U.S. Senate, the declaration of war against Great Britain is confirmed by a 19-13 vote, and signed by President Madison so as to go into effect next day. Fort Moultrie’s garrison, consisting of gunners of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment and companies of the 3rd and 18th U.S. Infantry Regiments, can be further supplemented by South Carolina militiamen. The coastline is patrolled by U.S. revenue-cutters, while various privateers also put out to sea from Charleston to intercept passing British merchantmen, although regular commercial-traffic in and out of South Carolina declines drastically.

October 28, 1812

As part of the national mobilization for war against Great Britain, 23-year-old Dr. John Halstead Sackett of New York reaches Charleston by mail-coach, having been commissioned as a “Surgeon’s Mate” or Assistant Surgeon in the 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment, with orders to report to Fort Moultrie. To read his description of this stronghold and its garrison, see the excerpt under “Written Descriptions”.

Early November 1812

A few detached British warships and privateers initiate a partial blockade off the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, although the Admiralty in London does not actually dispatch a specific directive for such a concerted campaign to the Royal Navy’s Adm. Sir John Warren in Bermuda until November 27th, and the winter season then delays its full implementation until February 1813.

March 31, 1813

The U.S. revenue-cutter Gallatin returns into Charleston Harbor after a five-day cruise from Savannah, Georgia, to report upon the presence of Royal Navy warships from Bermuda off Port Royal, South Carolina, who are initiating a series of raids in Chesapeake and Delaware Bays under Warren’s second-in-command, Rear Adm. George Cockburn. Next morning at 11:00 a.m., while Gallatin’s Capt. John H. Silliman is ashore and his crew are cleaning their ship’s muskets, its powder-magazine explodes and blows off the cutter’s stern and quarter-deck, killing three men and seriously wounding five more. Gallatin sinks at its anchorage, several yards off Blake’s Wharf.

July 12, 1813

Rear Admiral Cockburn anchors his British raiding-squadron off Ocracoke Inlet in North Carolina, capturing a few passing American traders before moving southward down the coastline. His menacing approach galvanizes defensive preparations at Fort Moultrie, with South Carolina militia companies being turned out so as to assist in the defense of Charleston Harbor, although no direct attack subsequently occurs.

August 27, 1813

Gale-force winds begin blowing across Charleston Harbor out of the northeast at noon, increasing to hurricane strength by 9:00 p.m. and howling throughout that night, before eventually abating by midday on August 28th. The U.S. naval Capt. John H. Dent will write that same day to inform the Secretary of the Navy, William Jones, in Washington:

The city and wharves present this morning a melancholy aspect; it is impossible as yet to give any idea of the damage, but it has been greater than that sustained in 1804. The Nonsuch, Carolina, and hospital-ship are the only vessels safe, the latter dismasted; some of the barges in seeking safety in the docks, were carried in[to] the streets with the general wreck[age], and are much damaged. The tide rose so high, that ships are now on the wharves. The beautiful new bridge over [the] Ashley River is entirely destroyed, and washed away. The prison-ship parted her cable and is now on shore at James Island; a wreck of a vessel on Fort Reef — not known whether the people on board were saved.

On Sullivan’s Island, at least nine people are reported dead, and surging waters have flooded in through Fort Moultrie’s sally-port, leaving its parade inundated under four feet of water.

March 31, 1814

In Europe, allied armies enter Paris, and the Duke of Wellington wins the Battle of Toulouse ten days later, forcing Napoleon to abdicate as Emperor by April 11th so as to go into exile. With his defeat, the British are freed to begin diverting more naval squadrons and military regiments into the North American theater.

August 16, 1814

A large British naval expedition sweeps through the Virginia Capes and up Chesapeake Bay, disembarking 4,000 regulars three days later at Benedict, Maryland, who push up the Patuxent River toward Washington, D.C. This assault-column easily routs a hastily-assembled army of 7,000 raw American militiamen at Bladensburg on August 24th, and enters the half-deserted national capital. Its Presidential mansion, Capitol building, and numerous other government edifices are torched before this force retires, to reembark from Benedict by August 30th.

September 10, 1814

After resting for a fortnight, the British naval expedition weighs anchor to attack Baltimore, only to be repelled three days later by a large American army gathered in the vicinity of Fort McHenry. The British retreat back aboard their fleet and disappear out into the Atlantic on September 15th, while jittery state governments — alarmed by these bold enemy strikes — fully mobilize their militia regiments to bolster American coastal defenses all along the Atlantic Seaboard, including in South Carolina.

October 1, 1814

The First and Second Regiments of South Carolina Militia assemble at Lipsey’s Old Fields in Union District, marching along the Old State Road by way of Granby (near Columbia in Lexington District), to arrive at Charleston around October 7th. Over the next three weeks, they are armed, equipped, and quartered at Hadrill's Point, before eventually being transferred over to John’s Island by the end of November 1814 to prepare to repel a British attack on Charleston Harbor, which never materializes.

December 24, 1814

The War of 1812 theoretically concludes with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Europe, requiring only confirmation by the respective governments in London and Washington for peace to be restored between both nations. Before news of this accord can cross the Atlantic, though, Andrew Jackson defeats the final British military thrust against New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

March 7, 1815

With hostilities officially at an end, the South Carolina militia regiments stationed around Charleston are mustered out of service, and their volunteer members allowed to return home. The mass of muskets, pistols, flints, and cannonballs stockpiled in the city arsenal during this military buildup, will eventually be auctioned off several years later.

February 29, 1816

The senior headquarters staff and three companies of the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment arrive to be permanently stationed in Fort Moultrie, while its seven other companies are to serve as a front-line garrison in the Creek Nation at Fort Hawkins, on the left bank of the Okmulgee River opposite present-day Macon, Georgia. With the U.S. Army reduced to only eight regiments by the “Military Peace Establishment” Act passed by Congress on March 3, 1815, the 4th Infantry will be employed over the next several years in combating the Creek and Seminole Indians in Florida and Alabama.

December 17, 1817

The village of Moultrieville on Sullivan’s Island, is officially incorporated by an act (Number 2155) passed by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina.

February, 1821

1809 Moultrie plan cutaway by Macomb

Brig. Gen. Simon Bernard, a French ex-Napoleonic officer appointed to direct the construction of America’s “Third System” of coastal defenses, visits Charleston with his staff. They spend several days of this inspection-tour on Sullivan’s Island, during which Capt. William T. Poussin surveys and diagrams Moultrie, whose interior buildings have been expanded since the fort’s erection only a dozen years previously — doubtless as part of the general mobilization for the War of 1812. Its surrounding ditch has also been entirely filled in by the island’s constantly-drifting sand dunes.

This survey complete, Bernard and his staff depart Charleston on March 3, 1821, taking passage for Savannah aboard the U.S. revenue cutter Gallatin. Poussin’s diagram is described in greater detail, in a separate entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

March 2, 1821

At the behest of President Monroe’s Secretary of War, John C. Calhoun, Congress passes an act reorganizing and creating the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th U.S. Artillery Regiments on a fixed basis, each initially consisting of one mounted and eight foot-companies. The mounted contingents are supposed to serve as mobile light field-artillery, while foot companies are to man heavier pieces and garrison coastal fortresses, although no horse-batteries will actually be created until the late 1830s.

July, 1821

From Washington, Quartermaster-Gen. Thomas S. Jesup authorizes Moultrie’s post-commander to relocate several buildings out of its crowded interior to the empty compound behind the fort, known as the Reservation, where these relocated buildings can provide much-needed extra storerooms.

September 27, 1822

At 10 p.m. this Friday night, gale winds begin blowing out of the northeast across Charleston, shifting around to the northwest as a powerful hurricane comes ashore halfway between the city and Georgetown. This storm grows in fury and engulfs Charleston and its environs until 2:30 a.m. on September 28th, when the howling winds abruptly drop away and dissipate half-an-hour later, leaving widespread destruction and at least three-dozen dead. Out on Sullivan’s Island, many terrified inhabitants have sought refuge inside Fort Moultrie, whose buildings emerge considerably damaged, yet structurally intact. A city newspaper will report:

From Sullivan’s Island, our accounts are of the most shocking nature. We understand that upwards of fifteen houses have been blown down, and others more or less injured. The residence of Mr. Lewis Morris, Jr., was overset by the tempest — his wife and eldest son together with Mr. Austece, private tutor, were all three killed. Mr. Morris’s house was considered one of the safest on the Island. How vain is human security!

October 21, 1822

During the post-hurricane cleanup of Fort Moultrie, an accidental fire starts in the roof of its Officers’ Quarters, gutting this entire edifice, despite heroic efforts to combat the blaze. This building will be rebuilt by June 1823.

April, 1824

Detail showing Fort Moultrie in 1825, from a larger survey-map of Charleston Harbor compiled by the topographical engineer Capt. Hartman Bache and other U.S. Army officers; note the lengthy jetty extending out behind to reach the deeper waters of the Cove. (Library of Congress)

Moultrie is garrisoned by Companies E and H of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment, as well as Company H of the 4th Artillery Regiment — although the latter unit is rotated out on another assignment this same August 1824, leaving the first two companies alone in the fort over the next nineteen months.

Spring, 1825

A system of wooden trunks is installed within the grounds of low-lying Fort Moultrie, to help drain water out of its enclosed compound into the Cove behind, especially during and after any torrential rainfalls.

December 14, 1825

Col. John E. Wool, Inspector-General of the U.S. Army, and the travelling German nobleman Bernard, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, are rowed out across the harbor from the City of Charleston to Sullivan’s Island, so as to make a tour of Fort Moultrie. Its two companies of 3rd Artillery Regiment cannoneers are paraded, Saxe-Weimar noting in his journal how each unit normally numbered 55 men, but:

Uniforms of American officers during the period 1821-1832, seen here posed in a major casemated coastal fort, as depicted years later by Henry A. Ogden. (Uniform of the Army of the United States)
...from these are subtracted the sentinels, sick, and those under arrest, so that both corps had scarcely sixty men under arms. The privates had fire-arms and cartridge boxes, and the matrosses [i.e., gunners] and corporals alone carried side-arms. The haversack consisted of a wooden box, covered with black waxed linen. They wore gray pantaloons, and boots, as our artillery; the officers alone had white cloth pantaloons. The coats were not well made, and did not fit; all the men had large shirt collars, which had a bad effect, and gloves of a different pattern, because each individual bought for himself. While the Colonel was going through the inspection, I took a walk on the ramparts with Major Massias, and visited the officers’ quarters. In the chamber of a lieutenant, in which we stopped, I found, beside the books belonging to service, a small library of English belles lettres and classical poets.

April, 1826

Company H of the 3rd U.S. Artillery is replaced by Company D of that same regiment, in garrisoning Fort Moultrie — followed next month by Company F.

November 18, 1827

Earliest known daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, ca. 1842, fifteen years after disembarking at Fort Moultrie as a teenage recruit; he would not grow out his trademark moustache until 1845

The passenger-brig Waltham reaches Charleston from Boston, having being hired to transport Company H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment under Lt. Henry W. Griswold to be stationed at Fort Moultrie. Among the company’s ranks is a recent recruit, 18-year-old Edgar Allan Poe, who has enlisted only a few months previously as Private “Edgar A. Perry” for a term of five years in the Army, after dropping out of the University of Virginia and quarrelling with his stepfather over his gambling debts. Poe’s enlistment papers describe him as 5 feet, 8 inches in height, with grey eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion.

By May 1, 1828, Poe will be promoted to Artificer — a gunner entrusted with the delicate task of preparing explosive ordnance — so that his salary doubles to ten dollars a month. When the company is ordered to prepare to be transferred to Fortress Monroe that same December, Poe reveals his true identity to his superiors, and attempts to reconcile with his stepfather.

November, 1828

After a lengthy wait to secure funding from Washington, a major overhaul commences on all of Moultrie’s dwellings, which have become decayed in the warm and humid climate. In addition to repairing and enlarging its barracks, overhanging galleries known as “piazzas” are also added, plus much plaster and paint are applied over the ensuing months. Even its regular U.S. Army gunners are used in applying “yellow wash” to the outer walls of their buildings, as well as “the exterior and interior slopes of the parapets,” in order to better reflect the scorching sunlight.

December 4, 1828

Companies A and B of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment reach Charleston aboard the ship Harriet, and one week later Poe’s company departs aboard this same vessel for Fortress Monroe at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. American-born and well-educated among what are mostly foreign-born immigrant soldiers, Poe will be promoted there to Regimental Sergeant-Major as of New Year’s Day 1829, and eventually win appointment as a cadet to West Point.

Many years afterward, Poe will write a prize-winning essay entitled The Gold Bug, whose lonely setting is modeled on Sullivan’s Island. An instant success, it will become the most popular and widely-read of his works during his short lifespan. Others of his stories which will contain allusions to Moultrie are “The Balloon Hoax” and “The Oblong Box.”

January 1829

Company B of the 2nd Artillery is reassigned from Moultrie, to serve in Fort Johnson on James Island.

May 1829

Company B rejoins Company A at Fort Moultrie.

January 8, 1830

Company B is once again transferred out of Moultrie, this time to take up duty in Charleston’s Citadel.

August 16, 1830

A wild gale batters the coast of South Carolina, during which surf breaks through the sunken rubble of old Fort Moultrie No. 2 and reaches the new fort’s southwest angle. Once this storm abates, it is discovered that this breach is so severe as to allow ocean waves to lap at the new fort’s foundation at high tide, threatening to undermine the entire southwest front. The post commander therefore requests a remedy from the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

September 25, 1830

1830 Moultrie by Mansfield

After a month-long survey and assessment of Moultrie’s compromised position, Lt. Joseph K. F. Mansfield submits a report to the Chief Engineer in Washington, Brevet Brig. Gen. Charles Gratiot, asserting that the fort can be saved. However, in order to prevent the settling of crucial segments of its seaward ramparts, an expensive project for strengthening its shoreline with breakwaters and other heavy works will be required. For a more detailed account of Mansfield’s diagram, see its separate entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

December 25, 1830

The first steam-locomotive in America intended to regularly convey passengers, nicknamed the “Best Friend”, begins running its route between Charleston and Hamburg, South Carolina.

Mid-May, 1831

Another gale washes away considerably more sand from beneath Moultrie’s southeast and southwest angles, leaving their foundations completely exposed. Gratiot consequently orders Lt. Henry Brewerton to accelerate the efforts at creating an effective barrier of shoreline breakwaters.

July 7, 1831

This evening, despite the considerable progress achieved by Brewerton, an unusually powerful flood-tide causes Moultrie’s southwest angle to give way and sag down alarmingly, settling downward “from eighteen inches to two feet.” A significant span of its fractured masonry will have to be rebuilt as a result of this setback.

October 16, 1831

The well-known backwoodsman and artist John James Audubon arrives in Charleston to continue his work on producing ornithological studies for his on-going series Birds of America, the first of four visits which he will make to this city over the next eight years.

April 11, 1832

High tides caused by another nor’easter undermine Brewerton’s new breakwater, exposing a different section of Moultrie’s foundations. Once again, he is able to effect repairs by the end of June 1832.

September, 1832

While en route toward Florida, Col. James Gadsden visits Moultrie and determines that a lengthy seawall must be built offshore, in order to save the fort from its inevitable destruction through repeated wave-erosion.

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Role in Nullification Crisis (1832-1835)

October 29, 1832

In the wake of the recent “Nullifier” majority resulting from South Carolina’s elections, confidential orders are sent from Washington to Brevet Maj. Julius F. Heileman, in command of the 139 Federal troops in three U.S. Artillery companies on peacetime garrison-duty at Charleston Harbor, to place Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney on alert against any possible attempt by state militia forces to “surprise, seize, and occupy” these strongholds.

The Nullifier movement has arisen out of local dislike of the Federal protective import-tariffs, originally designed to favor Northern industrial interests against foreign competitors. The Nullifiers’ aim is to declare such tariffs “null and void” within their state borders, furthermore threatening to meet any attempted coercion out of Washington with outright secession.

November 6, 1832

Written instructions are also sent from Washington to U.S. customs-collectors in South Carolina, instructing them to maintain “a firm and vigilant, but discreet performance” of their duties.

November 7, 1832

Two additional U.S. Artillery companies are quietly ordered to depart Fortress Monroe, Virginia, so as to reinforce the Federal garrisons at Charleston.

November 8, 1832

Capt. William A. Eliason of the U.S. Corps of Engineers arrives to supervise the already on-going work to strengthen Moultrie’s seaside ramparts, only to find additional instructions now awaiting him from General Gratiot, to also erect an eight-foot palisade in front of the fort’s three land-fronts, for fear of an assault by South Carolina militiamen.

November 10, 1832

Anxious to address Moultrie’s debility against this perceived threat as quickly as possible, Captain Eliason requests price-bids in order to purchase large amounts of construction materiel from businesses in and around Charleston. He promptly receives numerous local offers, and hires a 40-man work-crew.

November 12, 1832

In response to a written inquiry from Heileman, Major-General Macomb — commander of the U.S. Army — authorizes the Major to surrender the Citadel to South Carolina’s authorities, if it is demanded, and withdraw all Federal property into Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie.

November 16, 1832

Modern painting of U.S. revenue cutters operating out of Castle Pinckney in early 1833, enforcing the tariff on ships approaching Charleston’s waterfront in the distance, by Robert Lavin. (United States Coast Guard)

The 6-gun, 112-ton U.S. revenue cutter Gallatin is ordered to sail from Wilmington, North Carolina, to help suppress any “nullifier” efforts at Charleston. It will eventually be joined by four other such U.S. cutters, with orders from President Jackson “to take possession of any vessels arriving from a foreign port, and defend against any attempts to dispossess the Customs Office of her custody.”

November 18, 1832

Having been summoned from his home in New York City to the national capital, Maj.-Gen. Winfield Scott receives a confidential order from Secretary of War Lewis Cass and a personal directive from President Jackson to “repair immediately to Charleston,” so as to assist its local authorities in averting a confrontation. Although not authorized to intervene directly in a military capacity, the General is nonetheless also directed to:

… examine everything connected with the fortifications. You are at liberty to take such measures, either by strengthening these defenses, or by reinforcing these garrisons with troops drawn from any other posts, as you may think prudence and a just precaution require.

November 23, 1832

Company C of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment and Company B of the 4th Artillery Regiment reach Moultrie from Fortress Monroe, Virginia, freeing up Company A of the 1st Artillery Regiment to be transferred into Charleston’s Citadel three days later.

November 24, 1832

After five days of deliberations in the state capital of Columbia, South Carolina’s outgoing Gov. James Hamilton — himself a Nullifier — chairs a convention which passes an ordinance by an overwhelming majority, declaring the Federal protective import-tariff “null and void” within their state. Three days afterward, the new incoming legislature further reinforces this “Ordinance of Nullification,” by calling for the raising of volunteer units and the purchase of weaponry, so as to resist any enforcement attempts by the Federal government.

November 28, 1832

Brig. Gen. Winfield Scott reaches Charleston, ostensibly on a routine inspection-tour of Southern garrisons, but actually under secret orders to reinforce Charleston’s Federal outposts if necessary. He will soon order five additional U.S. Artillery companies to come from Fortress Monroe, whose Lt.-Col. James Bankhead of the 3rd Regiment will supersede Heileman in command at Moultrie, being eventually at the head of a force of about 700 gunners. Sixteen extra field-pieces are also brought along with these Federal reinforcements, and nine U.S. revenue-cutters (out of a total of 23 available for the entire Eastern Seaboard and Gulf of Mexico) are stationed around the harbor. Scott even sees to it that all regular U.S. officers renew their loyalty oaths, and transfers out a few whom he suspects of wavering commitments, before departing next month for his home in New York.

Early December, 1832

Pres. Andrew Jackson orders the dispatch of 5,000 stands of arms to Charleston, to be distributed in case of emergency among Unionist supporters.

December 10, 1832

President Jackson issues a proclamation, refuting the doctrine of nullification and warning that any armed attempt at its enforcement will be considered treason.

December 20, 1832

South Carolina’s newly-elected Governor, Robert Y. Hayne (until recently a U.S. Senator), issues a defiant counter-proclamation, and the Nullifier legislature passes the Replevin Act, a legal maneuver designed to have all future seizures by Federal customs-collectors after February 1, 1833, adjudicated exclusively in state courts. All South Carolinian civil and militia officials are moreover required to swear an oath to uphold the Ordinance of Nullification, and a sum of $200,000 is voted to purchase weaponry. But as militia forces begin organizing, a significant minority of Unionist supporters in South Carolina also start coalescing behind their leader, Joel R. Poinsett.

Late December, 1832

The Citadel is reclaimed without opposition by South Carolinian authorities after its U.S. garrison have evacuated in favor of Fort Moultrie on December 24th, while the U.S. Customs House’s personnel and equipment are likewise withdrawn from Charleston into the isolated safety of Castle Pinckney.

January 2, 1833

Five days after being recommissioned at Norfolk, Virginia, the 18-gun, 200-ton sloop of war U.S.S. Natchez sets sail for Charleston, arriving to drop anchor in its harbor seventeen days later.

January 16, 1833

President Jackson asks the U.S. Congress for legislation that will allow him to deal with this looming confrontation by legally moving Federal customs-collection operations onto offshore ships; collecting all duties in cash; having adjudications handled in Federal courts; and authorizing the use of military force. At the same time, the President offers to reform and reduce tariffs, all of which will be debated in Washington and South Carolina for weeks.

January 21, 1833

A mass meeting of Nullifiers in Charleston agrees to postpone their February 1st deadline, for a month. Mediators arrive, in an attempt to resolve the impasse.

Late January, 1833

Major-General Scott returns by sea into Charleston Harbor, and takes up residence in Fort Moultrie, making frequent visits into the city.

February 6, 1833

Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, writes to his friend and fellow-clergyman Sewall Harding in Waltham, Massachusetts, relating how “we have lived 6 days into Nullification & no one is yet harmed,” although adding:

Our state is said to be preparing for war; mounting cannon, drilling soldiers, &c ... 18,000 volunteers have offered their services ... The Forts in the harbor belonging to the U.S. are in complete order ... The Natchez sloop of war, 24 guns, is in the harbor & several revenue cutters.

He finishes by declaring that South Carolina’s Unionists are “also said to be under a complete military organization with a view to defend themselves if attacked,” ending that: “we have men who are not afraid to speak. The Union party here desire the sympathy of all friends of the Union.”

February 14, 1833

Henry Clay offers a compromise tariff in the U.S. Senate, and after twelve days of stormy debates and discussion, it is passed on February 26th and signed into law by President Jackson on March 2nd.

February 19, 1833

Eliason’s temporary fortification of Moultrie against any sudden South Carolinian attack — which consists of a palisade enclosing the fort’s three land-fronts — is completed, while improvements to its gun-ramps, sally-port doors, coping-stones, and magazine will all be finished by the last week of this same month.

March 11, 1833

The South Carolina Convention reconvenes, and after protracted debate — during which the U.S. sloop of war Natchez shifts its anchorage to the Charleston Battery on March 12th — a majority agree one week later to accept the compromise tariff and rescind the “Ordinance of Nullification”.

April 4, 1833

The U.S. sloop of war Natchez departs Charleston Harbor for Hampton Roads, Virginia, followed next day by the revenue-cutter Gallatin, which is to take up its new station at Wilmington, Delaware.

September 4, 1834

1833 Moultrie breakwater by Eliason

Eliason’s newly-constructed offshore breakwater successfully defends Moultrie’s foundations against the ravages of a heavy gale, and again during a second storm which occurs on September 30th. For a more detailed account of Eliason’s diagram, see its entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

January 22, 1835

After conducting a detailed inspection of Moultrie as requested by Macomb—who has since been promoted to Major-General, and is now in command of the entire U.S. Army—Lt. Thompson S. Brown submits a report suggesting several enhancements:

  • the erection of two hot-shot furnaces directly at the foot of the left- and right-hand ramps leading up to its seaside batteries;
  • that all main guns be remounted on new French-style barbette carriages, with the appropriate pintles and platforms installed along its parapets;
  • 1835 Moultrie by Brown
  • that the “wooden pitched roofs” above its Sally-Port and Guardhouse be replaced with a flat roof;
  • that the Magazine be strengthened so as to make it more bomb-proof;
  • and Moultrie’s five-foot parapets be raised to a height of five feet, five inches, with their outer slopes re-sodded up to this new level.

For a more detailed report on Brown’s diagram, see its entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

February 28, 1835

Company H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment arrives to garrison Fort Moultrie.

March 31, 1835

The new flat roof is completed atop Fort Moultrie’s Guardhouse.

Horizontal Rule

Vacant (1836-1841)

January, 1836

The only occupants of Moultrie—Company H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment—are transferred to Florida, leaving the fort empty and entrusted to the care of the U.S. Quartermaster in Charleston, who assigns an ordnance sergeant as its lone resident to look after the vacant compound, which will remain mostly unoccupied over the next six years.

January 1, 1838

Osceola as painted by George Catlin, while being held captive in Fort Moultrie, January 1838

A detachment of the 4th U.S. Infantry Regiment under Capt. Pitcairn Morrison, escorting some 200 Seminole prisoners who are being forcibly deported from Florida, disembark on Sullivan’s Island from the steamship Poinsett to make a brief layover in empty Fort Moultrie. The captive war-leader Osceola and his followers are housed in the Officers’ Quarters, being allowed “liberty within the walls” and even to attend a play called Honey Moon as guests of the New Theatre in Charleston, along with four of his chieftains on January 6th (memorialized in a five-verse poem entitled “Osceola at the Charleston Theatre.”)

The Seminole leader is also visited by many curiosity-seekers and portraitists during his brief tenure, including George Catlin, who arrives at the fort on January 17, 1838, and paints at least ten portraits of various captives before Osceola falls ill and dies in the post hospital on January 30th, his decapitated corpse being buried beside Moultrie’s rear bastion. By the end of February 1838, the surviving Seminoles are re-embarked for New Orleans — eventually being resettled in the Indian Territory [modern Oklahoma] — leaving Fort Moultrie once again empty.

January, 1839

Ordnance Sgt. M. S. K. Poole, Moultrie’s lone resident, notices that a wooden revetment reinforcing the fort’s southwest angle is starting to give way, so reports this problem and meanwhile hires a temporary work-crew, to at least remove the 8-inch howitzer mounted above it.

February 3, 1839

Overnight, Moultrie’s weakened revetment topples outward, leaving the fort exposed and deteriorating still further. Col. Joseph G. Totten, the new Chief Engineer in Washington (having succeeded Gratiot only two months previously, on December 7, 1838) orders Capt. Alexander H. Bowman to leave the road-project which he is supervising between Memphis and St. Francis, Arkansas, so as to proceed to Charleston.

March 4, 1839

Captain Bowman takes up duty at Moultrie, and realizes that a major reconstruction-effort will be needed to save the damaged fort. He therefore requests that it be temporarily “transferred and placed under the supervision of the Corps of Engineers,” so that he might house his hired work-force within its vacant barracks.

March 18, 1839

The engineer Alexander H. Bowman, as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Union Army and Superintendent of West Point early during the Civil War, ca. 1862

Totten having successfully persuaded Secretary of War Joel R. Poinsett, the U.S. Army commander Macomb issues the following order from Washington: “Fort Moultrie, in Charleston harbor, will be turned over to the Engineer Department until further orders, for the purpose of undergoing repairs.” Captain Bowman can therefore move in his artisans and laborers, and begin an extensive reconstruction of its damaged southwestern rampart (using bricks salvaged from Fort Johnson), as well as repairing Moultrie’s outer breakwater and jetties.

May 28, 1839

The engineer Captain Bowman sinks his initial “Grillage No. 1” to bolster Fort Moultrie’s existing breakwaters, gradually filling this new sunken structure with stones and extending its length to 150 feet, so as to catch floating sand and thereby thicken the expanse of beach.

September 30, 1840

After studying his shoreline improvements for more than a year, Captain Bowman reports from the “Engineer Office” on Sullivan’s Island to Colonel Totten in Washington, D.C., that although occasional storms do continue to cause erosion around his grillage-based breakwaters, “the displaced sand is soon restored when they abate, and deposits continue as if no interruption had taken place.” For this reason, Bowman concludes that:

… every indication strengthens the belief that the system of works projected for the protection of Sullivan’s Island, and the preservation of the site of Fort Moultrie, will be successful.

March 19, 1841

Bowman informs Totten that all repairs to Moultrie have been completed, and twelve days later adds that the refurbished fort is ready to receive its allotted armament: thirty 32-pounders, three 18-pounders, and nine 12-pounders—all to be mounted en barbette—as well as five seacoast howitzers, one 13-inch mortar, plus five lesser field-guns.

Horizontal Rule

Resurrection and Refinements (1842-1859)

March, 1842

Bowman is informed that Moultrie is to once more be restored to a U.S. Army garrison, so instructs his carpenters to re-shingle its parapet-tops and his painters to apply fresh coats of paint, before vacating the premises.

June 24, 1842

1842 Moultrie by Bowman

The War Department having decided to rotate the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment out of the Gulf Coast, Lt.-Col. William Gates disembarks at Charleston from the chartered brig Wetumpka, with orders to reoccupy Moultrie with Companies G and I of his artillerymen — this first unit having been withdrawn from Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay, the latter from Pensacola. One of the garrison’s new young subalterns is a 22-year-old First Lieutenant named William T. Sherman, second-in-command of Company G. For a more detailed account of Bowman’s diagram of the reconstructed fort, see its separate entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

July 27, 1842

Company D of the 3rd Artillery also arrives at Fort Moultrie, having to be housed in its open-air rear compound known as the Reservation, behind the crowded fort.

October 4, 1842

A slow-moving hurricane passes through Georgia, and next day drives heavy seas into Charleston Harbor, producing record high-tides and flooding in the city, as well as damaging some of Moultrie’s buildings.

March 20, 1843

In Charleston, The Citadel opens its doors to receive its first class of cadets.

April 5, 1843

Company E of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment under Lt. Braxton Bragg reaches Moultrie from St. Augustine, Florida, bringing the fort’s total garrison (including auxiliaries) to 267 people, greatly straining its limited accommodations.

May 23, 1843

After eleven months of garrison-duty in his new base, Lt. William T. Sherman writes a letter describing his daily routine to his younger brother John in Ohio, which can be read under “William Tecumseh Sherman’s Recollections” on our Written Descriptions page.

August 14, 1842

The U.S. Congress officially concludes the Second Seminole War by passing the Armed Occupation Act, which grants lands in Florida to homesteaders, but expects them to see to their own defense.

July 23, 1843

Computer-graphic recreation of Fort Moultrie’s peacetime Guardhouse, ca. May 1860. (Battlefields in Motion, Ltd)

Post-hurricane repairs are completed on Fort Moultrie, during which all of its buildings have been re-shingled with slate, as well as its piazzas re-roofed with tin. New flights of stairs have also been erected in front of both barracks buildings and the Officers’ Quarters, while its Guardhouse has been “covered with one large slate roof, pitching each way from the centre, which alteration had furnished space sufficient for two fine storerooms for public property; it was accessible by a stairway erected on the outside and leading from the parapet.”

April 12, 1844

A treaty of annexation is signed between the governments of the United States and Texas, which is to take effect once both legislatures vote to approve this union. One of its provisions commits America to defend Texas against any invasion from Mexico, so that a U.S. “Corps of Observation” will eventually be stationed at the frontier outpost of Fort Jesup, Louisiana. Mexico protests against this impending annexation, as it still regards Texas as a breakaway province, not an independent country.

June 8, 1844

The treaty of annexation is initially rejected in the U.S. Senate by a vote of 35 to 16, as Northern states object to Texas’ admission into the Union as a slave state.

Early October, 1844

Recreation of the six individual flights of steps added behind the Officers’ Quarters of Fort Moultrie, in late 1844. (Battlefields in Motion, Ltd)

Maj. Charles Thomas of the U.S. Army Quartermaster’s Department visits crowded Fort Moultrie, recommending the erection of small flights of steps from the rear of the six upper-story rooms of its Officers’ Quarters, so as to make these suites into more amenable residences.

Most officers are in fact already residing outside of the fort, in leased private houses nearby which are costing the U.S. government a total of about $1,800 a year in additional rental fees.

March 1, 1845

In Washington, D. C., Congress votes approval of the request submitted from American settlers in the brand-new Republic of Texas, appealing to be annexed into the United States. The Mexican Ambassador departs in protest against this legislative action, and diplomatic relations between both countries are completely severed three weeks later.

April, 1845

Close-up detail view of the 20-year-old Church of St. John the Baptist, wooden precursor to the modern Stella Maris Church, as it appeared — still adorned with its cross — at the Civil War’s end in April 1865. Click anywhere on this image to see the full panorama. (Library of Congress)

In order to provide a permanent place of worship for the Federally-contracted Irish Catholic workers who have settled with their families on Sullivan’s Island, during the recent years of heavy labor on Fort Moultrie (and been ministered to by priests visiting from Charleston during the summer months, offering Masses and instruction in private homes), Father Patrick McGowan — a member on the diocesan staff of Bishop John England, and himself an Irish immigrant — organizes the construction of a proper church for that island.

A lot is duly purchased in April 1845, slightly to the west of present-day Stella Maris Church, and a small wooden building is completed on stilts in time for its first Mass to be celebrated on June 22, 1845 — the Sunday just two days before the Feast of St. John the Baptist, so that this new structure will be christened as the Church of St. John the Baptist.

June 9, 1845

While idling in Fort Moultrie’s Guardhouse this evening, as the lone officer on duty, 25-year-old First Lt. William T. Sherman writes to his fiancée Ellen Ewing in Ohio:

I am now officer of the guard. All of my comrades are away at a small party at the other end of the island, whilst I alone sit here in dead silence, listening to the echo of the sentinel’s monotonous tread as he walk his post in the archway that pierces our battlements  …  Would that for a few short hours you could enjoy it, sitting on our piazza by the faint light of the new moon, listening to the ruffling surf of the sea, and cooled by the fresh breeze that comes over the ocean. It is truly a lovely night, when one may sit for hours and enjoy undisturbed that gentle quiet and repose that resembles a life of dreams, rather than actual existence in the rascally world.

June 26, 1845

As relations between the United States and Mexico begin to fray over America’s annexation of Texas, Lieutenant Bragg’s Company E of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment (with the future Union general George H. Thomas serving as his First Lieutenant) departs Moultrie aboard the brig Hayne for New Orleans. Other units prepare to follow in their wake, as Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor begins to marshal about half of the entire peacetime U.S. Army at Corpus Christi over the ensuing months, in anticipation of this forthcoming struggle.

During Taylor’s buildup, Bragg’s other Company E subordinate — Second Lt. Harvey Hill — will publish a series of sarcastic articles entitled “The Army in Texas” under the pseudonym “H. S. Foote” in Charleston’s Southern Quarterly Review, criticizing the many military shortcomings of the newly-elected Democratic administration in Washington.

August 27, 1845

Company A of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment arrives at Moultrie from Fort Johnston on the Lower Cape Fear River near Smithville [modern Southport], North Carolina, remaining less that a month before departing along with Company I on September 23rd to join Taylor’s army at Aransas Bay, Texas.

December 15, 1845

The House of Representatives of South Carolina’s General Assembly passes a resolution, directing that the land on Sullivan’s Island ceded to Federal control 40 years earlier should be re-surveyed, so as to accommodate for “certain bastions and angles of Fort Moultrie [that] have been extended over the supposed boundaries, and that buildings connected with the fortifications of the United States have been erected at different points upon the said Island, on lands belonging to the State.”

May 11, 1846

In Washington, D.C., Pres. James K. Polk requests an official declaration of war against Mexico from the U.S. Congress, which is passed next day.

May 21, 1846

Company G of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment under Capt. Robert Anderson is rotated out of Moultrie to replace Company H at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida, which in turn is relieved and reaches Moultrie seven days later. (Anderson, who will later play a leading role in the eruption of the Civil War, serves with distinction during the forthcoming Mexican campaign, until badly wounded at the Battle of Molino del Rey in September 1847. Decades afterward, his daughter would publish his letters home from that foreign service.)

October 3, 1846

Company K of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment reaches Fort Moultrie from Oglethorpe Barracks in Savannah, Georgia.

October 12, 1846

After raining all day since 9:00 a.m., Charleston Harbor is engulfed late this Monday evening and ravaged overnight by a heavy hurricane, which lasts into next day before moving swiftly northward and arriving off New York City by October 13th. This storm will be widely remembered as the “Great Havana Hurricane,” having caused much destruction and claimed hundreds of lives in passing through the Cuban capital on October 10th-11th.

October 22, 1846

Companies D and H of the 3rd Artillery quit Moultrie for Port Isabel, Texas.

December 18, 1846

The legislature of the State of South Carolina passes an act granting:

… to the United States all the right, title, and interest of the State to the lands, forts, fortifications and sites for the erection of forts on Sullivan’s Island and Shute’s Folly Island, as delineated by a plat of resurvey made by Robert Q. Pinckney: Provided, that the Act should not take effect until the United States Government shall have conveyed to the State of South Carolina all the right, title, and interest of the United States in the lands lying between the present site of Fort Moultrie and the parade ground, which is indicated as a street in the aforesaid plan of resurvey …

The U.S. Secretary of War, William A. Marcy, will respond by executing a deed to this effect on February 28, 1847.

February 20, 1847

Company K, the last regular U.S. Army unit stationed in Moultrie, departs for the Mexican theater of operations. Some recruits of the 3rd Artillery, 3rd U.S. Dragoons, and 13th U.S. Infantry, remain within the fort to complete their training.

April 30, 1847

The last recruits training in Moultrie depart for Mexico, leaving the fort to assorted other recruits and militia volunteers, who will neglect its upkeep and even perpetrate wanton acts of vandalism.

November 5, 1847

Companies L and M of the 3rd Artillery Regiment, bound from New York toward the theater of operations in Mexico, are wrecked during their voyage and put into Charleston Harbor, being temporarily housed in Fort Moultrie until they can resume their passage on December 17th.

February 2, 1848

The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed, bringing an end to the Mexican-American War.

September 27, 1848

Anticipating the return of regular U.S. Army units to reoccupy Moultrie as a peacetime garrison, funds are requested to begin refurbishing the fort.

October 23, 1848

Companies F and I of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment disembark on Sullivan’s Island from New York, to officially reoccupy Fort Moultrie on behalf of the U.S. Army. Among their subalterns may have figured the brevet Major and First Lt. Roswell S. Ripley.

January 29, 1849

1849 Moultrie by Lossing

The author and illustrator Benson J. Lossing, travelling throughout the country to research his forthcoming twin-volume Pictorial Field-Book of the American Revolutionary War, visits Sullivan’s Island and draws a sketch of Fort Moultrie. For a more detailed report on this particular woodcut, see its entry under “Old Photos and Maps.”

August 3, 1849

Company F of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment departs Fort Moultrie for service in Florida.

October 10, 1849

After two-and-a-half years of working his way through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia as an itinerant photographer, George S. Cook reaches Charleston with his wife and two young children, to settle down in this city permanently. Convinced that he can flourish in this growing metropolis of 43,000 inhabitants, Cook opens a gallery at 235 King Street, and soon begins to prosper.

July 8, 1850

The Moultrie house Hotel

The large Moultrie House hotel is opened some distance beyond the fort, to accommodate the increasing numbers of civilian tourists who are visiting Sullivan’s Island every summer, seeking relief from the seasonal peaks of heat and humidity through a respite at the seashore. Built on an eight-acre plot at a cost of $32,000, this new luxury resort boasts a billiards room, bowling alley, and shooting gallery, in addition to covered bathhouses for any of its couple of hundred guests who may wish to take refreshing dips in the nearby surf.

August, 1850

A disease believed to be yellow fever appears at Fort Moultrie, although its post surgeon — Dr. John B. Porter — disagrees with his counterparts in Charleston, instead asserting that this outbreak is more likely attributable to dengue fever. All but ten of the 48 officers and men comprising its garrison, plus 43 of the dependent women and children residing in the vicinity of Moultrie, contract this disease before it runs its course — but the fact that none die, indicates that this problem may well not have been yellow fever.

November 23, 1850

Amid an upsurge in secessionist sentiment throughout South Carolina, four companies of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment arrive to garrison both Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney, sparking protests from Gov. Whitemarsh B. Seabrook and other leading figures to Pres. Millard Fillmore in Washington, D.C., denouncing such reinforcement as unnecessary.

December 1851

The renowned Swiss-born naturalist Dr. Louis Agassiz returns to Charleston to teach for a couple of winters at the Medical College of South Carolina, and he also establishes a seaside laboratory on Sullivan’s Island to study the flora and fauna of the Atlantic Ocean. During this period of residence, he will furthermore commission a photographer named J. T. Zealy to take a series of ­daguerreotypes of slaves standing unclothed, shot from several angles, to support Agassiz’s contention that blacks are a different and inferior species than whites.

September 11, 1852

According to U.S. Army Medical Department records, an initial case of a yellow-fever outbreak is recorded on this date at Fort Moultrie (striking Sgt. William McNair of Company K, 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment), after which another 32 of its 106-man garrison will fall ill during the ensuing epidemic, and four eventually succumb — the only fatalities registered at this outpost throughout that entire year. Nevertheless, the medical officer Dr. John B. Porter has also noted that among its total peacetime complement of 112 officers and soldiers, there are only “51 sober, 11 drinkers, 14 hard drinkers, 63 drunkards, and one opium taker.”

The effects of this outbreak are even worse among the detachment (Capt. John F. Roland’s Company M of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment) which has been sent to occupy nearby Castle Pinckney, according to an account written later by its Lt. John C. Tidball for the regimental history:

In the summer of 1852, yellow fever then severely raging in Charleston, struck Roland’s company, occupying Castle Pinckney. This is a very small place and was without a hospital or any place that could be converted into one, and we had to depend upon occasional visits from a physician in Charleston. Roland took the fever and died in a few days [on September 28, 1852], and so did several of the company. Lt. [Harvey A.] Allen took it, but subsequently recovered. Lt. [S. S.] Anderson, afterwards of the Confederate service, ran away from it, leaving me all alone. Being refused repeated requests to remove the healthy part of the company to some more suitable place, I finally called a boat and removed them to Fort Moultrie. [on October 1, 1852]

October 1, 1852

As noted in the preceding entry, Lt. John C. Tidball withdraws the survivors of Company M from Castle Pinckney, and rejoins the main contingent of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment stationed at Fort Moultrie.

November 4, 1852

As described in the court-martial proceedings instituted against brevet Capt. Harvey A. Allen of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment, he was:

... a member of the officers’ mess at Fort Moultrie, S.C., in the month of November 1852, and that at the dinner table of the mess on the 4th of that month, while Lt. [J. H.] Carlisle was engaged in conversation with some of the other officers, in no wise relating to Capt. Allen, he (Capt. Allen) took a tumbler of water, threw a portion of it into Lt. Carlisle’s face, and the remaining portion at Col. [John] Munroe, and then holding the tumbler up, offered to throw it at other officers of the mess, saying “I insult you, and you, and you and you are a damned humbug,” or words to that effect. That Capt. Allen was taken from the mess room by Major [Roswell S.] Ripley and Lieut. [John C.]  Tidball, and conducted to his room by Lieut. Tidball.

June 15, 1853

Company M of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment departs Fort Moultrie, having been reassigned to garrison-duty at Fort Washita in the “Indian Territory”.

June 30, 1853

After an inspection by Moultrie’s second-in-command, Maj. William Hays, the U.S. Quartermaster-General is informed that because of excessive dampness, the fort’s lower level is only fit to be used for kitchens, messes, storerooms, and servants’ quarters. However, the upper levels of its three main buildings can nonetheless comfortably house “two companies, one field officer, one captain, and two subalterns.”

September 30, 1853

Bird’s eye-view of the City of Charleston, South Carolina, published in June 1853. (Barnum’s Illustrated News)

Graduated three months earlier from West Point, the 21-year-old brevet Second Lt. John M. Schofield arrives at Fort Moultrie to become enrolled as an officer in the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment. For his impressions on this, his first of many duty-assignments in the U.S. Army, see “John Schofield’s Remembrance” on our Written Descriptions page.

November 18, 1853

Moultrie’s remaining peacetime garrison — Companies E and K of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment — go aboard the steamer Pennsylvania to be transferred to Tampa Bay, Florida, leaving the fort temporarily empty once again, although on this occasion only for a few weeks.

December 11, 1853

Companies G and H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment land from Forts Myers and Meade in Florida, to take up quarters in Moultrie. Their officers include Second Lt. Henry W. Slocum, who a dozen years later will command a Union corps in Sherman’s “march to the sea.”

September 6, 1854

This Wednesday, winds begin to howl out of the northeast and next morning veer around sharply to the southeast, gaining in fury as a huge hurricane makes landfall near Savannah, Georgia. That same Thursday afternoon, residents of Charleston Harbor experience its rising winds and lowering clouds, and by nightfall of September 7th are engulfed by this massive hurricane as well. A writer will later describe its effects on Moultrieville: “the homes all over the island went down like card-houses; ere long the Moultrie House [Hotel] was the only building left standing.”

Roiling surf carves a clear breach across Sullivan’s Island, sweeping away six houses and injuring a score of inhabitants, as terrified civilians take refuge within Fort Moultrie, almost 1,000 being huddled inside it and the brick Presbyterian Church by Friday morning, September 8th. These refugees will subsequently praise the “soldierly courtesy” extended by Moultrie’s garrison, and although no fatalities are recorded, most edifices on Sullivan’s Island are either heavily damaged or destroyed. The hurricane finally abates and moves away on Saturday, September 9th, leaving the island lying flooded under two feet of water. The fort emerges waterlogged and distressed, yet structurally sound.

December 20, 1854

Funds are requested to replace the three flights of stairs in front of Moultrie’s main buildings, as well as the seven smaller ones radiating out from its Officers’ Quarters, all of which have been left dangerously weakened in the aftermath of the hurricane. All lower-level flooring is to be replaced as well, and many walls re-plastered.

March 31, 1855

Capt. George W. Cullum, the new U.S. Corps of Engineers officer assigned to supervise works in Charleston Harbor, inspects Moultrie and files a report with Colonel Totten indicating that the fort’s drainage must be improved, and other changes and repairs effected. Such enhancements will include erecting a new hot-shot furnace behind its main batteries.

October 1, 1855

Based upon Cullum’s report, a $5,000 budget is approved and funds made available through the U.S. Treasury in Washington, to carry out the necessary repairs and improvements to Fort Moultrie. The annual Report of the Secretary of War for next year will declare that such operations are to embrace:

  •    “replacing the decayed interior shingled slope of the parapet of the fort by a thin brick wall;
  •    putting new doors to the six small service-magazines;
  •    readjusting [the] inner Parade;
  •    constructing and enlarging drains;
  •    building a new cistern without the fort, and putting up gutters to lead the water thereto;
  •    repaving [the] areas behind officers’ quarters and soldiers’ barracks;
  •    and making various small repairs of the fort.”

The latter will include remodeling and rearranging the interior of Moultrie’s Guardhouse, rebuilding its piazzas, fixing the slate roofs, etc. This budget concludes with the words:

The balance of the appropriation will be applied to constructing a fifteen-feet shot-furnace, all the materials for which are on hand; putting down pintle centers and traverse circles of the Columbiads designed for the new armament.

November 8, 1855

The U.S. Army Register notes on Page 38 of its 1856 edition that Second Lt. Waterman Palmer, Jr., of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment, has died on this date at Fort Moultrie.

February, 1856

Computer-graphic recreation of Fort Moultrie’s hot-shot furnace at evening, ca. May 1860. (Battlefields in Motion, Ltd) If you like this image, it and others are available as Wallpapers of various sizes on our Free Downloads page

Moultrie’s new hot-shot furnace is finished, to replace the older one which had been left weakened and unserviceable after the fort’s parade-ground had been flooded by the hurricane of a year-and-a-half earlier. (Curiously, when Dr. S. Wylie Crawford of the U.S. Army’s Medical Department arrived on September 8, 1860, to assume the office of Assistant Surgeon at Moultrie, he would later note in his reminiscences: “On its cramped parade were piles of shots and shells, and an old furnace for heating shot” ... although this particular furnace was in fact scarcely four years old.)

May 20, 1856

The War Department issues special instructions for a distribution of “modern cannon of large caliber in the existing fortifications of important harbors”, an upgrade which means that Moultrie will — in due course — be scheduled to receive ten new 8-inch Columbiads.

July 11, 1856

The U.S. government enters into a contract with “G. A. Trenholm and others, commissioners for improvement of Charleston harbor,” to excavate the bar of Maffitt’s Channel “at the rate of 10,000 cubic yards of sand, shells, &c., per month, at the rate of 60 cents per cubic yard.”

August 30, 1856

A contract is entered into between Lt. Henry W. Slocum, Assistant Adjutant Quartermaster at Fort Moultrie, and one “D. Sinclair” for the lease “of a room on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, for a paymaster’s office, for ten months from July 1, 1856, at $240 per annum.” This office was apparently to be used for paying the dredgers engaged in clearing Maffitt’s Channel.

October 18, 1856

Company F of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment departs Moultrie for Fort Capron, Florida, followed next day by Company G, bound for Key West. Moultrie will remain vacant for nine days, until Companies A and D of the 1st Artillery arrive from Florida under Capts. Israel Vogdes and Haskin, to reconstitute its garrison.

February 1857

Having been contracted by the U.S. engineer Captain Cullum, a dredging machine designed by Nathaniel H. Lebby of Charleston begins operation to open up the Sullivan’s Island Channel or Maffitt’s Channel, “but owing to stormy weather, inexperience in working the new dredging machine, and frequent breakings of the suction hose,” little progress is initially achieved.

April 18, 1857

The wooden Front Range harbor-beacon beside Fort Moultrie is accidentally destroyed by fire.

June 1857

The dredging of Maffitt’s Channel is resumed, more successfully than before, an average of 351 cubic yards of “sand, broken shells, and occasionally post-pliocine clay” being removed daily. It is reported that this dredging is “performed in mid-channel, across the bulkhead (about 600 yards long) extending from near the point known as Bowman’s Jetty to the Moultrie House.” In particular, an obstructive protrusion from Drunken Dick Shoal is removed.

July 15, 1857

Congress having appropriated necessary funds for the anticipated service-wide artillery upgrade, Captain Cullum sets about procuring circular pads of cut granite, so as to receive and mount the ten new Columbiads which have been designated for installation at both corners of Moultrie’s main batteries.

July 22, 1857

The Edgefield Advertiser newspaper publishes the following “Miscellaneous Item”:

To some comments upon a late hop at Mixer’s delightful summer Hotel on Sullivan’s Island, the Charleston “Mercury” adds the following emphatic recommendation of that establishment:
One thing we are assured of — no better beach, bed, provisioning and music, can be obtained elseswhere, and not half so easily. Its facilities are known to all here, and we have only to commend it again to our country friends and travelers generally throughout the South.

August 25, 1857

Cullum informs Washington that a new Front Range Beacon has been rebuilt beside Moultrie, its Fresnel lens “placed in a light room on the top of a wooden frame, both of which are painted light brown.” This fixed light, standing 45 feet high, is re-illuminated on the evening of September 1st.

October 1, 1857

Having secured the necessary amount of cut granite, Cullum recruits a local work-detail and begins tearing out ten old gun-positions along Moultrie’s seaside parapet, so as to be re-bricked with breast-high wall recesses designed to accommodate the new center-pintle Columbiad pads.

December, 1857

The 1st U.S. Artillery regimental band is posted to Fort Moultrie.

March 24, 1858

A circular entitled General Orders No. 3 is distributed throughout the U.S. Army, announcing changes to its military uniforms, particularly the introduction of new “Hardee” dress hats and forage caps, as well as various other minor trimmings.

April 28, 1858

Having completed five of Fort Moultrie’s new Columbiad pads, Cullum is succeeded in command of all U.S. engineering projects around Charleston Harbor by Lt. John G. Foster.

June 1, 1858

Capt. Josiah Gorgas of the Ordnance Department, newly arrived from duty in Maine and staying in the Mills House Hotel, assumes command this evening over the U.S. Arsenal in Charleston from Capt. Charles P. Kingsbury.

June 6, 1858

Company H of the 1st U.S. Artillery Regiment under Brevet Capt. Truman Seymour disembarks from the steamer Atlantic, having been rotated out from Key West, Florida, upon the cessation of hostilities against the last few surviving Seminole bands. Four days afterward, Moultrie’s resident Companies A and D depart for Fort Monroe, Virginia, after which Lt.-Col. John Lane Gardner and Company E under Capt. Abner Doubleday also arrive aboard the steamer Gordon from Fort Capron, Florida, to join H at Moultrie as of June 16th.

These latest two units — initially totaling 147 officers and men of Companies E and H of the 1st Artillery — will remain as the fort’s last pre-war Federal garrison, until they are abruptly transferred across the harbor-mouth into Sumter on the evening of December 26, 1860.

August 12, 1858

An article in the Charleston Courier newspaper describes the amenities available at Moultrieville on Sullivan’s Island as including a planter’s hotel, a grand palace “with magnificent piazzas looking out over the sea,” Mrs. Fitzsimmons’s boarding-house, and a fine old Episcopal church, all being accessible via a round-trip steamer service six times daily.

This same day, a private named Jones falls ill at Fort Moultrie, being at first misdiagnosed as only suffering from gastritis, but then his conditions abruptly worsens and Jones dies four days later of yellow fever.

August 19, 1858

Foster reports that Moultrie’s ten new Columbiad platforms are ready to receive their armament, so that shipment of the actual guns can be cleared.

August 27, 1858

The slave-brig Echo, captured six days earlier off the north coast of Cuba by the ten-gun, 80-man U.S.S. Dolphin under Lt. John N. Maffitt, is sailed into Charleston Harbor by its U.S. Navy prize-crew for adjudication under the Federal anti-slave trade laws. The arrested English slaver captain, Edward N. Townsend, has departed West Africa with 455 captives aboard, but only 318 remained alive when intercepted by the Dolphin. Lieutenant Maffitt, himself a Southerner, is horrified by the slaves’ plight, ordering them freed immediately from the hold, while later noting that “privation of every kind, coupled with disease, had reduced all of them to the merest skeletons.” They had been forced aboard so tightly, Maffitt will add, “that they slept in as close contact as spoons when packed together … it is impossible for you to understand their sad and distressed condition.” Twelve more died during the Echo’s five-day passage to Charleston.

Yet public opinion in South Carolina (whose leadership has been lobbying for a reopening of the trans-Atlantic slave trade), is incensed by this interception. The Charleston Courier newspaper angrily editorializes:

The slave crew were carried to our District jail this day, handcuffed. Think of that! Twenty men carried handcuffed through the streets of a slave-holding city by the President of the Young Men’s Christian Association! And for what? For purchasing Negroes in Africa and bringing them to the New World. For rescuing undying souls from the night of the heathen barbarism and transporting them to the full blaze of the Christianity of the Nineteenth Century.

The Columbia Guardian opines that since the slaves have been properly purchased, “we think the officers of the Dolphin committed piracy.”

September 5, 1858

The day after two more yellow-fever patients have died in the fort hospital, Colonel Gardner orders its Guardhouse cleared of prisoners, thoroughly cleansed, and then addresses an assembly of his troops, telling them that “if they did not leave off drinking, we should have half of them in the myrtle grove” — the traditional burial-plot outside of Moultrie’s walls.

More cases nonetheless occur, as a full-blown epidemic eventually infects a total of 49 soldiers and claims the lives of 28, debilitating Moultrie’s peacetime garrison. At its worst, deaths are occurring so frequently that Gardner orders hasty interments in rough boxes, in graves dug only a couple of feet deep — “in one or two instances without the customary religious observances” — causing some of his men additional distress, at seeing their comrades buried “like dogs.” Once this epidemic abates, though, the graves will be more properly tended.

Civilians also avoid the fort throughout this interlude, for fear of becoming infected themselves, although the disease spreads across Sullivan’s Island irregardless. It is estimated that of the roughly 2,000 people living on the island (including Moultrie’s garrison), some 65 people will die.

October 7, 1858

Capt. Abner Doubleday and two Lieutenants present formal letters to Colonel Gardner, requesting that Surgeon Byrne be court-martialed for his unprofessional conduct during the yellow-fever outbreak.

March 26, 1859

At 11:00 a.m., a general court-martial presided over by brevet Brig. Gen. Sylvester Churchill convenes to try Moultrie’s medical officer, Dr. Bernard M. Byrne — a surgeon with the rank of Major in the U.S. Army’s Medical Department — on two charges of unprofessional conduct during the yellow-fever epidemic suffered at the fort that previous summer and autumn. After a two-week trial, Byrne will be acquitted, although an unfavorable report is appended to his military record.

August 3, 1859

Capt. Josiah Gorgas, as an ordnance officer in the U.S. Army, ca. 1860

The Ordnance officer in command of the U.S. Arsenal at Charleston, Capt. Josiah Gorgas, records in his journal how he and his young family have moved across the harbor from the city and hope to spend a pleasant summer “at Sullivan’s Island, in the house next (west) of the Fort.” He and his wife Amelia find this new locale refreshing, and healthful for their infant children.

August 28, 1859

The Aurora Borealis shines with unusual brightness because of a geomagnetic storm blowing over the North Pole, a phenomenon which is clearly visible over many parts of the United States, Europe, and Japan. The Charleston Mercury newspaper publishes an eyewitness account of its effects from a woman present on Sullivan’s Island, who writes:

The eastern sky appeared of a blood red color. It seemed brightest exactly in the east, as though the full moon, or rather the sun, were about to rise. It extended almost to the zenith. The whole island was illuminated. The sea reflected the phenomenon, and no one could look at it without thinking of the passage in the Bible which says: “the sea was turned to blood.” The shells on the beach, reflecting light, resembled coals of fire.

September 28, 1859

Two of Moultrie’s new M.1857 8-inch Columbiad guns, properly mounted upon their center-pintle pads, as photographed ca. August 1860. (Osborn & Durbec)

Ten new 8-inch Columbiad guns having arrived, yet failed to fit upon Moultrie’s pre-cut granite platforms, Capt. Abner Doubleday orders the engineering officer Cullum to return from Baltimore so as to resolve this problem. It turns out that pads for larger 10-inch rather than 8-inch guns have erroneously been prepared, so that Cullum has the existing pads cut down in size, and their iron rails raised and reshaped by Capt. Josiah Gorgas at the Charleston Arsenal.

While awaiting completion of these alterations, Cullum also repairs several of Moultrie’s pintle-blocks, re-hangs its main gates, improves its interior surface-grading, and fixes the wooden railings along its main-battery staircase. The 8-inch Columbiad guns are properly ensconced at Moultrie’s Southeast and Southwest Angles by mid-November 1859.

October 16, 1859

Overnight, the fanatical abolitionist John Brown and eighteen followers seize the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, hoping to use its weaponry to foment a slave insurrection. Instead, no uprising occurs and they are overwhelmed two days later by a scratch force under Col. Robert E. Lee.

October 22, 1859

Out west in California, this day’s edition of the Sacramento Daily Union newspaper (Volume 18, Number 2674) includes the following brief report among its newly-received “Atlantic News”:

The General-in-Chief [Winfield Scott] has remitted the sentence of Ordnance Sergeant (now private) Williams, stationed at Fort Moultrie, S.C. Williams was tried by Court Martial for disobedience of orders, etc., to his superior officer, and sentenced to be reduced to the ranks and be discharged from the Army. His previous good conduct, however, having been brought to the notice of the Commanding General of the Army, he caused him to be restored to his former rank and position.

December 2, 1859

The abolitionist insurgent John Brown is hanged in Charles Town, Virginia.

December 5, 1859

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans nominate Congressman John Sherman of Ohio (William Tecumseh Sherman’s younger brother) for the Speakership, in part because of his moderate stance on the issue of abolition. However, Congressman Sherman’s support for an anti-slavery book entitled The Impending Crisis derails his nomination, after which the Democrats counter with several nominations of their own — such as Thomas S. Bocock of Virginia or John A. McClernand of Illinois — but these nominees also prove to be unsuccessful, in part because of splits within their own party. The selection of a House Speaker will therefore turn into an acrimonious and protracted debate, with many members even carrying weapons into the chamber.

January 25, 1860

In a speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Lawrence M. Keitt of South Carolina declares:

African slavery is the corner-stone of the industrial, social, and political fabric of the South; and whatever wars against it, wars against her very existence. Strike down the institution of African slavery, and you reduce the South to depopulation and barbarism ... The anti-slavery party contend that slavery is wrong in itself, and the Government is a consolidated national democracy. We of the South contend that slavery is right, and that this is a confederate Republic of sovereign States.

Keitt is among a group of radical sectionalists known as the “Fire-Eaters” (others include William L. Yancey, Edmund Ruffin, Robert Rhett, Louis T. Wigfall, Nathaniel Beverly Tucker, John A. Quitman, William Porcher Miles, and James D. B. DeBow of DeBow's Review), whose embracce of secession will materially contribute to the outbreak of the Civil War.

February 1, 1860

After two months of bitter wrangling, the Republicans finally elect William Pennington of New Jersey as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, with 119 votes — the bare minimum required for a win.

February 2, 1860

 Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi introduces a series of resolutions which call for a Federal code protecting slavery in U.S. Territories, which are passed by the Senate Democratic caucus, an action further fracturing that party along sectional lines.

February 24, 1860

The General Assembly of Alabama passes some joint resolutions, which are intended to take effect in the event of the election of a Republican to the office of U.S. President, that include a call for a convention “to consider, determine and do whatever in the opinion of said Convention, the rights, interests, and honor of the State of Alabama requires to be done for their protection.”

February 27, 1860

Abraham Lincoln delivers the famous “Cooper Union Address” in New York City, attacking slavery and presenting a compelling case on the Founding Fathers’ objections to the spread of slavery, concluding that the Federal government has “the power of restraining the extension of the institution.” His speech will be widely reprinted in Northern newspapers, and help him secure the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination.

March 5, 1860

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approves the formation of a committee to investigate alleged corruption and malfeasance in the Buchanan administration, the President denouncing this investigation as a partisan plot to besmirch his “personal and official integrity.”

March 6, 1860

Lincoln gives another speech in New Haven, Connecticut, declaring:

Whether we will or not, the question of Slavery is the question, the all absorbing topic of the day. It is true that all of us — and by that I mean, not the Republican party alone, but the whole American people, here and elsewhere — all of us wish this question settled, wish it out of the way.

March 9, 1860

The first Japanese embassy to America arrives aboard the U.S.S. Powhatan at San Francisco, California, to formally establish diplomatic relations with the United States following Commodore Perry’s “opening” of that country six years previously. The four-month tour of this colorful Japanese delegation through Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, will prove a major cultural event throughout the country.

April 3, 1860

The Pony Express begins operating its fast overland mail-service between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California, with riders changing horses at 153 stations spaced some seven to twenty miles apart. Their route follows the old migrant trail to the Platte River through South Pass to Fort Bridger in Wyoming, then veers south around the lower end of the Great Salt Lake to Carson City, Nevada, and on through Donner Pass to Sacramento. This courier service will fail only a year-and-a-half later, upon completion of the first transcontinental telegraph-line.

April 23, 1860

The troubled Democratic National Convention opens in Charleston, South Carolina, with some Southern delegations planning to walk out unless a plank calling for passage of a Federal slave code for the emergent U. S. Territories is included in the party platform. This measure, they hope, will secure the institution of slavery, not only in the North, but in the largely unsettled areas of the expanding nation.

The ensuing convention proves to be deeply divided, Stephen A. Douglas being the clear favorite among Northern Democrats, yet opposed by Southern delegates for his Freeport Doctrine (a concept Douglas has put forth during the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, stating that a U.S. territory’s failure to pass laws enforcing slavery would — by default — outlaw slavery within that territory). Moreover, “Fire-Eaters” among the Southern Democrats actually hope that the Republican candidate will win the forthcoming Presidential election, so as to hasten the secession of slave states.

When Douglas’s anti-slavery plank is finally voted into the platform over a previous vote in favor of a pro-slavery version, fifty Southern delegates make good their threat and dramatically storm out of Institute Hall in protest. Their withdrawal leaves the convention without sufficient numbers to give Douglas the nomination, so that after 54 ballots fail to produce the needed two-thirds vote, the remaining Northern Democrats vote to adjourn on April 30th and reconvene in Baltimore by mid-June.

May 9, 1860

The newly-formed Constitutional Union Party, comprised largely of conservative Whigs and Know-Nothings concerned about the gathering national crisis, opens its convention in Baltimore, Maryland. Proclaiming themselves an alternative to “Black Republicanism” or Democratic demagoguery, these delegates nominate John Bell of Tennessee (a border-state Whig and large slaveholder) as their Presidential candidate, and Edward Everett (President of Harvard University and a former U.S. Secretary of State) for Vice President, but otherwise refuse to adopt a platform — instead pledging themselves solely to the preservation of the Union and the Constitution.

May 16, 1860

The Republican convention opens in Chicago, William Seward emerging early on as leading contender for their Presidential nomination. However, he is defeated by Lincoln on the third ballot, because the latter has fewer enemies among party ranks and is viewed by most members as a political moderate. The Republican platform will call for a higher tariff, a ban on slavery in U.S. Territories, Federal money for internal improvement projects, and a Homestead Act.

June 11, 1860

Democratic delegates who previously joined the April 30th walkout in Charleston, meet in Richmond, Virginia, in an unsuccessful attempt to nominate a candidate and devise a party platform.

June 18, 1860

The adjourned Democratic National Convention reconvenes in Baltimore, Maryland. Douglas’s adherents refuse to seat William L. Yancey’s delegation from Alabama, so that delegates from the Deep South finally withdraw again on June 22nd, organizing a rival “Constitutional Democratic Party” under Yancey’s guidance (which will nominate John C. Breckinridge to run for President). Meanwhile, the “Regular” Democrats nominate Douglas and adjourn by June 23rd.

July 9, 1860

The military storekeeper at Apalachicola, Florida, Frederick C. Humphreys, succeeds Captain Gorgas in command of the U.S. Arsenal at Charleston, the latter departing by train from the city with his family — “a pretty place which we left with regret,” as he noted in his journal, travelling to take over the Frankfort Arsenal northeast of Philadelphia. (Although Northern born, Gorgas will eventually resign his U.S. Army commission on March 27, 1861 and return into Charleston with his family on April 3rd, installing them in the city once again before proceeding on himself to Montgomery, Alabama, to receive the title of Confederate Chief of Ordnance.)

August 25, 1860

From the steps of Norfolk’s City Hall, the northern Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas tells a crowd of 7,000 Virginians that he believes Lincoln’s election would not be a just cause for secession, and that the Federal government has the right to use force in order to preserve the Union.

September 5, 1860

The Southern Democratic candidate John Breckinridge tells a crowd in Lexington, Kentucky, that his rival Douglas espouses principles which are “repugnant alike to reason and the Constitution.”

Horizontal Rule

Federal Fortification and Evacuation (September-December 1860)

Early September, 1860

Amid rising tensions between various Southern states and the Federal government in Washington, the U.S. Army’s Chief Engineer — Col. Joseph G. Totten — orders Brevet Capt. John G. Foster to return to Moultrie, so as to “put that and the other defenses of Charleston harbor in perfect order,” allegedly because of fears of a possible dispute involving European powers bent upon intervening in Mexico, but more plausibly in anticipation of a confrontation with South Carolina’s separatists. Foster has a sum of $8,500 at his disposal to finance any labors.

September 6, 1860

After a brief illness, Fort Moultrie’s medical officer — Maj. Bernard M. Byrne, rated as a Surgeon in the U.S. Army’s Medical Department — unexpectedly dies of what is at first misdiagnosed as yellow fever, although it soon turns out to have been from non-contagious dengue or “broken-bone” fever.

Next morning, an urgent telegraph from Washington reaches Capt. and Asst. Surgeon Samuel Wylie Crawford as he is breakfasting with friends while enjoying leave in Newport, Rhode Island, directing him to “proceed forthwith to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, and report for duty to the commanding officer of that station.” Travelling all day by train, Crawford reaches Charleston that same night, presenting himself before Lt.-Col. John Lane Gardner on Sullivan’s Island by the morning of September 8, 1860, to assume the duties as that garrison’s medical officer.

September 10, 1860

Republican candidates win a resounding victory in Maine (at this time, the country’s northernmost state, where Congressional elections are by tradition held early), auguring well for this party’s projected performance two months later during the general elections. Over the next few days, clubs of Republican supporters known as “Wide Awakes,” hold massive celebratory marches by torchlight through many Northern cities.

September 12, 1860

Contemporary engraving which shows the sand-dunes built up against peacetime Fort Moultrie, and wooden flight-of-steps for strolling civilians to freely ascend to its parapets, during the summer of 1860. (Harper’s Weekly)

The U.S. engineer Captain Foster disembarks on Sullivan’s Island from Baltimore, quickly hiring a fatigue-party of local workers to begin removing the large dune which has formed off of Moultrie’s southeastern side, by digging out an intervening ditch. The extracted sand will also be used to begin building up a stretch of elevated ground along this ditch’s outer rim, known as a “glacis,” which once completed can be easily swept by the fort’s heavy guns loaded with grapeshot. Carpenters will furthermore erect cross-fences made from scrap timber around the perimeter, so as to check any more sand from drifting up against the fort’s outer scarp-walls.

Foster meanwhile has the southwestern ditch excavated right down to bedrock, so as to plant the foundations for an additional projecting redoubt known as a “flanking caponniere” below Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, plus removing earth from the rampart directly above this new defense so as to dig a tunnel downward “to form the communication from the terreplein to the caponniere.” The two upper stories of the fort’s main Guardhouse will also be loopholed for riflemen, while a large number of masons are specifically requested to prepare to come from Baltimore to finish these labors, having previously worked there on Fort Carroll under Foster.

September 24, 1860

A public meeting is held at Ronkins Long Room, on Ferry Street in nearby Mount Pleasant, at which eleven secessionist resolutions are passed. The tenth records how it has been:

Resolved that in the opinion of this meeting, the election of Mr. Lincoln to the office of President of the United States, is in itself sufficient cause for war.

while the eleventh:

Resolved that in the event of Mr. Lincoln’s election, South Carolina should make every effort to meet one or more of the other southern states in convention, to determine the best mode of dissolving the connection with the present union.

October 5, 1860

South Carolina’s Gov. William Henry Gist, notifies neighboring authorities that his state is considering secession from the Union.

October 20, 1860

Capt. Charles H. Simonton of Charleston’s volunteer Washington Light Infantry, offers the services of his militia organization — described as “an independent battalion of light troops of not less than 200 men” — to South Carolina’s Governor Gist, which is accepted.

Late October, 1860

A gallery or tunnel is opened from the interior of Moultrie to the flanking caponniere below its Southwest Angle, and another started to a second caponniere being built below its Southeast Angle, both of these new redoubts being intended “to flank with their fire the fort’s three seafronts.” However, their construction has been slowed by delays in receiving embrasure-irons and pintle-stones from the New York Engineer Depot, as well as by Colonel Gardner’s reluctance to prematurely install any big guns amid such chaos. Foster nonetheless departs for Baltimore, so as to bring back his masons to complete these works.

November 1, 1860

Acting on Foster’s suggestion, Col. H. K. Craig of the Ordnance Department writes to Gardner from Washington, requesting that 40 muskets be made available to the workmen laboring on Fort Sumter, so as to better protect the armaments and ammunition already being stockpiled there.

November 3, 1860

Questions are raised at a secessionist rally in Charleston about the strengthening of Moultrie’s defenses, so that a large group — prominently wearing their blue cockades — visit Sullivan’s Island and pass into the fort, to inspect its works in detail.

November 5, 1860

Gardner writes politely declining Colonel Craig’s request of November 1st [see above] for the issue of 40 muskets to be distributed among loyal hired laborers at Fort Sumter, instead requesting the dispatch of two companies of 100 “drilled recruits” of the U.S. Army.

November 6, 1860

In the nation-wide election, Abraham Lincoln of the Republican Party emerges victorious among four candidates on the ballot, receiving 40% of the popular vote and winning eighteen Northern states, enough to secure 183 out of a total of 303 Electoral College votes. The Democratic vote is split between a Northern candidate (Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois) who gains 21.5% of the popular vote, but carries only one state, while the Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge wins 14.3%, along with all eleven Southern states. John Bell of Tennessee, running for the alternative Constitutional Union Party, finishes fourth with 12.5% of the popular vote and three states.

November 7, 1860

This morning, telegraphic messages begin reaching Charleston, confirming Lincoln’s electoral victory and inflaming secessionist resolve. Amid this charged atmosphere, Colonel Gardner sends a written order across the harbor to Capt. Frederick C. Humphreys, the military Ordnance storekeeper at the U.S. Arsenal within the city, advising him that an officer will be sent from Moultrie next day to withdraw all of its “fixed” or prepared small-arms ammunition for transfer into his compound on Sullivan’s Island, “in view of the excitement now existing in this city and State.”

November 8, 1860

This Thursday afternoon, Capt. Truman Seymour reaches a Charleston wharf with a detachment of men aboard a schooner, to transfer the munitions from the U.S. Arsenal to Fort Moultire, but this shipment is blocked by a crowd of angry civilians and he returns empty-handed by evening.

November 9, 1860

By a vote of 44-1, South Carolina’s state Senate passes a bill calling for a convention to gather in January 1861, to decide whether the state should secede in the wake of the Presidential results. After protests in Charleston and other communities against such a lengthy delay, though, this bill will be amended next morning in the state House of Representatives so as to move the date for the election of convention delegates up to December 6, 1860, and the opening of the convention itself to December 17th.

November 10, 1860

James Chesnut, Jr., becomes the first Southern legislator to resign from the United States Senate (in the process declaring that he will drink all of the “blood that might be shed as a result of secession”), being quickly followed by his fellow-Senator from South Carolina, James H. Hammond.

November 11, 1860

Eyewitness sketch of the work completed by Foster’s laborers along Moultrie’s southern front, as shown in the January 12, 1861 edition of “Harper’s Weekly.” The southwestern caponniere (1) can be seen in the foreground at left, as well as the newly-dug ditch (2) which has removed the encroaching dune and extends around the fort’s Southeast Angle (3), bristling atop with heavy guns. The counterscarp (4) is being finished at right, with the glacis (5) barely visible beyond. Note the harbor-beacon and semaphore a few hundred yards further east, as well as the hotels and civilian houses stretching into the distance. (Harper’s Weekly)

Preceded by almost 150 masons who have begun reaching Sullivan’s Island from Baltimore, Foster himself returns this Sunday to discover that the pintle-blocks for Moultrie’s howitzer embrasures have still not been received from the Engineer Depot in New York. Since the gallery or tunnel connecting the fort’s Southwest Caponniere with its terreplein above is finished but not yet covered over, while the southeastern tunnel is still being cut, he decides to erect two additional flanking defenses known as bastionets; the northeastern one a wooden platform mounting four field-pieces, and the northwestern one as a masonry insert jutting from the outer wall and designed to station riflemen. Both additions are to be protected by a stout board-fence ten feet high, topped by strips studded with nails and backed by a “dry brick wall raised to the height of a man’s head, and loopholed and embrasured.”

Foster leaves a total of 120 workmen to continue strengthening Moultrie’s structural defenses under his assistant, Lt. George W. Snyder, while himself leading the remaining 109 masons across the harbor to hasten completion of the construction of brand-new Fort Sumter. During his absence, Snyder’s men will:

  • complete the gallery-tunnel leading into the Southeast Caponniere and re-lay its rampart coping-stones;
  • cut through the northwest parapet to enlarge the cut of its salient angle;
  • raise vertical walks on the scarp-foundation below it to provide a firm footing for its new bastionet;
  • as well as re-laying the Northwest Bastion’s coping-stones.

A hatch is also cut inside Moultrie’s Guardhouse, so as to communicate with its upper level. Meanwhile, its garrison commander Gardner — at the urging of his officers — orders his gunners to remount the artillery-pieces which had been temporarily removed to undergo repairs.

November 12, 1860

On this Monday, 55-year-old Maj. Robert Anderson — peacefully engaged at New York City in administrative duties on a couple of military review-boards ­— is ordered by telegraph to report to the Sec. of War John B. Floyd in Washington, D.C.

The Richmond Daily Dispatch newspaper of Virginia will also later report how on this same evening:

In Charleston, Monday night [November 12, 1860], a large secession meeting was held, at which resolutions were adopted pledging the participators to place the State, “at the earliest practicable moment, in a position of political independence of the present Federal Government.” ... The Charleston First Regiment of Artillery has tendered its services to the Governor.

November 15, 1860

Having returned to New York City after his summons to Washington, D.C., Major Anderson is again instructed by telegraph to depart once more, this time to supplant Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner in command of beleaguered Fort Moultrie in Charleston Harbor.

November 17, 1860

Contemporary wood-engraving of South Carolina’s new Palmetto flag being ceremoniously hoisted in Charleston on November 17, 1860. (New York Illustrated News)

At a mass-rally near the Charleston Hotel, a 100-foot “Liberty pole” is erected and a white Palmetto flag raised to its peak, amid the cheers of thousands and fired salutes by the Washington Artillery. The Marsellaise is played as a jubilant accompaniment, followed by the dirge “Miserere” from the opera Il Trovatore — to mock the passing of the Union — after which many speeches are delivered that extol South Carolina’s upcoming secession. People vow that the Stars-and-Stripes shall “never wave again in Charleston,” and none can be seen on any of the anchored ships, only a single one still flying over distant Fort Moultrie.

The inactive city militia company known as the “Sumter Guards” — which have not held any meetings or performed any drills since 1846 — officially reconstitute themselves as an active unit. And as the Charleston-based steamship Columbia departs New York Harbor this same day on its scheduled run back toward its home-port, Capt. Michael Berry hauls down its Stars-and-Stripes and substitutes his own design of a South Carolinian flag, which displays fifteen stars on a vermilion background — the same number of states that still have pro-slavery laws left on their books.

November 18, 1860

Writing years later in his Reminiscences, Abner Doubleday would recollect the defensive dispositions undertaken up until this date at Fort Moultrie, describing them in the following terms:

By the 18th of November, we considered ourselves reasonably secure against a coup-de-main. Our guns were up, and loaded with canister, and we had a fair supply of hand-grenades ready for use. With a view to intimidate those who were planning an attack, I occasionally fired toward the sea an eight-inch howitzer, loaded with double canister. The spattering of so many balls in the water looked very destructive, and startled and amazed the gaping crowds around. I also amused myself by making some small mines, which would throw a shell a few feet out of the ground whenever any person accidentally trod upon a concealed plank: of course the shell did not have a bursting charge in it. These experiments had a cooling effect upon the ardor of the [South Carolina] militia, who did not fancy storming the fort over a line of torpedoes.

November 19, 1860

The steamer Columbia passing Castle Pinckney and approaching Charleston’s waterfront on November 19, 1860, with a new South Carolinian flag fluttering from its “mast of honor” in the stern. (New York Illustrated News)

Captain Berry is given a hero’s welcome by secessionists as his steamship Columbia returns into Charleston Harbor from New York, still flying his own version of a South Carolinian flag, instead of the traditional Stars-and-Stripes. Next day, he is furthermore presented with “a gold-headed cane” by a delegation of leading citizens, who come aboard the berthed Columbia to commend his actions in favor of secession.

November 20, 1860

Brevet Col. Benjamin Huger arrives in Charleston, and assumes command over its U.S. Arsenal.

November 21, 1860

Major Anderson reaches Moultrie, and relieves Colonel Gardner in command of all the Federal defenses around Charleston Harbor. For an eyewitness account of this handover, see “A Soldier’s Recollection.”

November 29, 1860

The Charleston Mercury newspaper publishes a draft Ordinance of Secession, and a Federal supply-party visiting the city to procure fresh provisions for Moultrie’s garrison hear bands playing La Marseillaise, and finds the streets festooned with banners bearing slogans like “Good-bye, Yankee Doodle” and “Let Us Bury the Union’s Dead Carcass.”

December 3, 1860

Two views of “Cohen’s garden,” the civilian villa surrounded by trees nearest to Fort Moultrie’s northeast bastion, as seen in the backdrop of these photographs taken in mid-April 1861. (Osborn & Durbec) Two views of “Cohen’s garden,” nearest to Fort Moultrie’s northeast bastion, 1861.

Having previously ordered Capt. Truman Seymour to prepare an assessment of Fort Moultrie’s defensive capabilities, this officer presents Major Anderson with his written submission. South Carolina’s militia forces will unlikely storm its Federal garrison directly, the Captain reports, since such an assault might prove costly; nor will they have the patience to opt for a protracted siege, given the exalted mood among the secessionist volunteers.

Instead, Seymour believes that they will attempt to seize Moultrie by a stealthy approach and swift surprise-attack, particularly at night, “against which the fort & garrison are indeed weak.” With civilian homes and properties built up so close to its walls:

The assailants can rush from any hiding place, and gain the parapet before the garrison can do so. At Cohen’s garden they are 30 yards from the NE salient wall … They have the advantage of clear faculties, eager & sharpened by a matured plan — we the disadvantage of hesitation & uncertainty, of the confusion consequent upon haste & the stupefaction of a scarcely broken sleep.

Even maintaining a round-the-clock watch around the battlements, will avail the defenders little, for: “Any faithless sentinel — or a faithful one stifled with chloroform — would prove our ruin.” Seymour therefore concludes Moultrie “is so weak against surprises, that it may justly be concluded that in that way we shall fall, if at all,” and the only way to successfully defend the fort will require some preemptive defensive move by its outnumbered garrison. He finishes his assessment with the words: “the country will be ashamed of us and of our science if every possible precaution is not taken to defeat an attack by surprise, & we are bound to do our best to foresee & prevent.”

December 4, 1860

Major Anderson receives a communiqué from Col. Samuel Cooper, Adjutant-General of the U.S. Army in Washington, D.C., informing him that no additional troops will be sent to reinforce his command, since Secretary of War Floyd feels that such an action would only exacerbate the tensions already rising in Charleston. Anderson is moreover instructed to make no defensive move which might provoke the Carolinians, while at the same time reassuring the Major: “It is believed, from information thought to be reliable, that an attack will not be made on your command.”

Moultrie’s northeast bastionet has meanwhile been completed, except for its pintle-blocks and artillery-embrasures, which have still not arrived from New York. The old existing postern-tunnels in the fort’s east and west curtains have also been walled up, as Anderson feels his garrison is too numerically weak to launch any effective counter-sorties against a general assault.

December 6, 1860

Elections of delegates are held throughout South Carolina, to attend a state convention in Columbia and consider the issue of secession.

December 13, 1860

At Anderson’s request, Foster completes a 15-foot-wide, shallow “wet ditch” around Moultrie, while a picket-fence fronting this ditch will also be finished within a few more days. Barrels saved from the large-scale influx of work-materials have furthermore been saved, stacked, and filled with sand along the fort’s east side, to provide cover as temporary screens against any State sharpshooters stationed in the nearby sand-hills. Heavier merlons protect the guns, and siege-battery embrasures faced with hides are being built around each one, as well as strong traverses. A wooden bridge connecting the Guardhouse to the North Barracks is built, and communication-hatches cut inside the interiors of all the buildings.

December 15, 1860

Aboard the laid-up U.S. revenue cutter William Aiken in Charleston Harbor, its Capt. N. S. Coste informs his officers that he intends to resign from that Federal service “and would, when the State [of South Carolina] seceded,” turn over command of this vessel to his First Lt. John A. Underwood.

Underwood and Second Lt. Henry O. Porter subsequently visit Major Anderson in Fort Moultrie, asking whether in such an eventuality they might move their cutter under the protection of his guns, to which he replies that “He would give them all the protection in his power.”

December 16, 1860

Governor Francis W. Pickens of South Carolina, ca. 1860

After four days of wrangling and seven ballots, South Carolina’s legislature selects the wealthy, 55-year-old Francis W. Pickens — a compromise candidate only recently returned from serving as U.S. Minister to Russia — as the state’s new Governor, usually an honorific post held for two years. Pickens writes a letter this same evening to U.S. Pres. James F. Buchanan (a personal friend) declaring that he has been “authentically informed that the forts in Charleston harbor are now being thoroughly prepared to turn, with effect, their guns upon the city and the State,” so that he requests leave to send a South Carolinian officer and 25 militiamen to take possession of Fort Sumter “to give a feeling of safety to the community.”

December 17, 1860

Pickens is officially installed as Governor and the South Carolina legislature passes a bill this same day, providing for the organization of ten militia regiments “for defense of the State,” these volunteers being mustered for twelve months’ service. Over the next two-and-a-half months, a force of 8,836 volunteer officers and militiamen will be duly raised, comprising a total of 104 companies, which together constitute ten regiments. The latter in turn will be formed into four brigades, making up a division. [A separate force of regular State troops, with three-year enlistments, will be created as of late January 1861; see below.]

Simultaneously, delegates to the Convention gathering in the state capital to consider the question of secession, vote to reassemble two days later in Charleston, because of the smallpox which is prevailing at Columbia.

And this same day in that distant port-city, Captain Foster covertly withdraws 40 muskets from the U.S. Arsenal located in Charleston, but — amid heated South Carolinian protests — will be ordered two days later to return them by Secretary of War Floyd from Washington.

December 19, 1860

Delegates of South Carolina’s reassembled Secessionist Convention reconvene in Charleston, their proceedings being observed by the entire state legislature, along with such visiting dignitaries as the Governor of Flor­ida, official representatives from Alabama and Mississippi, plus four former United States Senators and an ex-U.S. Attorney-General. David F. Jamison — a gentleman who owns a 2,000-acre, 70-slave plantation — serves as presiding officer, calling the convention to order with a gavel embossed with the word “Se­cession” in St. Andrew’s Hall, a small auditorium where speakers can make themselves better heard than in larger Institute Hall.

While the exact language of an Ordinance of Se­cession is still being drafted in committee, a resolution is passed in­structing a “Committee on Foreign Rela­tions” to send three commissioners to Wash­ington to negotiate with the United States government for the transfer of all Federal military installations and properties to the new republic of South Carolina, most especially the three forts guarding Charleston Harbor. The day ends without a formal declaration of seces­sion, which it is expected will be announced next day.

December 20, 1860

At noon, the draft of South Carolina’s “Ordinance of Secession” is read aloud in St. Andrew’s Hall, and passed at 1:15 p.m. by a unanimous vote of 169 to 0 from all the delegates present. Celebrations erupt in Charleston’s streets, while the document itself is then turned over to South Carolina Attorney-General, for preparation to be signed in a celebratory public ceremony at 7:00 o’clock that same evening in Institute Hall. Meanwhile, 137 laborers remain toiling away on Moultrie’s defenses.

December 21, 1860

All of South Carolina’s members formally withdraw from the United States House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

December 23, 1860

At 2:30 p.m. on this Sunday, the English-born correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn disembarks at Adger’s wharf from the steamer Marion, four days out of New York under Capt. Samuel Whiting (with “the Palmetto flag flying to the fore, the Stars and Stripes aft”), whose passengers are greeted at the waterfront with shouts that “we are out of the United States.” Taking a room in the Charleston Hotel, Gunn will cover events over the next six weeks as a reporter for the Illustrated London News, as well as covertly filing stories with two Northern newspapers.

December 25, 1860

Christmas is a misty, foggy, and rainy Tuesday in Charleston. This evening, Anderson and other guests attend a private party hosted by Captain Foster’s wife Mary, in the latter’s leased home in Moultrieville. It will later be reported that “when the children were taken home, say about nine o’clock,” the Major also returns into his quarters in the fort, and apparently decides to quietly abandon indefensible Moultrie next day.

December 26, 1860

This afternoon, 20 women and 25 children of Fort Moultrie’s garrison go aboard a couple of vessels being used by Captain Foster’s work-details, so as to be sailed across the harbor to the safety of unoccupied Fort Johnson. This movement, which is expected, excites no suspicion. Lt. Jeff Davis is meanwhile ordered to begin loading a couple of Moultrie’s big guns for action, so as to be fired across the water in case of any attempted Confederate interference, while the garrison’s troops are ordered to pack their knapsacks.

Imaginary scene of Anderson’s troops stealthily withdrawing from Fort Moultrie on the evening of December 26, 1860; they were actually marched out of its front gate, a fact which was not known to the correspondent from Leslie’s who sketched this scene three weeks afterward

When the flag is routinely hauled down at sunset, the gunners are surprised to be given twenty minutes to gather their personal belongings, and thereupon marched out of Moultrie’s main gate to be led by Anderson and their officers around its western face in the gloom, to go aboard some waiting vessels. The gates are shut behind them, leaving only Captain Foster, Lieutenant Hall, a sergeant, corporal, three privates, Surgeon Crawford and his assistant, plus a half-dozen auxiliaries still within Moultrie (including Mrs. Rippitt, “the faithful housekeeper of the unmarried officers’ mess,” who will wait patiently but in vain for them to come for their accustomed evening tea).

Before 8:00 p.m., Companies E and H are in possession of Fort Sumter.

Horizontal Rule

Confederate Strongpoint (December 1860-February 1865)

December 27, 1860

This afternoon, Col. James Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Ellison Capers are dispatched from Charleston with the Washington Light Infantry under Capt. Charles H. Simonton and the Meagher Guards under Capt. Ed McCready, Jr., aboard the small transport Nina, to occupy empty Castle Pinckney. They arrive there by 4:00 p.m. and use scaling-ladders to ascend its outer scarp-wall, Pettigrew being met atop its parapet by U.S. Lt. Richard K. Meade, Jr., to whom he apparently declares:

... that he had been commanded to take charge of the work in the name of the State. Lieut. Meade replied that he did not acknowledge the authority of the government to take possession of the work. He likewise declined to accept the receipts for the property that were tendered and refused to give his parole, as he did not consider himself a prisoner of war. Thereupon, he left Castle Pinckney for Fort Sumter.

Pettigrew’s men meanwhile signal their success back into Charleston, by hoisting a red flag emblazoned with a single white star above Pinckney.

Crude woodcut of the guns at Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, lying among the charred remnants of their burnt barbette-carriages on December 27, 1860; based upon a sketch “drawn by an officer” of Major Anderson’s command and published by Harper’s Weekly

Then at 7:00 p.m., Lt.-Col. Wilmot G. DeSaussure departs Charleston aboard the steamer General Clinch with four batteries or companies of militia artillerymen, the:

  • German Artillery Company under Capt. Caston Nohrden;
  • Lafayette Artillery Company (55 men) under Capt. J. J. Pope, Jr.;
  • Marion Artillery Company (50 men) under Capt. J. Gadsden King; and
  • Washington Artillery Company (50 men) under Capt. George H. Walter,

totaling 170 gunners, plus 30 riflemen from Pettigrew’s Regiment, to also seize Fort Moultrie. Arriving outside its dark and silent ramparts two hours later, DeSaussure and a small band of his men enter cautiously, fearful that the Guardhouse’s main sally-port and other key positions have been mined. Instead, they only find much damage from sabotage, the eleven southwestern gun-carriages having been burnt altogether, so that their cannons lay amid smoldering ashes, with their breeches fallen through onto their platforms and muzzles collapsed against the parapet.

December 28, 1860

South Carolina militiamen take up stations outside the U.S. Arsenal at the corner of Ashley Avenue and Mill Street in Charleston, restricting people who seek to enter or depart, yet not penetrating into the building.

December 29, 1860

The hired bricklayers and carpenters from Baltimore, expelled from Sumter by the transfer of Anderson’s Union garrison out of Moultrie into that fort, depart Charleston for home aboard the steamship Keystone State. They complain that their passage has not been paid for by the U.S. authorities, as agreed when they had been contracted.

This afternoon, a detachment of the Marion Artillery under Captain King leaves Moultrie to reinforce Castle Pinckney, while a like force of Washington Light Infantry is sent from Pinckney to join Moultrie’s garrison. And this same Saturday evening, Governor Pickens issues the following written order to Col. John Cunningham of the 17th South Carolina Militia Regiment:

In the morning, after reporting yourself to Major-General Schneirle and informing him of this order, you are directed to get from him a detachment of select men, and in the most discreet and forbearing manner you will proceed to the U. S. Arsenal in Charleston, and there demand, in my name, its entire possession, and state distinctly that you do this with a view to prevent any destruction of public property that may occur in the present excited state of the public mind, and also as due to the public safety. You will then proceed to take, in the most systematic manner, a correct inventory of everything in said arsenal, and the exact state of all arms, &c.
You will read this order to Captain Humphreys, who is the United States officer at the arsenal.
I do not apprehend any difficulty in giving up the same, but if refused, then you are to take it, using no more force than may be absolutely necessary, and with the greatest discretion and liberality to Captain Humphreys, who is at perfect liberty to remain in his present quarters as long as it may be agreeable for himself, and he is requested to do so. Report as soon as possible to me.

December 30, 1860

This Sunday morning, Colonel Cunningham leads a detachment of twenty armed militiamen of the Scottish Union Light Infantry under Capt. David Ramsay into the U.S. Arsenal compound in Charleston, and at 10:30 a.m. presents its storekeeper Humphreys with this written note:

I herewith demand an immediate surrender of the United States arsenal at this place, and under your charge, and a delivery to me of the keys and contents of the arsenals, magazines, &c. I am already proceeding to occupy it with a strong armed detachment of troops. I make the demand in the name of the State of South Carolina, and by virtue of an order from its governor, a copy of which is enclosed.

Humphreys agrees on condition that he be allowed to fire a 32-gun salute before lowering his flag, “one gun for each State now in the Union,” and that his fourteen employees will be permitted to remain in their quarters on its grounds until the U.S. War Department reassigns them. Cunningham agrees, and after the salute is fired, the Stars-and-Stripes are replaced by a Palmetto flag.

Capt. Joseph Johnson, commanding a detachment of the Charleston Riflemen, likewise occupies the undefended Federal compound known as Fort Johnson on James Island, while Governor Pickens furthermore orders that a battery for two 24-pounder guns be built on Morris Island, bearing on the Main Ship-Channel — which directive shall be put into execution by Maj. Peter F. Stevens, Superintendent of the South Carolina Military Academy. And this same day in Washington, D.C., John B. Floyd resigns as Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Buchanan.

December 31, 1860

This Monday, instructions are telegraphed from Washington to New York City for the U.S. revenue cutter Harriet Lane of Capt. John Faunce to begin topping up its coal-bunkers, in anticipation of possibly being sent to Charleston so as to replace the commandeered Aiken on that station. A New York Times report published on New Year’s Day furthermore adds that:

The present armament of the “Harriet Lane” consists of four 24-pound Dahlgren howitzers, and one 32-pound swivel gun, capable of throwing solid shot or shell. Her armament may be somewhat increased, to render her more formidable in resisting attack.

But no subsequent orders are received, directing this sidewheel steamer to depart for South Carolina, so that it continues its regular patrol-duties of boarding and inspecting ships as they enter New York Harbor, looking for any violations of the anti-slavery statutes.

January 1, 1861

Group of South Carolina militia officers posing on Sullivan’s Island, very early in 1861; the third figure from left has been identified as Lt.-Col. Wilmot G. DeSaussure

Maj.-Gen. John Schnierle of the South Carolina militia (and a former Mayor of Charleston) is ordered by Governor Pickens to proceed to Fort Moultrie and relieve Lieutenant-Colonel DeSaussure, so that the latter might “attend to his duties as a member of the Legislature,” leaving Schnierle to assume command over all of the harbor defenses.

This same evening, the all-volunteer Columbia Flying Artillery departs South Carolina’s state capital by rail, arriving in Charleston to be employed over the next few days in helping to refit Fort Moultrie, their duties including the unspiking of its guns, repair or replacement of wooden gun-carriages, and even witnessing the unfurling of a Palmetto flag on a new flagstaff. As for the fort’s destroyed gun-carriages, William A. Courtenay will many years later record:

Governor Pickens sent in haste for Mr. David Lopez, the leading carpenter contractor of the city. New heavy gun carriages had to be constructed forthwith. No such thing had ever been built in Charleston. Mr. Lopez replied “if I can see one, or the remnants of one, I can build them.” Seasoned timber had to be found, iron machinery improvised, and the work started so that Moultrie’s guns could be restored to their positions. The writer [Courtenay] later placed a copy of the latest edition of the United States Ordnance Manual in Lopez’s hands, soon after the work begun, which, of course, expedited the work.

January 2, 1861

General Schnierle having been felled by a “sudden illness,” Brigadier General Simons is ordered to take his place in crossing over to Fort Moultrie, and assuming command over the harbor defenses.

Although not yet given a rank in the South Carolina forces, the ex-U.S. Artillery Maj. Roswell S. Ripley — an arms-merchant married to a wealthy Charleston widow —is assigned to resurrect the defenses on Sullivan’s Island, Moultrie itself being regarded by some officers as having been left in an indefensible state. Soon afterward, though, Ripley assembles a work-gang of 200 black slaves who have been loaned by their owners, and begins erecting three large traverses on the eastern half of Moultrie’s seafront, as well as enlarging another which Foster has already built near its Southeast Angle.

January 4, 1861

The Charleston Courier newspaper reports:

Sullivan’s Island was visited ... by hundreds of people. Large numbers likewise proceeded to the other points of fortification in the harbor, but very few were enabled to land and satisfy the all-absorbing curiosity to learn what was going on.
Fort Moultrie is being rapidly put in order by a large force of workmen. There are over forty South Carolina Railroad hands actively and constantly employed under Mr. Bryant. On the 4th instant, twenty hearty, strong negroes were sent down by the Rev. Mr. Prentiss and set to work, and did work faithfully all night upon the ramparts.
We are pleased to record that the troops are in good health and spirits — calm, confident and resolute, they await the time for action.

January 5, 1861

Federal troops transferring from a crowded harbor-tug aboard the waiting steamship Star of the West, in darkened New York Harbor on the evening of January 5, 1861, for transportation to Fort Sumter, (New York Illustrated News)

At 5:00 p.m. this Saturday evening, the 230-foot, 1,200-ton steamship Star of the West under Capt. John McGowan — discreetly chartered for a special voyage by A. H. Schultz and Company — clears its wharf in New York City, proceeding down the harbor as darkness falls. One hour later, pursuant to telegraphed orders which he has received from Washington, D.C., First Lt. Charles R. Woods of the 9th U.S. Infantry Regiment begins leading 200 recently-recruited soldiers from the Governor’s Island Army base aboard a harbor-tug, to be discreetly transferred aboard Star of the West, which is waiting to receive them and transport this company, along with its arms and ammunition to Fort Sumter. Woods’s officers include First Lt. W. A. Webb of the 5th U.S. Infantry Regiment; Second Lt. C. W. Thomas of the 1st U.S. Infantry Regiment; and Asst. Surg. P. G. S. Ten Broek of the Medical Department. Once all are aboard, Star of the West resumes its passage out to sea and clears the bar at Sandy Hook by 9:00 p.m., steering southward.

January 6, 1861

This Sunday afternoon, news reaches the South Carolinian garrison in Moultrie of recent secessionist gains in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, and Alabama, being greeted “with buzzes [cheers] that made the welkin ring,” according to next day’s Charleston Mercury.

January 7, 1861

This Monday morning, First Lt. Adam J. Slemmer — acting commander of the U.S. installations at Pensacola, Florida — and Second Lt. Jeremiah H. Gilman visit Commo. James Stanford at the local Navy Yard, to discuss the possibility of a joint plan “to insure the safety of the public property” in light of impending state actions. Indeed, the Federal garrison of Fort Marion at St. Augustine is seized by Florida state militiamen this same day, but Commodore Stanford nonetheless refuses to cooperate with Slemmer until he has received confirmatory orders from Washington.

Meanwhile, at a convention being held in Montgomery, Alabama, proposals by “Cooperationist” delegates against any immediate secession of that state, are narrowly voted down by a 53-46 count, so that their deliberations will continue.

January 8, 1861

This Tuesday morning, Louis T. Wigfall sends a telegraphed warning from Washington, D.C., to Governor Pickens, which reads:

The Star of the West sailed from New York on Sunday with Government troops and provisions. It is said her destination is Charleston. If so, she may be hourly expected off the harbor of Charleston.

And this same day, newspapers in Charleston report how the “Lafayette Artillery and the German Artillery returned to the city ... from Fort Moultrie, making quite a handsome display as they passed through the streets.” In turn, the wives of U.S. Army officers Mary Doubleday, Mary Foster, and Louisa Seymour — shunned by the local citizenry and fearful for their safety — board a midnight-train bound northward.

Meanwhile at Pensacola, Federal Lieutenant Slemmer has shifted his stock of gunpowder into Fort Barrancas for safekeeping, and installed a sergeant with a few soldiers to guard that fort, furthermore raising its drawbridge (an unusual measure). The wealthy local landowner, Col. William Henry Chase — a 62-year-old retired U.S. Army engineer — receives authorization from Florida’s Gov. Madison S. Perry to use his militia to occupy Federal installations around the harbor, although without employing force. Consequently, a group of about twenty militiamen approach Fort Barrancas during the night, believing it to be empty and freely accessible as usual — only to be challenged by the corporal of the guard, and scattering when a shot is fired into the air. Hearing this report, Slemmer hastens about half of the 51 men of his Company G, 1st U.S. Artillery, at double-time under his subordinate Gilman to reinforce the fort, but no more incidents occur overnight.

January 9, 1861

At midnight, the hired steamer Star of the West douses all its lights and arrives off Charleston Harbor by 1:30 a.m., approaching the shoreline cautiously at slow speed while taking soundings, as every beacon ashore seems to have been removed or extinguished. Around 4:00 a.m., the ship’s Capt. John McGowan spies a single light “through the haze which at that time covered the horizon,” determining that it shines from atop Fort Sumter. Thus better able to determine his position, McGowan steers Star of the West southwestward and heaves-to near the bar leading into the Main Ship-Channel, “to await daylight” before attempting to navigate across it. However, the Captain will later report how:

As the day began to break, we discovered a steamer just in shore of us, who as soon as she saw us, burned one blue light and two red lights as signals, and shortly after steamed over the bar and into the ship channel.

In the growing light, fired upon by South Carolina militia batteries on Morris Island and at Fort Moultrie, when this vessel attempts to enter Charleston Harbor with supplies and reinforcements for Major Anderson’s garrison in Fort Sumter.

This same day, Mississippi also adopts an ordinance of secession from the Union, by a vote of 84 to 15.

January 10, 1861

This Thursday, Florida’s convention at Tallahassee passes that state’s ordinance of secession from the Union by a vote of 62 to 7, the actual document being signed next day “in the eastern portico of the Capitol, amid the firing of cannon and the cheers and enthusiasm of the people”, according to the New York Times. That following day, January 12th, the Federal Navy Yard at Pensacola is surrendered without opposition to several hundred Southern militiamen under Col. Tennant Lomax of Alabama. However, 81 loyal Union officers and troops under Lt. Adam J. Slemmer remain inside Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island at the harbor mouth, intending to resist until relieved.

Louisiana militiamen also take over Forts Jackson and St. Philip, about 70 miles from New Orleans, plus the Federal Arsenal at Baton Rouge.

January 11, 1861

The South Carolina representatives Judge Andrew G. McGrath and David F. Jameson visit Anderson in Sumter, to demand that fort’s surrender, which is rejected.

Subsequently, Ripley will begin preparing to erect “high and solid merlons, formed of timber, sand, and earth” between all the guns on Moultrie’s southwest face that could be aimed at Sumter; previously, the efforts of his several hundred slave-laborers have been confined to raising several traverses around its Southeast Angle. Alabama also becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union, by a vote of 61 to 39. And this same Friday, the Charleston Mercury will report in its January 11th edition:

A company of Minute Men from Abbeville District arrived in this city on Wednesday night [January 9, 1861]. They number one hundred men, and are as fine a looking body as any that can be raised. For the information of the [New York] Tribune and papers of that ilk, we state that ten members of this company took the first honor in the South Carolina College. The company is made up of the best material. Their uniform is a red frock and dark pants. The following is a list of their officers: Captain, J.M. Perrin; First Lieutenant, A.M. Smith; Second Lieutenant, J.G. Edwards; Third Lieutenant, A.J. Lythgoe.
The Monticello Volunteers, from Fairfield District, also passed down yesterday [January 10, 1861]. It is also a strong body of fine-looking men, and officered as follows: Captain, J.B. Davis; Lieutenants, J.T. Dawkins, W.J. Dawkins, R.J. Kelly.

Alabama also becomes the fourth state to secede from the Union, by a vote of 61 to 39.

January 12, 1861

At daybreak this Saturday morning, Star of the West passes Sandy Hook and reenters New York Harbor, dropping anchor “in the stream” off Warren Street shortly after 8:00 a.m., and remaining there while Lieutenant Woods comes ashore to report by telegraph to Washington on his unsuccessful mission, and request “orders relative to the disposition of the troops.” The ship’s Captain McGowan also sends a brief written account about the voyage ashore this same day to his owner, the wealthy Mr. Marshall O. Roberts (known as “a staunch Union man and a good Republican,” according to the New York Times).

January 13, 1861

After receiving telegraphed orders from Army headquarters in Washington, Woods and his 200 troops are landed at 8:00 a.m. from the Star of the West at New York, and the Lieutenant submits a formal written report on his failed relief-expedition from Fort Columbus.

This same Sunday in Charleston, General Jameson and the engineer Col. James H. Trapier take a steamer across to Sullivan’s Island, accompanied by the secessionist Edmund Ruffin and others, plus more than 100 slave laborers on loan from their masters, to inspect the ongoing defensive work already being done by hundreds more slaves at Moultrie and along the new shoreline batteries. A Baltimore American correspondent who is among the General’s party of visitors, will later report:

At Fort Moultrie, Sunday though it was, everything was busy. The Columbiads spiked and burned by Anderson, are all, with the exception of three, remounted on new carriages, unspiked, and as good as ever. Several of the merlons erected upon the parapet to protect the guns bearing on Sumter are completed.

Ruffin himself records in his own personal diary that:

At Fort Moultrie, all was activity and gaiety. The volunteers, many the sons of the men of high position & wealth, and the Negroes, were alike busily engaged in shoveling and wheeling sand to fill barrels and bags on the ramparts. The Negro laborers were employed in bringing sand from below & outside of the fort, to a pile within and on the walls, whence it was continually removed by the volunteer soldiers in wheelbarrows to the ramparts, and used there to construct “traverses” of sandbags, &c.
While I was standing by the pile where the work of the two gangs of laborers met, & observing the operations & the different classes of laborers, I asked one of the soldiers who was employed in loading to let me take his place for a few minutes, “so as to allow me to commit a little treason to the northern government.” He handed me his shovel, & I filled the wheelbarrow then waiting. I intended then to give back the shovel — but before I had done so, the next arriving laborer called to ask me to fill his barrow also, which I did.

January 18, 1861

The Vigilant Rifles militia company of Capt. Samuel Yeadon Tupper is converted from an infantry unit, so as to become incorporated into the 1st Regiment South Carolina Artillery. A newspaper account published three months afterward by the New York Herald will describe this unit as:

... a regular fire company in Charleston in time of peace. The Vigilants are a flank company attached to the First regiment of artillery. In action they serve either as riflemen or artillerists as occasion may require. Captain Tupper has been in action against the Seminoles in Florida. Two of his officers, Lieutenants Thames and Harleston, are West Point graduates.

January 19, 1861

In Charleston, the Northern-born William F. Dodge, “who has lived here for four or five years, and kept a machinery depot under the South Carolina Institute Hall” — as well as being regularly employed at Fort Moultrie — is arrested as a suspected spy and secret correspondent for the New York Tribune.

Elsewhere, Georgia passes an ordinance of secession from the Union, by a vote of 209 to 89.

January 21, 1861

Sketch drawn by Foster, of the alterations and enhancements made to Fort Moultrie’s defenses since the Union garrison had abandoned it a few weeks previously

Captain Foster completes a report for his superior in Washington, D.C. — Gen. Joseph G. Totten, Chief of the U.S. Corps of Engineers — as to what he can observe from Sumter about the ongoing erection of Confederate batteries all around Charleston Harbor. Foster declares that Fort Moultrie has been significantly strengthened through raising a line of sturdy merlons along its Southwest Angle, “which from their height (about five feet) completely cover the quarters and barracks as high up as the eaves.” He furthermore attaches a sketch, to illustrate how he believes Moultrie has been altered since the Federal garrison’s withdrawal.

January 22, 1861

A heavy storm lashes Charleston Harbor, persisting until next day.

January 23, 1861

This Wednesday evening, Lt. Richard K. Meade, Jr., returns into Charleston “from his visit of leave to Virginia,” lodging overnight in the Mills House Hotel, before proceeding out to Fort Sumter next day.

January 24, 1861

The Charleston Courier newspaper includes a brief notice: “We regret to hear it confidently reported that Major Ripley is about to leave this city and State, for a sister Southern and seceded State.”

January 25, 1861

The steamer Columbia aground on Sullivan’s Island, as sketched by the visiting correspondent William Waud on January 27, 1861; Fort Sumter appears at left, and the low silhouette of Fort Moultrie at right

This Friday morning, the steamer Columbia experiences difficulties and runs aground on Sullivan’s Island, while attempting to exit Charleston Harbor via Maffitt’s Channel, because of the numerous obstructions now hampering traffic through the Main Ship-Channel beside Morris Island. All efforts to refloat the steamer having failed, its passengers are transferred ashore next day, to walk back through Moultrieville toward the ferry-terminal so as to return into Charleston. Among their number is John De Forest, who during this trudge across Sullivan’s Island will be granted access into Moultrie, and include a description of the fort and its South Carolinian garrison in an article which he subsequently publishes in The Atlantic Monthly, entitled “Charleston Under Arms.” (For this excerpt, see John De Forest’s Observation.)

On the Sunday afternoon of January 27, 1861, the English-born correspondent William Waud will furthermore sketch the stranded Columbia for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, during his own cross-harbor visit to Sullivan’s Island and Fort Moultrie in the company of his fellow correspondent and friend, Thomas Butler Gunn.

January 26, 1861

Having completed a month’s garrison-duty in Fort Moultrie, a 60-man militia company of the Washington Artillery returns into Charleston aboard the cross-harbor ferry from Sullivan’s Island, being received at the landing by another like-sized detachment which has remained within the city. The entire reassembled Washington Artillery, numbering 122 men, thereupon marches to their gun shed to store their weaponry, preceded by the Palmetto Band. A banquet is subsequently held in the Masonic Hall, during which Capt. George H. Walter reads aloud an order which he has just received:

... that a detachment of thirty men be detailed to take charge of the battery at the extreme end of [Sullivan’s] Island, having command of Maffitt’s Channel. This announcement was received with vociferous applause, and on motion of Lieut. Salvo, the Battery was unanimously, and amid the deafening applause and cheers of the men, named Walter Battery, in honor of their popular and efficient commander.

Volunteers for 30-man contingents to serve in turns at this new five-gun battery over the next three weeks are quickly made up, before the banquet adjourns with its participants “having concluded to telegraph the Washington Artillery of New Orleans,” so as to congratulate this sister-unit on Louisiana’s secession from the Union this same Saturday by a vote of 113 to 17.

January 28, 1861

The South Carolina legislature passes an act authorizing the creation of a more professional military force for the State, with enlistments extending for three years: 960 regular troops in total, who are to be organized into an infantry regiment, artillery battalion, and cavalry squadron under the overall command of Brig. Gen. Robert G. M. Dunovant. All officers are to be appointed by the Governor, with the consent of the State Senate.

Lucy Holcombe Pickens reviewing the militia companies on Sullivan’s Island, along with her stepdaughter Jennie, late on the afternoon of January 28, 1861. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

Out on lonely Sullivan’s Island around 4:00 p.m. this same Monday afternoon, Governor Pickens’s 28-year-old third wife Lucy Holcombe Pickens and his 15-year-old daughter from his second marriage, Jennie, are driven past the encampments of South Carolina’s militia volunteers. The young women’s visit creates quite a stir among the troops, prompting a hasty parade of all companies in their honor, which the correspondent William Waud will witness and sketch, for a report which he files for publication in the February 23, 1861 edition of Leslie’s Illustrated. Waud will also verbally describe this scene later on at his Charleston hotel to his English-born colleague Gunn, who files his own separate account of this “pleasant episode” by secret mail to the New York Post newspaper. In it, Gunn would mention that the pair of young women:

... are decidedly pretty and prepossessing; that the first [Lucy Pickens] wore a dark colored French basque, a velvet hat ornamented with a red ostrich feather, a veil, sable muff and cape of the same material, had dark hair confined by a net and carried a parasol. Miss [Jennie] Pickens was similarly attired, with the exception of a white ermine muff and victorine.

January 29, 1861

The commander of the South Carolinian cutter William Aiken is instructed to take up station:

... off Ship Channel, and when a friendly vessel comes over the bar you will make a signal, running your flag up to the mainmast head for a few moments, and then haul it down. If an unfriendly vessel, you will dip your flag at mainmast head, but be sure to keep it flying. Every vessel should be looked into, or partially examined, to see that no unnecessary number of men are on board.

Moreover, if the Aiken should be seized by an “unfriendly vessel,” the latter “will be prevented from entering, by the battery east of Fort Moultrie, and by Fort Moultrie.”

January 30, 1861

A reporter from the Baltimore American once more visits Fort Moultrie, and later writes that he had:

... found it under strict military discipline, and things progressing bravely — so much of the wall as was commanded by Fort Sumter was being rapidly mounted with sand-bag batteries, from nine to ten feet in thickness, and the same in depth, and was almost completed; all the guns were mounted but two, and those were to be during the day. Maj. Ripley thought that in the course of a day or two he could withstand a heavy battery from Sumter ...

A couple of days later, this same correspondent will add in a second report:

Fort Moultrie, under the skillful direction of Major Ripley, with his black brigade of picks and shovels, has thrown up breastworks and mounted heavy guns to such an extent that the whole appearance of the fort has changed, and has almost attained its utmost state of efficiency. Huge heaps of sand-bags surmount the ramparts, faced with Palmetto logs and covered with hides, from the embrasures of which the grim dogs of war protrude their muzzles, nine of them levelled direct at Fort Sumter. What is conceived to be the weakest point in the granite mass has been selected as the mark at which all these cannon are pointed, and they will give the work of the mason a severe test.
View of Fort Moultrie and its surrounding civilian dwellings, as sketched by U.S. Army Capt. Truman Seymour from a mile away atop Sumter’s ramparts on February 13, 1861; the new embrasures which were being created by erecting merlons out of sandbags within palmetto-log cribs, were plainly visible even at that distance. (Official Military Atlas of the Civil War)
The interior of the fort [Moultrie] also presents a most warlike aspect. The oven for hot shot is in readiness, like your steam fire-engines, for firing up at any moment, and all the equipments for carnage piled up around the gun-carriages. The magazine has been buried in a cavern of sand-bags, and is believed to be beyond the reach of shot or shell. Every arrangement has been made, not only for the protection of the men, but for receiving the balls of Sumter with the least possible damage.

February 1, 1861

Frustrated by their elderly Gov. Sam Houston’s refusal to endorse secession or even call the Texas legislature into session, a special convention adopts an ordinance of secession for that state by a vote of 166 to 8, which is ratified and signed next day. The principal grievance contained in this document declares that Texas had been received into the Union fifteen years earlier:

as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery — the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits — a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the [federal] confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?
The controlling majority of the Federal Government, under various pretenses and disguises, has so administered the same as to exclude the citizens of the Southern States, unless under odious and unconstitutional restrictions, from all the immense territory owned in common by all the States on the Pacific Ocean, for the avowed purpose of acquiring sufficient power in the common government to use it as a means of destroying the institutions of Texas and her sister slave-holding States.

February 2, 1861

Lt.-Col. Roswell S. Ripley writes from occupied Fort Moultrie to Col. Edward Manigault of the Ordnance Department in Charleston, reporting that “the steamer came down this morning for the 32 pounders & the sling cart, without any supplies of shot, shell, or munitions for this post — I can hardly believe such to have been your intention.” Ripley goes on to add: “One sling cart is altogether too small a supply for works extending around this harbor & I require one especially for this post ...”

February 3, 1861

The families of Sumter’s garrison waving their farewells, as they exit Charleston Harbor past the beleaguered fort aboard the South Carolinian steamer Marion at noon on February 3, 1861. (Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

Two days after reluctantly allowing themselves to be transferred from Fort Johnson across the harbor into Charleston, the remaining 42 wives and children of the U.S. Army garrison trapped in Sumter depart that city at noon, to sail aboard the commandeered South Carolinian steamer Marion for relocation into Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York.

As their ship exits past the harbor-fort, Major Anderson orders a one-gun salute fired in their honor. Years later, Captain Doubleday will recall in his memoirs that as the vessel bearing their families “passed the fort outward-bound, the men gave them repeated cheers as a farewell, and displayed much feeling.”

February 4, 1861

A “peace convention” summoned by Virginia delegates is held in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., with representatives from 21 states attending, yet failing to calm the rising tide of tensions.

February 6, 1861

The Charleston Courier publishes an article which reads:

We have had conversation with a citizen who left Fort Sumter on Sunday [February 3, 1861], and had been engaged there (and at Fort Moultrie) since November, as a workman. He reports forty-four laborers and ninety-six soldiers (officers included) remaining in the Fort, with a large supply of provisions. Of these he specifies, according to his knowledge: fifty-eight barrels of pork and beef, five hogsheads of molasses, two casks of vinegar, with large supplies of flour and potatoes. The supply of fuel, which was good, had been lately increased by a drifting raft which was secured.
As to the arms, our informant reports five Columbiads, 10 inches, in the yard, mounted on granite, two ranging towards the city, one towards Sullivan's Island, and one towards Fort Johnson. There are also four Columbiads, eight inches, bearing on Fort Morris, three of the same calibre on Cummings Point, and four that can be brought to bear on Mount Pleasant or Sullivan's Island at choice. No reinforcements in men have been received.

This same Wednesday, the so-called “1st Battalion, South Carolina Artillery” is officially constituted by the state government, the ex-U.S. Army Maj. Roswell S. Ripley being confirmed as a Lieutenant-Colonel and its commanding officer; Capt. William Ransom Calhoun also promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and named as its second-in-command; Thomas M. Wagner as its Major; Assistant Quartermaster, J. Ravenel Macbeth; Adjutant James Hamilton and Assistant Adjutant Charles W. Parker; and with Capts. E. B. Hallonquist, Stephen D. Lee, and J. Randolph Hamilton appointed as three commanders of its five companies. This battalion will initially garrison Fort Moultrie and the new heavy-artillery batteries being created on Sullivan’s Island, although Hamilton’s Company D will eventually be assigned (under his Lt. Joseph A. Yates) to the Floating Battery, upon its completion in the Charleston yards.

February 8, 1861

Cook’s group-photograph of Anderson and his officers within Fort Sumter, February 8, 1861. Behind from left to right are Capt. Truman Seymour, Lt. George W. Snyder, Lt. Jefferson C. Davis, Lt. Richard K. Meade, and Capt. Theodore Talbot; seated from left to right are Capt. Abner Doubleday, Maj. Robert Anderson, Surgeon S. Wylie Crawford, and Capt. John G. Foster

After a month of written requests, culminating with the personal intercession of Lucy Holcombe Pickens, the prominent Charleston photographer George S. Cook is allowed (“by special permission of the Governor”) to visit Fort Sumter aboard a hired boat, accompanied by an assistant late this Friday morning, so as to take various pictures of Major Anderson and his officers around 1:00-2:00 p.m. Copy negatives are run off this very same evening, to be rushed to Northern outlets for publication under the clever caption: “Major Anderson Taken!”

February 9, 1861

After having convened the previous day in Montgomery, Alabama, delegates from that state and Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina create the Confederate States of America by adopting a provisional constitution, and select Jefferson Davis — a West Point graduate, former U.S. Army officer, and U.S. Senator from Mississippi — to act as its first President.

February 11, 1861

At 7:30 a.m., Abraham Lincoln and a small entourage leave their hotel in Springfield, Illinois, riding to the Great Western depot. There, he delivers a brief speech to a crowd of 1,000 well-wishers, before boarding a festively-decorated train half-an-hour later, for a two-week public tour in easy stages across several Northern states that will take him into Washington, to be inaugurated as sixteenth President of the United States. This trip will mark the first occasion that Lincoln is seen wearing a beard, grown over the preceding winter months since his election.

February 12, 1861

In Montgomery, Alabama, the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America moves to assume responsibility of all disputes with Washington regarding jurisdiction over military bases, by passing a resolution:

That this Government takes under its charge the questions and difficulties now existing between the several States of this Confederacy and the Government of the United States of America, relating to the occupation of forts, arsenals, navy yards, and other public establishments; and that the President of the [Confederate] Congress be directed to communicate this resolution to the several States of this Confederacy, through the respective governors thereof.

February 13, 1861

The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sitting in joint session in Washington, D. C., formally receive the vote of the Electoral College and duly confirm Lincoln’s victory, despite fears that this session might be disrupted.

February 14, 1861

This squally and overcast Thursday morning, the Illustrated London News (and secret New York Post) correspondent Thomas Butler Gunn departs Charleston aboard the steamer James Adger “under heavy, low-lying clouds,” bound for New York. He notes on Page 162 of Volume Fifteen of his personal diaries:

I looked at the long sandy islands, at Fort Moultrie, scarcely to be seen for the sand-hillocks in front, at the villas and houses, at honest Dan Miller’s quarters, and alternating with a curious sense of escape was a mixture of regret and goodwill for my many acquaintances, between whom and the locality to which I was bound [New York] there might soon lie the barrier of raging war.

This same day in New York, the New York Times newspaper reports:

The United States revenue cutter Harriet Lane is to be temporarily converted into a man-of-war. She went over, yesterday, to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to receive a new and formidable armament: four thirty-three hundred weight guns, one 12-pound howitzer, and a quantity of shot and shell will be put on board. It is said that a Marine guard is to be detailed for her immediately.

February 18, 1861

In Montgomery, Alabama, Jefferson Davis is formally sworn into office as provisional President of the Confederate States of America.

February 22, 1861

Cannons are fired off at the Citadel in Charleston, to highlight the celebration of George Washington’s birthday: first, thirteen heavy discharges in honor of the original American colonies, followed after a pause by seven more for the seven states which have recently formed the new Confederacy, these salvoes being clearly audible out in the harbor at Fort Sumter.

Meanwhile, the Confederate Congress passes a resolution in Montgomery, Alabama, which affirms “that immediate steps should be taken to obtain possession of Forts Sumter and Pickens [at Pensacola, Florida] by the authority of this Government, either by negotiations or force, as early as practicable, and that the President is hereby authorized to make all necessary military preparations for carrying this resolution into effect.”

February 23, 1861

Maj. Walter H. C. Whiting is dispatched from Montgomery by Confederate President Davis to bear this previous day’s resolution to Governor Pickens, after which the Major is to:

... enter upon a reconnaissance of the harbor of Charleston and its approaches. You will inspect the various works in our possession and gain such knowledge as circumstances will permit of Fort Sumter. In inspecting the works of the Confederate States, you will bear in mind the double relation they may have as works of offense and of defense. You will make an inventory of the armament, and of the munitions at the forts and in store, noting particularly the different qualities of cannon powder, as indicated by grain. Generally, I desire you to perform all the duties which devolve upon an engineer charged with the examination of works, and the preparation for active operations under circumstances such as those of Charleston, in this emergency.

This same day on Sullivan’s Island, the Vigilant Rifles company of Capt. Samuel Y. Tupper relieves Captain Walter’s Washington Artillery, which has been in charge of the Five-Gun Battery east of Curlew Ground since January 26th.

February 28, 1861

Two Dahlgren cannons and five 10-inch mortars are received at Charleston from the Anderson Works in Richmond, Virginia, as well as 50,000 pounds of gunpowder from Pensacola and 20,000 more from Wilmington, North Carolina. The 17th State Militia Regiment also stages a major review on the Citadel parade-grounds, witnessed by thousands of spectators.

March 1, 1861

In the temporary Confederate capital of Montgomery, Alabama, the newly-promoted Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard is ordered by Sec. of War LeRoy P. Walker to “proceed without delay to Charleston, and report to Governor Pickens for military duty in that State.”

March 3, 1861

The Floating Battery nearing completion along Charleston’s waterfront, as it appeared on March 3, 1861. (Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

General Beauregard reaches Charleston and together with Governor Pickens, inspects the Floating Battery which is nearing completion in the Palmetto Yard at the end of Hazel Street, along the city’s waterfront. The correspondent William Waud, sketching this scene so as to be published thirteen days afterward as an engraving on Page 260 in the March 16, 1861 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, includes a written description which reads in part:

This huge structure is made of sawed Southern pine timber, twelve inches square. It is something less than one hundred feet long, about twenty-five feet wide. The bottom is flat, into which the side timbers are framed, which go up, not perpendicularly, but at an outward inclination of about forty degrees, presenting an uneven slope of the outside.  ...  It will, when completed, present a very formidable means of attack on Fort Sumpter, in connection with Forts Moultrie, Pinckney, and the land batteries.

March 4, 1861

At 7:00 a.m., the hull of the Floating Battery is ready for launch from Marsh’s yard along the Charleston waterfront, so that crowds begin to congregate. Lieutenant Hamilton himself gives the signal at 8:15 a.m., and the heavy structure slides down the ways into the water, settling at a pronounced angle because of its lopsided design: the armored side drawing seven feet of water, while the exposed side draws only four. Nevertheless, Hamilton and his riggers still have a couple of weeks’ work to finalize its construction, armament, and ballasting, which will leave the Floating Battery level in the water.

Later on this same morning, Beauregard and Pickens make an initial inspection of the Confederate batteries on Morris Island, finding 1,450 troops encamped there under Col. Maxcy Gregg, after which these senior commanders return into Charleston by 6:00 p.m.

And at noon this same day, Abraham Lincoln has been inaugurated in Washington, D.C., as the sixteenth President of the United States. Immediately after welcoming his successor to the White House, Buchanan departs for his home in Pennsylvania.

March 5, 1861

Beauregard and Pickens inspect Castle Pinckney and Fort Moultrie, finding almost 1,400 more South Carolina militiamen encamped on Sullivan’s Island under the command of General Dunovant. Among other things, the new Confederate commander leaves instructions at Moultrie for “additional traverses to be thrown up, of a better construction than those already there, for the protection of the channel guns against enfilade from Fort Sumter.”

March 6, 1861

The Confederacy’s first official flag, featuring three bars and a blue square enclosing seven stars, representing the seceded states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. However, hard to distinguish from the Union’s Stars-and-Stripes at a distance, this version would eventually be superseded by another design as of May 1, 1863

A new flag which appears hoisted above Charleston, can be faintly seen by the Federal officers in distant Fort Sumter, at first glance looking confusingly like their own. However, closer examination through a spyglass reveals it to be the new Confederate flag, featuring three broad red and white stripes, plus a circle of seven white stars inside a blue quarter for each of the seceded states.

A notice also appears this same day in the Charleston Courier newspaper, requesting applicants to the “Engineer’s Bureau” at 5 Broad Street: “One hundred Laborers wanted. Apply to Walter Gwynn, Major of Engineers.”

March 7, 1861

A gun in one of the newly-installed Confederate batteries on Morris Island, believed to be loaded with only a blank cartridge for a drill, instead accidentally fires off a round which strikes Fort Sumter. Maj. Peter F. Stevens is rowed across under a flag of truce, to apologize for this mistake, which is accepted.

March 15, 1861

A cold day in Charleston, with the temperature barely reaching 40°, and “a smart fall of snow.”

March 16, 1861

This Saturday morning, it is reported from Charleston how: “The Floating Battery is at last finished, and the event was celebrated by a salute of seven guns for the States that are out of the Union, and after a slight pause, one more for Arkansas, which is expected to follow ...” Rumors further suggest that the Floating Battery will be towed away next day to guard Stono Island, fifteen miles from the city.

March 17, 1861

Washington Light Infantry battery at the east end of Sullivan’s Island, pointed across Breach Inlet toward Isle of Palms, as it appeared in late March or early April 1861. (Miller & Lanier, Photographic History, Volume 3)

Charleston’s Washington Light Infantry militia company occupies “Thompson’s Point” at the far northeastern end of Sullivan’s Island, erecting a shoreline battery there to defend the entrance into Breach Inlet from any Federal vessels, while living nearby in a field encampment which they will dub “Camp Washington”.

March 20, 1861

Some 200 blank charges are fired during a day of extensive gun-drills at Fort Moultrie. From the Engineer Bureau in Charleston, though, Beauregard’s subordinate Maj. Walter Gwynn writes complainingly to the Confederate Secretary of War in Montgomery: “On Sullivan’s Island, the only report I have is that the batteries are progressing, with an increased force of two laborers on the enfilade battery.”

March 21, 1861

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Gustavus V. Fox reaches Charleston, and is permitted to visit Anderson in Fort Sumter, although accompanied by Capt. W. J. Hartstein of the Confederate service.

March 22, 1861

Beauregard officially assumes command over all Confederate forces in South Carolina, with his headquarters established in Charleston, and according to the diary of Emma Holmes: “This afternoon, Beauregard reviewed the Cadets on the Citadel Green, and thousands of spectators crowded every available spot, principally to see our gallant General.”

Out at lonely Fort Sumter, meanwhile, Maj. Robert Anderson mentions in one of his regular dispatches to U.S. Army headquarters in Washington, how his Confederate besiegers “are also at work on a new battery, not far from the Moultrie House on Sullivan’s Island,” as well as conducting gunnery drills:

They practice daily, firing shot and shell in the direction of the junction of the Swash and Main Channels. Their practice is pretty good. They are firing now from heavy mortars in rear of the iron-plated battery on Cummings Point. I have no ammunition to spare, and therefore do not show them our proficiency in artillery practice.

March 24, 1861

This Sunday morning, President Lincoln’s former law-partner, close friend, and self-appointed bodyguard (who has furthermore been named Marshal of the District of Columbia) arrives and registers at the Charleston Hotel as “Ward H. Lamon of Virginia,” seemingly so as to avoid becoming the object of general curiosity. Lamon, a large and powerfully-built man, is nonetheless recognized as the President’s personal confidant and sidesman.

March 25, 1861

Lincoln’s emissary, Col. Ward H. Lamon and his Confederate escort Colonel Duryea, being greeted at Sumter’s sally-port by Major Anderson on the afternoon of March 25, 1861; the steamer Planter can be seen at right, unable to approach any closer to the wharf because of low tide. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

This Monday morning, Major Anderson notes in an official dispatch to U.S. Army headquarters in Washington how all “is quiet around us,” his Confederate besiegers continuing their work on a new battery at Fort Johnson, as well as practicing “with shells from the Columbiads at Fort Moultrie, and from a mortar battery between Nos. 9 and 10.”

In the City of Charleston, meanwhile, Col. Ward Lamont is approached by a group of leading South Carolinians, who inquire as to his business. Lamon declines to provide details and instead sends his card to Governor Pickens, meeting with this official at 1:00 p.m., after which conversation Lamon is escorted across to Fort Sumter an hour later aboard the steamer Planter by the South Carolinian Col. Robert S. Duryea of the Governor’s staff. Lamon thereupon speaks alone with Anderson for another hour, while touring the upper battlements, before returning into Charleston and meeting with Pickens once more. The Presidential emissary thereupon departs the city altogether at 8:00 p.m., taking the overnight train back to Washington.

Having only been authorized by the President to discreetly assess the situation of Anderson’s command, the bombastic and self-important Lamon (Virginia-born and an anti-abolitionist) leaves both Pickens and Anderson with the impression that Sumter’s garrison will soon be evacuated by the Federal authorities, which is factually untrue and an intimation that will have to be disavowed by Lincoln. In addition, Lamon has misinformed the Confederate commanders that Anderson has mined Fort Sumter, and intends to blow it if pressed to the extreme.

March 26, 1861

This morning, General Beauregard writes a friendly letter to his old Academy instructor, Anderson, and sends it across to Sumter with Lt. W. S. Ferguson, saying that he hopes the fort’s evacuation will be carried out peacefully within the next few days, and adding an expectation that no explosives will be left behind for “destruction or injury after you shall have left.” Unaware of the exaggerations which Lamon has told the Confederate leaders, Anderson promptly replies to Beauregard, saying that he is “deeply hurt” by such an intimation, to which Beauregard replies soothingly, saying that he was misled “by the high source” from which it came.

The engineering officer Captain Foster also writes from Sumter this same morning to his superior General Totten in Washington, reporting that little activity can be seen at the various Confederate batteries around Charleston Harbor, and a storm seems to be brewing. As for his fort itself, Foster adds that “the closing of the exterior openings in the first tier of the gorge is completed, and the work on the splinter-proof traverses continued.”

This same afternoon, three heavy guns can be seen being landed by Confederate artillerymen at Cummings Point, after which a heavy rainstorm sets in by evening, lasting overnight.

March 29, 1861

Modern scale-model ships of the U.S. Revenue cutter Harriet Lane, ca. 1860

In Washington, D.C., President Lincoln instructs his Secretary of War to begin preparations for the dispatch of a seaborne relief-expedition within one week’s time, to attempt to resupply and reinforce Fort Sumter. Specifically, the steamers Pocahontas at Norfolk, Virginia; Pawnee at the Washington Navy Yard; and the Treasury Department’s revenue cutter Harriet Lane at New York, are all “to be under sailing orders for sea, with stores, &c., for one month.” These instructions are duly telegraphed by the Secretary of the Navy and received next day. For this forthcoming service, the two-masted, brigantine-rigged, 730-ton sidewheel steamer Harriet Lane is temporarily transferred from the Revenue Service to the command of the U.S. Navy as of March 30, 1861.

March 30, 1861

About 9:00 a.m. this Saturday morning, State Convention members begin gathering at Charleston’s Southern Wharf to go aboard the steamers Carolina and General Clinch, so as to accompany Beauregard on a cross-harbor tour of the fortifications. The General appears “in undress uniform” with his staff by 9:30 a.m., along with General Jamison in civilian clothes and a number of other guests, going aboard the Carolina. The groups of dignitaries and reporters include ex-Governor Gist; Surgeon-General R.W. Gibbes; militia General Schnierle and his staff; the lawyer-Gen. William E. Martin; Colonels Lucas, Chisholm, and Carroll of Governor Pickens’ staff, etc.

Both vessels set off around 10:00 a.m., Carolina in the lead and the Palmetto Brass Band providing musical accompaniment from aboard the trailing General Clinch. Due to a strong current, their passengers only view Fort Johnson’s defenses from a distance in passing, before proceeding across to Sullivan’s Island. They are met at the Moultrieville landing by Colonel Pettigrew and the officers of his Carolina Rifle Regiment, who escort these guests as they inspect various shoreline batteries, then arrive at the gates of Fort Moultrie to be greeted by a thirteen-gun salute:

Then, Col. Ripley and his officers conducted the visitors over the work. It was remarked by those who are familiar with the place, that since its abandonment by Major Anderson, the fort has undergone many important changes, and apparently has been brought to a state of military perfection that now only awaits the final test. Praise for this result is due to Major Walter Gwynn, the chief engineer of Governor Pickens’ staff, and to his assistant engineers Captain James F. Hart, George W. Earle, and John Mitchell, Jr.

After an hour’s visit, the visitors re-board their vessels and continue Beauregard’s tour toward Morris Island, batteries along both shorelines firing salvoes as they progress. Once on Morris Island, its batteries fire demonstration-rounds at a buoy bobbing 1,600 yards out in the Ship Channel, then after reviewing and addressing the 1,500 troops, who perform drills, the visitors depart around 4:30 p.m. They steam close past Fort Sumter on their way back across the harbor toward the city, gaily waving at its Union garrison while the band (now onboard the Carolina) plays “Dixie” in passing, and regaining Charleston by 6:00 p.m.

March 31, 1861

This Easter Sunday, Major Anderson reports all quiet to the U.S. Army’s Adjutant-General in Washington, although adding: “Yesterday, in consequence of the members of the Convention coming down, a great deal of firing of shot and shell took place at Fort Moultrie and from the batteries on Morris Island.”

April 3, 1861

The small merchant schooner Shannon being fired upon by the Morris Island batteries, while running up the Main Ship-Channel on the windy afternoon of April 3, 1861. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

At 2:00 p.m. this afternoon, the 180-ton merchant schooner Rhoda H. Shannon under Master Joseph Marts of Dorchester, New Jersey, having become disoriented by fog eight days out from Boston — while bound toward Savannah, Georgia, with a cargo of ice — approaches the bar of the Main Ship-Channel off Morris Island, in the mistaken belief that it is his intended destination of Tybee Island. When the pilot-boat refuses to come out in response to his signaling (because of the high-running seas), Marts crosses the bar himself and steers up Morris Island toward the mouth of Charleston Harbor, unaware of the batteries lining the nearby shoreline.

Shortly before 3:00 o’clock, Lt.-Col. Wilmot G. DeSaussure orders a heavy round fired across Shannon’s bow, whose startled Master — not realizing that he is expected to heave to — instead hoists the Stars-and-Stripes to identify his schooner as American. Under orders to prevent “any vessel under that flag from entering the harbor,” the Confederate guns continue to shoot at the struggling schooner, until it moves out of range and comes to a stop, anchoring in the rough waters of the Swash Channel. Both Governor Pickens and General Beauregard witness this shelling from the piazza of the distant Moultrie House Hotel.

Captain Seymour and Lieutenant Snyder — wearing overcoats against the chilly wind — landing from a Sumter boat at Cummings Point, to inquire about any damages inflicted upon the Shannon, April 3, 1861. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

A boat is subsequently rowed across from Fort Sumter to Cummings Point under a white flag-of-truce, bearing Captain Seymour and Lieutenant Snyder, who inquire of Colonel DeSaussure the reason for his opening fire, and then ask whether they might be allowed to board the small vessel to ascertain any damage. Cleared to proceed, the Federal officers manage to get aboard the surging Shannon despite the heavy seas, and determine its identity. Only one shot having pierced a sail “two feet above the boom,” the U.S. Army officers thereupon advise Marts to either proceed with his voyage toward Savannah or enter Charleston Harbor so as to seek shelter, while they depart and touch at Cummings Point once again, to inform DeSaussure of what they have discovered. The Colonel says “that the vessel would not be molested if she came into the harbor,” but the schooner instead prefers to weigh shortly thereafter and disappear back out to sea.

April 8, 1861

This cloudy and cold Monday morning, a wooden house at the western end of Sullivan’s Island is leveled by a Confederate demolition charge, revealing a new four-gun battery which has been covertly installed, with its weapons aimed at Fort Sumter. The Federal defenders out in the harbor prepare to counter this unexpected threat by erecting additional protective traverses atop their upper barbette-tier, as well as by cutting wider access-points into their stronghold, so as to hasten inside any reinforcements or supplies which might belatedly reach them. Rain falls throughout part of this morning, and most of the afternoon.

Confused turn-out of militia companies into the dark and stormy streets of Charleston on the night of April 8-9, 1861. (New York Illustrated News)

Between 11:00 p.m. and midnight on this same stormy Monday night, the bells in St. Michael’s Church begin pealing and seven guns are fired in Charleston’s Citadel Square, as a prearranged signal which indicates the sighting of Federal vessels outside the harbor — initiating a city-wide alarm that requires “the assembling of all the reserves ten minutes afterward.” Some 1,500 South Carolinian militiamen of the 17th Regiment duly tumble out of taverns and beds into the dark and rainy streets, where considerable uncertainty and confusion reigns. Some 300 men of the Sumter Guard, Calhoun Guard, Meagher Guard, and German Yagers began piling wood aboard the steamer Excel at Chisholm’s Rice-Mill Wharf at 3 a.m., in order to strike out three hours later for Morris Island (where a four-mile march through the deep sand still awaits them, before reaching their assigned position near the Lighthouse battery). Daybreak, however, will reveal that this reported sighting has only been a false alarm.

April 9, 1861

The Union garrison inside Fort Sumter continues laboring feverishly to strengthen its defenses, while their issue of bread is reduced to half-rations, as the supply of that commodity dwindles.

April 10, 1861

On Anderson’s orders, the entire Federal garrison within Sumter moves their sleeping-quarters into the protective shelter of empty casemates; ammunition is distributed around for the guns; a safe place is prepared to receive and tend to any wounded; latrines are dug inside the fort; and an embrasure in the lowest tier on the left-flank wall is enlarged so as to quickly transfer inside any fresh supplies, in the unlikely event that Fox’s flotilla should win through to deliver them.

Ashore, another Confederate battery is unmasked at the western extremity of Sullivan’s Island, consisting of a single heavy gun; Foster will consequently keep his men working until 10:00 p.m. on this same moonless night, filling and piling sandbags on the parapet as an extra defense against this new threat. Discovering that Sumter’s supply of gun-cartridges is very small, Lt. Richard K. Meade of the Engineers organizes a work-detail “to increase the supply by cutting up all the surplus blankets and extra company clothing, to make cartridge bags.” The bread supply being exhausted, it is supplemented “by picking over some damaged rice, which while spread out to dry in one of the quarters, had been filled with pieces of glass from the window-panes shattered by the concussion of guns fired in practice.”

April 11, 1861

In the early dawn, Captain Foster spots the Floating Battery now riding at anchor off the upper end of Sullivan’s Island, “between the end of the jetty and the steamboat wharf.” He notes in his journal how its positioning will allow its guns to sweep:

... the whole of the left flank of [Fort Sumter], and thus rendering it impossible for any vessel with supplies to lie anywhere along this flank, while the breakwater in front [of the Floating Battery] protects her from our ricochet shots.

Virtually all of the Union garrison’s defensive measures are now complete, although the number of cartridge-bags remains low because the “work of making [them] is slow, owing to there being only six needles in the fort.”

Meanwhile, merchant vessels begin clearing Charleston Harbor throughout this morning, and business is at a standstill within the city, as crowds gather to observe the stream of arriving militia units and await developments. One such company consists of the Minutemen of Abbeville under Capt. James Perrin, uniformed in red shirts and black trousers.

Shortly after noon, a boat with three aides of General Beauregard and Governor Pickens — Col. James Chesnut, Col. A. R. Chisholm, and Capt. Stephen D. Lee — clears the Charleston waterfront and reaches Sumter shortly before 4:00 p.m., to present a formal demand for the surrender of its Federal garrison. Anderson refuses, so that the delegation regains the city and a report to this effect is telegraphed that same evening to the Confederate authorities at Montgomery. A city-wide call is also “made for volunteers to perform patrol-duty during the night, for no one knows what trouble the Negro element may occasion” with so many South Carolinians absent on militia duties. A thousand private citizens duly muster on Citadel Green.

April 12, 1861

The bombardment of Fort Sumter commences, culminating next day.

April 14, 1861

At 5:00 a.m., Captain Hartstein and some Confederate officers ferry Lieutenant Snyder aboard the steamer General Clinch, out to the waiting Federal vessels to arrange for the transfer of Sumter’s capitulated garrison around noon. As this Sunday morning breaks clear and fair, civilians begin lining the shorelines and filling boats to view the actual handover. Anderson meanwhile receives visitors and correspondents within his gutted fort, while preparing to commence the agreed 100-gun salute at 11:00 a.m., then depart aboard the steamer Isabel for the U.S. ships waiting outside the bar.

Yet because of various delays, it is almost 2:00 p.m. before these salutes can finally be initiated, under the supervision of Lieutenant Hall; and as Pvt. Daniel Hough is inserting a cartridge into a gun-barrel for the 17th salute, it explodes prematurely, blowing off his right arm. The guns continue firing despite this tragedy, although it is agreed to reduce the number of salutes in light of this accident from 100 to 50. Two other servicemen injured in this incident are ferried across the harbor to be hospitalized in Charleston, while Anderson and all the rest of his men troop aboard the Isabel by 4:00 p.m. to the tune of “Yankee Doodle.” However, having missed the tide, the steamer remains firmly grounded off Sumter’s wharf.

Governor Pickens, General Beauregard, and a host of other dignitaries thereupon enter Sumter, to preside over the ceremonies which climax with the simultaneous raising of the Confederate and Palmetto flags, amid much cheering. The honor of commanding Fort Sumter on this initial night of Confederate occupation is given to Lieutenant-Colonel Ripley, with the 40 gunners of Captain Hallonquist’s Company B of the South Carolina Artillery and Captain Cuthbert’s Palmetto Guards comprising its new garrison. Discovering a few small fires still smoldering amid the devastation, Colonel Duryea returns into Charleston this same Sunday evening to summon additional assistance, Chief M. H. Nathan leading his fire-engine companies across, who succeed in extinguishing these last flames by next day.

April 15, 1861

Photograph of Sumter’s new occupiers paraded on April 15, 1861, under a seven-star Confederate flag; attributed to Alma A. Pelot. (Library of Congress)

In Washington, D.C., President Lincoln issues a call to all state Governors still loyal to the Union, to supply 75,000 troops for three months’ service, to suppress the rebellion which has erupted against the Federal government.

Meanwhile in Charleston Harbor, Alma A. Pelot, assistant to Jess H. Bolles — the owner of one of the city’s leading photographic studios — takes a series of “full and perfect representations of the internal appearance of Fort Sumter, on the morning after the surrender,” as was to be reported next day in the April 16th edition of the Charleston Courier newspaper.

April 16, 1861

Capt. Alfred Rhett’s 75-man company of the South Carolina Artillery relieves Hallonquist’s unit in its garrison-duties at Fort Sumter, and Hallonquist himself is ordered to report to Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg at Pensacola, Florida. In the City of Charleston, meanwhile, Dr. R. W. Gibbes — “Surgeon-General of the South Carolina Army” — submits his official medical report on the recent action to the Confederate Adjutant-General’s office, beginning with the words:

From the returns received from the various posts, I have the unexampled and happy privilege of stating that no serious casualty has occurred during the vigorous action of thirty-three hours in reducing Fort Sumter. Four trifling contusions are reported at Fort Moultrie, but none at other posts, and it is a subject of equal gratification that, even in the management of heavy ordnance by new recruits and unpracticed volunteers, no accident to life or limb has occurred.
Sprawling militia encampments of the Palmetto Guard, Sumter Guards, and Marion Artillery companies at the northern tip of Morris Island, as photographed ca. April 17, 1861. (Attributed to James M. Osborn)

This same evening, the English correspondent William Howard Russell reaches Charleston by train from Wilmington, North Carolina, and takes a room in the Mills House Hotel. He reports on the great excitement — “the flush of victory” — still prevalent everywhere in the state following Sumter’s bombardment and capture. Next day, while visiting the triumphant militia encampments on Morris Island, he will furthermore record in his diary:

The utter contempt and loathing for the venerated Stars and Stripes, the abhorrence of the very words United States, the intense hatred of the Yankee on the part of these people, cannot be conceived by anyone who has not seen them. I am more satisfied than ever that the Union can never be restored as it was, and that it has gone to pieces, never to be put together again ...

April 17, 1861

The Charleston photographer James M. Osborn arrives at Fort Sumter, capturing more than twenty stereoscopic views of this battered stronghold, before also heading across to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, where he exposes at least ten more images, plus six more glass-plate negatives on Morris Island. He also visits Cole’s Island and takes four photographs, which include Fort Palmetto and members of the Lafayette Artillery.

Elsewhere in the South, the Virginia legislature passes an ordinance of secession, which is to be confirmed or rejected by a referendum to be held on May 23rd.

April 18, 1861

Major Anderson, with his officers and men, being cheered as they arrive at New York City aboard the “Baltic” on April 18, 1861. (New York Illustrated News)

Shortly before 11:00 a.m. on this dank Thursday morning, the telegraph-station at Sandy Hook signals that the steamship Baltic is just outside the bar of New York’s harbor, bringing Major Anderson and his surviving men on board. Expectant crowds begin to gather along the city’s Battery, while militia units assemble for a welcoming parade. The ship comes through the Narrows by 11:45 a.m., accompanied by the Harriet Lane, Pawnee, and Pocahontas. While hove-to briefly for its quarantine inspection, numerous officials and reporters go aboard the Baltic, being introduced to Anderson and his officers, who are gathered near its gangway (many of these visitors noting the “exceedingly careworn and emaciated appearance of [the] Major”).

When the Baltic resumes its approach, they are cheered by the whistles and bells of passing vessels, while onlookers are further excited to see that Sumter’s “main garrison flag ... with its shattered flag-staff and rent bunting, was hoisted at the main,” and Fort Moultrie’s former flag flies from the steamer’s foremast-head. Tying up at the docks by 1:00 p.m., Anderson and his men come ashore to an exuberant welcome, and the 5th New State Militia Regiment pass in review beneath his balcony in the Brevoort House one hour later.

April 19, 1861

In Washington, D.C., Lincoln issues Presidential Proclamation 81, which orders that due to the “insurrection against the Government of the United States” and threat by Confederate authorities to grant “pretended letters of marque” to privateers, a naval blockade will be imposed on the seaports of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

April 20, 1861

This morning, a large hydrogen-filled balloon alights near the town of Unionville, South Carolina, its pioneer aviator Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe having taken off from Cincinnati, Ohio, to test his theory that a steady current of air in the middle-atmosphere might permit travel eastward, perhaps even as far as Europe. Lowe is promptly jailed by the local South Carolinian authorities, and in the excitement following the bombardment of Fort Sumter and declaration of war, narrowly avoids execution as a suspected Yankee spy or saboteur before eventually being released.

April 22, 1861

The Vigilant Rifles are relieved of garrison-duty at the Five Gun Battery on Sullivan’s Island.

April 23, 1861

An article in the Charleston Courier newspaper states:

We learn that Mr. Osborn, of the firm of Osborn & Durbec, the well known photographists, has by special permission, been allowed to visit Fort Sumter, and has taken twenty-six different views of the fort, internal and external. Mr. Osborn has also visited Morris and Sullivan’s Islands, and has taken several views of these points, all of which we may expect to see in a few days.

April 27, 1861

A joint U.S. Army-Navy expedition assaults and captures Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, when seven warships under the command of Flag Officer Silas H. Stringham shell the two forts protecting Hatteras Inlet into submission, thereby allowing Maj.-Gen. Benjamin Butler to land 900 soldiers and occupy these works, securing 670 prisoners.

April 29, 1861

A convention in Maryland rejects an ordinance of secession.

May 6, 1861

Conventions in Arkansas and Tennessee adopt ordinances of secession.

May 10, 1861

The 12-gun, 250-man, 5,630-ton Union screw-steamer frigate Niagara under Capt. William W. McKean takes up station outside Charleston Harbor, intercepting all approaching vessels and warning them to proceed elsewhere, as the South Carolina coast is now under Federal blockade.

Two days later, the Niagara captures the merchant ship General Parkhill as it tries to run in past from Liverpool, a boarding-party discovering compromising papers and two Palmetto flags aboard, so that this vessel is seized and sent to Philadelphia as a prize with a ten-man naval crew on board. This interception initiates a continuous wartime blockade which will curtail almost all of the port’s commercial traffic over the next four years, except for sporadic voyages made by a few daring blockade-runners.

May 18, 1861

On Sullivan’s Island, the month-old Company B of the 1st Regiment, South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, is officially mustered into Confederate service by the Assistant Adjutant-General, Maj. David R. Jones.

May 20, 1861

North Carolina adopts an ordinance of secession, bringing the total number of Confederate states to eleven, while Kentucky’s Gov. Beriah Magoffin issues a proclamation of neutrality, which is observed for a time.

May 23, 1861

By a three-to-one margin, voters in Virginia approve their state’s secession from the Union. At 10:00 p.m., Federal troops counter by beginning to march across the three bridges over the Potomac River, so as to secure these strategic crossing-points and erect defensive positions along the far banks, to prevent any artillery bombardment against Washington, DC. By the morning of May 24th, over 13,000 Union soldiers are digging entrenchments and probing deeper into Virginia.

May 24, 1861

On Sullivan’s Island, Company H of the 1st Regiment (Butler’s), South Carolina Volunteer Infantry under Capt. Warren Adams, is mustered into Confederate service by the Assistant Adjutant-General, Maj. David R. Jones. Five days afterward, this company will be “embarked in the Steamer Wm. Seabrook” and next day, May 30th, arrives to garrison the island-battery named “Fort Pickens” along with Company C of the 1st South Carolina Heavy Artillery.

May 27, 1861

Confederate Brig. Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard is relieved from duty in the State of South Carolina, relinquishing command of its volunteer militia forces to Gov. Francis Pickens, and transferring command of all Confederate forces in Charleston Harbor and its vicinity to Col. Richard H. Anderson.

June 2, 1861

The Confederate letter-of-marque Savannah of Charleston, as depicted on Page 96 of the June 22, 1861 edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper

The tiny, single-gun schooner Savannah (formerly employed as a pilot-boat for Charleston Harbor, but now outfitted as a privateer by eight local investors who have purchased the Confederate “Letter of Marque No. 1”) slips out to sea and next day captures the passing brig Joseph out of Maine, as it is proceeding north toward Philadelphia. This capture is dispatched into Charleston as a prize — but when the Savannah then pursues a second sail which it spos later on that same afternoon of June 3rd, this sighting turns out to be the armed brig USS Perry, which takes the privateer. Savannah’s crew will subsequently be incarcerated in New York’s Toombs Prison, while U.S. government attorneys debate whether or not Confederate privateers are to be tried as pirates.

June 15, 1861

Company B of the 1st Regiment, South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, changes its station “from Five Gun Battery to Moultrie House” on Sullivan’s Island.

July 19, 1861

Col. Richard H. Anderson writes to Col. Edward Manigault, Chief of Ordnance at the “Head Quarters Prov’l Forces” in Charleston:

I have been informed that the guns required for the bastionets at Fort Moultrie, are under your charge and not at the Arsenal as was supposed. Will you be so good as to deliver them, with the carriages, for which I applied this morning to Col. Ripley.

An appended notation indicates that three 24-pound howitzers “captured in Fort Moultrie” will be duly sent out from the Citadel, a fourth being already aboard the steamer Lady Davis.

And this same day, after a couple of months’ recruitment throughout Abbeville, Pickens, Anderson, and Marion Counties, ten companies totaling more than 1,500 men assemble at “Camp Pickens” outside of Sandy Springs, midway between the towns of Anderson and Pendleton, to be officially mustered in next day for three years of Confederate service — or the duration of the war — as the 1st South Carolina Rifle Regiment, with James L. Orr as their Colonel and J. Foster Marshall as Lieutenant-Colonel. (Orr, a politician and former Speaker of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress, will resign from this regimental command upon being elected to the Confederate Congress in February 1862.)

July 20, 1861

The Charleston Mercury newspaper reports that machinery developed by the local firm of James M. Eason Brothers for rifling smoothbore artillery barrels, has proven successful, it having been “demonstrated that the Eason gun will throw solid shot or shell, with accuracy, further than any other cannon now in our possession.”

August 6, 1861

The steamer Antelope reaches Charleston, bringing in a detachment of the Washington Artillery under Lt. James Salvo, plus several Northern merchant sailors whose vessels have been captured by a Confederate privateer.

August 17, 1861

A teenaged girl named Elizabeth White, daughter of the planter John S. White of St. Johns, Berkeley, is dragged out into deep water by the currents while bathing in the surf off Sullivan’s Island and drowns, her uncle Thomas F. Porcher (likewise a vacationing planter) furthermore dying in a vain attempt to rescue her. Next day, Mary Boykin Chestnut will record in her diary:

Wilmot de Saussure [sic: DeSaussure], harrowed my soul by an account of a recent death by drowning on the beach at Sullivan’s Island. Mr. Porcher, who was trying to save his sister’s life, lost his own and his child’s. People seem to die out of the army, quite as much as in it.

August 21, 1861

Newly-promoted Confederate Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley is assigned to command the Department of South Carolina.

September 12, 1861

The 1st (Butler’s) Regiment, South Carolina Infantry — which has been stationed at the Moultrie House Hotel on Sullivan’s Island for the past three months — is transferred to Camp Barnard E. Bee on Edisto Island. This regiment will return to help garrison Fort Moultrie by year’s end.

September 13, 1861

Federal prisoners and Charleston Zouave Cadet guards in Castle Pinckney, autumn 1861, by George S. Cook. (Miller, Photographic History)

Early this morning, a trainload of 156 Federal soldiers captured in late July at the First Battle of Bull Run or Manassas, and held prisoners ever since in tobacco warehouses on Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, arrives at Charleston’s railway depot. This same afternoon, they are marched to temporary confinement within the city jail by a company of 50 Charleston Zouave Cadets. The famed Col. Michael Corcoran of the 69th New York “Fighting Irish” State Militia, will later note:

I must acknowledge that I was much surprised, and equally pleased with the reception we received. From the time I had been captured up to the moment I set foot in Charleston, there was no place where I had been so well, or rather, considerately treated as in that city.

Next day, September 14, 1861, the captives and their guards are ferried across the harbor into Castle Pinckney, which has been prepared to serve as their prison. Those confined in its lower-tier casemates include troops from the 11th New York “Fire Zouaves” Regiment, the 8th Michigan, plus the 69th and 79th “Highlander” New York Regiments. Sometime during the next few weeks, Capt. Charles E. Chichester of the Zouave Cadets will contract the Charleston photographer George S. Cook to visit the Castle, and record a series of pictures.

September 14, 1861

The 1st South Carolina Regular Infantry Regiment is transferred from Sullivan’s Island to Edisto Island, where it will remain for the next two weeks, before returning in mid-November 1861.

September 16, 1861

Having been encamped for a fortnight at Summerville, 22 miles above Charleston, the 1st South Carolina Rifle Regiment reaches Sullivan’s Island and is partially quartered in the Moultrie House Hotel, as well as distributed around various vacant civilian dwellings.

October 4, 1861

At a special parade held in front of the Moultrie House Hotel, Col. Isaac W. Hayne presents the 1st South Carolina Rifle Regiment with a two-sided flag sewn by a couple of ladies from Charleston: one side featuring a white palmetto tree with eleven fronds — one for each Confederate state — and a crescent moon upon a blue field, while the other displays a Confederate “First National” flag. [This standard is today preserved in the Confederate Relic Room in Columbia, South Carolina.]

October 30, 1861

The Union prisoners in Castle Pinckney are shuttled back across the harbor into Charleston, disembarking at its wharf from the steamer John A. Moore around 4:00 p.m. this Wednesday afternoon, to be marched “rapidly to the tap of the drum” through East Bay, Cumberland, Meeting, and Queen Streets to be confined once more in its city jail. The Charleston Mercury newspaper reports that many of the captives “carried along on their shoulders their chairs, chess-boards, and other similar conveniences, which they had extemporized during their stay at Castle Pinckney.”

November 1, 1861

Three days after the departure of a Union seaborne expedition of 12,000 men aboard 75 vessels from Hampton Roads, Virginia, the Confederate Sec. of War Judah P. Benjamin in Richmond becomes convinced that this force is intended to capture Port Royal, South Carolina, to serve as an advance base.

November 5, 1861

To contain this Union threat against Port Royal, a new Confederate “Military Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Eastern Florida” is created by Secretary Benjamin, with Gen. Robert E. Lee appointed as its commander. Derided in the Richmond newspapers as “Granny Lee” because of the recent failures of his campaign in western Virginia, Lee passes through Charleston next day and reaches his advance headquarters at Coosawhatchie by November 7th.

November 7, 1861

The large Federal seaborne expedition escorted by seventeen U.S. Navy warships under Samuel F. Du Pont pushes its way into Port Royal Sound, 60 miles south of Charleston Harbor, disgorging 12,000 infantrymen who capture it by this same afternoon.

November 21, 1861

After five-and-a-half months’ detached service, first at the “Fort Pickens Battery Island” and then at South Edisto, Company H of the South Carolina 1st (Butler’s) Infantry Regiment is returned to garrison-duty at Fort Moultrie.

December 5, 1861

The Charleston Courier newspaper reports how at “half past eight o’clock” that previous evening:

… the bells sounded the fire alarm, and considerable excitement was caused by the discovery of a fire in the rear of H. W. Kinsman’s store [at number 223] on the west side of King Street, near the corner of Beaufain. These premises are connected with several large stores, containing valuable stocks of goods. The fire is supposed to have originated in the rear of the shop. The second story was occupied by Messrs. Osborn & Durbec, Daguerreotypists. Mr. Kinsman lost some twenty-five or thirty sewing machines. Some of the stock was removed in time to a place of safety. Osborn & Durbec’s loss is primarily from the damage sustained by water.

December 11, 1861

Around 9:00 p.m., another fire is discovered in Russell and Olds’ sash- and blind-factory at the foot of Hasell Street [near the present-day Harris Teeter Grocery Store] in Charleston, which soon spreads to Cameron & Company’s extensive machine-shops and foundry on the opposite side of the street, and other nearby buildings. Propelled west-southwestward by a fresh breeze out of the northeast, this blaze grows uncontrollably large “before ten o’clock” and advances across the city overnight, consuming hundreds of homes and businesses by next morning. An eyewitness reports next day:

Fire companies are mostly composed of men in military duty, and are thus being led by General Robert E. Lee, who has been commanding in the city. He is fighting the fire in much the organized fashion by which he fights battles, but has unfortunately met with the same disappointing results which have marked his military failures in western Virginia earlier this year. One building he has saved is the Mills House Hotel, where his staff placed up wet blankets along the walls and ceilings.

Unfortunately, though, a broad swath encompassing 540 acres of Charleston’s urban core has been consumed before this conflagration is finally halted by the banks of the Ashley River. Many historic edifices such as the old Executive Building, the Institute, St. Andrew’s Hall, the Circular Church, and Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John and St. Finbar are destroyed by this inferno, and the extensive damage will still remain visibly unchanged by the time that the war ends three-and-a-half years later.

January 20, 1862

Confederate lookouts notice another Union fleet gathering outside of Charleston Harbor, this time around Rattlesnake Shoal, who will scuttle thirteen more vessels over the next six days as a “Second Stone Fleet”, intended to deny easy passage for blockade-runners hoping to dash through Maffitt’s Channel (also known as the “Beach Channel”).

Nevertheless, swift, low, and shallow-draught steamers will still be able to edge in and out of port by hugging the coastline in the darkness, most using Dewees Inlet as their nighttime landmark and upon approach keeping close to the breakers, before attempting to pass within the wrecks of the Second Stone Fleet at high tide so as to evade the heavier Union warships.

March 2, 1862

This Sunday, a telegram from President Davis reaches Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charleston, asking him to report to the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. He departs three days afterward, arriving at this new posting to be vaguely encharged “with the conduct of military operations in the armies of the Confederacy.”

March 13, 1862

An entry in the journal of Cmdr. John B. Marchand, aboard the newly-arrived blockading side-wheel steamer James Adger of ten guns and 1,150 tons, records this Thursday as being:

A pleasant day, smooth sea and light easterly winds. In the early part it was foggy. Either from Forts Moultrie or Sumter, target practice was going on from the heavy guns.

March 27, 1862

Confederate General Pemberton orders his subordinate, Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley, to withdraw the heavy guns from Coles Island and Battery Island, installed several months previously to guard the mouth of the Stono River. This decision evokes heated protests from Governor Pickens and other South Carolinian leaders.

April 19, 1862

This Saturday, the 1st South Carolina Rifle Regiment receives orders to transfer from its station on Sullivan’s Island to Richmond, Virginia, so that its companies quickly pack and send home their surplus baggage, and depart Charleston by train next afternoon.

May 5, 1862

Confederate General Pemberton issues an order, declaring that the martial-law measures enacted by Governor Pickens will be enforced at Charleston and up to ten miles outside the city limits, effective as of noon on May 13th. Col. Johnson Hagood of the 1st South Carolina Volunteers is appointed as provost marshal.

May 12, 1862

Early this morning, the “high-pressure, light-draft” sidewheel steamer Planter of Master C. J. Relyea proceeds from Charleston to Coles Island, to load the last four heavy guns being withdrawn from that Confederate outpost. After toiling all day in heaving aboard a banded 42-pounder rifled gun, an 8-inch Columbiad, an 8-inch seacoast howitzer, and a 24-pounder howitzer, this steamer returns to Charleston’s Southern Wharf by nightfall. Relyea then decides to go home for the night, as do his pilot and engineer, leaving only eight slave crewmen on board the vessel.

May 13, 1862

A post-Civil War photograph of the steamer “Planter” (at left), riding at anchor off a Charleston wharf with a stacked cargo of cotton-bales. (NYPL Digital Library)

Sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., the sidewheel steamer Planter of two guns — which is lying at Charleston’s Southern Wharf, waiting to transport its four heavy artillery-pieces out to the new Middle Ground battery that will soon be christened as “Fort Ripley” — gets under way and steams along the city waterfront as far as its Atlantic Wharf, before pausing to blow its whistle as usual and then stand out across the darkened harbor. But instead of touching at Middle Ground, the Planter steams on toward Fort Sumter, passing it unchallenged at 4:15 a.m., as this stronghold’s sentinels assume it to be the regular Confederate guard-boat departing on a dawn patrol.

While the steamer’s master C. J. Relyea, pilot Samuel H. Smith, and engineer Zerich Pitcher have been resting ashore in the city, its eight black slave crewmen led by Robert Smalls have decided to make a bid to sail this vessel to freedom (accompanied by five other escaping slave women and three children), taking along its military cargo of a banded 42-pounder rifled gun, an 8-inch Columbiad, an 8-inch seacoast howitzer, and a 24-pounder howitzer. Flying a bed-sheet as a white flag, the steamer emerges from the harbor and is intercepted and boarded by the U.S.S. Onward under Lt. J. Frederick Nickels of the Union blockading squadron, and greeted in astonishment as heroes. Planter is steamed that same afternoon to the main regional Federal anchorage at Hilton Head, South Carolina, where it will be purchased to operate as a fleet auxiliary, half of this prize-money going to Smalls and his companions.

June 2, 1862

U.S. Maj.-Gen. David Hunter disembarks with 6,600 Union troops at Grimball Plantation on the Stono River, securing this beachhead on James Island.

June 8, 1862

This afternoon, the 17-gun neutral British steam-sloop H.M.S. Rinaldo contacts the U.S. naval blockading squadron off Charleston, to advise that it has on board an English cleric named Rev. William Wyndham Malet, who bears a passport from the American Secretary of State in Washington to be allowed into South Carolina on an errand of mercy. The Captain of the U.S.S. Augusta goes aboard Rinaldo next day to examine this visitor’s papers, and agrees to permit the Reverend to be rowed ashore. Since the seas are running so high, though, this hazardous traverse is not attempted until the morning of June 10th, when Malet sets out with a young Royal Navy officer and four seamen:

... in a small open boat, having orders to steer for Fort Sumter. The breeze was still blowing very fresh, and the waves very high, and with our one sail set we did the eight miles in little over an hour.
When opposite Fort Moultrie, a shot from the Confederate battery passed just in front of the boat’s bows. The officer, supposing that they did not see the British flag, bore a little towards the fort to show it, and then stood on his course. Not many minutes elapsed, however, when another shot, striking the water in a line with our boat, rebounded over the mast; this looked more serious, so the sail being lowered, we rowed towards the shore, where an officer met us and said that the senior officer being at Fort Moultrie, no boats were allowed to pass on to Fort Sumter, hence the two shots. After some delay, the officer commanding the fort, having seen my passport from Lord Lyons and letter from Mr. Mason (the Confederate commissioner in London), allowed me to go on board the passenger-boat between Fort Moultrie and Charleston, a distance of some three miles.

July 15, 1862

While test-firing a new type of artillery projectile at Fort Moultrie, this experimental round is unwittingly loaded on top of another shot already in the chamber of a rifled and banded 32-pounder. Consequently, when this double-shotted gun is fired, it bursts into eight large and numerous smaller segments, with such force that the front half of its barrel is catapulted completely out of the fort, while a chunk of its base-ring weighing some 500-600 pounds flies 120-130 yards backwards.

Lt.-Col. Thomas M. Wagner of the 1st South Carolina Artillery Regiment is killed by this blast, along with another officer and two enlisted men, while a third officer and three gunners are wounded. Wagner being a well-to-do planter, a former South Carolina state senator, the director of the Charleston and Savannah Rail Road Company, and Confederate chief of ordnance for the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, he is interred with full honors in St. Michael’s Church cemetery. Four months later, the “Neck Battery” which is being built about 1,000 yards down from Cummings Point on Morris Island, will be officially named “Battery Wagner” in his honor.

August 29, 1862

His reputation as a field-commander diminished because of the Confederate defeat and subsequent retreat from the Battle of Shiloh, General Beauregard is officially directed by the Confederate government to supersede Maj.-Gen. John C. Pemberton in command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, although these orders to Beauregard are initially misaddressed, and so fail to reach him.

September 11, 1862

Beauregard finally departs Richmond, Virginia, reaching Charleston two days later and checking into the Mills House Hotel, officially assuming command over the Department of South Carolina and Georgia on Monday, September 15th to a warm reception from Charleston’s citizenry, who remember him fondly while having grown disenchanted with Pemberton. By month’s end, Beauregard will take over the Meeting Street home of Otis Mills, to serve as his residence and military headquarters.

September 16, 1862

Before supplanting Pemberton, Beauregard asks his predecessor to conduct him on a detailed guided-tour throughout the entire Department, which will conclude at Savannah five days later. Their first stop is to inspect:

… four new sand batteries en barbette near the west end of Sullivan’s Island, bearing on the floating boom which is being laid across the channel to Fort Sumter. These batteries are not yet finished and only two 10-inch Columbiads are in position, one not being serviceable yet. The magazines are not yet constructed.

September 18, 1862

Beauregard and Pemberton, accompanied by their staffs, inspect Forts Moultrie and Sumter, which they find to be:

… in fine order and condition, considering the repairs in progress at the latter. The armament of the first consists of thirty-eight guns, of various calibers from 24-pounders to 8-inch Columbiads, and the garrison of about 300 effective men. The armament of the second work consists of seventy-nine guns, of various calibers from 32-pounders to 10-inch Columbiads and seven 10-inch mortars, and the garrison of about 352 effective men.

It is further noted that “Battery Beauregard, across Sullivan’s Island in advance of Fort Moultrie to defend the approach from the east, is armed with five guns.”

September 24, 1862

Having regained Charleston from their inspection-tour throughout the entire region, Beauregard officially replaces Pemberton in command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia. In his subsequent efforts to strengthen all of South Carolina’s coastal defenses against an anticipated Union offensive, Beauregard instructs Col. David Bullock Harris — his chief engineer — to bury outdated Fort Moultrie in even more mounds of sand, rather than dismantle it. Otherwise, its masonry walls will be pulverized by the ever-more powerful rifled artillery-shells being fired by Union artillery, while providing little or no protection for its defenders.

October 20, 1862

At 2:00 a.m. on this hazy and dark night, the 2-gun U.S. naval gunboat Flambeau spots a steamer slipping past close in to shore, making for Maffitt’s Channel so as to gain Charleston Harbor. The Federal gunboat pursues, firing several heavy cannon-shots without striking the blockade-runner, but which subsequently runs onto Bowman’s Jetty an hour later in the darkness and gets hung up, remaining stuck fast. One day later, the October 21, 1862 edition of the Charleston Mercury will report that:

The vessel in question was the British steamer “Minho,” with a valuable cargo from Bermuda. After escaping the blockaders, she had the misfortune to get ashore on the stone breakwater at Sullivan’s Island [Bowman’s Jetty], and thus had several holes punched in her bottom by the rocks, which let a large quantity of water into the ship, injuring, perhaps, a portion of the cargo. At low water yesterday [October 20th], the leaks had been stopped in a measure, and as the tide rose in the afternoon, several steamers tugged at her, but did not succeed in getting her off. As the “Minho” is divided into several water-tight compartments, it is hoped that both vessel and cargo may be saved. A sloop with a part of the cargo came up to the city yesterday afternoon.

October 24, 1862

The Federal blockader USS Restless captures the 195-foot, twin-stacked, double-masted, iron sidewheel steamer Scotia near Charleston Harbor.

January 21, 1863

This night, the schooner Etiwan, laden with 99 bales of cotton and two barrels of rosin, steals out of Charleston Harbor and attempts to sneak past the Union blockading squadron by following the seldom-used Swash Channel, only to be captured.

January 30, 1863

After night falls, the Confederate ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora under Commo. Duncan N. Ingraham quietly cast off from the city at 11:30 p.m. and glide across Charleston Harbor, so as to arrive at its main bar around 4:00 a.m. on January 31st and cross over at high tide, with a foot of draft to spare (although three trailing wooden steamers under Commander Hartstene bearing fifty Confederate soldiers are unable to follow). Descending Morris Island by way of the Main Ship Channel through a thick haze and with the moon having just set, Palmetto State under Lt.-Cmdr. John Rutledge opens the Confederate surprise-attack at 4:30 a.m. on January 31st by suddenly ramming its prow and firing off its forward port-gun (a 7-inch Brooke rifle) directly into the starboard quarter of the wooden blockade steamer USS Mercedita, whose Capt.Henry S. Stellwagen promptly offers to surrender.

Confederate ironclads “Chicora” and “Palmetto State” surprising the Union blockading vessels at anchor off Morris Island before dawn on January 31, 1863. (Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly)

Shortly thereafter, Chicora under Cmdr. John R. Tucker opens fire at 5:20 a.m. against the blockading vessels Quaker City and Memphis, then compels the USS Keystone State of Capt. William A. Leroy to lower its flag in token of surrender; but before a boat-crew can be sent across to take possession of this crippled Union warship, it gets under way and manages to escape from its heavier attacker. Both Confederate ironclads thereupon steam slowly eastward and northward along the line of the blockaders’ fleet, exchanging long-range fire with several wooden warships, before eventually coming to anchor by 8:45 a.m. at the entrance of Maffitt’s Channel (also known as the Beach Channel).

All Union vessels having retreated a few miles offshore, Palmetto State and Chicora remain unchallenged at the harbor entrance for the next seven hours, before getting under way again and at 4:00 p.m. re-crossing the bar at high tide, regaining the safety of Charleston Harbor. Forts Moultrie, Beauregard, and Sumter fire celebratory salvoes as the returning ironclads steam past, and cheering crowds greet them in the city, although their Confederate officers and crews are disappointed when the blockaders simply resume their former stations.

March 15, 1863

After a tense night navigating blindly in from the open Atlantic through the shallows, while avoiding Union warships, the blockade-runner Flora gropes its way along Sullivan’s Island at 5:30 a.m. in dense fog, and a Prussian officer traveling on board as a passenger — Capt. Justus Scheibert — will later record how the first faint rays of dawn:

... revealed nothing but grey upon grey, until a colossus at our side gradually became visible through the mist.
A ship? No. Thank heavens, it was Fort Moultrie, at the entrance to the harbor, to which Providence had graciously guided us. We hailed with fiery jubilation the Confederate flag, which likewise waved from our stern, and with a certain satisfaction we greeted the signal shot that resounded toward us from Fort Sumter. We had landed in Charleston!

By 9:00 a.m. that same morning, Scheibert is being received by General Beauregard at his city headquarters and accommodated on the Confederate commander’s staff as a foreign observer, having been sent by Wilhelm, Prince Radziwill — chief of the Prussian Engineer Corps — to study first-hand the effects of “rifled cannon fire” on earthen, masonry, and iron fortifications.

March 16, 1863

This morning, the 6-gun, 830-ton “double ender” side-wheel Federal steamer USS Octorara under Cmdr. Napoleon Collins intercepts the small schooner-yacht Five Brothers, and soon thereafter seizes the Confederate sloop Rosalie as well around latitude 26°, 50’ North and longitude 76°, 51’ West, as both vessels are apparently attempting to head toward Charleston Harbor so as to run its blockade from Nassau in the Bahamas.

April 23, 1863

The Charleston Mercury newspaper reports on its front page:

Frank Vizetelly, the correspondent of the Illustrated London News, has returned to England from the Confederate States, where he has been for nearly two years.  His opinion (says a London correspondent) is that the South will never be conquered.  The women keep alive the warlike spirit.

Having traveled aboard a blockade-runner, Vizetelly will remain in England for only a few weeks before returning to America to be present in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when that city surrenders to the besieging Union army of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Vizetelly subsequently regains Charleston.

June 5, 1863

This night, the Confederate steam-gunboat Stono (formerly the USS Isaac P. Smith) emerges from Charleston Harbor with a load of cotton, hoping to slip past the Union blockading squadron. However, it is spotted in the darkness and chased back by the 700-ton screw-steamer USS Wissahickon, which fires repeatedly at the Stono, even after it runs aground on Bowman’s Jetty in front of Fort Moultrie, leaving it a wreck.

June 8, 1863

Lt.-Col. Arthur Fremantle, a young Captain in Britain’s elite Coldstream Guards who has been on an unofficial personal tour through the Confederacy, reaches Charleston this Monday at dawn on the overnight train from Augusta, Georgia, describing the city as follows in his diary:

To me, who had roughed it for ten weeks to such an extent, Charleston appeared most comfortable and luxurious, but its inhabitants must, to say the least, be suffering great inconvenience. The lighting and paving of the city had gone to the bad completely. Most of the shops were shut up. Those that were open contained but very few goods, and those were at famine prices ...
An immense amount of speculation in blockade-running was going on, and a great deal of business is evidently done in buying and selling Negroes, for the papers are full of advertisements of slave auctions. That portion of the city destroyed by the great fire presents the appearance of a vast wilderness in the very centre of the town, no attempt having been made towards rebuilding it; this desert space looks like the Pompeian ruins and extends ... for a mile in length by half a mile in width.

He nonetheless adds: “The people, however, all seem happy, contented and determined. Both the great hotels are crowded, and well dressed, handsome ladies are plentiful; the fare is good.”

Wishing to inspect the military defenses of Charleston Harbor, he will linger here until June 15th, during which he inspects Fort Sumter and visits Morris Island on more than one occasion in the company of Gen. Roswell S. Ripley, commander of South Carolina’s First Military District (“a jovial character, very fond of the good things of this life,” according to Fremantle).

July 24, 1863

Around 8:00 a.m., the Union steamer Cosmopolitan arrives off Morris Island from Hilton Head, North Carolina, bringing 39 wounded Confederate prisoners for a pre-arranged exchange. Passing over the bar two hours later, this vessel is allowed to circle around Battery Wagner under a white flag-of-truce as all guns fall silent, and drop anchor beside the Confederate steamer Alice which is waiting near Fort Sumter. Planking is extended between both ships and the prisoners are transferred, Cosmopolitan receiving 105 wounded Federal troops in return — although before parting company, the Union commander raises an objection with his Confederate counter-part, artillery Col. Edward C. Anderson, because no African-American prisoners have been included in this exchange.

August 10, 1863

This evening, unnoticed in the marshy no-man’s-land between James and Morris Islands, Gillmore’s sappers under Col. Edward W. Serrell of the 1st New York Volunteer Engineer Regiment begin construction of a unique battery on a small patch of high ground near Lighthouse Creek, far west of their seaside siege-lines so as to inaugurate a long-range bombardment of the City of Charleston. Fatigue parties from the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry, protected by picket boats with bow-howitzers and sharpshooters prowling among the waterways, begin carrying the first of 13,000 sandbags over a narrow plank causeway that is 1,700 feet long, piling these on top of a three-sided grillage of pine logs two layers thick, so as to create a strong parapet in this otherwise spongy terrain. A gun-platform of tightly-fitted pine planks cut on Folly Island and set atop compacted earth, will then be added separately behind this epaulement, providing sufficiently firm footing to support the weight and concussive discharges of a twelve-ton 8-inch Parrott gun.  When completed, this installation under such difficult circumstances will be deemed one of the notable feats of military engineering of this war.

At 7:00 p.m. this same evening, Col. George P. Harrison, Jr., of the 32nd Georgia Infantry assumes command of the 1,000-man Confederate garrison defending Battery Wagner on Morris Island, firing upon the Union sapper-parties and exchanging artillery salvoes with the Federal mortars, Parrott guns, and offshore monitors overnight.

August 12, 1863

Amid the usual exchanges of gunfire this morning, the Confederate garrison in Battery Wagner — having been augmented to 1,250 men — notice “large parties of the enemy working on a battery on their extreme left,” so apprise Col. Alfred Rhett in Fort Sumter of this new emplacement, which will be shelled at long-range from Battery Gregg.

August 13, 1863

Gunfire is steadily exchanged between Battery Wagner and the Union batteries, monitors, and sapper-details.

August 15, 1863

This morning, amid the regular exchanges of gunfire, Colonel Harrison in Battery Wagner observes how “the enemy have been busily engaged working on a large battery on their left, situated on what (I think) is called Thomas Island,” so that he directs the fire this afternoon by his own 10-inch seacoast mortar, plus others and a 9-inch gun in Battery Gregg, against this Union detachment.

August 16, 1863

Having completed their new emplacement in the marshy terrain between James and Morris Islands, the Union engineers this evening begin ferrying an 8,000-pound iron gun-carriage out to it from their wharf at the southern end of Morris Island, followed by a 16,300-pound, 8-inch banded Parrott gun. This huge weapon can barely be kept afloat by its boat, which is moved slowly overnight through the marshy streams by torchlight with only five inches of freeboard to spare, yet this gun is successfully landed and placed onto its platform before daylight on August 17th.

August 21, 1863

Lt. Charles Sellmer of the 11th Maine, photographed at the beginning of the war, ca. 1861. (Maine State Archives)

A detachment of the 11th Maine Volunteer Infantry under German-born Lt. Charles Sellmer, a specialist who has served for nine years in the regular U.S. Artillery and attended the gunnery school at Fortress Monroe prior to the war, arrives from nearby Battery Kirby to take over the 8-inch Parrott gun in General Gillmore’s new marsh emplacement — which is now being referred to as the “Swamp Angel,” a nickname allegedly given to this powerful piece during construction of its battery by a sergeant of the New York Engineers, when he remarks: “We’re building a pulpit on which a Swamp Angel will preach.” In order to reach Charleston, which lies five-and-a-quarter miles distant, this gun will have to be fired at an unprecedentedly-high elevation of 35° to 37°, with a powder-charge that is 25% heftier than the recommended maximum.

By evening, this weapon is ready to fire its initial salvo and the engineer Capt. Nathaniel Edwards has used the fading sunlight to take compass-readings on St. Michael’s Church steeple in downtown Charleston, 7,900 yards away, so as to commence bombarding the city overnight — whenever the Union commanding General should give the order.

Advised that the Swamp Angel is ready, Gillmore has an ultimatum delivered under a flag-of-truce into Confederate Fort Wagner, from where it is to be relayed into Charleston, demanding that General Beauregard evacuate Morris Island and Fort Sumter within four hours, or else the city will be bombarded. This note reaches Confederate headquarters in Charleston by 10:45 p.m., but since Beauregard is just then absent inspecting some defenses and this message is unsigned, it is returned to Wagner for verification from the Union emissaries.

August 22, 1863

Shell bursting in a Charleston street, as witnessed after midnight on August 22-23, 1863 by the correspondent Vizetelly; his sketch was subsequently intercepted at sea while being sent to England, and was instead published as a woodcut engraving on Page 28 of the January 9, 1864 edition of Harper’s Weekly. (Library of Congress)

Having received no reply to Gillmore’s ultimatum, the 8-inch Parrott gun known as the “Swamp Angel” fires its first round at 1:30 a.m. into the sleeping city of Charleston. Frank Vizetelly, an English war-correspondent for the Illustrated London News, is reading a book in his hotel bed when suddenly a whirring sound and heavy explosion are heard outside, and he sees smoke and fire rising from a building across the street. Disbelieving that any Union shell could have travelled so far, he at first considers that a meteor must have fallen out of the night sky, before hearing a second artillery-round strike a few minutes later, prompting him to record:

I cast my eyes towards the Federal position, and presently beyond James Island, across a marsh that separates it from Morris Island, came a flash, then a dull report and after an interval of some seconds, a frightful rushing sound above me told the path the shell had taken; its flight must have been five miles!

After two hours of methodical shelling, the pace of this bombardment slackens and finally halts near dawn, a total of sixteen rounds having been fired into Charleston, ten containing an incendiary compound known as “Greek Fire”. Although relatively little damage has been inflicted, the civilian population is left in a panic, while even military professionals are astonished to realize that Union guns can now fire at such enormous range — farther than any previously-recorded artillery projectiles.

Depiction of the Swamp Angel firing at night, its three-sided epaulement rather poorly drawn by Frank Leslie’s “special artist” W. T. Crane, although the detail of its gunner’s double-length lanyard is accurately included. (Leslie’s Weekly Newspaper)

At 9:00 a.m. that same morning, an incensed Beauregard writes to Gillmore: “It would appear, sir, that despairing of reducing the [Confederate forts], you now resort to the novel measure of turning your guns against the old men, the women and children, and the hospitals of a sleeping city, an act of inexcusable barbarity.” He adds: “I am taking measures to remove, with the utmost celerity, all non-combatants, who are now fully aware of and alive to what they may expect at your hands,” further threatening to use the “strongest means of retaliation” if the Union commander should not honor this civilian exodus.

Gillmore acknowledges Beauregard’s letter, but refuses to concede that the city had not received sufficient warning of his intent, instead retorting: “I am led to believe that most of the women and children of Charleston were long since removed from the city, but upon your assurance that the city is still ‘full of them,’ I shall suspend the bombardment until 11 p.m. tomorrow.” Actually, the Swamp Angel has slid out of position during the recent nocturnal bombardment, so that the 11th Maine gunners are toiling to restore it properly onto its platform.

August 23, 1863

Throughout this day, while the Swamp Angel remains silent, Confederate mortars bombard its tiny emplacement out in the marshes with increasing accuracy, although their fuses are cut too long so that the heavy mortar-shells bury themselves upon impact into the watery soil, their detonations being either harmlessly muffled or extinguished.

Undeterred by this ineffectual counter-fire, Sellmer and his gunners resume their long-range shelling of Charleston at 11:00 p.m., although after firing off their sixth round on this night, the Union Lieutenant notices that his Parrott’s breech-band is breaking loose from its barrel. Having been warned that it is not a new piece and realizing his extra powder-charges are weakening its metal to the point where the gun might burst, Sellmer ties two lanyards together and sends his men outside the battery before every subsequent discharge, so that if the Parrott should explode, at least its crew will be shielded from the blast.

For thirteen more rounds, Sellmer alone fires the Swamp Angel, his crew reentering the battery after each shot to reload the weapon, insert a new primer, and attach it to his double-lanyard before exiting to take cover once more outside the sandbags. On the twentieth round of this night, Sellmer — thinking that the Swamp Angel might actually still be safe to operate — decides to forego his precautions and have his men fire the gun at their normal stations, so that he might check the shell’s flight-time by starting his watch at the flash of its discharge. This time, however, the breech of the Swamp Angel bursts, throwing the eight-ton weapon forward off its carriage and up onto the parapet; but the iron “jacket” of the banded Parrott absorbs most of this blast, so that only Sellmer and three of his men emerge lightly injured. Nonetheless, the Swamp Angel is ruptured and useless, so that it will have to be replaced before the long-range bombardment can be renewed.

September 7, 1863

Battery Wagner having at last fallen, Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren — commander of the Union Navy’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron — sends a boat into the harbor at 6:20 a.m. under a flag-of-truce to demand the surrender of Fort Sumter, adding that if his request is not complied with forthwith, he will “move up all the ironclads and engage it.” This ultimatum is received by Lieutenant Bowen of the Confederate Navy, who relays it on to General Beauregard, and a terse reply is made: “Refuse to surrender Fort Sumter. Admiral Dahlgren must take it and hold it if he can.”

Late this same evening, the Charleston photographers George S. Cook and James M. Osborn are rowed across from the city under cover of darkness into battered Sumter, which is still being sporadically shelled by Union gunfire. They have volunteered in response to a wish expressed by the Confederate chief-of-staff, Gen. Thomas Jordan, that a photographic record should be made of the fort’s ruins “to show to future generations what Southern troops can endure in battle.”

September 8, 1863

Around 7:00 a.m., Maj. Stephen Elliott, Jr. (who has assumed command of Sumter only three days previously) realizes that the U.S.S. Weehawken is stuck fast on a shoal in its narrow inshore channel, and since his fort’s guns have all been disabled by prolonged Union bombardments over the preceding few weeks, he signals a message across to Fort Moultrie:

The monitor near Cummings Point is evidently aground, her deck is now four feet above water, and will be some two feet higher at low water [i.e., low tide]. Fire should be opened on her, as the third part of her hull is probably exposed.

Col. William Butler, in command of the artillery on Sullivan’s Island, gives the order to open a slow fire from the 8-inch Columbiads and a powerful, recently-received 7-inch triple-banded Brooke rifle within Fort Moultrie, as well as from nearby Batteries Bee and Beauregard.

As soon as Moultrie’s batteries open up on the grounded Weehawken around 8:30 a.m., Admiral Dahlgren — who is observing from aboard the heavily-armored frigate New Ironsides outside the harbor — begins leading his monitors Patapsco, Lehigh, Nahant, Montauk, and Passaic toward its entrance, so as to intercede in hopes of diverting and suppressing the Confederate fort’s fire. The first of these warships commences a gun-duel against Moultrie by 8:45 a.m., soon being joined by the stranded monitor itself.

At 9:07 a.m., the second shell fired by one of Weehawken’s 15-inch guns glances off the muzzle of an 8-inch Columbiad near the flagstaff at Moultrie’s Southeast Angle and ricochets into some nearby ammunition chests, which blow up in quick succession. Flying shrapnel decimates the gun-crews from Company E of the 1st South Carolina Infantry, killing sixteen and wounding twelve men, while their commander Capt. R. Press Smith barely manages to save himself by diving into a ditch as the powder detonates. This tremendous blast can be clearly seen and heard aboard the Union warships offshore, while even as far away as Legare’s Point — more than four miles distant on James Island — Confederate Maj. Edward Manigault will later report hearing a “heavy” thud and noting in his diary: “Many shells were heard to explode one after another.”

Moultrie’s guns remain silent for some time after this incident, as Colonel Butler scrambles to bring in a replacement company under Captain Burnett from nearby Battery Beauregard. Soon firing resumes, though, and the powerful U.S.S. New Ironsides closes to within 1,000 yards of Moultrie and opens up a withering close-range bombardment by 10:15 a.m., to which its Confederate gunners will initially respond “with accuracy and precision, firing with great rapidity,” according to the ironclad’s Capt. S. C. Rowan. Moreover, within twenty minutes of initiating this point-blank shelling, Major Elliott in Sumter will send a frustrated message across stating that the monitors closest to Moultrie “have drawn her fire from the one aground, which is to be regretted.” Indeed, Weehawken’s Cmdr. Edmund R. Colhoun will stand down his crew to eat breakfast during this respite.

September 11, 1863

Charleston’s White Point Battery, as recorded by the painter Conrad Wise Chapman on December 24, 1863. The repaired Blakely gun can be seen at left, being tended to by its artillery crew. (Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia)

One of two massive 12.75-inch, 25-ton Blakely guns smuggled through the blockade from England and recently received at Charleston, is test-fired at 1:00 p.m. at Battery Ramsay or the White Point Battery along the city waterfront, under the personal supervision of Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley. Unfamiliar with this huge weapon’s unusual design, his gunners mistakenly stuff powder-cartridges into the bronze air-chamber at the very back of its bore, which is actually intended to remain empty so as to help absorb the concussive effects of firing its oversize projectile.

Therefore, their very first attempt “with a charge of 40 pounds weight of powder, sabot and shell of 425 pounds weight, and 2° elevation,” causes this huge new Blakely gun to burst and split open “in eight places in rear of the first reinforce band.” The damaged artillery-piece will consequently have to be dismounted and hauled away so as to undergo major repairs, which will be carried out by the local James M. Eason & Brother Company at their 12 Columbus Street foundry in Charleston — who are able to patch these fissures by casting a massive new breech-block over top of the cracked cast-iron reinforce.

September 14, 1863

In the aftermath to the Union seizure of Battery Wagner at the northern tip of Morris Island, directly opposite Fort Sumter and commanding the entrance into Charleston Harbor, a board of Confederate officers headed by Maj.-Gen. Jeremy F. Gilmer presents its recommendations for countering and containing this strategic realignment, by instead redistributing and reinforcing Confederate defenses on adjacent James Island.

As a result, heavy ordnance will be redeployed into four new batteries along the old Cross-Roads Line between Fort Lamar to its east, and Battery Pringle overlooking Grimball’s Landing on the Stono River to its west. This latter shoreline redoubt, already armed with two 32-pounder rifled guns, will receive an additional 10-inch Columbiad, 8-inch Columbiad, and 42-pounder rifled gun from Fort Pemberton, plus three more pieces later on. Another supporting five-gun work will also be created behind Battery Pringle next month, at Dill’s Plantation — a new position christened Battery Tynes and armed with two 42-pounder rifles, two 32-pounder rifles, and an 8-inch Columbiad. The four new batteries (soon increased to five) to be installed along the old Cross-Roads Line, will be designated and armed as follows:

  • Battery No. 1: two 24-pounders, one 12-pounder rifle, two 12-pounder smoothbore siege-guns;
  • Battery No. 2: two 32-pounder smoothbores, two 24-pounder smoothbores, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer;
  • Battery No. 3: two 24-pounder smoothbores, one 18-pounder rifle, two 18-pounder smoothbores;
  • Battery No. 4: two 32-pounder smoothbores, two 24-pounder smoothbores, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer;
  • Battery No. 5: two 24-pounder smoothbores and two 24-pounder howitzers.

The eastern end of this new defensive line is to be anchored by Fort Lamar with its four 8-inch naval shell-guns, four 32-pounder naval smoothbores, one 32-pounder rifle, two 32-pounder smoothbores, two 24-pounder rifled guns, a 32-pounder howitzer, and a 10-inch seacoast mortar.

September 15, 1863

An accidental detonation in the magazine at Battery Cheves on James Island, kills Second Lt. S. J. Lastinger and five other Confederate soldiers of the 22nd and 29th Georgia Volunteers.

September 16, 1863

Conrad Wise Chapman’s painting of the interior of Fort Moultrie in mid-September 1863. (Museum of the Confederacy)

The American-born, European-trained young artist Conrad Wise Chapman — having been relieved of his duties as an ordnance Sergeant in Company B of the 59th Virginia Infantry Regiment, so as to instead record military scenes around Charleston Harbor as a painter — sketches the interior of Fort Moultrie. Upon its completion next year, his finished illustration will show that the fort’s pre-war barracks have been entirely removed, although three live-oak trees still remain standing on its parade to provide a welcome bit of shade. The ramparts are encased in a thick layer of sand, and the fort’s guns point out from between grassy embrasures across the harbour mouth. The empty harbor-beacon can be seen at left, and the shell of the Moultrie House Hotel faintly glimpsed at the extreme left.

September 22, 1863

Union lookouts aboard picket-boats report to Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, how the previous day they have observed:

The enemy transporting five guns toward Breach Inlet. The guns were drawn along the beach by oxen, and were brought from some point near Fort Moultrie.

September 28, 1863

Conrad Wise Chapman’s painting “The Federal Battery on Morris Island,” completed in mid-February 1864 from an earlier sketch. (Museum of the Confederacy)

Peering down the length of Charleston Harbor through a telescope from high atop St. Michael’s Church steeple in the city, Conrad Wise Chapman studies and sketches a Federal work-party installing yet another artillery-battery on distant Morris Island, including such details as the turret and funnel of a Union gunboat protruding above its protective earthworks. He will later recall how “every time there was a flash” from any of the Confederate guns trained upon this sector, “the Yankee soldiers in the batteries would disappear as [if] by magic.” His sketch will be converted early next year into a small painting titled The Federal Battery on Morris Island, and dated on its frame as having been completed on “February 12, 1864.”

September 30, 1863

Conrad Wise Chapman writes to his father from half-deserted Charleston, commenting on the city’s condition:

The streets are rather narrow, and in that respect remind me of Rome. Everybody has left the city, all of the ladies at least, and all those who have anything to remove have done so, and everything presents a gloomy appearance, and but for the booming of cannon and the explosion of an occasional shell, not a sound is to be heard. As I now sit here writing in a magnificent house in the parlour, a feeling of loneliness and sadness creeps over me ... What a different picture this place would have presented a few months ago, to what it now does, with a soldier as the only guardian of the premises.

October 16, 1863

A rainy and foggy day, during which only 32 shots are fired by the Confederate guns from Batteries Simkins and Haskell, and no response received from the Union forces on Morris Island, who are instead laboring to erect new fortified emplacements so as to receive their heavy pieces.

October 19, 1863

The official Confederate siege-log records how artillery-pieces in Fort Moultrie and other shoreline batteries “continued their fire on the enemy’s works (Gregg and Wagner); but as usual, the latter did not reply,” as the Federal troops are still busy digging out and sandbagging their new gun-emplacements.

October 25, 1863

The 54-foot Confederate torpedo-boat David being outfitted with iron-plating at Charleston’s Atlantic Wharf, as sketched by Conrad Wise Chapman on October 25, 1863. (Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia)

In the City of Charleston, the young artist Conrad Wise Chapman visits the Atlantic Wharf (near the east end of Broad Street on the Cooper River side of the city), to make several pencil sketches and drawings of the small, low-slung Confederate torpedo-boat David — which is tied up there temporarily while its upper works are being outfitted with special new curved iron-plating, as an additional protective thickening for the crewmembers’ hatch.

Decades later, Chapman will recall that his resultant oil-on-board painting of this rescued vessel, even included the depiction of a few “places where may be seen, where the boat [had been] struck by [U.S. Navy] bullets” during its nocturnal attack on the USS New Ironsides only three weeks previously.

October 26, 1863

As of this day, the Federal army’s heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter will resume, from their newly-ensconced gun positions. James Henry Gooding, a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts serving on Morris Island (and writing weekly dispatches for the New Bedford Mercury newspaper under the pseudonym of “Monitor”), will mention how after almost two weeks of no Union artillery-fire, on this:

Photograph of the 300-pound Parrott gun mounted on its center-pintle iron carriage at Cummings’ Point, more than a year after first opening fire on October 31, 1863. The 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery gunner at right, is drawing taut on its lanyard. (Samuel A. Cooley)
Monday noon, the three hundred pound Parrott was fired a little, to test her qualities; she commenced by putting one shot into Sumter. Then, feeling pretty well satisfied with that result, she half-faced to the right and sent a shot whizzing into Moultrie; then, completely about-face, she let old Fort Johnson have a taste of her sauce; still feeling a little more ambitious she right-obliqued and sent a message to Castle Pinckney, which must have caused some commotion in the city, as Pinckney is not a great way from town. The rebels, thinking we were opening a regular engagement, assailed our batteries from all the positions. Moultrie, Bragg, Johnson, Simpkins, and one or two other batteries nameless to me, were soon blazing away at the Yankees for dear life, but I am happy to say they did no harm.

This 10-inch, 300-pound Parrott gun (the largest-sized piece to be fired in the field during the Civil War) has been received only a few weeks previously and mounted on a center-pintle platform, to supplant a similar weapon which had been used to bombard the Confederate defenses from Battery Strong throughout August and early September 1863, until it became disabled.

Official Confederate records for this same October 26th, more laconically note that this new “large Parrott gun” mounted in the midway battery “at Battery Gregg has finally been turned with the muzzle toward Fort Sumter”, and opened fire along with the adjoining heavy Federal ordnance at half-past noon:

… directing most of their fire at Johnson and Sumter. One hundred and eighty-eight shots were fired at the latter work, of which 165 struck and 23 passed over. Their shots were directed against the gorge wall, against which some impression was made.

October 27, 1863

At 7:00 a.m., the Union guns at “Batteries Gregg, Wagner, and the low battery to the east of Gregg” commence a heavy bombardment of Sumter, seriously injuring its entire sea-face over the next several hours. Around 11:10 a.m., Confederate General Hagood at Fort Johnson furthermore notes a heavy Union piece at Cummings’ Point being aimed toward the distant City of Charleston. Having been “slowly elevated to an angle of about 45°,” making this weapon stand out very conspicuously, Hagood orders the Confederate “Brooke gun at Shell Mound to fire at it”, sparking a gun-duel with the adjoining Union batteries. During these exchanges, around midday:

… one of the enemy’s shots penetrated the magazine of the Brooke Gun Battery at Fort Johnson, and exploded about 125 pounds of powder, killing 1 private and wounding another [of Company A, Second South Carolina Artillery].

This heavy Union piece will nonetheless cease its long-range attempts against Charleston after firing only three incendiary-rounds containing “Greek fire,” two of which fall short. Otherwise, the participation of other Confederate batteries such as Moultrie around the harbor, is “very slack, and the enemy did not appear to pay much attention to it.”

October 28, 1863

The heavy Union artillery at Cummings’ Point continues pounding Sumter throughout this day, plus firing a few shots at Battery Simkins and the Confederate Brooke gun at Fort Johnson on James Island, which respond at intervals with four-dozen shells of their own. Confederate records furthermore note that some “of our Sullivan’s Island batteries also participated to a limited extent in the engagement,” but to little effect.

October 29, 1863

The Union guns at Cummings’ Point, “assisted by one or more monitors,” will fire almost 800 heavy rounds against Sumter this day, to which Confederate Battery Simkins and Fort Johnson slowly reply with four-dozen shells. Major Elliott, commander of Sumter’s beleaguered Confederate garrison, moreover complains “that not one captain of the Georgia battalion” holding that stronghold “is present with his company,” instead being falsely on sick-leave — so that orders are “accordingly issued for the arrest of these absentees, and for their return to their posts.”

This same day in Charleston, the young artist Conrad Wise Chapman paints a pencil sketch and watercolor of some of the heavy Confederate guns near his quarters, emplaced in the White Point Battery at the eastern end of White Point Gardens (just southwest of the modern intersection of East Battery and South Battery Streets, on the Cooper River side of the city’s southernmost point). These artillery-pieces will later be included in his oil-on-board painting entitled White Point Battery, completed on Christmas Eve 1863.

October 30, 1863

Starting at sunrise, the Union artillery at Cummings’ Point — joined around noon by three monitors — fire 955 shells against Sumter throughout this day, receiving the usual Confederate reply of 46 shells from Simkins and Fort Johnson.

October 31, 1863

This Saturday morning, while fifteen Union guns and mortars maintain their heavy bombardment of Fort Sumter, the pro-slavery secessionist firebrand Edmund Ruffin arrives at Mount Pleasant from Charleston aboard a small sailboat. After a long walk, the 69-year-old Virginian reaches Fort Moultrie for a visit and upon “entering the gateway, I was politely accosted by Major [Robert] De Treville [the garrison commander], before I had an opportunity to offer him my introductory letter.” Wishing to inspect the damage being sustained by distant Sumter, Ruffin is allowed to study that fort around midday “with the aid of a good spy-glass,” further noting that two nearby Union monitors:

Edmund Ruffin as he appeared in mid-April 1861 — at 67 years of age — in one of numerous poses which he struck in the immediate aftermath to Fort Sumter’s surrender, for the Charleston photographer Charles J. Quinby
… did not spare a shot for Moultrie, & the latter was entirely quiet. Such has been the state of things as to Sullivan’s Island latterly.

De Treville agrees with Ruffin’s opinion that the Confederate guns could not prevent the powerful Union ironclads from “running into the inner harbor, & firing upon the city at short distance, except the fears of the enemy, & especially in regard to the supposed submerged obstructions & torpedoes.”

Ruffin leaves Moultrie at 1:00 p.m. on a borrowed horse, reaching “the sea-beach before passing Fort Beauregard, & continued on the beautiful smooth & fine sand left naked by the lately retreating tide, all the way to Breach Inlet.” Returning the horse that same afternoon, he witnesses an exchange:

… when Fort Beauregard threw 5 or 6 shells at the Monitors, & struck one of them once, even that did not induce the return of a shot. Yet there were numerous laborers & military spectators on the fortifications, all day, offering tempting marks for the shells of the Monitors. These, & also the [Federal] land batteries, have latterly bestowed all their attention & missiles on Fort Sumter. [The Diary of Edmund Ruffin, Louisiana University Press, Volume III, Page 207.]

In fact, sixteen Confederate defenders within Sumter are killed this day, and considerable material damage inflicted.

November 1, 1863

The heavy Federal guns on Morris Island maintain their punishing bombardment of Fort Sumter, along with a couple of monitors after midday, together raining hundreds of shells upon this Confederate stronghold and inflicting considerable damage on its edifice, although only wounding one member of its sheltered garrison. Confederate batteries at Forts Johnson and Moultrie hold off counter-firing in Sumter’s support, until “a full supply of projectiles can be obtained, especially 10-inch mortar shells.”

This same day, Confederate Pres. Jefferson Davis arrives in Charleston for a visit “on board a special train from Savannah,” while Col. D. H. Hamilton assumes command over all outposts on Sullivan’s Island. Next day, Edmund Ruffin will note in his diary how the Confederate President “was escorted by a troop of cavalry from the station to the City Hall, where he was received by the Mayor & other city & military dignitaries, & made a speech from the portico to the crowd assembled in the street below.”

November 2, 1863

During the usual heavy Federal bombardment of Fort Sumter, President Davis reaches Sullivan’s Island for a visit along with General Beauregard and his staff at 10:30 a.m., although: “No review of troops was had, but those on the line of route were drawn up for inspection.”

November 3, 1863

Heavy Federal guns and mortars continue bombarding Sumter overnight and into this morning, joined by several monitors after sunrise. Only the Confederate guns at Battery Simkins counter-fire 28 shells in Sumter’s support.

An intelligence report is also received at Charleston, to the effect that the Union besieging force “proposes either this week or next week to make a night boat-attack on Sullivan’s or James Island, and should this prove a failure, then the monitors, &tc., were to dash in and endeavour to reduce the city.”

November 4, 1863

Conrad Wise Chapman’s painting of Battery Marion beside Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, as it appeared in early November 1863. (Museum of the Confederacy)

This Wednesday morning, the young artist Conrad Wise Chapman begins a month-long series of cross-harbor visits from Charleston, to record the Confederate defenses on Sullivan’s Island. At least once a week until December 4th, he will take a boat across, staying on that island for a day or two at a time while he sketches different sites and subjects.

One of the first emplacements which he will document late this same morning is Battery Marion, located just a couple of hundred yards west of Fort Moultrie, whose solitary armament consists of a recently-received, powerful 7-inch, triple-banded Brooke rifle. Many years later, Chapman will record how Marion’s single-gun “battery was fitted up as though on board ship, and it had a marine gun.” A pair of palmetto trees in the foreground are included in Chapman’s reproduction, which he mentions stood near “an old hotel — the Moseley House.”

On the far shoreline, Union batteries on Morris Island and an ironclad monitor can be seen at the far left, slowly but steadily bombarding the battered form of Fort Sumter at right, over which a Federal shell can be seen bursting. None of the Confederate batteries around the harbor will counter-fire in reply during this day, while on James Island, President Davis and General Beauregard are conducting an inspection of its “various defensive works.”

November 5, 1863

This morning, Confederate President Davis departs Charleston for Richmond, Virginia. Heavy guns and mortars in the Union shore-emplacements at Cummings’ Point, as well as a monitor, will meanwhile fire almost 500 shots at Sumter this day, to which Confederate Battery Simkins responds with but eleven shells and “some of the Sullivan’s Island batteries also joined in the defense.”

November 6, 1863

The slow but steady Union bombardment of Sumter, is responded to this Friday “by a few mortar shells from Sullivan’s Island, and 11 shells from Battery Simkins.” A similarly-muted response is made next day from these two Confederate positions as well.

November 7, 1863

James Henry Gooding, the 54th Massachusetts soldier on Morris Island writing reports under the pseudonym of “Monitor,” mentions in his weekly dispatch to the New Bedford Mercury newspaper:

The rebels have kept pretty quiet, firing but very little. Fort Moultrie does not deign to give the monitors a shot, while they lay at anchor close to her, daily firing away at Sumter. Occasionally Moultrie throws a mortar shell over to Putnam or Wagner, but they do but very little damage.

November 8, 1863

Having received warning of a possible Union seaborne assault against Sullivan’s Island, Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley — in command of the First Military District, with his headquarters located at Mount Pleasant — issues a circular to all his island commanders to prepare for such a contingency. At this time, nominal Confederate strength on Sullivan’s Island consists of 950 heavy-artillery gunners, 183 light artillerymen, 204 cavalry troopers, and 4,512 infantrymen — a total of 5,882 men on paper, although effective strength is really only 5,013 men. No Federal seaborne assault will in fact ensue.

November 10, 1863

Hazy view of Fort Sumter, as seen from atop Fort Moultrie’s southern rampart by Conrad Wise Chapman early on the afternoon of November 10, 1863.  (Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia)

As part of his series of paintings of the military works being defended around Charleston Harbor, the young artist Conrad Wise Chapman sketches a panoramic view early this afternoon from atop Fort Moultrie’s southern rampart, looking south-westward through the haze across the mile of water toward Confederate-held Fort Sumter’s battered hulk. Decades later, he will recollect about this perspective:

This is a view of Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie; shows also battery on James Island. A shell is bursting over Fort Sumter. The artist stated he never looked in the direction of Fort Sumter that he did not see a shell bursting over it.

However, official Confederate records for this day record only a “slow fire” totaling 65 shots being fired in all against Sumter from the Federal batteries on Morris Island, joined in the afternoon by another 30 rounds from one or two monitors, to which the defenders’ batteries scarcely bothered making reply. A wooden footbridge has been included in the immediate foreground of Chapman’s painting, a temporary expedient for spanning Moultrie’s defensive ditch, which could easily be withdrawn in the event of any threatening Union disembarkation onto Sullivan’s Island. And along the water’s edge, a few off-duty Confederate soldiers can even be seen fishing from the rocks of Bowman’s Jetty.

View of Fort Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, as sketched from the beach near Bowman’s Jetty by Conrad Wise Chapman early on the afternoon of November 11, 1863. Note how its sandbagged merlons have become compacted and overgrown with vegetation. (Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia)

Next afternoon, November 11th, Chapman sketches a reverse-view of Fort Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, as seen looking back north-eastward from this same stretch of shoreline. Sumter is fired upon more than 200 times by the besiegers this same day, and Fort Johnson is also shelled for two hours in the afternoon, yet Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island are ignored. Chapman’s painting apparently features in its foreground the same trio of off-duty soldiers, as they return from having fished at Bowman’s Jetty. Chapman will further describe this scene as: “External view of Fort Moultrie; Negroes at work, getting sand to repair fortifications.”

The Confederacy’s official new flag — introduced six months earlier as of May 1, 1863, and known as the “Stainless White” banner because of its white canton — can be seen fluttering in a stiff northerly breeze atop Moultrie’s flagstaff, while the harbor-beacon stands empty atop its wooden frame a few hundred yards beyond the fort. In the very far distance, warships of the Union blockading fleet can also be faintly seen on the horizon at right, maintaining their ceaseless watch over Charleston’s harbor-entrance.

November 12, 1863

Throughout this day, the Federals’ heavy pieces in Battery Gregg and auxiliary mortar batteries fire slowly upon Sumter, as well as directing 21 shells against Moultrie. The latter fort replies with 41 shots, plus another eighteen from Battery Simkins, and the tempo of the Federal bombardment increases after nightfall.

November 13, 1863

Much artillery fire is exchanged between the Union batteries on Morris Island, dueling against Sumter and the Confederate batteries on James Island. From Charleston, Beauregard’s chief-of-staff — Gen. Thomas Jordan — also telegraphs the following order to Brigadiers Ripley at Mount Pleasant and Taliaferro on James Island:

The commanding general has directed that the exact direction of the enemy’s calcium light shall be determined, by triangulation or otherwise, from certain batteries on James Island, and he also wishes the same steps to be taken at Fort Moultrie, in order that the position of the light in question may be ascertained, and that a concentrated fire may be maintained upon it until it shall be extinguished.

Shortly thereafter, the telegraph cable across the Cooper River is accidentally broken by the Confederate steamer Indian Queen, temporarily severing their communications with Sullivan’s Island.

November 14, 1863

James Henry Gooding, the 54th Massachusetts soldier on Morris Island writing reports under the pseudonym of “Monitor,” mentions in his weekly dispatch to the New Bedford Mercury newspaper:

The rebels have kept up a pretty brisk fire from Moultrie and Johnson the last two days; they seem determined to make our working parties uncomfortable as possible. Yesterday, the 13th, we lost five men killed in battery Chatfield, besides three wounded in Fort Putnam; among the killed was one man belonging to the 3d regiment, U.S. colored troops; two to the 11th Maine. I could not ascertain to what regiment the other two belonged.

Perhaps in retaliation, official Confederate records for this day, November 14th, will note that:

… the enemy’s fire today was directed against Forts Moultrie and Sumter. The former work was not damaged to the slightest extent, and but one private was killed [of Company C of the 3rd South Carolina Artillery], although 130 shots were fired at it during the day. Five shots only were fired from Moultrie in response to the enemy. As usual, Fort Sumter sustained the brunt of the bombardment.

November 15, 1863

After almost four days of continual Union bombardment of Fort Sumter (during which “2,328 shells had been thrown at the dilapidated pile of masonry”), the heavy guns in Fort Moultrie open up a counter-bombardment this evening against the Union positions at Cumming’s Point on Morris Island. Some 29 shells are briskly fired and another 28 from adjacent Battery Marion in “about three-quarters of an hour,” according to General Ripley’s report, in hopes of extinguishing the Federal calcium-light at Cummings’ Point.

However, misinterpreting this shelling as a portend of an amphibious Confederate counter-attack against Morris Island, Gillmore asks that some U.S. Navy warships be sent to screen the Point, but when these arrive after dark the 1,350-ton monitor USS Lehigh runs aground on a sandbar.

November 16, 1863

The stranded Union monitor Lehigh having been spotted at first light, the heavy guns of Fort Moultrie under Capt. Jacob Valentine of the 1st South Carolina Infantry are ordered to open fire at 6:45 a.m.

This same Monday after nightfall, James Henry Gooding — the 54th Massachusetts soldier on Morris Island writing weekly dispatches to the New Bedford Mercury newspaper — will furthermore record how:

the rebels opened a new mortar battery, in rear of the Moultrie House on Sullivan’s Island, which occasioned some little excitement. They no doubt expected to surprise us and completely shell us out, before we could possibly do anything to silence them. It was about half past ten, everything was very quiet, nothing but the regular shot or shell every ten minutes at Sumter breaking the quiet of the night, when the shell came through the air like so many fiery-tongued devils.
Seven mortars were opened in quick succession, keeping such a steady rain of fire on our batteries, pickets, and working parties, that they were forced to seek shelter. The telegraph flashed the news to headquarters that the enemy was endeavoring to shell us out preparatory to making a grand assault — the whole force of the Island was immediately drawn out in battle array — the Parrots and seacoast mortars were ordered to talk, and in thirty-five minutes the rebel invasion was a something out of the question.

November 17, 1863

The official Confederate record notes the “usual bombardment” of Fort Sumter, overnight and throughout this day, from the Union batteries on Morris Island, who also fire “an occasional shot at Battery Simkins and some of the Sullivan’s Island batteries, which latter replied to a limited extent with mortar shells.”

November 18, 1863

Overnight, Union batteries on Morris Island fire almost 350 artillery and mortar shells at Fort Sumter, and continue shelling its Confederate garrison throughout this day, with an occasional additional shot:

…in the direction of our Sullivan’s Island batteries, none of which responded, excepting Battery Marion, whence 9 mortar shells were discharged at the enemy.

November 19, 1863

During the preceding night, Union batteries on Morris Island fire almost 290 shells at Sumter, and more than another 400 throughout the remainder of this day, without inflicting any casualties. However, around 10:00 a.m. this same morning at Battery Rutledge near Fort Moultrie, “two privates of Company I, First South Carolina Infantry (Frank Hill and John Funderburk) were killed, and Private Joseph Evans wounded, by the bursting of a 30-pounder Parrott shell, from which the powder was being extracted.”

November 21, 1863

James Henry Gooding, a soldier of the 54th Massachusetts on Morris Island writing reports under the pseudonym of “Monitor,” mentions in his weekly dispatch to the New Bedford Mercury newspaper how:

[Federal Forts] Putnam and Strong are pounding at battery Simpkins on James Island to-day, making the mud and sand fly terribly; from the accuracy of our shots we gain the advantage of keeping them busy repairing damages. Johnson fires occasionally, but her fire does little damage. Moultrie fires none except a little daily practice, ricocheting shot, so as to sweep the water around the Northeast angle of Sumter in case of an assault.

This account is confirmed by official Confederate records, which after noting that the broken archway in Sumter’s gorge wall has been brought down by a Parrott shell at 5:00 a.m. — killing two and wounding six black laborers, as well as two privates of the 6th Georgia — the subsequent Union fire during daytime is “distributed between the batteries near Fort Johnson, Fort Sumter, and our works in the vicinity of Moultrie.” In addition:

With a view to ascertain the proper elevation, some of the Sullivan’s and the James Island batteries today practiced ricochet firing, to enfilade the faces of Sumter.

November 22, 1863

Overnight, Union heavy artillery on Morris Island continues shelling Fort Sumter, as well as lobbing seventeen long-range rounds into the City of Charleston itself, causing little damage. With the arrival of daylight, official Confederate records further add that the Federal batteries continued firing “heavily from rifled pieces at Battery Simkins, Fort Moultrie, and the adjacent batteries, all of which replied slowly, using mostly mortar shells.”

Chapman’s November 1863 painting of Battery Beauregard on Sullivan’s Island at center-right, with the harbor-beacon and Fort Moultrie’s flagstaff faintly visible in the distance at center-left. (Museum of the Confederacy)

During these afternoon exchanges, Conrad Wise Chapman sketches a middle-distance view of Battery or Fort Beauregard, as seen while looking westward along the beach of Sullivan’s Island, with a second tall flagstaff and bit of swirling white smoke from mortar discharges indicating where Fort Moultrie also lies, faintly visible beyond Beauregard’s low sandy ramparts. Thirty-five years later, Chapman will recollect that this particular painting:

Shows Fort Beauregard and Fort Moultrie in the distance; also the old “Moultrie House” that was being pulled down while the artist was making his sketch. A number of Yankee prisoners can be seen, the Corporal in charge of them giving an explanation to the Confederate officer.

November 23, 1863

For this Monday, the official Confederate siege-log within Fort Sumter notes:

The enemy’s fire today was directed against Simkins, Sumter, and in the direction of Sullivan’s Island. Their mortar practice against the latter island is said (by Major W. S. Basinger) to have been unusually good, and was replied to from Battery Marion and Fort Moultrie with a few shots, the effect of which was not ascertained.

November 24, 1863

Confederate records for this date, note a slackening of the Federal bombardment from Morris Island against Sumter, Moultrie, Simkins, and Johnson, and then:

About 9:30 a.m., Fort Moultrie opened on a working party at Gregg, and fired 14 shots. The Yankees replied from both their rifled Parrotts and mortars, and continued until 5 p.m., during which time 67 shots were fired at Moultrie and 10 at other posts on the island. The fort sustained no damage whatever. Three privates of the First South Carolina Regular Infantry [Third Artillery] were, however, wounded (as well as one Negro).

November 28, 1863

From Mount Pleasant, the commander of the First Military District of South Carolina, Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley, writes to the chief-of-staff Brig. Gen. Thomas Jordan in Charleston, to report — among other things — that: “The enemy have opened on Moultrie with 300-pounders. Captain Valentine seriously wounded, and 2 privates.”

And this same day, the young painter Conrad Wise Chapman — having learned through a letter from his father in Rome, that his mother is ill — writes from Charleston to the Confederate Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper in Richmond, Virginia, requesting a six-month furlough. Both of Chapman’s immediate superiors, General Wise and Colonel Tabb, support his request for leave. While awaiting a response, Chapman will continue his artistic work around Charleston Harbor.

December 3, 1863

Chapman’s painting of the view westward from atop Battery Rutledge, along the windswept shoreline of Sullivan’s Island in early December 1863, with Fort Moultrie’s flagstaff plainly visible at center. (Museum of the Confederacy)

The young artist Conrad Wise Chapman sketches a view looking westward from atop Battery Rutledge, one of the heavy-artillery emplacements lining the shoreline of Sullivan’s Island, on this windy day. Palmetto fronds can be seen flailing in the breeze, while the Confederate battle-flag strains atop Fort Moultrie’s towering flagpole in the middle distance.

Beyond the harbor-beacon at left, other Confederate fortifications can be faintly discerned in the vicinity of Fort Johnson on distant James Island. Many years afterward, Chapman will reminisce about the 8-inch Columbiad piece with its mushroom cascabel being guarded by the seated sentry in the immediate left-foreground:

The gun shown, was considered to be a very good one. The day was cloudy when the scene was sketched.

December 7, 1863

This evening, the artists Sgt. Conrad Wise Chapman and Lt. John Ross Key of the Engineers (a grandson of Francis Scott Key, author of the lyrics for The Star-Spangled Banner) are rowed across the dark harbor-waters from Charleston into battered Fort Sumter, with “orders to execute sketches and take views of the historic ruin.” Maj. John Johnson, another Confederate engineer already working within this stronghold, will later write that the artists’ visit is well-timed, because not only has there been a two-day suspension in Union shelling, but their arrival also coincides with:

… the most picturesque stage of the fort’s ever-changing appearance. The bold and striking outlines of the northern wall had only been produced by the recent firing; and they were soon to be lost in the changes which attended the gradual conversion of Fort Sumter from a brick- to an earth-work. In the same way, the scene of confusion all over the parade was to give way before long to more orderly arrangements.

Chapman and Key will remain within Sumter over the next three days, making numerous sketches which they will later transform into finished works.

December 21, 1863

This morning commences quietly, with the Federal gunners working unmolested on their Battery Gregg and Wagner emplacements until 10:30 a.m., when:

… one of the Cumming’s Point batteries opened on Fort Moultrie with a few shots, which soon brought on a general engagement between that work and Batteries Cheves, Simkins, Rutledge, Moultrie, Marion, and the Brooke gun battery.

These exchanges continue till about 4:00 p.m., during which Moultrie fires a half-dozen shells, the “Brooke gun battery, 17 shells; Rutledge, 59 shells; Marion, 11 shells; Simkins, 37 shells; and Cheves, 12 shells.”

February 2, 1864

Eyewitness drawing by a Union onlooker of the destruction of the Confederate blockade-runner Presto, while grounded off of Sullivan’s Island on February 2, 1864. Fort Moultrie can be seen wreathed in gunsmoke, its flagstaff visible to the left of the harbor beacon. (Harper’s Weekly)

Early this morning, “upon the rising of the fog which generally conceals the fleet and the shore during the damp nights of this season,” Union lookouts sight the Confederate blockade-runner Presto (also known as the Fergus, and a sister-ship of the Dare) under Captain Horsey, which has struck some wreckage while inbound during the night. On its third run from Nassau in the Bahamas, Presto now lies fast aground at low tide amid the shallows off of Battery Jasper, between Fort Moultrie and Battery Rutledge on Sullivan’s Island. According to an eyewitness description published three weeks later in Harper’s Weekly:

She was a handsome, long, low, white side-wheel steamer, built on the Clyde, having two smoke-stacks and two masts, of some seven hundred tons burden.

Four Federal monitors advance into range, and along with heavy Parrott guns in Fort Strong (formerly Battery Wagner) and Battery Chatfield on Morris Island, beat this stranded vessel to pieces in a day-long barrage of 142 shells, 21 of which strike their target.

However, since Presto is loaded with a cargo of shoes, liquor, blankets, bacon, ham, etc. — most on the Confederate government’s account — troops from Fort Moultrie and other nearby defenses risk their lives to slip aboard amid the gunfire and retrieve items, particularly the liquor. They rescue so many bottles that a Federal commander later reports a “grand drunk” is held, during which he alleges he could have captured the entire island with a force of merely 300 men, if only he had known in time.

February 10, 1864

Writing home from Fort Strong on Morris Island, Sgt. Lewis W. Campbell of the 11th Maine Infantry includes the following description of his frontline garrison activities:

We have no night duty at all, except when we are fighting. We do the guard duty during the day & are relieved at night by the pickets. Drill 2 hours a day on Artillery. Something quite new to me, but I like it much. Garrison inspection twice a week & yesterday as we were paraded for inspection, a shell burst over the fort & the pieces came in amongst us, but fortunately no one was hurt. & but a few moments after it struck before the boys had in their arms. That’s the first one that has been thrown into the Fort for some time. It came from Fort Moultrie {Reb}. We have a fine view of the City of Charleston and hear their fire bells ringing most all of the time, for our folks keep throwing a few shots at them & set some of their buildings on fire. By the aid of a good glass, we can tell the time of day there from their clock.

March 15, 1864

Battered Fort Sumter as seen from the Fort Johnson landing, March 15, 1864, by Conrad Wise Chapman. (Museum of the Confederacy)

Yet another Conrad Wise Chapman painting is dated as having been sketched on this particular date, depicting a small mail-boat or dispatch-boat in its left foreground, which is shown as it is about to depart from the Fort Johnson landing on James Island, to sail across on a southeast heading toward battered Sumter at center, with Fort Moultrie faintly visible further east across the harbor, amid Sullivan’s Island sandy defenses in the far distance at left. Thirty-five years later, Chapman will recall that at this time, a Union shell was being “thrown over the fort [Sumter] about every five minutes.”

March 29, 1864

In Charleston, the Confederate Artillery Maj. G. U. Mayo submits a written report to Col. A. J. Gonzales, Chief of Artillery for the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, in which Mayo summarizes the findings of his recent inspection of the defenses on Sullivan’s Island. Regarding Fort Moultrie, he notes that it:

… has now no quarters inside, which gives a good parade within its walls. It is well protected by a system of traverses, and the guns in effective condition. The magazine is in good order and neatly kept. In the rear of the fort are a number of broken canister [shells], which might be removed for renewal to Charleston. The ammunition in good order.

April 9, 1864

Brig. Gen. Roswell S. Ripley, recently returned from nearly 40 days leave-of-absence to reassume command over the First Military District, submits an extensive and detailed report from his Mount Pleasant headquarters to Beauregard’s chief-of-staff, Brig. Gen. Thomas Jordan, on the material condition of all Confederate defenses holding Sullivan’s Island against a possible Union seaborne assault. Ripley points out that the island’s defenders, once numbering more than 5,000 men, are now reduced to only 2,900 effectives, so that engineering labors must be accelerated and improved in order to compensate for this depletion.

As for Fort Moultrie, Ripley records that:

  • its “Southeast Face” is defended by a 32-pounder rifled gun, four 10-inch Columbiads, and an 8-inch rifled gun, all mounted en barbette;
  • its “Southwest Face” by an 8-inch rifled gun and 10-inch Columbiad, both mounted en barbette; and
  • its “Northwest Half-Bastion” features a 24-pounder smoothbore facing north from the rear of the fort’s Magazine, and another pointing east from the north flank of its demi-bastion, both mounted en barbette.

Moultrie’s structure itself, according to Ripley, “has been remodeled to protect it from the enemy’s very heavy artillery.” He goes on to add:

An officer’s bomb-proof in the old east curtain is nearly completed, but requires sodding. The eastern gallery inside is complete. It is to be regretted that it was not made wider. The traverses between the guns on the seaward face are very strong and serviceable. The service magazine and bomb-proof along the south rampart appear to be right; they cramp the gun chambers, but in this case it would be hard to have avoided the objection. The western gallery and bomb-proof inside are completed, and the Magazine fully protected. A bomb-proof gallery on the west outside is in process of construction by the soldiers. Wants more sand and to be finished ...
The work of covering the sea-face is progressing, and will soon render it impervious to any artillery. It would be well to add obstructions along the face as soon as it can be done, in order to secure at once against a coup-de-main, should it be attempted.
Fort Moultrie is at present garrisoned by four companies of the First South Carolina [Regular] Infantry and commanded by Captain Burnet. The guns are as well supplied as in the power of the garrison, and proper care seems to be taken of material and ammunition.

More than a quarter-century later, Ripley’s entire extensive report will be published on Pages 409-422 of Series I, Volume 35, Part Two of War of the Rebellion (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1891).

April 11, 1864

The blockade-runner Minnie departs Wilmington, North Carolina, arriving four days later at St. George’s, Bermuda. Among its passengers are Bishop Patrick N. Lynch of Charleston, South Carolina, who is sailing toward Europe in hopes of gaining Vatican recognition for the Confederacy, accompanied by the young furloughed painter Conrad Wise Chapman, homeward-bound to visit with his family who are residing in Rome.

April 19, 1864

From his headquarters, General Beauregard issues Special Order No. 109, IV, which appoints a five-member board to compile “a military history of the siege of Charleston, S.C., to commence with the date of the naval attack on Fort Sumter, April 7, 1863.” One of its members will be the artistic Lt. John Ross Key of the Engineers.

May 26, 1864

Maj.-Gen. John G. Foster succeeds Gillmore in command of the Union siege-forces on Morris Island. This new commander is convinced that “with proper arrangements”, Fort Sumter can be taken using special light-draft steamers towing “assaulting arks” with elevated towers for sharpshooters, each transport capable of disgorging 1,000 soldiers equipped with 50-foot scaling ladders. The War Department remains skeptical of this plan, but Foster prepares to wear down Sumter’s strength to resist such an assault, through a protracted bombardment.

June 6, 1864

Lt. John Ritchie, Quartermaster of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment on Morris Island, notes laconically in his journal:

Very warm – bathing – wrote to “Jimmy” – “Ironsides” weighs anchor and lays outside the bar.  Moultrie shells the fleet opposite our camp.

July 7, 1864

Foster’s batteries initiate a heavy and sustained shelling of Fort Sumter, firing an average of 350 rounds a day against its collapsing ramparts. Yet the sheer volume of fallen debris, bolstered by sandbags and gabions tirelessly emplaced by its 300-man Confederate garrison, will leave this structure as impregnable as ever.

July 13, 1864

Amid the Union encampments around Fort Strong on Morris Island, Lt. John Ritchie of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment notes in his diary how:

At noon, Moultrie fired 6 shells over into camp here. The 2d shot burst over camp, & instantly killed John Tanner & Samuel Supplay of Company B.

Next evening, July 14th, Ritchie adds: “At 6 P.M., 2d dose of shells from Moultrie – 8 in all – “intermission of ten minutes for refreshments” – no damage.”

July 20, 1864

Fort Sumter’s Confederate commander, Capt. John C. Mitchel, falls mortally wounded from the Union bombardment, and is replaced this same night by Capt. Thomas A. Huguenin.

August 9, 1864

A report later published in the New York Times, describes how on this night the blockade-runner Prince Albert of Captain Coombs, inbound on her second voyage from Nassau in the Bahamas, struck the wreckage of the Minho and then:

... ran aground on Sullivan’s Island beach, near the old pier opposite Fort Moultrie. When she was discovered at daylight the next morning by the gunners at Battery Chatfield, the guns of the battery were immediately opened, and the third shot fired, penetrated the boiler and set the steamer on fire. The guns at Fort Strong were also opened, the result of which was to make the vessel a total wreck in a few hours’ time. The vessel was a long, black propeller, of good size. It is not known of what her cargo consisted. On the same day one or two wagons were noticed going along the beach toward the wreck, from which they returned ladened with bales and boxes. As the vessel appeared to our men when first discovered, she was swung round so that her bow pointed toward the channel. When the tide left her, the stern was far out of water, while the bow was sunk quite deep.
A number of blockade-runner wrecks may now be seen on the Sullivan’s Island beach. Although it is the legitimate business of the [U.S.] Navy to look after these vessels, it appears the Army must be credited with having destroyed a fair share. It is a great wonder to many, how so large a number of vessels succeed in running the Charleston blockade. During the short time the fifty Union officers were confined in Charleston, they report that no less than five blockade-runners came up to the piers.

August 1864

Foster begins to slacken his prolonged bombardment of Fort Sumter, as his ammunition supplies begin to dwindle. By mid-month, the War Department will turn down his request for light-draft steamers, and sharply rebuff his proposal for employing “assaulting arks” at all by the end of August. His requisitions for more ammunition now go unfilled, Foster instead being ordered to ship most of his remaining ordnance and four regiments of infantry north, to reinforce Grant's operations outside Richmond, Virginia.

September 4, 1864

Foster’s 61-day bombardment of Fort Sumter comes to an end, during which 14,666 heavy rounds have been fired against its Confederate garrison, killing sixteen and wounding 65. Henceforth, the Union siege-forces will remain largely static behind their defenses, until the war’s end.

September 9, 1864

Confederate Lt. William Epps, being guarded along with several hundred other prisoners “in tents between Batteries Wagner and Gregg” on Morris Island, records in his journal:

The Yanks are firing furiously at our Batteries. Fort Moultrie replied, dropping shells in beautiful style in and around Wagner and Gregg, except two that exploded over our prison, three pieces of which fell among our tents and caused a very unpleasant feeling among the Rebs. Fortunately none of us were hurt.

September 16, 1864

Confederate Lt. William Epps, being held prisoner on Morris Island, records in his journal: “Sunday-batteries on Sullivan’s Island apparently practicing at our pen or something nearby, for several fragments of shell have just fallen among the tents.”

October 22, 1864

Around 9:00 p.m., “off to the northward of the inner buoy of Rattlesnake Shoal,” the anchored 270-ton Federal screw-steamer Wamsutta of five guns and 75 men, suddenly sights a blockade-runner slipping past toward the entrance into Charleston Harbor, by hugging closer inshore. The Union warship slips its cable and fires a gun at the shadowy vessel passing by in the darkness, followed by a broadside from the next anchored blockader — the 1,150-ton side-wheel steamer U.S.S. James Adger, of eight guns and 120 crewmen — without either warship striking the fast-moving target. A third ship still farther to westward — the 975-ton side-wheel steamer U.S.S. Mingoe, of ten guns and 146 men — can not even get off a shot before the blockade-runner slides past it as well, Federal Cmdr. J. Blakeley Creighton later reporting:

She passed us so quickly inshore, that before I could slip or get my broadside to bear, she was out of sight. This being the first blockader we had seen at night, it created confusion, which delayed the promptness which would have otherwise effectually stopped her.

However, a fourth Union warship — the small, 180-ton screw-steamer Laburnum of four guns and 29 men — thereupon:

... discovered right ahead the spray from the paddles of a steamer, without being able to distinguish the vessel; fired her port bow-gun at, and then lost sight of her, slipped, stood inshore, and after standing in a short distance, brought the strange steamer out from under the land.

Finally, a fifth blockader (the 222-ton side-wheel steamer Geranium, of three guns and 45 men) gets under way and closes on the shoreline, sighting the vessel briefly and firing shots at her, after which the blockade-runner seemingly disappears. But when dawn breaks on October 23, 1864, the Union artillery batteries on Morris Island report how:

... a large side-wheel iron steamer, with two smokestacks, was discovered ashore opposite Battery Rutledge, Sullivan’s Island, she having run on a shoal at that point during the night. This vessel was painted lead color, was very long, and appeared to be of light draft. She is probably of about 700 tons burden.

Heavy guns from Fort Putnam, Battery Chatfield, and “Fort Strong” (formerly Battery Wagner), as well as two Union monitors, combine to beat this stranded vessel to pieces, together striking the abandoned wreck almost 100 times. It is subsequently identified as the English-registered ship Flora, “with an assorted cargo, which was mostly lost.”

October 23, 1864

At sunrise, Union lookouts spot “a large iron side-wheel steamer with two smoke-stacks” aground on a shoal in front of Battery Rutledge on Sullivan’s Island, this blockade-runner being described as “painted lead color,” very long, of light draught, and about 700 tons burthen. The heavy Federal artillery in Forts Putnam and Strong on Morris Island, as well as Battery Chatfield, quickly open fire and pummel this stranded vessel to pieces, striking it almost 100 times. The Federal report concludes:

The name of this vessel was the “Flamingo;” she was no doubt running into Charleston at the time of getting aground. She now lies a complete wreck. This vessel was distant from Fort Putnam 2,700 yards, from Battery Chatfield 2,600 yards, and from Fort Strong 3,500 yards.

November 5, 1864

At dawn on this Saturday morning, Union lookouts on Morris Island sight a small vessel aground “on the beach in front of Fort Moultrie,” so that the guns of Battery Gregg open fire upon it. Having failed to strike this small and distant target, though, Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren makes a signal at 9:00 a.m. for the anchored monitor U.S.S. Patapsco to join in on this bombardment.

The 1,900-ton, turreted ironclad initially fires thirteen shells from its 12-pounder howitzer at a range of about 2,700 yards, but having missed, Lt.-Cmdr. John Madigan then gets Patapsco under way so as to close the distance and bring its “150-pounder rifle into play.” Upon opening fire with this heavier piece, Madigan will later report:

Iron Clad Monitor Patapsco, as she lay in the Delaware duing the Southern Rebellion in 1863, sketched by D.J. Kennedy
I was now fired upon by Fort Moultrie, the enemy using shells and shot which would have certainly hit this vessel, had she not been continually changing her position by steaming and drifting; one shell burst nearly over us and two pieces struck the vessel, doing no damage beyond staving the gig slightly and bruising one of the torpedo spars. Finding us so hard to hit, the enemy ceased after firing a few shots.

The stranded vessel is soon set ablaze by Patapsco’s 150-pounder rounds, burning quickly because of its purported cargo “of cotton and turpentine”, after which the monitor returns to its original station.

However, the Charleston Mercury newspaper in its Monday edition will describe this lost vessel as the outward-bound schooner Mary, adding: “About 35 bales of cotton were saved, while about one hundred bales of cotton and thirty-five boxes of tobacco were lost.”

November 15, 1864

Small and blurry photograph of Fort Sumter’s battered southern corner, possibly taken through a spy-glass from a Union position on Morris Island on November 17, 1864. (MOLLUS-MASS Civil War Photographs Collection)

As Union Generals Foster and Potter approach Fort Putnam on Morris Island, escorting a party of visiting ladies in two large ambulances, the Confederate guns in distant Fort Moultrie open fire and almost strike one vehicle, abruptly cutting short this visit.

Angry, Foster pauses while retreating through Fort Strong and orders its battery commander “to open all his heavy guns bearing on Moultrie, and send the ungallant rebels his warm compliments.” During the protracted exchange of long-range gunfire which thereupon ensues across the harbor, Moultrie’s flagstaff is temporarily felled, but two of Fort Strong’s guns also burst from these repeated salvoes.

November 27, 1864

As night falls, the 200-ton iron side-wheel steamer Beatrice, recently launched in Glasgow and probing northward out of Nassau in hopes of running the Union blockade into a Carolinian port, passes the Stono River mouth and sights the Federal light-ship stationed outside of the Charleston Bar. Circling farther out to sea so as to avoid detection, the Beatrice then steers in toward land until it reaches shallow waters off Long Island, and subsequently veers west along its coastline with the intent of slipping past into port through Maffitt’s Channel.

Around 11:00 p.m., this blockade-runner is spotted and fired upon by a U.S. Navy warship, accelerating to its top speed of fourteen knots and racing by the blockader in the darkness. A second Union warship strikes the Beatrice a couple of times with shots while it rushes past it as well, before the Confederate vessel runs aground briefly on a shoal.

By the time that the blockade-runner reverses engines, works free, and gets under way again, Union picket-boats are closing in and subject it to close-range fire from their 12-pound light howitzers, so that the Beatrice grounds once more “on Drunken Dick Shoal, near the old neck.” Its Captain and about a dozen men manage to get ashore in a boat, before Federal boarding-parties secure the 30 remaining crewmen, then torch the stranded vessel, leaving it “a total wreck.”

November 30, 1864

After darkness falls, two Confederate blockade-runners succeed in passing into Charleston Harbor: the 550-ton, three-masted iron paddle-steamer Kate Gregg (ex-Scottish Stag) at 9:00 p.m., and the 207-foot, double-masted iron single-screw steamer Laurel two hours later. U.S. Navy Capt. J. F. Green notes:

Moultrie opened fire savagely in the direction of our [picket-]boats after each steamer had passed, and the steamers were encouraged by people on the beach to go ahead, that they would soon pass our fire.

December 5, 1864

A temporary truce around Charleston Harbor, arranged between Confederate and Union commanders so as to exchange a large number of prisoners, is violated early this morning when a Confederate sharpshooter fires upon an exposed Union soldier in Battery Gregg on James Island. The Union guns in that battery immediately open fire again, until a white flag is hoisted a few minutes later by Sumter’s Confederate commander and a note of apology is sent across, after which the uneasy truce resumes.

December 12, 1864

The Charleston Mercury newspaper reports that railway tracks to Savannah, Georgia, have been cut off by the advance of Sherman’s army, so that: “For the present, the trains will cease to run through between the two cities.”

December 22, 1864

Word reaches Charleston that the Confederate defenders of Savannah have abandoned that Georgian city without resistance, which surrenders to Sherman next day.

December 31, 1864

The Charleston Mercury reports on numerous outrages recently perpetrated in the derelict city, as morale sags among its depleted defenders: for example, the local provost marshal’s younger brother has been assaulted by three soldiers who demanded money and “something to drink” from him, while five or six other men in Confederate uniforms tried to force their way into a “respectable home” on Smith Street two nights earlier at 9:00 p.m., firing a shot into this residence when they failed to gain entry.

January 5, 1865

The Charleston Mercury publishes a six-day-old report received from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, in which this newspaper’s anonymous Virginian correspondent “Hermes” [George W. Bagby] opines:

“Away with slavery,” cries the Enquirer, “if England and France will recognize us and guaranty [sic: guarantee] our independence.” This sort of talk I am told is heard in Congress. Evidently depression and fright are making some people take long steps. A surrender of slavery is a surrender of everything. It is subjugation by the Yankee idea. Subjugated by the Yankee idea, we become Yankees. If we are Yankees, why not be in the Union with the rest of the Yankees? Indeed how will it be possible to keep out of that Union?

January 8, 1865

At 3:00 a.m. on this Sunday morning, the heavy Union guns in Battery Gregg resume their bombardment of the Confederate garrison within battered Fort Sumter.

January 12, 1865

Another brief prearranged truce is observed around Charleston Harbor, so that steamers might deliver about 250 Confederate refugees (mostly women and children) transported into the city from captured Savannah, Georgia. Next day, the Charleston Mercury will report about these latest arrivals:

... nearly all concur in the statement that the general treatment of the inhabitants of Savannah by the Yankees has been mild.  They say that Sherman has, with Foster's reinforcements, 80,000 men, and that he began his movement against Branchville and Augusta on Wednesday.
The [Union] privates speak of wreaking their vengeance on South Carolina; but the officers say that their actions will depend on the amount of opposition they may encounter. They declare that if they should have hard fighting to do and are successful, they will not attempt to restrain their men.

January 15, 1865

While providing support for Union boat-parties dragging for Confederate underwater obstructions and “torpedoes” or mines at the entrance to Charleston Harbor on this foggy Sunday evening, the single-turret, 1,825-ton monitor U.S.S. Patapsco of Lt.-Cmdr. Stephen D. Quackenbush suddenly strikes one at 8:10 p.m. and sinks within less than a minute from its detonation, claiming the lives of 62 of the 105 men on board. This muffled explosion is scarcely noticed by the Confederate garrison in distant Fort Sumter, who are surprised to see Patapsco’s smokestack protruding above the water next morning, 600 yards from Sumter and 1,200 yards from Fort Moultrie.

February 1, 1865

Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s 60,000-man army begins its advance from Georgia into South Carolina, one column moving inland from Pocotaligo, while his left wing begins crossing the Savannah River so as to march through Robertsville and Lawtonville.

February 2, 1865

 Sherman’s entire 60,000-man Union army completes its crossing of the Savannah River from Georgia into South Carolina, advancing into the interior of the hapless state against very little opposition. Some 900 Confederate troops briefly check a vanguard of 8,000 Federal soldiers at Rivers Bridge on the Salkehatchie River, only to be outflanked and forced to withdraw next day, February 3rd.

Faced with this unstoppable penetration, the Confederate high command decides to commence preparations to withdraw its 14,000 troops from around Charleston Harbor, so as to concentrate them with the main army, rather than risk seeing them cut off on the coast by Sherman’s progression.

February 6, 1865

Maj.-Gen. Quincy A. Gilmore returns aboard the transport Arago to the Union headquarters on Morris Island, with orders to relieve Maj.-Gen. John G. Foster so that he might return home to receive treatment for his old leg-wound.

February 7, 1865

A stormy day, with both Confederate and Union encampments around Charleston harbor being lashed by heavy rains and winds. Further inland at Lowry’s, Union General Sherman sends the following message in cipher to Admiral Dahlgren off the coast:

Watch Charleston close. I think Jeff. Davis will order it to be abandoned, lest he lose its garrison as well as its guns.

February 8, 1865

An order is sent from Charleston to Lt. John G. K. Gourdin, Confederate ordnance officer on Sullivan’s Island, directing him to immediately start packing up all ammunition, primers, and other easily-moveable equipment so as to be ready “to be withdrawn at the earliest notice.”

February 9, 1865

Foster is officially relieved of command of the Union forces besieging Charleston Harbor, sailing away so as to receive medical attention for his ailments, and being succeeded by General Gillmore. The latter promptly orders that a reconnaissance in force be made next day, by ordering a large body of infantry and artillery to be ferried across from Folly to James Island, so as to probe the Confederate defenses.

February 10, 1865

The Union assault on Grimball’s Causeway, February 10, 1865, as sketched by Frank Leslie’s “special artist” W. T. Crane. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

This morning, some 3,000-4,000 Union troops under Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig begin landing near “Grimball’s Place” on the southern side of James Island, about two miles southwest of Charleston on the Stono River. Once assembled, a line of skirmishers moves forward by early afternoon, and a mile inland discovers a line of earthworks guarding the causeway running through this marshy terrain, held by 300 men of the 2nd South Carolina Heavy Artillery under Maj. Edward Manigault.

The Federal mortar-schooner Dan Smith at center, and gunboat Commodore McDonough at right, shelling the Confederate defenses at Grimball’s Causeway on the afternoon of February 10, 1865, as sketched by W. T. Crane. (Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

Firing erupts and the 530-ton Union sidewheel gunboat Commodore McDonough and 150-ton mortar-schooner Dan Smith,  as well as the tinclads Savannah and Augusta, steam up the Stono River to begin shelling the Confederate defenses in support of an anticipated assault. This attack goes forward late in the day, the defenders’ center being vigorously pressed by the 144th New York Infantry, while the 54th New York Infantry push in their right flank. The outnumbered South Carolinians are driven out of their rifle-pits and retreat, after Manigault has been wounded and captured (he will later lose a leg to amputation). The Federals suffer fifteen dead and 30 wounded during this affray, capturing 30 prisoners, but advance no further. This encounter will later be remembered as “the last battle for Charleston.”

And this same Friday in the city, the Charleston Mercury’s diehard publisher Robert Barnwell Rhett, Jr., announces in his newspaper that “the interruption of railroad communication between Charleston and the interior produces a state of affairs that compels us, temporarily, to transfer the publication office of the Mercury elsewhere; and today’s paper will be our last issue, for the present, in the city of Charleston.” (His paper will not resume publication until November 19, 1866.)

February 13, 1865

In the capital of Virginia, its Richmond Dispatch newspaper reports:

We had plenty of rumors from the South yesterday; none of which have been confirmed by official intelligence. It was said that Charleston had been evacuated by our troops. This report, we have reason to believe, is premature, though that the exigency of the situation in South Carolina may, at some future time, demand its evacuation, is among the possibilities.

February 14, 1865

Sherman’s vanguard takes Branchville, South Carolina, so that only the Northeastern Rail Road line still remains open as an avenue of escape from Charleston. As a result, Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard orders the Confederate commander within the city, Lt.-Gen. William J. Hardee, to hasten preparations for his evacuation of Charleston, making sure to take steps to destroy any military or bulk stores that cannot be transported by train along with his soldiers to Florence.

This same night, the 160-foot Confederate sidewheel steamer Celt attempts to slip out of Charleston Harbor through Maffitt’s Channel, hugging the shoreline of Sullivan’s Island under cover of darkness in hopes of gaining the open ocean, and running for Nassau in the Bahamas with a cargo of cotton — only to run aground beside Bowman’s Jetty. A half-dozen deserting crewmen and one escaping Federal prisoner row out in a boat to surrender to the U.S. tug Laburnum at 2:00 a.m.

February 16, 1865

Advance elements of Sherman’s huge army reach the outskirts of South Carolina’s state capital of Columbia, which will be quietly evacuated by its Confederate defenders overnight, leaving this city to be surrendered and occupied next day.

February 17, 1865

This Friday morning, the weary defenders of Fort Sumter raise a new Confederate flag over their battered ramparts, knowing that they will be withdrawing and carrying it away with them that same night. By afternoon, Union signal-officers on Morris Island intercept a message being semaphored from Charleston to Sullivan’s Island, which reads: “Burn all papers before you leave.” Realizing that this directive portends an imminent Confederate withdrawal from along the harbor’s north shoreline, a Union 200-pounder and four 100-pounder Parrots in “Fort Strong” (formerly Battery Wagner) open up a long-range bombardment at 6:00 p.m., spraying the bridge leading across from Sullivan’s Island to Mount Pleasant with high-explosive shells, timed to burst overhead so as to hamper the defenders’ escape.

A subsequent message from Charleston around 9:00 p.m. to the Confederate commander overseeing the abandonment of Sullivan’s Island, orders him to “Open every bloody sixty-nine on the damned Yankee sons of bitches,” but few guns are capable of complying.  Federal Lt.-Cmdr. George E. Belknap, in command of the twin-gun, single-turret, 1,034-ton monitor U.S.S. Canonicus which is patrolling the harbor-mouth, will record in his official report:

Throughout the night, our batteries on Cummings Point shelled the rebel works on the western end of Sullivan’s Island, the enemy replying with an occasional shot from Fort Moultrie during the first watch.

Under cover of darkness, Moultrie’s last Confederate defenders — Company G of the 1st South Carolina Infantry — quietly evacuate the battered fort on Hardee’s orders, and withdraw from Sullivan’s Island altogether. Upon reaching Charleston, they will find all the guns there already spiked, with ironclads, ships, magazines, warehouses, and stores being prepared to be destroyed.

Unnoticed amid the confusion, the blockade-runner Syren also manages to slip into Charleston Harbor and reach the doomed city, anchoring out of the way of all these evacuation preparations “up the Ashley River near the bridge.”

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Union Reoccupation & Abandonment (February 1865-1898)

February 18, 1865

An hour past midnight, Union troops on James and Morris Islands spot fires breaking out in Charleston, which will be fanned overnight by a fresh wind out of the northwest, while abandoned Confederate ironclads begin blowing up at anchor between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. Three hours afterward, as daylight is breaking, the U.S.S. Canonicus gets under way about 6:30 a.m. so as to close in cautiously on Fort Moultrie and probe the strength of its defenses, although “the air was so full of haze and smoke that nothing could be seen until after 7 o’clock a. m.,” according to this monitor’s commander. By 7:30 a.m., “the sun cleared the atmosphere a little” and the Federal warship consequently fires two 15-inch shells from long range into Moultrie around 7:45 a.m., over which “the rebel flag [is] still flying.” When no reply is received, a tug is detached to advise Capt. Joseph F. Green aboard the squadron flagship (the elderly sail-sloop John Adams, at anchor off Morris Island) that Sullivan’s Island seems to be devoid of defenders.

Shortly after 8:00 a.m., the magazine in evacuated Battery Bee suddenly detonates with such a blast, that to the Federal onlookers on the headland opposite: seemed as if the whole upper part of Sullivan’s Island was lifted into the air. The force of the explosion sensibly shook Fort Strong and the whole of Morris Island.
Celebratory print issued by the New York lithographers Kimmel & Forster, depicting Capt. H. M. Bragg of Gillmore’s staff raising “the old Flag again” over Fort Sumter on the afternoon of February 18, 1865, on a temporary staff made up of an oar and boathook, while the City of Charleston burns in the background. (Library of Congress)

Realizing that all Confederate garrisons must have been entirely withdrawn by now from Sullivan’s Island, Lt. John Hackett of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery volunteers to brave other such potential detonations and sets out from a creek beside Cummings Point shortly thereafter this Saturday morning, with seven men of his Company M rowing a boat, so as to “plant the Star-spangled Banner again” on Fort Moultrie. Lookouts on the Canonicus and nearby sister-monitor Mahopac spot this movement, so that both Union ironclads launch their own boats as well, all three craft racing each other toward Sullivan’s Island to claim the “coveted prize” of Moultrie’s flag.

After pausing to question a boatload of musicians who are escaping in the opposite direction from the abandoned island under a white flag, Hackett continues his traverse and lands first, scaling Moultrie’s walls to haul down its Confederate standard and replace it with the Stars-and-Stripes. According to the official history of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment (Shot and Shell by Rev. Frederic Denison, Page 297), a naval officer also arrives shortly thereafter and discovers that a powder-train has been left slowly burning toward Moultrie’s magazine, which he extinguishes, thereby saving the battle-scarred stronghold and its new occupants from destruction.

A report filed by Lieutenant-Commander Belknap indicates that while he too has sent a U.S. Navy boat from his Canonicus under Acting Ens. R. E. Anson to try “to bring off the rebel flag flying on Moultrie, if possible,” this craft has veered down the shoreline after seeing Hackett win the race, to instead claim Fort Beauregard. Yet another naval officer who comes ashore and inspects Moultrie this same morning — Charles Cowley, Judge-Advocate on Admiral Dahlgren’s staff — will record in his diary how:

Slow-matches leading into all the principal magazines had all been fired, but all, with the exception of the one applied to the magazine at Battery Bee, failed to go off.

Mahopac’s boat meanwhile plants “the national colors” atop Battery Bee’s remnants, while Canonicus sends a second boat-party to board the grounded Confederate blockade-runner Celt beside Bowman’s Jetty around 9:00 a.m. Shortly thereafter out in the harbor, Maj. John A. Hennessey of the 52nd Pennsylvania disembarks from a picket-boat amid the silent rubble of Fort Sumter, and plants yet another United States flag. In the growing daylight, Union Brig. Gen. Alexander Schimmelfennig on James Island orders his troops forward to seize abandoned Fort Johnson, and to row on across the harbor in boats so as to reconnoiter burning Charleston. They encounter no resistance during their traverse, reaching:

...the wharves of the city before the rear-guard of the rebel army had left the upper portion of the town. At once our troops were marching up into the city under the Stars-and-Stripes, to the measure of Yankee Doodle and the most animating national airs.

Mayor Charles Macbeth reluctantly surrenders the devastated remnants of his city to Lt.-Col. Augustus G. Bennett of the 21st Massachusetts “Colored” Infantry Regiment [as African-American formations are designated during this period]. Charleston still lies in peril, though, stockpiles of cotton-bales having been set alight by the departing Confederate forces, which blazes are fought down using urban fire-engines that afternoon. General Gillmore furthermore sends Capt. H. M. Bragg of his staff to secure Fort Sumter with a small detachment of troops.

Around midday, the town of Mount Pleasant is also occupied by a Federal naval detachment, its “Intendant” Henry Slade Tew — a storekeeper and leading local citizen, who has been elected to this position only that previous day — later writing to his daughter:

About 12 o’clock Saturday, three barges landed from the fleet and as I had been elected Intendant by the people on Friday, in that official capacity, attended by some of the citizens, I surrendered the town submitting to the military authority of the U.S., and was promised protection to persons and private property.

February 20, 1865

This Monday morning, the African-American 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment marches into Mount Pleasant overland out of the East, having encountered no Confederate resistance while passing through the deserted Christ Church Parish Line. [Originally laid out by Gen. Robert E. Lee and constructed in late 1861, this defensive line is anchored by a vacant earthwork known as Fort Palmetto, commanding Hamlin Sound and Dewee’s Creek, which is armed with one 9-inch gun and two rifled 32-pounders.] The diary of this regiment’s commanding officer, Col. John B. Fox, records his men’s reception at Mount Pleasant:

Words would fail to describe the scene, which those who witnessed it will never forget — the welcome given to a regiment of colored troops by their people redeemed from slavery. As shouts, prayers, and blessings resounded on every side, all felt that the hardships and dangers of the siege were fully repaid. The few white inhabitants left in the town were either alarmed or indignant, and generally remained in their houses; but the colored people turned out en masse.

The 55th and other following Union regiments will bivouac in fields “between the village and Sullivan’s Island, where air and water were good, and there was a fine place for salt-water bathing, of which the men soon availed themselves.”

Meanwhile, out in Charleston Harbor, a triumphant Union Maj.-Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore — accompanied by an entourage which includes several ladies and a regimental band — visits devastated Fort Sumter, before proceeding deeper into the harbor to touch briefly at Charleston as well.

General Gllmore, along with some staff-officers, several ladies and a band, inspecting the rubble-strewn interior of Fort Sumter on February 20, 1865, as sketched by W. T. Crane. (Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper) General Gllmore, along with some staff-officers, several ladies and a band, inspecting the rubble-strewn interior of Fort Sumter on February 20, 1865, as sketched by W. T. Crane. (Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

February 21, 1865

This Tuesday morning, the lead column in the New York Times proclaims: “GOOD NEWS: Charleston in Our Possession. The City Abandoned by the Rebels on Saturday Last. Admiral Dahlgren Takes Possession on the Same Day.” In the beleaguered Confederate capital in Virginia, conversely, the Richmond Daily Dispatch reports the belief that Charleston is lost, adding:

The evacuation of Charleston should rather inspire cheerfulness, than gloom. Sherman can only be checked by an immediate concentration in his front of all our troops, both in North and South Carolina. If this is done, he may be defeated and his present expedition broken up.

Meanwhile in Charleston Harbor itself, First Lt. Michael J. Higgins — with 40 men of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery — is “ordered to take command of Sullivan’s Island, and have charge of all the military works and their armaments.” Higgins will also provide rations to the few destitute families who have remained on that island.

Singing soldiers of the 55th Massachusetts “Colored” Regiment, their caps displayed atop their bayonet-points, parading through the ruins of Charleston on the evening of February 21, 1865, as recorded by a Northern correspondent. (Harper’s Weekly) Singing soldiers of the 55th Massachusetts “Colored” Regiment, their caps displayed atop their bayonet-points, parading through the ruins of Charleston on the evening of February 21, 1865, as recorded by a Northern correspondent. (Harper’s Weekly)

And just before sunset of this same evening, the 55th Massachusetts Regiment disembarks from Mount Pleasant at Charleston’s deserted waterfront, to be marched triumphantly up Meeting Street:

… through the city to a camping ground on Charleston Neck. Before the march commenced, three rousing cheers were given by the men of the Fifty-Fifth, and given with a will. They were then told that the only restriction placed on them in passing through the city, would be to keep in the ranks, and that they might shout and sing as they chose.
Few people were on the wharf when the troops landed, or in the street when the line was formed; but the streets on the route through the city, were crowded with the colored population. Cheers, blessings, prayers, and songs were heard on every side. Men and women crowded to shake hands with men and officers. Many of them talked earnestly and understandingly of the past and present. The white population remained within their houses, but curiosity led even them to peep through the blinds at the “black Yankees.”
On through the streets of the rebel city passed the column, on through the chief seat of that slave power, tottering to its fall. Its walls rung to the chorus of manly voices singing “John Brown,” “Babylon Is Falling,” and the “Battle-Cry of Freedom”; while, at intervals, the national airs — long unheard there — were played by the regimental band. The glory and the triumph of this hour may be imagined, but can never be described. It was one of those occasions which happen but once in a lifetime, to be lived over in memory forever.

February 22, 1865

In a coordinated celebration of the fall of Charleston, salutes are fired at all Federal forts and bases throughout the country, with accompanying civilian festivities. A telegraphed report describes the scene in the U.S. capital:

At noon, national salutes were fired at the Navy Yard and at all the fortifications around Washington, and for a time it seemed as if a general bombardment were in progress. All the public buildings and many private dwellings, places of business, &c, were gaily decorated with flags. Hardly had the reverberations of the salutes died away, than the glorious intelligence that Fort Anderson had been evacuated, and the way to Wilmington opened became generally known, adding to the general rejoicing. This evening, the public buildings and many stores and residences were brilliantly illuminated. The Capitol was a blaze of light from basement to dome, and presented a magnificent appearance. The State Department was tastefully adorned with national flags, and over the main entrance was a transparency with the following significant inscription, in large letters: “Peace and good will to all nations; but no entangling alliances and no foreign intervention.”

February 25, 1865

A small force comprised of 300 African-American infantrymen, 350 Marines, and 150 U.S. seamen steam up the Cooper River aboard the gunboats Chenango and Sonoma, to assault the Confederate garrison holding Battery White outside of Georgetown. Word soon arrives that this position has been abandoned, much to the surprise of Union Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, who inspects and deems it a very large and heavily-armed fieldwork, commenting: “The whole site would have held a couple of thousand men easily, and our 50 Marines were hardly noticeable.”

March 10, 1865

Having participated in an overland campaign to the Santee, the 55th Massachusetts returns aboard the tin-clad Augusta into Charleston:

Marching out over Meeting Street on the plank road, and through the entrenchments, the regiment went into bivouac at Rickersville, just beyond in a high, dry, and well-shaded field. The next day a regular camp was established, the first mail was received for three weeks, [and] brigade headquarters were located in a good house opposite the camp ...

March 15, 1865

This afternoon, Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren makes an inspection-tour of Fort Sumter, and then crosses over to Sullivan’s Island to visit Fort Moultrie as well, plus the “maze” of other heavy works radiating out from it.

March 17, 1865

This morning, having been ordered to transfer from their Rickersville encampment across to “McLeod’s house on Wappoo Cut, the former location of the rebel quartermaster and commissary” for James Island, the 55th Massachusetts stages a second parade through the streets of Charleston, having received their regimental instruments from Hilton Head only the night before, so as to be able to march:

… down King and Bay Streets with band playing and colors flying, every man doing his best to give the regiment a regular and soldierly appearance. This was the first time the music of the band had been heard since their instruments were packed away at Folly Island, Nov. 27, 1864.

Also this same day, as the three-year terms of numerous members of Companies L and M of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery are elapsing, both units are officially dissolved so that their discharged veterans might return homewards from garrison-duty around Charleston Harbor, while the remainder are reorganized into a single unit which will be designated as “the new Company D.”

March 21, 1865

George S. Cook's house at 28 South Battery Street

A detail from the 55th Massachusetts “under charge of Sergt. Wallace, of Company F,” is detached from this regiment’s field-camp on James Island to serve as part of the “headquarters guard” in Charleston, along with representatives from other Union occupation forces. [At right, a brief video of African-American soldiers standing guard one month later outside of Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch’s headquarters at 26 South Battery Street.]

This same Tuesday in the city, a huge parade known as the “Jubilee of Freedom” is staged to celebrate the emancipation of its African-American populace. Upwards of 10,000 people assemble on the Citadel Green by noon, and set off in a procession one hour later, led by “marshals on horseback, who were decorated with red, white and blue sashes and rosettes.” Next comes:

… a band of music; then the 21st Regiment in full form; then the clergymen of the different churches, carrying open Bibles; then an open car, drawn by four white horses, and tastefully adorned with National flags. In this car there were 15 colored ladies dressed in white, to represent the 15 recent Slave States.

Thousands of women and children follow, singing songs (the verse “We’ll hang Jeff Davis on a sour apple tree” proving especially popular), as well as ranks of tradesmen. A large dilapidated wagon features scenes of mock slave-auctions, followed by a hearse on which is scrawled in chalk: “Slavery Is Dead!”

The two-and-a-half-mile-long procession will wend its way through Charleston, before returning to the Citadel Green amid a brief rain-shower, where the crowd eventually disperses amid many cheers. [This celebration is still observed every January 1st in Charleston, as the “Emancipation Day Parade.”]

March 27, 1865

The Ohio-born attorney Edwin M. Stanton, Lincoln’s Secretary of War, as photographed by Mathew Brady, ca. 1864. (U.S. National Archives and Records)

The U.S. Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton — a lifelong abolitionist and bitter foe of secessionism — issues General Order No. 50 from the War Department in Washington, D.C., instructing all Federal commanders that a special ceremony will be celebrated in South Carolina at noon on April 14, 1865, when:

… Brevet Maj.-Gen. Robert Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of Fort Sumter, in Charleston harbor, the same United States flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command when the works were evacuated, on the fourteenth day of April, 1861.

Upon being unfurled, this restored flag is to furthermore receive a 100-gun salute “from every fort and rebel battery that fired upon Fort Sumter” on this date four years earlier, igniting the Civil War.

March 28, 1865

Secretary Stanton informs his naval counterpart in Washington, the U.S. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles, about President Lincoln’s instruction:

… that the naval forces at Charleston, and their commander on that station, be invited to participate in the ceremonies of the [Sumter flag-restoration]. It gives me pleasure through you to communicate that invitation, and I shall be happy to confer with you in regard to the ceremonies befitting that occasion, and to have your aid in directing the respective parts which shall be taken by the naval and military forces.

March 30, 1865

The hired civilian steamer Oceanus out of New York, tied up at Charleston’s waterfront on the evening of April 13, 1865, so that its passengers might witness the restoration of Robert Anderson’s original 33-star U.S. flag to Fort Sumter next day. (Trip of the Steamer “Oceanus”)

In New York City, The Union newspaper announces that a steamship has been chartered to convey a tour-group to Charleston, so as to witness the restoration of Gen. Robert Anderson’s original 33-star United States flag to fly above Fort Sumter once again on April 14th. Some 180 people quickly pay $100 each, booking their passage for this celebratory expedition.

Many other similar excursions are being likewise organized in other Northern ports, as well as preparations to depart from Union naval bases as far South as Florida.

March 31, 1865

Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch writes a report from occupied Charleston to Maj.-Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore, Union commander for the Department of the South, which begins: “We have had a very heavy storm here”, an event that obliged the U.S. Army transports Canonicus and W.W. Coit to seek shelter within the harbor. Hatch goes on to complain about his lack of coal and few functional vessels, declaring:

The captured steamers are not even to be depended upon to run in the harbor. The Colonel Burnett, which is the only one of any value, is employed removing guns.

This same day, as one of the preparations for giving a good impression to the national reporters and dignitaries who will soon be visiting Charleston Harbor, Hatch’s Acting Assistant Adjutant-General — First Lt. Leonard B. Perry — circulates a general order among all officers of Charleston’s occupying forces, clarifying that while “the retention of certain articles of captured or abandoned property for the furnishing of officers’ quarters” has until now been permitted:

It was not the intention that furniture for quarters should include plate, pianos, organs, pictures, and works of art. No such articles will be retained by officers without special permission from the supervising special agent of the Treasury. If any officer has retained such articles without special authority, he will immediately turn them over to Captain Sturdevant. The retention by officers of articles not specified in the certified list, furnished in compliance with General Orders, No. 12, will be considered sufficient cause for taking from them all mentioned in their inventories, as well as subjecting the officer to trial for disobedience of orders.

A separate order issued from the headquarters of the Department of the South at Hilton Head, further directs that “no horses, either captured or others, will be disposed of to officers, except such condemned horses as they may purchase at auction,” while all others are to pass under the control of the U.S. Quartermaster.

April 2, 1865

Brigadier General Hatch issues an order from Charleston for several companies of the 21st U.S. Infantry to be transferred aboard the 540-ton Army side-wheel steamer Canonicus and conveyed to Mount Pleasant, while another three companies from this same African-American regiment are to “proceed at once to Fort Johnson and remain on duty there until otherwise ordered.” At the same time:

Five companies of Thirty-fifth U. S. Colored Troops, under command of Col. J. C. Beecher, will report without delay to Col. William Gurney, commanding post, for duty. One company of Thirty-fifth U. S. Colored Troops will report without delay to these headquarters [Charleston] for duty.

April 3, 1865

William Gurney as he appeared at the beginning of the Civil War, as a First Lieutenant in the 7th New York State Militia, ca. May 1861. (Library of Congress)

Col. William Gurney of the 127th Regiment New York Volunteers, newly-installed Union commander for the City of Charleston, writes to the President of the Produce Exchange in New York City:

I desire to represent to the members of your exchange, the present destitute condition of the inhabitants of this city. When the city was being evacuated by the rebels, there was saved from the incendiaries a sufficient amount of rice to sustain the people then here for a period of about two months. Since that time, the influx from the interior has been and continues to be very great, and the rice is rapidly consumed. The quantity for distribution will not hold out to May 1, proximo.
There is no passing day but that aid is solicited from me by persons who formerly were in the best circumstances, while appeals from that class who have heretofore only sustained themselves by their various occupations are yet more frequent and pressing. I have already received from a few of the merchants who have recently established their houses in this city, a small amount of money. It has all been distributed to such as I considered to be the most needy or deserving. Unless aid and money, food and clothing, is sent to these people from the North, the suffering and destitution will be incalculable. The armies passing through the interior have, of necessity, either consumed or destroyed the wealth, the produce, and the very sustenance of the country.
I therefore respectfully ask from your board, in the name of humanity, that it will earnestly consider the wants of these people and take steps to relieve them from the suffering which is not only now upon them, but which will augment as the present supplies are diminished.

April 5, 1865

The 55th Massachusetts retraces its steps from James Island through Charleston to Rickersville once again, joining the 54th Massachusetts and 54th New York Infantry Regiments, as well as a section from the 3rd New York Field-Artillery, for an expedition from Four-Mile House under Brig. Gen. A. S. Hartwell, in pursuit of Confederate guerrillas operating north of the Santee River as the “Home-Guard Cavalry.”

And this same day, Maj.-Gen. William T. Sherman writes from “the Field at Goldsborough, N. C.”, to Gen. Robert Anderson in New York City, saying that he will be beside Anderson in spirit if not in person when he re-hoists his old flag above Fort Sumter in nine days’ time. In his concluding remarks, Sherman notes: “I have not been in Charleston since we parted, then captain and lieutenant, in the spring of 1846 [for the Mexican-American War], but I can see it in imagination almost as clearly as you behold it with your eyes.”

April 8, 1865

This Saturday at 11:00 a.m., “a gaily decorated post-office van” is driven through the crowds at the Arago’s pier at the foot of Beach Street in New York City, to deliver the old Fort Sumter flag “enclosed in a box,” which has been preserved for the past four years “in the vaults of the Bank of Commerce.” At noon, the 2,250-ton wooden side-wheel steamer and chartered U.S. Army transport clears for Charleston Harbor, conveying Maj.-Gen. Robert Anderson with his wife, son, and three daughters, plus about 60 other dignitaries including:

The peacetime trans-Atlantic liner and wartime U.S. Army transport Arago, photographed while lying at anchor beside a New York City pier on June 28, 1864. (U.S. National Archives)
  • Maj.-Gen. Abner Doubleday, elderly Maj.-Gen. John A. Dix of the New York State Militia; Brig.-Gen. Rufus Saxton
  • Col. Charles Anderson, Robert Anderson’s brother and Lieutenant-Governor of Ohio
  • Justice Noah H. Swayne of the United States Supreme Court
  • U.S. Congressman Richard D. Kelley of Philadelphia
  • Prof. Charles Davies of Columbia College in New York City (former Professor of Mathematics at West Point)
  • Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, with his wife Eunice and several children; Rev. Matthis Harris (former chaplain at Fort Sumter in 1861); Rev. Dr. Richard S. Storrs, Jr.; Rev. Samuel Scoville
  • William Lloyd Garrison, George Thompson, etc.
  • plus senior correspondents from the New York Times, Tribune, and Herald, as well as Henry M. Smith, editor of the Chicago Tribune and Theodore Tilton, of the New York Independent

all of whom are to witness the restoration of the original 33-star American flag above Fort Sumter. This vessel will stop in Hampton Roads off Fortress Monroe at 6:20 p.m. next evening, pausing for an hour so as to deposit correspondence and pick up a few more passengers who are traveling to meet it from Washington, D.C.

April 9, 1865

After returning into Charleston from a quick visit to Hilton Head and Beaufort, Lt. John Ritchie of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment notes in his journal:

Quite a fire in King Street in the evening, destroying 3 large brick stores! Reuben & I discover it early, improve the draft, & witness with profound satisfaction the burnt offering!

April 10, 1865

At noon on this rainy and foggy Monday, the steamer Oceanus of the Neptune Propeller Line clears its dock at the foot of Robinson Street in New York City, heading down the North River [an alternate name for the southernmost portion of the Hudson River] so as to proceed toward Charleston with another group of civilian passengers, who also wish to witness the restoration of General Anderson’s pre-war flag over Fort Sumter.

April 11, 1865

This Tuesday night, the U.S. transport Arago — having enjoyed smooth sailing and fair weather — reaches Hilton Head, where it will remain at anchor until Thursday, when it will weigh to resume its voyage and arrive off of the mouth of Charleston Harbor by early Friday morning.

April 12, 1865

This evening, the 54th and 55th Massachusetts, as well as 54th New York and 3rd New York Artillery, return by rail into their Rickersville encampment from their foray north of the Santee, being followed by more than 2,000 black refugees. Toward midnight, a mounted orderly also arrives at Rickersville with a dispatch:

… announcing the fall of Richmond, and the surrender of Lee. The band was ordered out, and the camp was aroused by the music of “Hail Columbia,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Yankee Doodle,” “John Brown,” and “Babylon is Falling,” while officers and men rushed wildly out in anything but regulation dress, and cheer after cheer was heard.

April 13, 1865

This Thursday evening, the steamer Oceanus is piloted in to the darkened Charleston waterfront, being greeted by other parties assembled to witness next day’s restoration of the old Stars-and-Stripes to Fort Sumter.

April 14, 1865

Amid fired salutes at 6:00 a.m., Maj.-Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore enters Charleston Harbor from Port Royal aboard his flagship steamer Diamond, depositing a large number of visitors at Sumter for the forthcoming ceremonies. This Friday morning will dawn warm but windy, as other visitors begin gathering along Charleston’s waterfront to be ferried out to the battered fort. A little before 10:00 a.m., Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch and Col. William Gurney go aboard the side-wheel steamer Canonicus, and shortly thereafter — with flags flying and music playing — lead the vessels Blackstone, Oceanus, Delaware, W.W. Coit, Nelly Baker, Golden Gate, Anna Maria, and Planter out toward Sumter. Upon drawing near, the steamers pass the anchored warships of Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren’s South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, with every flag and pennant flying in the wind.

One by one, the steamers disgorge their passengers at “the wharf recently erected at the west angle” of Sumter, after which the Delaware continues out of Charleston Harbor to meet the transport Arago — which is too large to pass over the bar into the Shipping Channel, and so is riding at anchor outside. Its dignitaries and travel-companions are gingerly transferred aboard the smaller Delaware, to be ferried into Sumter by 11:30 a.m. Their number include brevet Maj.-Gen. Robert Anderson, along with his wife, four children, and brother Charles Anderson (the Lieutenant-Governor of Ohio); Gens. Abner Doubleday and John A. Dix; the abolitionists Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, his wife Eunice, and William Lloyd Garrison; the Supreme Court Justice Noah H. Swayne; President Lincoln’s private secretary, John Nicolay; plus numerous editors and reporters from major newspapers.

With some 3,000 people assembled in the blasted interior of Sumter on this blustery day, a ceremony commences with the reading of prayers and scriptures at 11:30 a.m., followed by a recital of Robert Anderson’s four-year-old “dispatch to the Government, dated Steamship Baltic off Sandy Hook, April 18, 1861, announcing the fall” of his Federal garrison. Then at noon, Anderson personally re-hoists the same 33-star flag which he had been obliged to remove from Sumter on that occasion, and a 100-gun salute is fired by the ruined fort’s new garrison. Similar “national salutes” are then fired in succession by the Union batteries on Morris Island; from Sullivan’s Island (by “Lieut. C. H. Williams and his men” of Company B of the 3rd Rhode Island Artillery); and finally from Fort Johnson on James Island. An “eloquent, patriotic, inimitable address” by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and hymns of thanksgiving conclude this ceremony.

This same evening in Washington, D. C., President and Mrs. Mary Lincoln arrive late at Ford’s Theater for a performance of Laura Keene’s light comedy Our American Cousin, which is briefly interrupted upon their entry as the orchestra pauses to play Hail to the Chief, and the crowd of 1,700 people rises to give them a rousing ovation. The couple then settles into the Presidential Box, comprised of two corner box-seats with their dividing wall removed, and the play resumes. Shortly before 10:30 p.m., a well-known actor named John Wilkes Booth is admitted to the box, wedges its door shut, and at the climactic moment of the play — amid loud laughter and applause from the audience — shoots Lincoln in the back of the head with a Derringer, before leaping onto the stage and escaping in the confusion. Three doctors and some soldiers who happen to be in attendance among the audience, carry the mortally-wounded President across the street to William Peterson’s boarding-house opposite, where he is laid out on a bed in a first-floor room, and expires at 7:22 a.m. next morning.

April 19, 1865

“Soon after breakfast,” the U.S. Army transport Anna Maria enters Charleston Harbor from Hilton Head, bearing the official announcement for its Union occupation forces, confirming the death of President Lincoln. A report published eight days later in the New York Times will describe reaction in the city:

Immediately on the receipt of the news, the various military headquarters announced the fact in printed orders, and as soon as possible draped the offices in mourning. The public offices, the Courier establishment, the Charleston Hotel, the Adams’ Express Company’s building, and many of the places of business on Meeting, King, and several other of the principal streets were closed, and the entrances of the same draped in mourning. All over the city, the national flag was shrouded in black.

Out in the harbor, Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren orders 21 guns fired at one-minute intervals by all ten anchored vessels of his South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, “beginning with the senior vessel, each vessel following in the order of seniority” (flagship Philadelphia, Tuscarora, Pawnee, John Adams, Donegal, Flambeau, Wamsutta, Acacia, plus the monitors Catskill and Passaic). This same sequence of salutes will be fired at sunset as well.

April 20, 1865

South Carolina’s ex-Gov. William Aiken and James S. Gibbes formally petition Col. William Gurney of the 127th New York Volunteers, military commander of the city, for “the use of Hibernian Hall in behalf of the citizens of Charleston, to express their sentiments upon the awful event that has deprived the American people of their Chief Magistrate.” Gurney approves, further commenting in his reply:

I need not tell you how welcome such  citizens are at such a time, to that or any other spot within my command, where we can pour forth our common sorrow for a loss that leaves us all so stunned and helpless. The calumnies of a past antagonism have identified the citizens of Charleston with undying hatred of the Union of our fathers. When such a community ask for a place to mourn the loss of Abraham Lincoln, does it not add doubly to the weight of that cruel blow which has deprived us of a warm heart and the wise brain that was so rapidly molding us back to unity and fellowship?

April 21, 1865

The column-fronted Hibernian Hall at 105 Meeting Street, as photographed in April 1865 by George N. Barnard. Note the shell-damaged building right next door, as well as the façade of the Mills House Hotel at the extreme right of this picture. The overgrown foundations in the foreground are from other edifices which had burnt down during the Great Conflagration of December 11-12, 1861. (Library of Congress)

At noon, an overflow crowd packs into Charleston’s Hibernian Hall at 105 Meeting Street, a gathering which — according to the opening statement from its chairman, South Carolina’s ex-Gov. William Aiken — has assembled:

… to pour out the general grief which has been felt in this city for the sudden removal from this life of Abraham Lincoln, late President of the United States. The horrible and atrocious assassination of President Lincoln has filled every feeling heart with sorrow and indignation. I did not know, personally, the late President, but those who did have spoken of him in the kindest manner to me; his heart was benevolent and forgiving, and we are told, and have reason to believe, that through him our difficulties would soon have been adjusted and peace once more restored to our distracted country. Our expressions of disgust for the dastardly wretch who could have conceived and executed such a diabolical deed, can scarcely be uttered. Murder is always appalling, but more particularly so in this momentous crisis of our country — now our most anxious moment.

Other supportive speeches are given, and a “series of resolutions [are] unanimously adopted, in which the meeting severely denounced the base conspirators, and tendered condolence to the bereaved family of President Lincoln.”

Additional resolutions offered by Dr. A.G. Mackey are also overwhelmingly approved, “embodying the sentiment of the loyal people with reference to the favorable change which has been brought about by the presence of the Union forces in the city.” Signers of all these resolutions include Dr. H.W. DeSaussure, Dr. W.M. Fitch, Dr. E. Geddings, James S. Gibbes, Daniel Horlbeck, the Hon. T.L. Hutchinson, Col. James Lynah, the Hon. Chas. Macbeth, Chas. J. Manigault, N.R. Middleton, Dr. James Moultrie, the attorney John Phillips, Benj. D. Roper, Rev. Jos. Seabrook, Col. R.W. Seymour, Sen. T. Tupper, Elias Vanderhorst, etc.

May 2, 1865

To commemorate the one-month anniversary of the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s main Confederate army, a celebratory 200-gun salute is fired off by the Union batteries in Forts Strong and Putnam on Morris Island; from Fort Moultrie and Battery Bee on Sullivan’s Island; and from Fort Johnson on James Island. During these salutes, an accidental discharge wounds Pvt. Emery Fiske of the 3rd Rhode Island’s Company D, who dies three weeks later in Charleston’s General Hospital and is interred in the Magnolia Cemetery.

May 3, 1865

This morning, Maj.-Gen. William T. Sherman — conducting a regional inspection-tour while retiring from active field-campaigning, during his progression toward Fortress Monroe — enters Charleston Harbor aboard his steamer flagship for a brief visit, and six days later writes in his official report:

On the morning of May 3 [1865] we ran into Charleston Harbor, where I had the pleasure to meet Admiral Dahlgren … [and also] General Hatch ... Anyone who is not satisfied with war, should go and see Charleston, and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that the country may in the long future be spared any more war. Charleston and secession being synonymous terms, the city should be left as a sample, so that centuries will pass away before that false doctrine is preached again in our Union.
We left Charleston the evening of the 3d of May, and hastened with all possible speed back to Morehead City, which we reached at night of the 4th.
Sherman photographed three weeks after his visit to Charleston, posing in Mathew Brady’s Washington D.C. studio with his Army of the Tennessee and Georgia badge, as well as a mourning armband in memory of President Lincoln, ca. May 24, 1865. (U.S. National Archives)  Sherman photographed three weeks after his visit to Charleston

Years afterward, Sherman will recall this fleeting visit a bit more fulsomely in his Memoirs:

We went into Charleston Harbor, passing the ruins of old Forts Moultrie and Sumter without landing. We reached the city of Charleston, which was held by part of the division of General John P. Hatch, the same that we had left at Pocotaligo. We walked the old familiar streets — Broad, King, Meeting, etc. — but desolation and ruin were everywhere. The heart of the city had been burned during the bombardment, and the rebel garrison at the time of its final evacuation had fired the railroad-depots, which fire had spread, and was only subdued by our troops after they had reached the city.
I inquired for many of my old friends, but they were dead or gone, and of them all I only saw a part of the family of Mrs. Pettigru. I doubt whether any city was ever more terribly punished than Charleston.

This same day of May 3, 1865, Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren also receives a warning at Charleston from the Navy Department in Washington, D.C., that “the rebel ram Stonewall” (recently purchased in Nantes, France) is believed to be approaching the Eastern Seaboard. As a result, upon departing Charleston Harbor for Port Royal next day aboard his flagship Philadelphia, Dahlgren will leave instructions for senior Capt. Egbert Thompson of the monitor Cimarron, to position the monitors Passaic and Catskill in:

… a convenient position at the entrance between Sumter and Moultrie, and the Cimarron will have a better view of vessels approaching if anchored off Cumming’s Point, or even lower down. Be vigilant and allow no surprise; keep me informed of any important occurrence.

May 29, 1865

An African-American soldier named Jacob Christy, of Company J of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers encamped in “St. Andrews Parish,” mentions in a letter home to his sister Mary Jane Demus:

There are a great many men that did belong to the Rebel army in Charleston City now, it goes very hard with them to give a way under us colored soldiers, but we knock them out of our way. And if they don’t like that, we take them up and put them in the Guardhouse. We just go into the city and take the whole street, just for to get them to say something out of the way to us, so that we can get at them and beat them.

June 15, 1865

In failing health, Lt. Edwin W. Keene of the 3rd Rhode Island’s Company B, which is on garrison-duty in Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, is obliged to accept an early discharge so as to return home ahead of his unit. He will die on July 2, 1865, shortly after arriving in Providence, R.I.

June 25, 1865

At noon, the paroled 22-year-old Confederate Lt. William Epps — after being held as a prisoner-of-war in the North for more than a year — departs New York following “a very pleasant week” in that city, aboard the steamship Arago for Hilton Head, South Carolina. Six days later, his wartime diary will conclude with these entries:

July 1. At eleven o’clock a. m., on board the Kingfisher to sail to Charleston, S. C. Arrived at Charleston wharf at two o’clock, p. m.
July 2. Take the cars for Kingstree at five o’clock a. m. Arrived at Kingstree at three-thirty p. m. At four-thirty, arrived at home, found mother and family all well, once more a happy man.

Late August, 1865

Company B of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery is relieved from garrison-duty at Fort Moultrie, being replaced by Companies D and F of the African-American 35th U.S. (Colored) Infantry Regiment.

October, 1865

In Paris, the first installment of a short story entitled Les forceurs de blocus (“The Blockade-Runners”) by Jules Verne appears in the monthly Musée des familles, to be followed next month by its second and concluding installment. In this fictional adventure story, the British Capt. James Playfair departs Glasgow on January 3, 1863, in command of a brand-new, 1,500-ton steamer named the Dolphin — a swift and sleek steel-hulled vessel — for a perilous trans-Atlantic run into blockaded Charleston. Six years later, a slightly longer version of Les forceurs de blocus will be included in Verne’s 1871 book Une ville flottante (“A Floating City”).

March 2, 1866

The two companies of the 35th Infantry Regiment who are garrisoning Fort Moultrie, are relieved by Companies A, B, D, H, I, and K of the 128th U.S. (Colored) Infantry Regiment.

March 28, 1866

Small engraving of the sketch made by Benson J. Lossing, of the battered condition of Fort Moultrie’s sally-port and guardhouse during his visit on March 28, 1866, while it was being garrisoned by the 128th U.S. (Colored) Infantry Regiment. Note the wooden shack which had stood for a year at right, and the restored flagstaff protruding above the ruins. (Pictorial History of the Civil War, Volume 3)

This evening, the author and illustrator Benson J. Lossing returns by train into occupied Charleston from Florence. Next day, accompanied by a few South Carolinian friends and travelling aboard a barge loaned by the city’s Federal commander, he visits silent Castle Pinckney and Forts Ripley, Johnson, Gregg, Wagner, and Sumter before passing over:

… to Fort Moultrie, which I had visited eighteen years before, when it was in perfect order. Now it was sadly changed. Its form and dimensions had been altered; and missiles from the National fleet had broken its tasteful sally-port and plowed its parapets and parade with deep furrows. (Lossing, Pictorial History of the Civil War, Volume 3, Page 482.)

For an account of Lossing’s previous pre-war visit, see the Timeline entry above under January 29, 1849.

October 12, 1866

The 128th U.S. (Colored) Infantry Regiment are mustered out of service, leaving Fort Moultrie empty and abandoned.

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