Clearance and New Design (1804-1809)
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 undertake this large-scale rebuilding project.
Early July 1806
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, Macomb submits a report to the U.S. Secretary of War, Henry Dearborn, before returning to his labors on the Rocky Mount arsenal.
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 defenses.
March 12, 1807
Colonel Williams disembarks at Charleston on a regional inspection-tour, and is disappointed to find that no progress has been made on reconstituting its harbor defenses. Five days later, he 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 Secretary 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 lapped by the surf at high-tide. Yet because the 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 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.
Amid escalating war-tensions, Macomb is welcomed back into Charleston from Rocky Mount, having been detached once again from his engineering duties to supervise a temporary reinforcement of old Fort Moultrie with palmetto logs and sand, while sturdier materials can be gathered for the erection of a proper new structure behind it.
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.
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 expenditures.
February 18, 1808
Macomb, promoted to Major only fifteen days previously, reaches Charleston and launches into a series of labors intended to strengthen all its seaside defenses. As part of this broad effort, old Fort Moultrie will be stripped of as many salvageable materials as possible — such as 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 new fort built, 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 its gun-barrels protruding above the parapets, like whiskers bristling from a chin or barbe].
Macomb completes a design for a new single-tiered Fort Moultrie, and his work-gangs make rapid progress in 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 rampart has been completed “up to the three principal faces toward the sea,” and is “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:
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.
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
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 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, 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.”
Alterations and Gradual Deterioration (1810-1832)
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
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 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 declines drastically.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 they can provide much-needed extra storerooms.
September 22, 1822
This Friday night, a powerful hurricane engulfs Charleston and its environs, prompting many terrified inhabitants on Sullivan’s Island to seek refuge inside Fort Moultrie. Its buildings emerge considerably damaged, yet structurally intact.
October 21, 1822
During the post-hurricane cleanup, an accidental fire starts in the roof of Moultrie’s Officers’ Quarters, gutting this entire edifice, despite heroic efforts to combat the blaze. This building will be rebuilt by June 1823.
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.
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 from Charleston 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:
...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.
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
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” after dropping out of the University of Virginia, and quarrelling with his stepfather over his gambling debts.
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.
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 was to 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.”
Company B of the 2nd Artillery is reassigned from Moultrie, to serve in Fort Johnson on James Island.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 on peacetime garrison-duty at Charleston Harbor, to place Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney on alert against any possible surprise from state militia forces.
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
Two additional U.S. Artillery companies are quietly ordered to depart Fortress Monroe, Virginia, so as to reinforce the Federal garrisons at Charleston, while written instructions are sent to U.S. customs-collectors in South Carolina to maintain “a firm and vigilant, but discreet performance” of their duties.
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
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 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
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 26, 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. He will order five additional U.S. Artillery companies to come from Fortress Monroe, whose Lt.-Col. James Bankhead will supersede Heileman in command, being eventually at the head of about 700 gunners. Sixteen extra field-pieces are also brought along, and nine U.S. revenue-cutters are stationed around the harbor. Scott even has all regular U.S. officers renew their loyalty oaths, and transfers out a few he suspects of wavering commitments.
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 enforcement would be considered treason.
December 20, 1832
South Carolina’s newly-elected Governor, Robert Y. Hayne, 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, while the U.S. Customs House is withdrawn from Charleston into Castle Pinckney.
January 16, 1833
Jackson asks the U.S. Congress for legislation that will allow him to deal with this looming confrontation by legally moving Federal customs-collection 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 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.
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 by President Jackson on March 2nd.
February 19, 1833
Eliason’s temporary fortification of Moultrie against any sudden South Carolinian attack—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, agrees one week later to accept the compromise tariff and rescind the “Ordinance of Nullification”.
April 5, 1833
The U.S. revenue cutter Gallatin departs Charleston Harbor to take up station at Wilmington, Delaware.
September 4, 1834
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;
- 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.”
March 31, 1835
A new flat roof is completed atop the Guardhouse.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Resurrection and Refinements (1842-1859)
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
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
Post-hurricane repairs are completed, during which all of Moultrie’s buildings have been re-shingled with slate, as well as its piazzas with tin. New flights of stairs have also been erected in front of both barracks 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, 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 as a slave state.
Early October, 1844
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 them into more amenable suites. Most officers are in fact already residing outside the fort, in leased private houses which are costing the U.S. government a total of about $1,800 a year in rents.
March 1, 1845
In Washington, D. C., Congress votes approval of the request from American settlers in the brand-new Republic of Texas, to be annexed into the United States. The Mexican Ambassador departs in protest, and diplomatic relations are severed three weeks later.
June 26, 1845
As relations with Mexico begin to fray over America’s annexation of Texas, Lieutenant Bragg’s Company E of the 3rd Artillery (with George H. Thomas as his First Lieutenant) departs Moultrie aboard the brig Hayne for New Orleans. Other units prepare to follow, as Brig. Gen. Zachary Taylor begins to marshal about half of the peacetime U.S. Army at Corpus Christi over the ensuing months, in anticipation of this forthcoming struggle. Bragg’s 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 administration in Washington.
August 27, 1845
Company A of the 3rd U.S. Artillery Regiment arrives at Moultrie from Fort Johnson, North Carolina, remaining less that a month before departing along with Company I on September 23rd for Aransas Bay, Texas.
May 11, 1846
In Washington, D.C., Pres. James 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 under Capt. Robert Anderson is rotated out of Moultrie to replace Company H at Fort Marion, which in turn 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 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 Artillery Regiment reaches Fort Moultrie from Oglethorpe Barracks, Georgia.
October 12, 1846
Late this Monday evening, Charleston Harbor s ravaged by a heavy gale, which lasts into next day.
October 22, 1846
Companies D and H of the 3rd Artillery quit Moultrie for Port Isabel, Texas.
February 20, 1847
Company K, the last regular U.S. Army unit stationed in Moultrie, departs for the Mexican theater. 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
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 sketches 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 Moultrie for 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 permanently. Convinced that he can flourish in this growing city of 43,000 inhabitants, he opens a gallery at 235 King Street, and soon begins to prosper.
July 8, 1850
The large Moultrie House hotel is opened some distance beyond the fort, to accommodate increasing numbers of civilian tourists visiting Sullivan’s Island every summer. Built on an eight-acre plot at a cost of $32,000, it 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.
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.
The renowned scientist Dr. Louis Agassiz comes to Charleston to teach for a couple of winters at the Medical College of South Carolina, and establishes a seaside laboratory on Sullivan’s Island to study the flora and fauna of the Atlantic Ocean.
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 were only “51 sober, 11 drinkers, 14 hard drinkers, 63 drunkards, and one opium taker.”
The effects of this outbreak were even worse among the detachment occupying Castle Pickens, according to an account later written by Lt. John C. Tidball for the regimental history:
In the summer of 1852, yellow fever then severely raging in Charleston, struck [Capt. John F.] 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.
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 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
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 peacetime garrison — Companies E and K of the 2nd U.S. Artillery Regiment — go aboard the steamer Pennsylvania to be transferred to Tampa Bay, 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 as well by this massive hurricane. 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 was the only building left standing.”
Roiling surf carves a clear breach over 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 its 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, leaving the island 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 reports to Colonel Totten 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
Cullum reports to headquarters in Washington how Moultrie’s:
- “decayed interior shingled slope of the parapet” has been replaced by a thin brick wall;
- the doors of its six service magazines have been re-hung;
- its Parade-ground elevated and graded so as to better run off excess water;
- the narrow passages behind the Officers’ Quarters and barracks likewise graded and paved;
- the Guardhouse remodeled and its interior rearranged;
- a “brick cistern with gutters” erected on the open Reservation out behind the fort; etc.
Moultrie’s piazzas are furthermore in the process of being rebuilt, its slate roofs repaired, and other improvements completed.
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.
April 18, 1857
The wooden Front Range harbor-beacon beside Fort Moultrie is accidentally destroyed by fire.
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 50 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.
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
A private named Jones falls ill at 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.
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
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
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.
December 2, 1859
Brown is hanged in Charles Town, Virginia.
December 5, 1859
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans nominate Congressman John Sherman of Ohio 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.
February 1, 1860
After two months of bitter wrangling, the Republicans finally elect William Pennington as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, with 119 votes — the bare minimum required for a win.
February 2, 1860
U.S. 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 27, 1860
Abraham Lincoln delivers the famous “Cooper Union Address” in New York City, which presents a compelling case on the Founding Fathers’ objections to the spread of slavery. 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.”
April 30, 1860
Fifty Southern delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, storm out of Institute Hall in protest against their party’s unwillingness to endorse a Federal code protecting slavery in U.S. Territories.
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 as their Presidential candidate, 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.
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, 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 thecity before proceeding 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.”
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 at home.
September 12, 1860
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 is also used to begin building up a stretch of elevated ground along this ditch’s outer rim, known as a “glacis,” which can be easily swept by the fort’s heavy guns loaded with grapeshot. Carpenters furthermore erect cross-fences made from scrap timber, so as to check any more sand from drifting up against the fort’s outer scarp-walls.
Foster then has the southwestern ditch excavated right down to bedrock, so as to plant the foundations for a flanking caponniere at Moultrie’s Southwest Angle, plus removing earth from the parapet 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 are also loopholed for riflemen, while a large number of masons are specifically requested from Baltimore to finish these labors, having previously worked there under Foster on Fort Carroll.
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 at its southwest angle, and another started to a second caponniere being built at its southeast angle, both of these new redoubts being intended “to flank with their fire the fort’s three seafronts.” However, 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 departs for Baltimore, to bring back his masons.
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 [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 emerges victorious among four candidates on the ballot, receiving 40% of the popular vote and winning 18 Northern states. The Democratic vote is split between a Northern candidate (Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois) who gains 21.5%, 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 finishes fourth with 12.5% 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 its “fixed” or prepared small-arms ammunition into his compound on Sullivan’s Island, “in view of the excitement now existing in this city and State.”
November 8, 1860
This 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
Calls go out throughout South Carolina, for a convention to gather on December 17th to decide whether the state should secede in the wake of the Presidential results.
November 10, 1860
James Chesnut, Jr., becomes the first Southern legislator to resign from the United States Senate, being quickly followed by his fellow-Senator from South Carolina, James H. Hammond.
November 11, 1860
Almost 150 masons begin reaching Sullivan’s Island from Baltimore, Foster himself arriving by November 11th to discover that the pintle-blocks for the howitzer embrasures have still not been received from New York. Since the gallery or tunnel connecting Moultrie’s Southwest Caponniere with the 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 is a masonry insert designed to station riflemen. Both 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 under his assistant, Lt. George W. Snyder, while himself leading the remaining 109 masons across the harbor to finish construction of Fort Sumter. Snyder’s men:
- 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 relaying the northwest bastion’s coping.
A hatch is also cut inside Moultrie’s Guardhouse, so as to communicate with its upper level. Meanwhile, 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 a couple of military review-boards — is ordered by telegraph to report to the Sec. of War John B. Floyd in Washington, D.C. Three days later, Anderson will be instructed again by telegraph to depart New York once more, this time to supplant Colonel Gardner in command of beleaguered Fort Moultrie.
November 17, 1860
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.
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, Doubleday would recollect the defensive dispositions undertaken thus far at Fort Moultrie 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
Captain Berry is given a hero’s welcome 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.”
December 4, 1860
Moultrie’s northeast bastionet is completed, except for its pintle-blocks and artillery-embrasures, which have still not arrived from New York. The old existing postern-tunnels in its east and west curtains have also been walled up, as Anderson feels his garrison is too numerically weak to launch any 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
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 three days later in Charleston, because of the smallpox 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 the reassembling Secessionist Convention informally agree amongst themselves, to send a delegation to Washington to negotiate the transfer of all Federal properties in the state, especially the three forts guarding Charleston Harbor.
December 20, 1860
As South Carolina passes its “Ordinance of Secession” by a vote of 169 to 0, 137 laborers remain toiling away on Moultrie’s defenses.
December 21, 1860
All of South Carolina’s members 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.
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.
Confederate Strongpoint (December 1860-April 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.
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
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
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.
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
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 force. During the night, a group of about twenty militiamen approach Fort Barrancas, believing it to be empty and freely accessible as usual, only to be challenged by the corporal of the guard and scattered when a shot is fired into the air. 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 low-speed while taking soundings, as every beacon ashore seem 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 is shining from atop Fort Sumter. Now 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 officially secedes from the Union by a vote of 62 to 7, and the Federal Navy Yard at Pensacola is surrendered to Southern forces. Next day, Florida’s actual ordinance of secession is signed “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. However, loyal Union troops under Lt. Adam J. Slemmer withdraw into Fort Pickens, 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.
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., remaining there while Lieutenant Woods reports ashore on his unsuccessful mission and requests “orders relative to the disposition of the troops.” Captain McGowan also sends a brief written account 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 at New York, Woods and his 200 troops are landed at 8:00 a.m. from the Star of the West, 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
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
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.
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.
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 3, 1861
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
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
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
A notice appears 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
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.”
March 24, 1861
This Sunday morning, President Lincoln’s former law-partner, close friend, and self-appointed bodyguard (who has furthermore named him 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, and so is approached on Monday morning by a group of South Carolinians, who inquire as to his business.
Lamon declines to provide details and instead sends his card to Governor Pickens, meeting with him at 1:00 p.m., after which conversation he 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 as well for another hour, while touring the upper battlements, before returning into Charleston and meeting with Pickens once more. The Presidential emissary then 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 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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 photographers Osborn and Durbec arrive at Fort Sumter, capturing at least twenty stereoscopic views of that battered stronghold before also heading across to Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island, where they create at least thirteen more images, and expose five more wet-plate stereo negatives so as to record the aftermath of the recent dramatic events witnessed by its garrison.
Elsewhere, 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
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 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 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 D. 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.
June 2, 1861
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 later on that same afternoon of June 3rd, this turns out to be the 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 stations “from Five Gun Battery to Moultrie House” on Sullivan’s Island.
July 19, 1861
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, and are 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.)
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.
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
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 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.
December 11, 1861
Around 9:00 p.m., a fire is discovered in a sash factory at the foot of Hazel Street in Charleston, which soon spreads to other nearby buildings. Propelled by a fresh westerly breeze, this blaze advances across the city overnight, consuming scores 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 of Charleston’s urban core is consumed before this conflagration is finally halted by the banks of the Cooper 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 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 General Lee in Charleston, asking him to report to the Confederate capital of Richmond. 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.”
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 13, 1862
Sometime between 3:00 and 3:30 a.m., the “high-pressure, light-draft” sidewheel steamer Planter of two guns — which is lying at Charleston’s Southern Wharf, waiting to transport four guns 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 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. A well-to-do planter, former South Carolina state senator, director of the Charleston and Savannah Rail Road Company, and Confederate chief of ordnance for the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, Wagner is interred 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
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 of the Department on Monday, September 15th to a warm reception from Charleston’s citizenry, who have 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 guided tour throughout the entire Department, which concludes at Savannah five days later.
September 24, 1862
Having regained Charleston, 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 sand, rather than dismantle it. Otherwise, its masonry walls would have been 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.
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.
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.
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.
After exiting aboard a blockade-runner, Vizetelly will remain in England for only a few weeks before returning to be present in Vicksburg, Mississippi, when that city surrenders to the besieging Union army of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863, and subsequently regaining 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
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
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.
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.
As soon as Moultrie’s batteries open up on the Weehawken around 8:30 a.m., Admiral Dahlgren — who is observing from aboard the heavily-armored frigate New Ironsides outside the harbor — leads his monitors Patapsco, Lehigh, Nahant, Montauk, and Passaic toward its entrance, so as to intercede in hopes of diverting and suppressing the fort’s fire. The first of these warships begin bombarding 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 its garrison commander Col. William 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
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 gun to burst and split open “in eight places in rear of the first reinforce band.” The damaged piece will have to be dismounted so as undergo repairs by the local James Eason & Company, who are able to patch the damage by adding a massive breech-block over the cracked cast-iron.
September 16, 1863
The 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. Once finished, his illustration will show that its 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 28, 1863
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-detail 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.”
November 4, 1863
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 paint is Battery Marion, located just a couple of hundred yards west of Fort Moultrie, whose solitary armament consists of a powerful 7-inch, triple-banded Brooke rifle. A pair of palmetto trees in the foreground are included in Chapman’s reproduction, while Union batteries on distant Morris Island and an ironclad monitor can be seen at the far left, steadily bombarding the battered form of Fort Sumter at right.
November 28, 1863
Having learned through a letter from his father in Rome, that his mother is ill, the young painter Conrad Wise Chapman writes from Charleston to the Confederate Adjutant-General Samuel Cooper in Richmond, Virginia, requesting a six-month furlough. Both of Chapman’s commanding officers, General Wise and Colonel Tabb, support his request. While awaiting a response, Chapman will continue his artistic work around Charleston Harbor.
February 2, 1864
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, and is now 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.
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 300 men, if only he had known in time.
March 15, 1864
Another Chapman painting is dated as having been sketched on this day, depicting a mail-boat in the left foreground which is departing from the Fort Johnson landing toward battered Sumter at center, with Fort Moultrie faintly visible across the harbor amid the Sullivan’s Island defenses in the far distance at left.
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, 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 his family in Rome.
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.
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, 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.
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.
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 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 toward land until it hits shallow waters off Long Island, and subsequently veers west along its coastline with the intent of slipping into port through Maffitt’s Channel.
Around 11:00 p.m., the blockade-runner is spotted and fired upon by a U.S. Navy warship, accelerating to its top speed of fourteen knots and racing by in the darkness. A second Union warship strikes the Beatrice a couple of times while it rushes past it as well, before running 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 Kate Gregg at 9:00 p.m., and the 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 sentry 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 its 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 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.”
January 12, 1865
A 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 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 from the water next morning, 600 yards from Sumter and 1,200 yards from Fort Moultrie.
February 2, 1865
Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s entire 60,000-man 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. Faced with this unstoppable threat, the Confederate high command decides 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.
February 7, 1865
A stormy day, with both Confederate and Union encampments around Charleston harbor lashed by heavy rains and winds.
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 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
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.
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 the hope 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 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 in 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 preparations “up the Ashley River near the bridge.”
February 18, 1865
An hour past midnight, Union troops on James and Morris Islands spot fires breaking out in Charleston, and 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 so as to close in cautiously on Fort Moultrie and probe 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 the monitor’s commander. The Federal warship consequently fires two 15-inch shells into Moultrie around 7:45 a.m., and 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 lie abandoned. Shortly thereafter, the magazine in evacuated Battery Bee suddenly detonates with such a blast, that to the Federal onlookers on the headland opposite:
...it 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.
Realizing that the Confederate garrisons have been entirely withdrawn, Lt. John Hackett of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery sets out from a creek beside Cummings Point shortly after 8:00 a.m. 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 thereupon launch their own boats as well, all three racing each other toward Sullivan’s Island.
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. Seeing this, the U.S. Navy boat from Canonicus under Acting Ens. R. E. Anson therefore veers down the shoreline to instead claim Fort Beauregard, and discovering that a powder-train has been left slowly burning toward that empty stronghold’s magazine, so extinguishes it. Mahopac’s boat meanwhile plants “the national colors” atop Battery Bee’s remnants, and Canonicus sends another party to board the grounded Confederate blockade-runner Celt beside Bowman’s Jetty around 9:00 a.m.
Shortly thereafter, Maj. John A. Hennessey of the 52nd Pennsylvania disembarks from a picket-boat amid the silent rubble of Fort Sumter, and plants yet another flag. In the growing daylight, Union General Schimmelfennig on James Island orders his troops forward to seize abandoned Fort Johnson, and to row in boats across the harbor so as to occupy 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. Charleston still lies in peril, 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 occupy Fort Sumter with a small detachment of troops.
Around midday, the town of Mount Pleasant is occupied by a Federal contingent, its “Intendant” Henry Slade Tew — a storekeeper and leading local citizen who has been elected to this position only the 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.
Three days later, the 55th Massachusetts also enter, singing “John Brown’s Body” while marching triumphantly up Meeting Street.
February 22, 1865
In a coordinated celebration of the fall of Charleston, salutes are fired at all Federal forts and bases, 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.”
March 17, 1865
As the three-year terms of numerous members of Companies L and M of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery elapse, both units are officially dissolved for these discharged men to be returned homewards from garrison-duty around Charleston Harbor, while the remainder are reorganized into a single unit designated as “the new Company D.”
March 30, 1865
In New York, 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 Fort Sumter on April 14th. Some 180 people quickly pay $100 each, as their passage on this expedition. Many other similar excursions are being organized in other Northern ports, as well as from Union naval bases as far South as Florida.
April 10, 1865
At noon on this rainy day, the steamer Oceanus clears its dock at the foot of Robinson Street in New York City, heading down the North River so as to proceed to Charleston with its civilian passengers.
April 13, 1865
This 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
This warm but breezy morning, a host of dignitaries and hundreds of their travel-companions aboard the hired liner Arago — which is too large to pass over the bar into the Shipping Channel, and so lies at anchor outside Charleston Harbor — are gingerly transferred aboard the smaller steamer Delaware to be ferried into Sumter. 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; numerous editors and reporters from major newspapers; plus many more. After a swift passage into the harbor, they are deposited at the battered remnants of the fort.
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 audience laughter and applause — 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.
May 2, 1865
To commemorate the surrender three weeks earlier of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House, 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.
Late August, 1865
The 3rd Rhode Island company is relieved from garrison-duty at Fort Moultrie by Companies D and F of the 35th U.S. (Colored) Infantry Regiment.
March 2, 1866
The two companies of the 35th are relieved by Companies A, B, D, H, I, and K of the 128th U.S. Colored Troops.
October 12, 1866
The 128th are mustered out of service, leaving Fort Moultrie empty and abandoned.